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April Coronavirus Open Thread

Hi all. I haven't been to LessWrong in a while...but the mess in the world has reminded me how important it is for us to strive for clear thinking as a community. With that, I'd like to share a Coronavirus pandemic information site that has really good analysis for tracking the progress of the pandemic. It's here: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daily-covid-cases-3-day-average

(it seems that I cannot embed or add images)

<iframe src="https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/covid-confirmed-daily-cases-epidemiological-trajectory" style="width: 100%; height: 600px; border: 0px none;"></iframe>

Voting is like donating thousands of dollars to charity

"One can reasonably conclude that in politics, as with math, the "average person" is ignorant and their opinion is not based on any sort of expertise."

Even if you limit the population to those who are well informed, that population is still rather evenly split and so his points still hold.

A brief history of ethically concerned scientists

Good points, but it was inappropriate to question the author's motives and the attacks on the SI were off-topic.

A brief history of ethically concerned scientists

If I were to downvote, it would be because of the unfair/inaccurate description of particle physics (existential threats, not that important, arbitrary conclusions)

A brief history of ethically concerned scientists

Especially in the modern environment with many thousands of scientists, there won't be much delay caused by a few scientists witholding their results. The greatest risk is that the discovery is made by someone who will keep it secret in order to increase their own power.

There is also a risk that keeping secrets will breed mistrust, even if the secret is kept without evil intent.

Voting is like donating thousands of dollars to charity

"any other belief"

This invites us to look at why beliefs differ. First we have to acknowledge that we are talking about differences between people with comparable levels of expertise, so this isn't the same as the disagreements that exist between experts and novices.

For elections, I think we can say that people disagree in large part because the situation is incredibly complicated. It it hard to know how government policies will affect human welfare, and it is hard to know how elected officials will shape government policy.

The only interesting factor that I can think of is differences in our scope of altruism -- one voter may feel altruistic towards their city, while another focuses on the nation, and a third focuses on all of humanity.

How to Fix Science

Thanks for putting this together. There are many interesting links in there.

I am hopeful that Bayesian methods can help to solve some of our problems, and there is constant development of these techniques in biology.

Scientists should pay more attention to their statistical tests, and I often find myself arguing with others when I don't like their tests. The most important thing that people need to remember is what "NHST" actually does -- it rejects the null hypothesis. Once they think about what the null hypothesis is, and realize that they have done nothing more than reject it, they will make a lot of progress.

How to Fix Science

Saying that people should be better is not helpful. Like all people, scientists have limited time and need to choose how to allocate their efforts. Sometimes more observations can solve a problem, and sometimes more careful thinking is necessary. The appropriate allocation depends on the situation and the talents of the researcher in question.

That being said, there may be a dysfunctional bias in how funding is allocated -- creating a "all or none" environment where the best strategy for maintaining a basic research program (paying for one's own salary plus a couple of students) is to be the type of researcher who gets multi-million dollar grants and uses that money to generate gargantuan new datasets, which can then provide the foundation for a sensational publication that everyone notices.

How to Fix Science


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