Does NASA Take Alien Life Seriously? 2021-05-18T21:36:06.460Z
An Exercise in Rational Cooperation and Communication: Let's Play Hanabi 2021-04-14T08:36:07.846Z
Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial #3: I Hope I feel Worse Tomorrow 2021-03-05T00:02:50.407Z
Good brainteasers for children? 2021-03-02T06:44:24.789Z
Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial #2: We pretty much knew it would work the whole time 2021-02-27T00:47:29.017Z
ejacob's Shortform 2021-02-21T03:00:11.887Z
Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial 2021-02-11T20:35:37.740Z
Making Expertise Legible: Being right should make you respected, not the other way around 2021-02-07T23:15:08.122Z
Three Stories about not Thinking too Hard 2021-02-05T19:51:47.260Z


Comment by ejacob on Is the length of the Covid-19 incubation period likely to be affected by whether you are vaccinated? · 2021-06-14T16:22:50.029Z · LW · GW

Is your immunocompromised buddy amenable to prophylaxis? I don't even really know how many pro-ivermectin-for-covid doctors think ivermectin prophylaxis works but it might be worth looking into since it is very cheap and relatively easy to tolerate. There are probably other options that i know even less about. Consult a trusted physician :)

Comment by ejacob on Which rationalists faced significant side-effects from COVID-19 vaccination? · 2021-06-14T14:29:21.783Z · LW · GW

Oh and add on to this some Israeli cousins (who all received Pfizer), at least 7? With the same side effects.

I haven't really taken stock of this before, but given how many people I know have received a vaccination the lack of reported long-term effects seems like a notable signal.

Comment by ejacob on Which rationalists faced significant side-effects from COVID-19 vaccination? · 2021-06-14T14:26:18.106Z · LW · GW

My close family had 3 people receive 2x Pfizer, 1 2x Moderna, and 1 2x Novavax (part of a clinical trial). No side effects beyond muscle aches/fever/malaise for at most 24 hrs.

NB Novavax is not an mRNA vaccine; it's basically just the spike protein presented on an inactive substrate mixed with some preservatives/immune system agonists. A spike protein kebab, if you will.

Comment by ejacob on Covid 6/10: Somebody Else’s Problem · 2021-06-10T17:40:19.843Z · LW · GW

Here is an extremely long post by a science writer which i haven't read, but I've heard him in reasonable-sounding discussions with actual biologists. Maybe what you are looking for is here.

Comment by ejacob on Bad names make you open the box · 2021-06-09T12:44:49.090Z · LW · GW

Somewhat ironically, I read the title of this article as "[being called] bad names make[s] you open the box [and let out the misaligned AGI]" so I was kind of expecting an explainer on how an AI could bully someone into increasing its ability to affect the physical world. Fortunately just a sentence or two corrected me and I still have high trust in LW article titles.

Comment by ejacob on [Prediction] What war between the USA and China would look like in 2050 · 2021-05-26T07:33:31.422Z · LW · GW

I would nudge your assessment of the missile defense capabilities of aircraft carriers up a bit. Part of the reason the Iron Dome doesn't intercept everything is because Hamas launches a large number of rockets at the same time to overwhelm the system. This is easier to do when the rockets are cheap and the target distances are short. A comparable number of anti ship missiles are probably harder to fire simultaneously without deploying a large air fleet, in which case you are kind of meeting the carrier on its own terms. Longer range strikes also means greater time for detection and reaction. I also don't know how that 90-95% figure counts rockets that were intentionally not shot down since their trajectories ended in empty areas. I still think your overall assessment is correct though; it is probably much cheaper to sink an aircraft carrier than defend it, in both money and personnel. And the greatest cost to both parties would be from cyber attacks on civilian or mixed use systems.

Your points about Taiwan's lack of preparation are interesting. Could preparing for guerrilla resistance be seen as accepting a Chinese invasion and occupation as inevitable? I don't know much about Taiwan but I would guess proposing that to be career suicide for most politicians or military officers.

Comment by ejacob on Does NASA Take Alien Life Seriously? · 2021-05-19T04:58:35.062Z · LW · GW

An interesting point. I'm very unsure of this, but I think that the main difference between IV and V is that V includes measures to prevent introduction of Martian life to Earth. The mission to collect the prepared samples would certainly be a category V according to my understanding. Perhaps the crew or lander collecting the samples would first have to do some sort of examination, assuming Perseverance hadn't already?

Comment by ejacob on Does NASA Take Alien Life Seriously? · 2021-05-19T04:54:04.744Z · LW · GW

I am very glad to hear this, and I didn't know that JPL even did life detection! Thank you for commenting.

Comment by ejacob on What Would You Store to Maximize Value in 100 Years? A Thought Experiment · 2021-05-18T07:17:35.538Z · LW · GW

One could buy up s diverse portfolio of seeds of endangered plants/frozen embryos of endangered animals, focusing on ones with medicinal/industrial value or ecological importance.

Comment by ejacob on Sympathy for the ferryman of Hades, or why we should keep Trump off Twitter · 2021-05-09T18:06:20.331Z · LW · GW

I think the metaphor is that raisins are (reasonably) healthy but adding them to cookies won't make cookies healthy.

Comment by ejacob on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-04T00:30:29.917Z · LW · GW

My hypothesis after 30 seconds of thinking was that trees evolve independently because height = good for competing for sunlight, while grasses must specialize a ton to 'afford' passing up on the height advantage. So once a grass is established somewhere it might be hard for an up-and-coming-almost-grass species to nudge out of its niche. Maybe this is related?

I could imagine lots of plants getting stuck in a local maximum of fitness where they are still pretty tree-like but would need to simultaneously lose some tree features and gain C4 photosynthesis in order to succeed as grasses, so the gap to jump in adaptation-space is too large.

Comment by ejacob on Bayeswatch 1: Jewish Space Laser · 2021-05-04T00:13:52.702Z · LW · GW

The airport near Tel-Aviv is called Ben-Gurion, not -Guri, but IDK if this is intentional to make it clear it's an alternate universe or something.

I love all of your fiction. My favorite part of this piece is the "1" in the title because it implies there will be sequels. :)

Comment by ejacob on Prediction and Calibration - Part 1 · 2021-05-02T23:02:43.320Z · LW · GW

There are two reasons why this number is so large: 1) Scott made a lot of predictions and 2) Scott is a very good predictor.

To address #1, you can take Nth root of this number where N is the total number of predictions made. This gives you scott's edge vs randomness per each prediction (on average)

Comment by ejacob on Your Dog is Even Smarter Than You Think · 2021-05-01T15:23:25.466Z · LW · GW

I'm not aware of any existing "dog culture" that is passed between generations, but I'm not aware of any reason it's impossible either. I suppose wolf packs might teach the young adaptations relevant to local conditions, but it's not clear to me how to use that hypothetical evidence.

Comment by ejacob on Your Dog is Even Smarter Than You Think · 2021-05-01T15:21:03.387Z · LW · GW

If the folk wisdom of "pigs are smarter than dogs" is true, this suggests it should be possible to get a pig perspective on the pork industry. Could be a big deal for animal rights (but it's also highly likely that a pig/cow/etc taught how to say "please don't eat me" will be ignored or rationalized away like everything else).

Comment by ejacob on Why don't we vaccinate people against smallpox any more? · 2021-04-21T18:20:33.961Z · LW · GW

There would either be a 0 month delay or an infinite month delay, depending on whether or not any institutions survived the initial panic. :)

Comment by ejacob on Why don't we vaccinate people against smallpox any more? · 2021-04-21T18:19:54.928Z · LW · GW

This is the correct answer AFAIK - several lab leaks of smallpox samples after eradication caused most of the remaining samples to be consolidated into a few secure locations. 

Also, the US military is not the only military to vaccinate; some countries can also give their soldiers injections without officially saying what's inside them.

Comment by ejacob on An Exercise in Rational Cooperation and Communication: Let's Play Hanabi · 2021-04-18T21:16:06.011Z · LW · GW

I can't wait to see their response to my invitations 😃

Comment by ejacob on Why has nuclear power been a flop? · 2021-04-17T14:26:43.970Z · LW · GW

Other competing sources of energy, the worst case scenario is acceptable.

I read this was a nod to the status quo bias of nuclear regulators. Millions(?) Of quality-adjusted life-years lost per year from fossil fuels are basically ignored in the cost benefit analysis.

Comment by ejacob on An Exercise in Rational Cooperation and Communication: Let's Play Hanabi · 2021-04-14T22:08:41.780Z · LW · GW

Being a Gallant is about communicating the message which is most likely to make sense to your recipient, not the message that best appeals to you for some reason. I suspect it is a skill like any other and is best improved simply through regular practice. Post-mortems on failed communications is also likely to be helpful, if only to prevent future mistakes of the same kind. Eventually, one who has fully embodied Gallant will do a pre-mortem before every attempt at communication, iteratively improving their draft message before communicating the best possible signal they can produce. 

Comment by ejacob on An Exercise in Rational Cooperation and Communication: Let's Play Hanabi · 2021-04-14T21:54:30.100Z · LW · GW

Possibly! A game of Hanabi is cooperative, but the meta-game of playing repeated games of Hanabi as an online community may not be.

Comment by ejacob on An Exercise in Rational Cooperation and Communication: Let's Play Hanabi · 2021-04-14T19:30:38.684Z · LW · GW

No other examples come to mind, which is one reason I thought to write the post on Hanabi. I have not heard of The Mind but it sounds like a somewhat surreal experience.

Comment by ejacob on Why is COVID reinfection rate still so uncertain. · 2021-03-28T20:54:07.471Z · LW · GW

It's both, if I understand your question. Having covid gives some resistance that declines over time (intentionally vague phrasing since research on this is ongoing) so recovered cases have less need for a vaccine and from a public health perspective offer less benefit than vaccinating an immunonaive person, if you can only choose one. In addition, giving people with strong immunity even more doses exposes them to needless risk, so recovered cases get only one.

Comment by ejacob on Covid 3/25: Own Goals · 2021-03-26T05:45:02.226Z · LW · GW

Hey Zvi - What do you make of the Ted Cruz-reporter spat when he refused to put on a mask? I have mixed feelings, because I think he obviously has the wrong motivation (annoying the social distance warriors for its own sake) but accidentally expressed a reasonable idea (specifically, "we should not reasonably fear infection from vaccinated individual, especially when there is the option of stepping away," and more generally, "leave the vaccinated the hell alone!")

Comment by ejacob on Why is COVID reinfection rate still so uncertain. · 2021-03-25T01:04:17.254Z · LW · GW

Related fact: Israeli vaccine policy has been to deny vaccines to recovered coronavirus patients for at least 3 months and then give only one dose. Despite the relative success of vaccine distribution there, there was still scarcity at the time this was developed, so this would indicate that the authorities judged the benefit (from a public health standpoint) of giving one dose to an immunonaive person to be equal to that of giving one dose to a recovered case after a 3+ month period.

Comment by ejacob on Another RadVac Testing Update · 2021-03-25T00:57:59.211Z · LW · GW

You could add some other scented ingredient to both peptide and control solutions. Rosewater would be a pleasant option. I wouldn't expect this to interfere with any immune responses too much, but you should do some research to check if you decide to try this.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial #3: I Hope I feel Worse Tomorrow · 2021-03-23T20:35:53.218Z · LW · GW

Another brief update: I had a routine blood test yesterday so a doctor in my family added a prescription for the covid spike antibody test (the spike protein is the intended target of the novavax vaccine). I tested positive for the antibody. This is strong evidence I either received the vaccine or had an asymptomatic infection at some point.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial #3: I Hope I feel Worse Tomorrow · 2021-03-05T11:43:19.237Z · LW · GW

A brief update: I woke up with systemic muscle pain and a moderate temperature increase. Looks like I got the real thing.

Comment by ejacob on ejacob's Shortform · 2021-03-03T01:50:28.402Z · LW · GW

I got a text from a neighbor asking to borrow a bathroom scale. When I gave it to him, he immediately weighed himself and was relieved that he was overweight enough to qualify for a covid-19 vaccine he had just booked. As a result of our prioritization scheme, we've created a negative-sum contest where we encourage an already overweight population to maintain or increase their weight for a chance at an earlier vaccination.

This country is frustrating sometimes.

Comment by ejacob on Curiosity about Aligning Values · 2021-03-03T01:36:49.102Z · LW · GW

In principle, you could enumerate every possible scenario your AI system could encounter and specify what the best action is in that situation. In practice, this either requires an impossible amount of computer memory, an impossible knowledge of what the system is likely to encounter, an impossible amount of work to actually create and test the mapping of input states to output actions, or more commonly a combination of these.

Even if it could be done - in what sense could the result be meaningfully called "AI"? A modern computer behaves perfectly deterministically, always performing the same action under the same conditions, but they are tools, not intelligences, and they can't learn on their own or generalize to new inputs. An AI with an ability to understand natural language will eventually be able to learn and use words it hasn't heard before, but my computer will never "know" what to do if I remove the "enter" button from the keyboard and plug in a toaster.

I'm far from well-read on these topics myself so I'm likely misunderstanding the question or poorly answering it. I recommend looking at some of the curated sequences on AI safety on LessWrong (click the "Library" header in the sidebar menu and scroll for relevant titles). It's very possible your questions are addressed there.

Comment by ejacob on Good brainteasers for children? · 2021-03-02T23:03:29.951Z · LW · GW

Good suggestion, and the username checks out.

Comment by ejacob on Good brainteasers for children? · 2021-03-02T17:13:26.046Z · LW · GW

These are all true, but not things that children know or worry about. You are right that it does require some natural experience with birds being skittish around noises or other stimuli.

A better version might be: Five ducks are sitting in a field. A hunter shoots and kills one of the ducks. How many ducks remain sitting in the field?

Comment by ejacob on Good brainteasers for children? · 2021-03-02T17:12:40.629Z · LW · GW

Yes, 0 because of the noise.

Comment by ejacob on Why aren't we all using Taffix? · 2021-02-27T20:13:30.185Z · LW · GW

I'm Israeli-American living in the US, btw. I heard about it from my mom.

Comment by ejacob on Why aren't we all using Taffix? · 2021-02-27T00:53:44.007Z · LW · GW

I'm glad someone noticed! I was hoping by writing that quick shortform post I would get a some discussion going.

Comment by ejacob on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T16:51:05.917Z · LW · GW

Is there evidence that giving people a UBI would actually result in significantly more lotus-consumption activity? My understanding is that giving most people in the US an extra $1000/month, for example, would mostly go toward covering expenses, buying higher quality goods, or working slightly less to spend more time with family. 

Comment by ejacob on How my school gamed the stats · 2021-02-21T16:03:02.013Z · LW · GW

A brief translation for any confused American readers: in UK English, "State School" refers to what we in the US call a "Public School." In UK English, "Public School" refers to what we in the US call a "Private School" (it is privately owned and/or run but open to the 'public'). I think OP did a good job avoiding any possible confusion but this is a common enough error that it may be worth stating explicitly.

Comment by ejacob on ejacob's Shortform · 2021-02-21T03:00:12.222Z · LW · GW

A nasal spray approved for use in Europe and Israel shows moderate signs of protection against coronavirus infection. Taffix spray creates a physical barrier around nasal mucosa and reduces pH for hours after use, which may reduce the ability of viruses to bind and replicate.

Very strong effect shown in vitro; less strong but still detectable effect shown in vivo.


JPost Article:

Comment by ejacob on Covid: CDC Issues New Guidance on Opening Schools · 2021-02-18T23:40:50.864Z · LW · GW

We have a call scheduled Monday (the district is on winter break so I think they want to be back in the office). I'm shocked I got a reply at all.

Comment by ejacob on Covid: CDC Issues New Guidance on Opening Schools · 2021-02-18T14:42:20.299Z · LW · GW

I decided to write my local school district's superintendent after reading the CDC's guidelines. I basically told her she's been receiving crap advice and offered to help her reduce coronavirus transmission in her schools (phrased more nicely obviously). I went to this school district growing up; it's well-resourced and managed unlike the typical hellscape of a public school. I've even met this superintendent before as a high school student, my impression of her then combined with the relative sanity she's been leading with so far give me hopes she might respond. 

Why do this? I had a small insight: write emails to the CDC and you're a random crackpot among thousands of crackpots. Contact your local school district which you yourself are a product of and you're a concerned and helpful citizen. (Well, that's my theory. We'll see.)

Comment by ejacob on [deleted post] 2021-02-16T02:28:44.669Z

Reminds me of the similar scene in the movie "her."

Comment by ejacob on How Should We Respond to Cade Metz? · 2021-02-13T18:07:48.263Z · LW · GW

Other comments have summed up my opinion on the article pretty well so I will not rehash it. However I do want to emphasize that the "winning move is not to play" as Dentin said. When Scott said the NYT was going to reveal his identity, his readers wrote to the reporter and editor. The article framed this as Scott trying to dox a journalist in a retaliatory matter. 

In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if any follow-up to that story mentioned this thread or another one like it on some other website.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-13T13:53:00.743Z · LW · GW

They placebo includes saponin, a vaccine ingredient which stimulates immune response. That said, I've had no reaction at all to the injection. Maybe the second dose will be different.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-13T01:29:50.854Z · LW · GW

Short answer is yes, it mostly does, but they'll test me anyway. I didn't have to agree to anything that could possibly prevent me from receiving the best healthcare I would otherwise get. I'm pretty sure/hope such a condition would not have been allowed by any IRB. 

I spoke with a pathologist in my family and together we estimated that a positive blood antibody test ~2 weeks after the 2nd vaccine dose would have a likelihood ratio on the order of 50:1 or more in favor of having had a response to the vaccine. (This is specific to me - my lifestyle protects me very well from possible infection (I have close contact with very few people, most of whom have received a vaccine themselves or have recovered from covid a couple of months ago); I would reduce this estimate for an average person). So if we find antibodies in my blood about a month from now I would be quite comfortable concluding I received the vaccine (recall the prior odds are 2:1 in favor, updating based on the test makes it 100:1; a near certainty). Likewise a negative blood antibody test would strongly I did not receive the vaccine.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-12T20:25:02.908Z · LW · GW


Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-12T17:19:42.261Z · LW · GW

You may be right, I could have thought about that more carefully. For what it's worth, everyone I named was professional and courteous so I wouldn't want any negative consequences for them. It's also not too hard to figure out my real name so the playing field is even at least.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-12T17:10:35.272Z · LW · GW

Looked like water. I think the only way to get a good idea is to have an antibody test in a few weeks.

Comment by ejacob on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-12T00:33:07.589Z · LW · GW

I am allowed to take any other vaccine if it is available and still participate in the study. (Given my youth and lack of risk factors it might actually take about as long as the study lasts before I'm eligible so this is mostly academic).

It's double blind so I won't know until the end.

Comment by ejacob on Covid 2/11: As Expected · 2021-02-11T21:08:02.544Z · LW · GW

You can probably find a way to add 15 lbs without actually gaining weight. Sew some weights into your clothes, wear bigger shoes and fill the extra space with something heavy, etc.

Comment by ejacob on Killing the ants · 2021-02-07T23:28:19.119Z · LW · GW

Excellent post. I sometimes think about the small mammals and insects that must inevitably die when a field of crops is harvested, but I now see that is only a small part of the attention I could have been paying.