Legalize Blackmail: An Example 2020-10-14T21:18:40.765Z · score: 0 (5 votes)
Scheduling Algorithm for a PhD Student 2020-09-24T16:10:12.177Z · score: 7 (4 votes)
Decision theory analysis of whether vaccines should be distributed prior to the completion of stage three trials please 2020-09-07T23:50:02.250Z · score: 4 (2 votes)
Status for status sake is a fact of political life 2020-08-18T22:06:51.581Z · score: 9 (5 votes)
My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again 2020-08-04T21:13:16.016Z · score: 48 (30 votes)
Improving local governance in fragile states - practical lessons from the field 2020-07-29T01:54:39.861Z · score: 15 (8 votes)
Non offensive word for people who are not single-magisterium-Bayes thinkers 2020-07-01T22:33:41.503Z · score: 3 (2 votes)
The affect heuristic and studying autocracies 2020-06-21T04:07:21.061Z · score: 13 (6 votes)
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 · score: 1 (1 votes)


Comment by rockthecasbah on Have the lockdowns been worth it? · 2020-10-23T13:42:29.077Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hanson's quite compelling post on the subject.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-22T13:20:02.353Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think EY was right to post that. I do not see why he should apologize. If you listen to Stephen Guyenet on ratspeak discussing the neuroscience of weight, Yud’s comments are consistent with our current knowledge. Caplan’s were more inconsistent because he modeled eating behavior as a pure function of conscientiousness, ignoring the lipostat hormone function.

As regards the shangri la diet, I can’t speak. Stephen Guyenets comments suggest that reducing food reward is important to changing the lipostat, and that is my weight management strategy (I eat high protein and unrewarding food like soylent only).

Guyenet’s episode

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-21T19:09:46.952Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I just did a very quick search. The literature focuses really heavily on the relationship between federalism and interethnic violence at the national level (if we give tribe B their own province, are they more or less likely to launch a coup/civil war). Your question is addressed much less often, but if I had the time to dig I could find something. One note - among non-democratic states I doubt a relationship. Soviet Union was federal and high-coup.

In the US case, I strongly agree with your explanation. There are two plausible mechanisms.

  1. The states would resist any coup in distant Washington. GW and TJ could not name themselves kings because the states had much larger armies. Similarly like Macron and Merkel cannot take over Europe by couping the EU. Biggest reason.

  2. Any faction has a reduced incentive to launch a coup. This is more subtle, but it explains the large divergence in regime length in the Christian and Muslim world from 1,000 AD on (because Christian feudalism is "federal"). Each faction controls the wealth of a state/province/barony and has rich opportunities for rent seeking there. They can increase their rent-seeking by couping the capital, but the increase is actually low. They will still have to share with the states, and they already control their base. So the incentive for each faction to coup is much lower.

Imagine, by comparison, being an Ottoman Mamluke. Choose not to coup - you have 0 wealth. Win the coup, you get all the wealth. Huge incentive to take risks.

Caveat - not all coups are about rent-seeking. Actors may launch a coup to avert a national crisis, like the many coup attempts against Hitler. These are a minority (although everyone pretends they aren't rent seeking).

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-21T03:37:08.611Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another factor is the policy drift. The US congress doesn't pass much policy anymore, and budget negotiations tend to fail. So money keeps going into policies that made sense decades ago, but are now nonsense. The electoral gridlock is likely to continue or worsen, so the policy drift will only become worse. That could intensify the dissatisfaction with the political system and vulnerability to populism.

Many presidential regimes just solve this through the president openly bribing the legislature.

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-21T03:24:16.329Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The statement "The US had something to do with the Pinochet coup" is so vague that it's obviously true. For example, the statement "The US had something to do with the Soviet launch of Sputnik" is also true, since some paper some soviet scientist read was written by an American, and they were competing with us. Or the statement "the US had something to do with Uruguay's invention of the pacemaker", etc.

Let us cache out some more useful statements.

Did US policy increase the probability of a coup occuring in Chile by any amount: Most likely yes. Pinochet knew that America would tolerate a coup based on US past policy. Our available evidence suggests this was a small factor in Pinochet's calculus, relative to if the US had no signals. The failed attempt in 1971 might have actually protected Allende, we can't know for sure.

Could a different US policy have decreased the probability of a coup occurring by any amount: Again, almost certainly yes. There are reasonable indications that changes in US policy since 1990 have decreased the rate of coups in Latin America. The effect of this counterfactual is much lower than the endogenous Chilean factors or the influence of Chile's immediate neighbors. But would have been non-negligible.

Was the main reason for the coup Chile's internal politics: Clearly yes. The outcome of the US's early attempt shows that Chilean democracy was difficult to influence from outside. Meanwhile we know that the role of institutional factors in coups is very large. You can look at coup-cast's predictions for Sudan currently. Or look at outcomes by various taxonomies of democracy.

Finally, this is all Hamilton's fault for introducing presidentialism and checks and balances). Federalism is cool though, that was a good idea.

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-20T22:36:33.788Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Assigning a base rate here is difficult. We know presidential systems have more coups, and there are very few multi-century presidential systems. If your base rate is based on only those factors its low because of New Zealand and Sweden and the UK, which almost never have divided legislatures or divided judiciaries. This is a real problem - all the democracies that last as long as us look different. The democracies that are most like us had coups long ago.

If you ignore that problem, the base rate is like .3%. If your reference class is presidential democracies, then your base rate is more like 3%.

Chile had lots of other risk factors:

Of Chile's three neighbours, two experienced 7 or more coup attempts in 1950-89. The other, Peru, experienced 5. Executive and parliament not just divided, the legislature in coalition against the executive President elected with just 36% of the vote Riots and protests were common. Escalating political violence Inflation 140%/year Judiciary publically criticizing the executive Failed coup just one month prior Economic contraction

All of those combined I say make coups quite likely. Over the 5 year period from 71 to 76, maybe 25%.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Bet On Biden · 2020-10-20T18:23:34.921Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Practical question: Say I were willing to break the law. Is there an easy way to bet on BetFair from the US?

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-20T18:06:36.492Z · score: 12 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Totalitarianism is not a very useful political category. Authoritarianism is a preferred concept. In general democracies tend to have larger and more effective bureaucracies. China and the Soviet Union are outliers in this regard, inaccurately suggesting that authoritarian states are necessarily large and interventionist. They are usually much less competent.

Authoritarian states can emerge from democracies. The following risk factors are observed

  • Young democracies
  • Presidential systems rather than parliamentary
  • Poorer countries
  • Countries with large natural resources. This is well established
  • Weak democracies are sometimes created to protect the outgoing elites. Examples include Lebanon, Burma, Hungary, and (sort of) the US. The resulting democracies are less successful at creating legitimacy and may backslide more often. This theory is debated. See in Journals/BJPS Article.pdf

There's coupcast model. It's not very good

Because the US is a presidential model with many veto points and FPTP, it is more likely to have a coup. This makes it unusual among long established democracies. Japan is also a younger democracy (first regime change in 1994).

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-20T17:50:49.396Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are missing the extraordinary claim here. The extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence is that the CIA successfully instigated a coup. That's a really hard thing to do. Had they done so we would expect good evidence of them planning it and being involved.

The fact that we know they tried two years prior and failed suggests that

  • We would probably have evidence of them trying in 1973 if they did so
  • We need evidence that their attempts were effective, since most encourage coup attempts fail

The Chile-driven coup explanation looks good because

  • A coup makes sense given the high levels of disorder in Chile at the time
  • Chile's political institutions fit the coup profile
  • The structure of the coup is ordinary (no events which demand a CIA explanation)

The claim that the CIA had a decisive role in the coup really is silly because the evidence is weak and unnecessary to explain the outcomes.

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tale from Communist China · 2020-10-20T17:41:10.610Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is misleading. Firstly, it selects on the depenent variable. Secondly it implies that the USA is responsible for the the majority of backsliding instances, which is not correct. Thirdly, it overstates the role of the US in several backsliding instances and understates local dynamics.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. · 2020-10-16T19:06:28.700Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for increasing my resolve to ban certain websites.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. · 2020-10-16T19:03:40.632Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Have you gained status or security lately? I have a pattern where I think people are smarter when I am unemployed/low status/professionally insecure. Then when I gain security I think "why would I ask that person; I could have solved it better myself".

I think it's a status regulatino mechanism.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Legalize Blackmail: An Example · 2020-10-16T14:56:53.218Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for responding directly to the arguments. It would be a waste of time to copy and paste all of Robin Hanson's points into this particular instance. I'm just posting a real world example which illustrates Hanson's argument. You can find these details more thoroughly explored on Overcoming Bias and in a past debate between Zvi and Hanson.


Original posts on overcoming bias

Finally, I recommend reading Mettler's article to motivate the issue.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Legalize Blackmail: An Example · 2020-10-15T17:42:00.944Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wait what? Obviously I'm not asserting the counterfactual the "the case definitely would have succeeded" with 100% probability. My argument clearly rests on the likelihood ratios, not a bizarre assertion that absolute certainty hinges on a particular law.

Let us consider two possibilities.

  1. The world in which Sallie Mae committed a crime. In this case, blackmail being illegal lowers the likelihood that they are convicted. SM only had to have Zahara arrested to tarnish his personal reputation and prevent whistleblowing. Future whistleblowers can see what happened to Zahara and will choose not to come forward.

  2. The world in which Sallie Mae is innocent. In this world blackmail is irrelevant to our practical concerns. Zahara would have lost the case either way.

We do not know if we live in world one or world two. We do know that, if blackmail were legal, we would have better information about which world we are in. In no world would we have perfect information (this is provable from Bayes theorem). We still want to be in a higher-information world about matters of the public trust.

Also public institutions sometimes commit misconduct which is not technically illegal. The public still benefits from having that information, in fact a great deal. Reducing the risks for both whistleblowers and extortionists achieves that objective.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Legalize Blackmail: An Example · 2020-10-15T13:45:20.677Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's another link . Use to get around the paywall.

  1. Zahara could publish, the court proceedings are publicly available from wikipedia. The challenge is that the public doesn't understand these more obscure privatized policies enough to represent their own interests.

  2. After he was arrested for extortion his lawyers refused him counsel, and he could not find replacement council. It appears that after his exoneration he still could not find council and gave up. I suspect the public humiliation of his arrest stopped him from continuing the case with the Justice Department.

  3. Forbearance = "a refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due". In this case, Sally Mae was granting stays of payment to increase the principal of the debt. Normally, this is a risky thing for a lender to do. However, the taxpayer was on the hook for half of the interest and the insurance on the loans, so we were paying for the risk. The granting of forbearance effectively allowed Sallie Mae to subsidize itself at the taxpayers expense. This subsidy mechanism is less efficient than direct loans, see page 16 of this document.

Clearly this allowed a private company to transfer money from the treasury to themselves without improving the intended outcomes of the policy. Go ask a lawyer if that's criminal. I can only tell you its against the interest of the state and citizens.

  1. Because the presence of an anti-blackmail norm enables the company to accuse whistleblowers of blackmail. All Sallie Mae had to do was get Zahara arrested. The charges didn't stick but Zahara's public reputation was completely tarnished and the focus of the story moved. From a conversation about betrayal of the public trust, it became a story about Zahara's personal integrity and status-regulation.

The point is that for the US taxpayer, it does not matter if Zahara did blackmail them. It only matters if Sallie Mae was exploiting the public trust. Whatever the truth of the matter, the blackmail norm itself was a powerful red herring that asocial elites used to protect their misbehavior. If blackmail were legal, more people like Zahara would come forward, which would be awesome for the taxpayer.

What exactly is the argument for outlawing blackmail? Protecting the asocial actions of elites?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Have the lockdowns been worth it? · 2020-10-13T02:46:09.395Z · score: 32 (17 votes) · LW · GW

The World Bank now forecasts an that COVID-19 will push 88 million to 115 million people into poverty in 2020. Extreme poverty in this case is defined as living on $1.90 or less per day. This is the first reversal in global poverty in decades taking us back 3 years. The change in trend is very sharp, see figure on page 5.

Many of the new poor are in the urban informal sector, where government redistribution is unlikely to help. The world bank report stresses government interventions in poor countries, but the informal sector is hard to reach (unregistered, less politically powerful, less organized).

Some of these mechanisms are intensified by lockdown policies. The World Bank's report scrupulously avoid that connection, but I suspect it is important. Disambiguating between rich-country lockdowns and poor country lockdowns is important.

Rich county lockdowns

Much of the effect comes from the contraction of global gdp of 5-8 percent. To the extent that lockdowns increase the GDP reduction, they contributed to the loss. The decisions of the wealthiest countries to lockdown contracted demand for tourism and manufactured goods. South-Asian exporters like India, Bangladesh and Indonesia come up repeatedly in the report. Also the new poor are more urban and formerly worked in tourism and manufacturing. This suggests that western consumer choices contributed to the increase. Probably a minority of total change, roughly.

Poor Country Lockdowns

Like in west, service workers have the least education. They got hit the hardest by lockdowns in counries like India and Ethiopia. Millions of Indian migrant workers had to migrate by foot in one crazy week in India. Documented events along indicate hundreds of deaths. Malnutrition likely the biggest killer. Kids have a lot if QALY's left.

Total effect?

Back of the envelope calculation. Let's assume the increase in poverty is 110 Million. It's unclear when he affect washes out over time, but let's say that it persists for 5 years. Currently 40% of the extreme poor in SSA and south Asia are 0-14. Over five years, the number of children who will go through the dangerous begining of life will be

110 x 10^6 x .4 x .33 = 15 x 10^6 additional children growing from 0 to 5 in extreme poverty.

A cursory look at OWID's child mortality and income plots suggests the change in child mortality is about 5%. So assume that an 5% additional counterfactual deaths. Assume 70 QALY's per child.

5 x 10^6 x .05 x 70 = 54 * 10^6 lost QALYs

Then also assume that lockdowns caused 1/4 of the increase in global poverty. Just a guess.

54 x 10^5 / 4 = 13 x 10^6 lost QALYs from lockdowns.

Given my high uncertainties, 1.3 to 130 QALY's is a 95% range.

This only includes from those people that crossed the magic line at $1.9 / day. Non-extreme poverty also increased.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Should it be a research paper or a blog post? · 2020-09-24T23:28:50.967Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I use blogposts to explore new ideas, improve my writing and publish intermediary ideas. At first articles were difficult for me because no one will read bad articles and give you feedback on your writing/ideas. But people are happy to read a blogpost and provide criticism. But my incentives professionally to blog are much lower than my incentives to produce articles.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Should it be a research paper or a blog post? · 2020-09-24T23:28:15.576Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Surprisingly, that is mostly true in my experience. Good articles overcome the challenges of the medium to do both, but most articles are not good. As a beginner writer, conveying your ideas, evidence and why it is important is easier in blog form.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/17: It’s Worse · 2020-09-24T22:58:43.978Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My problem with how informed consent can be is around issues like we know there are biases where people have a tendency toward a dichotomy: low risk becomes zero risk in their minds.

If the changes in risk are very small, in this case of order one in ten thousand, the ethical consequences of people miscalculating that risk are small. We already know that millions of people were willing to take huge risks (<1/100) for altruistic reasons. Why would we assume these volunteers would desist if they "rationally" evaluated the risk at one in ten thousand instead of approximating it at 1 in a hundred thousand?

So for the set of actions that put others in harms way, you believe that the ethics of said action depends on the percent difference between their perceived risk and the actual risk? That is really really weird and far from the point. Say I volunteer for activity A on the assumption that the risk is 1 in a million, but the actual risk is 10 in a million. Then I volunteer for activity B on the assumtion that the risk is 1 in a hundred, but the actual risk is 1 in ten. In both cases the proportion of risk change is a factor of 10, so you would argue they are equally unethical But the change in absolute risk change in activity B was 9%, which is a huge chance of dying! If I am volunteering I am very interested in the absolute change in risk, who cares about the percentage change, because I'm worried about dying not being wrong.

We don't have to baby people just because they use heuristics to do good.

This seems self evidently true to me. I struggle to envisage a situation where people see caution that they perceive to be excessive and become more reluctant to take vaccines in the future.

People don't spend that much time thinking about your particular institution's paricular norms when they assign a trust value (because there are lots of institutions so they don't have unlimited time). This is the reason courts are built like they are, so people can actually watch the judge deliberate and explain his reasoning. People do not trust courts because juries are statistically good at identifying guilt or because they know the regulations in their jurisdiction in detail. They judge the courts on big noticable surface characteristics that touch their lives and their communities.

They will remember stuff like "did the vaccine work" "did we get it first" and maybe "did people have negative reactions on facebook". The choices made in one particular trial will be long long forgotten. The UK's choice to continue the trial gets them more data faster to release a safe vaccine to the genpop. Those are things that touch people. So the UK might experience higher "trust in vaccine institutions" later than the US. It could go the otherway too, but I think the UK choice is stronger in expectation.

Also, the generation who stopped taking measles had forgotten how bad viruses are. I doubt they'll repeat that mistake after this.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/17: It’s Worse · 2020-09-23T20:10:18.793Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I’m not a philosopher so I won’t say much about your earlier point. It’s worth noting that lots of painful but clearly worthwhile events in history are not worthwhile in your ethical system. For example, the soldiers at D-Day had much greater uncertainty about their odds of survival than the vaccine trial victims (some beaches were much more dangerous than others). If it’s unethical to allow a volunteer to hurt themselves unless they have total certainty of the risks, the Normandy landings were totally unethical regardless of the suffering in occupied Europe. You can take that ethical system if you want, but it is very distant from conventional ethics.

Excess us deaths are about 10,000 per week. So a one week delay in a vaccine would cost 10,000 deaths. You say a loss of trust in vaccines is possible if the trial is not stopped is possible. But it is also true that if Russia and China start mass Good-enough vaccine distribution long before the US people may lose trust. Can you make an argument that if trials are not suspended a loss of trust in vaccines is more likely than if they are continued? Otherwise the argument isn’t very compelling, no?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-21T16:13:30.878Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW - probability of reproduction from one forecaster for DARPA SCORE study. The distribution is bimodal because the lower hump is p=.05 and the upper hump is some lower p-value like p=.01 or something. It looks like even the higher p values have reproduction rates at .8 to .9 . This updates toward Shem's skepticism. Even though the p value is very small, reproduction rate is still stuck at .85 for good studies. Since this study has the problem's shem pointed out, we might expect a reproduction probability lower at like .75. So a likelihood ratio of 3:1.

I could imagine people with knowledge of the subject having sufficiently lower priors.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/17: It’s Worse · 2020-09-21T13:19:08.015Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To clarify, are you adopting an ethical position where it is wrong for one person to put themselves at risk to benefit others? Or are you asserting that there is more suffering and death in the world where the trial continues than in the world where it stops? Do you perhaps believe that causing suffering by inaction is less morally wrong than causing suffering by action? Looking for crux.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/17: It’s Worse · 2020-09-18T01:53:13.920Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good points Dagon.

See also this marginal revolution comments section, where several comments do show their work. Different conclusions, but this way of arguing for is more effective for finding the option that saves most lives in expectation.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-13T16:50:35.176Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you are suggesting that the mechanism between the vitamin D pills and the outcome might not be through resolving vitamin D deficiency but some other more specific pathway.

Does that update is as to the robustness of the study?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-12T12:49:45.557Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You’re right, thanks for that. I removed that sentence and changed the tone a bit.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-12T00:51:36.007Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Bro, it's a great comment, but idk if this is the time for it. There's important shit happening here.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-12T00:48:49.350Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW
There were also a number of risk factors where the treatment and control groups had significant differences, most notably diabetes (present in 2.5x as many patients in the control group).

Firstly, two risk factors were more common among the treatment groups: <60 years of age, immunosuppressed & transplanted. Secondly, 3 treatment group patients (6%) were diabetic and 5 control (19.23%) were. Let us take the most generous assumptions for your position, and say that the 3 patients with diabetes in the treatment group did not require ICU and that the 5 in control group all required ICU. This is a strong assumption (aka unlikely).

With these generous assumptions, the study results are now that 1/47 patients in treatment required ICU and that 8/21 in control required. The p value remains .0001. *In order to achieve a p<.05 the lack of blinding/fuzziness would must have failed to send 16 of the 46 treatment group members to the ICU.* That is still not likely without deliberate fraud.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-11T23:53:48.774Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Bro, if diabetes is the common cause the RCT would have failed.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-11T23:51:31.650Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Zvi has repeatedly cited a paper arguing that the FDA kills more people by preventing effective treatments than it saves by preventing bad treatments. Not having followed that link personally, the results suggest that pub health statisticians are miscalibrated in expectation.

One explanation for why pub health statisticians are miscalibrated in a causing-death-by-inaction direction is that they are punished for deaths caused by action but not deaths caused by inaction. I’m this model, conservatism (aka miscalibration toward inaction) is a result of the lived and publicized experiences of people in the field. This seems a great explanation for both the experts norms and the paper results.

Are you contesting that statisticians are miscalibrated in expectation in the utility they cause?

I think the “Bailey to your Motte” is that people are bad at predicting who they might infect, so this advice could lead to greater deaths. I think Zvi could have phrased it more carefully. But the broader point needed emphasis, that we are loosing so much for something we could fix. And that fix might not be so hard. That point is more important than quibbling one darn sentence.

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities · 2020-09-05T15:41:16.077Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. The study discusses fatigue. Do we know if the fatigue is caused by reduced lung capacity or by the hormones/neuro stuff our body does to conserve energy while sick. If reduced lung capacity is a big part of that 1/5 I would update upward on permanent lung capacity rate.

Comment by rockthecasbah on A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities · 2020-09-01T15:22:30.547Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One way to bound the risk of long term consequences is to assume the long term consequences will be less severe than the infection itself. So if 1% of people in their 20's experience reduced lung capacity during infection, you can assume that less than 1% will have permanently reduced lung capacity. I have never heard of a disease which was worse after you recover than before.

I suspect that some people are hesitant to discuss the rate of long term consequences for young covid patients for fear of encouraging people not to social distance. But then the cost is a loss of trust between people and the information provider.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Status for status sake is a fact of political life · 2020-08-19T14:48:37.743Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

hahaha no problem! Thank you for the help.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Status for status sake is a fact of political life · 2020-08-19T14:24:06.869Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The commonness of the behavior suggests that most people can't help but seek it. The Jefferson Davis case certainly suggests that leaders do not reject status for its own sake. The self-esteem-seeking explanation from Bucky addresses your question.

I'm agnostic about why they do so. In the same way an economist might be agnostic about why people like having more goods and services.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Status for status sake is a fact of political life · 2020-08-19T14:19:28.707Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That makes sense. I had no theories about why they seek status so hard. Now I have an interesting one.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Status for status sake is a fact of political life · 2020-08-19T14:06:47.756Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I wonder how much this is about people in general, and how much is an effect of selection. People who do not have strong preference for status, usually do not get to the situation where they have to choose whether to be a president of a state that is losing the war. People who do not have strong preference for being #1 in the Soviet Union, usually do not become a General Secretary.

I agree with this paragraph.

And that is kinda a common knowledge; I don't remember the exact words now, but it goes something like "the power should not be given to those who desire it, but to those who don't".

That seems, naively, like a good plan. I agree that in practice it does not work well. Here's an argument to add to yours -

Let's look at two common political systems

Monarchy- The advantages of a monarchy to the selectorate are

1. That the leader is not selected for status seeking, unlike a warlord

2. Leader selection has a high shilling point around the lineage, keeping warlords out

Democracy - Most democracies accept that leaders will be status seeking. They then use voting and constitutions to force these status-seeking actors to serve our interests.

Democracies have generally produced more utility for their citizens than monarchy

My pet theory: High status individuals are selected for status seeking. But they are also selected for organizational skill, charisma, intelligence, predictive ability, etc.

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-17T12:16:38.268Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Great question.

The truth in your model. Both the Saudi and Jordanian regimes give "import licenses" to families (Corleoni-style extended families). They basically say "only this family can import (nitrogen or automobiles or washer-dyers). The Jordanians have one on tomatoe paste which is why their tomato paste tastes crappy. Particularly when a autocrat dies, some companies or families are dispossessed if the ruler suspects they will be disloyal. Mohammad Bin Salman did this recently.

What your model is missing. Factions are rarely just the top leadership. The most stable faction type is basically a pyramid scheme. You have some leader at the top - a tribal elder, a warlord, a colonel, a utilities company owner etc. who has a direct relationship to the autocrat usually. Then beneath him are other elders, and beneath them are heads of nuclear families or clans, and beneath them are usually prosperous peasants. As you go down the rewards decrease, but the reward-responsibility combination continues. IIRC, the Mafraq tribes people saved the Jordanian monarchy as recently as Black September and continue to serve in the army in high numbers. If you just recruited from every tribe equally there could be a revolution! Can't have that.

TLDR: Even though the tribes people are not elites, this tribe supports the Jordanian army.

Fun fact: Arab tribes elect their sheyoukh, so are a more "egalitarian" faction type than is typical.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Tools for keeping focused · 2020-08-15T18:18:12.916Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Firstly this is a really well written post, and I congratulate you for it.\

But I do disagree with the sentiment. Usually things that seem good are good and things that seem bad are bad. We shouldn't confuse tail outcomes with the expected utility.

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-14T20:48:43.600Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Great questions! You questions highlight a few minor contributing factors.

While building a pipeline may only weakly protect the jobs of the Amman farmers, are local companies/contractors involved in the pipeline's construction?

They actually contracted it to a Turkish company, GAMA, because they lacked the capacity.

Does the pipeline go to any other areas which may be exploitable in the future?

Not really. In theory it could be linked to western Disi but they left the farms there. They would probably just build a new pipeline to the Gulf of Aqaba to decrease energy cost bc Pythagoras.

Do you know what the relations were like with the Southern Desert families?

The GoJ exempted locally owned tribes, but it did become less popular locally. The central desert families north of Disi (Ma'an) are considered a strategic tribe and get special treatment, but the Disi tribes don't. They get to flirt with a lot of tourist girls tho.

This could be an attempt to push out a faction and install another.

That was part of it. The farms which were closed were mostly owned by Palestinian elite families. So the rival transjordanian elites in the military were happy to see them go. But they would never pay a billion for that pleasure. See Keulertz.

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-10T18:11:29.043Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You’ll have to explain the “utility you give up” framework.

Signaling loyalty and actually being loyal are pretty much the same here. We need other details to see if they diverge.

Arguably letting the farms close and replacing them with competitive industries for Mafraq would be cheaper and more loyal, but would signal less loyalty. But the Jordanians do not expect to succeed at such development projects anyway.

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-05T16:42:10.919Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Basically, cities want secure stores of groundwater for the long term. But farmers will use up all the water if they can. Right now most countries let total anarchy reign because the farmers are hard to stop (they’re everywhere and they constantly dig wells and they hide and bribe and shoot at regulators. So our primary question was “if we look at a country with really severe urban deficit, does that motivate the government to go out and reduce overuse? Or are the challenges and perverse incentives impossible to overcome?

We found that the Jordanians took advantage of the fact that barriers to regulation are unevenly distributed between aquifers. So you can find aquifers that are cheap to enforce and have few people capable of rioting/couping (the Jordanians fear revolt more than coup, but usually expect the reverse). The current preferred approach is to tax all the farmers in every basin (aquifer) to close a few less productive farms in each basin. But then you’re spending your scarce enforcement and “pissing people off” budget in low yield basins. Instead the Jordanians targeted one area as “preserve” for future urban use and successfully shut it down completely (way lower enforcement costs). Then you concentrate your resources on protecting one area.

Ooo I can make an analogy to wildlife preserves!

By coincidence the easiest area to make preserve was 600 km south and 1 km below Amman. So they paid probably an extra 2billion usd (1B Capital + 100 M/year energy) over 10 years to pump that water. They always framed the “pissing people off” budget as about “unemployment”, but it wasn’t about unemployment because they could have used 2 billion to reduce unemployment more efficiently with almost any other policy!

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-05T04:58:29.452Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-05T03:43:38.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is perfect! Thank you Habryka for the help!

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-05T03:43:06.051Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone explain why this got frontpage? While I stand by my core claims, I put zero effort into organizing these ideas. Was it the meme at the top?

Did I naturally organize the argument well by chance?

Do you all really like signalling when applied to politics?

Comment by rockthecasbah on My paper was signalling the whole time - Robin Hanson wins again · 2020-08-05T02:21:21.115Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You've raised a great question. Two comments.

Their stated goal is reducing urban unemployment

The most efficient way to reduce unemployment is neither to cut checks nor to subsidize water in the desert. The thing is, the Jordanian policymakers did not say "we want to keep everyone having the same amount of income", which is the problem you are getting at, and one other countries have attempted (with mixed results, see below). What the Jordanians said is "we want to keep urban unemployment down". So subsidizing farms is a way to keep people from migrating, but the water provision is a terribly inneficient subsidy. Furthermore, from a "cause prioritization" standpoint its also really inneficient. Paying to keep unprofitable businesses alive is a less efficient way to reduce unemployment than, say, investing in infrastructure or even just subsidizing profitable business sectors.

Basically, picking winners is hard but its better than picking an existing loser and buying them an input good at 4 times its market value. The most efficient way to reduce So their stated argument "we want to reduce urban unemployment" is either not their real goal or they are very biased.

Some polities can cut checks reasonably efficiently, but the Jordanians cannot

Some political systems do a better job of cutting checks than others. The conventional wisdom is that most European countries have successfully preserved pastoralism through cutting checks without having to distort their economy with across-the-board subsidies. The conventional wisdom is also that the US attempt to cut checks for export job loss has failed. blah blah first-past-the-post blah blah pork barrel.

The Jordanians are probably very very bad at cutting checks. The best piece of evidence is that the GoJ expects to fail at cutting checks, and they would know. The second best piece of evidence is what happens when they open municipalities (patronage). I suspect USAID gets laughed out of the room when they say "the Danes did it, why can't you". So you are correct about that.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 7/30: Whack a Mole · 2020-08-04T02:45:42.205Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I searched herd immunity in the UK government report you referenced and found the following line

Serology studies suggest that ~5-10% of the UK population has been infected to date, with levels up to 15% in some areas, but infection levels of approximately 70% may be required to achieve herd immunity, bearing in mind that the degree to which immunity is conferred by past infection is still unknown (see section 3.1.2). (page 12)

That comment looks exaclty like the supposed strawman Zvi is putting up. Is there some reading between the lines explanation that contradicts their direct statement? And if there is, why would it matter more than their direct statement.

I generally do believe your point that modelers accept the broader evidence on immunity much more than public health officials and pundits.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Improving local governance in fragile states - practical lessons from the field · 2020-08-01T06:34:19.635Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm greatfull for your helpful comments. I will surely add more citations (I have to do that anyway for the academics).

I need you to tell me if the structure of the argument works rhetorically. My struggle is in arranging the order of points, paragraphs and sentences such that the reader can connect each of them to my broader thesis. Historically, I tend to throw knowledge at the reader. The reader is left thinking "why did I learn this fact? how do they fit together? what was the point again". If you assume I have a good citation for each sentence, would you actually understand the conclusion?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Non offensive word for people who are not single-magisterium-Bayes thinkers · 2020-07-27T02:46:09.358Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fox - that sounds like a good word. Can you link me the Tetlock book it comes from.

Yeah I agree that toolbox isn’t shouldn’t be offensive. I guess something in my tone offended the person, rather than the word itself.

Comment by rockthecasbah on "Should Blackmail Be Legal" Hanson/Zvi Debate (Sun July 26th, 3pm PDT) · 2020-07-27T02:44:20.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I had the same question. Thanks for clarifying.

Comment by rockthecasbah on The silence is deafening – Devon Zuegel · 2020-07-06T18:19:01.580Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So far I have found the LW voting behavior instructive and reasonable. It seems like LW'ers do vote on your epistemology rather than the content of your post (like in reddit). It's very cool.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Non offensive word for people who are not single-magisterium-Bayes thinkers · 2020-07-04T02:17:31.637Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I like your top comments a lot. Thanks for the answer!