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Covid 11/25: Another Thanksgiving

Small error: In 'Then two regions extended it to the unvaccinated as well', unvaccinated has to be 'vaccinated' :)

AGI is at least as far away as Nuclear Fusion.

Standard railways have a track gauge of less than 1.5 meters. Back in the 1930s, Hitler planned the Breitspurbahn, broad-gauge railway with a track gauge of 3 meters. No dramatic new tech required, but it would seriously scale up transportation by rail of people and goods. Hitler planned to connect many European cities with them. 

None of that happened. We're still using the old track gauge, and European connections are relatively mediocre. But we've landed on the Moon and we've all got smartphones in our pockets. 

Planned developments with relatively straightforward tech regularly don't happen. Surprising new tech regularly disrupts all plans. 

I'm not saying the future is completely unknowable, but your three requirements don't seem too matter very much when you look for similar scenarios in history. 

Vaccine Requirements, Age, and Fairness

I've read pretty much all of Zvi's blogs since then, and he doesn't seem to have changed his mind. The rise in cases, especially the rise in hospitalizations, seems mostly confined to the unvaccinated. That's not really relevant to gatherings of only vaccinated people.

What exactly would the risks be of the event with the rules I proposed?

Vaccine Requirements, Age, and Fairness

You could just host the event, requiring vaccination for adults and full access for all children below the FDA minimum? Perhaps you could do a rapid test on the unvaccinated children. 

I strongly endorse Zvi's encouragement to start living your life again.

Comparing Options For Safer Events

Thanks for the detailed analysis! I massively disagree with your conclusions though. Your claim:

Relative to no vaccination, reduces transmission by 0.5x and reception by 0.17, for a total of 0.08x.

I'm seeing transmission x0.35 ( and x0.11 for reception (, for a total of x0.0385. 

Combined with the protection against serious illness, this pretty much makes COVID a non-issue for vaccinated people, especially the young and healthy. Yes, some risks remain, but car accidents and the consequences of processed food, sugary drinks, a lack of exercise all seem much, much more relevant for a majority of the population. 

You do count the 'costs' of getting a vaccine, but not the costs of getting a mask, because "everybody already has one". The costs of always having a mask with you (and the costs of getting rejected because you forgot your mask), and especially the costs of wearing a mask (for long periods of time, while exercising and socializing), seem much higher than the costs of 'being vaccinated'. 

I live in the Netherlands, and we have an easy, reliable app on our smartphones with a QR code related to our vaccination status. This makes "check vaccine cards" pretty painless. 

"Not allowing food" seems very costly as well. You could skip it for 1 - 1.5 hours of dancing, but if it's a longer event and people are socializing, food seems quite valuable. 

For COVID, I would solely focus on vaccines. Get everybody vaccinated, done, allow normal life to resume. Removing food and wearing facemasks all the time seems way too costly. 

Air purifiers / ventilation / a focus on air quality do seem worth it, but not just for COVID. It helps prevent the spread of other diseases as well, and good air is pleasant and healthy. 

Covid 10/28: An Unexpected Victory

Great reminder to focus on complex truth, instead of a simple safe/unsafe options. 

Very interesting story about the normalization of 'child isolation'. 

But how dare you dislike Dune! 

Sentience, Sapience, Consciousness & Self-Awareness: Defining Complex Terms

I'm not sure why your Venn diagram doesn't have "sentient" lying entirely within "conscious"

Noggin-scratcher made a much improved version of my diagram that does exactly what you suggest:
I prefer that one!

Why is sapience without sentience or self-awareness marked "impossible"?

In my opinion, a sapient entity is an entity that posseses something like "general purpose intelligence". Wouldn't such an entity quickly realize that it's a distinct entity? That would mean it's self-aware. 

Maybe it doesn't realize it at first, but when you communicate with it, you should be able to "make it self-aware" quite quickly. If it's unable to become self-aware, I wouldn't assign the entity "human level sapience". 

I do agree that I can imagine a very intelligent machine that is completely unable to gather information about its own status. Edge case!

It may be that sentience is literally just the intersection of self-awareness and consciousness

Using the definition proposed in the article, I can easily imagine an entity with an "internal observer" which has full knowledge of its own conditions, still without the ability to feel pleasure or pain. 

Consciousness may be nothing more or less than self-awareness.

How would you define self-awareness?

Sentience, Sapience, Consciousness & Self-Awareness: Defining Complex Terms

I really like your version of the Venn diagram! I've never seen one like that before, but it makes a lot of sense. 

I could indeed imagine an intelligent being that is somehow totally bared from self-knowledge, but that is a very flawed form of sapience, in my opinion. 

The Fall of Rome, III: Progress Did Not Exist

The European wars of religion included among others the Thirty Years War which killed one-third of the German population. It's mentioned as a period that caused a lot of human suffering, but not as something that seriously harmed the long-term development of Europe. To the contrary, this happened during Europe's ascendancy as a global superpower. Crisis, war and mismanagement is certain in nearly all periods of human history. They're not sufficient causes of long-term decline. 

"Full", "empty" and "population pressure" are very relative terms. New technological inventions, new systems of agriculture and new organizational forms constantly change the balance. That makes it very hard to assess the actually "felt" pressure at a certain moment in time. 

I've heard that some coal was used by Romans, but also that it was always a very niche activity. Do you have sources about coal being used by blacksmiths 'often'?

As the title states, I don't think "progress" existed (exists?). Not as a monolithic thing that simultaneously boosts population size, population density, economic activity, individual well-being, intellectual development, real-world power/dominance/influence and cultural legacy. Think of the internet today. 20/25 years ago, it was a niche activity for highly educated, relatively wealthy tech experts. Nowadays, it's used by the masses. The average IQ of the average internet user has probably declined significantly. Better technology and years of development have given us new possibilities; tech monopolies and bad habits like declining attention spans and polarization have made other things worse. The internet of 2021 is not superior or inferior to the internet of 2001 in all aspects. 

I believe the Europe of 1000AD was significantly more densely populated than the Roman Europe of 1AD (or 300AD). This led to fuel scarcity and an enormous decline in fuel-intensive luxuries like bathhouses, concrete, bricks and roof tiles. I also believe an ever increasing population pressure (and probably declining standards of living for many individuals!) was a vital trigger for the Industrial Revolution many centuries later. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That makes it really difficult to talk about states being 'sophisticated". 

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