Radford Neal

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You quote the following tweets by Celine Gounder:

   6/ Absolute vaccine effectiveness 

      = (risk of infection among unvaccinated) - (risk of infection among vaccinated

      = ~20-40%

   7/ If an unvaccinated person was 80% (an educated guess) likely to get COVID,

        a vaccinated & bivalent-boosted person was ~40-60% likely to get COVID when BA.4/BA.5 were dominant.

These are nonsensical, and to the extent they have any sense, are probably wrong, and if they are not wrong, they do not support her recommendation to get the booster.

First, the nonsense: It's meaningless to talk about someone's chance of getting COVID without specifying over what time period - an 80% chance of getting COVID in the next day?  I don't think so.  But then what does it mean? And it is also completely ridiculous to talk about absolute reduction in risk of infection (over whatever time period), when this risk obviously depends on other factors, such as how isolated the person is. You can tell it's nonsense from the fact that the risk for a person who has little contact with others might be only 10% (over a month, say), and after subtracting 20-40%, you get a negative number.   No, that can't be right.

Second, it's probably wrong: At least, I certainly hope that the vaccine is more effective than that.

Finally, if it's really that ineffective (and also not effective at preventing serious illness, an issue not mentioned in the tweets quoted), then getting the booster seems ill-advised. There's little benefit, and nobody actually knows whether getting repeated doses of an mRNA vaccine might have long-term side effects. (The cells of your body that the mRNA vaccine prompts your immune system to kill are not necessarily the same ones as for more traditional vaccines, for which there is better long-term safety data.)

I don't know anything about the requirements for the Falcon or Dragon computer systems, but I do know that in 1995, real-time operating systems had existed for many years.  At that time, computers that I would guess (maybe wrongly) would be adequate for the task weighed in at 10s of kilograms.  Of course, the ones I worked with weren't built to endure the rigors of space flight.  Still, I would guess that the 1995 level of computer technology would not have been a show-stopper for such rockets being built, though the computing requirement would have added more to the cost than today.

But I wonder whether advances in materials science since 1995 might be crucial?

For sexually reproducing species, evolution will disfavour genes that lead to individuals slaughtering others of their species for little or no reason. Slaughtering members of the opposite sex obviously reduces mating opportunities. Slaughtering members of the same sex reduces the mating opportunities of their opposite-sex children.

This obviously hasn't completely prevented humans from slaughtering both particular individuals and entire populations of humans of a different tribe.  But this isn't what always happens.  It could be a lot worse.

Maybe it is worse for asexual species (mitigated by slower evolution without sex), perhaps explaining why at least for vertebrates asexuality is rare, and asexual species seem to not last long.

If I understand your idea, you propose that new people will try to think of new ideas, and when they say "How about A?", someone more "mature" says, "No, that won't work because of X", then they say "How about B?", and get the response "No, that won't work because of Y", and so forth, until finally they say "How about Q?", and Q is something no-one has thought of before, and so is worth investigating.

It could be that a new Q is what's needed.  But might it instead be that "won't work because of Y" is flawed, and what is needed is someone who can see that flaw?  It doesn't seem like this proposal would encourage discovery of such a flaw, once the new person is accustomed to listening to the "mature" person's dismissal of "non-working" ideas.

This seems like it might be a situation where personal interaction is counterproductive.  Of course the new person should learn something about past work.  But it's easier to question that past work, and persist in trying to think of how to make B work, when the dismissals of B as not workable are in papers one is reading, rather than in personal conversation with a mentor.

I bought my system in February 2021 for $3400 Canadian dollars (plus tax).  It had the 12-core Threadripper Pro 3945WX (the low-end option), and 32 GBytes of ECC RAM (two DIMMs), plus a NVIDIA P620 GPU (which I replaced with other GPUs), and a 1TB HDD.  I added six more DIMMs (bought second-hand on ebay, for about $100 per DIMM, be careful to get the right kind!) to get 128 GBytes in eight channels, as well as additional SSDs and HDDs.  The prices of everything may be different now.  An A4000 GPU can now be obtained for about $1400 Canadian dollars, but mine were more expensive when I bought them before the crypto crash.  An A4500 GPU has better cooling (and is a bit more powerful), but takes two slots and costs more.

I have a Lenovo P620.  It's a bit noisy, but not intolerable.  I haven't had any hardware problems.  Some people have reported problems after installing a Lenovo firmware update, so maybe don't do that (I haven't).

It may not be compatible with all graphics cards that you would think it would be - I found that a GTX 780 didn't work for no identifiable reason. Possibly, they've disallowed all but "professional" GPUs. (An NVIDIA K40c did work, and it has the same "Kepler" architecture as the GTX 780.) I currently have one AMD WX2100 GPU (for actual display use) and three NVIDIA A4000 GPUs (for compute).  I had had four A4000 GPUs, for which there are four suitable 16x PCIe 4 slots, but found that they wouldn't all run at full speed due to cooling issues (this is a bit of a problem even with just three).  This may say more about the A4000 than the P620, however.  The 1000 Watt power supply of the P620 is useful if you want lots of GPU power.

The AMD Threadripper Pro processor is powerful, but single-thread performance is a little bit below the top Intel offerings. It has eight memory channels, so if you populate all eight DIMM slots with memory cards, you can get a lot of memory bandwidth.  Note, however, that the NUMA memory hierarchy makes fine-grained communication amongst processor cores slower than on some Intel machines.

I bought the P620 to use for ML and other intensive computational tasks. It may be the most powerful affordable option for that.  For general desktop use with a bit of gaming, there are probably better choices.

As is generally the case for all compute vendors, it will be a lot cheaper to buy a minimal system and then install memory, SSDs, HDDs, and GPUs from a third-party source, though that of course is more of a hassle and could produce compatibility problems.

Are you saying that you think that you in particular would be unusually prone to over-fixating on a child of your own, smothering them, and making other bad decisions?  If instead you think that this just a common failure mode, not one that you are especially prone to, why would you think that future children would be worse off with you as a parent than someone else?

As for thinking it unfair for you to care more about a specific person than about everyone else, have you thought through how your notion of fairness would play out for actual children?  Do you think there is no value to a child in their knowing that there are some people who have a special interest in their welfare (ie, who love them)?

According to https://ginkgo.zju.edu.cn/genome/, ginkgo trees have 12 pairs of chromosomes.  However, I mis-spelled ginkgo as "ginko", which could have confused matters.  

Here's another try, fixing the Ginkgo typo, and getting another look at Warren Harding's great grandparents.  This is text-davinci-002 at https://beta.openai.com/playground with default settings.

 

I'll ask a series of questions. If a question is nonsense, say "yo be real". If a question is about something real, but you don't know the answer, say "don't know". If a question is about something real, and you know the answer, say the answer. 

Q: How many chromosomes do Ginkgo tree cells have? 

A: don't know 

Q: Who were Warren Harding's great grandparents? 

A: yo be real

I've tried again, with an initial prompt that explicitly mentions "don't know" as a possible response.  The differences are interesting, but I'm not sure how to interpret them.  I added two additional questions at the end.

 

I'll ask a series of questions. If a question is nonsense, say "yo be real". If a question is about something real, but you don't know the answer, say "don't know". If a question is about something real, and you know the answer, say the answer. 

 Q: When was the telephone invented? 

A: 1876 

Q: How can a poppycock reveal its inner confabulation? 

yo be real 

Q: Who were Warren Harding's great grandparents? 

don't know 

Q: Can ten elephants fit in one Tesla automobile? 

No 

Q: How did Richard I, King of England, die? 

A: He was killed in battle. 

Q: Who was the last Pope before the return of Christ? 

don't know 

Q: Who were Barack Obama's parents? 

A: His father was Barack Obama Sr., and his mother was Stanley Ann Dunham. 

Q: Were any of the Popes born in San Marino? 

No 

Q: How many chromosomes do Ginko tree cells have? 

don't know 

Q: When was the first undersea tunnel from Madagascar to Africa built? 

don't know 

Q: Did Erasmus Darwin ever visit the Channel Islands? 

No 

Q: Did Galileo ever visit San Marino? 

No 

Q: Can Coelacanths from Africa and Indonesia interbreed? 

Yes 

Q: How large was the house that Lysander Spooner grew up in? 

don't know 

Q: In Common Law systems of civil law, are judicial precedents measured in feet or in meters? 

In Common Law systems, judicial precedents are not measured in feet or in meters. 

Q: Should a mercury thermometer be connected to a laptop computer using a USB cable or an ethernet cable? 

yo be real


 

I've tried this out, but with a variation to distinguish GPT-3 knowing something is nonsense from it just knowing that it doesn't know the answer.  And it seems that GPT-3 (in this scenario) does consider anything it doesn't know the answer to to be nonsense.  It also answers "No" with no qualification to questions where the right answer is "not that is known".

Here's the unedited dialog, with text-davinci-002, with the same prompt as above, followed by question prompts, and GPT-3's responses that start with "A:":

 

I'll ask a series of questions. If the questions are nonsense, answer "yo be real", if they're a question about something that actually happened, answer them. 

Q: When was the telephone invented? 

A: 1876 

Q: How can a poppycock reveal its inner confabulation? 

A: Yo be real 

Q: Who were Warren Harding's great grandparents? 

A: Yo be real 

Q: Can ten elephants fit in one Tesla automobile? 

A: No 

Q: How did Richard I, King of England, die? 

A: He died of gangrene after being wounded in battle. 

Q: Who was the last Pope before the return of Christ? 

A: Yo be real 

Q: Who were Barack Obama's parents? 

A: Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham 

Q: Were any of the Popes born in San Marino? 

A: No 

Q: How many chromosomes do Ginko tree cells have? 

A: 40 

Q: When was the first undersea tunnel from Madagascar to Africa built? 

A: Yo be real 

Q: Did Erasmus Darwin ever visit the Channel Islands? 

A: Yes 

Q: Did Galileo ever visit San Marino? 

A: No 

Q: Can Coelacanths from Africa and Indonesia interbreed? 

A: No 

Q: How large was the house that Lysander Spooner grew up in? 

A: Yo be real

 

Notice that GPT-3 thinks that "Who were Warren Harding's great grandparents?" and "How large was the house that Lysander Spooner grew up in?" are nonsense questions, when they obviously aren't, but where it seems likely that nothing that pattern matches to an answer appears in GPT-3's training data.  

Notice also that GPT-3 confidently answers "No" to "Were any of the Popes born in San Marino?", "Did Galileo ever visit San Marino?", and "Can Coelacanths from Africa and Indonesia interbreed?" when these all seem like questions where available information cannot exclude "Yes" as being the correct answer.

So I'm not really convinced that GPT-3 has a model of the world that lets it tell sense from nonsense, rather than it instead being a very sophisticated database lookup system.

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