MalcolmOcean

Creator of the Complice productivity system, which hosts the Less Wrong Study Hall: https://complice.co/room/lesswrong

Working full-time on solving human coordination at the mindset level.

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Covid 2/4: Safe and Effective Vaccines Aplenty

🇨🇦 Canada update: we are WAY behind on vaccines (2.7% of population) and the bottleneck is very clear: we don't have the doses.

The "why" is also becoming a bit more clear: we never even tried to create a big manufacturing plant for it last year and instead just tried to partner with everybody, including a deal with China that was announced last May and started going sideways 3 days later but we're just finding out now that it completely fell through and is a nonstarter! Wtf.

A couple articles to read on that front:

Not sure what we can do about any of that now though, unlike the USA where Zvi points at many obvious mistakes being made in the present, or choice points around approvals.

Meanwhile cases continue to trend downward (restrictions are mostly working) but there's no reason I'm aware of to think we aren't still going to gradually see growth of the UK strains and others.

Here's a longer update I wrote awhile ago: Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

News: This article lays out roughly why Canada is way behind on vaccines—no attempt was even made last year to ramp up manufacturing capacity in Canada, instead just a bunch of partnerships, including one with China that completely fell through (other sources (eg globe & mail) have speculated that it may have fallen through in part because China is still grumpy at Canada for arresting the Huawei exec 2 years ago, but that's unclear).

LILLEY: Britain's vaccine success the path Canada should have followed

Technological stagnation: Why I came around

Something missing from the top-level post: why stagnation.

I'll just put out that one of the tiny things that most gave me a sense of "fuck" in relation to stagnation was reading an essay written in 1972 that was lamenting the "publish or perish" phenomenon. I had previously assumed that that term was way more recent, and that people were trying to fix it but it would just take a few years. To realize it was 50 years old was kinda crushing honestly.

Here's google ngrams showing how common the phrase "publish or perish" was in books through the last 200 years. It was coined in the 30s and took off in the 60s, peaking in 1968. Interesting & relevant timing!

Technological stagnation: Why I came around

I don't have the detailed knowledge needed to flesh this out, but it occurred to me that there might be a structure of an argument someone could make that would be shaped something like "we got a lot of meaningful changes in the last 70 years, but they didn't create as many nonlinear tipping points as in the previous industrial revolutions."

Fwiw, flying cars probably wouldn't hit any such tipping point, though self-driving cars probably would.

Widespread nuclear energy might've meant little concern about global warming at this point, but solar & wind have been trucking along slowly enough that there's tons of concern.

I think the internet is doing something important for the possibility of running your own 1-2 person business, which is a meaningful tipping point. There are various other tipping points happening as a result of computers and the internet, which is why I think it stands out as @jasoncrawford's only named revolutionary technologies.

Anyway, hoping someone can steelman this for me, considering the nonlinear cascades in each era & from each technology, and seeing whether there's indeed something different about pre-1970 and after. I'm not confident there is, to be clear, but I have some intuition that says this might be part of what people are seeing.

Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments

Prompted by your comment, when I wrote more stuff last night, I made it standalone: 

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Appreciating you chiming in. That's a great point about how different rural communities are doing different. I kind of had the impression some rural areas in the prairies were doing bad, but I didn't off-hand have a sense of where or why. Your rough sketch with vague notions is helpful on that front.

I drove across the country on the way out to BC a couple months ago, and it's indeed hard to imagine the farming areas in the south half of the prairies having much covid spread, whereas it makes sense that resource-extraction areas would for the 2 reasons you describe. That plus exponentials/nonlinearities seems sufficient to explain most of the discrepancy, maybe.

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Huh yeah, weird. It's like, what are they waiting for with AstraZeneca?

It is worth noting that I think ~40,000 doses per day is according to plan at this phase, a plan which calls for like a million doses a week as of the start of April. Which sounds like a lot but is still way too slow! (A million a day would be awesome.) But the failure to ramp up continues to be a failure of intending to ramp up, it seems. I'll be quite concerned if we fail to ramp up to even the unambitious levels planned for April. I don't know to what extent useful prep is happening to ensure that we're ready to go hard once we get more doses.

Covid 1/21: Turning the Corner

🇨🇦 People liked my Canada update last week, so here's another one. I thought I wouldn't have much to say but apparently I wrote some stuff!

I made it its own post for better linkability. I'm honestly not sure if that's better, but that's what I did.

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments

🇨🇦 For those who read these updates but are in Canada, I've done a little research into how things are going here and it seems that we're actually doing an okay job of distributing the vaccines we have, but we don't have nearly enough yet to immunize the population. From CBC:

Using the intuitive distribution-to-administration time-delay framing in another comment by Unnamed... where the USA's shortfall is 17 days, Canada's got as short as 3 days this week!

That yellow curve above looks like an exponential that'll reach our 38M population in just 6-7 weeks (doubling weekly) but based on the actual news I'm reading, the plans are not nearly that ambitious. Unlike in the USA where people are panicking and flailing and trying to seem ambitious and failing hard, it seems like Canadian leaders are just acting like planning to immunize everyone by September is a reasonable thing to do, and we're doing okay at that plan. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A few details:

  • Like the USA, there's been discussion of "equitable" allocation of vaccines here, but I'm not really complaining about that as long as the shots are rapidly going into arms, which they do seem to be.
  • There were also very few vaccines over xmas here -_-
  • Pfizer is having to delay some of their deliveries to Canada (and other countries getting shipments from Europe factory) as well, for some logistical reason I haven't investigated in depth.
  • Starting in April, the Canadian government is aiming for rolling out vaccines at 1M/week. That's a lot compared to our current "0.5M in the last month" but it still doesn't immunize the whole population until sometime in September or October (which is also what Trudeau had generally pointed at a few days ago, I believe).
  • We have now purchased 80M vaccines though, enough for 2 shots for everybody, they're just... not ready yet.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart president says Canada's pharmacies could administer 2.5M to 3M/week but nobody has been in touch with them to help them plan how to help.

Would be nice if the USA could send us some of the vaccines they don't know what to do with, as it seems they've got enough extra for half of our population. Or you know, if Pfizer would just send us some that is slated for the USA until the USA figures out how to use what they've got.

Here are two tracking sites I've been using:

Book summary: Unlocking the Emotional Brain

This was a profoundly impactful post and definitely belongs in the review. It prompted me and many others to dive deep into understanding how emotional learnings have coherence and to actually engage in dialogue with them rather than insisting they don't make sense. I've linked this post to people more than probably any other LessWrong post (50-100 times) as it is an excellent summary and introduction to the topic. It works well as a teaser for the full book as well as a standalone resource.

The post makes both conceptual and pragmatic claims. I haven't exactly crosschecked the models although they do seem compatible with other models I've read. I did read the whole book and it seemed pretty sound and based in part on relevant neuroscience. There's a kind of meeting-in-the-middle thing there where the neuroscience is quite low-level and therapy is quite high-level. I think it'll be cool to see the middle layers fleshed out a bit.

Just because your brain uses Bayes' theorem at the neural level and at higher levels of abstraction, doesn't mean that you consciously know what all of its priors & models are!

And it seems the brain's basic organization is set up to prevent people from calmly arguing against emotionally intense evidence without understanding it—which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. And it also makes sense that your brain would be able to update under the right circumstances.

I've tested the pragmatic claims personally, by doing the therapeutic reconsolidation process using both Coherence Therapy methods & other methods, both on myself & working with others. I've found that these methods indeed find coherent underlying structures (eg the same basic structures using different introspective methods, that relate and are consistent) and that accessing those emotional truths and bringing them in contact with contradictory evidence indeed causes them to update, and once updated there's no longer a sense of needing to argue with yourself. It doesn't take effort to embody the new knowing.

I guess on another level I'd say that I have the sense that the emotional coherence framework has something important to say about the nature of knowing. It frames all of the perspectives held by conscious and unconscious schemas as "knowings". The knowings are partial, but this frame (as opposed to "belief") really respects the first-person experience of what it means to believe something - you don't think of it as a belief, or something you "think", it just feels true. So inasmuch as all knowing about the world is partial, there's a lot to be gained by recognizing that you know things that contradict other things you know. It's already true, whether you acknowledge it or not.

This framework has profound implications for rational thinking, communication & feedback, topics like akrasia, and there's a lot of followup work to be done in exploring those implications.

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