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


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 -

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


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 -

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

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!

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T18:06:51.326Z · LW · GW

It will have been a year in a month and a half. We are currently at 1.33 million deaths. We are not going to have 3.7 million deaths in the next month. For why that won't happen regardless of the amount of policy attention see

We know COVID has a barrier to reinfection, so Covid is very unlikely to "circle the world for years". Also the tobacco deaths are actually going to continue for decades, so this can't be an argument for more marginal attention to Covid.

Do you believe the marginal cost of preventing a Covid death is lower than the marginal cost of preventing a tobacco death? Why or why not?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Comparing Covid and Tobacco · 2020-11-17T17:52:57.687Z · LW · GW

No one said they were a secret cabal or anything. I'm not ascribing any collective agency to us other than mostly reading the same newspapers and books.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter · 2020-11-13T17:53:12.943Z · LW · GW

Fun Autocracy Facts:

This type of bureaucratic malpractice is particularly common in autocracies. The regime (top leadership) regime wants to know the problem and provide good policies to protect from overthrow. Their desire to avoid embarrassment is a bit lower. The bureaucrats are different. They care much less about the regime being overthrown but want to avoid embarrassment and hard work. So for bureaucrat the incentives to non-comply are strong. Democratic systems have the same problem, but have independent judiciaries and legislatures to share in overseeing the bureaucracy. To conclude:

  1. This narrative is highly plausible. Our prior that mass data faking happens should be high.

  2. We cannot assume that the regime (Putin) is aware of this.

For a paper on similar problems in China see or my paper on Jordan

Comment by rockthecasbah on rockthecasbah's Shortform · 2020-11-13T15:32:36.942Z · LW · GW


Comment by rockthecasbah on Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter · 2020-11-12T18:11:30.404Z · LW · GW

I have a hard time blaming the people of Oklahoma for giving up.

We're all tired of social distancing. We're all depressed. Unemployment is at 7%, and underemployment is definitely way up. The legislature didn't rise to the occasion. I myself have forgotten how to make pleasant conversation.

The people who benefit from lockdowns are the most isolated, so people don't see their benefit. The people who suffer the most from the policy are the unemployed, and people see them often. Sociotropy isn't magic; We care about the people we see suffering. The more isolated we become from eachother, the more selfish we will become.

Few Americans wake up and look at the scary COVID numbers and feel the suffering of the infected because of scope neglect. It's the same reason we didn't care about children dying of malaria before.

Comment by rockthecasbah on How can we lobby to get a vaccine distributed faster? · 2020-11-11T23:31:44.661Z · LW · GW


Comment by rockthecasbah on Two reasons to expect a peaceful change of power in the US · 2020-11-09T01:24:05.317Z · LW · GW

Great point! I missed that important example, thank you.

Two notes on military coups, as the French coup illustrates.

  • they are unusually easy to launch. Suppose a majority faction of officers prefers to remain in the barracks, In the minority faction prefers a coup, but both factions prefer unity to civil war. If a minority faction begins a coup the majority will join to avoid a civil war.
  • They are unusually short. Once the coup has been launched the ruling junta is in the same position. Any officer faction can announce a return to the barracks and threaten Civil War as well. Remember that the officers will likely continue their lucrative professional careers post regime. Therefore these coups tend to be short-lived Unless a single officer can personalize power around himself (Mugabe, Assad) and alienate the rest of the officers. The short outcome would be very likely in the event of US coup.

A US coup would almost certainly require escalating political violence outside the military to polarize our anti-praetorian, moderate military. IIRC the officer core is Republican leaning but with plenty of Romney Clinton’s (some magazine survey).

Comment by rockthecasbah on Share your personal stories of prediction markets · 2020-11-09T01:21:06.494Z · LW · GW

Wow those are very reasonable fees!

Suppose that a person in the US bought etherium then logged into a VPN and traded on FTX. Is there a realistic possibility of that person being caught, and if so what is the pathway?

Also why is Trump still trading at 10% on catnip? With fees of 1%, that's free money.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Two reasons to expect a peaceful change of power in the US · 2020-11-08T18:37:47.935Z · LW · GW

Thanks everyone for the updoots :) :) :)

Comment by rockthecasbah on Share your personal stories of prediction markets · 2020-11-08T15:15:34.572Z · LW · GW

Good for you! I'd love to hear more about the crypto betting markets.

I enjoyed betting on Predictit and believe I can out bet the average observer for personal gain. However, the fees push it into negative expected utility for me. What are the effective fees on FTX? Is it difficult to bet from the US?

Comment by rockthecasbah on Share your personal stories of prediction markets · 2020-11-04T16:09:56.825Z · LW · GW

I bet 4.5k on PredictIt with a spread of; likely Biden states (WI, MI, MN), Biden prez and popular vote. To pick my bets I used the Kelly betting algorithm with 538 stats and PredictIt's fees included. I only bet on the races with an kelly fraction (F) of .5 or more. The average F of the bets was .7. The spread would break even if Biden narrowly lost (Trump wins AZ, PA, GA, NC, FL), and only return negative with a major poll error of 8 points in the Great Lakes. Therefore I was watching FL for a large polling error.

After FL results came in I attempted to sell my Biden prez tix. PredictIt crashed, but I was among the first to refresh the page and sold my Biden tix at pre-election value of .66. Biden tix fell to .20 at 10:00 pm and I bought 1000 at .12 because I knew the redshift in Michigan was skewing the results. In total I gained about 20% on my portfolio over the night.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why are deaths not increasing with infections in the US? · 2020-11-02T23:17:46.605Z · LW · GW

More people with mild symptoms getting tested sounds like a cause. I buy that. Awareness is a good guess but the July hump also had high awareness. Thanks!

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why are deaths not increasing with infections in the US? · 2020-11-02T12:49:03.305Z · LW · GW

Or faster testing!

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why are deaths not increasing with infections in the US? · 2020-11-02T12:48:48.050Z · LW · GW

There’s also a delay between symptoms and confirmed infections. The July death peak came two weeks after the July confirmed daily infection peak.

Right now two weeks ago we had a 50% CDI increase, but deaths haven’t caught up.

The answer must be a combination of longer time to death and lower IFR (including less at-risk people contracting). I’m hoping it’s more the second but not much update yet.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why are deaths not increasing with infections in the US? · 2020-11-02T12:40:29.129Z · LW · GW

The lag was not previously two weeks. I doubt the lag got longer so I suspect there is a real and large CFR reduction.

The four lower points sound plausible and are some good news, finally :)

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why does History assume equal national intelligence? · 2020-10-31T14:01:09.696Z · LW · GW

You ask a bunch of questions so I’ll try and break them apart and take them in order.

  1. There are scholars who believe that the average intelligence of a nation in packs outcomes such as GDP growth. See the work of Garrett Jones.

  2. Intelligence is often left out of models for many historical institutional outcomes partly because academics see it as a info hazard. This should bias any regression analysis due to omitted variable bias. For example a institutional quality is correlated with group intelligence then the estimator for the impact of institutional quality is biased by the correlation factor times the impact of intelligence. Therefore there’s a price for avoiding that info hazard.

  3. Measurement bias is a problem. It can be imperfectly corrected for with wordless it tests. Differences between countries in average IQ remain under these tests, see Jones.

  4. For individual leader quality differences in group intelligence shouldn’t really matter. Yes some leaders are stupid.

  5. The relationship between the mean score on individual iq tests of a country and the collective intelligence (have 4 random people take an IQ test together) is a different question. idk the research on it.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why does History assume equal national intelligence? · 2020-10-31T13:41:54.712Z · LW · GW

Pol Pot also used starvation exports to buy ammo then invaded Vietnam. This was right after Vietnam defeated the US, leading directly to his downfall. Fantastically dumb idea.

Comment by rockthecasbah on Why does History assume equal national intelligence? · 2020-10-31T12:53:05.625Z · LW · GW

The regression to the mean point assumes that all humans are drawn from the same intelligence distribution. From a beliefs as maps perspective, that claim requires evidence. For one thing, we know that malnutrition and childhood trauma have an effect on intelligence. The childhood trauma effect in the US has been measured at .5 standard deviations. If you consider how likely an Afghan is to experience stress and trauma in childhood, that alone gets you to a meaningful IQ difference between Afghans and their neighbor’s.

The trauma and malnutrition affect on intelligence would be important historically (since high rates of violence were much more common pre-Hobbes).

Comment by rockthecasbah on Desperation hamster wheels · 2020-10-30T21:14:16.371Z · LW · GW

This post is great. Thank you for making it.