Rana Dexsin

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Covid 12/31: Meet the New Year

The WHO redefinition part looked weird to me, so I tried to verify it. The 13 November text verifies at the Internet Archive—though note that the text shown in the screenshot is only the beginning of the entry. The entry contained many more paragraphs of text, but I don't see it correcting the weird definition of “herd immunity” that it establishes at the beginning.

However, the current text as I am seeing it live on 31 December (last update today, apparently) is significantly different; it gives a lot of space to the benefits of vaccination, but does not phrase it in such a way as to ignore other immunity sources the way the 13 November text did, and makes it clearer that the “herd immunity through vaccination” is a normative claim on actions that should be taken and not a positive or nominative claim on what herd immunity actually is. Here's the current first paragraph, emphasis mine:

'Herd immunity', also known as 'population immunity', is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. WHO supports achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.

The rest of the new text more or less matches this change from the 13 November version; there is a bit about “The fraction of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known”, but that's several paragraphs in and I read it as pretty well-contextualized to “given that the plan is to vaccinate until we reach that point”. Here's the first sentence from the third paragraph, emphasis mine:

Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as ‘antibodies’, just as would happen when we are exposed to a disease but – crucially – vaccines work without making us sick.

The part I emphasized in that sentence is actually identical in the 13 November text, but badly contextualized. (The other differences in the third paragraph are immaterial to the distinction under question, consisting only of additional explanatory text—I assume to help readers who don't have a basic gears-model of immune response and viral transmission readily in memory.)

Importantly, and to restate something from above, the third and all subsequent paragraphs are missing from the right-hand screenshot in the post, and it doesn't look like normal truncation at a glance—the whitespace at the bottom of the screenshot visually implies that the second paragraph was the end of the entry in that version, which is false.

IA snapshots show that the 13 November text was in place up through 27 December, so perhaps not a small blip in terms of Internet time, but it does seem to have been corrected.

I was not able to verify the 9 June text, since IA shows no snapshots of this URL before October. I imagine perhaps the URL was different, and I would appreciate a hard reference if anyone has one.

100 Tips for a Better Life

I think it's sort of inevitable that general-vectors lists like this will have a lot of entries that have the “this is much easier to do when you're already in a good position” property, but that the underlying effect is much more a divergent-feedback property of the environment and not specific to the list. So I'd say something like:

  1. It's important not to get stuck in the victim mindset where you give up and/or rebel because you can't do the same things to obtain wins that are easy for people in better situations. In more collective, adversarial situations, the balance of social emotions may skew toward doing otherwise as a tactic, but communities where that's a steady state trend unhealthy in the medium to long term, and I don't think there's a lot of cases where deciding it on your own is actually a win.
  2. If you're in a worse situation than allows the direct use of an idea, but not so much worse that there's an uncrossable gap, most of these degrade gracefully to “maybe keep an eye out for this”. I can't afford a second monitor right now (this is true in reality), but I can remember to revisit the idea if I have more money later. But someone who won't realistically be in a position to own any computing devices for the next decade should discard that item entirely.
  3. Adjacent to (2), if a gap looks uncrossable but you want it not to be, consider that some of that might be an illusion, and that you might be able to improve your imagination and look for possibilities you've missed. Extending your range of thought is something that's encouraged a lot here. If you hold on too strongly to “you shouldn't even be talking about things like that”, that can set you up to fall into #47 (which I think is one of the more universal ones).
  4. All the same, calibration to “what level and type of things people are in a position to care about right now” is one of the big implicit cultural and situational specificity elements I mentioned in passing elsewhere. If you're way off from the implied target audience for too much of the list, maybe it's not worth bothering. #31 (which I also think is one of the more universal ones) sort of implies this. (However, I don't think it's practical to expect a list of anything more than platitudes to make no such assumptions.)
  5. … but to combine (4) with (3), lines of thought go very differently depending on whether you use “you shouldn't even be talking about that” or “I don't care about this list right now” as an interpretation. The latter opens up more agency for doing something about it.
  6. If what you mean is more like “hey, are you even thinking about the possibility that some of these might be impossible”, then I would agree with you that it's generally a good idea to notice the context dependence when composing things like this (which is in fact why I mentioned it elsewhere), but stopping at that idea doesn't lead to much. If you want a different outcome, starting by clarifying in your own mind what that would be like helps more; for instance, “I would like to see similar lists with different implied audiences” is not a bad idea (though there are ways of instantiating it unproductively).
  7. All of the above, themselves, of course assume a certain amount of value compatibility…
100 Tips for a Better Life

It's pretty USA-centric, at least. Doing this in other jurisdictions where the balance of rights and the dominant informal relationship between the public and the police are different could be much worse.

100 Tips for a Better Life

[Epistemic status: experience-based synthesis, likely biased]

Most of these seem reasonably sane, of course with varying levels of cultural and situational slant and specificity (as one would expect from any list like this). One of them, however, strikes me as actively dangerous in a way worth mentioning:

  1. If you want to become funny, try just saying stupid shit until something sticks.

Doing this visibly in more sensitive or conformist social groups can be a disaster. Gaining a reputation for saying erratic things can make you the person that no one can take anywhere because you might ruin the environment at any time, and then you're in the hole. Depending on your interpersonal goals, it may be that exiting a group like that would be a net benefit for you, but even if that's true for you, you may want to examine those options first before playing roulette with your status.

Bouncing things off yourself doesn't have the same problem, but seems like a much weaker way of developing a quality which is fundamentally social; it can work if you have an internal sense of what's funny but haven't “found” it for conscious access, but it doesn't work if you were miscalibrated to start with. Bouncing things off trusted friends can work, but at that point you're more likely to have already had that option saliently in mind. (Well, if you didn't and you're reading this, now you do.)

More specifically, I think people who are socially oblivious and think that humor will improve their standing may be likely to jump at 52, and if they are in the above situation, get hurt, with the hazard having been invisible due to the obliviousness. One might then ask why they would get marginally hurt if they were already likely to make social errors—but I think it's possible to get by in such cases with (perhaps not consciously noticed) conditioned broad inhibitions instead… until you read something like this as “permission”.

Covid 12/10: Vaccine Approval Day in America

There was a Pew Research survey this week on who will get the vaccine.

To confirm, this is about who intends to seek out the vaccine, yes? The study mentioned by this article on the Pew Research site? Some of the text (especially the Twitter screenshot) was easy to initially read as “to whom the system will choose to allow the vaccine” instead.

Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion

In that case, I would like to register, without requesting any specific action, that one of the reasons I tend to quietly accept a lot of the scattershot secondary jabs as part of Zvi's style is that these posts are Personal-Blog-categorized crossposts. He writes earlier that “I am happy that the community gets use out of them, but they are not designed for the front page of LessWrong or its norms.” Giving most of the last few sections full front page status as-is feels very costly to me. If I could provide a finger-snap option, I'd go with “front-page a separate post that only pulls the more critical and topical information from this one”, but of course someone would have to actually do that. (In theory I would offer to do such derivation, but I won't have spare mental space for something of that order for several days yet, which is presumably too late.)

And along the lines of another comment subtree, from my perspective most (not all) of the wave of Twitter links on this post feels worse in terms of “more heat than light” than what I see from an ad-hoc resample of previous posts in the series—in a way it feels like the series has been leaning further and further almost-but-not-quite toward the “Agreed that doing what I did here on a regular basis would be quite bad” zone from the one post in the series that had a more clearly marked digression on US election results.

(Half-contrasting opinion-observation: I'm aware of and mostly am okay with the level of stylistic pointedness in Zvi's other writing such as “More Dakka” and the Moral Mazes series, but I don't think I've elsewhere observed the one-two punch of that plus edging against more-heat-than-light topics arriving from Twitter.)

Persuasion Tools: AI takeover without AGI or agency?

Did your friend manage to get out of the mistaken suggestion-patterns later, and if so, how? (If it's appropriate to reveal, of course.)

Survey of Deviant Ideas

Isn't this extremely social-context-dependent? Do you mean “almost no other LW readers would agree with you on”? Or “almost nobody in the (poorly-defined) ‘mainstream’ would agree with you on”? Or “almost nobody in your ‘primary’ social group (whatever that is) would agree with you on”? Or “almost nobody in the world (to what threshold? that's a lot of people!) would agree with you on”?

Edited to add: To make the concrete connection explicit, I can think of a number of things I believe that I wouldn't dare say out loud on LW, and a number of things I believe that I wouldn't dare say out loud in another very different social setting I'm attached to, but they don't intersect much. I'm not sure I can think of much I believe where I have no social group that would agree with me.

AGI Predictions

What level of background in AI alignment are you assuming/desiring for respondents? Is it just “all readers” where the assumption is that any cultural osmosis etc. is included in what you're trying to measure?

Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from?

I strong-upvoted this out of the negative because it seemed disproportionate for it to be there; I think it has some flaws as an answer and it might've been better as a comment, but there are other answers that are just as shaky on an explanatory level. (Though I don't think some of the adversarial framing is doing it any favors.)

My intuition is that there's a strong underlying point here, even if the surface markers have run afoul of some memetic antibodies. I'd love to see a better framing of this and better-explained actual counters if they're there; if the latter are part of local canon, they haven't propagated to me. “spirals of inequality leads to spirals of distrust” as a central thesis certainly plays well enough with some of the EEA-psychology and historical-cycles modeling on the surface.

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