adamzerner's Comments

March Coronavirus Open Thread

Is it possible that there are different viruses we're dealing with here? It just doesn't make sense to me that we're seeing such varying death rates, eg. Italy vs South Korea. The difference in medical quality doesn't seem like it can explain it.

How does one run an organization remotely, effectively?

I haven't been able to personally try or validate much from the book. It's more that the things in the book make a lot of sense to me, and that I have a good amount of trust in the authors.

That said, there are some things that I do have personal experience with and can contribute my data point. I just started an actual remote job three weeks ago, and before that I've spent years as a solo founder of a startup, and autodidacting.

  • The biggest thing (by far?) I've encountered is that it's important to have an off switch. Working from home, it can be tempting to check in and do a few tasks at 10pm. But when I do that, it makes it hard for my mind to properly "shut off" and relax.
  • I've found cabin fever to be a minor issue when I stay home too much, but never a major one.
  • I don't feel like I can get away with slacking off at home. I feel like I'm ultimately just being judged on my output, the same as it is in a physical job. At the end of the day if my output isn't there, I feel like my job would be at risk.
  • At the job I'm currently at we do something called donuts where every two weeks we're paired with someone on the team to have a video chat with to get to know each other, and where talking about work is off-limits. The donut call I had made me feel closer to the people on the call, but I've also started to feel closer with the people I've been interacting with in general. And it's not clear to me that feeling closer to people translates to more productivity at all.
  • Some people on my team aren't native english speakers and have trouble with writing, but despite that, I don't think it actually is much of a barrier. It involves a little bit more back and forth, but soon enough the signal comes through. This goes against one of the chapters in Remote. Perhaps being a clear thinker is what is important versus being a clear writer.
Is the Covid-19 crisis a good time for x-risk outreach?

Yes, exactly. Thank you for clarifying. I just read my original comment again and I think I didn't make it very clear.

Is the Covid-19 crisis a good time for x-risk outreach?
What? Why? How do you decide which professionals to trust?

I was telling my friends and family to prep for the coronavirus very early on. At the time the main response was, "ok, chill, don't panic, we'll see what happens". Now that things have gotten crazy they think it's impressive that I saw this coming ahead of time. That's what my thinking was for point #3: perhaps this sort of response is common. At least amongst some non-trivial percentage of the population.

If you think your audience just isn't smart enough to evaluate arguments, then, gee, I don't know, maybe using a moment of particular receptiveness to plant a seed to get them to open their wallets to the right professionals later is the best you can do? That's a scary possibility; I would feel much safer about a fate of a world that knew how to systematically teach methods of thinking that get the right answer, rather than having to gamble on the people who know how to think about objective risks also being able to win a marketing war.

I very much agree, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that we live in a world where we can't rely on people to evaluate the arguments. And we have to act based on the world that we do live in, even if that world is a sad and frustrating one.

Assorted thoughts on the coronavirus
First, no one is choosing the virus so not a great comparison.

Yeah, that's true. When someone eats fast food every day and dies of a heart attack it's not quite as sad as when someone more innocent gets hit by a car.

Assorted thoughts on the coronavirus
But I view this as more of a mental skill that is built-up rather than something that people start doing immediately when thrust into lower-standad-of-living situations.

That's a great point. I got caught up thinking about how (I think) people should respond as opposed to thinking about how it'll actually play out in practice. That moves me a few more steps towards thinking that it is more harmful.

Is the coronavirus the most important thing to be focusing on right now?
The fourth argument is just relevance to all of our wellbeing.

My intuition is that from here on out it's going to be hard to find steps we can take that will have even a moderate impact on our wellbeing.

1) We know that we need to avoid contact with others, so I assume we'll all being staying home. Given that we're at home isolated from others, is there much left to do? Things that go beyond common sense and standard advice, like opening packages outside and disinfecting them?

2) Eventually we'll face the question of when it is safe to end the quarantine. A conservative answer to that question is probably going to be "a few months after everyone else does". Maybe by studying it we'll learn that it's safe to end quarantine after two months instead of three, but that doesn't seem like it's a particularly impactful use of time.

3) Sadly, we can probably expect some members of our community to be infected. Or at least the loved ones of some members of our community. So then, the question of how to deal with infection is inevitably going to present itself.

I feel torn about whether that will be the most important thing to focus on when it does. On the one hand, when you shut up and multiply, I'm pretty sure that xrisk is many, many times more important. On the other, I really care about people in this community. I've always felt torn about this question of how much extra moral weight to give to those who I care about.

Regardless, I feel pessimistic that there will be much room for us to offer useful advice here. The big question is probably going to be whether you'll be able to navigate through the swarms in the hospitals to get access to treatment, and it seems unlikely that we'll be able assist with that.

Fortunately our community tends to be on the young side, and we are probably all quarantined by now, so we'll at least be good in a relative sense.

Is the coronavirus the most important thing to be focusing on right now?
I think this made LessWrong a natural Schelling point of attention

Outsiders are paying attention to our coverage of the coronavirus? To a significant degree?

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