All of ignoranceprior's Comments + Replies

FWIW, if UK death toll will surpass 10,000, then this wouldn't fit very well with this hypothesis here.

The UK death toll currently stands at 10,612 according to:

Boy there was a lot of desperate motivated cogniton around a few weeks ago...
Alternatively, if the Covid-19 deaths in NY state go above 3,333 in the first week of April, that seems like it would also falsify the hypothesis. (NY state has fewer than one third the population of the UK.) Unfortunately I think this is >80% to happen.

On April 4, the death toll in NY state surpassed 3,333. As of April 10, there are 7,844 deaths.

The death rate data coming in seems to be converging on a 0.5% to 0.7% death per infection rate. Multiple sources have estimated that weeks ago based on age-normalizing the Diamond Princess, and on testing evacuees from Wuhan. Two serology surveys have now happened in Europe. One was in a hard-hit town in Germany, and one was in a hard-hit town in Italy at the epicenter of its outbreak. In both places, they got approximately a 15% seropositive rate. In Germany, we only have information on deaths with positive test rates and it comes to 0.35%. In Italy, total excess deaths over this time last year are about 2.5x the confirmed positive deaths and account for 0.1% of the population, giving an infection fatality rate of 0.7%. It is easy to imagine that some deaths did not get positive tests in Germany which along with a less-old population could make up for the difference. From this, I estimate that at least 10% and possibly up to 20% of New York City has been infected, given the delay between infections and deaths. (100*8000 = 800,000, out of about 8 million)

The "Rationalist prepper thread" was actually posted on January 28, not January 20.

This is indeed what I meant. Also I was thinking about once-the-dust-settles IFR, not "crude IFR".

If the IFR is indeed .003% (the upper end of your range), then assuming the worst case scenario that 100% of the population of the UK gets infected eventually, only .003%*66.4 million = approx 2000 people will die total.

Would you consider the theory falsified if the death toll in the UK surpasses 2000?

3Hauke Hillebrandt4y
No. My ambition here was a bit simpler. I have presented a rough qualitative argument here that infection is already widespread and only a toy model. There are some issues with this and I haven't done formal modelling. For instance, this would be what would be called the "crude IFR" I think , but the time lag adjusted IFR (~30 days from infection to death) might increase the death toll. Currently, also every death in Italy where coronavirus is detected is recorded as a C19 death. FWIW, if UK death toll will surpass 10,000, then this wouldn't fit very well with this hypothesis here.

I'm confused why you assume that 36-68% of the population in the UK is infected. I thought, based on comments here, that those numbers were the output of a model that made highly optimistic assumptions about IFR, not an attempt at estimating the actual proportion of infections.

Do you think this is a realistic range for the proportion already infected in the UK?

-2Hauke Hillebrandt4y
I'm not impressed by the comment about this paper here on LW or the twitter link in it. This paper was written by an international team of highly cited disease modellers who know about the Diamond Princess and have put their reputation on the line to make the case that this the hypothesis of high infections rate and low infection fatality might be true. I think it is a realistic range that this many people are already infected and are asymptomatic. Above I've tried to summarize and review the relevant evidence that fits with this hypothesis. But I'm not ruling out the more common theory (that we have maybe only 10x the 500k confirmed cases). I just find it less likely.

What is your personal point estimate or credible interval for IFR?

1Hauke Hillebrandt4y
If the Gupta study is true, then a rough approximation (ignoring lag) would be that it's: IFR = Number of UK deaths (~750) / 36-68% of the UK population (66 million). So 0.002% to 0.003%. In Italy, with almost 10k deaths it would be 0.02%-0.04%

Epidemiologist Behind Highly-Cited Coronavirus Model Admits He Was Wrong, Drastically Revises Model (archive)

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model, which has been cited by organizations like The New York Times and has been instrumental in governmental policy decision-making, offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.

Ferguson’s model projected 2.2 million dead people in the United States and 500,000 in the U.K. from COVID-19 if no action were taken to slow the virus and blunt
... (read more)
1Lukas Finnveden4y
That article is based on a twitter thread that is based on this article that is based on the parliamentary hearing that Wei Dai linked. The twitter thread distorted the article a lot, and seems to be mostly speculation.
7Wei Dai4y

Does anyone have thoughts on the recent Oxford study that claims that only a very small minority of infections lead to hospitalization or death, and that >50% of the UK population is already infected?

My thought can be summed up with the word "bullshit". The numbers required for that high an infection rate are orders of magnitude off what we know from the Diamond Princess data alone.

Does anyone have thoughts on the recent Oxford study that claims that only a very small minority of infections lead to hospitalization or death, and that >50% of the UK population is already infected?

Questions about buying chloroquine:

1. Is it better to buy hydroxychloroquine or regular chloroquine? The studies I've found suggest hydroxychloroquine is safer and more potent, but it is a bit more expensive.

2. How many days worth of the drug is it reasonable to buy per person?

3. How much should someone take per day and how should the dosage be timed?

4. Can someone confirm that the products you can find on when searching for "Lariago" (500 mg chloroquine as phos) and "OXCQ" (200 mg Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate) are the right things to buy? If not, is there any other reputable or semi-reputable source that sells the right product?

That's the right stuff I think (chloroquine phosphate, very bitter tasting), would you say that reliablerxpharmacy is a good and trustworthy source? (not for chloroquine, for meds generally without a prescription)

Maybe birth rates will increase if there are massive quarantines, for the same reason birth rates are said to increase during natural disasters (???). Very uncertain. Just throwing this idea out there, since I've seen little discussion of it.

Is the 5-10% global mortality prediction conditional on COVID-19 infecting >10% of the world, or unconditional?

What do you think of the prospects for antivirals like remdesivir to be tested and mass-produced? How much could they lower CFR?

Why do you think other predictions, such as those given by Metaculus 1, 2, 3 are much less pessimistic?

Do you think shorting the market is a good idea still?

5Matthew Barnett4y
If 2.5 to 10% of the world population will indeed die, I cannot possibly see how the stock market would be low right now. A global recession or depression would result and that would be much worse than where it's at now.
3Wei Dai4y
It's more or less unconditional at this point, since it's not clear what could stop the virus from infecting >10% of the world. If you watch the press conferences for the Seattle-area outbreak, the officials in charge are saying it's unlikely that they can contain it. I think the prospects are good for successful test but I don't know about scaling up production. I've asked this myself in various places and have not gotten any answers. I don't have time to go through all those comments to find out where people gave their reasons. If you've read them, can you point to some that give the best arguments for their predictions? Then I can compare with my reasons... Yes, if my prediction is right and the market has only priced in a much lower death rate. I'm not as confident about this as I was in my original bet though. ETA: Mainly because of uncertainty about antivirals.
It confuses me that I seem to be the first person to talk much about this on either LW or EA Forum, given that there must be people who have been exposed to the current political environment earlier or to a greater extent than me.

This isn't an answer to your historical question, but I would like to point out that an EA recently wrote up his thoughts on speech policing here on the EA Forum, and I recall some previous relevant discussions as well (example).

Do any AI safety researchers have little things they would like to get done, but don't have the time for?

I'm willing to help out for no pay.

I have a backgound in computer science and mathematics, and I have basic familiarity with AI alignment concepts. I can write code to help with ML experiments, and can help you summarize research or do literature reviews.

Email me at with some more info about you and I might be able to give you some ideas (and we can maybe talk about things you could do for ai alignment more generally)

I can vouch that this person is highly skilled in a few areas of computer science.

If you're interested in this idea, you may want to join the "Reducing pain in farm animals" Facebook group. (It's currently very small.)

I thought you were a negative utilitarian, in which case disaster recovery seems plausibly net-negative. Am I wrong about your values?

I've had periods when I described myself as pretty close to pure-NU, but currently I view myself as a moral parliamentarian: my values are made up of a combination of different moral systems, of which something like NU is just one. My current (subject to change) position is to call myself "NU-leaning prioritarian": I would like us to survive to colonize the universe eventually, just as long as we cure suffering first. (Also it's not clear to me that this kind of an operation would be a net negative even on pure NU grounds; possibly quite non-effective, sure, but making it negative hinges on various assumptions that may or may not be true.)

Could you please try to keep discussion on topic and avoid making everything about politics? Your comment does not contribute to the discussion in any way.

According to this study, the law appears to be inaccurate for academic articles.

* Scholarly article * Title: Do scholars follow Betteridge’s Law? * Answer is no Nice.

Here's the latest working link (all three above are dead)

Also, here's an archive in case that one ever breaks!

I believe I already told you that I don't consider "spreading wild animal suffering" to be absurd; it's a plausible scenario. What may be intuitively absurd is the claim that "destroying nature is a good thing" -- which is not necessarily the same as the claim that "spreading wild animal suffering to new realms is bad, or ought to be minimized". (And there are possible interventions to reduce non-human suffering conditional on spreading non-human life. E.g. "value spreading" is often discussed in the EA community.)

Anyway, I'm done with this conversation for now as I believe other activities have higher EV.

Yes, I think it does because it's a plausible scenario and most plausible (IMO) ethical views say that causing non-human suffering is bad. Further exploration of the probability of such scenarios could influence my EA cause priorities, donation targets, and/or general worldview of the future.

seems like you'll be better off figuring out whether living on intersections of ley lines is beneficial, or maybe whether ghosts have many secrets to tell you...

Those have very low prior probabilities and low decision-relevance to me.

Aren't we talking about picking which absurd ideas to engage with? You are doing some motte and bailey juggling: Motte: This is an absurd idea which we engage with because it's worth engaging with absurd ideas. Bailey: This is an important plausible scenario which we need to be concerned about.

I don't see much in the way of empirical claims here (these would require a hard definition of "suffering" and falsifiability to start with), so I guess I'm talking about counterintuitive normative claims.

Fair point. This is one problem I have had with moral realist utilitarianism. Although I think it may still be the case that sentience and suffering are objective, just not (currently) measurable. Regardless, I don't think the claim of net-suffering in nature is all that absurd.

The claim is a bit different: that we should not spread (non-hu

... (read more)
And does the exploration of the consequences of spreading non-human life throughout the galaxy qualify? Doesn't look like that to me, seems like you'll be better off figuring out whether living on intersections of ley lines is beneficial, or maybe whether ghosts have many secrets to tell you...

Are you referring to empirical or normative claims? I don't consider the idea that wild animals experience net suffering absurd, although the idea that habitat destruction is morally beneficial is counterintuitive to most people. I think the idea that we should reduce the chance of spreading extreme involuntary suffering, including wild-animal suffering, throughout the universe is much less counterintuitive, and is consistent with a wide range of moral views.

Since I give significant (but not 100%) weight to "the overwhelming importance of the far futu... (read more)

I don't see much in the way of empirical claims here (these would require a hard definition of "suffering" and falsifiability to start with), so I guess I'm talking about counterintuitive normative claims. The claim is a bit different: that we should not spread (non-human) life through the galaxy. This is counterintuitive. So how do you pick absurd ideas to engage with? There are a LOT of them.

Someone once proposed a possible s-risk:

If the suffering of hypothetical entities is morally relevant, then Brian Tomasik’s electron thought experiment was a crime of unimaginable proportions. In fact, it may well be that Tomasiks spontaneously forming in empty space outweigh every “conventional” source of suffering in the Universe. I call this the Boltzmann Brian problem.

Well then, how much resources (e.g. time and mental energy) do you feel should we spend entertaining absurd (note: no quotes) notions?
  1. No, it doesn't necessarily imply that. Suppose wild animals have net-positive aggregate welfare, but a subset of these lives contain extreme involuntary suffering. Spreading this throughout the universe would still be considered an s-risk according to FRI's definition: "Finally, some futures may contain both vast amounts of happiness and vast amounts of suffering, which constitutes an s-risk but not necessarily a (severe) x-risk. For instance, an event leading to a future containing 10^35 happy individuals and 10^25 unhappy ones, would constitute an

... (read more)
You have two choices: ad absurdum and "Brian Tomasik takes a similar view, and even endorses". Pick one :-)

FRI has focused on a few s-risks that you didn't mention (perhaps because they are not "colossal" enough):

Spread of wild animals (Related to your #2, "Normal Level") - "Humans may colonize other planets, spreading suffering-filled animal life via terraforming. Some humans may use their resources to seed life throughout the galaxy, which some sadly consider a moral imperative."

A possible compromise between the pro-panspermia and suffering-focused groups would be directed panspermia based on gradients of bliss (if Pearce's aboli... (read more)

Thanks for adding ideas, I will add them in the next version of the map. I think that the way we explore s-risks should be beneficial to our future. And for that we need that s-risks will not exclude x-risks, or create them. However, the lines of reasoning where life in general is net-negative, or human sufferings are less important than animal sufferings, or running simulation or reinforcement learning algorithms are regarded as mindcrime - are themself able to create dystopian future without any measurable reduction of sufferings. To balance x-risks and s-risks we need to understand that non-existence is also a form of sufferings in a provable way. At first, we need to define suffering not based on pain, but based on values and choices. It is measurable and is according to common sence. Some masochists may love pain, or in some cases pain is felt but not regarded as bad. However, if define suffering only through pain we have problems: 1) non-existence becomes preferable in many situations, about which common sense says that they should bot be preferable. 2) Wireheading becomes good solution 3) Sufferings become unmeasurable, as we can't measure other's qualia. 4) We may start to decide about others' preferences against their will, but based on out (false) extrapolation of it. So defining suffering through values and choices will help to come to more consistent results. We could ask a person about its worse possible outcome, and in many cases it will be not only pain. It case of animals we often can't ask, but we could make a thought experiment, would they prefer to live. Such thought experiment helps us to establish that non-existence is a form of suffering for most actually existing humans and animals (but not mind in general). Imagine that my cat died. Is it suffering tomorrow? I could imagine that it will be alive tomorrow and measure two things 1) its pain level 2) its readiness to protect its life. The fact that it would protect its life if was aliv
This implies that for wild animals life is not worth living. So just kill them all, as quickly as possible?

Some people in the EA community have already written a bit about this.

I think this is the kind of thing Mike Johnson (/user/johnsonmx) and Andres Gomez Emilsson (/user/algekalipso) of the Qualia Research Institute are interested in, though they probably take a different approach. See:

Effective Altruism, and building a better QALY

Principia Qualia: blueprint for a new cause area, consciousness research with an eye toward ethics and x-risk

The Foundational Research Institute also takes an interest in the issue, but they tend to advocate an eliminativist, subje... (read more)

This is great info, but it's about a different angle from what I'd like to see. (I now realise it is totally impossible to infer my angle from my post, so here goes) I want to describe the causes of happiness with the intentional stance. That is, I want to explain them in terms of beliefs, feelings and intentions. For example, it seems very relevant that (allegedly) suffering is a result of attachment to outcomes, but I haven't heard any rationalists talk about this.

What would count as "LessWrong-esque"?

Channels that make videos on similar topics covered in the Sequences.

And the concept is much older than that. The 2011 Felicifia post "A few dystopic future scenarios" by Brian Tomasik outlined many of the same considerations that FRI works on today (suffering simulations, etc.), and of course Brian has been blogging about risks of astronomical suffering since then. FRI itself was founded in 2013.

Iain Banks' Surface Detail published in 2010 featured a war over the existence of virtual hells (simulations constructed explicitly to punish the ems of sinners).

Oh, in those cases, the considerations I mentioned don't apply. But I still thought they were worth mentioning.

In Star Trek, the Federation has a "Prime Directive" against interfering with the development of alien civilizations.

The main role of which is to figure in this recurring dialogue: -- Captain, but the Prime Directive! -- Screw it, we're going in.

The flip side of this idea is "cosmic rescue missions" (term coined by David Pearce), which refers to the hypothetical scenario in which human civilization help to reduce the suffering of sentient extraterrestrials (in the original context, it referred to the use of technology to abolish suffering). Of course, this is more relevant for simple animal-like aliens and less so for advanced civilizations, which would presumably have already either implemented a similar technology or decided to reject such technology. Brian Tomasik argues that cosmic r... (read more)

Thanks for links. My thought was that we may give higher negative utility to those x-risks which are able to become a-risks too, that is LHC and AI. If you know Russian science fiction by Strugatsky, there is an idea in it of "Progressors" - the people who are implanted into other civilisations to help them develop quickly. At the end, the main character concluded that such actions violate value of any civilization to determine their own way and he returned to earth to search and stop possible alien progressors on here.

Want to improve the wiki page on s-risk? I started it a few months ago but it could use some work.

I don't know specifically. Where would be the best place to start?

What are good introductory books on chemistry and biology that do not require any background knowledge? I'm ashamed to say it, but I don't really even have a high-school level knowledge of either subject, and what little I knew is now forgotten. My background in basic (classical) physics is much better, but I have forgotten some of that too.

This is a long post, so I'm going to pre-emptively tell you what's in it: first, textbook recommendations, followed by popular science book recommendations I'm surprised no one has given a good answer to this as yet. Unfortunately, I only feel comfortable offering recommendations in biology. I have decent knowledge of chemistry, but that comes from working in chemistry labs and doing a lot of physical chemistry stuff. I wouldn't begin to know what's good reading in the chemical sciences (unless you're interested in statistical mechanics, which I'm guessing you're not). For a good textbook on biology, Campbell is the most common one. It has everything you need in terms of introductory information - but again, it's a textbook. If you can make yourself read it from one end to the other, you'll come out significantly more knowledgeable, but that's not easy with a textbook. The 7th edition upward should be sufficiently updated. If you want specifically molecular and cellular biology, Alberts is generally the standard. "Molecular Biology of the Cell" by Alberts and others is what I used. 5th edition upward should be okay, but even the 5th edition will have out of date information. If you just want basic knowledge of biology, this book isn't necessary. For ecology, there's a million and one textbooks and I don't know which one is best. Find one that's free and mathy. If it doesn't have graphs and equations in it, I wouldn't consider it worthwhile to read - but that's just my opinion. If you want biology books that are more pop-sci and less textbook, I know of a few that are decent: A lot of people recommend any of Dawkins' books. I've never read any of them and don't have any particular intention of doing so, but I figured I'd mention it. I've heard A LOT of good things about Siddhartha Mukherjee and his book "The Gene: An Intimate History" - this is one book I DO intend to read, but have not done so yet. ( ). He
I really liked "Basic Physics: A Self Teaching Guide". It only requires some basic algebra knowledge.
What do you want to learn about chemistry and biology?
Good idea. I will do so.

Yes, for cases of Gish gallop it would be impractical to refute every single point.

Has anyone here had success with the method of loci (memory palace)? I've seen it mentioned a few times on LW but I'm not sure where to start, or whether it's worth investing time into.

I considered it seriously and spent hours working on a method, then realised that if I reduced stress I could improve my memory in a way that I didn't need it. Using memory palaces to solve your problems might be a harder path to doing whatever it is that you want to do than other existing paths that might seem aversive. (I was hoping to remember names better. Now I just choose to remember them with more ferocity)
"Your Memory: How it works and how to improve it" by Higbee is an excellent book on memory. It dispels some common memory myths, clarifies concepts (e.g. short vs long term memory), teaches general principles on how to remember information (meaningfulness, organisation, association, visualization, etc.), as well as specific memory techniques (method of loci, peg mnemonic, first letter mnemonic, etc.).
Brienne has, example blog post here. She'd probably recommend it. I personally am satisfied with some much more simplistic memory techniques like trying to remember context when I remember something (e.g. try to remember the sight and feel of sitting in a certain classroom to remember content of a lecture), and using repetition more judiciously (remembering to use peoples' names right after I hear them is the biggest use, but this is also good for shopping lists etc). I also suspect that practice using any sort of deliberate memorization at all will improve some sort of general deliberate memorization skill, so you might find that practicing mnemonics or method of loci improves your memory in a general way.

You need at least 10 karma points to vote (you currently have 2 points, according to your profile). Once you have 10 points you should be able to see the voting buttons. Incidentally, after a troll downvoted me from 12 to 4, I lost the ability to vote, and now I can no longer see the buttons.

Thank you, that is very helpful. I wish it is said in the FAQ, or I could have missed it. I would have upvoted you if I could.

It might be that downvote troll everyone keeps talking about. Eugine?


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