viking_math

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COVID/Delta advice I'm currently giving to friends

Hold on. That seems to be very wrong. The world became permanently more dangerous when smallpox, cholera, typhoid, measles, mumps, and the flu jumped to humans. That only stopped being true when vaccines were developed. I think it bodes pretty well for the outlook of COVID, if we keep vaccinating. But so far as I know, it's definitely not the case that smallpox ever became less deadly on its own. 

The Death of Behavioral Economics

I'm not sure it's any more dead than other fields of social science. Which, maybe they're all actually zombies, but that sounds excessively strong. For example, take the effect sizes of nudges. I believe that the effect of "opt out" policies for organ donation have absolutely massive effects (see https://sparq.stanford.edu/solutions/opt-out-policies-increase-organ-donation ). So is the problem that the field is dead, or that it's just sick with the same diseases as psychology and better work needs to be done to separate wheat from chaff? Forgetting hypotheses that turn out not to hold up, doing more replications, etc. For example, I believe hindsight bias has held up as being real, having significant effects, and being difficult to overcome. 

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

I've spent a lot of time in the outdoors and I'm surprised that "ticks" occupied such a large chunk of effort/relevance. Wear long pants/shirts with long sleeves when in the woods, check yourself after you get back, and put bug spray (there are certain brands that work) on your body and clothes. 

I'm curious what counts as "very high elevation" and why it's an issue. The highest cities of any size are Santa Fe, Denver and the Front Range (including Cheyenne), and SLC. You can get some very high elevations right outside Denver, but there are no towns above 10,500'and in practice there's very little over 8,000' or so. 

More information on Austin: 

Physical environment: the weather is generally nice October through April. May through September tends to be hot; it's neither the bone dry of Colorado and the desert Southwest nor the oppressive humidity of the coast. Not ideal but not terrible. I prefer cooler weather but find it tolerable to great most of the year. 

Really exciting, impactful outdoor activities like mountain climbing and backpacking are a schlep. Shorter hikes, biking, water, and outdoor sports are plentiful both in and outside the city. 

Because it's growing quickly, I would expect anywhere you find to be busier than it currently is in a few years. I'd look for an area that is currently less developed than would be ideal. Based on advertising, it seems like there's a lot of land waiting to be developed in the towns around Austin. In my experience, commuting against traffic works very well (leaving the city in the morning and returning to it in the evening). 

Getting around the city without a car is generally difficult. Mass transit is very poor, particularly if you set up anywhere outside the urban core. 

Cost: Austin isn't the Bay or NYC, but it's not what it was 10 years ago either. We have enough space to expand that it probably won't ever get that bad, but right now the housing market is absolutely ridiculous (if you're making a bid on a house, you have under 24 hours to come up with 45% over asking in cash, or don't bother, is the gist). Property taxes on residences are capped; not sure about organizations. If property tax in Austin proper is an issue, the surrounding area will likely be cheaper. There is no state income tax. 

Vibe: The city used to have a very laid-back atmosphere, but has grown a lot and attracted lots of companies, particularly in tech. Now it's more "casual but lots going on." I can't say I have any opinion on the general epistemic culture of any city, they all seem pretty similar to me on that front, except for the hyper-political ones, which Austin isn't (yet, at least). 

I believe crime is low to average. Getting a gun is relatively easy. The only politically motivated violence I can recall is from last summer, and that affected literally every one of the 100 largest cities in the country. Seems pretty LGBT friendly--like you would expect from any blue city. There are grumblings about tech companies driving prices up from long-time residents, but these never seem to translate into any policy issues. 

The rationalist community has been going strong for ~10 years; we currently have multiple weekly in-person meetups, a remote book club, and a remote monthly movie discussion. We have expanded both in numbers and activities over the pandemic. UT Austin is also located here, with many alumni staying in the area, and we get a large number of graduates from other Texas schools like A&M and Texas Tech, and a number of tech companies have recently moved in or expanded (including Facebook, Google, and Amazon).