Correlation does imply some sort of causal link.

For guessing its direction, simple models help you think.

Controlled experiments, if they are well beyond the brink

Of .05 significance will make your unknowns shrink.

Replications prove there's something new under the sun.

Did one cause the other? Did the other cause the one?

Are they both controlled by something already begun?

Or was it their coincidence that caused it to be done?

Wiki Contributions


Covid Prediction Markets at Polymarket

That’s a good point. I think the right frame here is “activation energy” and “catalysis.”

Let’s say that for each uncertain question, the outcome is based on three factors at any given time. One is random chance. Another is potential energy - the most stable possible state. The third is activation energy - the energy input required to move from the current state to a more stable state.

Prediction-market-funded activism seems like it would just provide a catalytic input for change generally, lowering activation energy across the board.

So for the incentive effect to be net good, you’d sort of have to assume that on the whole, the long-run most stable states for social changes are best. You’d also assume that activation energy (incentives, coordination) is the main barrier to getting there from here.

So in the case of Paxlovid, if you assume that the “stable state” is getting it approved - since it’s so effective and necessary - then lowering the activation energy for activism seems likely ultimately to result in speeding its approval. Even if it got anti-Paxlovid activists motivates good, those activists would be pushing uphill.

This optimism is just a gut assumption that underpins my intuitions that prediction markets could be net good in situations like this. But that’s literally all it is at this point - a gut assumption.

Covid Prediction Markets at Polymarket

The Paxlovid prediction market seems to offer some sort of coordination mechanism for lobbying the FDA. Imagine a professional FDA lobbyist/activist who purchases shares in the FDA approving Paxlovid before the end of the year, and then goes on to launch an energetic lobbying campaign to convince them to do it. This is just a different (and, I think, positive) spin on the "assassination market" concept.

Instead, it's a sort of "activism market," a way to indirectly organize payment for public goods even more generally.

Step 1) Convince polymarket to set up a question relevant to the activist work you'd like to accomplish. Make sure there is a concrete benchmark for that activism. How many ships will be backed up at the Port of Long Beach on Jan. 31st, 2022? Will the FDA EUA/approve Paxlovid by Dec. 31, 2021?

Step 2) Buy lots of shares contingent on a positive outcome.

Step 3) Organize an activist campaign to bring about that outcome.

Step 4) Profit!

There are definitely threats and challenges posed by this technology, but I think the positives are exciting as well and worth dwelling on!

Frame Control

There are trade offs in everything! This is just a personal strategy that works for me. Fortunately, social interactions of this kind are rare enough, and predictable enough, that I haven’t noticed myself suffering from the effects you describe :)

Frame Control

I posted this elsewhere in comments, but I think there are two types of frame controllers: the assertive and the receptive types. Think of this comment as inspired by Aella's, and a processing of some of my own experiences. I don't know her at all, and won't pretend to understand her experiences very deeply.

I interpret Aella as mainly referring to receptive frame controllers, while Elizabeth is referring to assertive frame controllers.

A key function of useful hierarchy is to make genuine capability legible and to improve our ability to coordinate around it. But not all hierarchies are formal, and even the formal ones need informal maintenance. Hence, you get genuine experts, who will make moves to establish their superiority and reinforce a subordinate's place in the hierarchy. This isn't always good, of course. Experts will fight for turf they haven't really earned. Sometimes, this is just bad. Other times, it's because what they're doing isn't so much trying to grab more territory, as to prevent someone who hasn't earned it from doing so.

As an example from my life, think of the psychiatrist who makes authoritative-sounding pronouncements about the COVID-19 pandemic at the family dinner, even though he's not 100% clear on the difference between the CDC and the FDA, because a master's student in biomedical engineering has been voicing his own opinion on a narrow topic based on some careful research. The psychiatrist doesn't want the MS student, who doesn't even have a graduate degree in the field, to be mistaken for an expert on par with him, an experienced MD. Yet the psychiatrist doesn't necessarily believe himself to be an expert on COVID-19. He just doesn't want the MS student to overstep.

By contrast, the "receptive" frame controller doesn't tend to have any significant concrete expertise, conventional formal status, or money. He might set himself up as a coach, guru, or religious figure. Fatherhood is also in this zone. Rather than being recognized for his tangible accomplishments or contributions, and engaging in assertive actions to make this recognition legible to others, he has to impress people who don't know any better with some sort of intangible aura of mystery, wisdom, or social access.

The receptive frame controller has to make up for a lack of any tangible utility to attract people to him. He instead uses his own availability. He invites people over. He lets them stay. He makes himself enormously available to those who are willing to give him an even more enormous amount of their time. Most people have better things to do, but a few don't, and they'll get involved. Once the receptive frame controller has developed some sort of following, it becomes part of his aura. Everybody tries to figure out what everybody else is following him for, and trying to justify the time they're all spending, searching for any sliver of value or meaning in the situation.

It would be unusual for people to stay long-term in situations that needed constant, ongoing justifications. If you were a monk in a monastery and had a deep, gut-level clarity about what you were doing there, the master wouldn't need to convince you.

If that isn't operating, then sometimes, there is at least a time-limited commitment. "Try it out for a year, and then you can quit if you don't like it," the parent might say to their child about an imposition of piano lessons.

What Aella describes is a frame controller who has to constantly exert his energy to justify the enormous amount of time and pain that his followers are throwing away on him. And there is no time-limited commitment. In theory, it goes on forever, and the commitment grows with time.

This, for me, is the key criteria that distinguishes a receptive frame controller from the normal give-and-take of social relationships. It's the invitation to waste an unlimited amount of time, with no cutoff and no promise of a tangible outcome at a given time, with the experience being painful and consuming. The people who stay have no clear sense that they have alternatives.

This also helps me explain why I still find myself dealing with "frame control" on a daily basis, and yet feel as though I have become entirely immune to the dynamic Aella is describing in the OP. Having excluded receptive frame controllers from my life, or learned how to resist their tactics nearly effortlessly, I spend much more time in spaces where tangible competence is the main focus. This brings me into contact with lots of assertive frame controllers. That's a form of hierarchy I don't expect to ever be free of, but I also don't resent it too much, because I understand that its basic purpose aligns well-enough with my own goals to be useful to me.

Frame Control

In 95% of these situations, I don't have any kind of witty response to make. I just have a way of looking up at them with a flat expression, long enough that they can see I've heard and understood what they told me, and then I go back to what I was doing before.

For me, the point isn't so much to get a certain response or perception out of the other person. It's mainly to communicate a simple message: "it's going to take you more energy to provoke me than it's worth." And then to communicate to myself the message: "You're in control of your actions and attention, not them."

Frame Control

Here is why I think that agreeableness/conflict-avoidance is a useful but not complete defense against "frame control."

I think there are two types of frame controllers:

  • Assertive controllers
  • Receptive controllers

For assertive controllers, think of the egotistical expert, eager to smack down ideas he thinks are bad, even when he's thought about them for 3 seconds and is getting his facts mixed up. The assertive controller will insult, neg, and raise his voice. He demands not just respect, but deference. Other people find him intimidating. They lack the expertise, confidence, or power to take him on. He's a good candidate for real leadership in his area of expertise, but he'll also claim territory beyond his true area of competence, and he's as invested in keeping his position in the hierarchy as in driving beneficial results for others. People make fun of him behind his back, but that may just reinforce the fact that nobody makes fun of him to his face.

I think Aella is talking about "receptive controllers." These people don't do the active, obvious turf-defending that you see with the assertive controller. They don't necessarily have an area of real, recognized competence. What they attract is incompetence. They surround themselves with people who know very little, sell vague personal growth nostrums, and keep their cohort engaged not by bolstering the perception of their own expertise, but by reinforcing their followers' self-perceptions of worthlessness. Offering them just a shred of worth or fake-status is only collateral, and will be used as a threat in the future.

Assertive controllers are frustrating, but often they seem to genuinely be necessary and net-beneficial. Being disagreeable or conflict-oriented won't necessarily let you "win" against these people, or poke holes in their hierarchy. It will create an open, ugly power struggle that will just leave you both feeling resentful most of the time.

Receptive controllers are just revolting people. Fortunately, 98% of people actively find them revolting and see right through them. 2%, unfortunately, do not. They see a large cohort, a person who stands out through their manner of dress or their language or interior decorating style. They want to know what all those other people see in this person. And they stick around, and stick around, and stick around, trying to find out.

Disagreeableness or being open to conflict - or even just being able to ignore and turn the cold shoulder - will defend you against receptive frame controllers. The entire skill is in stripping them of their paper-thin mystique and excluding them from your life. They offer nothing of genuine value - or at least nothing you couldn't find from many other fine sources. Meditation? It's all over the place. Insight? There are thousands of books, podcasts, talks, and workshops, and many therapists you can engage with? Social access? There are other parties to go to.

For most of us, even a modicum of self-respect will serve to keep the receptive controllers out of our lives.

Use Tools For What They're For

With any heuristic, it’s going to have failure modes and will only get you so far. This is meant as a common-sense guideline for lay people, not as an intellectual stopping point for scientists, regulators, and clinicians.

Here, I’m aiming at people who are ivermectin partisans, both critics and supporters. Those who’d reject other treatments in favor of ivermectin, and those who think ivermectin has no possible relevance to COVID-19 and yet yet don’t seem to be thinking even at a baseline level of wisdom in their criticism.

This post is a tool, and I advocate using it only for what it’s for!

Sasha Chapin on bad social norms in rationality/EA

The OP provides examples to illustrate what they mean by an overly extreme standard. They also say that many EA/rationalist principles are good, and that there’s less toxicity in these communities than in others.

Might be good to taboo “toxicity.” My definition is “behavior in the name of a worthy goal that doesn’t really deliver that goal, but makes the inflictor of the toxicity feel better or get a selfish benefit in the short run, while causing problems and bad feelings for others.”

For example, a trainer berating trainees in the name of high standards after a failure, in an attempt to punish them into working harder, or in order to make the trainees into the objects of blame by the trainer’s superiors and not the trainer.

Or a person beating themselves up over a $5 purchase for themselves in the name of charity, only to burn out on EA entirely after a few years. This isn’t obviously toxic, by the definition above, except through some sort of internal family systems framework in which one part of themselves is getting off on the mental beratement, while another part suffers. Seems linked to Eliezer’s idea of “hammering down on one part of yourself” from his most recent post here.

Core Pathways of Aging

If aminoguanidine temporarily reverses arterial stiffening, and if arterial stiffening reduces paravascular cerebral fluid flow, which in turn inhibits clearance of Alzheimer's-causing proteins, then aminoguanidine could potentially work as an Alzheimer's drug if it can be transported to the right area. The severity of Alzheimer's might even justify taking aminoguanidine despite the side-effects.

Indeed, there is some recent research into applying aminoguanidine to Alzheimer's. It appears that aminoguanidine does penetrate the blood-brain barrier via diffusion. And there are several studies, mainly from the last 5 years, exploring aminoguanidine as a neuroprotectant against dementia/Alzheimer's in murine models.

And encouragingly, moderate-dose aminoguanidine in conjunction with pyridoxine was found to maintain the neuroprotective effect while eliminating appreciable toxicity. There are several papers on pyridoxal-aminoguanidine adducts, and on pyrodoxal phosphate.

I've only read a few abstracts, so I can't vouch for the quality of the evidence so far, but it's nice to see that the gears-level reasoning in your model can successfully predict existing lines of research.

Survival in the immoral maze of college

That's a helpful data point, thank you! I wonder if part of your outcome is driven by working in software/CS/crypto. This seems like an unusually tractable space for a young individual with good ideas.

My field is biomedical engineering, where access to equipment, reagents, collaborators, training, and sheer biochemical knowledge and lab skills are major bottlenecks.

I could also just be wrong, though. My journey through college has been unusual.

Edit: maybe the way to reconcile this is that college demands tangible outputs: assignments, projects, things you can put on your resume. But making a real difference is about applying your efforts to good ideas, and there's a lot of intangible exploration that has to happen up front in order to discover the right idea. So satisficing college's demand for legible, tangible production frees up space both to improve your wellbeing and to search for the ideas that matter.

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