All of Kevin's Comments + Replies

Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition
Answer by KevinOct 22, 202026

Is anyone taking the perspective that extreme lock down for >6 months is worse than the slight chance of permanent disability and death?

I have a social bubble that’s about 100 people which still represents social distancing via a 95% reduction in my real social interactions. I have hosted multiple outdoor parties confirmed as not super spreading events, including one favorably reviewed by the lead contact tracer for San Mateo County. I regularly get food delivery and eat in outdoor restaurants. I’ve been to the Black Rock Desert for four weekends this y... (read more)

4adamzerner1yRelated: We Are Over Preventing Covid [] by Robin Hanson.

FWIW I am pretty interested in having this question explicitly discussed.

Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2020

Super lame compared to last year when people were willing to pay thousands of dollars to the code holders or the charity of their choice.

4chan continues inheriting the world.

RT-LAMP is the right way to scale diagnostic testing for the coronavirus

I got bogged down on my other company and Color expanded to West Oakland and East Oakland with free next day testing so I missed executing on the immediate business opportunity and the state of covid testing is much better than it was two months ago.

LAMP is still the best way for a citizen scientist to do their own Covid-19 testing. I’m reevaluating this business and may end up coming back to it, possibly with more of a focus on facilitating testing for events.

Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

The culture of local areas here varies enormously in California. Rural California is full of anti mask Republicans and indoor dining is open. I ate inside of an empty French Chinese restaurant in Contra Costa County two weeks ago. Parties on the delta have been wilder than ever over the course of the summer because there was nothing else to do.

In SF and Berkeley, people give you weird looks for not wearing a mask, in Oakland outside of the hot spots people don’t really care.

Politics towards strict lockdowns seem to overlap pretty strictly with liberal social justice advocating attitudes.

Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

Halloween night is the biggest party night of the year in the SF Bay Area and it’s on a Saturday night this year.

2Ben Pace1yMakes sense! Will make an extra effort to cause notes to get taken then.
Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

Six month immunity is well supported, twelve months is probably significantly too long.

Whoa, that's surprisingly specific! How do we know it's shorter than 12 months? Do we know many cases of reinfection?

3DanArmak1yWhat about cross-strain immunity? And how well do we know how many different strains there are, which of them are circulating where, different outcomes etc?
Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

It’s important to sample people from all severities of COVID-19 include “asymptomatic”. It seems likely that the mildest cases of COVID-19 come with no long term disability and that of course being intubated for a month on a cocktail of fentanyl, propofol, and valium comes with serious long term consequences. The question then is how severe and likely are chronic health problems of young to middle aged vitamin d sufficient people that experience Covid-19 with severity somewhere between a regular cold and flu.

RT-LAMP is the right way to scale diagnostic testing for the coronavirus

I think until recent throughput issues PCR was basically good enough and some scientists were attached to their hard learned PCR skills, LAMP was new and scary and unfamiliar enough that lots of scientists just didn’t know it was easier and better. Primer design was a serious obstacle in the early days of LAMP but is easy with modern computer primer design tools.

LAMP is also only better than PCR for the things that it is better at. PCR has general applications to biological science and LAMP is only good for an important subset of possible PCR diagnostic te... (read more)

RT-LAMP is the right way to scale diagnostic testing for the coronavirus

Does this not get front paged because of coronavirus saturation?

3Raemon1yIt's actually a somewhat different thing where, normally frontpage is supposed to be stuff that's more timeless, that people might presumably still care about in 5 years. Part of the whole point is to avoid LessWrong being news-driven. Early in the pandemic, the mods decided that coronavirus was important enough to frontpage lots of stuff about it, and it did take over the site for awhile. Later, it happened that a) people were talking about it less, and b) it felt like we'd 80/20d the covid discussion and it was no longer urgent enough to break our frontpage guidelines for. (Note that personal blogposts still get a fair bit of visibility, the point is mostly to avoid having it be the first thing people associate with LessWrong when they first show up. Frontpage posts tend to get 2-3x the traffic, mostly from newbies and people not logged in. Zvi's weekly covid posts get a fair number of comments.) I do think this topic seems quite important if true (haven't evaluated it myself yet), and am glad you posted it here.
[Link] COVID-19 causing deadly blood clots in younger people is one of the primary sources.

I like the theory that this coronavirus is a blood disease that just mostly seems to hit the lungs because it causes respiratory symptoms.

Diabetes and metabolic syndrome and heart disease seem like the most significant risk factors for serious covid19 cases. I haven't noticed the weight of patients being noted in any of the primary sources on this, but I strongly suspect that most are obese or at least overweight.

How will this recession differ from the last two?
Answer by KevinApr 29, 2020-1

The last recession didn't have a major impact on society. The job market was tough for a few years, but the inevitable progress of technology sent the stock market to all time highs while things continued on as before.

This recession calls into question many of the basic tenets of capitalism. What does it say about the basis of the monetary system if rent and mortgages could be suspended for 6 months with essentially no consequences? The society that comes out of this in a few years may look quite different than the one before as this could be a cataly... (read more)

Kevin's Shortform

I'm considering a long form post against society wide quarantine and towards individual freedom. Given successful curve flattening everywhere outside of NYC, where it's possible that 80% of people have had the virus, huddling in fear has increasing costs over time and human life is not neccessarily of more value than the protection of human rights. It's incredible to see how easily a populace has been totally pacified.

Is anyone willing to share anecdotes about how they've broken quarantine in small ways? I've noticed some community... (read more)

1William Walker1yI'd emphasize going back in logical order, e.g. people with positive antibody tests, under 30, that don't live with old people first, and so on. A lot of Third World people are going to die from lack of food, medicine, and the rest of poverty, while we try to keep a few people in nursing homes "alive" for another month. I'm FOR putting MUCH more effort into actually stopping SARS and the flu, but it has to be done effectively, not just as some new excuse for bailing out Freddie and Fannie..
4Lukas_Gloor2yEthically, I think this can be fine if strong precautions are taken to avoid infecting non-consenting individuals. (The freedom rhetoric only works if one's actions don't impinge on other people's rights not to be exposed to a deadly illness.) If the only potentially virus-transmitting contacts are with people who follow the same precautions, that's fine in theory. In practice, it can often be difficult to have justified confidence that other people will stick to the rules. Example: If you infect a person from another household who starts to allow visits with your household under the assumption that both households are otherwise shut off from the outside world, but then one of the people in the other household also makes an exception for visiting her family, and a person from the family gets infected too and goes to grocery stores without a face mask, then you now started a new chain of transmissions that can kill dozens of people who had absolutely no intention of voluntarily taking on additional risks of being infected. Risking such negative effects may still be justified as long as the probability of it happening is low enough – after all, there are many tradeoffs and we don't prohibit cars just because they foreseeably kill a low number of people. That said, I expect governments to be aware of those tradeoffs. Accordingly, the restrictions should already be lowered soon, and unilaterally lowering them even further can lead to too much tightening up of the network connections between people and households, which could result in an unacceptably high transmission rate. (It's not necessarily just R0 > 1 that's problematic – depending on number of currently active infections, even an R0 < 1 could result in arguably unacceptably many deaths compared to what it would cost to prevent them.)
4Lukas_Gloor2y>where it's possible that 80% of people have had the virus, If a demographically representative cross section of the population is infected, I would operate under the assumption that about 0.9% of them will die. From what you write about NY city, it sounds like you think the fatality rate might be a lot lower. I think this will be a major crux for people and so I'd focus first on addressing questions like why recent serology surveys in NYC grocery stroes find only 21% of people with antibodies.
Holiday Pitch: Reflecting on Covid and Connection

Covid is traumatic enough that I have no desire to retell the story annually, especially with an emphasis on my least favorite part, large group video calls. There seems to be a subset of people that find video calls really socially satisfying and a subset that's about as large that gets very little value from video as a replacement for in person social encounters. I keep noticing that the people that like video calls project this enjoyment of video calls onto the people that just find them depressing.

Also Passover already occurs annually and happened at the peak of fear during the coronavirus pandemic. This holiday may be redudant anyway with the likely adapations of Rationalist Seder?

3Raemon2yI certainly don't think people who don't like video calls should do anything like this. (fwiw, I find most group video calls awkward, but found Seder not-awkward and meaningful, because it gave a sense of direction to get everyone warmed up for chatting.) I do think it's quite plausible that people who do like videocalls but don't want to reflect on Covid should probably just focus on connection. (For comparison: Christmas has a set of stories and traditions focused on Jesus, and a set of traditions about presents and Santa Clause. This creates a natural opportunity for people who actually care about Jesus to focus on the former, and people who mostly want an excuse for the latter to just do that. I'm expecting a similar thing here.)
3DanielFilan2yAs the post says: Personally, as somebody who isn't Jewish and doesn't have Jewish ancestry, I would feel weird hosting a Seder or making one happen (where the feeling is that it would be the bad kind of cultural appropriation), and would also feel weird about it being a Rationalist holiday rather than a holiday for Rationalist Jewish people, just like I'd feel weird about Rationalists adopting Christmas or Obon [] as a Rationalist holiday, where the feeling is that religion is Actually Bad and rationalists shouldn't have religious ceremonies be an important part of their communities if they can help it.
How strong is the evidence for hydroxychloroquine?

Dose matters enormously. Hydroxychloroquine is acutely toxic to humans, so using hydroxychloroquine requires you to balance its toxicity versus its antiviral effects. My read of the evidence is that it is ineffective to harmful at the late stages of COVID19 in the dosages high enough to "do something", but taken in the very early stage of the disease (asymptomatic) it might keep the virus contained to its area of initial infection and prevent the disease from migrating to the lungs.

How likely is the COVID-19 apocalyptic scenario?

Most biotech companies in the world have pivoted to working on coronavirus. Failure to win in a year or two seems possible but failure to win over the course of a decade is much less likely, and wins could include safe genetic engineering solutions that cure both the common cold and HIV.

Could city design impact spread of infections?

In NYC, pretty much everyone takes the subway from time to time, 2 meter distancing is impossible, and the underground recycled air is not good. Los Angeles is a much less dense city where most people never take public transit.

1jmh2yYes. I would think that is a large effect. But in that setting you have a lot of people and so potentially a number of people exhaling the virus. We might think only people on the platform or tunnels or at the turnstiles are at risk. But what if the air dynamics is carrying a lot of that to say the entrance area on the street -- or pumping it out some vent onto the street? Now a lot more people are exposed who may well be practicing perfect social distance. Are there other effects like that that could be contributing and perhaps at a larger level than we might currently think.
How to Build a Lumenator

There are just not very many components here and the design isn't solved enough that I think that would make sense.

There is however a business opportunity in solving the design challenge and then releasing an infomercial marketed light product better than existing solutions.

How to Build a Lumenator

I thought the original builds of this used 5500k bulbs instead of 4000k bulbs.

If you aren't price sensitive, I would try kitting this out with programmable wifi RGB LED lights. That many LED lights in close proximity to each other can create cool effects and you could make a more pleasant light palate by having each bulb at a different color temperature, or having them change to simulate the... sun.

How to Build a Lumenator

The science says unfiltered UV light is bad for you and unfiltered IR light is good for you... darklight box?

But very unclear that staring around infrared light does anything, massive exposure to energetic IR light to you seems to be supported by evidence and human behavior in the winter.

Open Thread August 2018

An AI with a goal of killing or "preserving" wild animals to reduce suffering is dangerously close to an AI that kills or "preserves" humans with the goal of reducing suffering. I think negative utilitarianism is an unhelpful philosophy best kept to a thought experiment.

I'd like to test a hypothesis around mental health and different moral philosophies as I slowly work on my post claiming that negative utilitarians have co-opted the EA movement to push for animal rights activism. Has anyone done Less Wrong survey statistics before and can easily look for correlates between dietary choice, mental health, and charities supported?

1Paperclip Minimizer3yI don't see why negative utilitarians would be more likely than positive utilitarians to support animal-focused effective altruism over (near-term) human-focused effective altruism.
AI Reading Group Thoughts (1/?): The Mandate of Heaven

I've started saying that we are already firmly in the era of transformative AI and I don't thing transformative is the right word for singularity or singleton sorts of speculative AI. That rate of transformation has plenty of space to accelerate, but I like this framing because of the trend of defining AI as whatever doesn't exist yet. Plenty of real AI has remade the world and our lives already; it seems like an improper redefinition of the word transformative to say we aren't there yet.

Is what you describing as "tipping point AI&... (read more)

How to Build a Lumenator

Other things worth trying are infrared saunas and infrared heaters.

I think it's great people engineered a solution that works for their seasonal affective disorder, but I'm skeptical this is a long term population level treatment. I am biased by how subjectively unpleasant I find such lighting systems. In terms of the true physiology of the human body, the visual light energy of the sun impacts the body much less than infrared and ultraviolet light. Therefore, a true treatment for SAD suggests light therapy on non visual spectrums.

An infrared hea... (read more)

2Decius3yAre you suggesting blacklightboxes?
Burning Man Meetup: Bayes Camp

The idea that Bayes Camp could have been the most awesome thing at Burning Man is funny to me, looking back on this.

Why is it rational to invest in retirement? I don't get it.

As a speculative ecurrency investor, I am gambling for retirement.

Singularity Institute now accepts donations via Bitcoin

We should have done this! How'd it go for you?

What makes you different from Tim Ferriss?

He's a better popular non-fiction writer.

Why is it rational to invest in retirement? I don't get it.

Is it rational to invest in Bitcoins for retirement?

1Alsadius8yStandard financial theory says that in the absence of specialized information about what assets are better than others, you want to invest in every single investable asset proportionally to their total value. The Bitcoin market is worth about $2 billion at current prices, compared to some $25 trillion for stocks, meaning that in principle you should put $1 into Bitcoin for every $12,500 you have in stocks. (In practice, transaction costs make this completely infeasible, as should be obvious, but that's the mathematical argument)
2[anonymous]8yI'm not sure that bitcoins will stay this valuable for several more decades. Maybe, invest some but not all of your savings in bitcoins.
9RomeoStevens8yThe generalized question is is it rational to invest in things with small chances of large payoffs. The answer is a qualified yes, given a few conditions. 1. You must have some expertise in the area you are investing in. 2. You must be young and thus have high risk tolerance. 3. You should not devote too large a fraction of your portfolio to this, despite above. The pool of people who would devote a significant portion of a windfall to SENS or MIRI should be more risk tolerant in their investments than average.
3John_Maxwell8yAccording to this TechCrunch article [] , 87% of surveyed economists are bearish on Bitcoin. So we can speculate about cost of adoption, velocity of money, deflation, and volatility all we want, but it seems that the people with PhDs who really know this stuff aren't optimistic. Still probably a good idea to invest in Bitcoins some, just keep a diverse portfolio. Edit: these economists [] don't seem that bearish, and they also seem to think they are pretty clueless.
Why is it rational to invest in retirement? I don't get it.

You can withdraw money from a traditional IRA for a first time home purchase without penalty, I think.

0jefftk8yOnly $10K.
Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I just meant that paying $300/month for driveway parking would seem crazy to the large set of people used to paying $300/month or less for nice housing inside in various other parts of the world.

Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

Probably more like $3500 in the Bay Area.

Lasik circa 2013 is way, way, way better than Lasik circa 2003. It's mostly done by machine based on a precalculated map of your eye. Correcting higher order aberrations improves aspects of your vision that can't be improved by glasses or contacts. To me, this feels like vastly improved 3d vision resolution. I can see the intricate structure of the leaves of trees much better than before.

The cost is reasonable enough when amortized over a decade. Lasik sort of wears off over time, so worst case, plan on getting you... (read more)

Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I knew that home film studio would be useful for something...

Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

In the crazy economics of Bay Area housing, driveway parking for a van in a desirable location with electricity and shower access is $200-$300/month.

0TobyBartels8yThat's like wonderfully low rent for the Bay Area, so proves the OP's point.
3diegocaleiro8yWhy is this crazy? (sincere question, no sarcasm)
Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

For something widely and intuitively believed to be true, I haven't seen the evidence.

3Decius8yAnecdata: My use of antiperspirants is a leading indicator of underarm pimples. In half-blind tests, others have shown to be unable to tell if I have recently applied an antiperspirant or not. Also, other people have also demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to whether or not I have showered in the last day, provided that I have showered in about the last 72 hours (even through periods of heat, but not stress or exertion, perspiration).
New applied rationality workshops (April, May, and July)

1) There isn't that much of a pragmatic difference between whether the money is going to the workshop cost or to keep the CFAR doors open year round. CFAR needs to keep the doors open year round in order to continue to be able to host workshops and keep developing and refining curriculum. The venues and food are always great, but not $1000/night nice.

2) There's something about the weekend retreat format that allows for a really strongly transformative experience. Your time at a CFAR workshop somehow feels more significant than your time in everyday life, ... (read more)

[LINK] Antibiotic seemingly improves decision-making in the presence of attractive women.

Agreed. , an incredibly potent dopamine reuptake inhibitor, was discovered while investigating antibiotics.

6orthonormal9yDoesn't solve the problem of flooding Recent Comments without a site update, which ain't happening.
Bitcoins are not digital greenbacks

See this (somewhat unreasonable) speculation from Paul Graham that bitcoin was created by a government.

0sinclaire9yIt could have been created by the UN or by multiple governments. Does it even matter just so long as the code is released, it works, and it solves problems? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Intel agencies utilize Bitcoin nor would it surprise me if operatives helped to develop it. It does not change the utility of Bitcoin for me just because of it's origins.
The Amanda Knox Test: How an Hour on the Internet Beats a Year in the Courtroom

It's a possibility, I think, but it would be a very political issue if it happened, and I would expect the US Department of State to intervene to prevent it.

Co-Working Collaboration to Combat Akrasia

You can hire remote assistants (typically in the Phillipines) to do this for you via a Skype window for about $1/hour. I thought someone from here was doing that?


I am appalled that you believe this response was remotely appropriate or superior to saying nothing at all. How is it not obvious that once you have publicly put on your hat as an authority you take a modicum of care to make sure you don't behave like a contemptuous ass?

Open thread, February 15-28, 2013

Can you please stop with this meta discussion?

I banned the last discussion post on the Basilisk, not Eliezer. I'll let this one stand for now as you've put some effort into this post. However, I believe that these meta discussions are as annoyingly toxic as anything at all on Less Wrong. You are not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by continuing to ride this.

The reputational damage to Less Wrong has been done. Is there really anything to be gained by flipping moderation policy?

At this point, let's not taunt people with the right kind of mental pathology to be made very uncomfortable by the basilisk or meta-set of basilisks.

The reputational damage to Less Wrong has been done. Is there really anything to be gained by flipping moderation policy?

The basilisk is now being linked on Marginal Revolution. Estimated site traffic: >3x; per above, that is >16k uniques daily to the site.

What site will be next?

The reputational damage to Less Wrong has been done. Is there really anything to be gained by flipping moderation policy?

Answering the rhetorical question because the obvious answer is not what you imply [EDIT: I notice that J Taylor has made a far superior reply already]: Yes, it limits the ongoing reputational damage.

I'm not arguing with the moderation policy. But I will argue with bad arguments. Continue to implement the policy. You have the authority to do so, Eliezer has the power on this particular website to grant that authority, most people don'... (read more)

At this point, let's not taunt people with the right kind of mental pathology to be made very uncomfortable by the basilisk or meta-set of basilisks.

As far as I can tell the entire POINT of LW is to talk about various mental pathologies and how to avoid them or understand them even if they make you very uncomfortable to deal with or acknowledge. The reasons behind talking about the basilisk or basilisks in general (apart from metashit about censorship) are just like the reasons for talking about trolley problems even if they make people angry or unhappy... (read more)

The meta discussions will continue until morale improves

The reputational damage to Less Wrong has been done. Is there really anything to be gained by flipping moderation policy?

There's now the impression that a community of aspiring rationalists — or, at least, its de-facto leaders — are experiencing an ongoing lack of clue on the subject of the efficacy of censorship on online PR.

The "reputational damage" is not just "Eliezer or LW have this kooky idea."

It is "... and they think there is something to be gained by shutting down discussion of this kooky idea, when others' experience (... (read more)

The reputational damage to Less Wrong has been done. Is there really anything to be gained by flipping moderation policy?

I hate to use silly symmetrical rhetoric, however:

The secret has been leaked and the reputational damage is ongoing. Is there really anything to be gained by continuing the current moderation policy?

Open thread, February 15-28, 2013

At this point it is this annoying, toxic meta discussion that is the problem.

Singularity Institute is now Machine Intelligence Research Institute


Even when they do have it in their hypothesis space, it still gets mangled. I recently got a follow-up email from someone that still thought I was Singularity University. I had briefly explained to him about how SU had acquired the Singularity Summit from us, and his follow-up email said "now that you have acquired the Singularity Summit, you may be interested in my product..."

Thoughts on the January CFAR workshop

Offering everyone modafinil or something at the beginning of future workshops might help with this.

It would help, but would inevitably offend people and not at all worth the consequences.

We couldn't afford them this year for cost reasons, but by next year we'll hopefully be able to supply Time-Turners for all workshop participants.

I was at the workshop, brought my own (legally obtained) modafinil but never used nor needed it.

I loved the workshop. I intend on teaching my game theory students (an 80 person class at Smith College) some of what I learned. Today we did 15 minutes on goal factoring.

4beoShaffer9yI found that pre-comiting to go to bed at certain time (I offered to remind others on my way out), and setting a timer on my phone solved the sleep problem.
2Duncan9yI'm curious as to why caffiene wasn't sufficient, but also why modafinil would offend people? What about trying bright lighting?: []
Farewell Aaron Swartz (1986-2013)

No, I was being serious, thinking that federal prisons are a great deal safer than state and county prisons. A cursory search says this may be marginally true but not to the extent that I should have reasonably claimed that the US Federal prison system doesn't have a rape problem. Clearly there is a rape problem.

By what standards? This wikipedia article seems inconsistent with that claim, but I'm curious if I've misunderstood you in some way.

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