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I like this post. It goes along with something I had noticed during the Trump presidency when there were a lot of claims that Trump was “destroying democracy”, which is that a lot of the things that people like about the US system is not democracy, but really separation of powers. A democratically elected populist imposing his will over other government institutions is not a breakdown of democracy (well, maybe in this specific case where he lost the popular vote, you could argue that), but a breakdown of the separation of powers.

It is not a happy coincidence that our government ended up this way. James Madison was very concerned that democracy could turn into mob rule and pushed for separation of powers as a way to protect the minority. It is perhaps the defining feature of the American system, and has helped preserved our government from a lot of possible excesses. Of course, it can cut both ways, as it makes it harder to pass both bad and good legislation.

I think it’s really important for people to think about the difference between these two ideals. They’re both important features of the American system, but clearly not the same and worth differentiating.

How much of the work to create better hardware can be done in a computer’s head, though? I have no doubt that smarter being can create better hardware than we have now, but are there other real world limitations that would very quickly limit the rate of improvement. I imagine even something much smarter than us would need to experiment in the physical world, as well as build new machines (and mine the necessary materials) and do a lot of actual physical work that would take time and that computers can not obviously do 10,000x faster than humans.

I recently started making a similar distinction in my life and using the word “toxic”

Thanks. This is helpful context. The class I took was only a year ago, so I don’t feel like that obviously fits the “this information is just outdated” narrative, but I am genuinely unsure whether it was good advice at this point. On the margin my statement may have been too strong, and I don’t want to suggest that never using a tourniquet is correct, but I do think it’s probably correct for people to know the risks and alternatives before applying one.

Definitely agree. Especially if you're training is limited (but even if it isn't) making sure someone reaches emergency services should be your top priority. If you need to attend to the injured person, pointing out a specific person and telling them to call 911 is a good approach. It's more likely to get done quickly if a specific person feels it's their responsibility than if it's unclear whose job it is.

One (potentially) big exception to the doing something is better than doing nothing rule, is applying a tourniquet. I have heard in my wilderness safety class that if you apply a tourniquet to a limb, it will probably need to be amputated, and this should only be done if you're confident it's necessary. Applying pressure to a wound that you're bleeding from should always be the first thing you try.

I added the "potentially" above, because I'm having trouble verifying that claim online. The Mayo Clinic says "Having a tourniquet in place for two or fewer hours — the time in which most patients can get to a hospital — should not have any ill effects beyond those caused by the injury requiring the tourniquet. It typically takes at least 4 to 6 hours for tourniquets to cause harm."[1] I think this may be the difference between advice for wilderness training, where you are often >4 hours from a hospital, and first aid training for incidents that may happen in everyday life.  Of course, the farther you are from a hospital, the greater the risk of actually bleeding out, and it's better to lose a limb than one's life, so I think you just need to be careful to weigh the risks.

FWIW, most people without training will not apply a improvised tourniquet correctly anyway, so it probably won't make much of a difference either way, but I thought this knowledge was worth sharing.


Yeah, I was thinking this same thing. I feel like I’m social sciences I’m more concerned about researchers testing for too many things and increasing the probability of false positives than testing too few things and maybe not fully understanding a result.

I feel like it really comes down to how powerful a study is. When you have tons of data like a big tech company might, or the results are really straightforward, like in some of the hard sciences, I think this is a great approach. When the effects of a treatment are subtler and sample size is more limited, as is often the case in the social sciences, I would be wary to recommend testing everything you can think of.

I’m by no means an expert on the topic, but I would have thought it was a result of both object-level thinking producing new memes that society recognized as true, but also some level of abstract thinking along the lines of “using God and the Bible as an explanation for every phenomenon doesn’t seem to be working very well, maybe we should create a scientific method or something.”

I think there may be a bit of us talking past each other, though. From your response, perhaps what I consider “uncoupling from society’s bad memes” you consider to be just generating new memes. It feels like generally a conversation where it’s hard to pin down what exactly people are trying to describe (starting from the OP, which I find very interesting, but am still having some trouble understanding specifically) which is making it a bit hard to communicate.

“The success rate of, let's build a movement to successfully uncouple ourselves from society's bad memes and become capable of real action and then our problems will be solvable, is 0.“

I’m not sure if this is an exact analog, but I would have said the scientific revolution and the age of enlightenment were two (To be honest, I’m not entirely sure where one ends and the other begins, and there may be some overlap, but I think of them as two separate but related things) pretty good examples of this that resulted in the world becoming a vastly better place, largely through the efforts of individuals who realized that by changing the way we think about things we can better put to use human ingenuity. I know this is a massive oversimplification, but I think it points in the direction of there potentially being value in pushing the right memes onto society.

This is very interesting. I find this somewhat persuasive and am updating in the direction of being more afraid of getting covid. That being said, I think I'm still pretty far from your level of concern.  I can think of three places where I think we may disagree.

  1. I find your example in K very odd, in that it requires 100/900 people without covid to get illnesses that are as bad as long covid, but only 10/100 people who had covid to have similarly bad symptoms from long covid. It would be weird if we lived in a world where people without covid are so much more likely to get other illnesses that they're more likely to have symptoms that could be confused for long covid then people who actually had covid (if this was the case for some reason, that would also make covid way less scary), and I think your assumption breaks down if the scenario was set up differently.
  2. Judging by the effect size of vaccines on hospitalizations and deaths, my priors would be that they would be more than 50% effective against long covid (or at least the really bad long covid that seems most worrisome). The study in C makes me update a little towards 50% but not that much.  One potential issue is that e.g. if 25% of the unvaccinated long covid were psychosomatic, and vaccination does not affect the probability of psychosomatic long covid, then an observed reduction of 50% from vaccination, would mean a 67% reduction of non-psychosomatic covid.  I would guess Omicron is also less scary, given that it seems like it doesn't infect the lungs nearly as much, but I'm less confident on that.
  3. This is somewhat specific to me, but I suspect a lot of the people reading this also fit into the group of <40 yo, healthy, and not obese, so maybe it applies to others as well. Given how big the differences are between demographics for covid, I find anything that looks at the population-level to be potentially misleading for me.  One thing that makes me feel less worried is looking at the results for professional athletes.  There's an obvious selection bias, there, but I think it's better than having a non-obvious selection bias in basically any other study, and I suspect my risk factors are more similar to professional athletes than to the average American (given that risk scales superlinearly with age, weight, and medical history, it's probably the case that a median American is closer to a professional athlete than to the mean American, and I'm younger and probably healthier than median). The other nice thing about professional athletes is that their health is tracked very closely (though unfortunately, I don't see much work being done to compile and study it altogether).  I feel like this is similar to the "How many people do I actually know that have been affected by this?" approach.  From what I can tell, >50% of athletes in the four major US sports seems to have had covid already, and I can only find a few cases of long covid per sport.  That seems approximately consistent with long covid risk being between 0.1%-1%, which isn't far off from some of the estimates being quoted. Notably, though, I'm having trouble finding any cases that have come from after vaccinations were widely available.  There could be all sorts of confounders here, the most obvious being that no one would yet be talking about a long covid cases from an Omicron infection they got a few weeks ago, but the fact that these leagues are not being devastated by long covid, despite having professionals who are very dependent on their lung function and energy levels makes me feel reasonably good about my own prognosis.

That being said this report that you referenced suggests the odds ratios between demographics are not as extreme for long covid as they are for hospitalizations or deaths, which would mean maybe I'm not that much safer than an average person.  That could potentially also be explained by a fairly uniform distribution of psychosomatic cases, though.

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