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 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.

Comment by ejacob on Covid 2/4: Safe and Effective Vaccines Aplenty · 2021-02-04T21:07:22.920Z · LW · GW

I showed the bit about Cuomo's graphs to some friends, and one of them responded with "If he will not open now, what he will close later?"

I think it was meant as a joke, but it might be a deep insight into the decision-making process behind reopening the restaurants now. If his majesty and King of New York Governor Cuomo expects things to get worse later, and knows that he needs to (i) have something to point to as the cause and/or (ii) have some action to take to make it look like he is reacting with Courage and Wisdom, reopening restaurants now makes sense.

On the other hand I think even according to his own data and justifications, NYC indoor dining wasn't even contributing much to cases to begin with, so maybe the decision is okay even if the epistemology is a joke.

Comment by ejacob on Vaccinated Socializing · 2021-02-02T06:26:01.522Z · LW · GW

| This does not make sense.

The advice makes sense from a medicalized "do no harm" perspective. Given the baseline behavior of extreme behavior modifications to prevent infection, relaxing those constraints poses a risk. Therefore the only acceptable advice to give is "continue behaving just as cautiously even after getting the vaccine."

This is clearly stupid, but medical institutions are not required to not be stupid; they are required to obey their hippocratic oath.

Comment by ejacob on What's the big deal about Bayes' Theorem? · 2021-01-30T07:00:36.906Z · LW · GW

This strikes me as both a good explanation of why people are excited by Bayes' theorem and why they/I can come off as frustrated that more people don't seem to worship it enough. Basically I view the equation as the mathematical way of saying "you should form and update your beliefs based on evidence." Which, I think as any rationalist would agree, is both (a) not as obvious and straightforward as it sounds, and (b) would make the world better if more people heeded the call.

Comment by ejacob on Covid 1/28: Muddling Through · 2021-01-28T20:57:25.596Z · LW · GW

Is Israel testing in teens now because they expect to be done with everyone else soon, or because they really really want to reopen schools, both, neither?

Comment by ejacob on Senior quote ideas · 2021-01-27T16:45:08.713Z · LW · GW

I keep a list of quotations exactly for situations like this. (A few are even from LessWrong.)

-If you’ve never wasted an effort, you’re filtering on far too high a required probability of success.

-1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. 2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. 3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

-Just because your brain is missing, it doesn't mean that the Jews took it.

-If you're unsure about which alleged rapist to vote for, you can always vote 3rd party.

-I wasted so many years being miserable because I assumed it was the only way to be.

-If something stops working for you it might just be that you've adapted to whatever intervention you were using to begin with. There does not have to be a deep reason behind it.

-Generally speaking the errors in religion are dangerous. Those in philosophy are only ridiculous.

-Most of your life is the process of solving problems. It is not and will never be a condition of basking in the absence of all problems. There will always be something to do. The frame of mind in which you do it determines the quality of your life. You can't wait until you solve your problems to be happy.

-every corpse on Mt Everest was once an extremely motivated person.

-If I were not Diogenes, I would also want to be Diogenes.

-The power of decision theory is that it can be applied across twelve orders of magnitude of human suffering.

-Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

-Rewire your brain for the long term.

-Become addicted to possibility.

-‎That's not right. That's not even wrong.

-You can't polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter.

-When they realized they were in the desert, they built a religion to worship thirstiness.

-In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.

-To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

-There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.

-Love is your favorite meal for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

-‎Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

-Trying to find planets to live on is the same as looking for caves to inhabit rather than building houses.

-I've had time, and I've had motivation, but never both at the same time.

-the world has tin edges.

(I imagine some of these are not appropriate but they are still funny imo)

Comment by ejacob on D&D.Sci II: The Sorceror's Personal Shopper · 2021-01-13T17:39:17.601Z · LW · GW

Good catch, thanks!

Comment by ejacob on D&D.Sci II: The Sorceror's Personal Shopper · 2021-01-13T01:08:42.541Z · LW · GW

I came up with the same answer, though I just excluded the 


that weren't amenable to nice linear models and didn't notice the patterns you did.

Comment by ejacob on D&D.Sci II: The Sorceror's Personal Shopper · 2021-01-13T01:04:36.102Z · LW · GW


<spoiler> To purchase: Warhammer of Justice +1, Hammer of Capability, Plough of Plenty, Pendant of Hope. Should get about 130 mana for 145 gold. </spoiler>


<spoiler>Yellow-glow items are very reliably ~20 mana each and blue-glow items' values can be predicted within a margin of 1 mana or so using a fairly simple linear model (I used these dependent variables with no interactions, restricted only to blue-glowing items: thaumometer reading, the class of the item (hammer, sword, etc) the attribute of the item ("of hope", "of justice", etc) and the modifier (as a categorical variable)).</spoiler>

Comment by ejacob on Overall numbers won't show the English strain coming · 2021-01-02T19:10:13.394Z · LW · GW

Israeli vaccinations run 24/7, even on Shabbat, which would normally prohibit most of the tasks involved with an organized vaccination effort (e.g.: driving, writing). The decision to vaccinate on shabbat is in fact endorsed by most of the more religious aspects of the society since saving lives is a sort of prime directive in Judaism that overrides other concerns in most situations. 

All this is simply to say that I think that even if December was a holiday season in Israel, they would likely have made similar progress by now, simply because the culture and government is okay with suspending normal behavior for emergencies (a product of having an emergency every week or so for the last 70-odd years + the religious quirk). Compare to the US where vaccinations took Christmas off while doses sat on the shelf...

Could Europe and the US have moved to war footing in mid-December and not allowed the holidays to slow down their vaccination work? Yes.

Yes, yes indeed!

Comment by ejacob on Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets - Part 13 · 2021-01-02T17:34:38.646Z · LW · GW

I never thought I'd be this sad about the death of an invisible ear-worm.

Comment by ejacob on Unexplored modes of language · 2020-12-11T06:52:13.841Z · LW · GW

Non-human communication and signaling could also be a source of inspiration.

Edit: E.g. bees! I don't think we're going to get anywhere trying to use pheromones, but KatjaGrace already mentioned dancing as communication.

Comment by ejacob on Unexplored modes of language · 2020-12-11T06:51:21.938Z · LW · GW

I don't think any of what I'm about to say properly qualifies as language, but there are lots of cases where information is communicated by the manipulation of physical objects. The only examples I can think of require either a pre-determined agreement (verbal, written, or maybe a social norm) or shared context/knowledge. With a pre-arranged encoding scheme any message could be written out using some number of objects (e.g., reading lit and unlit candles in a window as the binary representation of ASCII characters, though this quickly needs a lot of candles).

What I came up with in about ten minutes, loosely categorized by use case:

  • War and Espionage
    • From Paul Revere's Ride: "One if by land, two if by sea" to signal British troop movements (possibly apocryphal now that I think about it)
    • Also from American Revolutionary war history: the Culper spy ring used petticoats hung on clotheslines as signals (I'm not sure if they were interpreted as letters or words or just preset messages like "meet at the farmhouse at sundown").
  • Mail
    • Boxes/bags left on a doorstep to say "this is for you"
    • A raised flag on a mailbox to say "please take my mail"
  • Business
    • Closing the door, turning off lights, etc. at a business to signal "we are in the process of closing/already closed"
    • IDK where I read this from, but IIRC during some era Italian(?) courtesans/prostitutes would replace white flowers outside their residences with red ones to indicate they were taking their monthly time off
  • Interpersonal relationships
    • Accepting a gift to show you accept an apology
    • Hugging/kissing your current boyfriend's when your ex walks into the party to say "no, we are not getting back together"
    • Packing your belongings up and leaving your ring on the kitchen table to say "I want a divorce"
Comment by ejacob on Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets - Part 5 · 2020-12-07T00:06:38.125Z · LW · GW

I could see a world where "the end of the world" is Moody's stock response to questions like "what's the worst that could happen?" if Harry Potter is the one asking the question, but not in general.

Comment by ejacob on Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets - Part 3 · 2020-12-06T23:54:56.194Z · LW · GW

I like this idea. Maybe she could even say something in particular that reminds them?

Comment by ejacob on Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets - Part 2 · 2020-12-06T23:50:18.915Z · LW · GW

Possible typo (bold):

Hmm, said a small voice in his ear. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes – and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting … So where shall I put you?

(I assume this is Luna's ear. Unless it isn't a typo, in which case I didn't know who that was referring to. But if it isn't a typo, it's possible I'm not meant to know?)

I liked it! Especially her questioning of the sorting hat. Her first instinct is to find a good reference class :)

Comment by ejacob on Can preference falsification be reduced with Ring Signatures? · 2020-11-30T04:14:10.638Z · LW · GW

I think a precise way to explain why I felt like adding "at all" is because I had already restricted myself to thinking about the most extreme spiral-of-silence cases. The Evergreen State-Bret Weinstein fiasco is a salient example. These kinds of situations are where a solution to spiral of silence-type phenomena would have the greatest impact, but I suppose there could be cases where the group dynamic is not as hostile, but still unforgiving enough that people will essentially want to test out ideas in front of their peers before publicly endorsing them, as ring signatures allow. I don't know where such a group could be found or created.

I guess I am having difficulty imagining a group that would be heterodox enough to agree to talk about whatever "unpopular" ideas get endorsed on their ring signature, but would still be orthodox enough that individuals would feel the need to use the ring system in the first place - it seems to me like that would require holding contradictory beliefs about how one's peers would react if you expressed support for a "toxic" idea. I've noticed I have an easier time than most being that person though (and if I'm totally honest, it's a part of my personality that I like, and I probably consciously turn it up), so maybe this is a failure of imagination on my part.

Comment by ejacob on Can preference falsification be reduced with Ring Signatures? · 2020-11-29T21:51:17.518Z · LW · GW

I've never heard of ring signatures before 60 seconds ago, but it seems like it would require a preexisting agreement among a group of people to create and use some way to 'endorse' messages with their signatures. If this understanding is correct, it doesn't solve the spiral of silence at all, since you'd have to get the same people that all of the emailers are afraid of to agree to it.