Posts

RationalWiki on face masks 2021-01-15T01:55:49.836Z
Impostor Syndrome as skill/dominance mismatch 2020-11-05T20:05:54.528Z
Viliam's Shortform 2020-07-22T17:42:22.357Z
Why are all these domains called from Less Wrong? 2020-06-27T13:46:05.857Z
Opposing a hierarchy does not imply egalitarianism 2020-05-23T20:51:10.024Z
Rationality Vienna [Virtual] Meetup, May 2020 2020-05-08T15:03:56.644Z
Rationality Vienna Meetup June 2019 2019-04-28T21:05:15.818Z
Rationality Vienna Meetup May 2019 2019-04-28T21:01:12.804Z
Rationality Vienna Meetup April 2019 2019-03-31T00:46:36.398Z
Does anti-malaria charity destroy the local anti-malaria industry? 2019-01-05T19:04:57.601Z
Rationality Bratislava Meetup 2018-09-16T20:31:42.409Z
Rationality Vienna Meetup, April 2018 2018-04-12T19:41:40.923Z
Rationality Vienna Meetup, March 2018 2018-03-12T21:10:44.228Z
Welcome to Rationality Vienna 2018-03-12T21:07:07.921Z
Feedback on LW 2.0 2017-10-01T15:18:09.682Z
Bring up Genius 2017-06-08T17:44:03.696Z
How to not earn a delta (Change My View) 2017-02-14T10:04:30.853Z
Group Rationality Diary, February 2017 2017-02-01T12:11:44.212Z
How to talk rationally about cults 2017-01-08T20:12:51.340Z
Meetup : Rationality Meetup Vienna 2016-09-11T20:57:16.910Z
Meetup : Rationality Meetup Vienna 2016-08-16T20:21:10.911Z
Two forms of procrastination 2016-07-16T20:30:55.911Z
Welcome to Less Wrong! (9th thread, May 2016) 2016-05-17T08:26:07.420Z
Positivity Thread :) 2016-04-08T21:34:03.535Z
Require contributions in advance 2016-02-08T12:55:58.720Z
Marketing Rationality 2015-11-18T13:43:02.802Z
Manhood of Humanity 2015-08-24T18:31:22.099Z
Time-Binding 2015-08-14T17:38:03.686Z
Bragging Thread July 2015 2015-07-13T22:01:03.320Z
Group Bragging Thread (May 2015) 2015-05-29T22:36:27.000Z
Meetup : Bratislava Meetup 2015-05-21T19:21:00.320Z

Comments

Comment by viliam on Science in a High-Dimensional World · 2021-01-17T22:56:52.410Z · LW · GW

When we zoom out, does the graph take on the geometry of a smooth, flat space with a fixed number of dimensions? (Answer: yes, when we put in the right kind of state to start with.)

I don't understand the article enough to decode what "the right kind of state" means, but this feels like circular explanation. The three-dimentional space can "emerge" from a graph, but only assuming it is the right kind of graph. Okay, so what caused the graph to be exactly the kind of graph that generates a three-dimensional space?

Comment by viliam on aarongertler's Shortform · 2021-01-17T20:52:06.344Z · LW · GW

Players of Battle for Wesnoth often accuse random number generator of being broken, e.g. when their unit has 3 attacks, each of them has independently 70% chance to hit, and all three attacks happen to miss. But the chance of that happening is actually 2,7%, and if a level takes twenty or more turns, and in each turn several units attack, this is likely to happen several times per level.

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-17T15:27:28.492Z · LW · GW

The market starts producing as soon as it suspects there might be panic and shortage, I don't think that shops running out are actually needed for industries getting the message.

There is also uncertainty, and the producers don't want to oversupply. Starting the panic "collapses" the uncertainty. If some families are going to buy 3 years worth of disinfectants, I want the market to know this, not as a possibility, but as a fact. So that the result is that some families have 3 years worth of disinfectant, and the remaining families have enough.

I agree with the political backlash. Doing the right thing on object level may be a mistake on political level. When you do something, you become responsible for everything that happens, and in situation of pandemic, all outcomes are bad, so the optimal political strategy is probably to stay in background until the situation gets really bad, and then come and save the day. One does not get political points for preventing problems. (After Slovakia successfully defeated covid during spring, many people concluded that it was just a hoax and that all measures were unnecessary. This probably contributed to the reluctance of government to do anything when the numbers started growing exponentially in autumn.)

Comment by viliam on A dozen habits that work for me · 2021-01-17T14:31:11.895Z · LW · GW

Depending on the cause of sleep apnea, a removable wire in mouth may help. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions; I got sleep apnea from being fat and having a narrow throat, and this helps. I like that it's purely mechanical, no electric power needed.

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-17T12:39:34.538Z · LW · GW

I attributed the Slovak reaction to cultural experience from socialism. Like, when the authorities told you: "comrades, do no panic, there is no shortage of toilet paper", you knew you had to run immediately to the nearest shop and stock up, because in the evening it will already be sold out. So when the authorities told us not to buy face masks... :D

People also stocked up with disinfectants. (I don't remember whether authorities mentioned these, or it was just common sense.) This seemed more tricky, because making disinfectants at home... well, you could burn some strong alcohol, you wouldn't even have to worry about toxicity if you do not intend to drink it; and some people actually did this (I think there was a guy in Czechia who started mass-producing alcohol-as-disinfectant, got into legal trouble, there was a public outrage and he was pardoned)... anyway, what happened was that shelves were empty for two or three weeks, and then the shops resupplied.

Which again makes me think that if there is a risk of panic and shortage, you might want it to happen sooner rather than later, so that the market has enough time to adapt before the worst happens. As a government, you could even contribute to the shortage, by buying tons of stuff... and later redistributing it to the places of greatest need: sell it to hospitals for the original price, thus shielding them from shortage and price hikes.

I remember clearly I had concluded from the start that masks had to help reduce the spread of the virus because they would reduce how far you'd breathe.

My reasoning was: people in Asia seem to have more experience with this type of situation, and they wear masks; case closed. Also, this song (note: February 2020; English version made in April).

But yes, common sense also seemed on the side of wearing the masks. Like, maybe they won't filter all viruses, but at least they should filter some. I guess you needed a "gears model" of infection, so you knew it was not "one particle or millions of particles, you are doomed either way" but rather "fewer particles = smaller chance of infection (and smaller expected damage)". This probably wasn't obvious to most people; I have doctors in my family so I knew.

Thinking through it now, my guess is that instructions on how to make a mask at home or what to use as a quick fix would have likely contained the pandemic more and prevented more deaths.

Definitely. This is one of the things that public television is supposed to exist for, isn't it?

Comment by viliam on Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform · 2021-01-16T21:57:58.073Z · LW · GW

this team was part of a bigger organization and platform where multiple teams had to work together to something done, e.g. agree on interfaces with other teams. And in the absence of clear joint goals that didn't happen.

I have seen this happen also in a small team. Two or three guys started building each his own part independently, then it turned out those parts could not be put together; each of them insisted that others change their code to fit his API, and refused to make the smallest change in his API. It became a status fight that took a few days. (I don't remember how it was resolved.)

In another company, there was a department that took care of everyone's servers. Our test server crashed almost every day and had to be restarted manually; we had to file a ticket and wait (if it was after 4PM, the server was restarted only the next morning) because we did not have the permission to reset the server ourselves. It was driving us crazy; we had a dedicated team of testers, and half of the time they were just waiting for the server to be restarted; then the week before delivery we all worked overtime... that is, until the moment the server crashed again, then we filed the ticket and went home. We begged our manager to let us pool two hundred bucks and buy a notebook that we could turn into an alternative testing environment under our control, but of course that would be completely against company policy. Their manager refused to do anything about it; from their perspective, it meant they had every day one support ticket successfully closed by merely clicking a button; wonderful metric! From the perspective of our manager's manager, it was a word against a word, one word coming from the team with great metrics and therefore more trustworthy. (The situation never got solved, as far as I know.)

...I should probably write a book one day. Except that no one would ever hire me afterwards. So maybe after I get retired...

So, yes, there are situations that require to be solved by greater power. In long term it might even make sense to fire a few people, but the problem is that these often seem to be the most productive ones, because other people are slowed down by the problems they cause.

Where did the project you did implement in your first case come from? Somebody figure out that it would provide value to the company. Otherwise, you might have built a beautiful project that didn't actually provide value. I think we agree that the company you worked in did have some management that provided value (I hope it was no moral maze).

Yeah, but we have two different meanings of the word "management" here. Someone who decides which project to do -- this is useful and necessary. Or someone who interrupts you every day while you are trying to work on that project -- I can imagine that in some teams this may also be necessary, but arguably then your problem is the team you have (at least some parts of it). Motte and bailey of management, sort of.

From epistemic perspective, I guess the problem is that if you keep micro-managing people all the time, you can never learn whether your activity actually adds or removes value, simply because there is nothing to compare to. (I guess the usual null hypothesis is "nobody ever does anything", which of course make any management seem useful; but is it true?) Looking at the incentives and power relations, the employee at the bottom doesn't have an opportunity to prove they could work just as well without the micro-management, and the manager doesn't have an incentive to allow the experiment. There is also the "heads I win, tail you lose" aspect where bad employee performance is interpreted as necessity of more management, but good employee performance is interpreted as good management, so either way management is perceived as needed.

This is really not a secret art. The principles are well-known (for a funny summary see e.g. Leadersheep).

Yep. That's a very good summary. Heh, I fail hard at step 1 (creating, or rather communicating a strong vision).

But it turns out that building a big organization is hard. Politics is real and professional management is still mostly a craft. It rarely approaches something you can call engineering much less hard science.

Seems analogical to social sciences: in theory, they are much more difficult than math or physics, so it would make sense if smarter people studied them; in practice, it's the other way round, because if something is too difficult to do properly, it becomes easy to bullshit your way to the top, and intelligent people switch to something where being intelligent gives you a clear comparative advantage.

Good luck to you! I suppose your chances will depend on how much autonomy you get; it is hard to do things right, if the sources of problem are beyond your control. However, if you become a great manager and your people will like you, perhaps in the future you can start your own company and give them a call whether they would like to work for you again.

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-16T16:03:19.694Z · LW · GW

Thank you for the comment!

Specifically, I strongly agree that flagging is an underused tool in debate moderation.

if people knew masks would have made them safer from day one then there would have been more deaths, not fewer, because masks would have not been available where they'd have saved most lives.

In Slovakia in March 2020, people spontaneously started wearing masks in public despite authorities telling them not to. People started making masks at home, and selling them to their neighbors. A week after the pandemic became a common knowledge here, my wife bought the first dozen masks made of cloth from some lady in neighborhood who advertised them on Facebook. The authorities then changed their minds, and masks became mandatory. So we were fully masked already in March, and there was no shortage. On internet I found a project where volunteers with 3D printers shared recipes for transparent face shields, and donated the printed ones to hospitals. Between March and July, less than 30 people out of 5 500 000 died of covid. (Then we completely screwed up in autumn.)

It was quite surreal watching the rest of internet argue how nothing can be done, and our only choices are letting the sick and elderly die, or destroy the entire economy, because a mask that isn't N95 looted from a hospital is certainly useless (and somehow there is no way to ramp up their production).

So, I remain firmly convinced that discouraging people from wearing masks caused deaths. In short term, by making the pandemic spread faster. In long term, by undermining public trusts in experts.

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-16T15:15:20.054Z · LW · GW

If some potentially powerful ideas were suppressed successfully, we wouldn't know about them, would we? Seeing only the cases where censorship failed, we may underestimate its impact.

Second, ideas can be killed without being completely erased. For example, you can read on Wikipedia about the Cathar religion, but how many active Cathars do you know? The crusade was a success.

Third, driving an idea into underground can harm its development. If posts are getting deleted, you can't have the three levels of response (can't find a link now, but the idea is that quality debate requires at least: someone stating a hypothesis, an opponent refuting it, the original author explaining why the refutation was wrong, and the opponent explaining why the author's objection was wrong). If adherents can't build their reputations, it is hard to distinguish in a debate between actual believers, trolls, and false flag operations; there is no common knowledge of what the idea actually is (so everyone is free to replace it with a strawman).

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-15T23:51:09.809Z · LW · GW

I admit I am worried about the slippery slope, which is often considered to be a bad argument. The exceptional treatment, you first try with the worst scumbags, because there most people will support you. Later, by analogy and precedent, you proceed towards lesser scumbags, and then finally it becomes normal for ordinary people. At least this is how the story goes; I don't know if this is empirically true.

I also worry that by the coordinated removal of Trump, tech monopolies sent a strong signal to all politicians, that they are capable and willing to do it again, if necessary. (Kinda like by throwing the first nuke you send the "I have nukes and I am not afraid to use them" signal to the whole world, and no one is going to forget that ever again.) Will it have a chilling effect e.g. on politicians who were toying with the idea of applying the antitrust law to these companies? Would you as a politician pick a fight with someone who can remove you from the sight of your voters literally overnight? Until now, you could have reasoned "well, if platform X removed me, I would certainly tell my voters about that on platform Y, some of them would as a result move from X to Y, so it would not be in X's financial interest, yay free market and competition", but now you know that if such thing happened, it would be coordinated across platforms... and the few platforms who wouldn't join, would in turn find themselves in trouble. (And that's just the overt bans. What about coordinated shadowbans? Coordinated removal of positive mentions, and promoting of negative mentions on the front pages?) Influence is not just about what you do, but also about what the others don't do because they are afraid of what you might do in return.

I guess what I am trying to say is that from a larger perspective, I see this as a shift of power: away from elected politicians, towards colluding social media monopolies. People applaud, because the first nuke landed on Trump. Okay, cool. Who is next? And next? Who decides? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-15T23:17:46.988Z · LW · GW

"Decision algorithm" was here my metaphor for humans. Like a rulebook for human censors, who themselves are smart and educated, although not extremely.

In a hypothetical situation where a government would officially appoint censors, or if the social networks would decide to optimize for something other than low costs. In a hypothetical situation, where this would be relatively high-status job... I mean, you'd have the power to shape the public discourse, and that is no small thing; give it a decent salary and many university-educated people would compete for it. But you wouldn't hire the smartest ones, because they have a better use of their skills; you wouldn't want to hire people with contrarian ideas; and to censor the overwhelming amounts of text online, you would need to hire lot of people, so you couldn't afford to be too picky even if your budget was unlimited.

The average censor, if such job existed today, would realistically be some bored bureaucrat, who doesn't give a fuck about ideas, and just applies rules mechanically, trying to cover his ass. But an idealized censor would be a smart and educated person, passionately opposing pseudoscience... kinda like I imagine the people who write on RationalWiki, except maybe less politically mindkilled. And with a button that would allow them to delete content anywhere online. And I wondered what would happen as a consequence.

Comment by viliam on RationalWiki on face masks · 2021-01-15T22:53:09.590Z · LW · GW

I agree both with you and jimrandomh. I originally started writing this as a shortform, but then I got carried away and it became too long for shortform, so I posted it as an article. I agree that this doesn't belong to the frontpage, and perhaps to LW in general, regardless of how much karma it may get (although the karma of course makes me happy, as a reflection of the fact that my text made someone else happy).

The outgroup in my opinion completely deserves the sneer, for reasons explained in Matthew 26:52. LW is not the right place to put it. I don't have a personal blog currently, and this seemed worth writing somewhere. Apologies to everyone who feels bad about it; I will not do this often.

Comment by viliam on Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform · 2021-01-15T22:19:58.066Z · LW · GW

I was a team leader twice. The first time it happened by accident. There was a team leader, three developers (me one of them), and a small project was specified. On the first day, something very urgent happened (I don't remember what), the supposed leader was re-assigned to something else, and we three were left without supervision for unspecified time period. Being the oldest and most experienced person in the room, I took initiative and asked: "so, guys, as I see it, we use an existing database, so what needs to be done is: back-end code, front-end code, and some stylesheets; anyone has a preference which part he would like to do?" And luckily, each of us wanted to do a different part. So the work was split, we agreed on mutual interfaces, and everyone did his part. It was nice and relaxed environment: everyone working alone at their own speed, debating work only as needed, and having some friendly work-unrelated chat during breaks.

In three months we had the project completed; everyone was surprised. The company management assumed that we will only "warm up" during those three months, and when the original leader returns, he will lead us to the glorious results. (In a parallel Everett branch, where he returned shortly before we finished the product, I wonder whether he got a bonus and promotion.) Then everything returned to normal: more micromanagement, lower productivity, people burned out.

The second time, we were a small group working together for some time already. Then our manager quit. No one knew who would get the role next, and in an attempt to deflect a possible danger, I volunteered to do it on top of my usual work. What happened was that everyone worked exactly the same as they did before, only without the interruptions and extra stress caused by management, and I got some extra paperwork which I gradually reduced to minimum. The work progressed so well -- no problems, no complaints from users, the few tickets we got almost always turned out to be a problem outside our project -- that higher management concluded that there is apparently too litle work to do on our project, so the team members were assigned to also work on extra projects in parallel.

Perhaps my short experience is not representative, but it suggests that a manager, merely by not existing, could already create a top-decile work environment in terms of both work satisfaction and productivity. The recommended mantra to recite every day is: "first, do no harm". My experience also suggests that this approach will ultimately get punished, despite the increased productivity: the expected outcome is more work for no pay raise until you break, or just being told to return to the old ways without any explanation why. I assume I am missing some crucial maze-navigating skills; for someone trying to be a professional manager this would be fatal; luckily I do not have this ambition.

It is quite possible that this approach only works when there is a good team: in both cases I worked with people who were nice above average. If you had a dominant asshole in the team, this could easily become a disaster: the power vacuum left by a passive manager would simply be replaced by an ambitious alpha male, who would probably soon be promoted into the role of formal leader. So perhaps the companies play it safe by using a widely applicable strategy that happens to be inferior in the case of good employees who also happen to be good people; quite likely this is because the companies simply cannot recognize such people.

Is there a leadership level beyond this? Sure, but in my quarter century of career I have only met such manager once. What he did was basically meeting each of his people once a day in the morning (this was long before I heard about "daily standups" and such) and talking with him for 5 or 10 minutes; with each team member separately, in the manager's room. He asked the usual questions "what did you do yesterday?", "what is your plan for today?", "are there any obstacles to your work?", but there was zero judgment, even if you said things like "yesterday I had a really bad day, I tried some things but at the end it was wrong and I had to throw it all away, so today I am starting from scratch again"; essentially he treated you like an adult person and assumed that whatever you did, there was a good reason for that. Before and after the report, a very short small talk; it helped that he was extremely intelligent and charismatic, so for many people this was the best part of the day. Also, the obstacles in work that you mentioned, he actually did something about them during the day, and always reported the outcome to you the next morning. Shortly, for the first and the last time so far in my career, I had a regular feeling that someone listens to me and cares about what I do (as opposed to just whipping me to run faster in order to meet arbitrary deadlines, randomly interrupting me for no good reason, second-guessing my expert opinion, etc.).

So yes, there is a level beyond "not doing harm" and it is called "actually motivating and helping", but I guess most managers dramatically overestimate their ability to do it... and when they try regardless, and ignore the feedback, they actively do harm.

Comment by viliam on Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform · 2021-01-14T23:50:44.078Z · LW · GW

I guess we agree that limited processing capacity means that interfering with the work of your underlings -- assuming they are competent and spending enough of their processing capacity on their tasks -- is probably a bad move. It means taking the decision away from the person who spends 8 hours a day thinking about the problem, and assigning it to a person who spent 30 seconds matching the situation to the nearest cliche, because that's all they had time for between the meetings.

This might work if the person is such a great expert that their 30 seconds are still extremely valuable. That certainly is possible; someone with lots of experience might immediately recognize a frequently-made mistake. It is also is the kind of assumption that Dunning and Kruger would enjoy researching.

I might be wrong and it works less and less the further up you go

That would make sense. When you are a lowest-level manager, if you stop interfering, it allows the people at the bottom to focus on their object-level tasks. But if you are a higher-level manager, how you interact with the managers below you does not have a direct impact on the people at the bottom. Maybe you manage your underlings less, and they copy your example and give more freedom to the people at the bottom... or maybe you just gave them more time to interfere.

So sometimes the smart move is to refuse promotion

So you have more time to scheme... but you have to stay low in the pyramid. Not sure what you scheme about then. (Trying to get to the top in one huge jump? Sounds unlikely.)

Comment by viliam on How Long Can People Usefully Work? · 2021-01-14T23:26:14.541Z · LW · GW

Yeah. How long I can work depends on how crappy the work is. This could also explain why CEOs and similar are happy to spend long hours at job... they probably have way more power over their working conditions than I do. Pretty sure they have a room where they can close the door for a moment.

Comment by viliam on Ways to be more agenty? · 2021-01-13T23:15:19.401Z · LW · GW

If there is only one thing you would reliably do, it probably makes sense to establish a regular time to reflect on things. Not sure what is the optimal amount. One hour a week? Maybe make it a walk in nature/park, with pen and paper, so that you are not tempted to cut it short or start doing something else. Don't use this time to force yourself to do anything. (Don't do anything that would make you hate this ritual.) Just think, observe, and dream.

Establish good habits. (This sounds like a contradiction: "habits" vs "agenty". The idea is that you are agenty about choosing and updating your habits, but you use the habits as the raw power to achieve the goals. For example, if the goal is writing a novel, the agenty thing is to establish the habits of regularly reading and writing, and reflecting on progress.) Regularity beats volume. If you can make yourself do one push-up consistently every morning, it is relatively simple to increase the amount later.

For inspiration, talk to other smart and agenty people. (May be difficult to find them. Perhaps I am prejudiced but I believe that "read/watch inspiring blogs/videos" is a wrong answer: famous bloggers will optimize for making you an addicted reader and potential customer, not for making you more agenty. Look for a relationship where you talk with someone as a friend, not where someone is trying to sell you things.) This gives you inspiration and peer pressure. Overcome your ego: people who are ahead of you are the best to learn from, but it may make you feel like a loser. (Maybe too much ahead is not good, because they would be too difficult to copy.)

Perhaps try meditation; one of the first achievements is the ability to turn off unwanted distractive thoughts when they come. Then, whenever you face an unpleasant task, precommit to work on it seriously for five minutes, and use the skill to turn off distracting thoughts during that time period. (You may be surprised to find out that it is actually quite easy to continue doing the task when the five minutes are over. Yes! But don't push yourself. Precommit to the five minutes only; everything afterwards is optional.)

Read Don’t Shoot The Dog by Karen Pryor to get a "gears model" how conditioning works. (Sometimes things that work for some people don't work for others, but for me this was the best book on the topic, and it explained so many important things, including some common mistakes people make. If there is one book people would ever choose to read based on my recommendation, it is this one.)

Comment by viliam on Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform · 2021-01-13T20:26:35.833Z · LW · GW

Most people are naturally pro-social. (No, this can't be applied to AI.) Given a task, they will try to do it well, especially if they feel like their results are noticed and appreciated.

A cynical hypothesis is that most of the things managers do are actively harmful to the project; they are interfering with the employees trying to do their work. The less the manager does, the better the chances of the project. "Delegation" is simply when manager stops actively hurting the project and allows others to do their best.

The reason for this is that most of the time, there is no actually useful work for the manager. The sane thing would be to simply sit down and relax, and wait for another opportunity for useful intervention to arise. Unfortunately, this is not an option, because doing this would most likely get the manager fired. Therefore managers create bullshit work for themselves. Unfortunately, by the nature of their work, this implies creating bullshit work for others. In addition to this, we have the corrupted human hardware, with some managers enjoying power trips and/or believing they know everything better than people below them in the hierarchy.

When you create a manager role in your company, it easily becomes a lost purpose after the original problems are solved but the manager wants to keep their job.

Comment by viliam on How to practice rationality? · 2021-01-13T19:26:47.166Z · LW · GW

I have no hard data to prove that my rational thinking is improving, so maybe it isn't. But here are the things I am trying recently:

Reduce the social media: I almost stopped reading Reddit, and there are days when I don't use Facebook. Now my major distraction is Hacker News, but I try to reduce that, too.

I downloaded and read a few textbooks, mostly on math. The idea is that if I am curious about something, e.g. set theory, it is more efficient to get the fundamentals right first, and only then proceed to more controversial parts. (Here, the rational thing is not the information I get from the textbook per se, but rather the habit to look at the textbook first.)

I tried to meditate again... but this was only a week or two ago, so no results to report yet. (The expected benefit is to be able to focus better and reduce distracting thoughts.)

Comment by viliam on Genius is (mostly) comparative · 2021-01-13T18:06:18.647Z · LW · GW

Hi Amir, I believe we have two different topics here. Comparative advantage in traditional sense only cares about what is good choice right now; it does not include the considerations of future growth in skills. It kinda says, if you are 3× worse at X but only 2× worse at Y, don't despair; you should produce Y and trade it for X, and this will be beneficial to both sides.

Actually, the considerations of future growth can be used as an argument against following the comparative advantage blindly. Like, maybe the reason why others are so much better at X than at Y is because "Y doesn't have a future". Perhaps practicing X improves your X skills significantly, but practicing Y doesn't improve your Y skills at all. (X = technology, when you do it, you invent new methods, build new machines, train your employees; Y = agriculture, doing the same thing over and over again; of course this is oversimplification.) In which case perhaps you should sacrifice the short-term gains from possible trade and keep doing X anyway, until you level up enough that X becomes your comparative advantage.

But the full analysis would be quite complicated here, because we would need to know the learning curves for X and Y, your optimal strategy would depend on what other players would do... and if we are assuming a dynamic world, who knows, tomorrow a new Z might enter the game and completely change the situation. (Like, if the reason for your disadvantage is simply lack of practice, e.g. you are younger than other players, it might make sense for you to immediately switch to the new Z where everyone starts from zero.)

I wish I had some simple personal example of "not using comparative advantage because of strategic considerations", but nothing specific comes to my mind right now.

Comment by viliam on How is reinforcement learning possible in non-sentient agents? · 2021-01-12T22:54:29.559Z · LW · GW

Seems to me that there must be more about pain and pleasure than mere -1 and +1 signals, because there are multiple methods how to make some behavior more or less likely. Pain and pleasure is one such option, habits are another option, unconscious biases yet another. Each of them make some behavior more likely and some other behavior less likely, but feel quite differently from inside. Compared to habits and unconscious biases, pain and pleasure have some extra quality because of how they are implemented in our bodies.

The simple RL agents, unless they have the specific circuits to feel pain and pleasure, are in my opinion more analogical to the habits or unconscious biases.

Comment by viliam on Thoughts on addiction? Disease? Rationally. · 2021-01-12T22:41:18.001Z · LW · GW

Is addiction a disease?

This is disputing definitions. The proper questions are how the addiction works, and what are its impacts on your life. Those are the important things. Whether than fits under textbook definition of disease, who cares? (Well, the healthcare establishment may care, and you may care indirectly, if it e.g. allows you to apply for disability benefits, etc.)

Or does it effect rationalism?

Does it help you think more clearly? Does it help you achieve your goals?

Comment by viliam on Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform · 2021-01-12T22:34:38.104Z · LW · GW

Obviously the unions hated it and it was later outlawed.

I wonder how could one outlaw a thing like this. Suppose that most managers believe that Taylorism works, but it is illegal to use it (under that name). Wouldn't they simply reintroduce the practices, step by step, under a different name? I mean, if you use a different name, different keywords, different rationalization, and introduce it in small steps, it's no longer the same thing, right? It just becomes "industry standards". (If there happens to be an exact definition, of course, this only becomes an exercise how close to the forbidden thing you can legally get.)

From the Wikipedia article, I got the impression that what was made illegal was the use of stop-watch. Okay, so instead of measuring how many seconds you need to make a widget, I am going to measure how many widgets you make each day -- that is legal, right? The main difference is that you can take a break, assuming it will allow you to work faster afterwards. Which may be quite an important difference. It this what it is about?

Comment by viliam on Embarrassment and Instinct · 2021-01-09T22:25:46.384Z · LW · GW

Our instincts are amazingly suited to a neolithic world, but in the 21st century, we should try to adapt to a world with strangers.

Finding out the right balance for the 21st century can be tricky. Like, you may gradually overcome your social insticts and keep reaping rewards for some time... and then once you make a blunder in front of a wrong person who will then ruin your life (maybe for a completely stupid reason, but perhaps the fact that sometimes people ruin your life for a stupid reason did contribute to the existence of the social instinct).

I don't have a good answer here. Instincts are outdated. Personal experience misses the black swans... until it doesn't but then it is too late.

Comment by viliam on Open & Welcome Thread - January 2021 · 2021-01-09T22:17:19.891Z · LW · GW

atheists/rationalists/skeptics/evolutionists cannot trust even their own reason

Well, I don't. But at the end of the day, some choices need to be made, and following my own reason seems better than... well, what is the alternative here... following someone else's reason, which is just as untrustworthy.

Figuring out the truth for myself, and convincing other people are two different tasks. In general, truth should be communicable (believing something for mysterious inexplicable reasons is suspicious); the problem is rather that the other people cannot be trusted to be in a figuring-out-the-truth mode (and can be in defending-my-tribe or trying-to-score-cheap-debate-points mode instead).

Comment by viliam on Review: The Gioconda Smile · 2021-01-09T22:06:09.375Z · LW · GW

Haven't read the story, but your description makes me think the moral is: "the greatest risk for a psychopath is to meet another psychopath".

And why people like it? I guess reading about successful psychopaths is kinda exciting (makes us imagine that we might achieve great success if only we could get rid of some our fears), on the other hand the protagonist gets punished at the end which prevents an outrage that would have happened otherwise, but the punishment is delivered by another psychopath so it doesn't ruin the atmosphere of the story.

Comment by viliam on What the rational decision process for deciding for or against cryonics when there's a possibility the future might be "bad"? · 2021-01-09T21:58:07.078Z · LW · GW

It is difficult to reason about things that never happened before. What is the right reference class here? My first idea was to say "imagine you live 100 or 1000 years ago, and you get a magical pill that teleports you into today, should you take it, if the alternative is to die?" Seems like taking it shouldn't make things worse, and has a chance to make them much better. But this is because the world is still ruled by humans, and because you still have a chance to die should you choose so.

Speaking for myself, I don't believe in Roko's basilisk (but I don't wish to debate it now why), and I believe that most futures with "evil AI" will end up with humans dead, not kept alive and tortured. So it seems to me that, conditional on being revived, most futures will be good. Now, whether "most" is enough to balance the other option, that is more difficult, but... well, I guess my curiosity about the possible good future makes me think it is.

Comment by viliam on Don't Use Your Favorite Weapon · 2021-01-07T21:57:34.639Z · LW · GW

I think that even with sympathy and trying, you are at risk of constructing an argument that has parts that are good-for-you, not good-for-your-audience, simply because your model of them is not perfect and you don't have practice making arguments from their perspective. (Of course, unless you actually do have practice making such arguments; but I guess most people don't.)

This is related to a problem with steelmanning -- if "steelmanning" means providing the strongest support for your opponent's perspective, does it mean "strongest" from your perspective, or "strongest" from their perspective? (When a liberal makes a steelman of a conservative policy proposal, should they use the best possible liberal arguments in favor of the policy, or best possible conservative arguments?) In my opinion, it should be strongest from your perspective, because the entire purpose of the exercise is for you to find the value in your opponent's arguments. But this implies that your opponent will probably not be happy with the steelman of their position, because from their perspective, it defends the right thing for the wrong reason.

Comment by viliam on A Healthy News Diet · 2021-01-07T13:37:03.002Z · LW · GW

Maybe it would be also useful to use two web browsers, or two different profiles of the same browser, one for "serious work" (e.g. online banking) and one for "distractions" (e.g. social networks), with blockers set up to prevent misuse. Two different sets of bookmarks, different autocomplete answers, etc. This would make transition from work to wasting time less convenient.

The autocomplete mechanism is like offering someone a drink just when they try to stop drinking.

Comment by viliam on I object (in theory) · 2021-01-06T19:40:27.684Z · LW · GW

idealized versions of socialism and capitalism

And how you construct those models has a huge impact on lesson learned.

My objection is not just that you learn too few things about socialism -- everyone gets the same amount of resources, and it is incredibly boring -- but also that both of them are wrong. It's like telling kids "everything is relative" and pretending you just gave them an ELI5 version of Theory of Relativity.

(My ELI5 version would be something like "in capitalism everything is sold for money so rich people make the big decisions; in socialism it is arbitrarily assigned by people who have the political power".)

Comment by viliam on How would you govern Mars? · 2021-01-03T18:35:53.605Z · LW · GW

Possible objection is that this incentivizes people with power to hide from places you officially define as "people with power". Instead of becoming politicians, they will have their puppets elected as politicians... and the puppets will have to use mass transit and send their kids to state schools... and presumably get a reward that makes it worth all this suffering.

Counter-objection: this still adds another complication for the secret rulers, which may decrease their relative power compered to the non-secret rulers. That is probably good.

Another objection is that if the system works relatively okay, this motivates the rulers to keep it okay. But what if the system is broken in such way that fixing it would take a decade or more? For example, by the time you fix public education, it will be too late for your kids. Then the system would simply disincentivize people who care about their own kids (which doesn't necessarily imply they care about other kids).

Comment by viliam on I object (in theory) · 2021-01-03T15:51:10.153Z · LW · GW

Yeah, if a model of X seems better than a model of Y, it could be a fact about X and Y, or about how the models were constructed.

Missing from the model of capitalism: people start with wildly different amounts of candies, everyone who ends up with less than N candies gets spanked by teacher at the end of class (to simulate starving and being homeless), most people start with less than N candies so their participation in the games is kinda mandatory while for others it is optional, the rules of "rock paper scissors" are also negotiated and can be made asymmetric so people with less pressure to participate in games can use it as a leverage to get better deals...

(More precisely we would need different types of resources, at minimum two representing time and money; everyone starts with lot of time, but different amount of money; money can be traded freely but time can only be converted to money as a part of trade.)

Missing from the model of socialism: party members actually have more candies than others but anyone who mentions it gets all their candies confiscated and gets spanked; no one gets spanked because of lack of candies but the total amount of candies in socialist camp is much lower than in the capitalist camp and they also taste worse; when the teacher asks which variant is preferable those who are in the socialist camp and say they prefer capitalism also get spanked and their candies are confiscated...

Comment by viliam on Debate Minus Factored Cognition · 2021-01-02T20:45:30.728Z · LW · GW

Does it change anything if there is a chain of arguments increasing in length?

A: Spends 10 minutes explaining why we should do X.

B: Spends 20 minutes explaining why A is wrong and we should do Y instead.

A: Spends 40 minutes explaining why the objection is wrong and we should actually do X.

B: Spends 80 minutes...

I could imagine this to be possible e.g. if the arguments take form of "in most cases, the argument of my opponent is correct, but there is a specific situation where the argument doesn't apply because...", that is, opponents describing in turn increasingly complex scenarios, explaining why they are the exception from the more general rule. And at each step, the explanation sounds convincing... and it also includes the reason why the previous explanations that reached the opposite conclusion sounded convincing but was wrong regardless...

Comment by viliam on Chain Breaking · 2021-01-02T19:50:35.061Z · LW · GW

My solution for meetings is that every morning I set up alarms on my smartphone for all metings during that day, 10 minutes before the meeting. Smartphone allows any number of alarms. I check my calendar for today's meetings right before the morning daily meeting (which I have a repeating alarm set up for).

Comment by viliam on Vaccination with the EMH · 2021-01-02T19:29:35.864Z · LW · GW

Is this author suggesting that it's much easier to do one job than another and make the same money?

What if it is much easier for you, but not for most people? For example, if there is something you love but everyone else hates... would it make sense to accept a well-paid job that requires you to do it often?

This is almost like "follow your passion" but with the important detail that it has to be a rare passion.

Comment by viliam on mike_hawke's Shortform · 2021-01-02T19:05:42.336Z · LW · GW

I don't use Twitter, so I can't make a comparison, but how difficult it is to create your own bubble?

My guess would be that being okay with Facebook is related to how strong your bubble is. At least in my experience, I mostly get angry when I get a view outside my bubble. The insanity of average internet user (weighted by how much they write online) is terrifying.

Comment by viliam on Review: LessWrong Best of 2018 – Epistemology · 2021-01-02T18:44:06.184Z · LW · GW

I found this review of the SSC books on the Amazon website:

It's a site scrape that doesn't have the pictures. Without the graphs that accompanied the texts, a lot of the points Scott made don't make sense.

Would you agree with it?

Comment by viliam on Uninformed Elevation of Trust · 2021-01-02T17:30:32.347Z · LW · GW

I'm confused... is this supposed to be an ironic demonstration of Gell-Mann amnesia, or...?

Comment by viliam on Infinite possibilities · 2021-01-02T17:13:39.980Z · LW · GW

Thanks, this is a thing I was confused about, and now it seems so obvious in hindsight!

Yes, there are hundred brilliant ways how I could spend my day; so much better than my current habits. But they are hidden among the billion possible ways to spend my day, and most of them are not better than what I have now. (Further complicated by the fact that some things require many days of doing the right thing before the awesome effects manifest.)

If you keep introducing random changes in your life, you increase the chance you may randomly find one of those treasures (see The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman). But that's not the same as deciding "I am going to choose a better option right now".

Comment by viliam on Dissolving the Problem of Induction · 2021-01-01T23:38:36.142Z · LW · GW

Comment promoted to frontpage.

.

Just kidding, but the compression ratio in this comment was awesome.

Comment by viliam on AGI Alignment Should Solve Corporate Alignment · 2021-01-01T23:24:13.126Z · LW · GW

Company structures contain existing research on misaligned subagents. It's probably worth doing a literature review to see if some of those structures have insights that can be translated.

"Principal-agent problem" seems like a relevant keyword.

Also, how does nature solve this problem? How are genes aligned with the cell as a whole, cells with the multicellular organism, ants with the anthill?

Though I suspect that most (all?) solutions would be ethically and legally unacceptable for humans. They would translate as "if the company fails, all employees are executed" and similar.

Comment by viliam on Asking For Help · 2021-01-01T23:08:40.547Z · LW · GW

I feel afraid that my request or question will seem dumb or obvious, or that it’s a waste of their time.

1)

Do you deep inside believe that only stupid people ever ask for help? Wrong! No one knows everything. Even within their area of expertise, almost no one is best. And even the people who are literally the best can benefit from someone sharing their burden.

Asking for help is sometimes actually the smart move.

2)

There is a chance that, ironically, worrying too much about not wasting someone's time or not appearing stupid, may actually make you waste more of their time. For example, if you work with someone on the same project, and you are unsure about something, it is better to ask for their help sooner rather than later, because if you indeed were wrong, now you have wasted more of the total person-time allocated to the project.

Even the disclaimers like "hey, I don't want to waste your time, and it's totally okay if you send me away, don't worry I won't get offended, I completely understand that your time is precious" can be a waste of the other person's time. Maybe answering your question would actually take less time than listening to the disclaimer. I am not advising competely against using the disclaimers, just to keep them simple and short.

Comment by viliam on The Perversity of High Standards · 2021-01-01T22:44:14.883Z · LW · GW

There is still difference between "X can lie convincingly" and "X lies completely transparently, but his voters don't care". With the former, you can try to convince his voters that he lied about something important. With the latter... you would just waste your time, they obviously don't care.

It seems to me the latter are worse, but I cannot explain exactly why. Perhaps some intuition like "if voters forgive lies so easily, they would probably forgive other things, too". Or maybe a feeling "if people are trying, all hope is not lost yet" (here "people" refers to the voters, not the politicians).

EDIT: Reading what I wrote here, I guess it's not about openly lying politicians being necessarily worse, but rather about this being an evidence that there is something seriously wrong with the voter base, which is even more dangerous in long term.

There is of course a possibility that most voters do not genuinely approve of X being a liar, but still for some reason consider him a lesser evil compared to Y. Still makes me worry, because those voters may fix their cognitive dissonance in a way that will cause harm later.

Comment by viliam on Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness” · 2021-01-01T22:19:06.291Z · LW · GW

So much to think about. I will only comment on two details:

Seligman believes everyone has certain strengths already (“signature strengths”), and you should concentrate on using those strengths as much as possible rather than on trying to improve your weaknesses:

“I do not believe that you should devote overly much effort to correcting your weaknesses. Rather, I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths.”

(For the record, I disagree.)

Seems to me that some traits are "optional", like playing a piano. If you have a weakness in an optional area, just ignore it. The time and energy to get from "zero" to "mediocre" is better spent somewhere else.

Some traits are "necessary", like healthy living, or communicating with people. A big weakness here is almost certainly going to hurt you. You should spend time and energy to get from "zero" to "mediocre", but maybe you can then stop there, because of the diminishing returns.

This was the perspective of weakness. From the perspective of strength, it depends on whether your skills are "alternatives" or "synergies". For alternatives, focus on the strongest. If you could be a great software developer or a great piano player, choose one, because you get better paid for having one "great" skill than two "nice" skills that you can't use simultaneously. For synergies -- if you are a math teacher, you could work on your math skills or on your teaching skills -- do whatever gives you better marginal total improvement, probably both of them in long term.

(It is debatable what exactly is an alternative and what is synergy. Perhaps you could become a YouTube celebrity by playing piano music about software development. But if you are not using your skills as synergy, for all practical purposes they are not.)

Important note: strengths are not opposites of weaknesses. For example, being physically too weak is bad and you should fix it, but being too bad at playing piano is a thing you can safely ignore. On the other end of the scale, being a bodybuilder and being a great piano player are two alternatives, neither of them inherently better than the other one.

As a toy math model, imagine that your traits are numbers from -100 to +100, and each trait at value x gives you x^3 utility points. If you get an opportunity to give +1 to one of your traits, obviously you choose the largest negative one over smaller negative ones, and the largest positive one over smaller positive ones. If this happens repeatedly with the negative numbers, you will keep improving the worst ones, putting them into greater balance. If this happens repeatedly with the positive numbers, you will keep improving the best one, making greater imbalance. In this model, skills like "communication" have a range between -100 and +100, but skills like piano playing have a range between 0 and +100.

But you also need to consider not just your hypothetical optimal character build, but also what is psychologically sustainable. Maybe spending 24 hours a day fixing your mistakes sounds good, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ended quite bad, simply because you would spend all your time focusing on how bad you are. You should spend enough time developing your existing strengths, just to remind yourself that you have them.

...oops, this got much longer than I originally intended...

Also, freely expressing our emotions (so as to avoid the damage of Freudian “repression”) rather than trying to exert control over them is overrated and perhaps counterproductive.

If "freely expressing emotions" means something like "whenever you get angry, start screaming", I believe that in psychoanalysis this is used as an intermediate stage, like an improvement over "sitting silently and cutting your arms", or as a debugging tool during the session, not as a desirable way of life.

Comment by viliam on An open Christmas card to my stepfather · 2021-01-01T19:29:29.764Z · LW · GW

Upvoted for the tomato sorting machine.

Comment by viliam on AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform · 2021-01-01T19:19:31.650Z · LW · GW

This reminds me of the "babble and prune" concept. We should allow... maybe not literally the "babble" stage, but something in between, when the idea is already half-shaped but not completed.

I think the obvious concern is that all kinds of crackpottery may try to enter this open door, so what would be the balance mechanism? Should authors specify their level of certainty and be treated accordingly? (Maybe choose one of predefined levels from "just thinking aloud" to "nitpicking welcome".) In a perfect world, certainty could be deduced from the tone of the article, but this does not work reliably. Something else...?

Comment by viliam on Matthew Lowenstein's Shortform · 2021-01-01T18:34:26.467Z · LW · GW

Didn't read the study, but my first thought is whether this is correlation or causation. Perhaps celiacs eat few carbs and live shorter?

This is a general pattern for studies about health: if they say action X correlates with health problem Y, is it possible that the problem causes the action, rather than vice versa? Like, maybe a little alcohol is good for your health; but maybe it's not, only people who are "very sick, and therefore drink zero alcohol" drive down the statistics for teetotalers. Or, maybe too much sleep also hurts your health; but maybe there is a group of people suffering from some disease that makes them very tired or makes their sleep less refreshing, who drive down the statistics for people who sleep too long. (Even scarier hypothesis: maybe people who have a job are sleep-deprived as a rule, so getting enough sleep correlates with unemployment which correlates with disability, which makes enough sleep correlate with bad health. Like, if the research says 7 or 8 hours of sleep are optimal, as proved by correlations, maybe the optimal value is actually 9 hours but only the unemployed people can afford to sleep so long.)

Comment by viliam on Open Christmas card to my father · 2021-01-01T16:39:37.439Z · LW · GW

AI can also generate coherent completions of photographs

I'd like to see this applied to those photos where Stalin removed his political opponents. Like, remove the person, and then make AI complete the picture, whether the result is better or worse than what humans did.

Comment by viliam on Would a more deadly virus have induced greater compliance with US lockdown restrictions? · 2021-01-01T16:28:38.781Z · LW · GW

There is the perverse relation that sooner lockdowns are more effective but less politically defensible. It can even backfire -- the good outcome of Slovakia in first wave was ironically used as "evidence" by people saying that covid is harmless or completely made up.

Good data is hard to get. First, too many things happen at the same time, it is hard to separate their effects. For example, I find it quite likely that closing schools makes a huge difference. It is one of those things Slovakia did immediately in spring, and refused to do in autumn -- but as they say, correlation is not causation; and you can't make people do controlled experiments. We used to believe at the beginning that kids are immune to covid. Now it seems more like they are asymptomatic but spread the virus... although not enough good data here either. If that is true, then lockdowns while schools are open (and school attendance is mandatory) are completely insane.

Second, people are busy. Like, in spring in Slovakia we pretty much knew who got infected by whom; and when a person died, it was possible to have a wide debate whether a person who had X and Y and covid should actually be counted as "killed by covid" or something else. Now, the hospitals are unable to take care of all the sick people, so no one bothers doing autopsies. Which leads to all kinds of complaints about methodology of calculating actual covid deaths. Okay, but...

...there is something wrong about the chain "too many dead to count properly" -> "dead not counted properly" -> "we do not have solid data" -> "so, maybe no one really died, or only few". Like, each step is defensible separately, but the entire chain definitely is not. Well, there are attempts to justify the entire chain, like attributing the excess deaths directly to lockdowns. Which doesn't quite explain why those people, presumably dying from poverty or depression, need so many ventilators. And the death toll of lockdowns is also ambivalent: more people dying from poverty and depression, but fewer by traffic accidents or flu. Another data point from Slovakia: during spring 2020, the total mortality was lower than during the same periods of previous years, i.e. the lockdowns were net life savers, at least in short term.

We do have an oximeter at home, still unpacked. I hope it stays that way.

Comment by viliam on How to practice rationality? · 2020-12-31T22:50:16.680Z · LW · GW

As a data point, and also to fight selection bias, I don't do any rationality exercises. (Maybe I should.)

Comment by viliam on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-12-31T22:27:36.519Z · LW · GW

To me it seems that change is difficult and frustratingly slow, but possible. Over time, slow changes accumulate.

The traits that don't change, do they still have the same intensity? I have some bad traits that used to be worse in the past.

Your behavior is a function of your traits and your environment. Even if the traits are (at least in short term) fixed, perhaps you could change something about your environment? If you forget things, take notes, or set up dozen alarms in your smartphone. Buy tools that encourage you to do the right thing, and put them in a visible place in your room. Also, people you meet regularly are like live reminders (of things they typically do or talk about). Sometimes just hanging out with different people has a big impact on how you behave.

For problems with food, have you tried Soylent? This outsources the questions of "how much?" and "what?".

Taking care of housework sounds like a good thing.

Comment by viliam on Would a more deadly virus have induced greater compliance with US lockdown restrictions? · 2020-12-31T21:55:45.821Z · LW · GW

If I understand your model of herd immunity correctly, it's like a binary split of population, where everyone in group A gets infected at the same time, and becomes healthy 14 days later, while group B spends 14 days (plus some safety margin) in shelters, so at the end both groups are healthy and the pandemic is over -- at least within the country.

I believe this is something that works as a mathematical model, but not in reality, because the differences between the map and territory are big enough to make it fall apart. Specifically, getting infected by covid is hard to do reliably. I don't remember the exact numbers, but when you had two people living in the same household and one of them got covid, there was a two-digit probability the other also got infected, and two-digit probability the other did not get infected. So in a zero-precaution situation (for group A), some people would get infected quickly, some in a month, some in two months... Also, it is possible to get infected by covid repeatedly -- I don't know what is the shortest interval, but there are many people who got infected both in spring and autumn 2020. Which means the group B would never be able to safely leave their shelters.

In Slovakia, covid in spring 2020 was managed very efficiently; best results in the entire Europe, if I remember correctly. We started in early March with face masks, when most experts (including most experts in Slovakia) were saying that masks don't work and we shouldn't buy them because doctors need them. Schools were closed, people were discouraged from using mass transit. When 0.017% of population got infected, we believed it was pretty bad ("oh my sweet summer child!"), and had one week of lockdown, which reduced the number of infections again. In June schools were opened again, for one month.

Result: only one week of lockdown, two months kids out of school, only 28 people died of covid. In my opinion, this is an experimental proof that impressive results can be achieved with relatively minor inconvenience -- as long as you do not hesitate and do the inconvenient thing quickly.

Then in autumn we fucked up everything, and got the same results as the rest of Europe. People returned from vacations abroad and immediately put their kids in schools, so since September the numbers started growing exponentially. Government ignored everything until end of October... then we got mandatory testing and lockdowns, but it was too late, 1% of population was infected, which made tracking logistically impossible, so by now we have about 2000 dead and lockdowns and the number of sick people keeps growing slowly.

I am posting these data to illustrate that I reject the dilemma "deaths or lockdown". If you do the smart thing, you can have minimum deaths and minimum lockdowns. If you do the stupid thing, you get lots of lockdowns and also lots of deaths.

Unfortunately, what stops us from doing the smart thing is... well, the people who fight hard against lockdowns in principle, including in situations where a short lockdown would be able to save the day. Because you can't make me and it's hopeless anyway and herd immunity and...

By the way,

In the context of covid a good measure is to buy one of those cheap pulse oximeters that clip on your finger. It takes five seconds to get a reading on O2 saturation that could be the difference between dying or not.

this information is only actionable if the hospitals still have some capacity left. Here, now, they don't.