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Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

I'm not an expert because I don't live there, but my understanding is California's initial stay-at-home order was exceptionally strict, and indoor social gatherings are STILL banned, with outdoor gatherings subject to tight rules. Indoor restaurant dining is also banned in some places, and masks outdoors are required. My guess would be that California is in the top three states, possibly the top one, as far as strictness goes.

Stupid Questions October 2020

Why would they? Considering that LW readers are mostly rich Americans, they don't seem particularly needy. 

Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

I'd like to hear discussion of which COVID-related metrics are most useful for making personal risk decisions. Daily new cases per capita? Death rates? Test positivity rate? R0? Obviously, the right risk tradeoff will vary with a person's location (not to mention circumstances, values, etc.) so it would be very useful to have a better understanding of how to measure how bad the pandemic is in my area.

And I hope people from California or NYC will keep in mind that their governments are much, much stricter than most in the U.S.

Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition

FYI, the Facebook link doesn't work. You might need to make the event public.

On Slack - Having room to be excited

Thanks OP! I love your posts. However, I was not convinced by this point: "the default state of the world is that your life lacks Slack." The post explains why OP's mindset drives him away from Slack, but it doesn't really explain why this would be true for most people, and it does not ring true for me. I don't really have evidence for this, but I would assume that most people have the capacity to have an unproductive day or week, take time off work, or waste money. When you think about how many hours the average person spends each day on TV or aimless interneting, it doesn't really seem consistent with imagining most people's lives as full of nonstop stressed productivity.

By hubris, you seem to mean "optimistic assumptions." And I could make a similar post about the optimistic assumptions behind renting: the same assumptions about property rights and availability of insurance apply. And by renting, you are predicting that your landlord will not kick you out, stop maintaining the place, or raise rent to a point where you cannot afford it. Or that if they do, you will be able to find another affordable apartment in the area.

Philosophy of Therapy

What I was expecting from the first paragraph was a discussion of whether therapy works. I think people should know that when it's been studied, there's little evidence that talk therapy works better than getting support from a friend, family member, or other trusted person. A person with a credential, some insight, and an empathetic manner is not clearly better to talk to than a person with some insight, an empathetic manner, and no credential. And it's important to remember that therapy comes with significant costs in money and risk. Anyone who gets involved with the psychiatric system should be aware of the substantial risk of overmedication and medication side effects, as well as smaller but still real risks of involuntary medication and institutionalization.

To address some common objections:

1) But therapy worked for me!

Response: Maybe. But anytime a person invests substantial time and money into a given strategy, there is a risk that their assessment of the results of that strategy will be affected by confirmation bias, sunk cost bias, and cognitive dissonance. 

Also the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: I was depressed, then I went to therapy for six months, now I'm not depressed. Great, but most cases of depression resolve after six months, with or without treatment. How do you know what would have happened if you had tried some other strategy, or nothing at all, for six months?

2) But I don't want to/can't get a friend to listen to my problems for an hour+ a week, and a therapist will.

Response: Are you sure you need to talk about your problems for that long that often? Or is that just what the psychiatric establishment has taught us is standard? 

Experiment for yourself, by all means, but my experience has been that a very brief conversation, coming at the right moment, can be incredibly therapeutic. Or an in-depth conversation every few months. Or support from a friend along with all the other self-help strategies that commonly work for mental/emotional problems. 

3) If you tried therapy, you would see how great it is. Therefore, you must not have tried it, so I will dismiss your opinion.

Response: This is a dumb ad hominem, but it seems to come up every time I make this point, so I will address it. I've done a LOT of therapy, with a lot of different people, for a range of different problems, and it never worked. Put very little weight on this, of course, it's very possible that it didn't work for me but will work for you. I only bring up myself to foreclose the ad hominem.

Conclusion: if you're considering therapy, be aware of the costs and benefits. And know that it's not your only option, and it is one of the more costly options out there.

COVID Strategy 101

I’d like to respond to a small piece of this: if a large fraction of the population is naturally immune, how are superspreader events possible?

This is not surprising. It’s possible both that a large fraction of the population is immune, and that occasional events happen to include no or very few naturally immune people—just as flipping a fair coin will sometimes result in an unusual HHHHHHHHHH sequence. If superspreader events were the norm, they would be some evidence against natural immunity—but people mostly seem to cite the same few superspreader events, suggesting that very few social gatherings are superspreader scenarios.

I think what OP is getting at here is that personal growth often involves some pretty dramatic changes in personality and lifestyle. An example would be someone who started out polyamorous and became monogamous, or vice versa. People might decide to have kids or more kids when they thought they didn't want them. Religious beliefs change, so do career plans and income levels. Or big life changes, such as having kids or changing jobs, might cause personality changes. 

Even changes that seem positive often end relationships. For example, people who quit drinking or doing drugs often see their relationship end. And most people who undergo weight-loss surgery will see their relationship end, according to what I've read. It seems odd—isn't losing weight or overcoming an addiction good?—, but the thing is, when you change one big foundational aspect of your life, other aspects of your life tend to change as well in ways that neither you nor your partner may have predicted. Maybe the person who lost weight is suddenly a social butterfly, when previously he was happy staying home most of the time. Or maybe the person who quit drinking has more clarity about her life and now wants to quit a well-paying job for something more meaningful. 

>What part of your personal growth do you expect you would need to sacrifice to maintain a marriage and/or a family?

This is the wrong question to ask, because we cannot plan out our personal growth trajectory in advance. I expect some of the changes I've listed seem like they will never happen to you or aren't relevant to you, but the thing is, when making a lifelong commitment, things will come up that you never would have predicted. Where my opinion differs from OP is that I think it's possible for people to stay married through these big life changes and end up better off than if they had divorced or never married. But...I'm not sure. 

You make two very different points here, and I think the point about marriage might have better been its own post.

That said, I'm in violent agreement that entrepreneurial types tend to overestimate the extent to which other people are enterpreneurial. Or assume that non-entrepreneurs are just stupid or conformist. Being an entrepreneur requires a very high tolerance for risk and unpredictability, and not everyone has that. Personally I'm very happy knowing exactly what my next paycheck will be and knowing it is very unlikely I will lose my job. I take the limited downside risk, even though it does mean my upside is limited, e.g., I am unlikely ever to be a billionaire.

There is a possibility that SOME people who are currently held back by poverty might become entrepreneurships if given an extra $1000/month. That's not convincing as the sole argument for UBI, but then I've never seen that framed as the sole argument for UBI.

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