How can we protect economies during massive public health crises? 2020-03-18T18:56:21.933Z · score: 6 (2 votes)


Comment by kithpendragon on What are examples of 'scientific' studies that contradict what you believe about yourself? · 2020-08-03T10:24:01.457Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Disclaimer: I acknowledge my own zeal on this topic and I am genuinely curious about your experience. My own experience of having conversations in public and semi-public spaces disrupted by people interrupting with urgent cries of "spoilers" has generated some resentment that may leak into the discussion. That resentment is not meant for you specifically. I seek understanding.


Perhaps you could elaborate, because "spoilers don't ruin people's enjoyment of stories" stands up to at least a quick examination.

If we accept "spoilers" to mean something like "knowledge of specific elements of the plot", and we took this knowledge to be a negative on the story consuming experience, I would expect a very different-looking world:

  • Nobody would want to buy DVDs in a world where streaming and cinemas exist
  • Nobody would want to watch the same movie more than once. (I remember people going back to see Titanic in theaters 3 or more times)
  • I wouldn't expect the term "cult classic" to mean what it does. (Have you seen/heard what audiences do at the Rocky Horror Picture Show?)
  • Broadway and other theater industries would have to operate on the assumption that they would never get a repeat customer. ("Cats! Now and forever at the Winter Garden Theatre!")
  • The TV rerun would probably be a very limited thing if it existed at all
  • Nobody would have a favorite book that they've ever read more than once. In fact, I doubt the print industry would even bother with fiction at all
  • I wouldn't expect individuals or groups to have a favorite joke (defined by its "surprise" ending)
  • We wouldn't have the monomyth, or any other stories that get told over and over in myriad very slightly different iterations. Likewise, story cycles would never have become a literary device. (e.g. Marvel movies, Star Wars)

That said, if the only reason you enjoy stories is the surprise generated by newly discovering the creativity of the writing, then spoilers might, indeed, "reduce [the] enjoyment of a story", but that's apparently not commonly stopping people from consuming as though they could enjoy a story that they may already know well enough to tell it to others with great precision from memory.

Comment by kithpendragon on Photos Before Drywall · 2020-07-28T13:19:48.070Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's a bit more work, but a labeled diagram accompanying the images would be helpful. Which pipe is that, exactly? Where does that wire come from and go to? That's just generic conduit, what's actually in it? What is the measured height on that feature (this could be solved by ruling the studs, or adding a yard/meter stick to the photo)? While they are so much better than nothing, there are many questions that photos are not able to address, but that a bit of text would help tremendously.

For that matter, maybe we should also be documenting all that stuff on the studs and conduits and pipes themselves so that when we open things up everything is clearly described right there for us.

Comment by kithpendragon on What You Are · 2020-07-13T23:08:34.374Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perception, memory, and time might be especially tricky in a sufficiently altered state. I'm told it's sometimes extremely difficult to know what the mind is making up. What aspects of each would be most helpful to remember when you might not be sure what (if any) of your current experiences correspond with the territory outside your own brain?

Comment by kithpendragon on What You Are · 2020-07-13T13:53:07.032Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Curious: it sounds like maybe you don't think any experiences have neutral valence? Consider things your mind-body complex routinely perceives, but that don't (typically) get automatically promoted to your conscious attention; what it's like to wear pants or breathe the air in your own home, for example.

Or perhaps that kind of subtlety is simply unhelpful in context? I've never experienced the kind of altered state you seem to be trying to navigate more skillfully, and everybody I've spoken to (perhaps predictably) describes it in different terms, so I find it hard to get a bead on what might be too much depth for the situation.

Comment by kithpendragon on [Reference request] Can Love be Explained? · 2020-07-07T11:51:20.212Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Clarification: are you asking about the feeling of craving interaction with another person, or the compassionate feeling of wanting to help when you notice their suffering? The growth of each of those feelings is often referred to as "falling in love", but are quite different experiences.

From your list, I remember reading that the primary factor is proximity, though I don't have a source right now.

Comment by kithpendragon on PSA: Cars don't have 'blindspots' · 2020-07-03T00:12:51.001Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes! A thousand times this! Thank you for the validation!

Comment by kithpendragon on A reply to Agnes Callard · 2020-06-28T15:49:03.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was able to read the op-ed in a private window (I don't have a subscription to the Times anyway). The article is written in the context of a petition "opposing the deplatforming of philosophers on the basis of their views on sex and gender." Callard chose not to sign. She argues herself back and forth a few times about why before settling on the opinion that philosophers should not engage in political behavior (such as petitioning) to convince each other about the ethics of their profession because doing so is unprofessional in the context of academic philosophy, a field that she asserts must remain dedicated to "belief acquisition [that is committed to being] intellectually honest, conducive to knowledge, nonaggressive, inquisitive, respectful."

Comment by kithpendragon on A reply to Agnes Callard · 2020-06-28T11:43:45.569Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

News outlets would probably tell you their interface is facts. Seems to me that "facts" and "carefully reasoned argument" should be compatible modes.

When using the public interface explicitly presented by an institution fails to produce any apparent effect, it seems reasonable to try another. NYT also has an obvious corporate interface (purchase and sale of articles) and, as a publisher, a related political interface (exchange of news for views provides a vote-like structure on the content of the stories that the corporation would probably respond to in the absence of other factors).

Unfortunately, this corporate/political interface is a slow and post-hoc way of communicating with a large organization. The traditional actions when seeking a rapid response from a corporate or political entity are collective bargaining and petition respectively. Formally unionizing doesn't seem immediately useful in this situation.

Comment by kithpendragon on Preview On Hover · 2020-06-26T18:16:57.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(nodding) I hear that. One more note: other than using the link text as the title of the preview, I don't see anything visually connecting the preview with the link. This makes the feature substantially less discoverable than the current solution, and it could potentially be confusing to have a seemingly random box suddenly appear on the side of the page for no immediately apparent reason if you accidentally hover over a link.

Comment by kithpendragon on Preview On Hover · 2020-06-25T10:49:16.976Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it matters that the link preview covers the content because the preview should be where your attention is when you're engaging with that feature. Now that it's fairly standard for the content section to take up the middle ~1/3 of the screen, there's plenty of empty space on both sides where the mouse cursor can be routinely kept out of the way. It's more useful to have the cursor near the scrollbar or browser UI most of the time anyway. In fact, it's optimal to keep the cursor in a set region of the screen when you aren't using it so you always know where it is. Accidentally triggering the preview window can be a useful indicator that the cursor is in the wrong place a sub-optimal resting position.

Comment by kithpendragon on Has anyone explored deliberate infection with milder coronavirus strains for cross-immunity? · 2020-06-24T09:23:43.666Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Last I heard, we still don't even know how much or what kind of protection an active immune response would afford against COVID-19, or for how long. But I fully agree that a cold would be an acceptable cost for protection against community spread if it turns out to work that way.

Comment by kithpendragon on What are some Civilizational Sanity Interventions? · 2020-06-23T14:01:53.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure "conspiracy" is appropriate here. The existing Powers That Be (both political and corporate) have individual and collective interests in maintaining their current conditions. That they might each and all act to preserve the status quo (where they are powerful) probably does not actually require coordination of any kind, nor the secrecy that usually accompanies the term "conspiracy". I expect that no matter how effective prediction markets are, they will generally lack the necessary slack to dominate the existing systems.

Comment by kithpendragon on Does equanimity prevent negative utility? · 2020-06-20T23:24:18.050Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've had kidney stones and I fully endorse the "multiple orders of magnitude worse" sentiment! I look forward to never finding out if my equanimity is strong enough to overcome that level of pain.

Comment by kithpendragon on Does equanimity prevent negative utility? · 2020-06-20T23:21:55.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My experience after several years of daily meditation is that while I am still entirely able to feel pain and act on its message, I often "suffer" over it less. To clarify, instead of what my 4yo does when he gets a bump or scrape (fully inhabits the pain, cries it out, often displays a long-term mood drop), or how I used to handle pain (TBH, similar but less loudly and wetly), my current reaction is more like "Ouch. That sucks. Do I need to make repairs?" and move on with my life. If I'm particularly on my game that day, I might even observe the sensations as the pain evolves over time.

Most clinical definitions of pain that I've seen specify that it has an emotional component. Though exactly which emotion that might be is (as far as I've seen) always elided, I expect it's simple aversion. Equanimity practices seem to be designed to let us choose to experience sensations with less (approaching zero) aversion or clinging emotional content. Without the aversion, it seems you simply aren't experiencing "pain" anymore. This is also suggested when meditation teachers claim that if you can summon curiosity or interest in the painful sensation, you don't have pain anymore. I also keep hearing that aversion and clinging are where suffering comes from in the first place, which lines up nicely with all that.

Comment by kithpendragon on Status-Regulating Emotions · 2020-06-14T12:04:29.692Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OMG, this explains SO MUCH of my childhood!!

I just had a fully hour-long conversation with my household about this. Apparently the only other person who didn't know about it was the preschooler. The others helped me explore how status regulation is probably a huge contributor to the persistence of racism, classism, and that thing where communities tend to strongly distrust "blowins".

Mind blown; thanks for that!

Comment by kithpendragon on On the construction of the self · 2020-06-03T17:00:26.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That tracks with descriptions I've heard from other meditators of working with the mind in rarified states, but it's unfortunate for the purposes of discourse. Ah well; back to the cushion, then!

Comment by kithpendragon on On the construction of the self · 2020-06-02T20:01:35.622Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like the memories generated by a mind with a substantial amount of enlightenment should be notably different than those of a person who still has a fully established sense of self. I think I see a little of what I'm pointing at hinted in "An example of a no-self experience". If I'm right, it suggests (yet another way in which) I've got a lot of work to do in my own practice, and it might be diagnostic as to how a practice is progressing along one axis; I'd be interested to see a discussion on the topic.

Comment by kithpendragon on A Taijitu symbol for Moloch and Slack · 2020-05-26T00:31:05.690Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Beautiful! I love that pair of concepts that each have seemingly limitless dimension to explore can be represented together so elegantly by a single curve!

Comment by kithpendragon on From self to craving (three characteristics series) · 2020-05-25T15:13:03.623Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've been examining anatta recently, and this article really helped clarify some thinking for me! It clicked when my training in computer science began framing the problem in terms of a Self class that gets instantiated each time a subroutine needs a Self object to manipulate for some project. If the brain doesn't do a good job cleaning up old instances, or if multiple instances of the same class have a tendency to coincide and share memory space (perhaps they cross-link heavily to save RAM, as it were), it might lead to a sense of a continuous entity.

Decreasing the coincident instances of Self by reducing dependencies in the decision making processes on the craving subroutines that heavily depend on Self objects could lead to times where some processes looks for any current instance of Self but finds none available (because they've all been cleaned up for once), then returns a code for NO_SELF_FOUND. This could lead to a feeling of "there is no self" as an observation on the current state of the Global workspace. The calling process may also elect to work in Global directly. If another process then notices self-like code hanging out nakedly in Global it might start acting like Global is an instance of Self, leading to a sense of "all is self".

If true, this would explain why there's so much disagreement on the best translation of "anatta", and also why teachers sometimes claim that no-self and all-self amount to the same thing in the end.

I don't know if all that is functionally representative of what's going on, but it seems worth playing with for a while. At the least, it gives a good sense of why we might pretend to "be the sky"!

Comment by kithpendragon on Why do you (not) use a pseudonym on LessWrong? · 2020-05-07T20:46:16.311Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Names are a complicated thing. I have several, myself. I hardly ever use my birth/government name for anything except official documents. At work I'm mononymously known as Red for reasons so old they're forgotten to all but myself; but it's not so much a nickname anymore as it is my work persona; I even use it on the phone now. A very limited set of people call me Dad or Daddy. Almost everybody else calls me Kith, and that's the name I use online. It honestly wouldn't have occurred to me to use one of my other names here. I don't normally think of it as a pseudonym, but since it's not on my legal documents I suppose at least some people would.

Comment by kithpendragon on How much money would you pay to get access to video footage of your surroundings for a year of your choice (in the past)? · 2020-05-05T10:12:41.164Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

None thanks, I'm good. :)

Comment by kithpendragon on Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it · 2020-05-03T22:14:24.272Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As I understand it, the sense of self eventually vanishes entirely, leaving only the immediate psycho/physiological phenomena that "know themselves", whatever that means. ;)

Comment by kithpendragon on Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it · 2020-05-03T20:08:06.778Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The usual move the teachers suggest is to imagine the mind as the sky with thoughts and feelings and sensations as clouds floating through it. You don't have to get involved with the clouds, just watch as they grow and change and float on by. Let them be. You could also use the ocean or a river if you like waves and eddies and fishes better than clouds. I like the ocean, myself, because the waves on the shore analogue pretty well with the breath (the breath is the standard meditation anchor, though you could actually use any sensation).

Another move would be to imagine the whole of experience as taking place on a stage, with each of the "sense doors" (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, thought) as an actor. The role of attention itself becomes more obvious here (maybe use a spotlight if you like concrete images), but it's a step back toward the movie/viewer metaphor. Come to that, tho, I've never heard a teacher talk about an audience...

As for changing cognitive habits, the effect is something like taking things less personally; stuff just unfolds and you can choose to get involved or not.

In my experience, even a little taste of anatta has helped me to better notice -- and take more advantage of -- the space between impulse and action. I've found that skill to be extremely beneficial, even at what I assume to be the lowest levels!

Comment by kithpendragon on Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it · 2020-05-03T13:29:55.093Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've been using Ten Percent Happier (app, podcast, and books) for a few years now. The app subscription is $80/year, and there are a number of ways to get free content, including a short free trial period on the app.

The app has guided meditations, short talks, and courses from a number of widely respected teachers. It tends toward the beginner-level stuff, but there's a ton of content available for a variety of interests and experience levels.

Comment by kithpendragon on Meditation: the screen-and-watcher model of the human mind, and how to use it · 2020-05-03T13:19:58.527Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Buddhist teachings include the "three marks of existence" which are "Anicca" (pronounced [ah-NEE-cha], almost always translated as "Impermanence"; everything with a beginning has an end), "Dukkha" ([DOO-ka], usually translated as "suffering", maybe a closer English language equivalent is "stress"; no experience can really be deeply and permanently satisfying), and "Anatta" ([AH-nah-tah], usually translated as "non-self" or "no-self" or "not-self"; this is an observation of the non-personal nature of experience). The closest to what you are describing is probably anatta/non-self. When experiencing non-self, the boundaries between "me" and "not me" can seem to become less defined or disappear altogether. Using the screen/watcher model can be a step toward that experience as you move more and more of your experience from the watcher to the screen until you realize there simply isn't anybody there watching, just experience unfolding. That's pretty advanced stuff, tho. I've only had a few small glimpses of anatta after meditating pretty often for the last three years or so.

If you're interested, you can find talks from a number of excellent teachers on this topic at [link to search results]. I generally find Mark Nunberg to give particularly accessible talks for some reason. He's conveniently just given a series on anatta, so at the time of this comment he's right at the top of the results.

Comment by kithpendragon on Negative Feedback and Simulacra · 2020-04-29T11:16:23.410Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would identify this as something I had difficulty learning until I was an adult. I feel like there would be tremendous value in explicitly teaching children that this is a thing and giving them the tools to at least detect it so they can at least choose to participate or rebel per their temperaments, instead of simply finding large swaths of the population difficult to deal with because they aren't operating on the same political level.

Comment by kithpendragon on What are habits that a lot of people have and don't tend to have ever questioned? · 2020-04-20T10:50:51.198Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW · GW
  • Habits of thought that manifest as a deep gut feeling...
    • "The narrator in my mind is always right, especially when it tells me how wrong or bad I am"
    • "My mind is confined to my brain"
    • "My body is bounded entirely and always by my skin"
  • Reactions [1] to common social situations...
    • My kid is yelling "NONONONONO", I should feel [EMOTION] and say [UTTERANCE]
    • My boss is coming this way, I should sit [POSTURE] and be doing [ACTIVITY]
  • The way I hold my body when I type, drive, walk, run, stand, &c.
  • The appropriate volume for speech
  • The procedure for tying shoes
  • The way we cook and eat certain foods: specifically foods like eggs where there are plenty of options, and plenty of local variation, but we still routinely default to over-medium or whatever

... I sense this list could get very long if allowed. Basically every skill or pattern we have acquired since birth is comprised of at least one habit. If you can do a thing without having to think it out step-by-step, it's a habit (or a series of consecutive habits) triggered by some context(s). If you have a cached default established well enough that it's useful, that's a habit. Are any of the examples I or others have listed like what you were looking for? Which items seem to more centrally match your needs?

  1. To clarify: Any behavior that looks like a "reaction" from the inside is a habit. Non-habitual actions are "response"s. ↩︎

Comment by kithpendragon on Why don't we tape surgical masks to the face to seal them airtight? · 2020-04-14T12:39:41.438Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you could overcome most of those bullet points by using spirit gum instead of tape, tho I'm not sure how often you'd want to do that: even sticking an adhesive bandage to some patch of skin and changing it every day will do considerable damage after a relatively short time.

I've also come to understand that the N95 respirator is a much better filter than the paper masks could ever be, so adhering paper masks to the face might simply be nowhere near as useful as just having the right mask in the first place. My understanding is that most masks are simply just at keeping the user's bio-bits out of the environment than they are at keeping the environment out of the user. That's why the current recommendation is for the general public to use paper or cloth masks while reserving N95 respirators for healthcare personnel.

Comment by kithpendragon on Are there any naturally occurring heat pumps? · 2020-04-13T16:18:17.509Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Warm blooded creatures use tricks like evaporative cooling and flow control to move heat around. Some birds, for example, have the veins and arteries in their legs tangled up in such a way that the blood headed toward their feet can give heat back to the cooled blood that's headed back toward the heart. This prevents a lot of heat loss, but doesn't actually move heat from low- to high-density regions within the body. Most of the heat involved comes from chemical processes within the cells releasing energy that, ultimately, came from sunlight.

Convection currents distribute heat throughout water by completely normal thermodynamic means: hotter (less dense) water becomes buoyant and rises, displacing cooler (denser) water down toward the heat source. Having moved away from the heat source, the warm water eventually releases the excess heat to the cooler environment and the cycle repeats. Again, there is no heat moving the "wrong" way in those systems.

Comment by kithpendragon on Are there any naturally occurring heat pumps? · 2020-04-13T10:44:20.911Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Off the top of my head: I know some chemicals (like sodium acetate, found in reusable hand warmers) change form when heated and can be easily coerced to change back, releasing the stored heat in the process. I'd be surprised to learn that there aren't any natural processes that take advantage of behavior like that, but I don't think I actually know of any.

Comment by kithpendragon on Are there any naturally occurring heat pumps? · 2020-04-13T10:37:38.934Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think of fire as moving heat around so much as converting chemical energy (derived from electromagnetic) into thermal.

Comment by kithpendragon on Why I'm Not Vegan · 2020-04-10T09:11:53.303Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Last March there was a Slate Star Codex essay you might be interested in [link] where Scott tried to compare the moral weight of various animals to the number of cortical neurons each species has on average. Those numbers don't account for suffering under farm conditions or environmental impact, but they might help refine your intuitions.

Comment by kithpendragon on What will be the economic effects of no restrictions · 2020-03-25T22:47:32.725Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not an economist, but the naive answer is it would be like this anyway. Only people would be dying all over the place and there would be no safety net at all. The damage would be more on a permanent basis due to sporadic but widespread uncontrolled shutdowns. Unemployment would go up like mad and even more people would have no access to health care. Not that it would matter since the hospitals would all be stretched well beyond capacity. The virus would preferentially kill older folks (as it apparently does) without being checked by isolation measures. Their money would pass on to their heirs and the headlines would read "MILLENNIALS KILLED THE BABY BOOMERS".

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T17:36:16.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect there is at least as much "cultural inertia" at play as the costs and reliability aspect.

That may well be. "But we've always done it this way" is one of the most annoying things people say to me on a regular basis. (I often forget where the metaphorical box is that I'm typically presumed by other people to be thinking in.)

Will be interesting to see if, assuming things do get as bad as everyone seems to be making this to be, we see those types of operational/behavior changes propagating within societies.

Agreed. Tho, I plan on examining implementation of foot-operated doors in my home if it turns out to be reasonable, just for the convenience if nothing else. Just because nobody else is doing it right now hasn't ever stopped me from making improvements on my own if I can!

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T17:30:24.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Out of curiosity, how does the jacket pocket thing work in the summer?

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T17:28:17.085Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As long as the screen is locked, it doesn't even matter if you press the keys while you're smearing, but I don't usually go in that hard anyway. I just grab a little extra sanitizer for the keyboard and make sure to hit the tops of the keycaps at least. ;) My office has a half-gallon pump bottle of the stuff, so I just give the pump an extra centimeter of travel when I want to do the keyboard (and mouse, BTW). It doesn't have to be often; I usually just wash my hands anyway. And I'm under no illusions that smearing some hand sanitizer on a keyboard is a perfect cleaning job, but it's surely better than nothing. :)

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T14:50:55.948Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wipe down my keyboard with hand sanitizer pretty frequently (a couple times a day) just because it's a horizontal surface that could catch anything that happens to be floating through the air. It's not a big deal, especially if I'm using sanitizer anyway: just smear some on the keyboard from the hands before it all dries up.

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T14:46:53.545Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That would be awesome, but more expensive and prone to failure than what we're using now. I expect this is the primary reason we are still mostly using purely mechanical systems. My "automate everything" is in conflict with my "simpler is usually better" in this case.

I almost made a comment about security (which would be not-very-good given our current technology), but then I realized a couple of things:

  • I've studied lockpicking so I know exactly how secure our current systems are. (It's shockingly bad, BTW. You'd be hard pressed to actually find something that was more-than-trivially worse than the usual 4-pin tumbler locks.)
  • You'd need a mechanical backup for when the controller was down due to lack of power (and the fact that they would probably end up all running a full install of Windows for no good design reason. #cinicism) The mechanical backup would probably be exactly as secure as the mechanical systems we are currently using: not at all.
Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T12:52:40.626Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't heard anybody talking about credit cards or wallets as potentially-contaminated surfaces. I wonder why that is? We often handle them with unwashed hands, and those pin pads are pretty frequently touched as well.

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T12:48:50.267Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm certain they could be calibrated to require more force than a small dog or baby could apply to operate, or they could be locked by a positive stop mechanism beneath the pedal. Large dogs, some cats, and small children can operate many types of door opener anyway, so I expect we'd find ways around this issue just as we've done with what is now a standard doorknob.

Comment by kithpendragon on When are the most important times to wash your hands? · 2020-03-15T11:29:16.609Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed; I use elbows or shoulders if possible. Some doors even have a kick plate that can essentially be stepped on!

Sudden thought: Why aren't all doors foot operated? A simple pedal latch would be far more hygenic and easier to operate e.g. with an armload of groceries or when wet than the knobs we have most places. I know I've seen doors with this feature (does a google on "foot pedal door opener"...) It's totally a thing! This should be common!

Comment by kithpendragon on The absurdity of un-referenceable entities · 2020-03-15T11:20:42.281Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I always thought it was pretty funny when Lovecraft wrote about Un-namable on Indescribable Horrors for exactly this reason. Thanks for expanding on the thought!

Comment by kithpendragon on The absurdity of un-referenceable entities · 2020-03-15T11:18:06.358Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

there are ... only countably many names you could give a number.

If we take a name to be any pronounceable string pointing to a specific entity*, then in what way is that set limited? If you construct a list of syllables used for all names, and even limit your search to the items that start "the number", you can always take an existing number name and append a syllable from that list to create a new name. That's pretty much how set theory establishes integers, as I understand it.

I think there is a difference between "unnameable" and "unremarkable so far, so nobody's bothered to name it", which does describe nearly all numbers.

*This is an extremely narrow definition, but functional for this application. It could be extended to include any reproducible symbol including those that can be pronounced, scribed, or thought.

Comment by kithpendragon on What is the best way to disinfect a (rental) car? · 2020-03-13T00:16:38.530Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From what I've seen, SARS-COV-2 doesn't survive very long on cloth surfaces (a few hours, if I remember correctly), so you probably don't have to worry about the carpeting and seats. Picking up the vehicle as early as is practical and letting it sit in the sun (as avturchin suggested) will probably go a long way. Wipe down all the control surfaces with disinfectant wipes, for sure. If you're still concerned, I'd suggest some Lysol or some-such used per the bottle instructions. Just make sure to let that stuff air out before you need to use the vehicle; no point driving a super clean car if you can't breathe because of chemical fumes!

And wash your hands after using the vehicle anyway, just for good measure.

Comment by kithpendragon on At what point does disease spread stop being well-modeled by an exponential function? · 2020-03-09T00:27:48.989Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

3Blue1Brown just did a video about this subject that I found very informative. The chart they use to explain the "inflection point" actually does look much like the idea you described with exponential growth up to about 50% of the total infections over the course of an outbreak and leveling off after that.

Comment by kithpendragon on Why would panic during this coronavirus pandemic be a bad thing? · 2020-03-08T18:35:37.234Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe, and maybe. I would expect to see a range of responses from panicking people acting on all parts of fight/flight/freeze instincts. And I think bunkering down safe at home is certainly one possible freeze reaction. One likely flight reaction is driving/walking aimlessly "away" from the threat (think, "if I just get far enough away from the city I'll be fine"). If enough people take the latter action, they are likely to meet up and start moving aimlessly as a group* despite the increased risk of infection ("Those people look healthy, and there's safety in numbers"), and I think we all know how groups of humans can act. :(

*A group, BTW, with next to no planning or leadership structure, probably limited food and water supplies, not using sanitary facilities reliably, not washing their hands often, and most likely carrying lots of guns.

As for the army, if they were able to help at all I think it would be because they were following orders given to them by an officer who had the distance and training to be able to think more clearly. Would a military presence in the street scare more people into staying inside? Probably, and especially if there were clear instructions being broadcast at regular intervals. I've seen some people behave very well when you take their need to think out of the equation. On the other hand, you're going to have the folks who freak out into fight mode because they think "they're here to take our guns!" or some such, resulting in more needless deaths. Furthermore, mobilizing a military force mixes people around more and further exacerbates exposure risks. This is not a step I would choose to take at this time.

Comment by kithpendragon on Why would panic during this coronavirus pandemic be a bad thing? · 2020-03-08T10:47:44.716Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because people who think and act deliberately are less likely to blindly and actively hurt others than those who are acting on a fight/flight/freeze instinct. We are not evolutionarily equipped to handle threats of a nature such that:

  1. it just doesn't have a face to punch
  2. running away is just going to result in the formation of dangerous migrating packs of sick monkeys spreading the problem around and looking for something with a face to punch
  3. freeze looks like going about business as usual and ignoring the problem, which is good news for the invisible, unpunchable threat

Panic is what we call it when the elephant has gotten really freaked out and the rider stops trying to determine the best course of action in the face of what feels like an uncontrollable primitive mind. Panicky people tend to do stupid things like breaking quarantine, other-seeking for comfort, finding out those people are all panicking too and starting a riot instead of appropriate behaviors like staying inside whenever possible, making phone calls to authorities to report the riot outside, and washing their damn hands (and maybe sanitizing the phone as well).

I think it's axiomatically better if people do stuff on purpose instead of acting out of animal fear. I'd even think this if people were choosing to do the wrong stuff due to, let's say... inconsistent and unreliable messaging or something, because at least they're thinking and acting deliberately which makes them less likely to do the stupid panicky animal things that confer no benefit but add needless harm to the problem.

Comment by kithpendragon on Coronavirus is Here · 2020-03-02T20:17:48.861Z · score: 8 (9 votes) · LW · GW

My wife has a friend in California who works in medical. She points out that:

  • COVID-19 throws flu-like symptoms
  • It's still flu season
  • Our lab tests for the flu are pretty poor
  • Therefore: lots of cases of "you obviously have the flu, lets just treat it like it's flu and move on" in the last little while could plausibly have been COVID-19 and we would have had no good way to know

It's entirely reasonable to expect that it's out there in the community, at least on the west coast, and we just haven't found out yet. Any place close to a travel hub is suspect now. We should assume that most of us have at least had the opportunity to be exposed by now.

Above all, keep you hands washed (and lotioned because cracked and bleeding knuckles from lots of washing could be an infection vector, if not for COVID-19 then for other stuff) and keep good cough/sneeze hygiene!

Comment by kithpendragon on At what point should CFAR stop holding workshops due to COVID-19? · 2020-02-27T19:40:12.709Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point. I guess it depends on how hard it is to cancel a complex event on (relatively) short notice if things should take a bad turn between planning and execution.

Comment by kithpendragon on At what point should CFAR stop holding workshops due to COVID-19? · 2020-02-27T17:52:04.928Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Acknowledged and agreed (with the addendum that COVID-19 isn't actually killing children at elevated rates, but that's really weird). The fact remains that the first unaccounted for case in the US was only just found yesterday. Around here, all of us with access to soap and water and reasonable healthcare are currently in next to no danger. The going strategy is to keep good hygiene, especially good hand hygiene, and review emergency procedures. What I'm seeing is the start of a panic, and that is entirely uncalled for. It may be only a matter of time before we reach dangerous levels of infection in the US, but we aren't there yet.

BTW, thank you for being the only person so far to comment instead of just downvoting without adding to the discussion. Much appreciated!