All of Elizabeth's Comments + Replies

An Observation of Vavilov Day

I think you're raising reasonable points, fairly gently. I think the overall issue is important, and was in my mind as I planned and wrote this. I get that, given that this post was high karma and curated, and has at least one comment saying we should scale Vavilov day immediately, it felt important to you to note the pitfalls (even if I already pushed against the universalization).  But I don't have a way to respond to this in LW comments that doesn't feel like justifying my personal choices, and I'm not interested in doing that. 

Potential alter... (read more)

An Observation of Vavilov Day

I couldn't think of anything that met all of: could be done in a day, didn't require follow-up, and was actually useful instead of purely symbolic. Planting something has fantastic symbolism, but letting it die later is worse than not doing it at all, and plant care isn't a priority for me the rest of the year.

Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

Ah, yes. I think young people should probably take the long term effects of viruses more seriously in general.

Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

Then this doesn't seem like a counterargument to "to elderly people it would be effectively the same as any other serious stressor" to me. 

3Florin7hThe counterargument would apply to "It wouldn't be relevant to non-elderly people...."
Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

It looks like those deaths are "with covid" not necessarily "due to covid". I think that was a reasonable approximation at first, but it makes it a bad tool for tracking when covid becomes less dangerous and more widespread. 

However the fact that excess deaths are spiking with covid prevalence is pretty suggestive.

Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

How does this compare to other contagious diseases? 
EDIT: for aging in particular.

1Florin12hIt's probably too early to compare the amount of senescence that's produced by SARS-CoV-2 versus other viruses, but what is known [] is that several viruses (including influenza) do induce the development of senescent cells in several tissues.
Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

I think that assumption is inaccurate, and is becoming more inaccurate over time. Lockdown is also hard on people and contributes to the excess deaths.

3arunto1dOne possible component e.g. drug overdose deaths, with an increase of 31% from 2019 to 2020 (it will be interesting to see, how the numbers for 2021 are). CDC []
1Florin2dCDC data [] seems to suggest that 269,014 excess deaths (select "Total number above average by cause") aren't due to covid out of a total of 952,707 total excess deaths (select "Number of Excess Deaths"). That means 72% (most) might be covid-caused.
Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

When I looked into this there was a paper that compared psych sequelae from covid to influenza and flu-like illnesses and found "covid to be modestly worse except for myoneural junction and other muscular diseases, where covid 5xed the risk (although it’s still quite low in absolute terms). Dementia risk is also doubled, presumably mostly among the elderly." This was not controlling for age or acute severity, and data was gathered pre-vaccine.

(note: I did this research months ago and haven't done any follow-up, so trust what I wrote then over what I remember now)

Long covid: probably worth avoiding—some considerations

I broadly agree but don't think that proves covid was the culprit. Vague shitty symptoms doctors refuse to grapple with were a problem long before covid, and if people with these symptoms can get better care by calling it long covid than leaving it open or blaming something else, they'd be stupid not to.

4MichaelStJules3dThat's a good point. I think the comparison of severe symptoms between COVID-positive COVID-negative matched controls would be good evidence about the risk. I don't recall if any comparison studies tracked severity between positive and matched negative groups, though, rather than mostly just presence of symptoms, and I do recall studies without comparisons tracking severity, which people could use to report non-COVID-related severe symptoms, as you suggest.
(briefly) RaDVaC and SMTM, two things we should be doing

There's an easier study I'd like to do before the lithium experiment: compare water contamination to obesity rates. I have two decent but not amazing datasets to do this (the water one tracks 18 contaminants but not lithium by zip code, the weight one tracks % obese not BMI by county) and a statistician who will analyze the results if I get the data in a single spreadsheet. I expect there are APIs to do that fairly easily but haven't had time to dig into it myself. If someone gets the 18 contaminants plus % obese in a single spreadsheet, and fixes the issu... (read more)

Nudging My Way Out Of The Intellectual Mosh Pit

shrug I definitely ran into this repeatedly without an intervening success, it's possible there was something weird because they were older websites.

New Year Review Resources

I'd be extremely interested in write-ups of alternatives to The Lean Start-Up, which I found valuable but also badly dated, with a lot of room for improvement.

Personal blogging as self-imposed oppression

A personal blog is like opening a public door to your mind. Do you really think that you won't clean up the contents for the sake of public appearances?

This isn't true by my definition of a personal blog, which makes me think you're using a different and probably narrower definition. Can you expand on what you mean by "personal blog"?

Survey supports ‘long covid is bad’ hypothesis (very tentative)

I'm very curious about this as well. I expect MTurk (which Positly is built on) to disproportionately draw from people willing to tolerate a low wage for increased flexibility, who are disproportionately disabled.

Transportation as a Constraint

This post was well written, interesting, had multiple useful examples, and generally filled in models of the world. I haven't explicitly fact-checked it but it accords with things I've read and verified elsewhere.

"Can you keep this confidential? How do you know?"

Conversations with Ray clarified for me how much secret keeping is a skill, separate from any principles about when would agree keeping a secret was good in principle, which has been very helpful in thinking through confidentiality agreements/decisions. 

(briefly) RaDVaC and SMTM, two things we should be doing

When I looked into it, you could see an effect on birthweight for babies born to mothers in high altitudes vs their lower-altitude siblings, and vice versa, which suggests to me something non-genetic is going on.  And the effect of altitude on birth weight held up in countries where altitude was associated with both lower and higher income (although that wasn't the sibling study), which pushes against and doesn't eliminate income effects.

2viking_math5d(I'm not actually sure if e.g. median income is positively associated with elevation in the US, since a bunch of those people are "ski bums" working a series of seasonal jobs at ski resorts, white water rafting companies, etc. I used the word class because I think those people are still disproportionately drawing from upper-class cultures and probably have high education on average, and there are definitely a lot of rich people hanging around as well, and the latter are more likely to live closer to the resorts. Mean income is definitely higher in those areas, though.) That's a really neat set of data in that blog post which I will have to go over in more detail later. The effect size doesn't seem to be that large to me, but maybe I don't have a good intuition for birth weight; 100 g = 0.2 pounds corresponds to 4% of the low range of what is considered healthy in European babies. And that's over a fairly wide elevation range of 3,300 feet. So I would be surprised if that could explain the very large difference in adult average BMI, but I could also be totally wrong about how fetal weight translates to adult weight. Given the limitations of "controlling for observables" I'm also still leaning towards selection effects, but the close linear relationship does cast doubt on that idea. I think it casts doubt on the pollution hypothesis too, FWIW, since there's no way that's cleanly linear, and it probably fits better with hypoxia but still not perfectly, since air pressure decreases sublinearly with elevation.
How To Fermi Model

I think this is an important skill and I'm glad it's written up at all. I would love to see the newer version Eli describes even more though. 

Use Normal Predictions

Foretold ( supports many continuous functions including normal for predictions and resolutions. It also had scoring rules for continuous predictions and resolution functions, and composite functions for both. The creator, Ozzie Gooen, was working on an even more sophisticated system but I'm not sure what stage that's currently at.

The more sophisticated system is Squiggle. It's basically a prototype. I haven't updated it since the posts I made about it last year. 

Rational Breaks: a better way to work

I'd be surprised if there were many people who were otherwise into the concept but turned off by the word ratio but not by rational (which was chosen as a pun on ratio).

2bfinn11dI'm not keen on either - Rational Breaks is merely provisional.
An Observation of Vavilov Day

They didn't all die. I haven't found a denominator in English sources and my Russian researcher has been busy, but my very rough guess is that <1/2 of the staff died. That seems plausibly the outcome of the correct process to me- you start out with a zero-tolerance policy because it's easier to hold to (and because the highest-metabolism people will die first), but if you get close to having too few staff to protect the seeds,  ration them out. 

My understanding is that the seeds made it through the siege fine, although a good chunk were lost to ensuing neglect of the institute, so the deaths don't seem to have hurt the goal.

An Observation of Vavilov Day

Re: more of the history. Working on it, but there was a combination of wanting to save something for a post on Vavilov Day, and Anna having priorities for the last week beyond finding Russian sources for me. 

Re: seed banks. I've been trying to figure out how to make this work. I think if we do something with plants, we have to make a reasonable effort to keep it alive over the next year, and I don't actually care enough about plants to do that (plus January is bad for planting). 

But maybe this would be a good shelling day for everyone to inventor... (read more)

An Observation of Vavilov Day

I don't love the process for generating rationalist holidays right now and tentatively think it would be better to switch to a patron saints model. People who want to can have their own hero or event that's especially close to their heart (and maybe a few secondary ones, or ones important to their friends), and if several people who like each other pick the same one they do stuff together, and if a lot of people pick the same one that becomes a more shared holiday (although still not mandatory). 

One reason for this is there are just actually a lot of ... (read more)

1Self-Embedded Agent10dHow did people get injured by getting mailed Doomsday codes on Petrov Day?
An Observation of Vavilov Day

If this sounds familiar and you went to bay area secular solstice, that’s probably because it was the topic of this song.

What would you like from How valuable would it be to you?

My guess is that the focus on bubbles no longer makes sense, since almost no one is doing that now. Beyond that, I struggle to know what trade offs could make microcovid UI more approachable, without making it not microcovid. A number of people (including me) already complain it's too restrictive, and cutting down on options makes that worse. It's really not obvious to me that the value generated by doing existing microcovid, but simpler, outweights the loss of configurability. Also I literally don't know how to make it simpler or more inviting beyond toss... (read more)

4jacobjacob15dThis will be a bit of a disappointing answer (sorry in advance), but I indeed think UI-space is pretty high-dimensional and that there are many things you can do that aren't just "remove options for all users". Sadly, the best I way I know of how to implement this is to just do it myself and show the result; and I cannot find the time for that this week.
What are sane reasons that Covid data is treated as reliable?
  • I've personally known many people who have had serious medical problems that sure looked clearly like vaccine reactions. On par with "Well now I can't get out of bed and can't think anymore" or "Oh shit, heart attack" kinds of reactions. But all these people I've known who tried to report their reactions were told "No, your reaction can't have been due to the vaccine, because the vaccine is safe and effective." I've heard lots of similar reports. Because this is about rejecting data collection, I don't see how anyone could possibly know how common/rare thi
... (read more)
A non-magical explanation of Jeffrey Epstein


As brought up elsewhere, this seems to be treating the FBI as both competent and honest in this interaction. I don't see a reason that has to be true. Yes, it would have been hard to de novo corrupt all of the relevant officers- but a culture of looking the other way on behalf of other law enforcement seems more likely than not. And it may not be the difference between a not saying "the CIA was here" vs. reporting no tampering, ... (read more)

What would you like from How valuable would it be to you?

Have you seen this estimate? It's not a full calculator but lists sources enough that you can do your own math.

4Sameerishere20dThanks for sharing that! I guess I'd be willing to pay $500 (per year? maybe more than that per year?) for someone to do the math for me and keep it updated as new data comes in. (For example, the findings I mentioned here). [] I think part of it is that I'd just prefer to spend my free time doing other things; part of it is that I'm not very good at evaluating studies, so I don't trust that my attempts to update on new information would necessarily be valid. (I did read your post back when you wrote it, and Zvi, Scott, and Matt Bell's posts around the same time, and kind of hand-waved my way [] to bumping my weekly budget to ~400 microCOVIDs, then roughly 1000 before Omicron kicked up, but am at a loss for how to update it as new findings come in.)
COVID Skepticism Isn't About Science

This seems like a fully general argument against optional things.

Do you have estimates of the rate at which that happens (and subsequent harms), vs people who don't want to wear masks being forced to do so (and subsequent harms)?

It is a general argument against workplace safety being optional. And we already have many regulations against traditional dangers in various jobs. The difference is that covid is new.

Do you have estimates of the rate at which that happens (and subsequent harms), vs people who don't want to wear masks being forced to do so (and subsequent harms)?

I can't provide high-quality estimates, only anecdotal evidence. Calculating harm would also be difficult, because a lot of it is indirect. For example, for me the greatest worry about getting covid was not that I ... (read more)

9AllAmericanBreakfast21dI don’t think it’s fully general. Masks cover your face. Vaccines are invisible. If vaccines are optional, people can get them and they won’t impact daily job performance. Masks will.
What would you like from How valuable would it be to you?

I'm curious what would changes you would make, based on the information? The things that affect driving risk are generally well known and Josh took a stab at quantifying them; what would you do differently if you found certain numbers were off by 20%? 

Not strictly what you asked for but you might be interested in Dan Luu's write-up on car safety, which bears on my answer to the above question: safer cars cost more money, and a 20% increase in risk ups the amount I'm willing to pay for more safety. I could also see it being useful for weather condition... (read more)

2adamzerner21dIn general I don't care too much about being off by 20%. There are some caveats/comments though. 1. There are a lot of variables, and it feels too me like if each of them could be off by ~20%, the overall calculation could be off by, idk, a factor of 1-2? That matters somewhat to me, but still not too too much. I'm more interested in orders of magnitude differences, or at least factors of more like 3-5. 2. I value life [] a lot more highly than others. And with a higher value on life, differences like 20% start to matter more. Still not too much, and if I'm being honest they probably still aren't the types of differences that would actually change my behavior. 3. I suppose the things that affect driving risks are well known, but are their magnitudes well known? I have two rationalist friends in particular I'm thinking of who believe/suspect that being a safe driver can have orders of magnitude differences. On the other hand, I don't share that impression, and it looks like you along with Josh Jacobson [] don't either. But none of us have spent much time investigating this question, so I'd think our confidences are all relatively low. Another example is driving speed. I did [] a quick investigation and it seems like the sort of thing that could have orders of magnitude impact. If so, that could actually be pretty influential for me, making local trips at low speed limits something I'm ok with. And maybe there are other big impact things we are overlooking that would show up in a closer investigation. That's part of the value I see in a "microcovid for cars/other things": knowing that others have
2adamzerner21dI might have come across it in the past but I don't remember. Thanks! That last row in particular that adjusts for things like impairment in particular is useful. I would still be willing to pay some good money for something a) more detailed (eg. driving speed is something I've come across that seems important and would be cool to see info on) and b) where more time was invested. At less than 1.5 hours, I feel worried about the reliability.
What would you like from How valuable would it be to you?

What kind of simplifications would you like to see, while keeping the product something that's still fundamentally microcovid? 

Omicron: My Current Model
  1. First two shots don’t protect against infection, boosters do somewhat (60%?).


I'm guessing you mean "first shots obtained in spring or summer are likely to have declined by now"? Or do you mean the third shot gives you more immunity than you ever had with only 2?

3Zvi21dI mean the second one, but 'new' two shots is going to do something in between. Three is better than a fresh two.
Solstice Quaker Darkness Circling

If you're doing darkness solstice in particular my take is that as long as everyone has appropriate gear, worse weather actively adds to the experience. California is easy mode but I wouldn't be surprise if the correlation holds at least as long as driving is safe.

Internet Literacy Atrophy

I think there's a shift. When I was learning tech, the goal was to build a model of what was going on under the hood so you could control it, on its terms. Modern tech is much more about guessing what you want and delivering it, which seems like it should be better and maybe eventually will be, but right now is frustrating. It's similar to when I took physics-for-biologists despite having the math for physics-for-physics-majors. Most people must find for-biologists easier or they wouldn't offer it, but it was obvious to me I would have gained more predictive power with less effort if I'd taken a more math-based class. 

3ESRogs19dReminds me of this: []
Internet Literacy Atrophy

Worth noting this was an extremely brilliant and online three year old who had a bunch of experience with multiple devices. She might not have seen my particular phone before, but I expect she had a good grounding in UI grammar. 

Internet Literacy Atrophy

I always stop watching once the belt clicks and missed that. Thanks!

The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission

I think this metaphor is absolutely true, and the emphasis on doing The Most Optimal Thing makes it worse. 

However on the literal axes of "can you low-effort create value by providing a few snacks?" this was, at least for a while, extremely available. When I started volunteering to be the snack person post-covid, people were overjoyed to give me money to make this happen. When I offered someone the deal "it'll be about $n, I'm getting what I think is good and I'm not providing receipts", they were delighted (it ended up working out in their favor, sin... (read more)

On (Not) Reading Papers

This seems like it trusts the authors to be summarizing their own work accurately. Is that correct? Do you/your friend endorse that assumption?

1Jan3dI'd make a distinction between: "The author believes (almost everything of) what they are writing." and "The experiments conducted for the paper provide sufficient evidence for what the author writes." The first one is probably true more frequently than the second. But the first one is also more useful than the second: The beliefs of the author are not only formed by the set of experiments leading to the paper but also through conversations with colleagues, explored dead-ends, synthesizing relevant portions of the literature, ... In contrast, the bar for making the second statement true is incredibly high []. So as a result, I don't take what's written in a paper for granted. Instead, I add it to my model of "Author X believes that ...". And I invest a lot more work before I translate this into "I believe that ...".
Quis cancellat ipsos cancellores?

The accusations against Brent were not that he engaged in hardcore BDSM practices- many peple had known that for years. The new information was that he ignored safewords and pressured people into things they did not want to do, which transforms the acts from BDSM to assault.


ETA: I should say I appreciate all the specifics Joshin put in this post, because they make it so easy to determine cruxes. 

Getting diagnosed for ADHD if I don't plan on taking meds?

The big thing an official diagnosis gets you besides meds is accomodations from organizations with HR departments. There are other useful things that come from knowing you have ADHD, but they normally don't require a credentialed note. 

That said: I know multiple people who didn't think an ADHD/autism/anxiety/depression diagnosis would do much for them but ended up being really glad they pursued it. It can be hard to know how helpful a given intervention or just the satisfaction of having a label will be ahead of time. ADHD diagnoses can be a lot of wo... (read more)

Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread

The killer advice here was masks, which was genuinely controversial in the larger world at the time. When we wrote a summary of the best advice. two weeks later, masks were listed under "well duh but also there's a shortage". 

Of the advice that we felt was valuable enough to include in the best-of summary, but hadn't gone to fixation yet, there were 4.5 tips. Here's my review of those

Cover your high-touch surfaces with copper tape 

I think the science behind this was solid, but turned out to be mostly irrelevant for covid-19 because it was so domi... (read more)

Credibility of the CDC on SARS-CoV-2

Overall, you can break my and Jim's claims down into a few categories:
* Descriptions of things that had already happened, where no new information has overturned our interpretation (5)
* CDC made a guess with insufficient information, was correct (1- packages)
* CDC made a guess with insufficient information, we'll never know who was right because the terms were ambiguous (1- the state of post-quarantine individuals)
* CDC made a guess with insufficient information and we were right (1- masks)

That overall seems pretty good. It's great that covid didn't turn o... (read more)

Dear Self; We Need To Talk About Social Media

It's helpful for this in two ways. The one I mentioned explicitly was that it trains awareness of your physical and emotional state, which is a precursor for monitoring how different things affect those states, which is a precursor for changing your environment to change your state. 

But the whole experimental framework is also based on an SET technique called emotional titration. The goal of emotional titration is to move fluidly between emotional states in a range that feels good for you. It's useful here for smoothly transitioning between Quiet and ... (read more)

Unwitting cult leaders

Being someone’s cultist (in this sense) is kind of like them having you in a hypnotic trance.

To extend this: people may be ~self-hypnotizing and then be incredibly vulnerable without the leader knowing they are vulnerable or wanting that responsibility. Statements that were genuinely meant as "consider this and decide for yourself" become harmful when someone has disabled their own filter.

Dear Self; We Need To Talk About Social Media

Kindle is the clear winner for me specifically. I often want to read right before bed, where having an eInk rather than LCD and the shift away from the noise machine are both at their most important.

I'd love to have a dedicated music player again, especially one that cooperated with Google Music on the back end to refresh locally available options while I was away from WiFi. I looked into this a tiny bit and couldn't find anything that I liked.  I could make it myself from an old phone but it hasn't felt worth that much effort. 

I found the Freewr... (read more)

4lalaithion1mo+1 to Kindle; I went from "Man, I used to read a lot during high school, now I just browse the internet" to reading more than 25 books per year when I bought one.
Leaving Orbit

Agreed. There are benefits to low-cost exit, but also costs, and which wins out depends on the situation.

The Oil Crisis of 1973

I did a lot of writing at the start of covid, most of which was eventually eclipsed by new information (thank God). This is one of a few pieces I wrote during that time I refer to frequently, in my own thinking and in conversation with others. The fact even very exogenous-looking changes to the economy are driven by economic fuckery behind the scenes was very clarifying for me in examing the economy as a whole. 

Omicron Post #4

There is no one vaccinated person. Getting a load high enough to trigger a positive test is less likely but still possible post-vaccination. The interaction with symptoms is weird because symptoms are caused by both viral load and immune response. 

1tkpwaeub1moThis lends credence to my theory about last week's exposure. Six negative rapid antigen tests and two negative PCR tests over the course of the seven days following the possible exposure, but I felt like hell about three days after.
Omicron Post #4

People become more contagious as there are more viral particles in their system. Vaccination inhibits replication (but less than 100%), so you would expect a vaccinated person to have a lower viral load after exposure than an unvaccinated person. They might also have more symptoms, because some symptoms are immune responses and the whole point of vaccination is to give you a stronger response at an earlier viral load.

2ChristianKl1moBut not automatically everywhere in the body. To inhibit replication in the upper respiratory system you need mucosal immunity. RaDVaC could potentially provide that but the approved vaccines don't. The approved vaccines only give you a response once the virus attacks deeper parts then your upper respiratory system.
1tkpwaeub1moI may have experienced this last week, after having a mild sub-detectable exposure. It felt a lot like after shots 2, 3 and 4. But I still haven't tested positive.
1Phil1moIs the vaccinated person's lower viral load enough to trigger a positive test, especially for those with symptoms? If it is, shouldn't we be thinking of "reinfections" as those cases of serious disease, rather than simply positive tests?
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