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Russian x-risks newsletter spring 21

Is there anything known to be actually wrong about Sputnik vaccine except the adenovirus vector replicating sometimes? I'd think the latter is more-or-less okay if you are not very old or immuno-compromised. I live in Eastern Europe and we have a large Russian-speaking minority group, who have the same trouble - low vaccination rate and high Covid rate - for exactly the opposite reason. They trust the Russian government well enough and would be happy to get Sputnik, but often refuse the EU-approved vaccines (they are a smart crowd but no-one can avoid a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side effect). Before the replication news I used to be slightly angry at my government for not buying Sputnik for everyone who wants it, and I still think it would be fine under some age limit. 

Core Pathways of Aging

Can you give some broad explanation about what are plants doing differently? As I understand most plants (except annuals which have a specific live-fast-die-young strategy) are biologically immortal and hey tend to die from external stressors, like pathogens or getting struck by lightning. They do have a whole lot of transposons, and plastids in addition to mitochondria...

Love on Cartesian Planes

And as another example, I'm a female who's love gets staggeringly strong sometimes, maybe like the author's wife, yet I still want to support effective altruism rather than giving to relatives impulsively. I have a male friend with some autism traits and probably lower love feelings, who's not at all interested in effective altruism, but gives generous impulsive gifts to people he knows. So I really don't know if there's a correlation between love and altruism, and if there if, in which direction.

What Does "Signalling" Mean?

There are actually two types of alarm calls: those addressed to one's group members and those addressed to the predator. The ones addressed to group members don't necessarily convey meaningful information about the sender (at least this is not the immediate purpose, although these signals can in some cases have an additional benefit of demonstrating ones high quality to group members, see my other comment).

The alarm calls addressed to the predator are thought to signal the sender's vigilance: "you've been spotted, we know you are here, you can't catch us". See mobbing. These calls often result in the predator politely taking a leave.

What Does "Signalling" Mean?
Signaling is behavior whose main purpose is to demonstrate to others that you possess some desirable trait. For example, a bird performing an impressive mating display signals that it is healthy and has good genes.

This is a hopelessly narrow definition and should be changed. An agent can signal anything about itself, including undesirable traits such as "I'm not edible" or "I'm batshit crazy violent, don't mess with me". So lets first lose the clause "desirable".

And signals can be costly to the sender but not necessarily. The cost (or more precisely, lower cost to honest signallers and higher cost to pretenders) makes a signal more trustworthy in the cases where the sender may have a motive to cheat. In biology, low cost signalling is still signalling. Mothers' signals to offspring tend to be pretty low cost for example. The offspring trust their mothers anyway and are incentivized to respond as intended; they have not much to gain from distrusting the mother. Babies' signals to mothers may be costlier in cases when the mother is likely to abandon some offspring based on their fitness. E.g. possibly human babies pack on so much fat and look so plump so as to signal their high fitness to moms (human mothers are known to selectively abandon infants, unlike chimp mothers, whose infants are not so plump). The lower fitness infants are incentivized to look like they had high fitness, so mothers use a hard-to-fake trait such as fat content to assess fitness.

"I'm batshit crazy violent" obviously has a cost because being violent exposes you to aggression by the ones you attack, but I don't think it involves the competition element like is present in the previous example. Consider a Northern lapwing singlehandedly attacking a hawk many times bigger than itself: she's not intending to actually fight the hawk, she's signalling to the hawk that she's absolutely crazy and will fight to the death; that, of course, would be uncomfortable and painful to the hawk, so the hawk pretty reliably leaves, when it sees the lapwing coming. (Although sometimes lapwings are still killed by hawks). The signalling behavior here is approaching fast in a menacing manner, but lapwings are not competing with each other and the hawk is not trying to assess which lapwing is most violent; this signal is risky (costly) but it's not subject to runaway competition and not therefore likely to accelerate into depressingly wasteful levels. It can still be perhaps modelled as a handicap signal like the plump infant example, because the costliness of the behavior is a feature not a bug: the hawk can trust the lapwing's signal because a lapwing who's not really willing to risk a fight would not dare to approach a hawk.

The alarm signals to one's flock ("there's a predator in the grass") were already mentioned as not signalling anything about the sender; alarm signals are also costly if they attract the predator to the signaller, but here the cost is a bug that cannot be avoided, it's not a feature of the signal. (Of course, one may combine alarm signals with status signalling, e.g. in some birds the ones who sound most alarms are the most dominant and respected birds in the group because alarm calling is dangerous and only the fittest birds can afford to do it a lot.)

In conclusion, signalling as used in ecology or economy is so much more diverse than in the quoted definition, I don't see why it should be so narrow in the Wiki. The narrow meaning may be captured by some other term, such as "fitness signals", "signals of high quality", or suchlike.

The Axiological Treadmill

I disagree; if our physiology was already adapted to the shocks - our brain, heart and skeletal muscles were expecting these shocks - they'd be no longer harmful but probably necessary instead. Keeping a pain reaction or emotional aversion to these physiologically necessary shocks would be counterproductive; we should expect the link between electric shocks and pain to be broken eventually.

Suffering is not rare in nature because actually harmful things are common and suffering is an adequate response to them.

Growing Independence

I think the parenting approach described here is very good and the post is well worthwile. There are a couple of things I’m itching to say, though. I have this itch because I’ve been sensitized by proud parents claiming the good outcomes of their kids to be a consequence of their parenting, while I’ve been doing all the same things without getting such great outcomes, so such posts are a bit painful to read. I apologise in advance.

First, as you probably have heared, parenting style (excluding outright abuse) appears to have little effect on adult outcomes of children, which are mainly determined by genetics and „non-shared“ environment. So if you are a good law-abiding LW reader and you don’t beat or starve your kids they’ll most probably turn out fine. Even better, I think almost all LW readers would do a nice job parenting. This does’t mean that it’s futile to exchange parenting tips, these are often very useful. Moreover, childhood is a large part of one’s life so we’re not only concerned with adult outcomes but also the happiness of the child while she’s a child.

Second, the author has apparently been blessed with two rather sensible kids. All kids, unfortunatelly, are not the same. Some of the advice in e.g. Gordon’s book or Jefftk’s post leaves me thinking that it’s very nice on paper but how would one carry it out in the wild? For example, I never have the chance of giving a lenthy explanation instead of saying „no“. Things happen very fast in my house. When I see my son hurling a heavy object towards his brother, or hacking at century-old furniture with a fork, etc, all I can do is shout „nooo!“ and jump. If I just say „please stop“ calmly, they don’t stop, that’s not their way. I do the explaining later, but they don’t seem to remember very long. And I had no way of preventing my older son from running ahead in the street when he was little. I considered it dangerous, but I just couldn’t catch him with the younger child dangling from my chest, and nothing I said could stop him from running. You get the picture.

Now some people would say proudly: „I always taught my kids to love and help each other, which is why they hardly ever fight!“ Well, I did the same and my sons love each other dearly. It just happens to them every now and then (a couple of times a day) that they get into bitter fights. The problem seems to be that they move much faster than they think, or something. The same with not listening when I ask them to stop: I have introduced Consequences. I’ve given them Me-Messages („when you do X that makes me feel like Y“). I’ve given them Responsibility and told them I Trust them. I’m naturally warm and empathetic, so they love pleasing me. I’ve done everything in the book, but the book isn’t working with all kids.

What I wanted to say is, the genetic background of your kids is likely a better predictor of their behavior than the specific parenting style. Or more precisely, parenting has a stronger effect in the early childhood, but looses it’s power more and more as the child grows. Claims along the lines that „I raised my kid to be independent and now she has a PhD“ make therefore little sense. She probably has a PhD because she’s your child.

Blatant lies are the best kind!

Regarding the punishment of different kinds of lying: I imagine that punishment is a useful tool if the threat of punishment can prevent people from doing the punishable thing. Since level 3 lying is usually not conciously done (after all, the liar has convinced himself of the lie), it is not easily preventable; it doesn't respond to punishment well. Blatant lying can be prevented by the liar if he wants to, so it easily responds to punishment, and that's why we use indignation and punishment against it as a preventive tool - since it actually works.

Effective Altruism and Everyday Decisions

Eyeballing at a EU report chart, it looks like the reduction of carbon output in Europe is mostly due to changes in energy production (in millions of tonns, ca 490 less in 2016 compared to 1990) and manufacturing industries (370 less), but another 650 reduction comes from the little things combined (households, institutions, waste management, agriculture, fuels, industrial processes and product use, commerce, fugitive emissions). So, most of our focus should be on energy, but it does't look overly bad for the small things either. Of cause, if you zoom in on one really small intervention, like refusing straws in drinks, its impact will be very very low... Probably not worth it if it has any cost to you at all.

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