Comparative Advantage is Not About Trade

I think of comparative advantage & specialization as features of production. People producing the things that they have comparative advantage at puts society on the pareto frontier in terms of the amount of each good that is produced.

I haven't been thinking of this as a theorem, but I think it could go something like: there are n people and m goods and person i will produce p*f(i,j) units of good j if they devote p fraction of their time to producing good j, and each person uses 100% of their time producing goods. Then if you want to describe the pareto frontier that maximizes the amount of goods produced, it involves each person producing a good where they have a favorable ratio of how much of that good they can produce vs. how much of other goods-being-produced they can produce.

What's the CFAR position on how the workbook can be used?

(This is Dan from CFAR)

Yep, you're definitely free to run a reading group on the handbook.

You can basically just treat it like any other book. CFAR made the handbook as a supplement to our workshops, and we put it out there so that other people can see what's in it and make their own calls about what else to do with it.

The Four Children of the Seder as the Simulacra Levels

I guess I'm still confused about the basics of simulacrum levels, because I'm not sure what level those sentences are on. e.g., "Please pass the potatoes" is intended to have the consequence of causing someone to pass the potatoes, rather than attempting to accurately describe the world, which (I think) matches how people have been describing level 2. But also it seems concrete and grounded, rather than involving a distortion of reality. So maybe it is level 1? Or not in the hierarchy at all?

Escalation Outside the System

Related post by hilzoy.

Its opening section is the part that's least related, so you could skip it and begin with this part:

Back in 1983, I sat in on a conference on women and social change. There were fascinating people from all over the world, women who had been doing extraordinary things in their own countries, and who had gathered together to talk it through; and I got to be a fly on the wall.
During this conference, there was a recurring disagreement about the role of violence in fighting deeply unjust regimes.
Can Social Dynamics Explain Conjunction Fallacy Experimental Results?

The social dynamics that you point to in your John-Linda anecdote seem to depend on the fact that John knows what happened with Linda. This suggests that these social dynamics would not apply to questions about the future, where the question was coming from someone who couldn't know what was going to happen.

Some studies have looked for the conjunction fallacy in predictions about the future, and they've found it there too. One example which was mentioned in the post that you linked is the forecast about a breakdown of US-Soviet relations. Here's a more detailed description of the study from a an earlier post in that sequence:

Another experiment from Tversky and Kahneman (1983) was conducted at the Second International Congress on Forecasting in July of 1982.  The experimental subjects were 115 professional analysts, employed by industry, universities, or research institutes.  Two different experimental groups were respectively asked to rate the probability of two different statements, each group seeing only one statement:
1. "A complete suspension of diplomatic relations between the USA and the Soviet Union, sometime in 1983."
2. "A Russian invasion of Poland, and a complete suspension of diplomatic relations between the USA and the Soviet Union, sometime in 1983."
Estimates of probability were low for both statements, but significantly lower for the first group than the second (p < .01 by Mann-Whitney).  Since each experimental group only saw one statement, there is no possibility that the first group interpreted (1) to mean "suspension but no invasion".
A Personal (Interim) COVID-19 Postmortem
It seems clear that maks wearing reduces spread somewhat, but note that this is because of reducing spread from infectious individuals, especially pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people, not protecting mask wearers. The early skepticism was in part based on the assumption, which in March seemed to have been shared by both promoters and skeptics, that the benefits were that masks were individually protective, rather than that they helped population-level spread reduction.

The early *arguments* I saw were mainly about whether masks meaningfully reduced the wearer's chances of getting infected. But it was already conventional wisdom that masks did meaningfully reduce the wearer's chances of infecting others, people just weren't taking the next step of arguing for general mask use on these grounds. For example, the early March CDC recommendation (linked in the anti-CDC LW post) was:

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

By mid March, there were organized efforts to increase mask use on the grounds that it reduced the wearer's chances of infecting others. The Czech government (which mandated mask use on March 19) and the #Masks4All campaign were the most prominent ones that I saw - both encouraged people to make their own cloth masks and used the slogan "My mask protects you, your mask protects me" (they may also have talked about some risk-reduction benefits for the wearer). A quick search turns up this March 14 video (in Czech, with English closed captioning available) as the earliest source I could quickly find clearly making this case for widespread mask use.

SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott

This reminds me of the time that Slate published hilzoy's real name, in 2009.

I think what happened there is that the Slate author was following journalistic customs of using real names and didn't realize that hilzoy wanted to stay pseudonymous online, and hilzoy had been even less vigilant than Scott about keeping her real name unfindable. And then once the article had been published, hilzoy's request to remove her name ran into Slate's policy of never changing published articles unless they contain a factual error, and this was not a factual error. (It's possible that the author also had some adversarial motives for publishing the name - it did happen in the context of a disagreement between her and hilzoy - but I don't know of any clear or direct evidence for that.)

So the main storyline here might be about the media having its own customs and not much caring about what happens to the people that they cover. The press does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of stories which it can tell to its audience. I'm not sure what implications (if any) this has about what to do now.

Everyday Lessons from High-Dimensional Optimization

The distance between the n-dimensional points (0,0,...,0) and (1,1,...,1) is sqrt(n). So if you move sqrt(n) units along that diagonal, you move 1 unit along the dimension that matters. Or if you move 1 unit along the diagonal, you move 1/sqrt(n) units along that dimension. 1/sqrt(n) efficiency.

If you instead move 1 unit in a random direction then sometimes you'll move more than that and sometimes you'll move less, but I figured that was unimportant enough on net to leave it O(1/sqrt(n)).

Everyday Lessons from High-Dimensional Optimization

Seems like some changes are more like Euclidean distance while others are more like turning a single knob. If I go visit my cousin for a week and a bunch of aspects of my lifestyles shift towards his, that is more Euclidean than if I change my lifestyle by adding a new habit of jogging each morning. (Although both are in between the extremes of pure Euclidean or purely a single knob - you could think of it in terms of the dimensionality of the subspace that you're moving in.)

And something similar can apply to work habits, thinking styles, etc.

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