Staying Sane While Taking Ideas Seriously


Covid 5/27: The Final Countdown

A political analysis asks why Biden has high ratings on the pandemic. It makes no mention of any of Biden’s policies, decisions, actions or statements, because it turns out none of that matters whatsoever. Presumably there’s a point at which something would matter, but we are still waiting to prove that via example.

I think this is too cynical.

FiveThirtyEight is analyzing a bunch of existing polls. I expect that none of them asked questions more specific than overall assessment of how Biden was doing on COVID-19. If someone did do a poll asking more specific subquestions - does he do messaging better, do they credit him with beating his vaccine rollout target, etc - you'd probably see some details emerge.

(His messaging hasn't been ideal, of course, but it's raised the bar from the last guy. And his rollout speed was pretty good, but he also managed expectations smartly. Etc.)

Of course, the biggest reason that people rate him highly is just that, well, things are going Back To Normal and that means he's doing a good job on it. That's not a super sophisticated analysis on their part, but there are worse things for low-info voters to do than to support the ruling party when things go well and oppose it when things go badly, without trying to divine the causality.

The Loudest Alarm Is Probably False

Interesting! Different experiences.

I do want to make it clear that people who are X often acknowledge that they are X, but don't intensely worry about it. E.g. a friend who knows he's abrasive, knows his life would be better if he were less abrasive on the margin, but doesn't have the emotional reaction "oh god, am I being abrasive?" in the middle of social interactions.

Applied Picoeconomics

On the other hand, I was undiagnosed (and accordingly untreated) bipolar type 2 at the time of that comment, so my results are not generalizable. My hypomanic self wrote checks that my depressive self couldn't cash.

Improvement for pundit prediction comparisons

That's a great point. [Getting more pundits to make predictions at all] is much more valuable than [more accurately comparing pundits who do make predictions] right now, to such an extent that I now doubt whether my idea was worthwhile.

Covid 3/12: New CDC Guidelines Available

Meanwhile, Biden continues to double down on underpromising to maximize the chances of being able to claim overdelivery on all fronts.

Besides the incentives (cf. the Scotty Factor), it's an important safety valve against the Planning Fallacy.

Adding Up To Normality

I have to disagree with you there.  Thanks to my friends' knowledge, I stopped my parents from taking a cross-country flight in early March, before much of the media reported that there was any real danger in doing so. You can't wave off the value of truly thinking through things.

But don't confuse "my model is changing" with "the world is changing", even when both are happening simultaneously. That's my point.

Your Cheerful Price

One problem: a high price can put more stress on a person, and raising the price further won't fix that!

For instance, say that you leave a fic half-finished, and someone offers a million dollars to MIRI iff you finish it. Would you actually feel cheerful and motivated, or might you feel stressed and avoidant and guilty about being slow, and have a painful experience in actually writing it?

(If you've personally mastered your relevant feelings, I think you'd still agree that many people haven't.)

I don't know what to do in that case.

Understanding “Deep Double Descent”

If this post is selected, I'd like to see the followup made into an addendum—I think it adds a very important piece, and it should have been nominated itself.

What failure looks like

I think this post (and similarly, Evan's summary of Chris Olah's views) are essential both in their own right and as mutual foils to MIRI's research agenda. We see related concepts (mesa-optimization originally came out of Paul's talk of daemons in Solomonoff induction, if I remember right) but very different strategies for achieving both inner and outer alignment. (The crux of the disagreement seems to be the probability of success from adapting current methods.)

Strongly recommended for inclusion.

Soft takeoff can still lead to decisive strategic advantage

It's hard to know how to judge a post that deems itself superseded by a post from a later year, but I lean toward taking Daniel at his word and hoping we survive until the 2021 Review comes around.

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