Are HEPA filters likely to pull COVID-19 out of the air? 2020-03-25T01:07:18.833Z · score: 14 (4 votes)
Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes 2020-03-15T10:00:33.170Z · score: 28 (14 votes)
Why don't singularitarians bet on the creation of AGI by buying stocks? 2020-03-11T16:27:20.600Z · score: 30 (11 votes)
When are immunostimulants/immunosuppressants likely to be helpful for COVID-19? 2020-03-05T21:44:08.288Z · score: 13 (3 votes)
The Goodhart Game 2019-11-18T23:22:13.091Z · score: 12 (8 votes)
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies Aren't Always About Self-Awareness 2019-11-18T23:11:09.410Z · score: 15 (7 votes)
What AI safety problems need solving for safe AI research assistants? 2019-11-05T02:09:17.686Z · score: 15 (4 votes)
The problem/solution matrix: Calculating the probability of AI safety "on the back of an envelope" 2019-10-20T08:03:23.934Z · score: 24 (8 votes)
The Dualist Predict-O-Matic ($100 prize) 2019-10-17T06:45:46.085Z · score: 17 (6 votes)
Replace judges with Keynesian beauty contests? 2019-10-07T04:00:37.906Z · score: 31 (10 votes)
Three Stories for How AGI Comes Before FAI 2019-09-17T23:26:44.150Z · score: 28 (9 votes)
How to Make Billions of Dollars Reducing Loneliness 2019-08-30T17:30:50.006Z · score: 60 (27 votes)
Response to Glen Weyl on Technocracy and the Rationalist Community 2019-08-22T23:14:58.690Z · score: 52 (26 votes)
Proposed algorithm to fight anchoring bias 2019-08-03T04:07:41.484Z · score: 10 (2 votes)
Raleigh SSC/LW/EA Meetup - Meet MealSquares People 2019-05-08T00:01:36.639Z · score: 12 (3 votes)
The Case for a Bigger Audience 2019-02-09T07:22:07.357Z · score: 69 (27 votes)
Why don't people use formal methods? 2019-01-22T09:39:46.721Z · score: 21 (8 votes)
General and Surprising 2017-09-15T06:33:19.797Z · score: 3 (3 votes)
Heuristics for textbook selection 2017-09-06T04:17:01.783Z · score: 8 (8 votes)
Revitalizing Less Wrong seems like a lost purpose, but here are some other ideas 2016-06-12T07:38:58.557Z · score: 24 (29 votes)
Zooming your mind in and out 2015-07-06T12:30:58.509Z · score: 8 (9 votes)
Purchasing research effectively open thread 2015-01-21T12:24:22.951Z · score: 12 (13 votes)
Productivity thoughts from Matt Fallshaw 2014-08-21T05:05:11.156Z · score: 13 (14 votes)
Managing one's memory effectively 2014-06-06T17:39:10.077Z · score: 14 (15 votes)
OpenWorm and differential technological development 2014-05-19T04:47:00.042Z · score: 9 (8 votes)
System Administrator Appreciation Day - Thanks Trike! 2013-07-26T17:57:52.410Z · score: 70 (71 votes)
Existential risks open thread 2013-03-31T00:52:46.589Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
Why AI may not foom 2013-03-24T08:11:55.006Z · score: 23 (35 votes)
[Links] Brain mapping/emulation news 2013-02-21T08:17:27.931Z · score: 2 (7 votes)
Akrasia survey data analysis 2012-12-08T03:53:35.658Z · score: 13 (14 votes)
Akrasia hack survey 2012-11-30T01:09:46.757Z · score: 11 (14 votes)
Thoughts on designing policies for oneself 2012-11-28T01:27:36.337Z · score: 80 (80 votes)
Room for more funding at the Future of Humanity Institute 2012-11-16T20:45:18.580Z · score: 18 (21 votes)
Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims 2012-11-15T19:41:02.955Z · score: 5 (28 votes)
Economy gossip open thread 2012-10-28T04:10:03.596Z · score: 26 (31 votes)
Passive income for dummies 2012-10-27T07:25:33.383Z · score: 17 (22 votes)
Morale management for entrepreneurs 2012-09-30T05:35:05.221Z · score: 9 (14 votes)
Could evolution have selected for moral realism? 2012-09-27T04:25:52.580Z · score: 4 (14 votes)
Personal information management 2012-09-11T11:40:53.747Z · score: 18 (19 votes)
Proposed rewrites of LW home page, about page, and FAQ 2012-08-17T22:41:57.843Z · score: 18 (19 votes)
[Link] Holistic learning ebook 2012-08-03T00:29:54.003Z · score: 10 (17 votes)
Brainstorming additional AI risk reduction ideas 2012-06-14T07:55:41.377Z · score: 12 (15 votes)
Marketplace Transactions Open Thread 2012-06-02T04:31:32.387Z · score: 29 (30 votes)
Expertise and advice 2012-05-27T01:49:25.444Z · score: 17 (22 votes)
PSA: Learn to code 2012-05-25T18:50:01.407Z · score: 34 (40 votes)
Knowledge value = knowledge quality × domain importance 2012-04-16T08:40:57.158Z · score: 8 (13 votes)
Rationality anecdotes for the homepage? 2012-04-04T06:33:32.097Z · score: 3 (8 votes)
Simple but important ideas 2012-03-21T06:59:22.043Z · score: 20 (25 votes)
6 Tips for Productive Arguments 2012-03-18T21:02:32.326Z · score: 30 (45 votes)
Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute 2012-03-15T00:41:34.811Z · score: 34 (59 votes)


Comment by john_maxwell on Chris Masterjohn on Coronavirus, Part 1 · 2020-04-02T09:18:55.697Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I took one of the zinc capsules that came free with my last order of zinc lozenges. Then I had a bad gastrointesinal day.

I've noticed this happens if I take zinc on an empty stomach.

Comment by john_maxwell on mind viruses about body viruses · 2020-04-01T07:23:29.308Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed that thinking about informational ecosystems is very high leverage. It's not clear to me whether it's better to call for greater individual virtue (as you do here) vs trying to rework the underlying incentive structure (some posts of mine that fall into that general category: 1, 2).

One notion I've found helpful, which is one of the things you're getting at here, is that of "ideological Matthew effects". Basically, the more dominant an ideology is, the less receptive people become to competing ideologies / the more people that ideology has available to shout down critics. Under this framework, contrarians can be really valuable even if they are usually wrong, because they inject diversity into the informational ecosystem. However, unless you're in a betting context like the stock market, contrarianism has an incentives problem--from an individual incentives perspective, a contrarian risks opprobrium/ostracization/etc., whereas society being marginally more correct about topic X is generally a public good.

Recently I was toying with the idea of publicly shaming any well-funded group that doesn't offer cash prizes for the best arguments that it's misguided (possibly inspired by this post). Didn't seem to take very well though.

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-29T16:08:57.992Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Update: I've come down with something which I think may be COVID-19. Even if it isn't, it goes to show that you can't be too careful. (In addition to following a relaxed version of the above disinfection protocol, my roommate and I also went for a hike the other week, but we went off the trail in order to stay a solid 20 feet away from the few other hikers we saw.)

Definitely wishing I had ignored the skeptics in this thread and maintained full paranoia.

Comment by john_maxwell on Are HEPA filters likely to pull COVID-19 out of the air? · 2020-03-25T23:17:18.247Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW


...Most hospitals, though, use a filter with what’s known as a MERV rating of 13 or higher. And for good reason — they can capture more than 80 percent of airborne viral particles.

For buildings without mechanical ventilation systems, or if you want to supplement your building’s system in high-risk areas, portable air purifiers can also be effective at controlling airborne particle concentrations. Most quality portable air purifiers use HEPA filters, which capture 99.97 percent of particles.

That suggests there could be gains from installing HEPA filters.

Comment by john_maxwell on Are HEPA filters likely to pull COVID-19 out of the air? · 2020-03-25T01:46:34.943Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Diffusion predominates below the 0.1 μm diameter particle size, whilst impaction and interception predominate above 0.4 μm.[11] In between, near the most penetrating particle size (MPPS) 0.21 μm, both diffusion and interception are comparatively inefficient.[12] Because this is the weakest point in the filter's performance, the HEPA specifications use the retention of particles near this size (0.3 μm) to classify the filter.[11]

From Wikipedia. This Wikipedia article actually seems pretty encouraging--despite 0.3 micrometers being near the filter's weakest point, it still filters out 99.95% of those particles?

If most transmission takes place over ~2 meters, it could be very helpful to install HEPA filters near e.g. hospital desks/beds/doorways. I don't remember observing ventilation ducts near desks/beds/doorways in the hospitals I've visited.

Comment by john_maxwell on Are HEPA filters likely to pull COVID-19 out of the air? · 2020-03-25T01:35:55.709Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Some quick Googling and skimming of articles:

A doctor quote in this Buzzfeed article points out that HEPA filters are rated to remove particles of .3 micrometers, and a coronavirus is about .1 micrometer. He says this means HEPA filters won't do the job. EDIT: However, Wikipedia states:

The common assumption that a HEPA filter acts like a sieve where particles smaller than the largest opening can pass through is incorrect and impractical. Unlike membrane filters at this pore size, where particles as wide as the largest opening or distance between fibers can not pass in between them at all, HEPA filters are designed to target much smaller pollutants and particles.

The abstract of this preprint states: "Aerosolized viruses are commonly thought to exist as agglomerates, which would increase the particle size and consequently increase their capture efficiency. However, many of the threat agent viruses can be highly agglomerated and still exist as [submicrometer] particles."

I wonder whether the relevant size is not the size of the virus but rather the size of a cough droplet. This paper seems to have found that droplets are greater than .5 micrometers in size. This article distinguishes between "droplets" (>5 micrometers) and "droplet nuclei" (≤5 micrometers) and says that "droplet nuclei" are the only kind that get transmitted over more than 1 meter. It also cites a couple papers which also say that most droplets are larger than .5 micrometers.

So ability to filter droplets is looking pretty good, assuming the filter doesn't break them up.

This online air filter store cites some research indicating that although HEPA filters are only rated for particles that are .3 micrometers, they end up doing a great job of filtering smaller particles also.

Comment by john_maxwell on LessWrong Coronavirus Agenda · 2020-03-24T23:20:23.318Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I want to develop a web app that will make group testing fast and easy. This problem happens to relate closely to my machine learning research interests, and I have an algorithm in mind that I'm excited about. However, the first step to developing software is always to talk to potential users and understand their needs in order to make sure your software will actually solve them. You can share my linkedin profile if you think that will help.

Comment by john_maxwell on LessWrong Coronavirus Agenda · 2020-03-24T05:22:46.982Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Relevant thread:

I'd love to work on this if someone can put me in contact with a medical professional who understands how these tests work.

Comment by john_maxwell on SARS-CoV-2 pool-testing algorithm puzzle · 2020-03-24T04:15:40.258Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it may be possible to do even better than the algorithm in this paper if your 2nd round of pooling is allowed to cut across multiple pools from your first round.

Comment by john_maxwell on SARS-CoV-2 pool-testing algorithm puzzle · 2020-03-24T02:58:22.167Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This appears to be the university press release, if you consider that to be more reliable:

According to Prof. Roy Kishony, head of the research group in the Faculty of Biology at Technion, “This is not a scientific breakthrough, but a demonstration of the effectivity of using the existing method and even the existing equipment to significantly increase the volume of samples tested per day. This is done by pooling multiple samples in a single test tube. Even when we conducted a joint examination of 64 samples in which only one was a positive carrier, the system identified that there was a positive sample. Although there are some logistical challenges in implementing the method, we expect that it will greatly increase the volume of samples tested per day so that we can identify the asymptomatic carriers. This approach should reduce the chance of infection and flatten the infection curve.”

One hopes that the university wouldn't misquote one of their own professors in their own press release :)

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-24T01:11:59.947Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just saw this (h/t Stefan Schubert):

SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted (Takuya Yamagishi, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, personal communication, 2020). Although these data cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces, further study of fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 aboard cruise ships is warranted.

Comment by john_maxwell on SARS-CoV-2 pool-testing algorithm puzzle · 2020-03-23T20:54:44.769Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I set up a calendar for medical professionals to book me here:

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-22T08:43:49.344Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just saw this thread on a subreddit for medical professionals suggesting this could be a bad idea:

Comment by john_maxwell on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-22T08:27:19.880Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Like Elizabeth, I remember reading somewhere that COVID-19 often starts in the upper respiratory track and becomes dangerous when it moves into the lungs. In line with that, one idea is to try to control the illness in the upper respiratory tract through sinus rinse/nasal irrigation (be sure to sterilize the water first). I haven't done much nasal irrigation, but I've found gargling with warm salt water to be really helpful for colds. This study found that simply gargling water for 15 seconds 3 times a day reduced upper respiratory tract infections by 36%! Breathing in steam or making use of a humidifier might also be helpful.

This pdf was linked from the 80K podcast. There are treatment instructions starting on page 8. There's also a section on what Traditional Chinese Medicine says you should do :P

There's also a thread on the slatestarcodex subreddit on what to do if you have a severe case and there's no room in the hospital. Another thread on that sub.

Comment by john_maxwell on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-22T08:03:45.895Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have a few extra lozenges I can share, although if you're in the Bay Area, you'll have to drive to a different state to get them. Send me a personal message if you're interested.

Comment by john_maxwell on SARS-CoV-2 pool-testing algorithm puzzle · 2020-03-22T06:59:18.196Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great question. However, I think we need to know more about the properties of the test before the problem is fully specified: What are the false positive and false negative rates, and how do these numbers change in the pool-testing case?

This FAQ on the CDC website links to this pdf on the FDA's website. I don't have the background to understand most of this, but I pasted some snippets that seem interesting below. Note that it appears this info only applies to a particular CDC-endorsed test being used in the US--I don't know what's in widespread use internationally.

Negative results do not preclude 2019-nCoV infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or other patient management decisions. Negative results must be combined with clinical observations, patient history, and epidemiological information.

False negative rate could be high.

2019-nCoV Positive Control (nCoVPC)

For use as a positive control with the CDC 2019- nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel procedure.

It sounds as though the standard test kit includes 4 test tubes of noninfectious material that should produce a positive test result if things are working properly. This could give a general sense of what dilution levels the test continues to be accurate at.

Page 32 of the PDF has a section labelled "2019-nCoV Markers (N1 and N2)" which keeps referencing "threshold lines". This makes me think that although the test is advertised as providing a discrete positive/negative outcome, it really gives a continuous output along with guidelines for discretization (but in theory this continuous output could be translated into a probabilistic assessment instead, if we had the necessary data and some theoretical understanding of what's going on).

Additionally, it might be possible to make a vague guess about the likely number of infected individuals in a pool as a function of these continuous parameters, esp. if combined with info re: where each is in their disease progression (see time series note below).

There's a "2019-nCoV rRT-PCR Diagnostic Panel Results Interpretation Guide" section which discusses the possibility of inconclusive results. However, I think Table 9 on p. 41 of the PDF weakly suggests that they are rare.

From the "Limitations" section of the PDF:

Optimum specimen types and timing for peak viral levels during infections caused by 2019-nCoV have not been determined. Collection of multiple specimens (types and time points) from the same patient may be necessary to detect the virus.

So now the problem has a time series aspect. Things keep getting more and more interesting ;)

A false negative result may occur if a specimen is improperly collected, transported or handled. False negative results may also occur if amplification inhibitors are present in the specimen or if inadequate numbers of organisms are present in the specimen.

So now we have to worry about whether each individual testee might have "amplification inhibitors" which screw up the entire batch? Hey CDC, are you sure there's no way to do some kind of control amplification, to check if amplification is working as intended regardless of the specimen's 2019- nCoV status?

Positive and negative predictive values are highly dependent on prevalence. False negative test results are more likely when prevalence of disease is high. False positive test results are more likely when prevalence is moderate to low.

"Priors are a thing." Seems obvious, but if someone is going to create a web app that makes it easy to conduct pool tests, it should probably ask the user what the prevalence of 2019- nCoV is in the local population. You don't want a user to blindly trust a prediction made based on an inaccurate base rate.

If the virus mutates in the rRT-PCR target region, 2019-nCoV may not be detected or may be detected less predictably. Inhibitors or other types of interference may produce a false negative result. An interference study evaluating the effect of common cold medications was not performed.

Good to know.

Performance Characteristics

This section looks pretty relevant.

LoD studies determine the lowest detectable concentration of 2019-nCoV at which approximately 95% of all (true positive) replicates test positive. The LoD was determined by limiting dilution studies using characterized samples.


Tables 4 & 5 on page 37 of the PDF looks very interesting, displaying test sensitivity as a function of RNA copies. I'm not sure how to interpret the "Mean Ct" row, or what it means for a dilution to be "≥ 95% positive". I'm also not sure why there are subtables for 2019-nCoV_N1 and 2019-nCoV_N2 (it looks like they represent two different test markers?)

I also don't know what a typical number of RNA copies would be in an infectious specimen.

Tables 4 & 5 make me a bit pessimistic about this entire project, because they imply that a factor of 10 dilution (from roughly 3 RNA copies per μL to roughly 1 RNA copy per 3 per μL) reduces test sensitivity from ~100% to ~50%. Then again, it's possible that these numbers are chosen because the CDC wanted to figure out the precise range that the test broke down in, and in a real-world scenario, an infectious specimen is likely to have way more than 3 RNA copies per μL (stands to reason doesn't it?)

Anyway, the best approach may be an algorithm which takes conditional probabilities (and maybe also prior information about local prevalance) as inputs, so the algorithm can be run with minimal tweaks as more data is gathered regarding the real false positive/false negative rates + the algorithm can be used with any test whose performance characteristics are known.

An alternate frame is instead of thinking of each testee as being either positive or negative for the virus, think of each testee as having some number of 2019-nCoV RNA copies per μL of specimen (0 if they're negative for 2019-nCoV, presumably!)

Through this lens, you could see the problem as an active learning problem where the goal is to learn a regression coefficient for the 2019-nCoV RNA concentration for each testee. If you're using a clever algorithm powered by a good noise model, you will probably sometimes find yourself testing specimens which aren't an even mix of different testee specimens (example: we think Patient A might have a very small number of RNA copies per μL, so we test a specimen which is 50% from Patient A but 10% from Patients B/C/D/E/F because that gives us more information).

Side note: In the course of this research, I happened to notice this note on the CDC website:

I believe that I have found a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. Is CDC the best place to submit my idea?

BARDA is providing a portal to support U.S. government medical countermeasure research and development. Interested stakeholders can learn more here.

That could be a good link to use once we think we have something which is good enough to share with the US government.

EDIT: If anyone can put me in contact with someone who's actually performed these tests, and ideally also has some knowledge of how they work under the hood, I would love that. Active learning is a topic I'm very interested in. I can program the app if you can answer all of my questions about the testing process. Send me a message via my user page with your contact info.

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-22T02:33:05.679Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

BTW this video might be worth a watch:

The website for this product says it's used for training in major hospitals, so I think it's reasonable to guess that germs really do spread as easily as the video suggests.

Comment by john_maxwell on landfish lab · 2020-03-22T01:50:30.144Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's some contact tracing discussion on reddit, you might want to post there/contact individuals there:

Comment by john_maxwell on Where can we donate time and money to avert coronavirus deaths? · 2020-03-22T01:45:37.268Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Someone created an /r/CoronavirusArmy subreddit which is trying to figure out how to donate time:

Here are some threads discussing how to donate money:

I think the most valuable projects are those that could be feasibly be deployed in a developing country if COVID-19 were to take root there.

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-21T00:38:32.094Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just edited the post with updated info re: which supplements are likely to be helpful.

Comment by john_maxwell on When are immunostimulants/immunosuppressants likely to be helpful for COVID-19? · 2020-03-21T00:22:30.724Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Update: Apparently some have been interpreting this Twitter thread as an indication that the virus may take advantage of immune system activity to infect you? Which could mean that immunostimulation is bad?

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-03-20T01:41:14.306Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW also has stuff:

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-19T06:23:22.649Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Me and my roommate both work from home (and were doing that well before the pandemic). So packages, letters, and maybe the trash person touching our trash bins are essentially the only possible way for us to get infected. It takes less time & attention for us to be paranoid about external contacts than it takes for us to make sure to not touch our face, wash our hands frequently, etc. etc. Comments in this thread updated me in the direction that the procedure I described is excessive, but I'm still handling packages with gloves + bleaching the gloves afterwards (not right away but before using them again) and letting packages dry out for multiple days before touching them or their contents with bare hands. I actually think taking these precautions takes less time & attention than doing a sufficiently careful read of the literature to figure out if I can be less cautious (and remember, even if the literature says X, X is not necessarily true since studies don't always replicate). I also think that as things peak, for those who are immunocompromised, you might as well be really paranoid since your life is at stake and most packages will probably be handled by someone who's infectious.

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-03-18T06:21:48.497Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Chris Masterjohn, who was endorsed by Will Eden once I believe, recently sent an email to his list about the coronavirus where he says among other things

For example, I always recommend vitamins A and D during cold and flu season. I see people making the same recommendations for the coronavirus. But after looking at the research, I'm actually restricting vitamins A and D while the coronavirus threat remains high or uncertain.

He's selling a report he put together which has more details here.

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-16T22:20:33.337Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote a post with a comprehensive disinfection protocol here, although some criticized it for being excessively paranoid.

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-16T20:41:52.355Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I think I see what's going on--I didn't realize you were pointing to your reply to Vaniver.

I don't think the assumption of drying is necessarily justified--the package could be getting delivered on a humid day. These kind of questions might be really important to someone who has diabetes or something like that.

Thanks for weighing in btw, I'm learning stuff about how to evaluate research here :)

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-16T09:25:57.285Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The drop-off in infectiousness is documented in the papers reviewed in the paper you cited, which agrees with the parent comment.

Is your claim that the paper I cited agrees with Josh's comment? That's what it sounds like you're claiming. Can you cite the specific sentence in the paper I cited that agrees with Josh's comment? Because all I see is the review repeating the claim "Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to 9 days" over and over.

And elsewhere in this thread you said "the results noted in the review are clear that [paper] is not a very hospitable surface", but that is very much not clear as noted in the review--in Table 1, you can see they're citing a study that they summarize as SARS-CoV persisting for 4-5 days on paper.

It could be that the review is summarizing these studies inaccurately. But if you want to earn my trust you have to say something like "yes the review says X but really Y is true", instead of confidently misrepresenting things that I can easily check for myself.

I find it plausible that this review was slapped together quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a closer look at these studies would find the 9 day figure cited in the abstract to be unjustified. But until that's done in a formal way, I don't see why I should trust you more than the first author of this review (who seems to be a professor at a German university who's written many papers on topics related to this for a variety of journals)--your comments are looking very slapped together as well. BTW, the Journal of Hospital Infection seems legit to me.

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-16T09:08:35.145Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  1. That wasn't a meta analysis, it was a review.

Thanks, fixed.

  1. The viral load in a cough droplet is rarely as high as 10^5, and the review only said 9 days for viral loads of 10^7, which is silly.

Silly, eh? What if it's not a cough droplet? What if the delivery person is picking their nose?

You're talking about cardboard, which will perform similarly to paper, and the results noted in the review are clear that it's not a very hospitable surface

The review cites a study which allegedly found that SARS persisted 4-5 days on paper. Paper may very well be an inhospitable surface, but that fact does not seem clear from the review...

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-15T20:11:11.930Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have citations for these claims?

I agree that China's success is evidence this procedure is overkill. Edit: this comment has some potential caveats though--seems the US is probably doing worse than China in terms of ensuring delivery people aren't infected.

wait a day, and the virus will be dead to an extent that you can't get infected.

I linked to a meta-analysis finding that the virus can remain infectious on surfaces for much longer than a day, especially in colder temperatures.

And bleach is [...] bad for your lungs

Good to know. Hopefully wearing a mask will help with that.

Comment by john_maxwell on Comprehensive COVID-19 Disinfection Protocol for Packages and Envelopes · 2020-03-15T19:54:01.859Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to be

(a) news coverage - so not necessarily reliable, of

(b) a preprint - so not peer reviewed

My article is a peer-reviewed [edit: maybe not very peer reviewed] literature review, aggregating results from multiple studies (that's important).

The 1-2 hour number you cite is for aerosolized virus. The article says the number is 24 hours for cardboard.

However, variability between studies is quite high. Look at Table 1 in my article. Search for the keyword "Paper" and you'll see that for the same amount of virus at room temperature on paper, one study got 3 hours and another study got 4-5 days. (It's possible this is because different strains were used, but that doesn't reassure me either--it suggests that the virus could quickly mutate to be viable on surfaces much longer.)

While it's true that CV DNA can still be detected after several days, this says more about detection technology than CVs virulence.

A quote from the Results section of the paper I cited (emphasis mine):

Most data were described with the endemic human coronavirus strain (HCoV-) 229E. On different types of materials it can remain infectious for from 2 hours up to 9 days.

Comment by john_maxwell on When are immunostimulants/immunosuppressants likely to be helpful for COVID-19? · 2020-03-15T07:06:23.974Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(Edit: See update comment below)

I emailed Sarah Constantin about this question. I didn't end up hiring her (my parents decided they didn't want to take supplements--luckily they're working from home now), but she did say:

BTW, the apparent "contradiction" isn't really one. Immunostimulants, taken when healthy, reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections; once you get an infection like COVID-19, the immune response often gets so strong it kills you.

So I think taking immunostimulants on an ongoing basis is a good idea, but you should stop if you think you might be infected with COVID-19.

Comment by john_maxwell on [AN #90]: How search landscapes can contain self-reinforcing feedback loops · 2020-03-14T00:23:47.163Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The "Demons in Imperfect Search" post seems related to something that's already been studied in ML: local minima. Small changes in initial conditions can result in very different local minima being converged on. And you could say that the local minima that are selected for are the ones such that a large region of the search space will converge to that minimum if initialization starts within that region.

Comment by john_maxwell on Quadratic models and (un)falsified data · 2020-03-13T22:12:44.106Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What I mostly care about is just the standard deviation (in excel, STDEV.S() ) of the difference between the data and the model.

I'd be curious why you think this is a good metric.

BTW, when you say "the difference between the data and the model", I assume you're referring to the residuals?

Comment by john_maxwell on I'm leaving AI alignment – you better stay · 2020-03-13T21:51:24.541Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the writeup.

I don't know how much stock I would put in the things Jim Collins says. Thinking Fast and Slow had an interesting critique of one of his books:

The halo effect and outcome bias combine to explain the extraordinary appeal of books that seek to draw operational morals from systematic examination of successful businesses. One of the best-known examples of this genre is Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras’s Built to Last. The book contains a thorough analysis of eighteen pairs of competing companies, in which one was more successful than the other. The data for these comparisons are ratings of various aspects of corporate culture, strategy, and management practices. “We believe every CEO, manager, and entrepreneur in the world should read this book,” the authors proclaim. “You can build a visionary company.”

The basic message of Built to Last and other similar books is that good managerial practices can be identified and that good practices will be rewarded by good results. Both messages are overstated. The comparison of firms that have been more or less successful is to a significant extent a comparison between firms that have been more or less lucky. Knowing the importance of luck, you should be particularly suspicious when highly consistent patterns emerge from the comparison of successful and less successful firms. In the presence of randomness, regular patterns can only be mirages.

Because luck plays a large role, the quality of leadership and management practices cannot be inferred reliably from observations of success. And even if you had perfect foreknowledge that a CEO has brilliant vision and extraordinary competence, you still would be unable to predict how the company will perform with much better accuracy than the flip of a coin. On average, the gap in corporate profitability and stock returns between the outstanding firms and the less successful firms studied in Built to Last shrank to almost nothing in the period following the study. The average profitability of the companies identified in the famous In Search of Excellence dropped sharply as well within a short time. A study of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” finds that over a twenty-year period, the firms with the worst ratings went on to earn much higher stock returns than the most admired firms.

You are probably tempted to think of causal explanations for these observations: perhaps the successful firms became complacent, the less successful firms tried harder. But this is the wrong way to think about what happened. The average gap must shrink, because the original gap was due in good part to luck, which contributed both to the success of the top firms and to the lagging performance of the rest. We have already encountered this statistical fact of life: regression to the mean.

Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression. These stories induce and maintain an illusion of understanding, imparting lessons of little enduring value to readers who are all too eager to believe them.

Comment by john_maxwell on Why don't singularitarians bet on the creation of AGI by buying stocks? · 2020-03-13T10:21:20.475Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't made a comprehensive list yet. You can find lists online though, e.g. here. I think Facebook is probably a good buy because the things Yann Lecun says about how AGI will work make a lot of sense to me.

Uber has an AI research division.

Comment by john_maxwell on Why don't singularitarians bet on the creation of AGI by buying stocks? · 2020-03-13T05:18:32.223Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. I don't see much investing discussion on LW, so I assumed most people were just buying index funds or something. I'm glad to hear you're betting your beliefs on a regular basis.

Comment by john_maxwell on Why don't singularitarians bet on the creation of AGI by buying stocks? · 2020-03-13T05:15:19.444Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

anyone that believes the singularity is coming will want to sell them off

My model of the average non-altruistic, non-rationalist investor is that they will want to hold onto their singularity stocks in order to increase their odds of being wealthy/powerful in the posthuman world. BTW, I gave 2 reasons in my post for why a rationalist investor would want to hold onto their stocks.

those that don't have little reason to buy

If a company creates some kind of transformative AI technology, we won't know in advance just how transformative the technology will be, or how quickly the potential of the transformation will be realized. Suppose a company comes up with an AI breakthrough that lets robots automate most manual labor, but it requires a person-year of effort to automate any given job. That company is going to be tremendously valuable.

Let's say an AI company comes up with something that's clearly a breakthrough. And little by little, it starts automating jobs, starting with the easy jobs. Let's suppose you're a singularity-skeptic investor. You don't think the singularity is going to happen any time soon. But this stock clearly seems like it could be super valuable and swallow a decent chunk of the world economy. So you buy.

Suppose google has almost reached AGI. $1000 of shares isn't going to buy meaningful influence on the details of a particular (probably secretive) project.

I think there's a lot depending on this "probably secretive" part. Let's say the project isn't secretive. Let's say it's like AlphaGo: something big and splashy, that gets even more attention than AlphaGo gets, and it seems to have widespread commercial applications. In that case, it will come up at shareholder meetings, and you can more easily be part of those conversations if you're a shareholder (and also exercise your vote). Note that the shareholder conversations matter a lot: Programmers report to their boss, who reports to the CEO, who reports to the board, who report to the shareholders.

I would be better off arranging to frequent the same social clubs as the programmers, and getting into discussions about AI, or mailing a copy of "Superintelligence" by Bostrum to all the team.

These sorts of things are already happening. And you have to be careful doing this stuff because you run the risk of coming across as a shill. However, the corporate governance route to influencing the singularity appears neglected, and doesn't run the risk of seeming like a shill: As an owner of the company that's developing this breakthrough tech, you have some small amount of legal authority over how it's deployed.

Comment by john_maxwell on Why don't singularitarians bet on the creation of AGI by buying stocks? · 2020-03-11T18:10:10.696Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think I might have gotten the idea from you actually, I remember seeing you post about it.

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-11T07:12:30.991Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I bought this one online (the cheapest device I could find advertised as capable of pulse flow, which may be important), and it's going to take about a month to arrive. I suspect this device is manufactured outside the US--if people in the US are having a hard time getting ahold of them quickly because it takes a month to ship them from overseas, I can donate mine.

Due to exponential growth, much of the expected impact of COVID-19 is in April/May/June. I feel pretty comfortable prepping now and sending a market signal that we should ramp up the production of prepping goods.

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-11T03:01:00.157Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good idea. I purchased an oxygen concentrator. However, you might wish to use the device on a low pressure setting (or use it in "pulse" mode instead of "continuous" mode) because I'm hearing some rumors that oxygen therapy can be counterproductive:

Professor Liu Liang also said that if the mucus components are not resolved in the treatment, the use of oxygen alone may not achieve the purpose of treatment, and sometimes even counter-productive, pushing the mucus deeper and wider, aggravating the patient's hypoxia.

Comment by john_maxwell on When are immunostimulants/immunosuppressants likely to be helpful for COVID-19? · 2020-03-06T21:25:52.887Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A 40-50% decrease in infection risk seems pretty big to me.

Comment by john_maxwell on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-05T05:19:19.157Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The WHO thinks China has been doing a fantastic job containing COVID-19:

"China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic."

Comment by john_maxwell on Bayesian Inference with Partially Specified Priors · 2020-03-01T07:06:54.151Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another idea is to do whatever algebra you need to do which is decision-relevant, leaving your priors unspecified, then for each decision you have to make, backpropagate that algebra to a simple and relatively easy-to-answer question about your priors ("Is my prior belief that the plant is toxic greater than 1e-20? If yes, go to the hospital.")

Anyway, I'm glad to see this kind of post on LW.

Comment by john_maxwell on COVID-19 - a good or bad time for extended travel? · 2020-03-01T06:40:33.648Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I carry COVID-19 to a new location and become responsible for a new outbreak.

I don't think this one makes sense as a significant consideration at this very moment, because the absolute number of cases in the US is currently quite small. The odds you have it right now are very low. However, the nature of exponential growth means that the odds of you having it in the near future are potentially much bigger. So I guess what I'm saying is if you're going to go, this is an argument for going ASAP.

But in terms of insulating yourself from COVID-19, wouldn't it be better to hole up in your apartment and order all your food online than travel somewhere for the purpose of socialization?

BTW, it's very easy to obtain permanent residency in Paraguay if you have $5K to put in a Paraguayan bank (as an American at least--I forget if this is restricted to particular nationalities). This is a tool that will help you find countries where you can become a permanent resident: I'd suggest you aim for a permanent residency in a country where it's easy to order bulk food etc. online so you can hole up in your newly adopted country if COVID-19 goes global.

Comment by john_maxwell on Open & Welcome Thread - February 2020 · 2020-03-01T06:26:01.807Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like your opinion has changed a lot since our conversation 7 months ago, when you wrote:

(I personally bought some individual stocks when I was younger for reasons similar to ones you list, but they mostly underperformed the market so I stopped.)

Comment by john_maxwell on Open & Welcome Thread - February 2020 · 2020-03-01T06:14:38.618Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You can buy stock in companies like Zoom and Slack that enable remote work. I did this about a month ago and their stocks have gone up about 30% since then.

Comment by john_maxwell on Open & Welcome Thread - February 2020 · 2020-03-01T06:05:25.759Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can't remember where, but I remember reading that for people in their 20s and 30s, the death rate is only 0.1%.

Comment by john_maxwell on Draft: Models of Risks of Delivery Under Coronavirus · 2020-02-28T07:34:05.299Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As an aside, you can buy 24 pounds of rice for $12 from Dollar Tree. (This is substantially cheaper than the cheapest rice I could find on Amazon. Long-grain rice is allegedly healthier for you than short-grain as well.) I don't think coronaviruses are supposed to survive well on surfaces, so you could just let it sit for a while, or spray the plastic bags with some kind of disinfectant, rub it around, and let it sit for a while.

Comment by john_maxwell on Quarantine Preparations · 2020-02-27T06:38:36.199Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Keeping a larger stockpile seems like a one-time fixed cost, if you own the warehouse you're operating? You need more shelf space, and you need to increase your inventory as a one-time payment. But after that, the inflows and outflows should be the same as before. And every year you have a chance of making bank in the event of panic buying.

The ideal outcome might be panic buying which leads to nothing but a bunch of warehouse owners saying "Darn it, we ran out of X right before the price went way high! Let's keep more on reserve going forward in case that happens again in the future."

Comment by john_maxwell on How to Lurk Less (and benefit others while benefiting yourself) · 2020-02-26T07:30:50.009Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's OK for LW comments to be relatively off-the-cuff (in the sense of a discussion section for a college course). I mean, my off-the-cuff comments get upvoted, at least.