LW Team Updates: Pandemic Edition (March 2020)

by Ruby 4 min read26th Mar 20201 comment

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TL; DR

The LessWrong team has been throwing our combined might behind coronavirus efforts. As I see it, coronavirus is both of a problem immense proportion that we might be able to help with as well as a domain well suited to the development and application of rationality + rationality tools

Our efforts include:

Full Update

2020 is turning out to be quite the year. I apologize that the LessWrong team hasn’t yet put out any updates so far: we’d lined up some great Q1 plans and then things got...messy.

The team’s attention is now fully focused on COVID-19. Habryka has some elaboration on why this is a top priority here.

Before I go any further, serious respect to the LessWrong community which has done a fantastic job addressing the coronavirus situation ahead of the curve. Really, the response has been very proportionate to the situation.

A Note on Additional Help

For the last several weeks, the LessWrong team has been contracting with Elizabeth to help lead coronavirus efforts, hence her name being attached to several of the below projects. Elizabeth has been a member of the extended LessWrong moderator team since possibly the rise of LW2.0 and may be recognized for her work on epistemic spotchecks and other research.

Current Projects

[This Sunday!! March 29] Online Events & Meetups

The LessWrong team is beginning to organise various online meetups and events. The plan is to experiment and explore which exact kinds of meetups can be made to work and with which tech.

The first event will be this Sunday, March 29: a live-streamed debate between Robin Hanson and Zvi Mowshowitz followed by an online meetup.

The LessWrong Coronavirus Research Agenda

Elizabeth has laid out concrete open questions related to coronavirus here. LessWrong/Rationality is about believing true things and taking actions that cause the best outcomes. In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic is an excellent test of our rationality. It’s a murky, high-uncertainty domain with high stakes.

I’ve been excited by the leading work the LessWrong community has done to date, and am further excited by the prospect of us pulling together communally for further answer the many questions that remain.

Right now, the top 3 concrete questions are: 

You do not need a background in biology to help out. Basic quantitative skills are sufficient to provide useful information. Ben Pace has further guidance in his How To Contribute Guide.

On March 13th, The team launched a daily-updating database of links to coronavirus resources. Links are collected, sorted by topic, rated, and summarized. Top level categories include “Progression & Outcome”, “Spread & Prevention”, “Science”, “DIY”, and so on.

The goals is to make it easy to find important information, for examples, answers to questions like:

  • "What's the best dashboard to follow global case counts?"
  • "What's the best link to send to my parents?"
  • "How long does COVID-19 last on different material surfaces?"
  • "Where can I find that really good thread by Rob Wiblin I read last week?"

The link database was originally implemented as a Google Sheet but has just been migrated to live in the LessWrong site proper.

See the database here

Contribute links here

Appearance of the New LessWrong Coronavirus Links Database: Intro Page
LessWrong Coronavirus Links Database: Science Page

 

Daily Links Updates

In conjunction with the links database, the team has been posting a daily-updates post containing notable links which were added in the last day. For example:

Tagging/Filtering

The LessWrong team has been talking about “tagging” as a feature for a long-time now and head a prototype build as of last December. The coronavirus situation gives us extra reason to roll it out now: some people might wish to filter out the deluge of coronavirus related content and view posts on other topics. To this end, we’ve rolled out a limited version of tagging with just the “Coronavirus” tag.

Raemon describes the feature fully in this post here. The key thing to know is you click the gear next to Latest Posts to open up filtering options.

Appearance of tag filtering options upon clicking Filtering Gear Icon.
  • Hidden: no posts with this tag will be displayed
  • Required: only posts with this tag will be displayed
  • Default: posts with this tag will be displayed normally based on karma and time since posting.

Naturally, if you're after everything we've got on coronavirus, visit the coronavirus tag page at www.lesswrong.com/tag/coronavirus.

Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Thread (& Summary)

The team noticed early on that a lot of coronavirus advice was being shared, often without much explanation for why it was good advice. Thus was the Justified Practical Advice (JPA) Thread born. The thread is long, contains many interesting and hopefully useful ideas, but can also take a while to read. So we’ve also got the Justified Practical Advice Thread Summary which contains the best advice from the thread.

Coronavirus Open Thread

If you have something to say on coronavirus that’s not worth a top-level post, please share in the Coronavirus Open Thread.

House Coordination Spreadsheet & Isolation Levels

Raemon with the assistance of others put a great deal of effort into developing a spreadsheet template for houses within a community to coordinate on their health and quarantine status.

Coronavirus Household Isolation Coordination 1.2

The spreadsheet can be an excuse to think about isolation plans, discuss them with roommates, and create common knowledge of them. Subgoals include:

  • establishing guidelines for level-of-isolation (see second tab)
  • help with contract tracing
  • facilitate roommate swapping between higher-caution and lower-caution households
  • facilitate creation of multi-house cells that share an isolation level (where permitted by local quarantine laws, e.g. not California)

I find the second tab with “isolation levels” useful for thinking about exposure, risk, and various precautions.

Direct Research

Jim, Elizabeth, and others have been putting out some great direct research. Notable contributions include:

Upcoming Projects

I expect the team will want to remain agile in coming weeks and move our efforts to wherever seems most useful. Given that, I think it’s hard to commit specifically to what we’ll work on.

A project I’d like to work on if possible is moving us towards some kind of Wiki tech. I could see that being useful for establishing a Schelling location for the most up-to-date knowledge of given questions of interest, e.g. treatments for global spreading infection diseases.

How To Contribute

Ben Pace has written a guide on how to contribute to LessWrong’s coronavirus efforts. It so far details how to contribute to the Links Database and Research Agenda.

Feedback, Support, Questions, Etc.

We love to hear from people. If you want to talk to us about anything, please reach out:

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