Reason isn't magic

This post makes a straightforward analytic argument clarifying the relationship between reason and experience. The popularity of this post suggests that the ideas of cultural accumulation of knowledge, and the power of reason, have been politicized into a specious Hegelian opposition to each other. But for the most part neither Baconian science nor mathematics (except for the occasional Ramanujan) works as a human institution except by the accumulation of knowledge over time.

A good follow-up post would connect this to the ways in which modernist ideology poses as the legitimate successor to the European Enlightenment, claiming credit for the output of Enlightenment institutions, and then characterizing its own political success as part of the Enlightenment. Steven Pinker's "Enlightenment Now" might be a good foil.

Excerpts from a larger discussion about simulacra

There are two aspects of this post worth reviewing: as an experiment in a different mode of discourse, and as a description of the procession of simulacra, a schema originally advanced by Baudrillard.

As an experiment in a diffferent mode of discourse, I think this was a success on its own terms, and a challenge to the idea that we should be looking for the best blog posts rather than the behavior patterns that lead to the best overall discourse.

The development of the concept occurred over email quite naturally without forceful effort. I would have written this post much later, and possibly never, had I held it to the standard of "written specifically as a blog post." I have many unfinished drafts. emails, tweets, that might have advanced the discourse had I compiled them into rough blog posts like this. The description was sufficiently clear and compelling that others, including my future self, were motivated to elaborate on it later with posts drafted as such.

I and my friends have found this schema - especially as we've continued to refine it - a very helpful compression of social reality allowing us to compare different modes of speech and action.

As a description of the procession of simulacra it differs from both Baudrillard's description, and from the later refinement of the schema among people using it actively to navigate the world.  I think that it would be very useful to have a clear description of the updated schema from my circle somewhere to point to, and of some historical interest for this description to clearly describe deviations from Baudrillard's account. I might get around to trying to draft the former sometime, but the latter seems likely to take more time than I'm willing to spend reading and empathizing with Baudrillard.

Over time it's become clear that the distinction between stages 1 and 2 is not very interesting compared with the distinction between 1&2, 3, and 4, and a mature naming convention would probably give these more natural names than the numbering we're using now, but my later attempt to name them was forced and premature.

Can crimes be discussed literally?
If you only thought of this in hindsight, was it disrespectful of you not to think of it before either? (Sure, we should hold the author of a post to a higher standard than the reader, but still, I think the point you're making here is actually relatively subtle, in the scheme of things, so it strikes me as an overstatement to call out someone as disrespectful for not thinking of it.)

I'm not claiming to have been morally pure at the time. I'm just claiming that this was disrespectful to King. I'm not calling for anyone to be punished or shamed here, just trying to describe an unfortunate aspect of the post worth avoiding in the future, because it seems relevant to the point under discussion.

There was probably some unfortunate element of point-scoring in the way I brought it up, for which I am sorry.

Can crimes be discussed literally?

What do you think the point of prosecutorial discretion (and other sorts of institutionalized hypocrisy) is, if not disparate enforcement? Does the majority have a coherent agenda that it's afraid to inform itself about?

Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates

The director of NIAID publicly endorsed that model's bottom line.

Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates

Good point, I should add a clarifying note.

Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates

Given that it apparently took you some time to dig up even as much as a tweet with a screen cap of some numbers that with quite a lot of additional investigation might be helpful, I hope you're now at least less "confused" about why I am "relying on this back of the envelope rather than the pretty extensive body of work on this question."

If you want to see something better, show something better.

Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates

I clicked through to the tweet you mentioned, which contains a screencap of a chart purporting to show "An Approximate Percentage of the Population That Has COVID-19 Antibodies." No dates or other info about how these numbers might have been generated.

Fortunately, Gottlieb's next tweet in the thread contains another screencap of the URLs of the studies mentioned in the chart. I hand-transcribed the Wuhan study URL, and found that while it was performed at a date that's probably helpful (April 20th) it's a study in a single hospital in Wuhan, and the abstract explicitly says it's not a good population estimate:

Here, we reported the positive rate of COVID‐19 tests based on NAT, chest CT scan and a serological SARS‐CoV‐2 test, from April 3 to 15 in one hospital in Qingshan Destrict, Wuhan. We observed a ~10% SARS‐CoV‐2‐specific IgG positive rate from 1,402 tests. Combination of SARS‐CoV‐2 NAT and a specific serological test might facilitate the detection of COVID‐19 infection, or the asymptomatic SARS‐CoV‐2‐infected subjects. Large‐scale investigation is required to evaluate the herd immunity of the city, for the resuming people and for the re‐opened city.

I'd need to know more about e.g. hospitalization rates in Wuhan to interpret this.

The New York numbers seem to come from a press release, with no clear info about how testing was conducted.

All of these are point estimates, and to get ongoing infection rates, I'd need to fit a time series model with too many degrees of freedom. Not saying no one can do this, but definitely saying it's not clear to me how I can make use of these numbers without working on the problem full time for a few weeks.

You've nonspecifically referred to experts and models a few times; that's not helpful and only serves to intimidate. What would be helpful would be if you could point to specific models by specific experts that make specific claims which you found helpful.

Estimating COVID-19 Mortality Rates

This points to an important weakness in the data source I'm using here.

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