I'm Steve Byrnes, a professional physicist in the Boston area. I have a summary of my AGI safety research interests at:

steve2152's Comments

What will happen to supply chains in the era of COVID-19?

Re 1: The existence of perishable, refrigerated, and frozen food, which can only be hoarded to a very limited extent, puts a ceiling on how bad a run on food can get, right?

COVID-19 transmission: Are we overemphasizing touching rather than breathing?

Thanks! Yes, I think we're mostly on the same page, except my feeling that avoiding inhaled droplets is probably more important than avoiding touching your face. I still think that the public-health messaging I've seen is somewhat misdirected, and that all the celebrities and informational signs that say "wash your hands" or "don't shake hands" should instead more often say "don't have face-to-face conversations" and "if you talk to someone, you're spitting on them" and "cover your cough". The 2 meter rule is good, but I think it hasn't been communicated why that's important, if no one is coughing. Likewise, we all know that you should especially wash your hands after touching a contaminated surface. But conventional wisdom is that a contaminated surface is one that a sick person has touched. Do people realize that a contaminated surface is also one that a sick person has talked near? I, for one, did not connect those dots that until just now.

What is the safe in-person distance for COVID-19?

Talking emits droplets and aerosols just like coughing does. In fact, I'm increasingly thinking that face-to-face conversations (especially without facemasks) are a major cause of asymptomatic transmissions. According to that theory, an indoor choir practice, with everyone singing loudly for extended periods, has to be one of the worst imaginable transmission risks. If the same type of super-spreader event happened in, say, a movie theater, I would be much more confused about it.

COVID-19 growth rates vs interventions

Western-style lockdowns may be slightly effective for a week or two, then very effective thereafter, due to the disease running through all members of an infected household. Do we yet have data on this possibility?

AGI in a vulnerable world

I think the more important hypothesis is:

If something is just barely possible today with massive compute, maybe it will be possible with much much less compute very soon (e.g. <1 year).

I don't think it really matters for the argument whether it's a "small team" that improves the compute-efficiency, or the original team, or a different big team, or whatever. Just that it happens.

Anyway, is the hypothesis true? I would say, it's very likely if we're talking about a pioneering new algorithm, because with pioneering new algorithms, we don't yet have best practices for parallelization, GPU-acceleration, clever shortcuts, etc. etc. On the other hand, if a known, widely-used algorithm is just barely able to do something on the world's biggest GPU cluster, then it might take longer before it becomes really easy and cheap for anyone to do that thing. Like, maybe it will take a couple years, instead of <1 year :-P

What is the safe in-person distance for COVID-19?

You might try this article and the many references therein. Sorry I don't have time for a better answer at the moment :-)

March Coronavirus Open Thread

I'm still trying to understand how COVID-19 actually spreads. (Related to my recent question on touching-vs-breathing.) Based largely on this article, my current very-low-confidence belief (in decreasing order of importance):

Again, very low confidence in all this. Thoughts?

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