What information about the virus' nature and spread would cause you to believe it's too risky to continue holding workshops?

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Feb 25, 2020


The CDC is currently warning that pandemic COVID-19 in the U.S. is likely and are currently moving their focus from prevention to mitigation. Specifically, the CDC has said that while they are “continuing to hope that we won't see [community] spread, ” the current goal is “that our measures give us extra time to prepare." Once spread within the US is confirmed, the CDC has noted that mitigation measures will likely include “social distancing, school closures, canceling mass gatherings, [...] telemedicine, teleschooling, [and] teleworking.” As CFAR workshops certainly seem like they fall into the “mass gatherings” category, the current guidance from the CDC seems to imply that they should be canceled once U.S. spread is confirmed and mitigation measures such as social distancing and school closures start to be announced.

2Adam Scholl4y
I think the bodies probably do need to be in the same room for CFAR workshops to work, unfortunately.


Feb 25, 2020


COVID-19 provides a very interesting case for applied rationality. Most people don't reason about it in a way that leads to effective action. It's a good topic for teachable moments.

In a case where there's higher risk from COVID-19 CFAR workshops could start by teaching participants proper hand-washing technique and drill best practice to lower infections into all participants.

Timothy Underwood

Feb 27, 2020


I think the thing is that shutting down all social gatherings requires coordination to work. If there are no large groups, COVID-19 can't spread, dies, and you never have a pandemic. But if everyone else is meeting, and you don't, you'll just end up getting it from your wife, or a co-worker, or your neighbors or something. So you might as well hold the meeting if everyone else is going to be meeting.

What is unclear to me right now, and something I'm thinking about is whether countries and regions that don't yet have internal spread should be shutting everything down to protect themselves, and I think the answer might be roughly the same -- it might be worth it if everyone did it, but if the virus is going to survive somewhere no matter what you do, you might as well wait to shut down social events for your city and region until you actually need to, since you really, really don't want to be in lock down longer than you absolutely need to.


Feb 25, 2020


Summary: I see very little danger for now, particularly in this group. If basic hygiene stops working I'll be more worried.

I weep for the group of aspiring rationalists who can't even be bothered to wash their damn hands. By all accounts, that's the easiest way to severely limit the spread of COVID-19. Fatality seems to go up with the age of the patient, and if the 2020 SSC survey is any indication, the average age of this group is in the low 30s. Nearly all of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been in China (77.6k chinese cases / 80.2k global cases = 97%) [Johns Hopkins data and visualizations], so maybe we shouldn't have CFAR workshops there.

(edited for formatting and clarity)

Acknowledged and agreed (with the addendum that COVID-19 isn't actually killing children at elevated rates, but that's really weird). The fact remains that the first unaccounted for case in the US was only just found yesterday. Around here, all of us with access to soap and water and reasonable healthcare are currently in next to no danger. The going strategy is to keep good hygiene, especially good hand hygiene, and review emergency procedures. What I'm seeing is the start of a panic, and that is entirely uncalled for. It may be only a matter of time before we reach dangerous levels of infection in the US, but we aren't there yet. BTW, thank you for being the only person so far to comment instead of just downvoting without adding to the discussion. Much appreciated!
The current status isn't the only things that's relevant when planning workshops of the CFAR style that need to be announced and planned months before they begin.
Fair point. I guess it depends on how hard it is to cancel a complex event on (relatively) short notice if things should take a bad turn between planning and execution.
3Stuart Anderson4y