The application of this principle to [outrage over the comments and commenters which a blogger declines to delete/ban] is left as an exercise for the reader.
Brain plasticity. I wondered whether I should put “given that the two are the same intelligence and age” into the last paragraph.
One way that mathematics is different from the other sciences is that, since the last time it had to repair its foundations around 1900, progress within it doesn’t get obviated by new technology.
Biologists who’ve spent a career using one tool can be surpassed quickly by anyone who’s mastered the new, better tool. Not the case for mathematicians. (Maybe computer-verified and computer-generated proofs will change that, but they really haven’t yet in almost any domains.)
That means that someone who’s put years of work into a mathematical field has a strong advantage over someone who hasn’t; and if you’re going to put years of full-time effort into mathematics anyway, why not get a PhD for it?
I understood this better when I made it more concrete, though not with the same phrase at all levels.
W says “There’s not a pandemic headed our way from China” simply because W believes there’s not a pandemic headed our way from China. W is making a claim, turns out to be wrong, and is surprised.
X says “Masks aren’t effective against COVID-19” because X is a government agency who wants to reserve masks for frontline workers, and hasn’t thought up any strategies besides lying to the nation. X knows they were probably lying.
Y reflexively shares a meme saying “The anti-mask folks are definitely getting sick from their protests” because Y’s friends are all pro-mask. Y’s not actually trying to reach anyone who might be dissuaded from going to those protests. Y will switch on a dime once Y’s friends identify with the next set of protests, and share stories about how outdoor protests are actually safe—Y never remembers that they were wrong before.
Journalist Z writes an article mocking the tech weirdos who stopped shaking hands in February out of fear that coronavirus was coming. Z isn’t following a crowd, Z’s making a step to shift the crowd- making a bet that Z, and tech journalism in general, will look good to the crowd for dunking on the tech nerds. Z will be very surprised, later, to find out that there were actual real-world events at stake.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t aged very impressively.
Despite the attempts to build the promised dojo (CFAR, Leverage/Paradigm, the EA Hotel, Dragon Army, probably several more that I’m missing), rationalists aren’t winning in this way. The most impressive result so far is that a lot of mid-tier powerful people read Slate Star Codex, but I think most of that isn’t about carrying on the values Eliezer is trying to construct in this sequence—Scott is a good writer on many topics, most of which are at best rationality-adjacent. The second most impressive result is the power of the effective altruism movement, but that’s also not the same thing Eliezer was pointing at here.
The remaining positive results of the 2009 rationality community are a batch of happy group houses, and MIRI chugging along its climb (thanks to hard-to-replicate personalities like Eliezer and Nate).
I think the “all you need is to try harder” stance is inferior to the “try to make a general postmortem of ‘rationalist dojo’ projects in general” stance, and I’d like to see a systematic attempt at the latter, assembling public information and interviewing people in all of these groups, and integrating all the data on why they failed to live up to their promises.
#1 is just inevitable in all but a few perfectly specified domains. The map can’t contain the entire territory.
#2 is what I’m discussing in this post; it’s the one we rationalists try most to notice and combat. (Beliefs paying rent and all.)
#3 is fine; I’m not as worried about [maps that admit they don’t know what’s beyond the mountain] as I’m worried about [maps that fabricate the territory beyond the mountain].
#4. For sufficiently perfect predictive power, the difference between map and territory becomes an epiphenomenon, so I don’t worry about this either.
This is super important, and I’m curious what your process of change was like.
(I’m working on an analogous change- I’ve been terrified of letting people down for my whole adult life.)
I forget who responded with the kernel of this argument, but it wasn’t mine:
Saying the incentives should be different doesn’t mean pretending they are different. In an ideal world, news organizations would have good standards and would not give in to external pressure on those standards. In our world, news organizations have some bad standards and give in to external pressure from time to time.
Reaching a better world has to come from making de-escalation treaties or changing the overall incentives. Unilaterally disarming (by refusing to even sign petitions) has the completely predictable consequence that the NYT will compromise their standards in directions that we dislike, because the pressure would be high in each direction but ours.
What they say is that they don’t respect pseudonyms in stories unless there’s a compelling reason to do so in that particular case. There appears to be a political bias to the exceptions, but good luck getting an editor to admit that even to themself, let alone to others.
That more or less covers the advice at the end, but the rest of my post feels very valuable to my model of rationality.
When you say that “our civilization was inadequate [to the task of suppressing COVID-19]”, I just want to emphasize that “our civilization” means only the USA, not Western civilization in general. The EU got hit harder at first and has since then performed well; you can blame them for not taking it seriously early enough, but you certainly can’t accuse them of the level of dysfunction you see here.
In general, I like the framing that the United States is running on the worst legacy code of any Western democracy; the UK’s is older but was more amenable to modern patches. Never underestimate the degree to which the US government is just the least efficient government of any developed nation.
The catch though, from a couple of times I’ve tried placing big bets on unlikely events, is that (most) bookmakers don’t seem to accept them. They might accept a $100 bet but not a $1000 one on such odds. They suspect you have inside information. (The same happens I’ve heard if you repeatedly win at roulette in some casinos. Goons appear and instruct you firmly that you may only bet on the low-stakes tables from now on.)
Right, the EMH doesn’t fully apply when sharks can’t swoop in with bets large enough to overwhelm the confederacy of Georges. The odds bookies offer are a hybrid between a market and a democracy.
Right, April’s rally wasn’t due to “actually, everything is great now”, it was due to “whew, it looks like the most apocalyptic scenarios we were seeing in March aren’t likely, and there’s a limit to how bad it’s going to get”.
You’re right; the current plan condenses and overlaps the three phases in order to save a lot of time.
[EDIT: Probably not a valid counterexample; see steve2152′s comment below]
Subways and other public transit aren’t present [in the list of superspreader events]
There was that bus in China, which also suggests that recirculated air might transfer aerosols (since many people sat in between the spreader and those who became infected).
Update on Diamond Princess: as of now, Wikipedia says that the death toll is 14, or 2% of the passengers who tested positive within the first month. However, the dead all seem to have been elderly (there were many elderly passengers, as expected for a cruise liner). More specifically, 11 of them were over 70, another was over 60, and two others were of undisclosed age due to family wishes.
I don’t know how to adjust those results for demographics, and of course you can’t use them to predict what would happen without hospital care. But it’s a promising sign (relative to Wei’d predictions) that we’ve made it this far without anything obviously worse than what happened in Italy and Spain, and even those have seen far less than 0.1% of their population die. NYC is estimated to have a 20% rate of infection, and it too has had less than 0.1% of its population die (though this may rise somewhat, as their wave of cases crested fairly recently).
My point was that because of the reporting backlog, the spike and decrease in your table appeared sharper than they were; the actual curve was in line with other places.
Still, [Louisiana] seems like a clear explosion and fast peak, followed by a clear negative trend.
The date of test and the date reported give two very different pictures.
Not a doctor—just wild speculation—I’m not even going to do this myself without real medical advice—would aspirin possibly make a difference as it helps for ‘normal’ blood clots?
I forget, what’s the current epistemic status of “don’t use NSAIDs if you might have COVID-19”? I think they were recommended against for a while, then said to be fine. And I haven’t seen them mentioned on LW recently.
Thank you, this is the sort of answer I was looking for- I’d naively had the prior that “no effect” was the only non-negligible possibility besides “positive effect”.