Your arguments about health care systems collapsing in the absence of lockdowns are highly emotive but not factual. The experience from Sweden, from Serbia, from the US states which didn't do second lockdowns, is that the health care systems didn't collapse. You are arguing from the unexamined assumption that no lockdown means failed health care system and your assumption is empirically, provably false. Please update your views accordingly.
I see a lot of nit-picking of my evidence, but you have provided zero support for your own claim that lockdowns do more good than harm. I challenge you to come up with a published cost-benefit analysis that proves the same.
What would a good cost-benefit analysis include? There are a lot of harms caused by lockdowns. Some of them are difficult to quantify (eg my last point), but I think it's reasonable to demand a cost-benefit analysis takes into account at least three of the following six harms (which are far from an exhaustive list):
Lockdowns are more harmful than beneficial with the few exceptions of those countries like New Zealand that successfully kept the virus out. For any country where the virus is already endemic, the damage done by lockdowns was immense, and the benefits relatively limited. Remember that the counterfactual is not 'do nothing'. It's 'enact some more reasonable set of restrictions'.
Prof Douglas Allen of SFU just did a really good takedown of bad arguments in favour of lockdown. In his most unrealistic extreme scenario intended to steelman the pro-lockdown... (read more)
To expand on your last sentence, anger can be a driver of positive change in the world. Greta Thunberg is angry that people are carelessly wrecking the only planet we have to live on. Racial justice protesters in the US are angry that black people keep getting killed by the police. Unless you're a saint, being furious about some injustice is much more motivating than the dispassionate thought that 'x would be a good deed'.
Having said that, I would agree with OP that most of the time in most interpersonal situations anger is damaging, and for most people be... (read more)
What is your definition of contaminate? If Devanney is correct that low doses of radiation are acceptable - and I believe he is - then much land which is described as ‘contaminated’ is in fact perfectly liveable. (Also see the people who illegally live in the Chernobyl exclusion zone). For a reasonable definition of ’contaminate’ then, it follows that a nuclear accident contaminates much smaller areas of land and is less expensive.
Your anti-nuclear argument also ignores the status quo of non nuclear energy. In America alone, fossil fuels (read coal) kill t... (read more)
I love the idea, but I’m sceptical based on genetics. Our civilisation has moved a lot of species around, from stuff like bringing placental mammals to Australia to things like exporting food crops around the world. Potatoes evolved in the Americas, now you can find them everywhere. Soy beans came from Japan / East Asia but now they’re heavily cultivated in Brazil.
I assume that any previous industrial civilisation, even if it were less adaptable than humans, would probably have spread outside of its home continent, if only to look for oil and m... (read more)
I would say the UFO thing is different because the defence people are reporting physical phenomena which they can’t explain. So far as I know, the CIA didn’t have evidence that ESP worked and subsequently decide to investigate it, rather someone persuaded them to spend some money looking for evidence (which they didn’t find). The UFO reports give the impression that the DoD didn’t want to take them seriously but they got smacked in the face by enough evidence that they didn’t have much choice.
Again, I’m not saying it’s definitely something weird. But if th... (read more)
I think that we should be taking the possibility of UFOs more seriously. Over the last year, I've updated from thinking that UFOs are laughable to thinking there's a 10-20% chance of actual alien visitation, and about another 10-20% of something else important going on. (Ie someone - presumably China - has either made a huge leap in drone technology or is getting good at spoofing multiple US military systems simultaneously.)
Why? Because a number of senior and generally sane people seem to be taking this seriously. The US military forces in particular... (read more)
Closure of schools. There's a mountain of evidence that taking kids out of school is harmful. It's not just the loss of education - although that doesn't help - but also the loss of socialisation. Less education is directly correlated with shorter life expectancy - a US study found that just that effect was enough to mean that closing schools would cost more years of life than it saved, with 98% probability. That's before adding in the burden from significantly higher rates of mental health problems in children who have been deprived of school.
Close ... (read more)
I think your Seeing the Smoke was interesting and the conclusions about human nature are right - particularly the point that most people will fail to do the obvious thing like leave the smoke-filled room out of fear of looking weird. That said, I really wish Cummings had drawn a different conclusion from your blogpost, because I strongly believe that lockdowns were the wrong response to Covid. Specifically, I would prefer Cummings had read Hans Rosling's excellent book Factfulness, especially chapter 10 on the urgency instinct:
Rosling ... (read more)
I think the issue is that 'raising awareness' is used to mean three separate things. (I agree that the extra simulacra levels aren't a helpful explanation.) Using awareness of breast cancer as a reasonably non-controversial example.
I may be stretching the point about changing human psychology here, but:
Education is widely considered to include learning how to be a emotionally well-adjusted and responsible adult. Schools teach things like mindfulness and intra-personal conflict resolution. For example, kids learn how to recognise when they are reacting from anger, and therefore how to take a breath and try a more mature reaction. They learn about concepts like how stress can make you start catastrophising, and how to apply some cognitive behavioural therapy to oneself or a frien... (read more)
I was thinking about this a little more, and I think that the difference in our perspectives is that you approached the topic from the point of view of individual psychology, while I (perhaps wrongly) interpreted Duncan's original post as being about group decision-making. From an individual point of view, I get where you're coming from, and I would agree that many people need to be more confident rather than less.
But applied to group decision-making, I think the situation is very different. I'll admit I don't have hard data on this, but from life ex... (read more)
Does anyone have a clear example to give of a time/space where overconfidence seems to them to be doing a lot of harm? I would say making investments in general (I am a professional investment analyst.) This is an area where lots of people are making decisions under uncertainty, and overconfidence can cost everyone a lot of money.
One example would be bank risk modelling pre-2008: 'our VAR model says that 99.9% of the time we won't lose more than X' therefore this bank is well-capitalised. Everyone was overconfident that the models were correct, they ... (read more)
Hey! Thanks. I notice you’re a brand new commenter and I wanted to say this was a great first (actually second) comment. Both your examples were on-point and detailed. Your second one FYI seems quite likely to me too. (My colleague Jacob Lagerros interacted with epidemiological modeling at many places early in the pandemic – including Imperial! – and I have heard many horror stories from him about the modeling that was being used to advise governments.)
I’ll leave an on-topic reply tomorrow, just wanted to say thanks for the solid comment.
Thank you for an interesting article. It helped clarify some things I've been thinking about. The question I'm left with is: how practically can someone encourage a culture to be less rewarding of overconfidence?
I guess I'm feeling this particularly strongly because in the last. year I started a new job in a company much more tolerant of overconfidence than my previous employer. I've recalibrated my communications with colleagues to the level that is normal for my new employer, but it makes me uncomfortable (my job is to make investment recommendatio... (read more)