Black Death at the Golden Gate (book review) 2020-06-26T16:09:06.866Z · score: 17 (8 votes)
COVID-19: The Illusion of Stability 2020-06-08T18:46:54.259Z · score: 34 (9 votes)
Book review: Human Compatible 2020-01-19T03:32:04.989Z · score: 39 (11 votes)
Another AI Winter? 2019-12-25T00:58:48.715Z · score: 47 (17 votes)
Book Review: The AI Does Not Hate You 2019-10-28T17:45:26.050Z · score: 28 (9 votes)
Drexler on AI Risk 2019-02-01T05:11:01.008Z · score: 34 (17 votes)
Bundle your Experiments 2019-01-18T23:22:08.660Z · score: 19 (8 votes)
Time Biases 2019-01-12T21:35:54.276Z · score: 31 (8 votes)
Book review: Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security 2018-12-08T03:47:17.098Z · score: 30 (9 votes)
Where is my Flying Car? 2018-10-15T18:39:38.010Z · score: 51 (15 votes)
Book review: Pearl's Book of Why 2018-07-07T17:30:30.994Z · score: 73 (28 votes)


Comment by petermccluskey on Titan (the Wealthfront of active stock picking) - What's the catch? · 2020-08-06T15:34:00.511Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I see nothing unusual here. They seem to be following the kind of strategy that generated the Nifty Fifty. I expect it to work well a majority of the time, then occasionally become too popular and underperform for a decade or so.

Comment by petermccluskey on Engaging Seriously with Short Timelines · 2020-08-05T17:15:27.123Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW

AI-related investment thoughts:

I have stock in Google and Intel, mainly because of their Waymo and Mobileye subsidiaries, and to a lesser extent due to DeepMind.

NVIDIA was my favorite AI bet in 2017-8, but it currently looks too expensive for me.

One Stop Systems Inc is an obscure company in which I've invested, because its business involves AI. It's hardly a leader in AI, but should benefit by enabling ordinary businesses to use AI.

I doubt that Apple, Microsoft, or Salesforce will be good ways to benefit from AI, and their prices are looking somewhat bubble-like (as do most of the big tech companies).

I expect that semiconductor equipment companies will be somewhat more appropriate, and they currently seem less likely to be overpriced. I've currently got investments in these small semiconductor equipment companies:

  • Amtech Systems
  • Trio-Tech International
  • SCI Engineered Materials, Inc.

The biggest semiconductor equipment companies (symbols BRKS, LRCX, KLAC, and AMAT) look like decent investments, but

There are some datacenter-focused companies that are potentially good investments, but none of the ones I've looked at appear reasonably priced.

Transformative AI might speed up the creation of an Age of Em scenario, so it might be good to invest in regions which that book suggests might have em cities (places with stable governance, and enough cold water for cooling purposes). Countries that best fit this description include: Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Canada, and Japan.

I currently have investments in New Zealand and Sweden etfs (symbols ENZL, EWD). I'm avoiding Norway for now, and not investing much in Canada, due to their dependence on oil (I expect oil prices to decline this decade).

Here are some ideas for investing in companies that own land (listed by symbol; not AI-focused, but recommended for general diversification of bets): WPS (etf, non-US real estate), CTT (timber lands), TPL, and TRC. I'm currently invested in WPS and a bunch of real-estate-related companies in the US and Hong Kong, but I haven't yet focused on land (I've been betting mainly on buildings).

Comment by petermccluskey on Longevity interventions when young · 2020-07-26T19:12:23.352Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

>The problem is that to get hGH, as a young person, you’d need a doctor that trusts you a lot or you’d need to procure it outside of Europe and the US.

Note that if you're over 40, you might be able to participate in the TRIIM-X trial (probably expensive).

Comment by petermccluskey on Six economics misconceptions of mine which I've resolved over the last few years · 2020-07-23T15:47:15.008Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are complex rules which serve similar functions to reserve requirements. See here for a start.

Comment by petermccluskey on If you are signed up for cryonics with life insurance, how much life insurance did you get and over what term? · 2020-07-22T18:45:13.315Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I got a $50k whole life policy about 24 years ago, to fund an Alcor neuropreservation. Alcor's prices have gone up since then, but they handle that via charging me an extra yearly fee.

Comment by petermccluskey on Covid-19: Analysis of Mortality Data · 2020-07-12T17:19:17.819Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a chart showing that there's no recent uptick in deaths. Instead, there was a recent surge in reporting of deaths that happened in April and early May (h/t Tyler Cowen).

I still expect a nontrivial increase in deaths over the next few weeks, but I also suspect there's been a surprising decline in the IFR.

Comment by petermccluskey on Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates · 2020-07-10T19:04:57.071Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I downloaded it in their csv format and whipped up this python program to process it (I hope someone improves on it):

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

import re, sys, io, getopt, csv

def parse(filename):
    column_dict = {}
    list_states = []
    val_dict = {}
    week_dicts = {'2019' : {}, '2020': {}}
    with open(filename, 'r') as fd:
        reader = csv.reader(fd, delimiter=',', quotechar='"')
        for row in reader:
            if row[0] == 'Jurisdiction of Occurrence':
                for i, fld in enumerate(row):
                    column_dict[fld] = i
                unknown_col = column_dict['Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)']
            yyyymmdd = row[0][:10].replace('-', '')
            yyyy = row[1]
            week_num = int(row[2])
            tokens = row[3].split('/')
            yymmdd = "%s%02d%02d" % (tokens[2][-2:], int(tokens[0]), int(tokens[1]))
            state = row[0]
            mystery_deaths = row[unknown_col].strip(' ')
            all_deaths = row[column_dict['All Cause']].strip(' ')
            if not (state in list_states):
            #print("%s %6s %6s %-s" % (yyyymmdd, mystery_deaths, all_deaths, state))
            week_dicts[yyyy][week_num] = yymmdd
            val_dict[yyyy + str(week_num) + state] = (mystery_deaths, all_deaths)
    num_weeks = len(week_dicts['2020'].keys())
    start_week = 4
    s = "%15s" % ''
    s2 = "%15s" % ''
    for i in range(start_week, num_weeks + 1):
        s += "%6d " % i
        s2 += "%s " % week_dicts['2020'][i]
    tot_w24 = 0
    for state in list_states:
        s = "%-15.15s " % state
        for week_num in range(start_week, num_weeks + 1):
                (mystery_deaths2020, all_deaths) = val_dict['2020' + str(week_num) + state]
                (mystery_deaths2019, all_deaths2019) = val_dict['2019' + str(week_num) + state]
            except KeyError:
                s += '       '
                delta = (float(mystery_deaths2020 or 0) - float(mystery_deaths2019 or 0)) / float(all_deaths)
            except ValueError:
                print("skip %s %s %s %s %s." % (state, week_num, mystery_deaths2019, mystery_deaths2020, all_deaths))
                s += '       '
            if week_num == 24:
                tot_w24 += float(mystery_deaths2020 or 0) - float(mystery_deaths2019 or 0)
            s += "%5.2f  " % (100*delta)
    print("tot_w24 %s" % tot_w24)

if __name__ == '__main__':
    import getopt
    avail_opts = ['acct=', 
    (options, args) = getopt.getopt(sys.argv[1:], '', avail_opts)
    option_dict = {}
    for opt in options:
    option_dict[opt[0][2:]] = opt[1]
Comment by petermccluskey on Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates · 2020-07-09T23:06:30.295Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For suspicions about bad reporting of deaths, this CDC page (somewhat tricky to read) has relevant data in the column 'Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)'.

New York state showed an unusual surge that peaked in late February.

Many states have shown unusual increases in that category starting around mid April.

It looks like the deaths in that category for the week ending June 13 were about 2491 above 2019 levels (more recent weeks have less complete data).

The states with the biggest recent increases in that death category (using the difference from the comparable week in 2019, as a fraction of all deaths): Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Ohio. I'm unsure what to make of this pattern.

Comment by petermccluskey on Something about the Pinker Cancellation seems Suspicious · 2020-07-09T02:00:05.777Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems fairly normal to me for an emotionally charged movement to attract people for whom it's difficult to tell whether they're not-too-bright fanatics or agents provocateur.

Here are two more hypotheses about who might benefit:

  • a Trump fan who realizes that Trump's main hope for reelection involves running against the cancel culture (I doubt that Trump himself is competent enough to arrange this).
  • the Chinese government might want to foment something like this in order to discredit the Western idea of free speech, since that idea is in some tension with the Chinese government's legitimacy. This would be pretty mild compared to, say, what the CIA did in Iran in 1953.

Too many hypotheses, too little evidence.

Comment by petermccluskey on High Stock Prices Make Sense Right Now · 2020-07-05T15:45:29.402Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When I mentioned p/e ratios, that was just a hasty simplification, not a description of how I generated the list. I looked at a variety of indicators, including free cash flow, revenues, forecasted earnings, and dividends. For Amazon and Salesforce, GAAP earnings imply extreme overvaluation, but are a bit misleading, and free cash flow provides a better measure (they still look overpriced, but not dramatically enough that I'm eager to short them). For the other 4 that I listed, p/e ratios look about as informative as the other measures.

Comment by petermccluskey on High Stock Prices Make Sense Right Now · 2020-07-04T02:33:07.320Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That would make sense if the increase in savings was expected to be mostly permanent. But in this case, the savings rate seems likely to revert to normal in a year or so. Why aren't investors who see that selling enough now for stock prices to anticipate that return to normal?

My answer is that markets were fairly irrational in April, and have now mostly returned to expecting the economy to be back to normal in a year or two.

I see little reason to think that an unusually large fraction of stocks are overpriced.

However, I do see some puzzles when I look at a fairly select group of stocks with high market capitalization:

  • Amazon
  • Salesforce
  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • Home Depot
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill

These and a modest number of similar companies have suspiciously high p/e ratios, and are big enough that a few dozen of them can be enough to make the S&P 500 overpriced, even if the majority of small-cap companies are underpriced.

Their prices are now saying that the pandemic did not cause harm. However, that might just be a continuation of a strange trend that was in place before the pandemic.

These stocks remind me of the Nifty Fifty of 50 years ago. Investors seem likely to be overconfident in these stocks, much as they were 50 years ago.

I also see some puzzles when I compare US stocks to other countries. Why do US stocks have high p/e ratios, high price/book ratios, etc, compared to countries which have handled the pandemic competently?

Comment by petermccluskey on High Stock Prices Make Sense Right Now · 2020-07-04T01:46:24.808Z · score: 21 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Two months ago, many investors predicted that unemployment would remain high for a long time, presumably because that's how a typical recession works. There's been a fair amount of evidence since then that employment is able to recover from this atypical downturn much faster than those investors expected.

That's not the whole story, but I'd guess it accounts for at least 1/3 of the SPY rise over the past 2 months.

Comment by petermccluskey on Second Wave Covid Deaths? · 2020-07-02T01:43:10.530Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe in northern states. But I doubt that vitamin D levels are increasing in the southernmost cities, where heat is likely driving people indoors. Those are the areas that most need explaining.

Comment by petermccluskey on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-25T16:52:58.339Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've become a bit more suspicious of Cade Metz, now that I've noticed that he had some sort of association with former CEO Patrick Byrne. My impression of Byrne has long been that his personality is sort of like Trump's, but a bit less intelligent.

Anyone writing puff pieces about Byrne is likely to, at best, have poor judgment. That doesn't tell me much about the current controversy, but I now put a moderate probability on the idea that Metz knows he's working for some malicious people.

Also, Metz contacted me on June 1, wanting to ask questions about the rationality community and its overlap with Silicon Valley (he did not mention SSC). I offered to answer questions by email, but not by phone. He did not respond. I don't infer much from this, beyond the fact that his initial interest in a story was not due to something controversial that Scott posted in June.

I sent the following email to (before I noticed Metz's puff pieces about Byrne):

I'm puzzled by your apparent plan to publicize Scott Alexander's real name.

It sounds like you're following a policy which has a chilling effect on any psychiatrist who wishes to comment on public affairs. Can you explain how broad this policy is, and the purpose behind it? I'm having trouble imagining how it serves any professional purpose.

Comment by petermccluskey on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-24T17:23:25.643Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Tom Chivers has a nice opinion piece here.

Comment by petermccluskey on SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott · 2020-06-23T17:00:22.830Z · score: 13 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think "wants to doxx Scott" is the best description of their goals. This looks like part of a pervasive rule that also leads many media companies to deadname trans people.

Comment by petermccluskey on How to analyze progress, stagnation, and low-hanging fruit · 2020-06-15T21:52:02.780Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I will remind people that the book Where is my Flying Car? has a good deal of interesting thoughts on this topic.

Comment by petermccluskey on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-06-07T20:17:49.146Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've now invested in NIO, mainly because it's a leader in fast battery swapping. Most likely other companies will eventually catch up in that area, but being first will give it a shot at being one of the frontrunners.

Comment by petermccluskey on Most reliable news sources? · 2020-06-07T02:48:21.265Z · score: 15 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I skim the headlines for several topics on I read the Wikipedia current events portal. Stat is good for more depth, but covers fewer topics.

Comment by petermccluskey on Will the many protests throughout the USA prove to be good test cases for reopening? · 2020-05-31T17:20:06.389Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't expect any clear evidence. I expect that outdoor gatherings are fairly safe, especially in warm weather.

If there were no arrests, I'd predict no correlation with COVID-19 trends after adjusting for factors such as income and race. Crowded jails likely create some problems, but if jails spread the virus, that doesn't tell us much about health policies.

Comment by petermccluskey on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-19T19:16:40.628Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm guessing that no single company will dominate the battery market. I see some pro-Tesla hype, but little that would motivate me to pay 5 times sales for Tesla rather than 1 times sales for BYD.

Comment by petermccluskey on Isn't Tesla stock highly undervalued? · 2020-05-18T02:14:29.167Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Most investors are unaware that internal combustion engine cars are doomed. But I expect that they'll mostly be replaced by cheap electric cars from companies with little brand name recognition. Car use will continue to move to an Uber-like service model, where the car is a commodity. I'm betting on BYD, not Tesla.

Comment by petermccluskey on Project Proposal: Gears of Aging · 2020-05-14T16:52:47.900Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

People who fund billion dollar trials normally demand that they be run by relatively cautious people. That conflicts with the need for innovative models.

The good news is that there's wide variation in how expensive trials need to be. The larger the effect size, the smaller the trial can be - see the TRIIM trial.

Comment by petermccluskey on The Puzzling Linearity of COVID-19 · 2020-05-07T00:24:52.049Z · score: 15 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Economist John Cochrane has a model (see also here which predicts R will approach 1. I expect it's part of what's happening, but it implies more oscillations above and below 1 than seem to be happening.

Comment by petermccluskey on Covid-19 4/30: Stuck in Limbo · 2020-05-04T20:40:34.363Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I misunderstood how Santa Clara is reporting new cases, and I now see they're getting revised, and will be about 15 to 20 per day, down about 70 to 80% from the April 10 peak. That's still pretty good compared to most areas.

Comment by petermccluskey on Covid-19 4/30: Stuck in Limbo · 2020-05-01T17:21:07.983Z · score: 17 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Note that there's plenty of variation within California. Santa Clara county (Silicon Valley) is reporting almost no new cases, the rest of the bay area shows weak signs of success, and the state totals are being heavily influenced by poor trends in LA.

Comment by petermccluskey on The Puzzling Linearity of COVID-19 · 2020-04-25T16:26:05.763Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll guess that some of it is because within-home transmission was a surprisingly high fraction of Rt in late March and the first few days of April. That will involve Rt close to 1 for transmission to adults in a typical household, until immunity effects inhibit a good deal of within-home transmission. I'm also guessing that infections are mostly going undetected in children.

Limits on test availability could affect reporting of COVID-19 deaths. I expect that some hospital deaths in March weren't tested for COVID-19. Maybe also some were swabbed, and testing of those swabs was given low priority, with the result that some deaths are being reported with significant delays. There's been some recent confusion over Pennsylvania's reported deaths which suggests that standards have been changing for how deaths are counted, and that seems to be adding a few more reported deaths now than would have been reported a month ago.

Comment by petermccluskey on What happens in a recession anyway? · 2020-04-20T15:20:48.973Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Robin Hanson has blogged a bit about the healthy-recession puzzle: less exercise; he also mentioned nursing employment somewhere that I can't seem to find.

Comment by petermccluskey on Why isn't increasing ventilation of public spaces part of the best practice response to the Coronovirus? · 2020-04-20T02:04:40.642Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I initially guessed ventilation would only provide minor benefits. But I've decided now that it looks medium to high value.

I've been influenced in part by this Stat article and this J Storrs Hall blog post.

Comment by petermccluskey on My stumble on COVID-19 · 2020-04-19T17:06:10.540Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is a better analysis of the stock market's reaction than most others that I've seen.

The stock market was irrational in subtle ways, but didn't make blatant mistakes like failing to understand exponential growth.

I expect the biggest problem was recency bias / availability bias that caused markets to overweight the chance that this virus would be contained in the way that happened with Ebola, SARS, and a few other scares that were the most familiar analogies in most investors memories. I think this was one of the larger mistakes that I made.

It's also hard to evaluate the economic consequences of a given number of infections and deaths. The pandemics of 1918, 1957, and 1968 all seemed to suggest less economic damage than is being forecast for this pandemic. Some of that is simply due to us being better able to afford to shut down businesses than was possible for prior generations - restaurants and airline travel were a much smaller fraction of the economy in 1968 than today.

Comment by petermccluskey on How will this recession differ from the last two? · 2020-04-07T02:02:38.590Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see any signs that inflation calculations are expected to become less honest. There are certainly lots of opinions about how well the CPI measures what we want it to measure, but it has worked pretty well for Fed policy issues in the past, and I expect that to continue.

Comment by petermccluskey on How will this recession differ from the last two? · 2020-04-02T16:48:04.772Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There were important obstacles to wealth creation in 2008. Inflation went negative for a while, which meant there was a decline in the wages at which labor supply and demand would remain stable. Yet wages don't adjust downward in dollar terms - employers lay off workers, rather than cut wages, because wage cuts create very unhappy workers. That's a substantial fraction of what went wrong. [This is a very condensed summary of Scott Sumner's book The Midas Paradox].

That's also happening today. Prices have declined, or at least wholesale commodities have. Wages likely haven't declined to compensate.

Yet for this month, that's just a tiny part of what's happening. Wage adjustments wouldn't keep waiters or oil drillers employed. I expect there's currently a severe shortage of nurses and delivery people, which won't be quickly solved. In that sense, what we're experiencing is a massive shift in labor, more comparable to what happens in a major war than to what happens in a recession.

Value was destroyed by WW11, the 1957 pandemic, the 1968 pandemic, and 9/11. Yet it's unclear how many of those caused recessions.

Wars and severe pandemics tend to cause inflation (for pandemics, that's likely only significant if people doubt that they'll live long enough to value having money a year from now), and inflation tends to postpone or prevent recessions.

Whether we get 2008-style labor market imbalances depends a fair amount on what inflation is like over the next couple of years.

The TIPS spread implies that the market expects low inflation for a long time, which tends to suggest a long, drawn out recession.

But I have low confidence in any forecast along these lines. Will large fractions of the newly unemployed prefer unemployment checks over new jobs that are, for now, relatively high stress and high risk? We don't have much historical evidence to guide predictions here.

The Fed has substantial power to influence inflation, but seems to have a strong tendency to under-react to large changes.

The ISM Purchasing Managers report is the fastest way to get a decent estimate of how GDP is increasing or decreasing. The ISM report on March activity surprised many people, including me, by reporting a nearly neutral level of 49.1 for March. That's a big difference from the 38.9 that was reported on October 1, 2008, which was the biggest single piece of evidence that convinced me to sell stocks in advance of the worst part of that crash (I did not handle this year's crash anywhere near as well as that). Readings below 40 indicate sharp contractions, while readings near 50 suggest activity is nearly unchanged.

I'm changing my estimate of Q1 GDP to approximately unchanged, and I'm confused as to why the ISM report doesn't show recession-like changes.

Comment by petermccluskey on How special are human brains among animal brains? · 2020-04-02T01:32:24.376Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Wikipedia lists several whales with more cerebral neurons than humans.

Comment by petermccluskey on How will this recession differ from the last two? · 2020-03-31T19:17:20.941Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

First quarter will be low but I don’t think anyone is saying it will be negative.

Metaculus says -6.8%. It seems very likely that March and April will be negative enough to generate 2 quarters of negative growth, even if growth resumes by May.

Comment by petermccluskey on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-30T02:11:43.187Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A new paper: Correlation between universal BCG vaccination policy and reduced morbidity and mortality for COVID-19: an epidemiological study says that vaccination for tuberculosis has a potentially large effect on COVID-19 problems. This explains some of the strange differences between countries. That's bad news for the U.S. (which hasn't required the vaccine), good news for some countries.

Comment by petermccluskey on Coronavirus: the four levels of social distancing, and when and why we might transition between them · 2020-03-27T15:22:02.725Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I expect that already-overwhelmed regions such as New York City and Italy will stay in level 3 till at least the end of May, and possibly till July or August.

I expect that being currently overwhelmed has little effect on what restrictions will make sense this summer.

I expect transitions to level 2 to depend mostly on the availability of tests. So I see New York going to level 2 by mid-May. More New Yorkers will soon have immunity than in most other places, so it might actually be one of the safer places by May.

Comment by petermccluskey on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-22T22:11:34.774Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I use–20_coronavirus_pandemic_data/United_States_medical_cases

Comment by petermccluskey on Assorted thoughts on the coronavirus · 2020-03-18T16:36:36.407Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some coronavirus-related problems are more tractable today than normal problems.

In a couple of months, longer-term problems should be our main focus, but it feels hard to focus on them now.

Comment by petermccluskey on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-03-18T14:47:36.569Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OOPS! I misread Chris Masterjohn's advice. He recommends NO vitamin D supplements until the coronovirus threat is reduced.

Comment by petermccluskey on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-03-18T14:38:55.192Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've read it, and I'm guessing it's worth $10. I'm making some adjustments to my supplements based on the advice.

Comment by petermccluskey on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-16T04:04:39.759Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Here's some perspective on U.S. stock market reactions to bad news (of nonfinancial origins):

  • 1918 Spanish Flu: -10% in slightly over 5 weeks?
  • 1940 Fall of France: -25% in slightly over 2 weeks
  • 1942 Pearl Harbor: -11% in slightly over 3 weeks
  • 2001 9/11: -12% in less than 2 weeks
  • 2020 COVID-19: -26% in 3 weeks (so far?)

These numbers are based on closing values for the S&P500 (for 1918: the DJIA), from the day before the obvious start of the crash, to an obvious low point where it stabilized. Note that the reaction to the 1918 flu is confusing, maybe because WW1 ended just as the biggest wave of the flu ended. The big increase in death rates in New York started around October 1, and peaked in late October. Yet the DJIA was higher in late October than on October 1. I've calculated the decline from the October 18 peak to the November 25 low, but I don't think it took that long to finish reacting to the flu.

My intuition is that COVID-19 will cause no more harm than 9/11 or the 1918 flu. Why does the market act like this is slightly worse news than the Nazi occupation of France? It's not due to problems that are specific to the U.S. - many European markets are doing worse.

Yet the Shanghai Composite is down less than 8% from it's January high, and is above its early February low.

Maybe the U.S. and European markets had reflected a much safer world than anyone at the time of prior disasters had expected?

Comment by petermccluskey on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-05T22:45:50.073Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know whether I'd be willing to use a regular thermometer every day, but I'm getting daily temperature data as an automatic byproduct of using the Oura sleep tracking ring.

Comment by petermccluskey on Is this info on zinc lozenges accurate? · 2020-03-04T16:40:30.017Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've been using the Boka brand of nano hydroxyapatite toothpaste.

It has a pain killer: methylsulfonylmethane.

I'm using it because it seems safer than flouride, but I don't have much evidence, and I wasn't trying to solve any specific problem with it.

Comment by petermccluskey on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-04T00:48:24.552Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Nutrition seems to have some influence on the effects of viruses.

Make sure you're not deficient in selenium or vitamin E. One brazil nut per day is enough to give you more than the RDA for selenium.

Note that selenium deficiency is relatively common in central China. The average selenium level in Hubei isn't low, but it has a large range of levels, and the person with the lowest level in that study was from Hubei.

There are also some reports that vitamin C might be valuable. But there's some concern that large doses of vitamin C are risky if you have high iron levels (usually measured by a blood test for ferritin).

I expect that nutrition has a pretty low probability of helping, but it also has a pretty low cost.

Comment by petermccluskey on The case for lifelogging as life extension · 2020-02-02T03:01:06.010Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. I do a weak version of this via handwritten morning pages, which I intend to digitize someday and store in multiple places, probably including Alcor.

Aside: I'm unaware of a good reason to conclude that Alzheimer's destroys the connectome. It seems quite possible for neurons to shrink while remaining connected. Bredesen's work provides some weak evidence that this is what's happening.

Comment by petermccluskey on Homeostasis and “Root Causes” in Aging · 2020-01-10T19:14:12.779Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't trying to describe the root causes of aging. I was trying to distinguish between diseases that are avoidable via lifestyle changes, and age-related diseases that are sufficiently determined by our genes that we'll need major new technology to avoid them. The latter include things that impair our immune system and repair mechanisms.

My best guess is that the root causes of aging involve some clock-like processes that have been actively selected for different metabolism at different ages. See Josh Mitteldorf's writings if you want more on that topic.

Comment by petermccluskey on Homeostasis and “Root Causes” in Aging · 2020-01-08T20:05:46.915Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My main source is Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective, by Staffan Lindeberg .

Comment by petermccluskey on Homeostasis and “Root Causes” in Aging · 2020-01-08T05:13:20.583Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Alzheimer's, and several other age-related diseases, seem to be related to lifestyle, since they're rare enough in hunter-gatherer tribes that they can't be detected.

The kinds of age-related deaths that are common to all environments are mainly due to frailty, susceptibility to infectious diseases, and cancer.

Comment by petermccluskey on Dec 2019 newsletter · 2020-01-06T02:07:44.167Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Gwern, thank you for your excellent coverage of hydrocephalus and the implications for intelligence.

Comment by petermccluskey on The Thyroid Madness : Core Argument, Evidence, Probabilities and Predictions · 2020-01-01T23:52:06.145Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've had some large fluctuations in my thyroid levels, which have prompted me to develop a better understanding of thyroid problems than I had when this post was published.

I agree with a fair amount of this post, and I'm uncertain about a few of the claims it makes.

I agree that hypothyroidism is undertreated, and likely overlaps with CFS.

I think our prior should be that CFS has multiple causes, and that we shouldn't expect to find a single solution to all CFS. It's easy to find other conditions that have multiple causes. E.g. depression can be caused by hypothyroidism, hating your boss, Alzheimer's, etc. I expect that the less successful we've been at treating a syndrome, the more likely it is that it has multiple causes that we're poor at diagnosing.

So this seems plausible:

(2.1) CFS/FMS/Hypothyroidism are extremely similar diseases which are nevertheless differently caused.

I wouldn't even say that hypothyroidism is a single disease - it can clearly be caused by several unrelated underlying problems (too little iodine, too much iodine, autoimmune problems, etc).

I'm unclear on the extent to which conventional medicine disagrees with your position in claims 2.2, 3, and 4, or whether most of the disagreement is over the cost/benefit ratio of treating people who have normal TSH.

  1. TSH seems to be a pretty good measure of whether T4 levels need fixing. The main problem here is the confusion over what threshold to use to decide whether T4 levels are too low. I'm guessing there are two factors contributing to that confusion:
  • doctors are too eager to classify test results so that 95% of patients are considered normal, and to conclude that anything that's normal shouldn't be treated.
  • patients often have trouble detecting the problems associated with hypothyroidism. The symptoms are easy to confuse with aging, depression, etc, and treatment is typically designed to take effect slowly enough that improvements are subtle.

I felt a significant improvement in mood/energy/muscle comfort when I increased my T4 dosage to levels that dropped my TSH from 2.34 to 1.72. But I'm unsure whether I would have noticed, and connected the change to the thyroid levels, if I hadn't previously experienced some large, rapid changes in my thyroid levels.

OTOH, I definitely wasn't aware of the earlier changes associated with the initial rise in my TSH levels from 2.58 to 4.69, which I assume happened gradually over many months.

  1. I'm unclear whether many people deny the existence of problems with T3 levels. There's plenty of disagreement over related issues - maybe because suffering is hard to measure, maybe because of risks associated with T3 treatment, maybe because it's better to find and fix the underlying causes of the problem; I don't have a good idea what's going on here.

The AACB report of 2012 concluded that the normal range was so narrow that huge numbers of people with no symptoms would be outside it, and this range is not widely accepted for obvious reasons

He estimated its prevalence at 40% in the American population

I'm suspicious of these so-called "obvious reasons". I find it quite possible that nearly 40% of the U.S. population has mild to moderate problems due to low T4 (high TSH) levels. A TSH of 2.5 may be normal in the sense of being fairly common, but I consider it too high to be healthy. I think I would have described myself as having no thyroid symptoms during the first few years that I had what, in hindsight, were clearly moderate problems from hypothyroidism.

We also have evidence that, before iodized salt, thyroid problems were pervasive enough that people had little reason to think of them as abnormal. So it seems like we shouldn't assume away additional problems of this nature.

Such catastrophic failures of the body's central control system CANNOT be evolutionarily stable unless they are extremely rare or have compensating advantages.

I'm not too clear on how much of these effects qualify as "catastrophic failures". The widespread problems with low T4 and high TSH seem to qualify, and I suspect they're due to some moderately recent environmental (dietary?) changes.

The low T3 cases that I'm familiar seem like deliberate decisions that our body needs to conserve resources. Sometimes it looks like a reaction to calorie restriction or trauma, either of which imply that our body should prepare for a famine, or minimize the burden that a person places on the tribe when trauma impairs ones' ability to procure food.

It's unclear to me whether it's better to treat the low T3 levels, or to find and treat the underlying cause, but it seems pretty likely that doing one of those things is better than doing nothing.