Comment by billzito on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-23T19:35:45.465Z · LW · GW

Strong +1 for writing the post-mortem -- there are incentives not to write that kind of thing, but I appreciated it. I also get value out of your weekly posts, so thanks for writing those.

That being said, I do have a few minor quibbles with the post-mortem. I think I interpreted your December (and future month) claims more strongly than it sounds like you interpreted them.

I haven't re-read all your posts carefully to check for places you might have said this, but I don't remember seeing you say in the 1-2 months after your "We're F***ed" post that you thought it was significantly less likely that we're f***ed. E.g. I commented on a January post  saying that the UK evidence seemed pretty strong that we were possibly not f***ed.

I was also somewhat surprised that in the post-mortem, you said you thought the 70% prediction evaluated to false.

From that post:

The new strain has rapidly taken over the region, and all signs point to it being about 65% more infectious than the old one, albeit with large uncertainty and error bars around that. 

I give it a 70% chance that these reports are largely correct.

There is no plausible way that a Western country can sustain restrictions that can overcome that via anything other than widespread immunity.

I haven't looked into the details of this much at all since February, so I don't have strong takes on whether the UK strain is closer to 40% or 55% more infectious (and "more infectious" can be defined in different ways).  Comments on this metaculus question suggested that people, at the time at least, believed the number was likely close to 55% (note: the overall probability on the linked question also includes the probability of other strains infecting >10M people by June 2). There's also a decent amount of room for different interpretations in "largely correct," and a 10% difference in infectiousness matters a lot, but at the time at least, I would have predicted that 55% was close enough to 65% to hit your "largely correct" bar.

One reason I pushed back on some of your posts in Dec - Jan is that I thought the post was directionally wrong for the LessWrong community (I think LessWrong readers as a whole were much too cautious as of Dec 2020). I think people in the community deferred to the reasoning of "We're F***ed" some, and that it would've been better if you had more quickly updated / told people that you had updated.

Overall though, I appreciate you writing these posts, so I hope my comment doesn't come off as too critical, and thank you again for doing that.

Comment by billzito on Quick examination of miles per micromort for US drivers, with adjustments for safety-increasing behavior · 2021-04-22T04:52:51.041Z · LW · GW

My personal experience in Uber/Lyfts (pre-covid, I used them multiple times a week for several years) is that they're probably more dangerous than driving myself (>80% of rides are very safe / normal, but the 1-20% where I think they're driving too fast or recklessly seem like most of the risk). I personally would be happy to pay 10% more to guarantee a safer driver, especially on e.g. a rainy day. I think I probably have more experience driving than most Berkeley EA's though / feel more confident in my driving skills.

Comment by billzito on Covid 3/12: New CDC Guidelines Available · 2021-03-14T16:18:15.520Z · LW · GW

"On the margin, if you don’t book an appointment, either the appointment and shot you decline will go unfilled, or it will probably go to someone else who is ‘high risk’ according to some list but unlikely to be actually high risk, or someone who is lying. In many jurisdictions all you have to do is say you are somehow eligible. That’s it. No one is verifying anyone’s claims.”

At least in the Bay Area, a couple hours of looking into this / thinking about it suggests this is false. I'm interested in counterarguments, but I think the pro-social thing to do is to wait until more of the at-risk population has received their vaccine.

[Edit was to fix block quote formatting]

Comment by billzito on Covid 1/28: Muddling Through · 2021-01-29T04:56:13.315Z · LW · GW

Seems like we should consider the possibility that the UK strain is not as transmissible as the pre-print suggested given the large drop in cases? Unless we have evidence that their lockdown is actually much more severe than similar lockdowns? A quick look at the lockdown rules suggests it’s similar to the Bay Area’s for instance.

[To clarify: I think this was worded somewhat incorrectly -- I didn't update much on the probability of the pre-print being wrong, but I did update significantly on the implications of the higher transmissibility.]

Comment by billzito on Covid 1/21: Turning the Corner · 2021-01-28T00:04:58.751Z · LW · GW

Was your prediction that cases would go down and then up also for the UK in addition to the US? I thought the new strain prevalence was already pretty high in parts of England according to the pre-print, so it seems like cases going down by a lot there is a big update towards the pre-print potentially being wrong? The UK's last wave doesn't look naively out of distribution compared to e.g. Spain and the U.S.

[To clarify: I think this was worded somewhat incorrectly -- I didn't update much on the probability of the pre-print being wrong, but I did update significantly on the implications of the higher transmissibility.]

Comment by billzito on Final Version Perfected: An Underused Execution Algorithm · 2020-11-29T02:25:51.957Z · LW · GW

For "what task should I do next," it's O(n), because you just go down the list once doing a pairwise comparison. "What task should I do next" seems more important for actually doing things than sorting the entire list at first to avoid deliberation time / indecision / harder 3-way value comparisons.

Comment by billzito on [Geo: California/Bay Area] Mini-Research of 2020 Fire Situation · 2020-08-25T22:38:30.955Z · LW · GW

Ya I think people should default to assuming it's out of date, but I do plan to check it semi-regularly and edit the post to make it clear when I last looked / if things have changed. Verified the routes still made sense today (8/25) and made it clear that was when I last checked.

Comment by billzito on [Geo: California/Bay Area] Mini-Research of 2020 Fire Situation · 2020-08-23T07:43:37.179Z · LW · GW

I made a list of different evacuation routes from Berkeley that don't go through fires:

Comment by billzito on Where should LessWrong go on COVID? · 2020-04-15T03:33:46.525Z · LW · GW
  • How should we be thinking about second waves from May - Dec? In particular, what evidence should we look for that countries / states are well-prepared to handle potential outbreaks (e.g. even countries like Singapore are having problems with second waves right now)?
  • +1 “What is my risk from delivery food, given a certain prevalence?" And the same question for packages and delivered produce, given cleaning them or not. I thought about this for ~1hr but didn't generate a great answer, I think it'd save a bunch of people time to have a good one.
  • What are the chances that various vaccine efforts will work in x months (in particular, chances of working in <12 months)?
Comment by billzito on Eli's shortform feed · 2019-08-26T21:28:13.198Z · LW · GW

I can't speak for habryka, but I think your post did a great job of laying out the need for "say oops" in detail. I read the Doomsday Machine and felt this point very strongly while reading it, but this was a great reminder to me of its importance. I think "say oops" is one of the most important skills for actually working on the right thing, and that in my opinion, very few people have this skill even within the rationality community.

Comment by billzito on tilia's Shortform · 2019-08-26T20:21:52.537Z · LW · GW

Glad that you found something that worked for you! I used to struggle with trying to control my sweet tooth, but found that going "no sweets" was surprisingly effective as I never had to decide. The decision is where I've had problems in the past because if I'm excited/stressed/etc., I decide to have too many sweets.

I've experimented with different versions of "no sweets" over the last three years, including no sweets except one cheat day a year, no sweets except one cheat day a month, no sweets except one-three bites of something after every meal, and no sweets except one-three bites of something if someone asks me to try something (my current experiment). I like my latest experiment best, because it lets me share in the social aspect of sharing dessert w/ others without having to deal with the annoying conversations of "I don't eat sweets," while still not needing a decision from me. I also eat 3 - 4 servings of fruit a day (a serving with every meal usually) so have plenty of natural sugars.