Epistemic standards for “Why did it take so long to invent X?”

That sounds like an outside view argument, making the use of the example in general argument purely circular.

I don't point out that the Difference Engine was more feasible. I specifically asked you for such an argument and you sidestepped. I don't think anyone has ever made such an argument.

I only point out that the Difference Engine was feasible, which is an independent claim. For a century people claimed that Babbage's designs were infeasible. This proves too much. Would you have made that mistake? If the construction disproved the conventional wisdom, it is not enough to minimally adjust your conclusions to avoid the falsehoods, but to adjust your methods.

Epistemic standards for “Why did it take so long to invent X?”

Sure, Babbage didn't finish the design, but how to you justify 

could never have been built with the technology of the day

Do you claim that to distinguish the technology necessary for the two machines?

Epistemic standards for “Why did it take so long to invent X?”

The example of the machined ball bearing is great! 

But both your other examples are false. Ctesibius did not just make a tabletop science demo, but also used steam engines to do useful work, namely opening temple doors. Babbage designed a working computer, which we know because people built it. He correctly computed the necessary tolerances and they were within the tolerances available at the time. The only problem was that he was defrauded on tolerances, a failure of social technology, or perhaps, a success of cartel social technology.

There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

The difference between "fuzzy" and "arbitrary" is fuzzy, but we should prefer one word over the other.

Douglas_Knight's Shortform

I see many people say that we should have done vaccine challenge trials, that would have been so much quicker. But we did challenge trials. They were "approved" in September and actually begun in February. If you want fast trials, it makes just as much sense to demand that the regulators run regular trials fast. There is much more to gain on that front.

The actual efficacy trials only took about 2 months* that would have been saved by challenge trials. Most of the time was spent not studying vaccines, but waiting for approval to move on to the next step of the trial, just as all a year was spent waiting for approval for challenge trials. The criterion for moving from phase 2 to phase 3 is very simple and should not have taken any time at all, nor any explicit permission. It is perfectly reasonable for regulators to not want to trust the drug companies, but they can check the data after the fact. And if there are analyses that they did not foresee, they can do those after the new trials has already begun.


* The amount of time for efficacy in a non-challenge trial depends on the prevalence of the disease. The actual duration of 2 months was not predicted ahead of time. The FDA's late addition of 2 months of safety data suggests that it was surprised how fast the efficacy data came in. Also, challenge trials don't provide safety data, only efficacy. It's good to separate safety from efficacy and make an explicit decision, a decision that the FDA tried to avoid for half of the trial. When people say that challenge trials save time, they are ignoring this, implicitly endorsing no such medium-term safety data. That's probably the right choice, but people who make it should say it loud, not dodge responsibility like the FDA.

We got what's needed for COVID-19 vaccination completely wrong

Here is a specific proposal about the role of sexiness, ie, newness. I don't mean to put a lot of weight on this hypothesis as opposed to the general class, but it is useful to spell out details. Also, I'm not sure what you're saying and I suspect this is about a somewhat different irrationality than you were proposing.

Perhaps governments will not allow drug companies to profit in cash from selling vaccines. But they can still profit in intangible experience. This is most obvious with Moderna and BioNTech, whose existence is predicated on mRNA vaccines working in general and the companies being able to make them in particular. After this is over, they may not have any more net cash, but they will find it easier to raise money and convince regulators, not to mention that they will be more competent. Similarly, AZ and J&J will learn about vector vaccines.

We got what's needed for COVID-19 vaccination completely wrong

I don't know about subtle difference between proteins and peptides, but I would say the relevant category is "recombinant vaccines" and I believe that the first such was the Hepatitis B vaccine approved in 1986. This used genetically engineered yeast to produce a protein from the virus that was harvested and injected into people. 

Douglas_Knight's Shortform

I often hear people claim that Hong Kong and Singapore are Georgist. More specifically, I hear that they have Land Value Taxes. Their success is often attributed to their Georgism.

Hong Kong has a property tax that is not at all an LVT. Singapore has a tax that it claims is a LVT, but it's really just a property tax that is reassessed when a new building is proposed, rather than complete. I guess that improves incentives, but it seems pretty minor.

There is more to the spirit and letter of Georgism. The central conceit is state ownership of land, which both cities try to monopolize, offering only 99 year leases. I guess this cuts down on long-term "speculation," but George's proposals usually seem focused on a shorter term.

The modern account is to emphasize that the value of cities is the positive externalities from all the development. A government should encourage the production of positive externalities, in particular more building. The cities do take this to heart and make it easy to build. Maybe Georgism is really simple and that's the key point. So many other cities fail it, but it's not because of failing to grasp the abstract argument for an LVT or the difficult details of implementing it, but because of much more basic and fundamental failure.

Douglas_Knight's Shortform

Hypothesis: "Flatten the curve" took off because it allows people to participate without 1. signaling they care what happens to them. 2. think things will get bad or 3. think bad things are preventable.


Load More