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Media Bias

Maybe 'Private Eye' in the UK might have some parallels.

The Kelly Criterion in 3D

I am interested in a couple of points around this:

What makes this worse is that the region of 0.05% to 1% of my net worth is full of long tails. The wagers I'm skipping could easily repay themselves a thousandfold. If I take a wager like this every day for 2 years and just a single one of them repays itself a thousandfold then I win bigtime.

If I take b = 1000 and f* at 0.0005 I get p ~= 0.0015

If I take b = 1000 and f* at 0.01 I get p ~= 0.011

You draw from this the lesson that you need to bet more. What do you see as a source of potential wagers, coming along daily, where there's a potential 1000x payout and your probability of a win is between around 0.15% and 1.1%?

Also, I'd urge caution over the "[if] just a single one of them repays itself a thousandfold then I win bigtime" framing.

At the p=1.1% / bet=1% of wealth situation, one win in 730 (daily for 2 years) would take a starting balance of $100,000 down to $718. Now, treating this as binomial distribution, that'll only happen 0.25% of the time, but 2 wins leaving you with $7,990 will happen 1% of the time and 3 wins, leaving $88,871 will happen 2.8% of the time (assuming I've not mangled my calculations).

(Yes, in ~96% of cases you'd be left with $988,451 or greater, typically much greater, in the $millions, $billions or $trillions. But this is a caution against thinking 'only one of these 1% chances in 2 years has to come off to be winning bigtime'.)

At the other end of the spectrum you mention, i.e. the bets are all at the 0.05% of wealth (p=0.15%) situation, the results are much less dramatic.

wins=0, closing balance = $69,337 (prob = 0.33)

wins=1, closing balance = $104,162 (prob = 0.37)

wins=2, closing balance = $156,478 (prob = 0.20)

wins=3, closing balance = $235,070 (prob = 0.07)

wins=4, closing balance = $353,134 (prob = 0.02)

Lessons I've Learned from Self-Teaching

You mention that planting a seed of Anki usage in 6th grade is a good thing. Do you have any thoughts about how to help a child get started with an Anki habit?

Nash Score for Voting Techniques

Have you thought about treating 'no confidence' as a candidate? How would it play out if there were a variant of the approach detailed under 'Assume Confidence + STAR' where instead of assuming confidence you have an extra n.c. 'candidate' who gets scored the same as the others, and if it wins then the election is rerun?

Sunzi's《Methods of War》- Introduction

In the numbered list, the third item (地 I think) is translated as "earth". In the item descriptions below, I believe the same item is translated as "geography". These seem like they are intended to be the same things, so consistent translation seems like it might be an improvement.

Think in Terms of Actions, not Attributes

This seems to be a close analogue of something I've seen in business communications settings: customer segmentation. In that context, I had the same reaction to it as you're expressing on an individual interpersonal basis: it seems better to make predictions about the individual directly, rather than binning people into segments and then making predictions about the segments.

If you have a bunch of data about a bunch of (prospective?) customers, can your algorithms perform better (say in terms of identifying people's preferred means of contact) by predicting for each individual customer, rather than going via some pencil-sketched segment and then declaring that for such-and-such a segment you're best off communicating with them via email because that's what that segment as a whole prefers?

Covid 'Mink variant'

Coronaviruses will acquire some mutations, but I think it's generally accepted that the expectation in general is for a significantly slower rate of mutation than flu.

See, for example, this long-ish read from early September: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02544-6

On the specific comparison to flu, it says:

But sequencing data suggest that coronaviruses change more slowly than most other RNA viruses, probably because of a ‘proofreading’ enzyme that corrects potentially fatal copying mistakes. A typical SARS-CoV-2 virus accumulates only two single-letter mutations per month in its genome — a rate of change about half that of influenza and one-quarter that of HIV, says Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

Other genome data have emphasized this stability — more than 90,000 isolates have been sequenced and made public (see www.gisaid.org). Two SARS-CoV-2 viruses collected from anywhere in the world differ by an average of just 10 RNA letters out of 29,903, says Lucy Van Dorp, a computational geneticist at University College London, who is tracking the differences for signs that they confer an evolutionary advantage.

Covid 9/17: It’s Worse

My understanding is that there was conscription during WW2, so the comparison is somewhat weakened if we're not talking about volunteers anyway. But in an armed conflict, I think people have a fair sense that the flying bullets makes it "really rather dangerous", even if they couldn't quantify it. My problem with how informed consent can be is around issues like we know there are biases where people have a tendency toward a dichotomy: low risk becomes zero risk in their minds. (To the extent that this applies at the other end of the spectrum, high risk would become near certainty, so further makes the war situation different in nature.)

Can you make an argument that if trials are not suspended a loss of trust in vaccines is more likely than if they are continued?

This seems self evidently true to me. I struggle to envisage a situation where people see caution that they perceive to be excessive and become more reluctant to take vaccines in the future.

Good to have a number for some comparisons. From a quick search, I see the WHO estimates that measles deaths globally fell from 535,600 in 2000 to 124,000 in 2017, but rose to 142,300 in 2018. That seems to show that vaccine uptake can make differences in the tens to hundreds of thousands. Yes, I'm comparing globally to one country, but on the flipside, I'd envisage that negative harms from increased skepticism could aggregate over years-to-decades, and over numerous diseases.


Covid 9/17: It’s Worse

are you adopting an ethical position where it is wrong for one person to put themselves at risk to benefit others?

No. Volunteers in a clinical trial like this are putting themselves at risk to benefit others, and I feel that is a good thing.

I am concerned about people's ability to give informed consent. It seems like a hard problem in general to give prospective volunteers a sense of how much risk they are being exposed to - one issue being that people might tend to assume 'well, whatever they're saying about risks, it must be pretty safe it they wouldn't be doing it'. I feel that the ethical thing is to be as good at ensuring consent is informed as is practicable.

I tend to feel that if you continued to admit volunteers to a trial when a potential serious event had occurred, this issue of consent might get trickier. If you don't tell the next volunteers at all, then it feels like you're withholding information, meaning their consent is inadequately informed, so I'd be pretty concerned about that. If you do tell them, but continue admitting them, the message of 'yeah, something bad maybe happened and we want you to know about it before you agree' might be read by volunteers as having an implicit content of 'but it's not that bad or we wouldn't still be injecting you'.

Of course you might end up with the information putting lots of prospective volunteers off. In that case, you might lose people who would have been volunteers after a pause.

Or are you asserting that there is more suffering and death in the world where the trial continues than in the world where it stops?

I think this is closer to my sense. My guess is that in expectation, a world in which we take pauses (as short as possible) to investigate potential problems with emerging vaccines for a disease like COVID 19, is likely to have less suffering in the long run. Vaccines are not inherently safe, nor are they necessarily trusted by the public even if they are safe. Actions that might let an unsafe vaccine slip through the net have the potential to cause vast harms in terms of the reduced uptake of lots of other vaccines. Even the perception that a vaccine was rushed without taking appropriate safety precautions can result in it getting blamed for things that it doesn't cause (see the story of the 1976 swine flu vaccine https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200918-the-fiasco-of-the-us-swine-flu-affair-of-1976 ). Actions that show that care was taken to vet and understand any potential harms will help to improve uptake across all the range of vaccines.

Covid 9/17: It’s Worse

In the case of the pause, I wasn't saying that it was time, that day, to give the vaccine to the public. I was saying that they should continue the trial while they investigate the one case, until such time as they actually find a problem linked to the vaccine, so as to not lose time. The downside risk there seems to be almost zero.

A direct downside risk of not pausing a trial when you identify an adverse event that shows your vaccine might have harmed one of your volunteers is that you might harm more of your volunteers.

A knock-on downside risk from that is that fewer people might feel confident volunteering if you're not taking reasonable precautions with their safety, so you might find it harder, or at least slower, to complete your trial.

I would also suspect that there would be contagion of this distrust, making it harder to run trials of any vaccines, both for COVID and into the future.

..."ethicists" who make their prestige and money from expressing concerns and stopping people from doing things...

Might be worth noting that probably no one is strictly stopping you from taking a vaccine of unknown effectiveness and safety. They are just reducing your probability of doing it down to 0.5. If you feel that the tradeoffs favour taking it, then you can volunteer to be in a trial. The world needs people who are willing to put themselves in that position.

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