kdbscott's Shortform 2020-10-30T19:00:58.581Z
Models predicting significant violence in the US? 2020-10-25T18:45:20.929Z


Comment by kdbscott on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-10T06:40:22.140Z · LW · GW

Yeah I think that mosquito map is showing the Zika-carrying species, but there are 40 other species in Washington. Mosquitos in New England (certainly Maine where I grew up) can be pretty brutal, especially when you include the weeks when the black flies and midges are also biting.

Comment by kdbscott on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-10T06:28:33.171Z · LW · GW

How are the mosquitos on e.g. mushroom hunts?

Comment by kdbscott on kdbscott's Shortform · 2020-10-30T19:00:58.897Z · LW · GW


I've been playing around with this concept I call 'faith', which might also be called 'motivation' or 'confidence'. Warning: this is still a naive concept and might only be positive EV when used in conjunction with other tools which I won't mention here.

My current go-to example is exercising to build muscle: if I haven't successfully built muscle before, I'm probably uncertain about whether it's worth the effort to try. I don't have 'faith' that this whole project is worth it, and this can cause parts of me to (reasonably!) suggest that I don't put in the effort. On the other hand, if I've successfully built muscle many times (like Batman), I have faith that my effort will pay off. It's more like a known purchase (put in the effort, you'll get the gains), instead of an uncertain bet (put in the effort, maybe get nothing).

Worth noting: It's not as clear cut as a known effort purchase. The world is more uncertain than that, and the faith I'm referring to is more robust to uncertainty. I expect every time Christian Bale re-built muscle, it was a different process. Some routines didn't work as well, and some new routines were tried. Faith is the confidence/motivation that even in the face of uncertainty and slow feedback loops, your effort will be worth it.

A lesswrong-style framing of this concept might be something like 'a fully integrated sense of positive expected value'.

Holding this concept in mind as something that might be going on (having/lacking/building/losing faith) has been useful lately. I might keep editing this as I better flesh out what's going on.

Comment by kdbscott on Models predicting significant violence in the US? · 2020-10-26T03:10:09.170Z · LW · GW

some models against things getting worse

  1. Negative correlates: Country qualities that negatively correlate with conflict[1]
    1. Strong democratic institutions. Maybe because it makes lots of trusted non-violent avenues for change[2]
    2. Wealth[3]. Maybe you’re less likely to risk dying if you can meet your needs well enough with the current system
    3. Political representation[4]
    4. Being a developed country[5]
  2. Military: I think the overwhelming majority of groups would not want to fight the military, from PR risk[6] and dying risk[7]
  3. Ideology: Hard to get people to rally behind a specific extremist cause
    1. The ideology of the extremist right-wing is actually pretty varied and sometimes contradictory.
    2. I think the extremist left-wing is similarly varied: from a strong central government (socialist/communist/environmentalist) to ~anarchists (who thus far have been the only violent ones[8])
    3. The Voter Study Group actually found that tolerance of violence correlated negatively with (one measure of) partisanship
    4. Less of a stomach for violence (a la Steven Pinker)[9]
  4. Financing: Would be hard. If a group gets labeled as a terrorist organization you really don’t want to be associated with them financially[10]
  5. We’re still missing a lot of insurgency qualities[11] (this can also be used as a list of red flags if any of these crop up)
    1. High levels of political violence[12]
    2. Organized, violence-endorsing groups
      1. With significant membership (say >50,000)
      2. Publicly claiming responsibility for specific violence, e.g. assassinations of political leaders
      3. With popular-ish ideology
      4. With charismatic leadership
      5. Attempting to garner popular support
      6. Low rates of defection
    3. Institutions supporting violent groups (e.g. town or state or foreign governments, churches, unions, wealthy individuals/organizations)
    4. Economic gradients towards supporting or joining insurgents
    5. Insurgents attempting to claim & defend territory from the government
    6. Insurgents being supported by foreign groups (governments, terrorist orgs)

  1. according to Ward et al’s model ↩︎

  2. I think a parliamentary democracy would probably be better, but still ↩︎

  3. Ward et al used infant mortality rate to track this ↩︎

  4. ‘Excluded Population’ (large slices of the population excluded from political access) is by far the biggest factor that predicts conflicts in their model. I think political representation is the rough opposite, and that the US is doing pretty on the front, compared to e.g. 55 years ago when plenty of folks couldn’t vote. ↩︎

  5. I could only find one instance (although RAND says there are two) of something approximating a civil war in a developed country since 1945: The Troubles in Ireland. That’s out of >127 civil wars that killed at least 1,000 people. Fearon and Laitin: “for any level of ethnic diversity, as one moves up the income scale, the odds of civil war decrease, by substantial factors in all cases and dramatically among the most homogeneous countries. The richest fifth is practically immune regardless of ethnic composition” ↩︎

  6. Going up against the most respected US institution is rough if you need recruits and the support of locals. ↩︎

  7. My current guess is the US military would be especially effective at counterinsurgency in the US: shared language & culture with the locals, better command & control (compared to e.g. cooperating with foreign militias), and probably less political quagmire due to fewer governments at play. Although politics could make things very hard, e.g. blowback when fellow Americans get caught in the crossfire. ↩︎

  8. The Portland protest shooting is the only far-left death in the past 20 years according to New America. There’s also plenty of ~anarchists that don’t fit cleanly in a left/right bucket, like the Michigan folks. ↩︎

  9. While the Voter Study Group has some fraction of voters feeling violence is ‘justified’, it’s not clear what this means. The steady decline of violent crime still feels pretty compelling. Perhaps the definition of ‘violence’ is shifting away from ‘killing people’ towards ‘punching people’? While people might feel it’s justified, would anyone actually commit violence? ↩︎

  10. I’m pretty unsure, but it would probably fall in ITAR/OFAC violation territory, which involves million dollar fines, frozen assets, and decades in prison. Banks are allergic to people/orgs remotely associated with terrorism, because the Treasury can invoke §311 of the Patriot Act to cut the bank off from the financial system. Oh and you might lose nonprofit status. ↩︎

  11. See e.g. the CIA's Guide to Analysis of Insurgency or RAND’s How Insurgencies End ↩︎

  12. to get to the same per capita rate as The Troubles we would be losing ~50,000 people per year to political violence (Troubles had ~250 deaths per year in the 70s with a population of ~1.6m, scale that up to a 328m population and you get ~51k). Though many other insurgency conflicts had lower deaths per capita. ↩︎

Comment by kdbscott on Models predicting significant violence in the US? · 2020-10-25T20:59:16.819Z · LW · GW

some models for things getting worse

(I attempted to rank this list and the sub-lists from stronger to weaker models)

  1. Some pre-insurgency qualities
    1. More protests
      1. correlate with more conflict[1]
      2. create more opportunities
        1. for violent-leaning people to find each other and become more radicalized
        2. to evolve more virulent ideology
        3. to become better organized
    2. Already exist plenty of resources & training
      1. Highest guns per capita
      2. Lots of people with military experience - e.g. to source more weapons, to train recruits, and to fight effectively
    3. Shifting overton window
      1. More political polarization
      2. Non-negligible support of political violence[2]
      3. More and larger protests (involving both far right & left)
      4. Trump
      5. More mass shootings, hate crimes[3]
    4. Ideologies
      1. Disenfranchised populations[4]
        1. On the right, the decline of WASP power, e.g. via shifting demographics and culture[5]
        2. On the left, decline in economic power of the 99%.[6]
      2. Distributed media makes it harder to control the narrative, and more likely that extremists find each other.
    5. Possibility for local support[7] i. Some limited coordination with far-right groups among local law enforcement[8], where it’s possible this could lead to a festering insurgency in rural areas where local law enforcement is unwilling to step in[9].
    6. Financing maybe easier these days (crowdsourcing, crypto).
  2. Appeal to authority
    1. ACLED has the US on its list of 2020 conflicts to worry about[10]
    2. David Kilcullen is the kind of person who might know and has recently written a couple articles highlighting that characterize the US as in a pre-Mcveigh moment (May article) and an incipient insurgency (June article).
  3. Black swan: we don’t have much data on insurgencies / SPV in developed countries, but developed countries haven’t existed for long. We might just not know what it looks like.
    1. I don’t know if I can make a strong case for it being impossible for civil wars to emerge from developed countries.
  4. WMDs: maybe it’s easier to kill a lot of people these days, so it might only take a few actors to cross my arbitrary >5k deaths SPV threshold.

  1. Ward et al has ‘high-intensity conflictual events’ (protests, fighting, killings) as the second-highest correlated variable with higher probabilities of conflict / civil war. ↩︎

  2. Voter Study Group found that 21% of Americans thought that violence was at least a little justified if the [opposing party] won the 2020 election. This study also found an increase in the tolerance of violence since 2017. ↩︎

  3. In 2018, the most recent year the FBI reported data. Also my inner Steven Pinker compels me to note that the overall violent crime rate has been declining steadily ↩︎

  4. I currently think the most-likely-to-foment-insurgency ideologies are about disenfranchised populations, in large part due to the Ward et al having ‘Excluded Population’ as by far and away the highest correlated variable with conflict. Ward meant Excluded Population to mean “excluded from political access to the state”, which I understand to be groups that cannot vote, or are otherwise feel they are being deprived of political power like the shia in iraq or hutu in rwanda. ↩︎

  5. The “Ideologies of Rebellion” section of this article covers some adjacent far-right ideologies. They often seem to orbit around a decline in WASP power, as the author of this thesis makes a (biased) case for. I wonder if given more opportunities to evolve, some violent version of this ideology could garner support in more than 5% of the population (where 5% is a wild guess for the level of local support at which fighting an insurgency becomes difficult). ↩︎

  6. While Occupy fizzled, maybe some violent iteration of it could snowball? Seems pretty unlikely to me. ↩︎

  7. I currently model local support as important for sustaining an insurgency, from reading e.g. How Insurgencies End and Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency. ↩︎

  8. See the “Far-Right Links with Law Enforcement” graphic in this CGPolicy article. There’s a history of this, see e.g. this retired sheriff helping to defend Clive Bundy’s ranch from federal officials. ↩︎

  9. See the ‘Rebel Opportunities’ section of this Just Security piece for a brief case. ↩︎

  10. Conflicts where “violent political disorder was likely to evolve and worsen” ↩︎

Comment by kdbscott on Models predicting significant violence in the US? · 2020-10-25T20:40:52.549Z · LW · GW

Good point - I'm thinking political acts along the lines of violent protests, terrorism, and insurgencies. I can see how police shootings could be included there. The spirit of what I'm going for is how much change to expect, so e.g. deaths above and beyond what you would have in an average year

Comment by kdbscott on Will COVID-19 survivors suffer lasting disability at a high rate? · 2020-03-22T01:19:44.486Z · LW · GW

Here's a paper (posted 25 Feb) outlining neurological symptoms in 214 Chinese hospital patients:

  • 126 non-severe patients, 38 of which had 'neurologic symptoms'
    • 3 with impaired consciousness
    • 1 had an ischemic stroke
  • 88 severe patients, 40 of which had neurologic symptoms
    • 13 had impaired consciousness
    • 4 had an ischemic stroke, 1 cerebral hemorrhage

I don't know how much this differs from base rates - like if I have hypertension and need to go to the hospital because I broke my wrist, how likely is it that my brain also goes haywire? Or if I get a fever?

Comment by kdbscott on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-15T07:27:51.956Z · LW · GW

Did you end up finding one besides the MIDAS network, or develop your own? I'm assembling a parameter doc for inputs to a rough model that accounts for ventilator & hospital bed capacity, since it seems like we're lacking that.

  • I encourage folks to add parameters w/ citations to the doc, I'll be active on it for the next few days.
  • If anyone knows of models that incorporate actual healthcare capacity, please share!
Comment by kdbscott on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-14T22:29:16.393Z · LW · GW

I've been a bit confused about doubling rate. First, I noticed that many numbers (e.g. Wikipedia) are calculating how long it took to double, instead of projecting forward using e.g. yesterday's increase. Early on this led to misleading numbers, but recently the US has been steady around 2-3 days using both methods.

However, I'm guessing that raw doubling rates depend a lot on testing, and that the US should expect to have a faster-than-actual doubling rate until our testing catches up. So I lean towards Trevor's number of 5 days.

Comment by kdbscott on 2014 Survey of Effective Altruists · 2014-05-01T23:02:57.928Z · LW · GW

Good point about LW affiliation - in addition I would add that results are highly dependent on how the survey is distributed. This makes large predictions difficult, but more specific predictions (like >80% of LW affiliations will identify as atheist/agnostic) might be the way to go.

I'm still getting familiar with this community, but I suppose it's a fun exercise so I've added some thoughts to the excel sheet.