Does NYT have policies? 2020-06-24T04:06:57.556Z · score: 17 (3 votes)
Douglas_Knight's Shortform 2020-03-28T17:02:42.450Z · score: 8 (1 votes)
Perception of the Concrete vs Statistical: Corruption 2016-03-23T01:19:33.856Z · score: 5 (4 votes)
Would you notice if science died? 2016-03-08T04:04:49.587Z · score: 5 (10 votes)
Actually existing prediction markets? 2015-09-02T22:24:45.470Z · score: 11 (10 votes)
The Cold War divided Science 2014-04-05T23:10:38.181Z · score: 21 (22 votes)
Games People Play 2010-11-20T04:41:39.635Z · score: 11 (10 votes)


Comment by douglas_knight on Covid 9/17: It’s Worse · 2020-09-17T23:14:51.667Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For those worried, yes, the halted vaccine trial from last week has resumed

I don't believe that this is true. All the articles from last week say that it's only the British trial resuming, not the American. I believe that British trial is almost full, so it's irrelevant that it resume, whereas the American trial, the biggest, has barely begun. I'm not sure how far Brazil and India have gotten. I guess India resumed on Tuesday. Here is an article about FDA not resuming.

Comment by douglas_knight on Were vaccines relevant to 20th century US mortality improvements? · 2020-09-11T02:55:59.048Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that a much stronger statement is true. For almost every viral disease with a vaccine, there was a 90% reduction in mortality before the advent of the vaccine. The only graph I have on hand is measles:

measles mortality time series

Of course, if A causes a 90% reduction in mortality and B causes a 90% reduction in mortality, and they are independent, in a causal sense they are equal and you shouldn't judge their effects based on which one is deployed first. But once one is deployed, the marginal value of adding the other is only 10% as much. Even if B causes a 100% reduction, its marginal value beyond A is only 10% of the initial value of A.

(There is also a theory that measles resets your immune system and wipes out acquired immunity, so avoiding measles saves even more lives. So then a vaccine would be much more valuable than surviving measles.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Covid 8/20: A Little Progress · 2020-09-02T15:54:55.475Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is funded by Emergent Ventures, which was founded with the purpose of being a one-man shop. I'm pretty sure he still makes the final decisions, but is that the same thing? As you say, contra Zvi's claim, Emergent Ventures has grown into a bureaucracy. What's wrong with bureaucracies? Cowen appears to have solid control over EV. If the bureaucracy fails at the legible goal of being fast, he will simply fire it. But it is doing some filtering that he used to do, which is harder to police.

Comment by douglas_knight on Covid 8/27: The Fall of the CDC · 2020-09-02T15:25:10.107Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
a decrease of 3.2%

Don't say that. Say a decrease of 3.2 points. Or "percentage points," for clarity. Worst case scenario is that people are confused, which is better than wrong.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-08-24T22:05:52.551Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sprinkling in the words "supply" and "demand" doesn't make it an argument.

I would be very happy if it were just a model, but it is not even a model. That's exactly the problem.

If you want to make an argument, you have to actually say something about supply and demand. You have to connect slavery (or any other aspect of any particular time and place) to supply or demand, or, better, both.

It is much more popular to argue that cheap labor caused the industrial revolution than that expensive labor caused the industrial revolution. Maybe expensive labor caused the agricultural revolution, which overshot and produced cheap labor, which in turn caused the industrial revolution. But if you can't tell the difference between that claim and the claim that expensive labor causing the industrial revolution, then you don't actually mean anything when you claim to have a model.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-08-22T01:48:32.216Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's an extremely common argument that the reason that ancient Greek science didn't lead to Greek engineering is that Athens was a slave society and slave societies are brimming with labor and have no demand for labor-saving devices.

I have never been able to make head or tail of this argument. Also, the conclusion and premise of the argument are false. Conclusion: Greek engineering was better than Roman engineering. It was awesome and we're really not sure how far it went. Premise: Greek scientists weren't in Athens, but in many places in the Hellenistic world, especially Alexandria. Was Alexandria a slave society? I don't think anyone really knows. Some sources claim that it was full of slaves; some empty. Some that it had slaves everywhere, but others only in the fields, not in the workshops.

An alternate theory is that in (some) slave societies, the master is not supposed to think about the kind of work performed by slaves.

Here is a third argument that slave societies are not inventive. I just ran across Carroll Quigley:

a society whose productive system was based on slavery would probably be uninventive, because the slaves, who knew the productive process most intimately, would have little incentive to devise new methods since these would be unlikely to benefit themselves, while the slaveowners would have only a distant acquaintance with the productive processes

This argument seems too narrow to me. Is this about slavery, or about big organizations? I thought Adam Smith wrote something broader, but he actually wrote exactly the same:

A great part of the machines made use of in those manufactures in which labour is most subdivided, were originally the invention of common workmen, who, being each of them employed in some very simple operation, naturally turned their thoughts towards finding out easier and readier methods of performing it. — Book I, Chapter 1
Slaves, however, are very seldom inventive; and all the most important improvements, either in machinery, or in the arrangement and distribution of work, which facilitate and abridge labour have been the discoveries of freemen. Should a slave propose any improvement of this kind, his master would be very apt to consider the proposal as the suggestion of laziness, and of a desire to save his own labour at the master's expense. The poor slave, instead of reward would probably meet with much abuse, perhaps with some punishment. In the manufactures carried on by slaves, therefore, more labour must generally have been employed to execute the same quantity of work, than in those carried on by freemen. — Book IV, Chapter 9

Again, what's special about slaves? Why would the master think any differently of the slave than of the apprentice? Doesn't "at his master's expense" apply both times? Is the master's reaction supposed to be correct or prejudiced? Perhaps the master should be willing to let the underling try out cheap experiments, but should be cautious about investing in building the machine. The master tradesman is different from the slave driver in having more experience in the task, but that's mainly a question of the depth of the hierarchy, not the legal status. My memory was that Smith went on to say that the master was right that the apprentice was crying wolf and that real progress required the apprentice to set up his own shop and try out his inventions at his own expense, with skin in the game. I wouldn't be surprised if he does say something along these lines elsewhere, but not connected to this passage.

Bonus: here are the sentences before and after the second quote. They sound rather odd to me, perhaps like the first theory I rejected above:

the great body of the people were in effect excluded from all the trades which are, now commonly exercised by the lower sort of the inhabitants of towns. Such trades were, at Athens and Rome, all occupied by the slaves of the rich, who exercised them for the benefit of their masters, whose wealth, power, and protection made it almost impossible for a poor freeman to find a market for his work, when it came into competition with that of the slaves of the rich. [Slavery and invention.] The Hungarian mines, it is remarked by Mr. Montesquieu, though not richer, have always been wrought with less expense, and therefore with more profit, than the Turkish mines in their neighbourhood. The Turkish mines are wrought by slaves; and the arms of those slaves are the only machines which the Turks have ever thought of employing. The Hungarian mines are wrought by freemen, who employ a great deal of machinery, by which they facilitate and abridge their own labour.

First, there is the mystery of why the Turks don't copy the Hungarians next door. It's one thing to ignore innovations from slaves, but why do they ignore proven innovations? Second, if the Hungarians can compete with the Turks, why can't free tradesmen of Athens and Rome compete with the slave tradesmen? One possibility is vertical integration ("for the benefit of their masters"). Another is that something outside of economics has been smuggled in with the words "power and protection." It seems like most of the sentences exists to refute the first few, so what's going on?

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-08-18T20:11:03.369Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How much of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics is just feudalism?

That is, that is, taking on a patron-client relationship is a discrete change with abrupt ethical consequences.

I think that feudalism explains a lot about the ethics of employment. In particular, the employer is responsible for a living wage, not supplemented by charity, which is for wards of the state; and the employer is responsible for the sins of the ward. I'm not sure it explains the examples Jai's original post. He did a good job of producing diverse examples that aren't explained by a common factor like employment. But I wonder whether it is an echo of feudalism.

Comment by douglas_knight on Matt Botvinick on the spontaneous emergence of learning algorithms · 2020-08-18T18:26:19.968Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I asked you if you were talking about starving to death and you didn't answer. Does your abstract claim correspond to a concrete claim, or do you just observe that anorexics seem to have a goal and assume that everything must flow from that and the details don't matter? That's a perfectly reasonable claim, but it's a weak claim so I'd like to know if that's what you mean.

Abrupt suicides by anorexics are just as mysterious as suicides by schizophrenics and don't seem to flow from the apparent goal of thinness. Suicide is a good example of something, but I don't think it's useful to attach it to anorexia rather than schizophrenia or bipolar.

Long-term health damage would be a reasonable claim, which I tried to concede in my original comment. I'm not sure I agree with it. I could pose a lot of complaints about it, but I wouldn't. If it's clear that it is the claim, then I think it's clearly a weak claim and that's OK. (As for the objection you propose, I would rather say: lots of people take badly calibrated risks without being labeled insane.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Matt Botvinick on the spontaneous emergence of learning algorithms · 2020-08-17T14:59:11.256Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm objecting to the claim that it fits your criterion of "catastrophic." Maybe it's such a clear example, with such a clear goal, that we should sacrifice the criterion of catastrophic, but you keep using that word.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-08-17T02:18:27.923Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
The essence of systems thinking: Every persistent biological or cultural structure exists because of a positive feedback loop. Sometimes it’s hard to see. But to understand the structure, you must understand the loop.
Kevin Simler


Positive loops by themselves are unstable, yes, and both are needed for stability, but positive loops are primary. Without a positive loop, there would be nothing for a negative loop to stabilize.
Comment by douglas_knight on Matt Botvinick on the spontaneous emergence of learning algorithms · 2020-08-17T01:49:25.148Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you single out anorexia? Do you mean people starving themselves to death? My understanding is that is very rare. Anorexics have a high death rate and some of that is long-term damage from starvation. They also (abruptly) kill themselves at a high rate, comparable to schizophrenics, but why single that out? There's a theory that they have practice with internal conflict, which does seem relevant, but I think that's just a theory, not clear cut at all.

Comment by douglas_knight on What a 20-year-lead in military tech might look like · 2020-08-06T02:03:10.564Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK, if you change the topic from occupation to conquest, then technology matters. Cortes and Pizarro didn't equip and train their allies. Maybe in the beginning, say, 1680-1750, the East India Company acted like Cortes and Pizarro, allying with armies that they didn't train or equip and maybe their advantages were a reason to side with them. But starting in 1750 they trained and equipped native armies and lost all their advantages.

I explicitly addressed this: the British had no advantage of guns. The Sepoy mutiny was sparked by the beef fat in the cutting-edge rifles that the British gave to the Indians.

For that matter, your wikipedia link says that the Sultan of Zanzibar did have a Maxim gun. Technology travels fast! It was more a battle of artillery. The British Raj did respond to the Sepoy Mutiny by moving artillery out of the hands of natives, but the Company had managed 50-100 years trusting artillery to Indians.

Comment by douglas_knight on What a 20-year-lead in military tech might look like · 2020-07-31T19:08:44.870Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think phrasing this in terms of "power" is not so helpful. Cortes and Pizarro brought only a few hundred men to destroy empires. But they didn't nuke them; rather, they allied with existing armies. Similarly, most of the Indian Army was native. Most of the administrators were Indians, too. The British had better weapons and social technology of training, but in creating the Indian Army, they gave up that advantage. The key was some tacit social technology of hierarchy, to keep command of army and country. At the beginning, the Empire had 80k British soldiers, but the East India company tried to get away with using only 40k. It failed in the Sepoy Mutiny, which is why it was replaced by the Empire, but the units with more British were more likely to rebel, so it's not a matter of pure numbers, but of how they were deployed. (Specifically, units with more British had segregation and racism, while the units with fewer British had camaraderie. And probably responsiveness to specific concerns, like the tallow bullets.)

Comment by douglas_knight on What a 20-year-lead in military tech might look like · 2020-07-31T02:53:54.143Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The British Raj had 125k colonists at the beginning in 1861 and 166k near the end in 1921, so about one per 2,000 subjects.

Comment by douglas_knight on New Paper on Herd Immunity Thresholds · 2020-07-30T21:18:01.887Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW
1. People are identical, and have identical susceptibility to the virus.
2. People are identical, and have identical ability to spread the virus.
3. People are identical, and have identical exposure to the virus.
4. People are identical, and have contacts completely at random.
5. The only intervention considered is immunity. No help from behavior adjustments.
All five of these mis­takes are large, and all point in the same di­rec­tion.

I think you are making an error about 5. There are several questions you could ask the SIR model. If you mix them up, you get the wrong answer, but that's not the fault of the model. The SIR model allows non-immunity changes by just changing R. The question of what would herd immunity be without behavior adjustments is a perfectly reasonable question. It is the question of what level of immunity would allow us to go back to normal without risking an outbreak.

Maybe I don't understand what you mean by 2 and 3, but I don't see how they predict systematic deviation from the SIR model, unless the effects in 2 and 3 are correlated. Probably I would just subsume 2 and 3 into 1 and 4.

I see three main deviations from the SIR model. One is natural immunity. Like Owain, I think that this is overplayed, at least in Europe. The second is the network difference you talk about between the connected and the isolated. But the third is the obvious network structure of cities. Talking about whether Italy has achieved herd immunity is an error: Milan can achieve it without protecting Naples. Talking about a national immunity threshold is a category error and using national PCR and antibody numbers is not so useful. (I'm not sure how badly this paper makes this mistake. It does talk about Madrid and Catalonia, but in other countries I think it uses the only data it can.)

Comment by douglas_knight on New Paper on Herd Immunity Thresholds · 2020-07-30T19:10:20.115Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The Imperial model is worse than the SIR model.

It accreted detail for a decade just to prove that they were doing something. It is a good demonstration of the typical failure modes of an agent-based model. A useful model has very few parameters abstract parameters, so that they can be measured from reality. Agent-based models are useful to explore the space of relevant parameters, not to simulate a country. If simulating a country is "sophisticated," then I don't want to be a sophist.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-07-21T20:46:18.157Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I could have said "The Aumann Agreement Theorem, also known as Bulverism," which is more broadly true. But the converse is a more valuable statement.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-07-20T15:56:47.194Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Bulverism, also known as the Aumann Agreement Theorem.

Comment by douglas_knight on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-29T18:32:38.213Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen a lot of complaints about Metz's history, but they all seem backwards to me. They seem like a satire of virtue ethics.

Who do you think he's "working for"? If he is working for outside forces (eg, keeping a source happy), then drawing attention to it is exactly the best way to take it out of his hands and force him to work for his editor; and force his editor to work for the paper.

Writing puff pieces sounds more lazy than malicious to me.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-06-27T02:09:00.723Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are there compendiums or classifications of trolley problems?

What is the most extreme real-world trolley problem? By "real-world" I mean something that really happens, emphasis on the plural. I don't want one-off examples where one person has the moral luck of having to face it and everyone else can breathe easy that they didn't have to think about it. I want examples where there is a definite, known policy. By "extreme," I mean something that really pushes people's buttons. By a classification, I mean a classification of which features make it more like a visceral trolley problem and which more like a blurry statistical haze that allows trading lives.

I propose a candidate: the dengue vaccine. In any event, I think people will find it interesting.

Dengue fever is an often-fatal mosquito-born tropical viral disease. People develop immunity, so we could make a vaccine. Obvious candidate, except ... Since we are all now experts in antibodies, we all know about the crazy phenomenon of antibody-dependent enhancement, mainly observed in dengue. It is not one virus, but four closely related strains with different envelope proteins and different immunity. If you get one, it's a non-lethal disease and you become immune to that strain. But you're still vulnerable to the other strains and, for not entirely clear reasons, infection with a new strain is much worse.

If you've already had some variant of dengue, any vaccine is better than none. But if you've never been exposed, it might be worse than not vaccinating. So of course the vaccine is a combination of all four variants. What if each of the four vaccines had a 95% chance of working, independent? Then someone receiving the vaccine would have about a 20% chance of not being vaccinated for all four. Let's say that's worse than nothing. Vaccinating everyone is a trolley problem benefiting people who have been exposed at the expense of those who have not been exposed. Both the benefit and harm is statistical (you don't know that you'll ever get dengue in the future), but the two groups of people can be identified ahead of time, not in a God's eye view of who will be bitten, but in a really potentially testable way. You could just test people for antibodies. If you're first-world-rich, perhaps a tourist from the first world, you can get repeated testing for antibodies and if you ever test positive, then you should get the vaccine. But the testing is more expensive than the vaccine (and logistically complicated) and Filipinos are poor, so we're not going to pay to test them. Should we choose some simple criterion like an age threshold and living in a badly hit area and just vaccinate everyone?

This was a hypothetical and I'm not sure if people were ever faced with this decision. If so, they decided not to pull the switch and instead kept working on the vaccine until it was much better than 95% effective. It was so effective (at least as measured by producing antibodies) enough that they rounded it off to 100% declared the problem solved and vaccinated a bunch of Filipinos who were old enough that they'd probably had it once.

And then the data trickled in and it saved lots of (net) lives, but it wasn't quite as good as hoped. People who had been vaccinated still got dengue, just not as often. But surely that meant that people who hadn't been exposed before were promoting mild to severe dengue? This seems pretty obvious, but they put their fingers in their ears and waited for the data to pin that down. That waiting, or maybe something else, burned their credibility and now the WHO policy is that you shouldn't give anyone the vaccine without an antibody test. Practically speaking, that means no vaccines.

This is a trolley problem that happened in the real world and the fact that the groups of people are potentially knowable seems to really important to reluctance to switching tracks. But the rejection of the vaccine is not purely the result of the trolley problem, but also about burnt credibility.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-06-26T04:48:48.977Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A common pedagogical example of the perils of correlation analysis that ice cream consumption is correlated with homicide. The common cause is seasonal variation. This is usually presented as an absurd example, a mistake no one would make, but there is an extremely similar example that was nationally prominent. Polio was blamed on ice cream consumption because they had the same seasonal pattern. I wonder if the standard example was engineered from the real example. Perhaps it is better (eg, more absurd), but one doesn't have to choose just one example; surely it is better to also include the historical example.

Comment by douglas_knight on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-25T16:30:06.129Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "mistake theory" and "conflict theory"?

I'm really confused by this comment and I think you are using the terms backwards. Telling someone that they've made a mistake is a violent act, a form of conflict, but it is an example of mistake theory.

Some people theorize that there is an irreducible conflict. They generally recommend that their side not talk to NYT. Until the doxing came up, they were the dominant voices on the topic of this article in preparation, or at least the ones causing discussion. But after the topic moved on to doxing, they have nothing more to say and have been overwhelmed by

This LW thread is almost entirely about mistake theory. Maybe you see different things on twitter, but if so, you should say that, because the one thing all your readers have in common is that they're on LW.

Comment by douglas_knight on The point of a memory palace · 2020-06-23T17:30:36.601Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this one of those exercises in which you write out your argument and then reverse the valence of every claim in order to see if there was an argument? That is, was this originally a list of the form: "Memory palaces are a bad idea because they produce memorization at the expense of ___"?

Does anyone know what exercise I'm talking about? I think it was in the Sequences.

Comment by douglas_knight on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-23T17:21:15.758Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that their principal goal is to doxx him. But there is a big difference between a habit and a rule. It's not that they used the name without thinking about it, but they specifically rejected his complaint and said that they were just following orders.

On many other places I see people discussing this, they point out that the reporter's claim that there is an NYT policy is a bald-faced lie. You are the first person I have seen that took it at face value. This LW discussion is striking because no one else acknowledges the claim at all. I think that they believe that it is a lie, but don't want to rudely point that out, so they pretend it was not uttered.

Added, next day: I estimate that 99% of the time that NYT writes about someone with a professional pseudonym, they treat it as a real name. 1% of the time, they note that it is a pseudonym and 1/10 of those times, 1/1000 of all times they print the real name.

Seriously, 99% of the time. I am not being hyperbolic. The main source of uncertainty is how often they write about someone with a professional pseudonym. I estimate that NYT writes about someone with a professional surname every day.

Comment by douglas_knight on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-23T15:48:19.571Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to clarify, edit your original post.

Comment by douglas_knight on Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates · 2020-06-10T21:37:31.371Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
except trusting that he isn't picking and choosing his arguments

Well, don't do that. I told you this before.

What's his confidence interval?

What's CBG's confidence interval? When he says 0.5-1%, does he mean something? Does he mean a confidence interval, or a distribution of "normal" situations or a distribution of more general situations? Or does he not mean anything?

Later on in that thread CBG also acknowledges it may be higher in than 1% in some places and conditions.

It's nice that he says that, but that's exactly the situation that you cited him in the other thread, claiming <=1%. I'm guessing that the pseudo-detail is exactly what caused you to not understand his claims. If you don't know what he claims, how can you assess his work? At least with GC you're not fooling yourself about what you've done.

And I still don't know what he claims. He seems to claim that NYC had IFR <=1%. Was NYC normal or not? In any event he's wrong. If NYC defines the upper range, then this affects his conclusion. If NYC doesn't count, I dunno, but I'm pretty sure that people are equivocating on whether it counts.

Comment by douglas_knight on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2020-06-10T04:07:51.949Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
The Default Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) Is 0.5%-1%

Why do you believe that? We can only measure IFR in the worst outbreaks, such as NYC and Lombardy, where it was 1-2%. Maybe hospitals that aren't overrun have half the morality rate, but how do you know?

Amer­ica in gen­eral could be as high as 1.2% IFR with­out mak­ing the data stop mak­ing sense.

What about the data wouldn't make sense if the IFR were 2% in America ex NYC? Outside of a massive outbreak, we can measure neither deaths nor infections. Sure, if you assume that only 33% of deaths are missed, then we can measure deaths. But why assume that? Isn't that only true in NYC because there was pressure to record untested pneumonia deaths? Elsewhere there is less attention and less pressure.

Comment by douglas_knight on Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates · 2020-06-10T03:58:22.987Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You say that like detail is a pure good. "Greg Cochran says 1.2%" is better than any number of words from CBG. Anyhow, you repudiated this. When I pushed you on it, you came up with the number 1.4%.

Comment by douglas_knight on Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates · 2020-06-10T03:58:07.348Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
start with seroprevalence data

Because of false positives, seroprevalence is massively overestimated everywhere that there hasn't been a massive outbreak. In those places the IFR is 1-2%. But can we extrapolate to normal outbreaks? If, as widely believed, an overrun medical system has worse mortality, then maybe the normal IFR really is only 0.5-1%. But if your meta-analysis directly measures that, it is not well-done.

Comment by douglas_knight on How to evaluate (50%) predictions · 2020-05-04T18:54:54.994Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, exactly: this post conflates accuracy and calibration. Thus it is a poor antidote to people who make that mistake.

Comment by douglas_knight on 2020 predictions · 2020-05-04T15:49:37.216Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is striking how errors in discussions of this topic are systematically in the direction of downplaying the severity. Probably 95% of errors.

assuming a runaway infection we'd have R=3 so ~220M infected

This is a math error. Herd immunity is achieved once 1-1/R is infected. The goal of "flattening the curve," is to just barely reach this number. But in a "runaway" scenario, it is much higher. The epidemic final size of the SIR model is 94%.

Since Lombardy had a population fatality rate of 0.2%, I'm not going to look at your citations. I assume the problem is that they ignore most of the deaths.

Comment by douglas_knight on How to evaluate (50%) predictions · 2020-05-04T02:43:47.741Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's something, but I don't see how it's relevant to this thread.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-05-04T02:36:51.260Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Nothing in academic biology makes sense except in the light of feudalism.

Comment by douglas_knight on 2020 predictions · 2020-05-04T02:23:49.697Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
Given Coronavirus IFR <1% then with a US population of 330 million this seems almost certain. I would have put this probability higher if there was a higher option.

If a lot of people get infected, the hospital systems will collapse and the IFR will be higher than 1%, as it was in Wuhan, Lombardy, and NYC. If the whole population gets infected, it will be much higher. Also, the IFC is probably >1% even without collapse.

Comment by douglas_knight on How to evaluate (50%) predictions · 2020-05-04T02:17:12.837Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you probably won't convince me that these people know what the claim is, but you haven't even attempted to convince me that you know what the claim is. Do you see that I asked multiple questions?

Comment by douglas_knight on How to evaluate (50%) predictions · 2020-05-03T17:46:53.657Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you give an example?

Could you give an example where the claim is that 50% predictions are less meaningful than 10% predictions?

How do you know that it is about accuracy?

Comment by douglas_knight on How four guys helped redirect Japan's coronavirus policy · 2020-04-24T16:49:22.470Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Note that you have rewritten and cherry-picked his predictions.

His precise predictions were all wrong. Maybe Japan was undercounting cases by 5x, but so was everyone else. Cases were rising at 8% per day and deaths were rising at 8% per day. Cases and deaths have both continued to rise at 8% day. For factual purposes, the best prediction was to trust the data and simply extrapolate.

The consensus that Japan was OK was wrong, but it was directly contradicted by the official data. Exponential growth is bad. 8% per day is unacceptable. But would it be possible to simply point that out? I don't know. Maybe the only way to get attention was to claim that the data was wrong.

Here is another story of people refusing to acknowledge exponentials.

Comment by douglas_knight on How likely is the COVID-19 apocalyptic scenario? · 2020-04-23T16:42:13.685Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
Covid seems to leave permanent lung damage even in young people.

It is way too soon to say that. Maybe reason by analogy with SARS. It is widely claimed that SARS caused permanent lung damage. But "permanent" seems to mean 3 or 6 months! Here is a paper showing substantial improvement from 6 months to 9 months.

Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread · 2020-04-15T03:29:21.049Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Here are some quotes from the paper. What is the simplest model you can make from them? Forget the word "model"; what conclusions can you draw?

Most of the infections on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship appear to have occurred before or around the start of the 2-week quarantine
the delay, D, between infection and onset of symptomatic infection (i.e. the incubation period) ... at 6.4 ... days
Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread · 2020-04-15T03:15:27.396Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think Michael's position doesn't have much to do with covid, but a lot to do with 6b. The crisis is a coordination point for bursting a bubble. 6b says that there is very little new information, but the stock market is acknowledging a large backlog of negative news. The whole market was a bubble, but Boeing was the worst of the bubble (plus covid is news specifically about transport). In some sense this is a very strong rejection of EMH, but, "the market can stay irrational," "noise traders," etc.

Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread · 2020-04-14T19:49:39.980Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

First of all, it is very important to distinguish data from inferences.

Second, the inference is idiotic. It's probably a calculation error, but it's just not worth reading to determine what went wrong.

Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread · 2020-04-14T19:44:46.090Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, yes, it is simply misquoting the source that I cited.

Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread · 2020-04-14T18:50:29.135Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Where do you get your data on the Diamond Princess? As far as I know, there are no updates on symptoms. Perhaps you get it from this, which is not data, but an inference?

Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread · 2020-04-14T16:38:25.044Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Diamond Princess was 50% asymptomatic after 2 weeks of [in cabin] quarantine. It would be nice to have more follow-up on it, but that's already much better than most measures of asymptomatic cases.

Comment by douglas_knight on How to evaluate (50%) predictions · 2020-04-11T16:57:04.815Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The title and first sentence are about calibration. You never hear very smart people saying that 50% predictions are meaningless in the context of accuracy.

There's nothing magical about 50%. The closer the predictions are to 50%, the harder it is to judge calibration.

Comment by douglas_knight on Coronavirus: the four levels of social distancing, and when and why we might transition between them · 2020-03-30T04:59:04.804Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is another measure, which you might think of as level 5, but you should probably think of as an independent axis that could be applied at earlier levels, which is quarantining infected people. That is, taking them out of their home and putting them in makeshift hospitals.

Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-03-28T17:11:16.562Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

two tweets:

[Carl Schmitt is a good philosopher but] One nightmarish way to understand The Discourse is that somehow Carl Schmitt became the obvious, agreed-upon, common-sense interpretation of politics. All sides nod sagely, but each fetishizes a different book.
So the left gets Political Theology, the right gets Nomos of the Earth. Quilette-style centrists are 100% indebted to the Concept of the Political.
Comment by douglas_knight on Douglas_Knight's Shortform · 2020-03-28T17:02:42.773Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith is a great book. My favorite part is Book III, Chapter 4 on the end of feudalism. In particular, I like these two paragraphs:

In a country which has neither foreign commerce, nor any of the finer manufactures, a great proprietor, having nothing for which he can exchange the greater part of the produce of his lands which is over and above the maintenance of the cultivators, consumes the whole in rustic hospitality at home. If this surplus produce is sufficient to maintain a hundred or a thousand men, he can make use of it in no other way than by maintaining a hundred or a thousand men. He is at all times, therefore, surrounded with a multitude of retainers and dependants, who, having no equivalent to give in return for their maintenance, but being fed entirely by his bounty, must obey him, for the same reason that soldiers must obey the prince who pays them.

In a country where there is no foreign commerce, nor any of the finer manufactures, a man of ten thousand a year cannot well employ his revenue in any other way than in maintaining, perhaps, a thousand families, who are all of them necessarily at his command. In the present state of Europe, a man of ten thousand a year can spend his whole revenue, and he generally does so, without directly maintaining twenty people, or being able to command more than ten footmen not worth the commanding. Indirectly, perhaps, he maintains as great or even a greater number of people than he could have done by the ancient method of expense. For though the quantity of precious productions for which he exchanges his whole revenue be very small, the number of workmen employed in collecting and preparing it must necessarily have been very great. Its great price generally arises from the wages of their labour, and the profits of all their immediate employers. By paying that price he indirectly pays all those wages and profits and thus indirectly contributes to the maintenance of all the workmen and their employers. He generally contributes, however, but a very small proportion to that of each, to very few perhaps a tenth, to many not a hundredth, and to some not a thousandth, nor even a ten-thousandth part of their whole annual maintenance. Though he contributes, therefore, to the maintenance of them all, they are all more or less independent of him, because generally they can all be maintained without him.
Comment by douglas_knight on mind viruses about body viruses · 2020-03-28T16:18:09.137Z · score: 14 (8 votes) · LW · GW
Okay, words aside, does the right strat­egy look like the fa­mous GIF taken liter­ally, or like a feed­back sys­tem where we keep turn­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing on and off so the graph looks like a heart rate mon­i­tor, or like a “ham­mer” re­set fol­lowed by a suc­cess­ful em­u­la­tion of South Korea, or
I don’t know and you don’t know and To­mas doesn’t know and Carl doesn’t know. It’s hard!

No, it is really easy. If the society is capable of executing the feedback system, then it has a method of driving R0 below 1. If it can do that, it should execute the hammer. This requires less aggregate time under extreme measures than the feedback system. If the society fails to execute the dance, then it can try the feedback system, but that sounds a lot harder to me than the dance.

Like me, these people make both substantive and semantic objections.  In fact, theirs are a strict superset of mine (see that last Bergstrom thread re: Gaussians!).
I am not saying “look, I was right, the experts agree with me, please recognize this.”  I mean, I am saying that.

But you were wrong about Gaussians. So much the worse for the experts.

There are only two choices: herd immunity, or the dance. Herd immunity can be accomplished by vaccine, by permanent change to society to reduce R0, or by having 1-1/R0 proportion of people survive the disease. Without a vaccine and without permanent change to society, the area 1-1/R0 is fixed, although a full-speed epidemic could infect even more.

Comment by douglas_knight on Authorities and Amateurs · 2020-03-26T01:13:32.841Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You've lost track of the object level here.

What did his post originally mean? I'm not allowed to read people's minds. He admits that no one took from it what he wanted them to take from it. Lanrian said that it was "a reasonable critique...that it doesn't make sense to assume a normal distribution." That was a qualitative complaint and he admitted that it was qualitatively wrong.