Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers

That all matches my priors. What I was surprised by was the seeming onesidedness on LW. I'm slightly more optimistic about LWers at least trying to take all arguments on either side into account now - I half-expected this post to get downvoted into oblivion, and instead its score is mildly positive, and also exists and its score is a bit more positive.

162 benefits of coronavirus

I find it odd that you list "Prayer / worship" as a benefit without even a ±.

In general, the presence of ± items makes the list read a little oddly; some of them seem clearly bad to me (on net, though I do understand they have some benefit), which gets me in the mode of expecting a pros and cons list, and then being confused when an obvious con isn't listed.

Overall, great post, though. Strong upvote.

Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers

Thank you for the Vox link. It was a lot more useful than anything I had previously seen about post-recovery health problems. I've revised my post in light of this.

Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers

Technically as long as everyone else you expose to it has a similarly low risk profile and low likelihood of transitively passing it to anyone with a high risk profile, I think it would still be beneficial until herd immunity has already been reached. In practice, of course, that's incredibly hard to assess except for one's household members, and household exposure is probably high-dose. So I think I agree with your conclusion, but for slightly different reasons. (Maybe if everyone in your household licks the packages, it would still work? :P)

Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers
  1. Most people tend to be right about 60% of the time when they feel fairly certain. If we apply this logic to your assumptions, the chance that they are all correct is approximately 0.

I don't think there's any point in applying extreme outside views like this here. One of my premises is "Most LWers are young, otherwise healthy, and not living with anyone for whom those things aren't true." Maybe that's not true, but if so, wouldn't it be obvious to those people? Also, I think it's pretty obvious which of these points are cruxes and which are just a bit of additional support. (See my edit about long-term damage, though.)

  1. By getting infected now, you are giving away much by way of option value.

That's true, but if we assume a reasonable amount of immunity, you're also giving away a lot of option value by NOT getting infected now.

  1. You are falling for the false dichotomy of lockdown versus uncontrolled pandemic. I suggest you have a close look at Taiwan, which has had approximately 1/700th the death rate of the US for example, and which did not have a lockdown. While Taiwan did make a fast start, Australia got down into the Taiwan range of active cases within about 5 weeks, and other countries could also do this with a brief lockdown.

Techniques used by Taiwan include contact tracing, strict controls on entrants to the country, enforcement of quarantine of cases, use of soft metrics like temperature and cold/fever symptoms with exclusion from schools/work/transport for the symptomatic, and others. They have selectively closed some high risk businesses like "hostess bars".

I think this is orthogonal to my point, which was about individual decision-making, not setting societal policy. However, for the sake of argument:

I don't think Taiwan's (and South Korea's, and probably some other places') approach is feasible in the USA (I'm not sure about Europe). It requires extraordinarily high levels of voluntary compliance, or ignoring civil liberties and privacy, or both. Culturally, I don't think the USA's rate of voluntary compliance can be high enough, so the only way to make this work would be to force people to follow these policies. I don't think that's politically feasible, and I myself would find it difficult to support.

I do think getting to that point is what the medical authorities who recommended lockdowns had in mind. I don't think it's going to happen, though. If that's right, the USA will pay the costs of lockdowns (which are actually much higher if we lock down repeatedly and/or for a longer time because we aren't there yet), without ever getting most of the benefits.

But hey, let's hope I'm wrong.

Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers

Trying to think about my own thinking here, this is what I came up with:

Most of the points I've listed are commonly believed and mentioned. However, in every case I can recall, it was not pointed out that they support infection (for some people, in some situations) being less bad / more good than it otherwise would be. I realize that what I wrote seems one-sided. In my defense, almost every other article I've read seems one-sided the other way.

This creates the impression for me that other people are treating their arguments as soldiers. They've already made up their minds that stamping out the virus as aggressively as possible is the right thing to do, so anything that would go against that needs to be suppressed. I don't think that's epistemically valid, and I think it's dangerous.

If I believe this, and if I assume that the people in question are rational other than this one blind spot, that would imply that the most expensive, least effective measures that they're taking are not worthwhile. I don't think the specific percentage of people who will eventually get infected is a crux of my argument. An individual's decision should IMO relate mainly to the chance that that individual will eventually get infected, for any reason including through choice.

Since I don't wish to treat my arguments as soldiers: the presence of a meaningful level of immunity very much IS a crux of my argument. If that isn't true, it erases pretty much all of my other points and means we need to stamp this thing out even if the cost of doing so is unbelievably high.

Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers

I don't think I'm thinking about it in terms of a false dichotomy. I tried to argue against what I think are the countermeasures that are the least likely to be helpful, not all countermeasures. The only strong stance I took (as far as I can see) is that the countermeasures are harmful even without considering their costs. In the real world, the costs are non-negligible.

I certainly don't think any state will just let their entire population catch the virus! Rather, I think that some people, due to job, lifestyle, and how dangerous the infection is likely to be to them (both in relative and absolute terms) are very likely to catch it sooner or later. The sooner those people have it, the more of them will recover from it while we're on lockdown (be it state- or self-imposed). I expect this to have a positive effect on the outcomes when lockdown is released. This can also be a self-selecting group to some extent - sure, you don't have to visit your grandparents, but wouldn't it be good (both for you and for them) to be able to? Similarly, immune people volunteering at or temporarily working for retirement homes might produce large gains for those living there.

I think the expert "predictions" about what is currently the case are reasonably accurate. I'm far less convinced about their predictions about the future - they were totally wrong about what things would be like now.

Certainly having the information on prevention available is useful - you might be a member of a vulnerable group! It just seems to me like the discussion on LW has been totally one-sided. The only person I've run into who could be described as rationalist-affiliated making points anything like these is Robin Hanson.

Why COVID-19 prevention at the margin might be bad for most LWers

What's your evidence for this? I've seen claims to this effect but none with more credibility than "stuff people say on the Internet". (I'm not claiming better evidence doesn't exist, just that I haven't seen it yet.)

Ethernet Is Worth It For Video Calls
A audio or video recording is much less useful than text records (accessible via computer). Searching alone is much harder. Even text messages, which I can't as easily access from my computer, are less useful for that reason than emails.

Audio to text transcription is really quite good these days. I didn't mean to say it was a solved problem... just that the reason it isn't is not a lack of the basic technological capabilities required.

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