Kamil Pabis


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Book Review: Open Borders
  1. Thank you for making a great point! Large countries do implement limits on internal migration to ensure political stability. The Chinese system is called hukou if anyone wants to read up on it; I am no expert myself. I would, however, disagree that these limitations suggest there is no free movement. In fact, the very existence of these limitations suggests we should open up compared to the baselines, but perhaps not fully.
    The population of Shanghai grew almost 100% from 14M to 27M within the last 20 years - and the city transformed into a wealthy metropolis like NYC. According to Wikipedia, consistent with my intuition, a relaxation of Hukou migration restrictions coincided with the (post-)Deng Xiaoping era of stability and prosperity. So internal migration in China is enormous and while it is hard, it can't be that hard to move. Now, of course, these people are mostly Han Chinese and it is an interesting question how many immigrants of a different cultural background we could handle in Europe.
  2. Agree, it is naive to argue for a "free lunch". As far as I recall, there is good economic evidence that migration from e.g. Afghanistan is a net cost for the taxpayer in Germany despite the younger age structure of the immigrants. (It only works out under extremely optimistic assumptions, if the immigrants can find higher-paying jobs than expected.) Migration (from [very] poor countries) should be considered a form of "foreign aid", it is a cost; and it is a question of political stability. Having many immigrants is useless if the AfD or Front National then rises to power, reverts your measures and sabotages democracy.

    How does political stability change, though, is it linear with the number and type of immigrants or are there thresholds?
  3. Does this point argue strongly against open borders? Both systems could work fine and strike a similar balance. Higher migration, lower migrant rights. Lower migration (but still higher than the status quo), better migrant rights. Either way, we are trying to maximize the same product: [Number of immigrants] x [net improvement in migrant life = wellbeing(home country) - wellbeing (target country)]. Europe opts for the former, the Gulf or Singapore for the latter. Neither can tell us if a deviation from the status quo towards more migration would be beneficial or not since the systems are so different.
Book Review: Open Borders

You are right, the same is true in Germany as well. There is even some evidence for lower crime rates for certain immigrant groups (e.g., first generation immigrants from Turkey, or SE-Asian/Chinese immigrants, if I recall correctly). Still, more crimes means more crimes, even if this is due to demographics, and the voters will punish the pro-immigrant parties accordingly.

NVIDIA and Microsoft releases 530B parameter transformer model, Megatron-Turing NLG

How limiting are poor corpus quality and limited size for these models? For example, Megatron-Turing NLG was only trained on PubMed extracts but not on PubMed Central, which is part of the Pile dataset. Was this perhaps intentional or an oversight?

Regarding medical texts, I see many shortcomings of the training data. PubMed Central is much smaller at 5 million entries than the whole PubMed corpus at 30 million entries, which seems to be unavailable due to copyright issues. However, perhaps bigger is not better?

Regarding books, how relevant is the limited size and breadth of the corpus? Books3 contains 200k books out of some 10 million that should be available via amazon.

Regarding copyright, could a less ethical actor gain an advantage by incorporating sci-hub and libgen content, for example? These two together claim to include 50 million medical articles and another 2 million books.

Covid 10/7: Steady as She Goes

As far as I can tell, if they suspend one of two available mRNA vaccines this is bound to have zero effect on vaccination rates in the young because the other one can fill the gap.

Humanity is Winning the Fight Against Infectious Disease

Do you think this is a problem? It appears to me that no development is possible without some tail risk (which we obviously want to minimize wherever possible!). Can we come up with a realistic world in which technologic progress is used for peaceful purposes exclusively and never causes any negative surprises? Or a world that develops with zero tail risk?

Should I treat pain differently if it’s “all in my head?”

My personal experience is that it's true hence I would caution against too much rest. Wrist pain is a very vague term, no idea what you have, but I have battled RSI for over half a decade (mostly of the fingers) and at some point it got so bad that I wanted to quit my degree and it felt like even reading a book or newspaper was too painful. By all means, use your voice, contralateral arm or legs and feet to take over some repetetive tasks.

However, you need to use, strengthen and stretch your wrists as well. Targeted massage and strengthening with a physiotherapist should help. As workoholics we often forget how to listen to our body. Pain tells you to take a break, not do an allnighter. Then when having pain, it is easy to try to "protect" the affected bodypart, putting undue stress on other parts of the body, while the muscles, tendons, ligaments of the affected bodypart continue to weaken because they are unloaded and/or not used throughout their physiologic range of motion.

Before I jump to SSRIs I would start with psychotherapy, meditation, taking a real vacation, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet (standard food pyramid will do as a start), sleep hygiene to get 8h+ for recovery, sports (both endurance and strength, preferably something involving your arms and hands!), whole body sports massage etc.

I did find that the pain was to some extent in my head, to some extent real, and exacerbated by both overuse and chronic misuse.

We need a new philosophy of progress

Trying to organize my thoughts on progress a bit:

I do not think we lack a "philosophy of progress" as much as the OP.  I would like to argue that progress is real and that there is decent literature on this topic that not enough people read. Moreover, the topic of progress is a good recruitment tool for EA and rationalism. I find it more exciting and powerful than the bleak nihilism offered by atheism, meek criticism of pseudoscience offered by “the skeptics” movements and the vague (but obviously not misguided) appeals to the noble human nature proffered by humanism.

The distinction between descriptive and prescriptive optimism raised in this thread is a very interesting one. Are these entirely distinct concepts, though? It would stand to reason that there is a virtuous circle where descriptive evidence of tangible progress promotes optimism and a desire to further improve the world – because it seems possible. Therefore, it would be great if the world were improving. If it isn’t, we shouldn’t lie about it, but still it better be improving given the industrial revolution and the internet and all the things we invented. If this has not improved the world, what else will? AI? Anarcho-primitivism and yoga?

Improvement and progress come in many forms and shapes. Progress will never be an entirely objective measure, but it also is not purely subjective. Human desires are hard coded in our DNA, as most animals we seek safety, health, freedom, stability, psychological fulfillment (think Maslow) etc. As also pointed out in this thread, Stephen Pinker has written several books about progress. He is perhaps the 20th century’s most prominent chronicler of progress. By and large, his books have made a good case that the world is improving and all the attacks on their contents I have seen were feeble at best. Homicides, press freedoms, democracy, armed conflict. No one can claim these aren’t markers of progress, nor that they haven’t improved markedly. Not yet mentioned, I do think the Oxford team around Our World In Data is continuing in a Pinkerian vein, but doing so live, around the clock.

Case in point, their current entry on Human Rights is a masterpiece of public education (1). Not only is it well presented, but it is also up to date referencing the work of Fariss (2019). This paper importantly argues that the democratic recession is an artifact of stricter human rights standards over time. Whether this is true or not is not even relevant. Temporary stagnation is entirely compatible with long term progress.

People tend to get way too caught up in one dimensional measures of progress. To some it is only ecology, so the world is dying. To some it is only press freedoms, so China is an evil empire, and the democratic recession is perhaps the biggest problem we face. Humans in practice, however, do not have such one-dimensional desires. And I mention China on purpose, because no discussion of progress in the 20th century would be complete without this country. Here, I highly recommend reading Joe Studwell. Briefly put, China exemplifies how and why the world is improving; also given its size recent shifts in China are major drivers of aggregate improvement in human welfare. (I am sorry to all the China haters). Roughly speaking, since reform and opening by Deng Xiaoping and his political allies, the country has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. Civil liberties have not deteriorated since this major reform (again please read reference 1). There is ongoing concern that they may be deteriorating; and one would have hoped for more progress, but no one can claim it isn’t a net improvement.

If we want to instill optimism, a “philosophy of progress”, Pinker and Our World in Data must become mandatory reading in high school and university. Please, share other similar books and sources if you know them. Already mentioned was Joe Studwell. I can also think of Yuval Harari's Sapiens which is obviously Pinkerian but more accessible and shallow than “Better Angels of Our Nature”. Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History" was already mentioned and I hope to read it some day. Could someone comment if the books is just popular with libertarians or if it really does have a libertarian slant? (I have mixed feelings about libertarian support for progress. Personally, I do feel like hybrid models have been exceedingly successful in the 20th century if you look at Scandinavia, Germany’s “Soziale Marktwirtschaft” or Asia.)

If you ask me, reasonable controversy does not exist on the topic whether the world has improved or not. Cautious optimism is objectively warranted. On the other hand, there are important issues that are still contested. Does it continue to improve? Who was left behind? Is the democratic recession real? How much progress happened at the cost of environmental damage? Why is inequality still increasing? How much was due to chance and will we fall back? What is the importance of existential risks? It very well may be the case that existential risks have increased while the world became better and safer in aggregate on the “classical” measures. All these are important debates.

1/ https://ourworldindata.org/human-rights
Yes, Human Rights Practices Are Improving Over Time. Farris (2019).

A deeper look at doxepin and the FDA

I do not think that is true, at least in Europe where hundreds of millions of people use generic drugs every day. In Germany, in the UK and in Austria a doctor will amost always prescribe a generic when available and people will often buy a generic over the counter. While sometimes too conservative, the very reason why we need the FDA, the EMA, et al. is exactly to make sure that generics* work well -- and they almost always do, one cannot use rare counter examples to disprove that. Do we have any hard data to suggest that generics are somehow unsafe?

* i.e. not some Indian blackmarket knock-off that isn't FDA/EMA approved

Josh Jacobson's Shortform

With such highly subjective soft outcomes a lot depends on the way the question is phrased and interpreted (if self-reporting). Thus comparing different populations and studies is almost impossible without really carefully digging into the original publications and even then it is fraught with problems.

If I have a rash post-vaccine and I go to see my GP or pharamcist, am I seeking medical help and is this worrisome? If I get up and later realize that I need to lie down or else I will faint (vasovagal syncope, around one in ten people have some form of needle phobia), am I seeking medical help for a side-effect? Technically yes, but a saline injection would cause the same. If I have asthma or hayfever, issues with breathing, and later misattribute this to the vaccine, is this a side-effect? (around 1 in 10 people or so have asthma)

Finally, you cannot compare the serious side-effects in a trial (if this CDC figure really comes from a trial) with mild self-reported side-effects from Israel or American postmarketing surveillance. Trial participants will be monitored closely and will include a large number of at risk indiviudals (>60yo) so it is again a statistical artifact of data collection.

IMHO all the data is worthless without a very well-matched control group.

How good are our mouse models (psychology, biology, medicine, etc.), ignoring translation into humans, just in terms of understanding mice? (Same question for drosophila.)

The sad fact is that we do not even understand mice very well. There is this old joke that can be paraphrased like this: if I were a mouse I could be cancer free and live forever, because it is so easy to cure these guys of diseases. As it turns out, however, this is not true. Within my field it was long gospel that caloric restriction (discovered some 100 years ago) can robustly extend mouse lifespan until studies in the last 20 years called this into question.

What the joke gets right is that we understand humans even less than mice. In fact, despite the controversies several interventions are relatively robust in mice when it comes to extending their life and health span (rapamycin, caloric restriction, growth hormone loss) while the evidence in humans is much weaker for these.

Delivering useful drugs, hopefully faster not slower than in the past, despite these issues will be an interesting challenge.

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