Moral Anti-Epistemology 2015-04-24T03:30:27.972Z
Arguments Against Speciesism 2013-07-28T18:24:58.354Z


Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Mildly against COVID risk budgets · 2021-08-16T10:47:05.315Z · LW · GW

(If the coffee shop had been a week ago, sure, I'd be inflicting some of those microCOVIDs on my fellow partygoers, which, sure, could be decision-relevant, I haven't done the math; but it seems very unlikely to me that I'll become a full-fledged germ factory between this morning and this evening, so I think that consideration is insignificant in this case.)

Between morning and evening seems negligible indeed, but it's worth noting that the Delta variant has a much shorter incubation period. There are cases where it takes only about 24h for people to infect others. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on What made the UK COVID-19 case count drop? · 2021-08-03T18:25:49.246Z · LW · GW

The Netherlands reimposed restrictions, whereas the UK opened up. I think the UK has simply overshot herd immunity and this leads to a sudden drop.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/29: You Play to Win the Game · 2021-07-31T12:18:55.542Z · LW · GW

Or they may be so fatigued and therefore behind on lots of life-admin tasks that signing up for a study is the last thing they'd consider.

Also, if there is a 0.5 IQ points loss in expectation, it seems to matter how it's distributed. Would everyone get the same effect or is it mostly no effect + some people lose 5 IQ points? The latter is arguably a lot worse because you can easily compensate for a small loss (drink extra caffeine when you need to be extra sharp) but not for a big one. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-23T15:43:47.756Z · LW · GW
  • Your theory doesn't explain the prevalence of highly unusual Covid-specific symptoms among the mix that makes up Long Covid (I'm thinking of strawberries smelling like burnt tyres)
  • There's a plausible mechanism with Covid: Other viruses cause fatigue syndroms as well, probably autoimmune related, and it's plausible that the SARS-Cov-2 virus has properties that trigger this comparatively often.
  • There's a second plausible mechanism with Covid: It affects blood vessels and lots of organ systems at once, so lasting damage causing fatigue seems to make sense. (Note that this mechanism makes less sense for asymptomatic infection leading to Long Covid, which some anecdotal reports claim is also happening).
  • You fail to mention that there's a history of ignorant / narrow-minded doctors gaslighting patients with uncommon or not well researched actual chronic illnesses.
  • Some people's Long Covid symptoms are too outlierish in their severity to be anything that develops normally. E.g., people who used to be highly into sports report that they get out of breath just climbing stairs, and that this persists for a period of years. My impression is that this sort of thing never just happens without an identifiable cause. (I'm uncertain whether that type of Long Covid can happen after asymptomatic infection. That would be important to know to ascertain the use of vaccines for preventing Long Covid!) 
Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-23T10:00:49.187Z · LW · GW

I've seen a bunch of reports that feel intuitively consistent with this. E.g., superspreading around the Euro finals ("the Wembley variant") and accounts from weddings that I vaguely thought were outdoors, but that could be a false memory. I'd imagine that people would continue to get infected by family members (at least ones that live together) because the secondary attack rate would be really high with such an infectiousness profile. And I've also seen some claims from Israel or Australia about near-100% secondary attack rates, but they seemed really anecdotal, so I don't know. (I expect that it's already possible to gain a lot confidence about all of this by doing a systematic screening of sources/reports.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-23T08:18:34.920Z · LW · GW


The Times: 

There's a good chance that the numbers are overstated because of methodological difficulties, but it's not obvious, and the numbers are high enough that it would be worth concern even if they're 50% overstated. 

Also, reddit is full with scary stories about Long Covid. Obviously that doesn't mean much because you get scary stories in any data set with tens of millions of people, but I think it's quite telling that a lot of people who self-declare as having Long Covid report having messed up senses of smell (e.g., strawberries tasting like burnt tyres).  That's not usually a sign of normal depression or burnout. It's clearly Covid related, and it seems to happen frequently enough to produce reddit communities filled with such posts every day, and the media did report on it, and the symptoms seem to be connected (e.g., the people who report the long-lasting loss of sense/taste also have other fatigue-related symptoms, which seem to have gone up in people with past Covid as well). 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-23T07:05:07.943Z · LW · GW

I feel like we got sidetracked. 

I do think that having a good track record is what makes people credible and rather listen to people who got COVID-19 right at the start

I got Covid right at the start (among others) and I posted above that my track record is winning the largest prediction tournament at the time.

So let me repeat what I cared about conveying in this discussion, one last time: 

The person in the youtube video you linked to may have gotten Covid right in early 2020, but so did hundreds of people (but maybe not thousands). Out of the set of people with a good track record on Covid, this guy is now pushing an extreme minority position. In theory, he could have been right with that. But he's wrong because his arguments are bad in an easily verifiable way. Once someone's core arguments for a fringe position (fringe in reference to the best sources we'd want to listen to here, not fringe with respect to the media) get discredited, there's no reason to continue treating the fringe position as though it still has a high chance of being right. By that point, we must be prepared to say "This guy went off the rails."

All I wanted to convey is that it makes no sense to continue holding a person's specific opinion in high regards (good track record or not) when the opinion is highly contrarian* and just had its core arguments refuted. By continuing to argue as though the guy might still be right, you were employing a type of epistemology which, to me, seems doomed. I get the impression that you not only distrust the media consensus, but any consensus seems worthless to you when you see a single confident-sounding expert who stands out as having gotten something right when others had gotten it wrong. I think that's too strong of an update, because lots of people got things right, and some of them may still be completely nuts and bad at reasoning, and we can spot that by checking things against a mental reference class of "consensus among the people we hold in high esteem."

*Again, I'm talking about contrarian with respect to the sources we'd want to listen to. That's a subjective reference class, but since we're both on this site and value track records, our takes on this may not be crazily different. It is my highly confident impression that <3% of Lesswrongers with high karma, and <3% of people who got Covid right in the early days, think that the Delta variant is less deadly in unvaccinated population than the original variant. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T20:16:48.048Z · LW · GW

BTW, it's am minor point, but I feel like the media is biased to fail to identify new variants as more deadly, because of racism concerns. Every single media article about the South Africa variant said "there's no evidence it's more deadly." They were saying this before there was enough time to know with confidence (and "no evidence" was technically false because there were anecdotal reports of children being more affected). 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T20:07:05.966Z · LW · GW

You're right, I think I phrased my point poorly. What I should have said is "If there's no reputable or intelligent-seeming person making some claim for a long time, and then comes along some lone contrarian, that contrarian better make a good impression – otherwise it probably doesn't make sense to invest a lot of time steelmanning their claims and digging into a hypothesis that wouldn't even have occured to us without this person." 

Maybe you've seen more people talk about Delta deadliness concerns being overblown. But based on my media diet as well as based on all the conversations I've had with EAs and rationalists about this, the view that Delta might be a less infectious (but more contagious) variant has never come up.

It's true that media consensus isn't great to go by, as we've seen with all the instances Zvi documents in his post (mask wearing, possibility of lab escape, etc.). 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-22T19:51:00.704Z · LW · GW

Delta progresses more quickly, and all else equal, that should make you less worried about R than you previously were. But I find it plausibly that it's doing both: it's scarily infectious and it progresses more quickly. Depending on the methodology of estimating R, it doesn't necessarily lead to overestimates if one variant progresses more quickly. Your methodology could be to simply trace infections and count how many times a virus was passed on from the earlier generation's host. 

There's some evidence of scarily high infectiousness. From Australia, we see that it apparently happened twice that there's CCTV footage of people walking past each other (without mask) and infection happening within 15 seconds of passing. This wouldn't be too surprising if that's all the footage we had about scarily quick infections from major outbreaks in the US or the UK – large numbers imply bigger coincidences. However, the Australia outbreak is young and scarily quick infections happening twice implies that they must be rather common. 

One thing I'm confused about is the UK's recent case numbers: They seem to have slowed down a lot. It's too early to tell and I think there's a good chance the growth picks up again, and it'll look very different next week. But there's a chance that the UK is close to the ceiling already, which would be good news, and probably some evidence that experts overestimated the R of Delta variant, because many experts were predicting >100k or even 200k daily cases over the summer, and this may not happen if the apparent slowdown is real. 

(Alternatively, maybe society is really segmented by now and many people are intent on not catching the virus, so saturation is only reached within populations that are comfortable with quite a lot of risk. This could still lead to a slowdown, but not for ideal reasons.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T19:16:15.469Z · LW · GW

It's really not that difficult to ballpark IFR estimates (especially now that everyone knows that there's no giant iceberg of asymptomatic cases). The Delta variant has been around for a while. You can play word games but it's fairly obvious what I mean by "scientific consensus." I mean that >100 media articles I've read in the last couple of months, from various mainstream UK sources, I've never seen anyone seriously entertain the hypothesis that the Delta variant is less deadly than previous variants. 

I'm not saying to blanket endorse the media's perspective on what's the scientific consensus. That would be strawmanning me. I'm saying that when you claim that the consensus is wrong (edit: or that it very well might be), at least have more of a reason than "Intuitively, those numbers look too low on the chart." At least have an argument for what, specifically, the mainstream experts are getting wrong. The video doesn't have that since it fails to pass the Ideological Turing test for people who are concerned about the Delta variant. 

Losing time suggests that there's an action I'm currently not taking that I should be taking. It's likely that the same action I take now is twice as expensive in terms of COVID-19 risk in a month (given COVID numbers where I live)

Having accurate beliefs can be beneficial in unanticipated ways. There's no point in needlessly delaying epistemic updates. I'm saying that there's something off about how much credibility you give to confident-sounding contrarians on youtube (with some credentials, admittedly, though not that it matters). (Esp. once some of their core arguments get debunked.) 

Again, I'm not making a blanket argument about contrarians always being wrong. I'm making the specific argument that contrarians who are right don't tend to make easily visible mistakes. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T11:45:34.251Z · LW · GW

Scientific consensus opinion is that Delta is more deadly, not less. The guy in the video says otherwise, but his specific arguments are flawed. This isn't difficult to check/verify: He didn't factor in that the death rate is automatically lower in a vaccinated population.

Without the evidence he thought he had from the UK data, all that's left in support of his position, that Delta is less deadly, is this: "Intuitively, deaths are climbing really slowly in Israel compared to case numbers."

By itself, intuition about deaths climbing slowly doesn't seem like anywhere close to a good reason to question expert consensus. (It also wouldn't make me think that Australia may have its own less deadly subtype of Delta.) 

I feel like if your plan is to wait 2-4 weeks to check my predictions against reality, you're losing time unnecessarily. There's enough info here to update sooner. 

Maybe we have different intuitions about how weird the slowly climbing death rate is. I think it's not weird at all – it's always gone this way.  You can compare the situation in Israel now to how things were in the UK throughout June, see the charts here, specifically comparing how the rise in case numbers came early than the rise in death numbers. 

Or, to give another example, back in early 2020, people kept pointing out that the case fatality rate in South Korea seems really low, and that this means the virus isn't that bad. But that was just the lag from cases to deaths, and after South Korea's outbreak went beyond its peak and people had time to die, the case fatality rate went up by multiples! 

Regarding predictions: Israel only has 1k cases and they do extensive testing, so there's not a lot of underreporting. This makes predictions a bit difficult because the variance is high. Probably we'll see at least 4 average daily deaths in three weeks. But most importantly, and most confidently, I'll say that as long as cases keep rising, deaths will eventually go up as well – that's the prediction of the model that Delta isn't weaker.

I have a good track record on Covid predictions. I won the first big forecasting tournament on Covid on Metaculus and got 3rd in the second installment of the tournament. I live in the UK and therefore have a headstart (except vs. people in India) on following Delta developments closely. I'm also a bit addicted to virus news and spend 2h per day on that.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T09:18:17.287Z · LW · GW

The weekly average of deaths went from roughly zero, to one, to two. That's going up. Soon it will be at three or four if things continue like that. That looks like normal growth, deaths always lag behind surprisingly much when case numbers are growing exponentially. It also took the UK a really long time to from 7 weekly deaths to even just 10, but now the weekly average is above 50. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-22T07:46:21.671Z · LW · GW

Actually there was some talk at least 9 days before I made the above comment:

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T07:19:40.246Z · LW · GW

Chris Martenson is one of the people who got it right back in January and his latest video is quite interesting

I watched the video and I think it hard to convey just how bad it is. The guy is also annoyingly smug (the first ten minutes of the video are just him reading headlines and saying the word "dangerous" in a mocking voice) while being wrong about his important claims.

The tl;dr is that while Delta has a significantly higher r data from Israel suggests that this doesn't translate into increased deaths. This suggest that the virus is less harmful

Vaccines work great at preventing severe disease and deaths. Obviously one of the highest-vaccinated countries will have fewer deaths now – that says nothing about how deadly the Delta variant is in an unvaccinated population.

And then he goes on to talk about how there are more vaccinated people aged >50 in the UK hospitals than unvaccinated people, and he thinks that's strange or even implies that it could mean something bad about vaccine efficiency.  He doesn't understand base rates (9/10 people over 50 are vaccinated in the UK!). 

Doing the analysis right, we see that Delta is probably significantly more deadly than Alpha, which itself was more deadly than the original variant. We also see that Delta affects children more.

(Edit: I initially thought he's also wrong about not factoring in that the majority of Delta variant cases in the UK haven't had enough time to run their course, but I think the chart he used actually factored that in and was considering cases with a known outcome. So I deleted a paragraph above – one fewer mistake than I initially thought!) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on ($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant? · 2021-07-22T06:41:49.254Z · LW · GW

I feel like your model doesn't explain why getting the 2nd dose of the vaccine after 8 weeks instead of 4 weeks increases efficiency. I think this is the case, and if so, it suggests that the 2nd dose adds something on top of the first one, falsifying your assumptions. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-16T06:13:34.996Z · LW · GW

IIRC the delta variant, according to Indian accounts, is significantly contagious for three weeks from the date of infection as opposed to the usual two.

That would clearly make it harder, yeah. And good point about contact tracing. I guess the only thing that would be easier with a shorter incubation period is isolation after flights and getting down case numbers with a very tight lockdown. Everything else gets harder. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-16T04:28:25.651Z · LW · GW

I tried estimating the chance that a new variant would arise in the UK in the next couple of months:

I think the risk of a new superbad variant arising in the UK is 6%. We've seen two game-changing variants so far (Alpha and Delta) out of roughly a billion Covid cases (extremely crude estimate). The UK will have roughly 10 million cases in the coming three months (extremely crude estimate). That would be 1% of the total so far, so a 2% prior for a new game-changing variant (since this happened twice already). Conditions for evolving vaccine evasion have never been better, which adds at least a factor 2, I would think. It's more in expectation, so maybe 3.5. (Also, the Alpha variant happened in the UK, so maybe conditions are particularly favorable for virus evolution here for reasons I don't understand.) OTOH, I may be ignoring that the virus has run out of low-hanging mutations. Overall, I'm going with a 6% chance.

Note that I don't necessarily predict a new variant to be more deadly by itself. (But it would be more deadly given better resistance to vaccines.) 

It's indeed scary that the same experiment will be run across many countries, so in absolute terms, the odds are much larger than what's correct for the UK for the next couple of months. 

But the risks per country are heavily correlated (are there low-hanging mutations that increase transmissibility?), and overall I'm not sure I'd go above 40% for a new superbad variant in 2021. I think this is partly also influenced by having read some experts express a lot of confidence that the antibodies to the spike protein, especially from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, are fairly hard to circumnavigate when you're the virus, because probably all Covid viruses need some kind of similar-looking spike protein. Even so, you could get a variant where infection is reduced by 50-70% after two shots of Pfizer, instead of the 15-30% we see currently. That would basically guarantee that nearly everyone gets exposed to long Covid risks of having to go through one illness. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-15T20:14:07.248Z · LW · GW

Interesting! Do you (or anyone else) have info on what this means about the incubation period? It would be useful to know if it got shorter! Not only for meeting friends or relatives, but also because it means contact tracing becomes easier and lockdowns more effective. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Will the US have more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases before January 1, 2022? · 2021-07-15T20:03:11.251Z · LW · GW

The best argument I can come up with against >100k cases: 

Cases will skyrocket in different US regions at different times. They will skyrocket especially in places with lots of unvaccinated people, which will lead to spikes in deaths, which will lead to lockdowns. Those lockdowns will keep the case numbers down. The main reason why the UK sees high case numbers is because the government doesn't think it's a big deal as long as few people are dying. (I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad way to look at it, given the economic costs of tighter restrictions.) 

Even that story^ feels extremely implausible to me. I just don't see governors of Southern states going into lockdowns when deaths start to spike again, especially because they won't spike as much as they used to. 

I'm not completely closing the door on 98%, but I think it's more likely than not that I'd put 99% after a full day of serious thinking. As it is, if I had to bet on this right now without more thinking, I'd go with 98% while feeling a bit cowardly. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Will the US have more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases before January 1, 2022? · 2021-07-15T19:57:07.000Z · LW · GW

That's a good point. However, last time I checked, the UK was slightly ahead even on only counting the percentage of doubly-vaccinated people. (Also, it's possible that single-vaccinated people are substantially less infectious conditional on getting infected, which means that the UK strategy of focusing on first doses could actually be superior. I don't know if this applies, but it's not obviously wrong to me.) 

You could also point out that UK had more Astra Zeneca vaccinations, which are a bit less effective. That's true but it just seems intuitively extremely implausible that the effect would be large enough. 100k cases is too low of a bar to make this question interesting. It would be somewhat interesting for 200k cases.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Will the US have more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases before January 1, 2022? · 2021-07-15T19:52:54.884Z · LW · GW

Vaccination of children has begun

That's the only argument in your list that I find interesting. However, there's not enough time to vaccinate enough children to curb the spread sufficiently. Also, I doubt most states are doing this. Maybe they're just vaccinating children with comorbidities?

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Will the US have more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases before January 1, 2022? · 2021-07-15T19:43:26.627Z · LW · GW

Reasoning: The US is about 4 times larger than the UK. The UK has more vaccinations than the US, and, most importantly, fewer low-vaccination regions where cases among the vaccinated might truly skyrocket. The UK has nearly 50,000 daily cases already, and that's before reopening (and there are regions in the US with fewer restrictions presently). (And the UK will probably hit 200,000 cases and beyond.) The US is behind in the Delta variant timeline, but even a best-case scenario would get over 100,000 cases. Everything else would look like a miracle, especially given (very justified) restriction fatigue. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Will the US have more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases before January 1, 2022? · 2021-07-15T19:40:11.135Z · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure I'd bet 99% that the answer here is yes. The fact that this doesn't seem obvious to others makes a little hesitant though. Am I missing something? 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-15T19:27:55.243Z · LW · GW

[...] which oddly still leaves out the question of whether shots can be modified to work better versus Delta. I’m confused why there isn’t more discussion about that. My presumption is that modifications wouldn’t help, which is interesting in and of itself and seems worthy of mention if true. 

I'm also very confused by this! I don't immediately see why modifications couldn't be made, but yeah, the alternative (that people simply don't discuss this option) seems completely insane. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-15T18:46:01.759Z · LW · GW

According to this German article, the Robert Koch institute estimates that 85% of the population needs to be doubly vaccinated to guarantee herd immunity to the Delta variant. This is borderline unachievable. (Edit: I think they actually mean 12+ year olds, instead of the full population. Even so.) 

Without that level of vaccination, you cannot open up too much, or you'll have a slowly growing surge of cases that won't go away until herd immunity is reached naturally.  This means case counts being >1% (and >>1%) for many weeks or even months, as is happening now in the UK.

Deaths may not reach the levels of previous waves if vaccination uptake among the elderly is excellent (which isn't the case in many areas in the US, though), but a lot of young people will get long covid. 

It looks unclear whether vaccines even reduce the chances of catching long covid conditional on developing symptomatic covid. Or even conditional on developing asymptomatic covid, since there are some anecdotes about people developing long covid after asymptomatic infection.  It's possible that vaccines give a 30% reduction to the risk, but probably not more, and the 30% itself is uncertain. Long covid seems to be more likely to happen than I initially thought. I'm unsure whether it's more like 1% or 4%, but it definitely seems significant. (Probably it's possible to figure out with certainty what the odds are – I just haven't looked into it in a while.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 7/15: Rates of Change · 2021-07-15T18:35:05.546Z · LW · GW

Rapid spikes of case numbers are not unheard of. The Netherlands government opened up all restrictions, which led to a 500% increase in case numbers in a single week. They decided to close down again. (Netherlands has 40% of people fully/doubly vaccinated.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on [Link] Musk's non-missing mood · 2021-07-13T20:39:50.341Z · LW · GW

Edit: Oops, my comment shouldn't be a direct reply here (but it fits into this general comment section, which is why I'm not deleting it). I didn't read the parent comment that Daniel was replying to above and assumed he was replying in a totally different context (Musk not necessarily acting rationally on his non-missing mood, as opposed to Daniel talking about AI researchers and their missing mood.) 


Yeah. I watched a Q&A on youtube after a talk by Sam Altman, roughly a year or two ago (or so), where Altman alluded that Musk had wanted some of OpenAI's top AI scientists because Tesla needed them. It's possible that the reason he left OpenAI was simply related to that, not to anything about strategically thinking about AI futures, missing moods, etc.

More generally, I feel like a lot of people seem to think that if you run a successful company, you must be brilliant and dedicated in every possible way. No, that's not how it works. You can be a genius at founding and running companies and making lots of money without necessarily being good at careful reasoning about paths to impact other than "making money." Probably these skills even come apart at the tails.


Comment by Lukas_Gloor on We Still Don't Know If Masks Work · 2021-07-05T09:14:03.798Z · LW · GW

Right, I agree with all that. I wanted to express that my prior is high for masks working at least a bit. I find it weird to write as though the burden of proof is on finding solid evidence that they do work. I wouldn't have commented if the OP had titled the post "We still can't be certain if masks work." 


Comment by Lukas_Gloor on We Still Don't Know If Masks Work · 2021-07-05T07:51:37.264Z · LW · GW

If you're shedding the virus (being infectious, possibly before showing outward symptoms) and you're wearing a mask, probably the virus is less likely to get to people around you in a supermarket or in public transportation? Therefore, masks work at least a bit? Isn't that obvious? What am I missing? 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on How would you run the statistics on whether Ivermectin helped India reduce COVID-19 cases? · 2021-07-04T04:41:04.293Z · LW · GW

Thanks for explaining, that sounds interesting. I remain skeptical about the numbers, though, because (a) it just seems so odd that a country with 4% vaccination percentage now distributed something useful successfully to enough people to significantly reduce spread, and (b) the timing sounds too coincidental to me, and not very plausible. But there's maybe a >1% chance that there's something interesting going on here. :) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on What is the Risk of Long Covid after Vaccination? · 2021-07-03T20:43:58.346Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I think it doesn't reflect that well on Lesswrong that the other comment wasn't challenged more earlier. (E.g., since when do depressed people frequently lose their sense of smell??) It seems like the pendulum has swung so much from "we should be extremely cautious" to "people are overreacting" that it's starting to get unreasonable again. 

Also, the other answer here mentions this: 

"My model is that risk of getting seriously ill from COVID for someone in my demographic, after full vaccination, is zero for all practical purposes."

It really depends if we count Long Covid as "serious." Certainly seems serious if people's sense of self-worth is related to being able to do deep work, which you can mostly forget about with Long Covid for >12 months. Doubly vaccinated reduces risks of getting infected by 85%, and a 30% further reduction in Long Covid risk conditional on getting sick. That's a 10x reduction. But case numbers will be up more than 10x compared to large periods of 2020 (e.g., last summer). Therefore, it's not unreasonable to still be concerned and keep an eye on case numbers. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on What is the Risk of Long Covid after Vaccination? · 2021-07-03T20:30:51.496Z · LW · GW

30% lower than without vaccination – according to this study

The King’s College London/ZOE app collaboration is the largest longitudinal study of Covid symptoms in the world. Through our work, we have also examined the impact of vaccines on existing Covid-19 symptoms and the chance of developing Long Covid. While it is now widely known that double vaccination reduces the chance of getting infected by around 85 per cent, our work indicates that on top of this, vaccines also decrease the likelihood, if someone does get infected, of developing Long Covid by up to 30 per cent.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on How would you run the statistics on whether Ivermectin helped India reduce COVID-19 cases? · 2021-07-03T19:42:47.167Z · LW · GW

I know this isn't answering your question, but how could this claim possibly make any sense? To slow the country-wide transmission rate substantially with a prophylactic intervention, wouldn't you have to give it to similarly many people as you give vaccines? And given that India isn't among the countries with the largest vaccination percentages, it's unlikely it was able to distribute a potential prophylactic to a substantial percentage of its population. Or did it? And as a treatment post illness – well, that also doesn't make sense because most people who infect others do so before getting diagnosed by a doctor.

I feel like the people who make this claim about India and ivermectin are confusedly trying to explain something that doesn't need explaining. Why didn't the Delta variant overwhelm India completely? Because of the control system. We've seen this every time a new variant emerged. Massive spike, then people get scared and the numbers go down. I even noted this in advance. There doesn't need to be a further explanation. Pinning it on medicine just seems like the typical bad reasoning of people who think they found a miracle cure for everything. (Not saying ivermectin is useless; I actually know absolutely nothing about it and don't have an opinion. And if it somehow does turn out that ivermectin plausibly contributed to keeping India's case load measurably lower, then I'll eat a piece of cardboard, or something.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on What's the effective R for the Delta variant of COVID-19? · 2021-07-02T13:20:39.234Z · LW · GW

The UK has had >98% Delta variant cases for a while and R used to be at 1.1-1.4 for the last few weeks. During that time, vaccinations went up to 85% of adults single-vaccinated and 63% double-vaccinated. Masks are still mandatory indoors except for when you're eating (and that's allowed again, socially distanced); gatherings of >6 people may still be prohibited (but I'm not totally sure, and there are definitely increasingly more exceptions, such as with outdoor weddings).  Government has been talking about getting rid of 100% of the rules and restrictions on July 19th, but maybe they'll decide to keep very minor ones. Right now about 0.5% of the UK population are infectious based on estimates by the Zoe symptoms app.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Why did the UK switch to a 12 week dosing schedule for COVID-19 vaccines? · 2021-06-21T07:50:28.664Z · LW · GW

December 30th was shortly before the UK's third peak of infections, the one caused by the emergence of the UK/Kent/Alpha variant. The more infectious virus put the government under pressure to come up with good ideas to keep R down in the future. 

The UK also has a political tradition of scientists being closed involved in some policy decisions. (Another commenter mentions Cummings being involved with that, and that may be partly true, but I think the tradition to have scientists closely involved is much older.)

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 6/17: One Last Scare · 2021-06-17T22:08:09.913Z · LW · GW

I mentioned it as a consideration, but yeah, I'm probably underestimating the effect of that by a lot, now that I think about it. I wasn't sure how much the US has so far relied on the J&J vaccine, which is also less effective. But it looks like it's a low amount of it. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 6/17: One Last Scare · 2021-06-17T20:46:39.153Z · LW · GW

Regarding the estimate that Delta is 40% more infectious than Alpha: I've seen 50-60% mentioned a lot in the last couple of days from UK expert sources. If true, this would probably make a big difference to your calculations. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 6/17: One Last Scare · 2021-06-17T20:29:22.128Z · LW · GW

Thus, it looks clear to me that most places in America are going to make it given the additional vaccinations that will take place, but some places with low vaccination rates will fall short. 

I found myself intuitively skeptical about this claim and tried evaluating it via a different line of reasoning than the one you used (but relying on some of your figures). After going through this, I mostly updated that it will be a close race with the vaccinations. Overall, I find it 65% likely that places with a roughly average vaccination coverage in the US won't be able to avoid large surges in case numbers (defined by either lockdowns or really strong new restrictions, or 3% of unvaccinated people infected at the same time.) (This could be compatible with your estimates, because the death rate in well-vaccinated areas would still be relatively low if vaccination uptake is high amongst the elderly.) What seems very clear is that locations with below-average vaccination coverage will be in trouble.

My approach and estimates:

I think a crude lower bound for when you get Delta variant under control is when you have a substantially larger percentage of the population vaccinated than the UK currently has. (Because R is 1.1-1.35 in the UK now and that's before the full reopening.)

Current vaccination percentages for the UK (all age groups):
63.3% first dose
46.0% second dose

Current vaccination percentages for the US (all age groups, I think): 
52.7% first dose
44.1% second dose

You say there's about 25% Delta variant in the US now.

5 weeks ago, I commented that the UK had >50% Delta variant in some areas. With a doubling time of roughly 11 days in the UK, it must have been at 25% roughly 7 weeks ago. Meaning, assuming that the infection levels in the US currently are comparable to what they were in the UK 7 weeks ago, then the US is roughly 7 weeks behind the UK timeline. 

7 weeks ago, the UK was reporting around 2k Covid cases (with a population of 66 million). The US population is 5x larger. The US is presently reporting around 13k cases. That's similar enough! Therefore, I'm going to operate under the assumption that the US is "7 weeks behind the UK timeline." 

The situation in the UK is concerning and getting worse still, but the case numbers are substantially below the previous peaks. I'd say the UK is about 3-4 weeks ahead of things getting very bad.

By that reasoning, the US has roughly 10 weeks to get R below 1 for the Delta variant.

You say,  "Currently [the US] are vaccinating about 1% of people each week." 

I'm assuming that's both doses?

Continuing with that, in 10 weeks, the US should have the following vaccination percentage:

62.7% first dose
54.1% second dose

And here the present UK numbers again:

63.3% first dose
46.0% second dose

The UK is not fully reopened yet, and R is at 1.1-1.35. Most UK experts are pessimistic about things getting better anytime soon, despite vaccinations progressing quite quickly.

That said, the second dose may matters more than the first dose, especially if the first dose is Astra Zeneca. So, 54% second dose instead of 46% should make quite a large difference. I think (?) the US also relies slightly more on Pfizer and Moderna than the UK, which should add a bit of extra protection. Summer temperatures also help out. But is all of this enough to put R below 1 (for the Delta variant, specifically) early enough?

The UK isn't even fully opened yet.  Some US states may go ahead with the full reopening now, in which case they'll have less than the projected 10 weeks until they catch up with the UK timeline. 

Then again, there's room for the vaccinations to speed up (the vaccination rate used to be higher at points in the past).

Note that my definition of "large surges in case numbers" isn't necessarily that bad. 3% of unvaccinated people infected – the UK is almost there already, and deaths are extremely low because the unvaccinated people are mostly really young.

Update: I'm realizing that country-wide infection counts are driven mostly by the places with the worst vaccination uptake, so a location with an average vaccination rate wouldn't be hit that badly compared to the country average infection rate. This means I'd now change my operationalization to something like "worst 25th percentile." And maybe make it 60% instead of 65%. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid vaccine safety: how correct are these allegations? · 2021-06-15T19:19:02.750Z · LW · GW

One obvious candidate explanation: For the reason you explain in the letter to your dad – probably those deaths were roughly what you'd expect among the vaccinated demographic if the vaccine is benign. By contrast, the specific blood clots are generally rare. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Which rationalists faced significant side-effects from COVID-19 vaccination? · 2021-06-14T13:55:35.411Z · LW · GW

If you believe that we should expect a certain number of side-effect reports even if there's no issue with the vaccine (and reacting it would mislead System 1), how reports of significant side-effects do you think we should expect?

Are you asking for effects that show up after 3 days (and then don't go away), or anything bad that happens sometime within a couple of months after getting vaccinated? 

If it's the latter, then among1,000 people you might expect that a few people will have weird health issues show up without an obvious cause. I'd be surprised and pretty concerned if someone died in that interval (for non-obviously traceable causes), but if it was just a handful of issues of the severity of "developing a kind of serious new allergy" or "developing heart rhythm issues," that could be entirely what's expected (though I haven't studied the frequencies).

With miscarriages, for instance, apparently "1 in 8 pregnancies end in miscarriage" – so out of a large enough pool, you have to expect that someone had a miscarriage in the last couple of months, etc. 


My father, mom and brother had no significant side effects after two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna. I'm only 3 days after my first dose of Pfizer; no side effects so far.

My father's a GP and seemed happy that I'm getting vaccinated – though he did say that it's possible for young people to have "kind of scary 2 days," side-effect-wise.

(Also have friends in the community who didn't have issues from 1st doses, but was focusing on people outside.) 

Update: My girlfriend felt unusually tired (and maybe some brain fog) for 5-7 days after the 1st dose of Moderna; the effect went away after that period.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on AGI in a vulnerable world · 2021-06-07T18:55:24.564Z · LW · GW

I guess you are more optimistic than me about humanity. :) I hope you are right!

Out of the two people I've talked to who considered building AGI an important goal of theirs, one said "It's morally good for AGI to increase complexity in the universe," and the other said, "Trust me, I'm prepared to walk over bodies to build this thing."

Probably those weren't representative, but this "2 in 2" experience does make me skeptical about "1 in 100" figure.

(And those strange motivations I encountered weren't even factoring in doing the wrong thing by accident – which seems even more common/likely to me.) 

I think some people are temperamentally incapable of being appropriately cynical about the way things are, so I find it hard to decide if non-pessimistic AGI researchers (of which there are admittedly many within EA) happen to be like that, or whether they accurately judge that people at the frontier of AGI research are unusually sane and cautious.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Looking for reasoned discussion on Geert Vanden Bossche's ideas? · 2021-06-06T23:57:37.066Z · LW · GW

As an example, look at E484K - this mutation changes the amino acid polarity, so that antibodies trained against the E variant will have a much harder time attaching to the K variant.  If an antibody fails to attach, it doesn't 'crowd out' anything.

That makes sense; I was wondering about this exact thing. It seems like VB is painting a worst-case scenario where a bunch of things go wrong in a specific way. Perhaps not impossible, but based on what you're saying, there's no reason to be unusually concerned. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Looking for reasoned discussion on Geert Vanden Bossche's ideas? · 2021-06-06T21:51:45.141Z · LW · GW

Nice, that's reassuring. I assumed that claim (2) was basic immunology because he was talking about it so confidently, but at the same time, I noticed confusion about the lack of precedents where outdated antibodies (from previous infection or outdated flu vaccines) cause complications. It seems like immunologists think his view on (2) are outlandish – in which case, "case closed, nothing to see here." 

Edit: On the other hand, reading this blogpost makes me think that the mechanism Vanden Bossche proposes is plausible at least in theory. But also, the Nature blogpost discusses that targeting the spke protein in particular was a good idea:

Targeting the Spike protein is another big benefit that we got from the earlier SARS work; which suggested that (for example) targeting the Nucleocapsid (N) protein was riskier. With the Spike, you put the virus in an evolutionary tight spot: evading the antibodies while trying not to lose the ability to bind to the human ACE2 protein. So far, that looks like too narrow a path for the virus to stumble through.

So far, that all seems right and the vaccines continue to be functional enough to neutralize even the most vaccine-resistant variants.

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Looking for reasoned discussion on Geert Vanden Bossche's ideas? · 2021-06-06T21:21:35.730Z · LW · GW

At 1:40:22, he claims that we see young people without risk factors getting severe Covid for basically the first time only now, because they get infected in the time window right after vaccination when their antibodies are immature and only serve to crowd out innate antibodies. 

That claim sounds dubious to me! Firstly, there's always been a (small) risk for young people to develop severe Covid. The way both he and Weinstein talk about "young people are already immune" seems a bit dumb to me. Secondly, if getting infected right after vaccination increases a young person's risk, that would show up in the data. But no one is talking about this yet. Am I missing something? 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Looking for reasoned discussion on Geert Vanden Bossche's ideas? · 2021-06-06T20:49:04.361Z · LW · GW

And it just so happens that this is exactly what we were doing prior to vaccine rollout.

I agree, if all of this was only about argument (1), then it's clear that the ongoing mass vaccinations are best. 

But Vanden Bossche wants us to look at both arguments together, (1) and (2). His point is that having the antibodies from an outdated vaccine will soon be bad for you, because the types of antibodies set off by the vaccine will "get in the way" of innate antibodies. 

Are you specifically saying that it takes too long for viral evolution to escape vaccine-generated antibodies so much that they go from "suboptimally useful" to "actually harmful because they get in the way?" I think that's plausible based on the observation that every vaccine in circulation so far is overwhelmingly net positive to have, and we've already vaccinated 50%+ of the population (at least in some fortunate countries) and could continue "keeping up" with booster shots. So all of that makes sense and makes me feel reassured. 

However, I wonder if we're maybe underestimating the selection pressure from "virus evolves in unvaccinated population" and "virus evolves in population vaccinated by an outdated vaccine." The Delta variant evolved in India where only few people were vaccinated. Somewhere there (or in the vicinity, e.g. Nepal), it apparently acquired a mutation that's been studied in the Beta variant, which gives the virus better immune escape. This looks like somewhat fast virus evolution already, and the selective pressures will get even stronger. The UK has the Delta+ ("Nepal") variant already, and is reopening the economy. The selection pressure will strongly favor mutations that make the vaccine-generated antibodies less useful. Vanden Bossche is saying that the antibodies are targeted at the virus in a fragile way, so that once you dial up the selection pressure for vaccine escape, it could happen quickly.  Therefore, I worry that the argument "virus evolution has been too slow so far" is not watertight because the selection pressure for the specific thing that he's most worried about (vaccine-generated antibodies becoming a hinderance soon enough) is going to be much stronger in the near future than it ever was. Did you consider all of that in your assessment? 

(Even if it's true that selection pressure will increase, it seems like Vanden Bossche can't be confident that the increase will be strong enough. So what he describes is only a possibility that depends on parameters of virus evolution.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Looking for reasoned discussion on Geert Vanden Bossche's ideas? · 2021-06-06T19:46:19.696Z · LW · GW

I found this video interesting and quite concerning. 

Vanden Bossche makes two arguments: 

(1) The ongoing mass-vaccination campaigns are poorly timed. We started vaccinating right about when lots of concerning new variants were showing up independently in different locations, suggesting that SARS-Cov-2 is quick at evolving. The vaccines are targeting outdated variants, and some vaccines are already only partly efficient. This creates the perfect conditions for further viral evolution. Therefore, we should expect immune escape really soon. Booster shots may help temporarily, but that's not a good solution because you're always a step behind, and if the outbreak isn't under control at any point, you just keep pressuring the virus to evolve and you thereby make it better at evading antibodies.

(2) There are two types of antibodies: 'innate immunity,' which is based on undiscriminating antibodies, and acquired immunity, which you get from the vaccines (or from having had the virus previously). Innate immunity is why young people do very well against the virus. Now, when you give people specific antibodies from the vaccines, those antibodies will still bind to the virus, but they won't neutralize it. They will be useless, but they'll crowd out the less discriminating antibodies from innate immunity, the ones that would actually work against the virus. This way, vaccinations could end up harmful. 

My impression is that his points in (1) seem undoubtedly accurate and pretty scary, but I think it's plausible that update vaccine shots will be made and distributed quickly enough to at least keep things under control (similar to Influenza each year). Besides, I don't see a good alternative. (Given that trying to eradicate the virus globally requires an unrealistic degree of willingness and coordination abilities.) 

I lack the expertise to judge his arguments in point (2), but there's something at 1:08:20 in the video that Vanden Bossche says that makes me think his mind is ideologically clouded. He talks about 'natural immunity' in this hyped way and suggests that 80%-85% of people "don't get any symptoms." I think that's just false. Asymptomatic infection is <50% with Covid. So given that his entire argument rests on understanding innate immunity, and given that he gets a central fact about it wrong in a way that suits his biases, makes me think he may not be right about these concerns. 

Of course, people can be wrong about some details and still be right about the general picture. I do think the mechanism he proposes sounds at least plausible to my lay ears. In particular, I think the situation "mass vaccination campaign during a global pandemic against a fast-mutating virus" is quite unprecedented, so it's not crazy to think that policy makers may not be thinking about virus evolution and immunity mechanisms in fine enough detail to realize that they're creating a dangerous mix of circumstances. 

One thing I'm skeptical about: If his concern with working antibodies being crowded out were correct, wouldn't we see instances where anti-flu vaccines end up harming people, because they'd also crowd out antibodies from innate immunity? But this is basically never the case, no? If you gave an outdated flu vaccine to a young person, they wouldn't do worse against the current flu virus, would they? That's another reason why I I'm skeptical, but I don't understanding anything about the specifics of the immune system.

Similarly, what about previous infection? If someone got infected by the original Covid variant in 2020 and then reinfected with some future evolved Covid variant that's very good at evading previous antibodies, it seems like Vanden Bossche's model would predict that they're going to do worse than if they had never had a previous Covid variant. Would we actually see that in reality? So far, antibodies seem to always be good to have. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Alcohol, health, and the ruthless logic of the Asian flush · 2021-06-05T05:49:41.298Z · LW · GW

I also thought I was reading SSC / the new thing. 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on Covid 6/3: No News is Good News · 2021-06-04T19:28:19.848Z · LW · GW

There are also some concerns that the Delta variant picked up an additional mutation that helps it circumvent vaccines. (And even if it didn't happen yet, with many people already vaccinated but Delta cases growing rapidly in many places, it's just a matter of time until virus evolution gets there. But there are booster shots being tested already.) 

Comment by Lukas_Gloor on If You Want to Find Truth You Need to Step Into Cringe · 2021-06-02T10:23:53.730Z · LW · GW

According to my intuitions about cringiness, it's more about how people say things than what they say.  E.g., discussions on inter-group differences in IQ are frequently really cringy when they happen on some culture war subreddit, but they can be fine (to my ears) when it's Sam Harris talking to a guest on his podcast. 

I guess you might reply that this effect is just: Sam Harris has a professional podcast and is already established, whereas redditors will seem like social outcasts when they discuss the same ideas? But I don't think that's what's going on. I feel like it's mostly the way a topic is addressed (framed, put into appropriate context, interpreted), and if I took the time I could point out various reasons why I think the reddit discussions are cringy. (Here's a list of things to get started.)

I'd say you can always say true and important things without sounding cringy! (According to my cringingness intuitions, that is.)