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Comments A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities

Yeah, I've seen some posts trying to make similar "lockdown goes too far" arguments (including this one on the SSC Tumblr) that seem to be comparing life with COVID-19 mitigation to normal 2019 life or to that plus some chance of getting sick. Aside from understating the potential for long-term consequences, I think there's a trend in those dollar-cost estimates towards significantly underestimating the negative effects of unmitigated pandemic spread beyond the effect on one's personal health.

(Not that I expect that you disagree with this, but it stands out to me that "let it happen modulo the most vulnerable" is already begging the question. I'd expect if that were driving public policy that the "modulo the most vulnerable" part largely wouldn't happen. It's hard to protect any particular group from infectious disease when it's widespread in the general population.)

What was your reasoning for deciding whether to raise children?

The book "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" was a bit of an influence. The quick summary: People often overestimate the downsides of having children, people often underestimate the upsides of having children, people overestimate the marginal benefit of more labor-intensive methods of parenting, therefore maybe you are underestimating how many children you should have (including underestimating the benefit of tradeoffs where you have more children but use a less-intensive parenting style).

I think choosing to raise a child rather than not will probably make me happier when I'm older, even though it's not very pleasant a lot of the time currently, and there is the constant additional exposure to the risk of terrible tragedy. It gives me a reliable source of significant responsibility, which overall I value. I like that I'm playing a small part in creating the next generation of humans (and thus in creating the whole set of future humans), I think that's cool, though having children is not the only way to do that.

I think that human beings are very psychologically flexible, and I haven't been persuaded by arguments that it's not the case that the vast majority of human beings have lives worth living. I also am not persuaded by arguments that favor autonomy to the extreme that it's bad to bring someone into existence because they had no choice in the matter. While I don't think this amounts to a moral imperative, I think having children is a good thing, if the quality of parenting is even minimally acceptable. Overall, I think having and raising children is good for parents but primarily it's good for the children (and, indirectly, their descendants).

The Puzzling Linearity of COVID-19
Infections start among people at the river’s mouth, and expand exponentially amongst them, until most of them are infected. It also spreads up the river, but only by local contagion, so the number of deaths (and cases) grows linearly according to how far up-river it has spread. This scenario, however, seems nothing like what we would expect in almost all countries.

That doesn't seem implausible to me, if the epidemic spreads fastest (and therefore first) in densely-connected areas of the social network graph of in-person contacts and mitigation affects those areas of the graph fastest/most. That plus lag from the implementation of mitigation to the results showing up in the case numbers might make growth look approximately linear for a while. Especially when plotted on a linear plot scaled to previous much-faster growth.

An alarm bell for the next pandemic
There's no clear reason why mortality and transmissibility of a virus should be inversely correlated.

More quickly fatal diseases leave less time for the immune system to respond and less time for transmission to occur. You're right that's not to say we can't end up with diseases that are both more contagious and more deadly than COVID-19, we definitely could, but that's not the direction the correlation goes.

[April Fools] User GPT2 is Banned
In addition, we have decided to apply the death penalty

Less Wrong moderation policy: Harsh but fair.

Front Row Center

Not only do theaters want to sell the extra seats, they also want people to arrive early, since they're selling concessions and playing ads.


People go through a grieving process when their image of a loved one changes in a way that they perceive as negative or shocking. That process can be very long. It's possible that your grandparents won't be able to get though enough of that process in time to attend their daughter's wedding, or even at all. And if they don't have it together enough to avoid negative emotional outbursts at the event, it may not be for the best if they attend.

If they made this decision in only an hour, however, I think it would definitely be worth encouraging them to sleep on it. The engagement probably is a shock, even if it should be unsurprising; they may have been holding some rationalizations that underplayed the significance of their daughter's relationship.

Even assuming their views on homosexuality never change (they probably assume that, so assume it for the sake of argument), they may eventually regret missing a significant family event. At some point, if they want to have a good relationship with their daughter, they're going to need to make peace with persistent disagreements. If your aunt is considering raising children, maintaining a good relationship with her (and her partner!) is a prerequisite to having a good relationship with those grandchildren. Given that, your grandparents may want to put some work into getting to a place emotionally where they can be happy attending their daughter's wedding.

(Their views on homosexuality may eventually change, too. But trying to persuade them on ideological grounds is more likely to get them to dig in their heels. The most effective persuasion on those grounds is often passive and long-term. Sometimes emphasizing emotions (e.g. people will be sad and disappointed if they don't attend) can be effective, but that may just remind them of their own negative emotions. Focusing on relationship goals is often a good idea when trying to mediate this sort of conflict.)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results

"Amount of EA money sent to top four GiveWell charities" might be low because GiveWell itself is not included in that list. (I ended up putting my donation to GiveWell under "other", which while technically accurate, wasn't ideal.) In addition to GiveWell specifically, it would have been worth having an option for Effective Altruism's sort of giving (charities directed at obvious, cost-effective ways of saving the lives of / improving the quality of life for the world's poorest), but not to organizations specifically recommended by GiveWell.

You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely.

after a bit of searching I can't find a definitive post describing the concept

The idiom used to describe that concept in social psychology is "idiosyncrasy credits", so searching for that phrase produces more relevant material (though as far as I can tell nothing on Less Wrong specifically).

The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

I can see why you think I was making that implicit claim, though that wasn't quite the point I was trying to make.

I don't know to what extent the regulation mentioned in the Wikipedia article I linked to was influenced by industry lobbying versus concern about other sorts of risks to infrastructure or public safety. I'm not sure whether the precise cause of the passage of such regulation is that relevant to the regulation's durability in the face of potential benefits from adoption of new technology. Maybe it is, but the precise example of "limit[ing cars] to the same speed as horses" in the original post seems to imply that was something that didn't happen, not just something that did happen for different reasons.

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