korin43's Comments

What to draw from Macintyre et al 2015?

Unfortunately that study doesn't cover the question we want answered:

The control arm was ‘standard practice’, which comprised mask use in a high proportion of par- ticipants. As such (without a no-mask control), the finding of a much higher rate of infection in the cloth mask arm could be interpreted as harm caused by cloth masks, efficacy of medical masks, or most likely a combination of both

So the study found evidence that surgical masks are better than cloth masks, but doesn't say anything about whether cloth mask are better than nothing.

The study authors speculate that cloth masks are detrimental, but after reading through the study again, I'm pretty sure they provide absolutely no evidence for that (2 out of 1607 people in their study didn't wear masks).

The horse-sized duck: a theory of innovation, individuals and society

It seems like Patreon is sort-of fixing this, at least when the thing people are obsessed with is interesting enough.

COVID-19 transmission: Are we overemphasizing touching rather than breathing?

But we could supply the entire country with fabric masks in like a week, even assuming there's not already enough of them sitting around. People who sew live for this kind of thing.

What are some articles that updated your beliefs a lot on an important topic?

Random Critical Analysis has a lot of articles about healthcare spending, and this one convinced me that US healthcare spending isn't particularly unusual given our standard of living, and it probably won't be easy to lower it (if we even wanted to):


Several other posts cover various objections and show similar graphs using different data.

I think this was the first time I had encountered this argument. The parts that make it convincing are the frequent attempts to show that a particular measure wasn't cherry picked and how the author breaks down data as much as possible instead of just showing the high level view and assuming it's enough.

Mazes Sequence Roundup: Final Thoughts and Paths Forward

... restaurants generally aren't mazes.

Why do you believe that? Have you worked in a restaurant?

Isolated demand for rigor, but yes I have.

There are no bullshit jobs in restaurants, there's no ambiguity about what people should be doing, people's employment status usually depends much more heavily on performance than in mazes, etc.

I would suspect the reason that restaurants aren't maze-like is that most of them are small and relatively flat hierarchies. A LOT of them don't make any money, ever, either.

I agree with you here, but I think this isn't an accident. Larger companies become more maze like, but mazes can't survive competition, so companies under intense competition have to stay small to avoid becoming mazes.

Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread

It wonder if this would be a good use case for normal face masks. Presumably they decrease the distance the virus would travel if you coughed (and also warn other people to keep their distance). Unfortunately I'm having trouble finding any research on this (everyone seems interested in masks to protect the wearer, or long term use, not short term use to prevent infecting others).

Mazes Sequence Roundup: Final Thoughts and Paths Forward

I held off commenting more because you said this would be addressed at some point, but the early articles talked about what you call "Moloch's Puzzle" and then the later ones talk about something completely different (how maze-like organizations are created by politics / insufficient information / mismatch between organization and personal goals).

Sufficiently strong optimization pressure, whether or not it comes from competition, destroys all values not being optimized, with optimization pressure constantly increasing.

Yet all is not lost. Most of the world is better off than it has ever been and is getting better all the time. We enjoy historically outrageously wonderful bounties every day, and hold up moral standards and practical demands on many fronts that no time or place in the past could handle. How is this possible?

I maintain that the answer is right there: In a sufficiently competitive market environment, the values being optimized are the things that you're surprised still exist. Of course wonderful bounties etc. exist because that's what competitive organizations optimize for! If they optimized something that people don't want to buy, they would be out-competed by someone else.

I'm sorry to keep pushing on this, but it's important because your solution is exactly wrong (reducing competition!?). Less outside competition increases slack inside the organization, creating more space for internal politics.

You mention having worked in mazes, but given the composition of this site, I'm guessing the mazes you've worked for are highly profitable (and therefore low-competition). Companies like Google and Microsoft can afford to be mazes because of patents and copyright (legal competitive protection).

On the other hand, restaurants are so intensely competitive that you call it "super-perfect competition", but suspiciously, restaurants generally aren't mazes. Even more suspiciously, the more competitive the area, the less-maze-like the restaurants. Your response is that somehow they must actually not be as competitive as they seem, but there's a simpler answer: Mazes can't survive competition.

Money isn't real. When you donate money to a charity, how does it actually help?

This is a big part of why I'm more optimistic about direct transfers like GiveDirectly. Standard charities act kind of like socialist economies and run into a lot of the same issues. When they're operating inside of capitalist economies, they get some advantages through price signals to indicate what products people might want, but they still run into a lot of problems with top-down planning.

Of course, it's complicated because some charities are plausibly more efficient because they use top-down planning and the planners correctly know that people should be spending their money on vaccines and not whatever else they would have bought for $0.50..

Money isn't real. When you donate money to a charity, how does it actually help?

I guess "temporarily motivating strangers" is a reasonable description of what money does. I should have argued against calling that motivation illusory or not-real.

Money isn't real. When you donate money to a charity, how does it actually help?

My original response was a more abstract explaination of why I think describing money as "not real" is misleading but maybe I more direct response to the article would be more useful since I think that part actually isn't core to your question.

Money is a shared illusion. Neither paper, gold, nor electron patterns can stop a mosquito or feed a hungry person directly.

I'm assuming this is for rhetorical effect, but "money is a shared illusion because you can't eat it" is a strange definition.

[...] Transfer of money is a temporary, low friction way to motivate unidentified strangers to preform an action.

So what's the mechanism by which monetary charity works?

The mechanism by which monetary charity works is by motivating unidentified strangers to perform a charitable action.

Or alternately, if you mean charities like GiveDirectly, the charity works by giving money to poor people who can then motivate unidentified strangers to perform charitable actions (like building roofs for them).

Are we "just" exploiting a comparative advantage in dollar-gathering in order to force the people on the ground to behave the way we prefer? Do we have any evidence that it can create channels of behavior that are self-sustaining?

This depends entirely on the charitable action and has nothing to do with money. How can we answer if a particular charity is helpful if we don't know what the charity does? As you say above, money works indirectly so we need to know the thing we're doing with it.

On small (and not-so-small, but not universal) margins, money is a fine way to change some behaviors. I'm wondering if there are ways to shift the equilibria at the core rather than the margin.

If you come up with a way to shift the equilibria at the core, you could pay people to implement that..

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
Load More