Comment by danohu on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-16T09:17:06.987Z · LW · GW

Cases in Germany have also been spiking the last 2 weeks. I don't see any explanation other than Delta being very, very infectious. Case numbers were halving week-on-week in mid-June (minimal Delta); now (most cases Delta) they are almost doubling each week. You can throw in a few other factors (control system lag, school vacations, a big football tournament), but Delta still must be doing something extreme.

One ray of light is that the increase is largely limited to people in their 20s, who are mostly not yet fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate in that age group should shoot up in the next month, so Delta might get damped more than you would expect from the overall vaccination rate in the population.

Comment by danohu on The Apprentice Thread · 2021-06-18T10:21:13.348Z · LW · GW

The writing offer sounds like exactly what i need. I'm in

[I'll write you directly; also posting here as evidence that The System Works]

Comment by danohu on Covid 6/17: One Last Scare · 2021-06-18T09:46:28.805Z · LW · GW

What do we know about the nature of infection of vaccinated people, or re-infection of people who have recovered from Covid? It seems to me, this will have a big impact on Covid epidemiology in a mostly-vaccinated country. 

I have three mental models:

  1. Immunocompromise: some people will never build up Covid resistance, no matter how much they get vaccinated or infected
  2. Exposure: a person has resistance, but is exposed to Covid in a way that overwhelms them. High viral load, maybe, or their immune system is somehow having a bad day
  3. Vaccination failure: for some reason the vaccination doesn't 'take'. If the sufferer catches Covid, they will build up more resistance and be better protected next time round

[I'm leaving out the impact of variants and the decline of immunity over time]

(1) means that we'll permanently have some segment of the population where Covid circulates, but could conceivably identify and protect those people

(2) is the same, but with less we can do in reaction.

(3) would imply things getting gradually better over time, as those people are exposed to endemic covid. Booster shots might help speed this along

Does anybody have a sense of which of these models (or something else) is closer to reality?

Comment by danohu on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-11T09:33:46.024Z · LW · GW

The legal situation around immigration makes the UK much less viable, IMO.

Of course, any location will exclude the majority of the world who aren't allowed to live there. But the US has much of the existing community, and other options (EU, Canada) benefit from either a big population of a liberal migration policy.

Comment by danohu on Covid 4/29: Vaccination Slowdown · 2021-04-30T15:59:25.337Z · LW · GW

Are we living in the timeline where the Bayesian Conspiracy becomes an actual underground movement?

Comment by danohu on Covid 4/15: Are We Seriously Doing This Again · 2021-04-15T18:08:46.572Z · LW · GW

There's another big reason for the jump in vaccinations in Germany (and the rest of the EU): We've just started a new quarter.
Yes, really. 

The discussion on manufacturers vaccine production schedules have largely been on numbers per quarter. Given that the EU is scapegoating them for delays, the manufacturers really really want to avoid missing their targets. And that leads to weirdness at the boundaries of the quarters.

Here's the data on deliveries in Germany

At Biontech, production is going well, and they are comfortably meeting their Q1 commitment (~12m doses). But they have promised to almost quadruple that in Q2. So through March they delivered a steady 1m doses per week. Then in April, when we start counting against their Q2 target, the deliveries jump to 2.7 million per week.

AstraZeneca are the opposite. They are behind schedule. So they squeezed in a huge delivery at the end of Q1 (actually a couple of days later, but it's being counted as Q1), like maybe 5x what they usually deliver in a week.

It's rational behaviour from both companies. When you're dealing with a short-tempered and annoying customer, you CYA by fulfilling the letter of your contracts, even at the cost of a worse outcome for the customer. And that's the position the EU have put Biontech and AZ into

[EDIT: I should add that this is entirely speculation, but I do think it fits the facts and the (non-altruistic parts of the) motivations of everybody involved]

Comment by danohu on Animal faces · 2021-03-12T10:37:25.091Z · LW · GW

Dogs have supposedly evolved more control over their eye muscles, in comparison to wolves. The suggestion is that this is part of their symbiotic relationship with humans, since we are more likely to look after animals that look cute.

Comment by danohu on Takeaways from one year of lockdown · 2021-03-04T09:41:59.313Z · LW · GW

Absolutely this. Thank you mingyuan!

Also on the retrospective conversation. "Truth and reconciliation" feels like a useful framing, if a bit dramatic (it's more commonly used in the aftermath of war or genocide).

i.e. we want to understand what we did, and how we could have acted better. But we also need to work out how to (re-)build relations with each other and the wider world, when lots of people have behaved selfishly, or suboptimally, or harmfully.

Comment by danohu on Covid 2/25: Holding Pattern · 2021-02-26T18:17:06.625Z · LW · GW

Though becoming less uncomfortable. Regulation/manufacture is belatedly catching up to the idea that you can take a swab from the front of the nose, which is MUCH more bearable.

Comment by danohu on Things a Katja-society might try (Part 2) · 2021-02-13T12:44:46.478Z · LW · GW

Much of architecture is a trade-off between price and interestingness. And on that frontier, we largely prioritise cheap over interesting.

I do wonder, though, if we are stuck in a local maximum around rectangular floor-plans. If you start from first principles, you easily find cost- or space-efficient options with irregular room shapes. Think of geodesic domes, or this school layout.

But our world assumes straight walls meeting at right angles. Architects I've talked to say they wouldn't consider anything else, because it would be so risky and expensive to go so far outside normal practice. How do you install plumbing in a curved wall? What would it take to get building permits? Do you need different furniture?

These are mostly coordination issues, not fundamental problems. If oval rooms became common then the plumbers and surveyors and the interior designers would adapt, and a great many more building styles would become practical. And where there are fundamental problems (e.g. geodesic domes are famously leaky), sufficient practice would lead to us at least finding workarounds.

So if  to encourage more interesting accommodation, I would try to jolt us into a world where more diverse floorplans are possible. Maybe start in a setting where it is already conceivable (perhaps some industrial context?) and try to expand non-rectangular norms into the mainstream

Comment by danohu on The art of caring what people think · 2021-02-12T08:21:52.158Z · LW · GW

‘people’ doesn’t mean all people, and that it is tractable and common to change who falls into this category or who in it is salient and taken to represent ‘people’.


The default for this, of course, is 'people I spend time with'. Which is why it makes sense for parents to worry so much about their kids hanging out with the wrong crowd.

IMO it is very hard to spend time with people without coming to care what they think. That's why spies go rogue, diplomats go native, and earn-to-give EAs are at high risk of starting to think like their non-altruistic colleagues.

Comment by danohu on Book review: The Geography of Thought · 2021-02-12T08:16:57.979Z · LW · GW

Here are a few of the insights I got from the book, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten from visiting Asia frequently:


I'm surprised by this, because those seem like the kind of insights I would expect to get by traveling.

I would, though, expect to make mistakes on what to generalize -- e.g. not knowing whether my hosts sleep with their baby as an individual quirk or a cultural norm. 

Comment by danohu on Covid 2/11: As Expected · 2021-02-12T08:02:38.687Z · LW · GW

The problem is that metaculus points reward some non-obvious combination of making good predictions and being active on the platform. I only care about the first of those, so the current points system doesn't help me much. 

I can't look at a user's points score and figure out how much I should trust their predictions. Or possibly I could, but only by diving into the small print of how scoring works.

I say that as somebody who uses metaculus and believes it has potential. The points system is definitely a weak point

Comment by danohu on How would free prediction markets have altered the pandemic? · 2021-02-12T07:55:23.212Z · LW · GW

As Zian says: large/liquid/free prediction markets aren't sufficient, they also need to be trusted by enough people, or by powerful enough people. IMO there will be at least a 7 year lag between prediction markets working well, and them being broadly accepted outside of narrow wonk/nerd circles.

In the existing world, covid was already front-page news in Jan/Feb 2020, with speculation about it spreading beyond China*. Few people in the West did anything. The limiting factor wasn't warnings being issued, it was people being able to grok that something Really Bad was coming, and prepare rather than burying heads in the sand.

Suppose the headlines said "prediction markets expect covid to reach us" rather than "experts expect covid to reach us". Who would have behaved differently? The kind of people and institutions which tend to react to signals from stock markets and opinion polls -- the competent minority.

Plus, even a good prediction market would not have immediately reached certainty that covid would become a pandemic. I imagine the alarm and confidence gradually increasing over early 2020

Overall, we might have shifted the reactions forward by a couple of weeks. In a really good scenario that might have led to enough pressure to make governments do something (e.g. widespread testing before it was too late). But...even that might have been enough to stop the pandemic in the spring.


(*) incidentally, I'm struggling to check my memory on that. Tips for how to not just confirm there was reporting on covid, but get a sense of how prominent it was?

Comment by danohu on We got what's needed for COVID-19 vaccination completely wrong · 2021-02-12T07:22:07.946Z · LW · GW

Peptide vaccines aren't old and boring, they are new and unproven. From a 2014 review 

The vast majority of candidate peptide vaccines are under Phase I (270 studies) and Phase II (224 studies) stage of development.In a total of 452 studies, only 12 studies have progressed to Phase III level of development.Interestingly, all these 12 studies are on therapeutic candidate peptide vaccines indicated for treatment of multiple types of cancers.

AFAICT no peptide vaccine has ever been approved for human use.

So yes, maybe a peptide vaccine could have worked better, but it would have been as much an innovation as the mRNA vaccines.

[this just from googling right now, I'd never heard of peptide vaccines before]

Comment by danohu on Covid 2/4: Safe and Effective Vaccines Aplenty · 2021-02-08T11:30:53.897Z · LW · GW

They are currently being keelhauled by the EU for having allegedly* diverted vaccine from the EU (which had not approved it) to the UK (which had).

They are committed to not making a profit from the vaccine. So there is no financial incentive for getting more vaccine out into the world, and plenty of reputational risk for doing so.

(*) AFAICT they did not even do this, and still their reputation is being trashed. 

Comment by danohu on Covid 1/28: Muddling Through · 2021-01-29T18:55:03.334Z · LW · GW

"I hope that they’re giving Europe all the doses we’ve refused to approve here in America"


oh Zvi, you slipped into expecting reasonable behavior.

The EU don't want to inject any vaccine unless it has been made in the EU. At least the published contracts both contain clauses requiring manufacture in the EU/UK. Because clearly that's what we should be worried about right now.

I had wondered why there were separate production chains for the US and the EU. 'Protectionism' is apparently the answer.

Comment by danohu on Covid 11/19: Don’t Do Stupid Things · 2020-11-21T17:06:43.620Z · LW · GW

I agree! Access to cheap informal testing has made a HUGE difference in my social circles, and I don't understand why it isn't being used all around me. Life is so much easier when you can work around different risk tolerances by giving tests rather than breaking off contact.

Are the antigen tests that much harder to get hold of in other countries?

Comment by danohu on How can I reconcile these COVID test false-negative numbers? · 2020-10-31T10:35:28.509Z · LW · GW

With antigen tests, I believe the figures are  "P(positive test | positive gold standard test)"

Look at the documentation for another antigen test -- section 14 gives sensitivity compared to PCR. The figure they promote (and is e.g. used for the German government approval) is 97.56% sensitivity. This is both based on PCR, and based on filtering down to specimens with a high viral load (Ct 20-30).

BTW, that German site is a good collection of documentation links for all the antigen tests currently approved.

Comment by danohu on Effective Epidemiology · 2020-10-23T13:08:07.769Z · LW · GW

Depends a lot on where you are. In California, sure. But in the winter in Scandinavia or Canada?

Comment by danohu on You have recovered from SARS-CoV-2. Now what? · 2020-10-19T08:19:18.076Z · LW · GW

However, there is a high degree of skepticism, since a lot of this evidence is self reported. Some of these reports come from people who believed they had SARS-CoV-2, but never received a clinical confirmation through testing.


That seems like a good opportunity to separate out the effects of covid itself. Collect symptoms from a bunch of these self-reporters, then use antibody tests to determine which actually had corona.

Comment by danohu on Nate Soares' Replacing Guilt Series compiled in epub Format · 2017-05-09T14:43:43.356Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the link; added to my reading queue

Comment by danohu on Actors and scribes, words and deeds · 2017-05-09T14:43:26.902Z · LW · GW

Are you familiar with the idea of Speech Acts?

Some of the ideas there seem very relevant to your Actor/Scribe distinction. [I only have a very superficial knowledge of this stuff myself, so can't say more than that it might be worth a look]