All of Connor_Flexman's Comments + Replies

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

Yeah, ideally would have lampshaded this more. My bad.

The part that gets extra complex is that I personally think ~2/3+ of people who say totalization is fine for them are in fact wrong and are missing out on tons of subtle things that you don't notice until longer-term. But obviously the mostly likely thing is that I'm wrong about this. Hard to tell either way. I'd like to point this out more somehow so I can find out, but I'd sort of hoped my original comment would make things click for people without further time. I suppose I'll have to think about how to broach this further.

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

I agree with most of this point. I've added an ETA to the original to reflect this. My quibble (that I think is actually important) is that I think it should be less of a tradeoff and more of an {each person does the thing that is right for them}. 

5Duncan_Sabien4dEndorsed, but that means when we're talking about setting group norms and community standards, what we're really shooting for is stuff that makes all the options available to everyone, and which helps people figure out what would be good for them as individuals. Where one attractor near what you were proposing (i.e. not what you were proposing but what people might hear in your proposal, or what your proposal might amount to in practice) is "new way good, old way bad." Instead of "old way insufficient, new way more all-encompassing and cosmopolitan."
My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

(I would not take this modus tollens, I don't think the "community" is even close to fundamentally bad, I just think some serious reforms are in order for some of the culture that we let younger people build here.)

4Said Achmiz4dIndeed, I did not suspect that you would—but (I conjecture?) you also do not agree with Rob’s characterizations of the consequences of your points. It’s one who agrees with Rob’s positive take, but opposes his normative views on the community, that would take the other logical branch here.
My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

But the "community" should not be totalizing.

(Also, I think rationality should still be less totalizing than many people take it to be, because a lot of people replace common sense with rationality. Instead one should totalize themselves very slowly, over years, watching for all sorts of mis-steps and mistakes, and merge their past life with their new life. Sure, rationality will eventually pervade your thinking, but that doesn't mean at age 22 you throw out all of society's wisdom and roll your own.)

7Said Achmiz4dReservationism [] is the proper antidote to the (prematurely) totalizing nature of rationality. That is: take whatever rationality tells you, and judge it with your own existing common sense, practical reason, and understanding of the world. Reject whatever seems to you to be unreasonable. Take on whatever seems to you to be right and proper. Excise or replace existing parts of your epistemology and worldview only when it genuinely seems to you that those parts are dysfunctional or incorrect, regardless of what the rationality you encounter is telling you about them. (Don’t take this quick summary as a substitute for reading the linked essay; read it yourself, judge it for yourself.) Note, by the way, that rationality—as taught in the Sequences—already [] recommends [] this []! If anyone fails to approach the practice of rationality in this proper way, they are failing to do that which we have explicitly been told to do! If your rationality is “prematurely totalizing”, then you’re doing it wrong. Consider also how many times we have heard a version of this: “When I read the Sequences, the ideas found therein seemed so obvious—like they’d put into words things I’ve always somehow known or thought, but had never been able to formulate so clearly and concisely!”. This is not a coincidence! If you learn of a “rationality”-related idea, and it seems to you to be obviously correct, such that you find that not only is it obvious that you should integrate it into your worldview, but indeed that you’ve already integrated it (so naturally and perfectly does it fit)—well, good! But if you encounter an idea that is strange, and counterintuitive, then examine it well, before you rush to integrate it; ex
Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

Ah yeah, I should have thought more about what you meant there. Sorry. I'm still not sure I agree though—I feel like the public can be convinced of all sorts of things. 

I do think growth may end up being decent evidence. I guess I'm trying to point at why I might be so agnostic without going through a 10-paragraph essay explicitly stating a bunch of scenarios.

So for example, I think people are fairly unconcerned about whether they have a 20% versus a 30% GDP growth over the next 15 years, but rightly concerned about whether there's then a pandemic tha... (read more)

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

I want to bring up a concept I found very useful for thinking about how to become less susceptible to these sorts of things.

(NB that while I don't agree with much of the criticism here, I do think "the community" does modestly increase psychosis risk, and the Ziz and Vassar bubbles do so to extraordinary degrees. I also think there's a bunch of low-hanging fruit here, so I'd like us to take this seriously and get psychosis risk lower than baseline.)

(ETA because people bring this up in the comments: law of equal and opposite advice applies. Many people seem... (read more)

5Unreal4dI like everything you say here. Hear hear. I resonate as someone who wanted to 'totalize' themselves when I lived in the Bay Area rationalist scene. One hint as to why: I have felt, from a young age, compelled towards being one of the elite. I don't think this is the case for most rationalists or anything, but noting my own personal motivation in case this helps anyone introspect on their own motivations more readily. It was important for my identity / ego to be "one of the top / best people" and to associate with the best people. I had a natural way of dismissing anyone I thought was "below" my threshold of worthiness—I basically "didn't think about them" and had no room in my brain for them. (I recognize the problematic-ness of that now? Like these kinds of thoughts lead to genocide, exploitation, runaway power, slavery, and a bunch of other horrible things. As such, I now find this 'way of seeing' morally repulsive.) The whole rationality game was of egoic interest to me, because it seemed like a clear and even correct way of distinguishing the elite from the non-elite. Obviously Eliezer and Anna and others were just better than other people and better at thinking which is hugely important obviously and AI risk is something that most people don't take seriously oh my god what is wrong with most people ahhh we're all gonna die. (I didn't really think thoughts like this or feel this way. But it would take more for me to give an accurate representation so I settled for a caricature. I hope you're more charitable to your own insides.) When a foolish ego wants something like this, it basically does everything it can to immerse themselves in it, and while it's very motivating and good for learning, it is compelled towards totalization and will make foolish sacrifices. In the same way, perhaps, that young pretty Koreans sacrifice for the sake of becoming an idol in the kpop world. MAPLE is like rehab for ego addicts. I find myself visiting my parents each year (a
My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

Regarding Eliezer's tweets, I think the issue is that he is joking about the "never stop screaming". He is using humor to point at a true fact, that it's really unfortunate how unreliable neural nets are, but he's not actually saying that if you study neural nets until you understand them then you will have a psychotic break and never stop screaming.

Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

Not sure why you think domestic pressure / public agreement is strong evidence. Public pressure for all sorts of things seems hardly correlated with whether they're beneficial.

I think the strongest arguments for Brexit are pretty orthogonal to the economy. Things like "can the government react to crises on the order of weeks instead of months". I do think enough crises would give us data on this but I'm not even sure it will be reasonable to extract counterfactuals from several. Other reasons to do Brexit seem similarly hard to measure compared to myopic economic impact.

2Davidmanheim6dI didn't say "domestic pressure / public agreement is strong evidence," I said that a reversal of the decision for those reasons would be strong evidence. And yes, I think that a majority of voters agreeing it was so much of a mistake that it is worth it to re-enter on materially worse terms, which it would need to be, would be a clear indication that the original decision was a bad one. And I'm not sure why you say that a change in the long term trajectory of growth is a myopic criteria. If the principal benefit is better ability to react to crises, given the variety of crises that occur and their frequency, that should be obvious over the course of years, not centuries, and would absolutely affect economic growth over the long term.
Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

FWIW, I personally don't have much evidence to determine whether Brexit was good. Seems plausible to me that you're right that they now just have different bureaucratic downsides. I've read a few things about being able to make ARIA (UK version of ARPA) and some other things from 2019 that make me lean somewhat positive, but I'm extremely agnostic. I have a bunch of thoughts on quality of evidence here, but suffice it to say I am not sure whether we will ever get much Bayesian evidence on goodness or badness. So my interest in DC is relatively orthogonal to whether Brexit turns out to be object-level good or bad (even though ideally I would know this and be able to include it in my model of how much to believe his beliefs).

2Davidmanheim9dI agree that evidence is weak, but I think it will be much clearer in the future whether it was a mistake - and the pathways for it to have been good are different than for it to have been bad. Two concrete things that would be strong evidence either way which we'd see in the next 5 years: - Significant divergence from previous economic trajectory that differs from changes in the EU. - UK choosing to rejoin the EU due to domestic pressure, or general public agreement that it was good. Perhaps more likely, we see a mix of evidence, and we conclude that like most complex policy decisions, it will take an additional decade or two for a consensus of economists and historians to emerge so we clearly see what the impact was. That said, I would be very happy to bet at even odds about it resolving as a clear negative - albeit with a very long resolution time frame, needing a somewhat qualitative resolution criteria.
Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

Oh awesome, you already made the important argument here. Thanks. I'll leave up my comment above saying similarly, though.

Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

First, I already agreed this was true. But if you write about the urgent need for planning for biosecurity a year before a pandemic, quote a biosecurity report that mentions 8ish diseases, you cut a few from your block quote for concision, and then one of the 8 that you didn't specific use in your block quote (but which you were definitely writing about!) occurs in a global pandemic... I just think it's pretty reasonable to say "I wrote about this". I might not do it per se, but if a friend of mine did it, I wouldn't bat an eyelid. If a random acquaintance... (read more)

3ChristianKl11dBesides that, there's the aspect that Cummings is a person who's heavily investigated by journalists. If that's one of the worst things someone can find, that shows good things.
Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

Sorry, I deliberated for a while on whether to include it, but for a number of reasons decided I wanted to just ignore the politics-as-mindkiller and focus on everything else. Ideally I would have mentioned something about this, I just felt like addressing it in any respect would immediately lead to discussion about politics-as-mindkiller and not help. Also I didn't think this post would get much publicity. Still don't really regret it.

I will say though, here, I think >90% of the value I got from his writings was orthogonal to ideology-level politics. I... (read more)

2Davidmanheim10dThanks - that seems plausible. But again, I think not mentioning the obvious reason for people's distaste led to a clearly incorrect claim.
Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

(Gove and Boris agreed in 2016 that Boris would be their push for PM, then at the last minute Gove withdrew his support and announced his own candidacy, splitting support, causing Boris to withdraw, and neither got PM. [1, 2] By a few years later, they seem to have mended things significantly.)

Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings

Many people have brought this up to me and I think it's extremely misleading. Basically, he wrote this blog post about the dangers of possible pandemics that governments weren't taking seriously, and heavily rested on giant block quotes from a good source, as he often does. In the block quote he included sections on like 4/8 of the pathogens they warned about, separated by ellipses. After the pandemic he went back and added to his block quote the section on coronaviruses specifically, to show that bio-risk people were already warning about this BEFORE it h... (read more)

In a press conference, he claims. "Last year I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning," I am failing to find mention of coronavirus in that original. I also note

I remain unconvinced that he is "extremely committed to truth-seeking".

Connor_Flexman's Shortform

Yes, they've made it very clear that that's the reasoning, and I am saying I disagree.

A) I still think they are not correct (long evidence below)
B) Ct values are clearly somewhat useful, and the question is how much—and I do not think the public health comms apparatus should stifle somewhat-useful medical information reaching patients or doctors just because I might be misled. That's just way too paternalistic.

As to why I think they're wrong, I'll cross-post from my fb thread against the specific pdf linked in op, though all other arguments seem isomorphic... (read more)

Connor_Flexman's Shortform

Another sad regulation-induced (and likely public health comms-reinforced) inadequacy: we don't report Ct values on PCR tests. Ct value stands for cycle threshold, which means how many cycles a PCR amp has to do before the virus is detected. So, it directly measures viral load. But it isn't reported to us on tests for some reason: here's an example document saying why it shouldn't be reported to patients or used to help them forecast progression. Imo a very bad and unnecessary decision.

0ChristianKl2moBasically the reasoning is that given the current tests highly variable Ct values get produced that don't do a good job at directly measuring viral load. If that's the case and people like you think it would do that, not giving you the value to avoid misleading you seems reasonable.
Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Another cool data point! I found a paper from Singapore, Jul 2020, testing tear swabs but incidentally giving a bunch of PCR tests too. I'm much more likely to trust a paper that gives PCR tests incidentally, rather than is directly testing their effectiveness with researcher bias toward better results. This paper shows 24/108 PCR tests came back negative if I counted correctly: that's 22% false negative rate (FNR).

Now, for adjustments: 

  • First, these patients were recruited from a hospital. So they obviously have much higher viral load than the average
... (read more)
($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

I have a tentative answer! Some cursory googling makes me think that J&J also just replicates the spike protein in you, the same way Pfizer/Moderna do. This means it's just strictly less effective. Then you'd want to just do the Pfizer/Moderna one that you haven't yet—unless Elizabeth's comment about limited mRNA vaccine doses is decision-relevant, which I still haven't looked into.

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

In short, I don't really know how it can be as bad as I claim it is. It seems like it should straightforwardly be highly accurate because of your two points: the sensitivity should be at a much lower threshold than the amount needed to infect someone.

Yet, I still believe this. Part of this belief is predicated on the heterogeneous results from studies, which make me think that "default" conditions lead to lots of false negatives and later studies showed much lower false negatives because they adjusted conditions to be more sanitary and less realistic. Howe... (read more)

5Connor_Flexman2moAnother cool data point! I found a paper [] from Singapore, Jul 2020, testing tear swabs but incidentally giving a bunch of PCR tests too. I'm much more likely to trust a paper that gives PCR tests incidentally, rather than is directly testing their effectiveness with researcher bias toward better results. This paper shows 24/108 PCR tests came back negative if I counted correctly: that's 22% false negative rate (FNR). Now, for adjustments: * First, these patients were recruited from a hospital. So they obviously have much higher viral load than the average person, so we'd expect higher FNR for the general population. (And we see the expected relationship between viral load and positive results: people with average low Ct values (meaning high viral load) rarely test negative, but those testing negative lots have very high Ct on their positive tests.) * On the other hand, only 2/17 patients test negative >50% of the time; a lot of the negatives come near the end of a patient's sickness or hospital stay. So we don't see great empirical evidence for the hypothesis that some people are consistent false-negatives. If you take out the negatives-at-the-end effect, there are far fewer false negatives, maybe 5-10%. However, this is basically moot because of the selection effect for the hospitalized as mentioned above. Of course you'll see hardly any consistent-false-negative-patients in the hospitalized!—the fact you see any macroscopic number of false negatives in the middle of progression is a terrible sign (and, if there were any fully-false-negative patients, we wouldn't see them anyways! Bad filter). * And we do see the requisite theoretical evidence. Because of the two patients with repeated false negatives and low viral load when positive, we can easily extrapolate that some patients just have slightly lower viral load and test negative consistently. Overal
Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Oops, thought that was a top-level reply to me when I clicked on it, rather than a reply to Adam. Sorry. Makes more sense in context.

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Great paper, thank you!

(Do you mean the Lancet / British intelligence test paper when you say ONS? I embarrassingly don't see a paper I cited with those letters in it.)

The current way I imagine citing this is to use as a corroboration of my rough estimate of <2% 30yos having Long COVID. I don't see an easy way to integrate it with IQ loss estimates—since I wouldn't expect tiny levels of IQ loss to show up on a survey about actual Long COVID symptoms, it seems relatively consistent for 2% symptoms after 12 weeks to still correspond to an average IQ loss of .15 points after 12 weeks (~10% lose 1 IQ point, 1% lose several IQ points). I do think it points downwards somewhat, though, maybe a factor of 2?

5Owain_Evans3moI added a link above. The ONS is the UK's national statistics agency. This is not a peer-reviewed paper but a report they published. (I find these reports to be mixed in quality). In the Nature paper, they get 2.3% with symptoms overall. But they estimate that 30 yos are less likely than older cohorts to have symptoms at 56 days and so you could adjust down a bit. (Women are also at higher risk according to this study).
Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

I should probably argue with Matt directly, but my brief take is that this is just entirely incompatible with what we see on the ground. The friends of mine who got COVID aren't reporting 45% chance of their life being 20% worse. That's... an incredibly massive effect that we would definitely see. Would anyone realistically bet on that?

What made the UK COVID-19 case count drop?

The important thing about this hypothesis is that it multiplies the effect of all other modifications, like schools or heat, so it's at least part of the answer whatever the proximal cause is (which I still think is possibly just this + behavioral changes, but do feel a little underwhelmed without some other factor).

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Since almost all of these costs are from Long COVID, I think these are actually more like a constant 1/100th of remaining life than 1/100th chance of immediate death. However, since 5% of the cost is from death and another decent chunk is from possibility of CFS, I would understand if you made a small adjustment here. Personally, I don't think I'm going to increase the estimate of my own risk, though part of that is because I think I was conservative enough that I'd be skewing things if I made even more implicit adjustments toward higher risk.

Yeah, sorry a... (read more)

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Actually, this is averaged over all 30yos who get COVID—I realize this was unclear as a summary, I'll fix. So it's equivalent to about .6% of them getting horrific CFS and losing half their life-equivalent. (Obv in reality you're looking at a smooth distribution of badness).

I think this is reasonably supported by my own experience of seeing ~10 30yos getting COVID pre-vaccine and not having any CFS, and now we have 3x less risk with the vaccine.

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Right. I think these are all fair, and I've tried to take them into account and be pretty conservative in not underestimating the risk. There are obviously a bunch of balancing forces on the opposite side from those you've laid out—eg the tipping point effect balances against the "you never notice" effect, otherwise you're double-counting. In general, I'm trying to find a coherent picture that takes into account the negatives while not overcounting them—it seems very easy to overcount given that all good things correlate and all bad things correlate, but s... (read more)

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

I edited the section to include some more thoughts on the paper's quality. In brief, I expect a 2x diminishment over time (though this was conservative and it could easily be larger); I expect the selection bias is definitely real, though there's a countervailing effect from most of the COVID cases being self-reports which I expect means higher conscientiousness and many missed cases from the group otherwise being selected for; I also think the ventilator impairment matches well with other evidence we have about ventilator impairment and is probably not a ... (read more)

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

So, to be clear, his all-things-considered view is about 1.5k uCOVIDs cost an hour, which is toward the edge of my range that corresponds to high risk, while his numerical estimate is at 7.5k uCOVIDs costing an hour, which is just outside of my range that corresponds to low risk (but matches almost exactly with my estimates of Long COVID risk outside of follow-ons from cognitive impairment!). So it sounds like initially he disagreed toward higher risk, then found very similar numbers as I did, now only leans toward the high end of my risk estimate due to priors and right-tail uncertainty. (Apologies if my paraphrase does not do your view justice, Adam.)

This is an accurate summary, thanks! I'll add my calculation was only for long-term sequelae. Including ~10 days cost from acute effects, my all-things-considered view would be mean of ~40 days, corresponding to 1041 uCOVIDs per hour.

This is per actual hour of (quality-adjusted) life expectancy. But given we spend ~1/3rd of our time sleeping, you probably want to value a waking-hour at 1.5x a life-hour (assuming being asleep has neutral valence). If you work a 40 hour work week and only value your productive time (I do not endorse this, by the way), then y... (read more)

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Hm, I meant to exclude those because of their abysmal sensitivities, but I suppose I should revisit them now in case they've gotten better.

1TheSimplestExplanation3moThey are not that bad. sensitivity (Ct ≤33): 97,1% (132/136), (95% CI: 92,7%~98,9%) sensitivity (Ct ≤37): 91,4% (139/152), (95% CI: 85,9%~94,9%) Considering the price and simplicity they are often worthwhile.
($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

No, but I would like to know. The two relevant variables are that mRNA is more effective, which we can sort of quantify, but non-mRNA is probably more different, which I don't know how to quantify. Currently I view them as roughly equivalent, but an even cursory glance at what was in the mRNA vaccines vs non would potentially be quite helpful.

Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

That's a really interesting point. I wish we had a conventional way of suspending certain regulations in certain circumstances, rather than having to wait decades for an entirely overhauled piece of legislation on the whole macrotopic. Are there things like, I don't know, executive non-enforcement orders that ever get used similarly?

Do you know of any non-pooled tests that are cheap and fast, that perhaps a group of individuals could order loads of? I've heard people talk about LAMP and such for a while but without any persuasive end-to-end evidence.

A complexity here is that "the macrotopic to reform" is "the entire system... like practically all of it". 

You can't just delete the FDA because while the FDA is the current lynchpin (and "FDA delenda est"), to have a good system, that was not broken (in the way or other ways), you also need tort reform, and insurance reform, and on and on and on...

As near as I have been able to tell, the reason Pooled Testing is illegal, is because there are OSHA laws protecting chemists, basically, so if a chemist in a lab is running test reactions all day every day... (read more)

3TheSimplestExplanation3moAntigen tests. They take 15min to give results, and are 0.8€(retail) here.
Delta Strain: Fact Dump and Some Policy Takeaways

Yeah sorry, I meant "where on this axis" are we—I had meant the evidence to show "we're not in one or the other", but I'll edit for clarity. (And obviously it's much more complicated than just this axis, as you point out. I was just trying to make it understandable.)

I agree with the recommendations having the possibility to be complicated+optimal XOR implementable and think it's an important and somewhat underappreciated point. It makes it somewhat more complicated to give policy recs to family/friends but I'm glad I'm slowly learning how to give rules that are more implementable.

($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

Tl;dr: I think we can vaguely guess a 1.5-2x risk reduction from a third shot, maybe pushing 2-2.5x if you get it close to 6 months after the first; for those with less immunity after two shots, it might be more like expected 3-6x, though it’s unclear if one can discern who these are. If you do get a third shot, you should definitely try to get a different kind, as others have said, though unclear if you want to sacrifice efficacy for this.


First, to establish an expected effect size, how good are the first two shots? The first Pfizer/Moderna takes... (read more)

2jacobjacob3moI'll pay $425 for this answer, will PM you for payment details.
3Ethan Perez3moDo you (or others) have a sense of whether it'd be better to take Moderna or J&J after two doses of Pfizer? (Or whether to take Pfizer vs. J&J after two doses of Moderna)
($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

(Heads up that this is where the Delta variant is widespread though, so this is probably exacerbating the natural effect of waning immunity. Not sure of the exact timescales though)

($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

I think almost all the evidence points in the opposite direction, unless I’m drastically misunderstanding something, which does occasionally happen.

First and foremost, the idea of having a binary seroconversion dependent on germinal center response seems highly contraindicated at best. There are a billion studies showing that single doses of vaccines give some antibody response, and then a second dose gives far more (often 2-3 OOM). For example, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. This is the point Lanrian seemed to be making, which I think pretty immediately disproves the h... (read more)

3JenniferRM3moI just read this tonight and it is fantastic. You know more immunology than me by a lot! <3 I'll be editing my answer to leave the substance of what I wrote so posterity can see me being dumb but willing to make an educated guess, but defer to your answer at the top with an explanation :-)
1Connor_Flexman3moThe relevant graphics on booster shots:
Jimrandomh's Shortform

I like this a lot.

I've been thinking recently about how a lot of my highly-valued experiences have a "fragility" to them, where one big thing missing would make them pretty worthless. In other words, there's a strongly conjunctive aspect. This is pretty clear to everyone in cases like fashion, where you can wear an outfit that looks good aside from clashing with your shoes, or social cases, like if you have a fun party except the guy who relentlessly hits on you is there.

But I think it's underappreciated how widespread this dynamic is. Getting good relaxat... (read more)

Connor_Flexman's Shortform

Saving this example for later, when everyone claims the CDC and other "experts" didn't act incredibly stupidly about boosters:

"Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time," according to a joint statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed."

The statement came after Pfizer-BioNTech announced plans to seek authorization for a booster shot for its COVID-19 vaccine. Thou... (read more)

Causes of a Debt Crisis—Economic

Oops, you're obviously right about not getting runaway inflation from NGDP targeting. Not sure if there's still an issue there with printing when not a reserve currency, but maybe not.

Oops, I actually meant public_debt:GDP. I think growth there continues to be a concern, because it's not "determined" in the way you said afaik, and e.g. COVID?

Ah, the FX idea is good! I still don't actually understand some of the core of NGDP targeting—my reasoning runs into a contradiction because it seems like if you lower your FX, your nominal GDP should go up because you... (read more)

1Logan Zoellner4moNGDP targeting theoretically doesn't care one-way or the other about the amount of public debt (assuming an independent central bank). If the government spends too much money (due to a crisis like Covid), the interest rates it has to pay will rise and it will face a sovereign debt crisis. Two outcomes are possible: 1) the government declares bankruptcy, can no longer borrow on the public markets, and is forced to raise taxes or cut spending 2) the government mandates that the central bank buy public debt, monetizing the debt and producing above-target inflation. Case 2) (which is by far the more common one) is no longer NGDP targeting since the central bank ceases to independently follow its NGDP target. I actually can't think of a real-world example of case 1). When governments face a sovereign debt crisis and respond with austerity, NGDP generally falls well below trend. See, for example, Greece []. I'm not sure why this is, but probably because austerity is forced on the country by an outside institution (usually the IMF or in Greece's case the ECB) which cares more about getting its debts repaid than about making sure NGDP stays on-trend. If the central bank sells FX and buys domestic currency, this will cause the value of you domestic currency to rise, meaning the price (in domestic dollars) of goods produced in your country will fall. Obviously the central bank can only do this if it has FX reserves to sell. If not, then it has to raise interest rates, which should similarly cause the value of the domestic currency to rise (and nominal GDP to proportionately fall).
Causes of a Debt Crisis—Economic

Oh cool! These definitely seem like they're on the Pareto frontier for efficiency of asset pairs returns given collateral risk. However, I think this has isomorphic risk-reward as actually owning the assets, just minus the collateral. (If the real asset makes a dollar, this makes a dollar; if the real asset loses a dollar, this loses a dollar; QED.) So, it doesn't actually fix the fact that the short side has a max return, while the long side doesn't, or the fact that the median movement is upward, etc. The main benefit here is just the potential for very ... (read more)

Rationality Yellow Belt Test Questions?

Two tests I'd like to see:

  1. A test in which there are a number of Claims, like "We should put more effort into education". For each Claim, a number of subclaims and pieces of "evidence" are given by the test; the sources are cited, but as with most things they might be misleading or wrong. You answer by responding to the core of the claim (not necessarily the explicit proposition) in a way that integrates the relevant evidence, calls out or at least skips the pieces which are irrelevant or misleading, grapples with the uncertainties, doesn't dodge the parts
... (read more)
Causes of a Debt Crisis—Economic

First, your idea at the end is amazing and I hadn't noticed it. It seems totally possible that more monetary stimulus earlier would make it easier to trade the cycle, moving inflation up, raising interest rates earlier. I like it. However, I'm not sure about a promise to keep creditors solvent, that seems like enough moral hazard to increase debt crises; perhaps you just mean giving them loans, which seems fine. Also, I'm not convinced that this would work as great as you'd expect, just because you still have to have people bet a ton of money in the right ... (read more)

1Logan Zoellner4moThis is absolutely a valid concern. My preferred version of NGDP targeting would pair a VAT with a UBI. Any time the central bank wanted to raise NGDP, it would increase the UBI or decrease the VAT and anytime they wanted to lower NGDP they would decrease the UBI or increase the VAT. I actually do think that you can do NGDP targeting using interest rates/QE alone, but this requires a much stronger "signaling" component from the central bank where they commit not to raise interest rates/pull back on QE until NGDP is back above target. You can't actually get out of control inflation simply by doing NGDP targeting. Reserve currency or not, sustained (above target) inflation occurs when the government spends more than it taxes and overrides central bank independence in order to monetize the debt. The debt:GDP ratio is determined by the savings rate and productivity growth rate of the underlying economy. Unfortunately in the developed world, we've seen the savings rate grow and productivity growth stagnate due to a combination of wealth inequality and an aging population. These are both serious concerns, but raising interest rates and driving the economy into recession is definitely not going to help. Looking at the 2008 recession, the result was to drive down fertility [] and wage growth for the bottom 20% didn't really happen [] until we reached near-full employment in 2019. I think I was just misremembering here. However one way you could target NGDP (if you aren't a reserve currency) is just to raise/lower your exchange rate target when you want to adjust NGDP. This solves the "pushing on a string" problem with low interest rates, since it is always possible to lower your exchange rate by selling domestic currency and buying the reserve currency.
Causes of a Debt Crisis—Economic

I definitely agree with this. I think the wider populace may be considering greed as almost a circular explanation, where getting money in normal ways is fine but in ways that cause bad things is greedy, and so of course after the fact of a debt crisis their actions will be labeled as "greed."

Intro to Debt Crises

This is a great frame, thanks.

In the ending parenthetical, it sounds like you're saying that I'm overapplying the term "debt crisis" compared to "standard recession" because what-you-would-call-a-standard-recession is caused by a quick decline in inflation, whereas what-you-would-call-a-debt-crisis is merely sparked by or correlated with a quick decline in inflation and is sometimes inflationary. Is that a correct paraphrase?

I will think about that claim more, but for now your frame seems very compatible with mine to me. My current reconciliation would say... (read more)

4PeterMcCluskey4moThat paraphrase is mostly good. I'm trying to separate monetary phenomena, which are the main problem in recessions, from reckless debt levels, which are the main contributor to government debt crises. Yes, my explanation is mostly compatible with yours. I didn't try to explain how a system becomes vulnerable. I think that happens via recency bias causing misjudgments, plus competitive pressures that Romeo mentions.
Causes of a Debt Crisis—Economic

I meant that borrowers throughout the economy can refinance at lower rates, which is better for them, which means it's easier for the economy to build new stuff.

Is the length of the Covid-19 incubation period likely to be affected by whether you are vaccinated?

(Moderately cleaned version of the answer I PM'ed you)

My guess is that yes, you on average add a day or maybe 5-30% to your incubation period bookends. I would guess 2-19 days, avg 6, if the original is 2-14 avg 5. I'd guess about 40% chance it does hardly anything either way, 20% chance selection effects or other unexpected mechanism actually means

 incubation period is reduced.

(This is only different than JenniferRM's answer because she was looking at the case where your body immediately fights it off successfully, but I think that's counted as "not ... (read more)

3Josh Jacobson4moThe cleaned version here resonates more greatly with me, answers some questions I think I hadn't realized I had, and I just really highly appreciate your response to this. I'm making a meaningful quarantine decision prior to visiting someone immunocompromised, so it's really great to have your very different perspective from the other response to this.
Connor_Flexman's Shortform

Bad metaphor mode of conversation:

Instead of saying true things or trying to make a point that meaningfully advances the conversation, you can just make points that aren't that good. Apply a bad analogy if you want.

I think this is surprisingly important around the watercooler for especially generative people, and something I've been missing and wrong about when I vaguely look down on bad metaphors. Obviously you should not use this type of conversation in getting-things-done convos or many-person convos, but it seems tailored for few-person brainstorming/d... (read more)

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