Posts

Assume long serving politicians are rationally maximizing their careers 2021-06-18T15:15:26.778Z
Burmese Days #4 Targeted costs 2021-05-23T20:54:57.885Z
Burmese Days, Mar 22; Rules of the Game and Preference Falsification in the Army 2021-03-22T00:12:21.648Z
Babble Challenge: 50 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome 2021-03-19T18:21:21.995Z
PhD student mutual line-manager invitation 2021-03-07T23:06:29.268Z
02/28/2021 - Myanmar Diaries; Context 2021-02-28T20:00:17.107Z
#unclogtheFDA: a twitter storm to approve vaccines 2021-02-07T14:39:33.337Z
Prediction: Astra Zeneca approval date 2021-01-19T21:59:01.555Z
Prediction: The Defense Department Will Blame Trump for the Slow Response on Jan. 7, 2021 2021-01-11T01:02:47.888Z
More predictions 2021-01-02T15:53:38.619Z
A few predictions 2020-12-25T01:27:17.917Z
Would a more deadly virus have induced greater compliance with US lockdown restrictions? 2020-12-20T18:24:40.433Z
From behind the vale of ignorance, would you prefer focused protection or the current Covid policy in the US 2020-12-03T14:54:09.638Z
Using false but instrumentally rational beliefs for your career? 2020-11-23T19:18:08.825Z
Comparing Covid and Tobacco 2020-11-17T16:13:57.715Z
rockthecasbah's Shortform 2020-11-13T15:32:36.216Z
How can we lobby to get a vaccine distributed faster? 2020-11-11T21:01:16.373Z
Please steelman the accusations of election fraud 2020-11-10T04:39:35.078Z
Two reasons to expect a peaceful change of power in the US 2020-11-08T17:13:05.883Z
Share your personal stories of prediction markets 2020-11-04T16:09:49.507Z
Why are deaths not increasing with infections in the US? 2020-11-01T22:43:42.686Z
Legalize Blackmail: An Example 2020-10-14T21:18:40.765Z
Scheduling Algorithm for a PhD Student 2020-09-24T16:10:12.177Z
Decision theory analysis of whether vaccines should be distributed prior to the completion of stage three trials please 2020-09-07T23:50:02.250Z
Status for status sake is a fact of political life 2020-08-18T22:06:51.581Z
My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again 2020-08-04T21:13:16.016Z
Improving local governance in fragile states - practical lessons from the field 2020-07-29T01:54:39.861Z
Non offensive word for people who are not single-magisterium-Bayes thinkers 2020-07-01T22:33:41.503Z
The affect heuristic and studying autocracies 2020-06-21T04:07:21.061Z
If the reproduction number is socially "controlled" to its inflection point 1, what are the ethical and predictive implications? 2020-06-15T16:01:34.185Z

Comments

Comment by rockthecasbah on Holidaying and purpose · 2021-06-07T16:29:33.955Z · LW · GW

I love this.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Academia as Company Hierarchy · 2021-05-10T23:24:15.599Z · LW · GW

Those are some really strong critiques. The framework did do something valuable for me. I have a few professors at my PhD program who are properly clueless. I've been trying to speak straight talk to them for a while, with negative results. It just strains the relationship. After reading this, I will try some babytalk. Frame my research agenda with some woke jargon, stuff like that.

Also the passage on woke talk and professors is spot on.

Comment by rockthecasbah on An Intuitive Explanation of Solomonoff Induction · 2021-05-07T01:28:25.121Z · LW · GW

Great! Now redo it with equations included ;)

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 4/9: Another Vaccine Passport Objection · 2021-04-10T17:51:29.008Z · LW · GW

If the school shuts down the kids will just go back to the street. We do not send kids back into school when we observe transmission from kids being out of school. The evidence from Emily Oster suggest that there isn't much difference in transmission.

Also, I would argue that a small amount of transmission is worth educating our children, especially with 70-80% of the vulnerable vaccinated. Overall dividing life years lost by transmissions comes to 2 weeks per confirmed infections, so call that the base cost. Reduce it by 75% for targeted vaccination and each case is costing ~3 days of a persons life. And the student infections are the least dangerous kind. I could go either way on it if the alternative were no transmission. Since the alternative is about the same transmission rate but somewhere else, I say keep the schools open.

OTOH, the incentive argument is much stronger. Maybe the collective punishment forces the school to internalize the cost of transmission, leading to a pareto improving safe-school equilibrium.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Burmese Days, Mar 22; Rules of the Game and Preference Falsification in the Army · 2021-03-23T15:52:56.998Z · LW · GW

I hope to find enough time to address this later. The foreign actors are affecting the revolution in two days. The western powers have revoked all aid and trade privileges, damaging the economy. The regional actors tend to side with the expected winner. The internal actors then update off the foreigners expectations.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-03-22T17:22:33.749Z · LW · GW

Possibly the incentives on the parties are more important than the incentives on the individual candidates. We should then see a difference in issue-position flexibility between prop rep and single-member-district systems.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-03-22T01:51:02.051Z · LW · GW

this is good and you should feel good

Comment by rockthecasbah on 02/28/2021 - Myanmar Diaries; Context · 2021-03-04T19:50:43.166Z · LW · GW

The two bottom predictions have already resolved. Large protests did not end and greater than 20 protestors have been killed so far.

Is there a clear resource about how Zvi formats and scores his weekly predictions?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Prediction: The Defense Department Will Blame Trump for the Slow Response on Jan. 7, 2021 · 2021-03-04T19:38:06.489Z · LW · GW

Very interesting! I'll keep watching.

Comment by rockthecasbah on 02/28/2021 - Myanmar Diaries; Context · 2021-03-01T04:37:57.438Z · LW · GW

Thank you! More is coming :)

The most likely is a military challenger unseating Hlaing or the military's own party overthrowing them.

Comment by rockthecasbah on 02/28/2021 - Myanmar Diaries; Context · 2021-03-01T04:24:26.349Z · LW · GW

There are a couple of ways out. There's an unusual cohesion in the military currently, which allows the military to pull this off. Normally military regimes are unstable because even a small faction can threaten a civil war and force a regime change. So if the current generation dies -or- becomes dependent on their intelligence agency -or- a new officer faction things change. The new faction may prefer a return to the barracks, and change the whole system.

The western sanctions do not matter. Western investment, aid and loan forgiveness do matter, but no enough to stop the violence.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why I Am Not in Charge · 2021-02-09T14:04:38.664Z · LW · GW

Speaking of public pressure to adopt better policies, let's form a twitter campaign to #unclogthefda. We're campaigning to decrease FDA red tape and accelerate vaccination approvals using tired-and-tested healthcare reform organizing techniques! You can read and comment on the plan here https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/QYkMWMZqQg49SrTdf/unclogthefda-a-twitter-storm-to-approve-vaccines

Comment by rockthecasbah on #unclogtheFDA: a twitter storm to approve vaccines · 2021-02-07T20:20:50.556Z · LW · GW

Good point and interesting idea, any chance you would like to implement it?

Clearly stating the lives at stake is of course necessary and within our bandwidth budget. But we should be careful about having too many numbers, because the goal is appealing to a less academic/wonky/rat audience. Avoid any jargon-laden multi-level models or expected value discussions. Personal narratives are more powerful.

Comment by rockthecasbah on #unclogtheFDA: a twitter storm to approve vaccines · 2021-02-07T16:06:07.397Z · LW · GW

Good point! Let's move to Monday the 15th from 1 to 2

Comment by rockthecasbah on Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching · 2021-01-25T00:09:35.987Z · LW · GW

Thanks! Looks good.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching · 2021-01-24T22:34:04.772Z · LW · GW

Why did you write autodidacting instead of selfteaching? It just put a google search between me and reading the article...

Comment by rockthecasbah on Prediction: Astra Zeneca approval date · 2021-01-23T19:57:47.676Z · LW · GW

I do not know how to add a plugin, I would have done so. It is active on Metaculus currently.

Seems like we could bet about it being approved before April 1st profitably. I am comfortable with this bet because I assumed the FDA/CDC conservatives would win on vaccination priority and first doses first, but Alex Tabarrok won the first and is starting to win the second.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Prediction: Astra Zeneca approval date · 2021-01-22T17:08:31.822Z · LW · GW

I agree that this is the FDA's model. It implies a "strange" unawareness of the underlying statistics. The p-values of the vaccines are really really small because their effect sizes are may orders of magnitudes above most drugs. Also the drug companies in this case could not run many RCTs. So if the FDA were maximizing lives they would authorize them. If they are making an incentive system that requires no deep understanding of statistics, it's not "strange".

Importantly, the FDA is "strange" relative to the calculus of politicians, who to survive must be utilitarian and use induction.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2021-01-18T03:39:23.783Z · LW · GW

That seems plausible right now, in January, at our current level of social distancing compliance. But why would the degree of distancing stay constant over vaccination? It hasn't even stayed constant the last 8 months when nobody has been vaccinated.

So far we have a clear pattern. People voluntarily comply when the issue seems important because there are lots of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. During lulls the issue becomes less available and compliance drops. In the best case for essential worker vaccination, it produces a lull in February-March. But if you actually drop the reproduction rate then that 3x factor goes away immediately. Unless you have a reliable plan to get people to keep social distancing even when things seem over, vaccinating the vulnerable saves lives in expectation.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Prediction: The Defense Department Will Blame Trump for the Slow Response on Jan. 7, 2021 · 2021-01-11T19:04:27.398Z · LW · GW

I totally agree that the DoD's current move is blaming DC city politicians. Trump does currently have the ability to fire any staff member at the DoD, with only a name. I'm betting that Trump's hire/fire powers prevent blaming him, but once he's gone that will change. Therefore after Biden is inaugurated the DoD bureaucracy will switch to blaming Trump primarily. That is my prediction, 80%.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 1/7: The Fire of a Thousand Suns · 2021-01-10T21:07:19.690Z · LW · GW

Speculation on the vaccine price in a liberalized market is an interesting question. In general I would expect the vaccine price to decline as more and more people become immune around you. But given the existing cyclical structure a speculator might foresee an infection peak and horde for it. I'm sure there are historical examples to resolve the question, but I'm lazy.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 1/7: The Fire of a Thousand Suns · 2021-01-08T15:10:27.779Z · LW · GW

The incentives run against saying things like Jay Bhattacharya has (we are causing more prevention harms than benefits). Is there a way to change that?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 1/7: The Fire of a Thousand Suns · 2021-01-08T15:06:19.968Z · LW · GW

The assumption of pricing policies is that people would buy vaccines from the companies, rather than the government hoarding intermediary.

Comment by rockthecasbah on What determines the balance between intelligence signaling and virtue signaling? · 2021-01-07T20:56:12.249Z · LW · GW

Do miller make an academic career by lifting ideas from less wrong ? Interestinh

Comment by rockthecasbah on Fourth Wave Covid Toy Modeling · 2021-01-07T17:29:40.502Z · LW · GW

But I'd also ask, even if it would be enough, how long do you think England is prepared to keep the Tier 4 + Schools thing in place for and get cooperation? And do you think the USA could get to that level at all at this point? Especially given it only levels things off at a very high level, and doesn't actually make much progress, so you can never relax. And the overall UK numbers are still steadily getting worse.

Hi I am a political scientist and I have an article about this exact question. You can read it here and give constructive comments - https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/em5HYZ6cq9tt65842/why-lockdowns-failed-a-letter-to-the-policy-entrepreneurs-in

Comment by rockthecasbah on [deleted post] 2021-01-07T14:10:17.536Z

Yes

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2021-01-02T19:56:26.100Z · LW · GW

I agree

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2021-01-02T19:42:40.300Z · LW · GW

Many people on this website are hardcore social distancers, interacting only with essential workers. To them it seems natural that essential workers are the majority of the transmission and do not have immunity yet. But most people aren't social distancing very hard at all. In Nashville, were I currently am, the bars and restaurants are often full. My immune brother when to house parties and indoor concerts on New Years Eve. I doubt that essential workers constitute even a majority of current transmission.

So we vaccinate 80 million people and reduce transmission by 50%, maybe. That would take months. Meanwhile, there are only 50 million Americans over 65, doing >90% of the dying, and we could vaccinate them in just two months.

TLDR; The transmission argument for essential workers assumes people comply with social distancing. People aren't doing that anymore, so vaccinate the vulnerable.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Would a more deadly virus have induced greater compliance with US lockdown restrictions? · 2020-12-27T00:57:37.915Z · LW · GW

Thank you all for answering. I generally concur that the IFR and response are related. The current feedback mechanism cannot be a coincidence.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2020-12-25T00:07:56.821Z · LW · GW

Misunderstood that the drivers are leaving England for the rest of Europe. The statements make sense now.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2020-12-25T00:06:13.087Z · LW · GW

…illustrate that slowing things down is all that’s being aimed at. Which is good, because it’s too late anyway. There would not be any drivers to test if this was a real attempt at containment.

If the estimate of 65% more infectious is correct: The strain doubles every week under conditions where other strains are stable.

I disagree. It's popular to say "mass testing isn't as good as shutting down the economy". But there are three problems with that argument.

  1. We don't have a policy levers (state capacity or political will) to shut down the economy more than currently.

  2. Shutting down the economy further would cause more costs than gains.

  3. The evidence from Slovakia indicates that mass testing does work - https://www.medrxiv.org/content/medrxiv/early/2020/12/04/2020.12.02.20240648.full.pdf

We need more experiments and new policies. Not to stay stuck in an endless lockdown-no-lockdown debate.

Comment by rockthecasbah on How to eradicate the desire to check time-wasting sites · 2020-12-20T19:30:19.233Z · LW · GW

Thank you for the good idea. I have implemented it.

May you defeat akrasia

Comment by rockthecasbah on Make more land · 2020-12-17T02:26:19.615Z · LW · GW

Include bendini's post with it.

But it shows all the free energy in the world. Good nod to Inadequate Equilibriua.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Make more land · 2020-12-17T02:23:50.360Z · LW · GW

Why is bad policy attractive to anyone?

Three easy reasons:

Finally, my favorite quote from Edmund Burke (inventor of the political party)

There are but very few, who are capable of comparing and digesting what passes before their eyes at different times and occasions, so as to form the whole into a distinct system. But in books every thing is settled for them, without the exertion of any considerable diligence or sagacity. For which reason men are wise with but little reflexion, and good with little denial, in the business of all times except their own.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/10: Vaccine Approval Day in America · 2020-12-10T19:52:35.693Z · LW · GW

Intends is correct.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Parable of the Dammed · 2020-12-10T00:33:27.796Z · LW · GW

Pull the rope sideways - not the river ;)

Great post!

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion · 2020-12-04T19:06:39.293Z · LW · GW

Great point, I asked a bad question! Let me ask a clearer question: For the most at-risk age groups in the US, has the IFR increased, decreased or stayed constant over the past 6 months?

For example, the meta study you cited finds an IFR for the 75-84 age group of 5.47% (why no error bars but whatever). Since both the IFR and the sample size is larger, a change should be detectable. At least we can constrain the size of the change with a statment like "we are 95% confidence that any change in IFR is less than 1 percentage point" or something. Has anyone done that?

I would assume treatment protocols have improved but if they did I doubt PH advocates would publish that fact. PH advocates might fear reduced social distancing if people had that info. But maybe the IFR for old at-risk people has not moved at all and treatment is innefective, we would see the same Vox stories. I just want to know the truth.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion · 2020-12-04T13:53:02.957Z · LW · GW

Does anyone have good data on the current IFR?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Using false but instrumentally rational beliefs for your career? · 2020-12-01T17:10:59.122Z · LW · GW

I certainly believe its possible. I have lots of objective measures of progress and ability I can compare to produce an outside estimate. The post doesn't discuss this because I've already built mechanisms to prevent self-deception on the former question.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Using false but instrumentally rational beliefs for your career? · 2020-12-01T17:08:04.533Z · LW · GW

That's true. I believe in solving this by writing clear conditions for withdrawing from the cult beforehand. Pull parachute rope if

  • No publications of note by fourth year
  • Can't find editing-commenting exchanges in 3rd year
  • Have not picked a topic by end of third year
  • Have not finished thesis 6th year

I also picked a university in a high-employment city in my field to avoid being murder-pilled by the academic cult. I didn't include these adaptations in the post to keep the focus on dark-side rationality.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Using false but instrumentally rational beliefs for your career? · 2020-12-01T17:02:36.222Z · LW · GW

The post does not mention choosing research topics strategically, just the number and quality of contributions. I wouldn't read too much into it.

Comment by rockthecasbah on SETI Predictions · 2020-12-01T14:14:36.935Z · LW · GW

What’s SETI winter?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Pain is not the unit of Effort · 2020-11-30T14:40:42.307Z · LW · GW

relevant meme https://www.reddit.com/r/wholesomememes/comments/k3u4z9/never_give_up/

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-18T14:44:08.362Z · LW · GW

I'm surprised none of us mentioned this important explanation. I should have thought of it.

  1. Most people believe in the action/inaction dichotomy. Causing someone to die by not doing something is less morally bad than causing someone to die by doing something (different from intent-based ethics). So not donating 3000 dollars to save a life through nutrition is an inaction, and therefore not morally required. But going to the supermarket where you infect an old person and cause them to die is an action, and so protecting lives is morally required then. Peter Singer's comment on this

One objection to the position I have taken might be simply that it is too drastic a revision of our moral scheme. People do not ordinarily judge in the way I have suggested they should. Most people reserve their moral condemnation for those who violate some moral norm, such as the norm against taking another person's property. They do not condemn those who indulge in luxury instead of giving to famine relief. But given that I did not set out to present a morally neutral description of the way people make moral judgments, the way people do in fact judge has nothing to do with the validity of my conclusion. My conclusion follows from the principle which I advanced earlier, and unless that principle is rejected, or the arguments are shown to be unsound, I think the conclusion must stand, however strange it appears. It might, nevertheless, be interesting to consider why our society, and most other societies, do judge differently from the way I have suggested they should. In a wellknown article, J. O. Urmson suggests that the imperatives of duty, which tell us what we must do, as distinct from what it would be good to do but not wrong not to do, function so as to prohibit behavior that is intolerable if men are to live together in society. [3] This may explain the origin and continued existence of the present division between acts of duty and acts of charity. Moral attitudes are shaped by the needs of society, and no doubt society needs people who will observe the rules that make social existence tolerable. From the point of view of a particular society, it is essential to prevent violations of norms against killing, stealing, and so on. It is quite inessential, however, to help people outside one's own society.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-18T03:35:52.428Z · LW · GW

So reason 2. Americans care more about deaths in America than elsewhere. I agree that is much of the explanation.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T22:39:48.605Z · LW · GW

That's fairly compelling in the US.

But globally it is definitely false. For a trillion dollars, a fraction of he Covid economic loss so far, we could double the government budgets of the highest tobbacoo consuming countries (Egypt, Tanzania, Lebanon). The GoE would happily burn every tobacco farm in the country for a few billion dollars. The cost per life of paying Egypt to enact anti-smoking policy would inevitably be lower than Covid (not that its the most efficient cost per life).

So if we model Americans as rationally pursing QALY's for other Americans, the difference is much less surprising. But that hides why we value the lives of our countrymen so much more than the lives of Egyptians.

Your comment also brings up the perspective of policy entrepreneurs. They can get policies amd behavior changes implemented much faster by talking about Covid than Tobacco in 2020. So a rational public health PE might say "I'd love to say a million people from Tobacco, but no one will listen to that policy. But I can save a smaller number by advocacy on Covid".

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T22:32:12.829Z · LW · GW

I think you are correct empirically, people are willing to make large changes in their lives in response to Covid. They do so regardless of government policies, and that does change the cost-benefit calculus about restrictions as a policy. Whatever effect the government restrictions have is very small relative to the voluntary restrictions, I agree.

But my question is "What process precisely makes people so willing to sacrifice for Covid, but not for other ways to save the lives of others." What do you think explains the difference?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T18:22:42.254Z · LW · GW

It makes me sad but I think 1 and 2 are enough as well.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T18:19:22.113Z · LW · GW

So we should look at countries where states spent less on preventing Covid and observe very high death rates, on the order of 5,000 per million, while countries that sacrificed more should have death rates much lower. A cursory look at the data find the difference is much smaller. A few hundred deaths per million is plausible, but differences of 1 thousand per million are clearly not observed. Mexico and Sweden are famous for their feeble responses but are only at 800 / million.

If you phrase the question as "if no one had done anything" than the current Covid response always looks like the best policy. But arguing that spending 10% less attention on Covid and more on Tobacco globally would have cost lives is almost impossible, because we are spending 1,000 times the effort on Covid as Tobacco. So the percentage change in Tobacco effort would be 10,000%. For this money we could go to heavy smoking countries and double their state budgets in exchange for Tobacco regulation.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T18:07:23.544Z · LW · GW

Number 7 is a popular one!