All of Zian's Comments + Replies

Open Thread - Jan 2022 [Vote Experiment!]
-2Clarity (bias: authors include employees of one of the companies being evaluated, Xpert) might help us choose between all the different tests floating around for sale. It was published on July, 2021 and discusses products from the following firms:

  • Accula
  • BioFire
  • cobas
  • Cue
  • ID NOW
  • Lucira
  • Xpert
  • Visby (Bias: "Cue Health provided readers and cartridges for the study.") was published on May 2021 and evaluates Cue Health.

How do you do fit-testing for KN95/N95/FFP2/FFP3 masks?
Answer by ZianJan 09, 20223

Other comments on the post ( indicate that fit testing is much easier to accomplish with an elastomeric respirator (often referred to as "P100" due to the filter).

>"Only a handful of people in my training platoon of 50 completely lost their shit"


>Gas mask training was my favorite day because everybody got to feel their mucus membranes start to vent everything while a se... (read more)

Guessing the Teacher's Password

We could look at how other industries that have successfully accomplished this change have pulled it off. For example, in aviation, there is a strong emphasis on looking things up and not relying on yourself to be infallible.

On the flip side, we can observe the difficulties that were encountered when Dr. Atul Gawande tried to bring that concept into the medical field.

Mistakes repository

If $20 isn't too much money, then you can "pay someone to slog through the literature" by purchasing a one-week UpToDate subscription.

2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository

If you take a Sharpie and write the date onto the battery when you buy it, then if the battery starts giving you grief (e.g. it's frequently not charged when you fetch it from the storage container) after its normal lifespan, you can toss it without worrying that it's a defective battery or that you did something wrong.

2015 Repository Reruns - Boring Advice Repository

If you feel a bit warm/cold/sticky/itchy, check your room's climate with the CBE Thermal Comfort Tool. Adjust your surroundings until you enter the blue zone. Click the "SI/IP" button to switch between metric (SI) and U.S. customary (IP) units.

If you're in the blue zone and you still don't feel good, then start looking for trickier explanations (e.g. air quality or illness).

Solved Problems Repository

What do you think of the research described at regarding lithium?

Covid 12/16: On Your Marks

Assuming that your prior is something like "[big number]% probability that the Eric Weinstein Twitter thread information about hospitals is correct", how do you update when you see things like the Minnesota full-page advertisement that claims they're "overwhelmed"?

Would having near-real-time (and clean) data about who's showing up at emergency rooms and what their experience is like (timestamps/chief complaint/etc.) help you write these articles at all? Feels like that sort of information is probably superfluous given that we all know what -should- be done.

1ztzuliios1moThis is the relevant data []; what conclusions do you draw from that?
Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread
Answer by ZianOct 31, 20211

Get fully vaccinated, preferably using the Moderna vaccine. says "[the] CDC released a study showing 90% reduction in all cases (symptomatic + asymptomatic) 14+ days after participants received Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccine".

It makes sense for anyone competent enough to give consent for the vaccination unless you are known to have an allergic reaction to a component of all available vaccines.

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

Unfortunately, by participating in this community (LW/etc.), we've disqualified ourselves from asking Scott to be our doctor (should I call him "Dr. Alexander" when talking about him-as-a-medical-professional while using his alias when he's not in a clinical environment?).

I concur with your comment about having trouble finding a good doctor for people like us. p(find a good doctor) is already low and difficult given the small n (also known as the doctor shortage). If you combine p(doctor works well with people like us), the result may rapidly approach epsi... (read more)

Open & Welcome Thread October 2021

(If this were a standalone post, the tag would likely be "life optimization.")

In the past few months, I've been updating my dental habits to match the evidence that's accumulated that shows that caries can generally be handled without a restoration, also known as "drill and fill." There appears to be increasing support (possibly institutional and cultural, not necessarily scientific) for using fluoride in all its manifestations, doing boring stuff like flossing and brushing teeth with toothpaste really well, and paying more attention to patients' teeth and... (read more)

That Alien Message

History says that when United Fruit wants you dead, you will die. (see Latin America)

Covid 8/26: Full Vaccine Approval

Do you mean that if I give you a perpetual $20 coupon to buy bottles of water and then increase the price by $20 you have lost something?

-1TAG5moDo you mean that when you said "charge more for water" you meant "charge more for water , but some people also get their water free"? If you didn't make libertarian- sounding sideswipes at all, and it would also help if your turned them into nuanced arguments.
Alarm bell for the next pandemic, V.2

You've inspired me to think about what goes into the mental model of someone who does this professionally such as an epidemiologist or, which a coworker maintains (conflict of interest alert).

I suspect that the problem isn't a lack of data as much as it is a problem of remaining constantly vigilant (allusion intended) and being willing to pay the price of false positives. For example, if H7N9 scored highly initially, would you be OK with your family thinking that you are a fool for selling your retirement funds? This is getting into the topic of "Shut up and multiply."

What 2026 looks like

2022 The United States continues to build roads and struggle to increase the quality of public transit except for rare exceptions. New York continues to struggle to implement congestion pricing.

Regional bus route redesigns continue to make major concessions to coverage compared to frequency.

2023 The United States continues to pay excessively (compared to other nations) large amounts of money for public transit projects. People continue to vote against building new dense housing in desirable locations.

People continue voting for roads. Electric and hydrogen ... (read more)

What are some triggers that prompt you to do a Fermi estimate, or to pull up a spreadsheet and make a simple/rough quantitative model?
Answer by ZianJul 25, 20213

I last made a spreadsheet because I received a medical bill and wanted to calculate the correct amount and estimate what the insurance company should pay.

Open and Welcome Thread – June 2021

Potentially trivial math question:

Imagine that you have a computer with the following properties:

  • flat
  • black
  • hot
  • speck of red on one side

And your prior at this point for p(slow given it's a computer) = 0.5.

If an article about computers said p(slow given flat, black, and speck of red) = 0.25, then would you use the new # as your prior or combine the two pieces of information to calculate p(slow given flat, black, hot, and speck of red)?

I'm inclined to say that I should use .25 as the new prior and forget about 0.5 but I may also be making a silly logical error here.

2Pattern7moo_1 = (observed: flat, black, with red speck) p_1 = p(slow given o_1) = 0.5 o_2 = (observed: article claiming p_1 = 0.25) p_2 = p(slow given o_1, o_2) = ? I wouldn't call this trivial, it depends on the particulars (which is why in the notation above, there's a contradiction around the value of p_1). The easiest resolution involves following up on the article by looking for data/causal models. Like using the computer, and acquiring evidence.
Power Outage Chances

You could look for something that can provide a more relevant reference set for your situation. For example, you point out that power outages have different probability distributions based on your location in time and space. 

You could also look at others' revealed preferences.

My direct answer your question of estimating an outage for the average person in the US over the next 10 years is that the question is not very useful.

I'll flesh this comment out with a specific example to show what I meant with the first two paragraphs as I have time to do so. B... (read more)

2jefftk8moI don't quite understand how your analysis fits together, but notes on two pieces: "MED" is "Major Event Day" (definition [] , context [] ). My stats aren't that great, but I think what they're doing is assuming a log normal distribution of outages and then counting any day that's 2.5 standard deviations worse than average as a "Major Event Day". So roughly two days a year (0.6% of days) should count as MEDs. What this means is that if you have a very reliable power company you will have a lower threshold for declaring an MED than someone with a less reliable one. My interpretation is that they will be able to get their generator tanks refilled within three days even in most emergencies. This does not guarantee that the blackout has ended, though.
MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

I'm both up voting you and commenting because I used to live (more than 4 years) and continue to monitor (in a very real time way) the DFW Metroplex. Then, I moved to Southern California, so I've kind of made the MIRI move in reverse.

Beware of motivated reasoning when it comes to things in TX that you think will change for the better soon. For example, if you had listed Dallas as a possibility, I would be warning against counting on improved DART service.

If you find a positive attribute in a particular area of Austin, make sure the other positive and negat... (read more)

Why are the websites of major companies so bad at core functionality?

Then I have a better answer for the question about how I would Goodhart things.

Let U_Gurkenglas = the set of all possible x that may be randomly checked as you described Let U = the set of all possible metrics in the real world (superset of U_G) For a given action A, optimize for U_G and ignore the set of metrics in U that are not in U_G.

You will be unhappy to the degree that the ignored subset contains things that you wish were in U_G. But until you catch on, you will be completely satisfied by the perfect application of all x in U_G.

To put this b concret... (read more)

2ChristianKl8moThat's a bad example. In the 1800s no matter of caring would have resulted in the person chosing a car with less nitrous oxide because that wasn't in the things people thought about.
Why are the websites of major companies so bad at core functionality?

I'm trying to think through your point using the above stapler and office supplies example.

If you hired an aggressively lazy AI to buy office supplies for you and you told it : Buy me a stapler.

Then it might buy a stapler from the nearest trash can in exchange for one speck of dirt.

Then, you would go to Staples and buy a new ergonomically friendly stapler that can handle 20 sheets (model XYZ from Brand ABC) using your credit card with free five day shipping.

You proposed that we would reward the AI by calculating the distance between the two sets of actions... (read more)

2Gurkenglas8moI suppose for messy real-world tasks, you can't define distances objectively ahead of time. You could simply check a random 10 (x,f(x)) and choose how much to pay. In an ideal world, if they think you're being unfair they can stop working for you. In this world where giving someone a job is a favor, they could go to a judge to have your judgement checked. Though if we're talking about AIs: You could have the AI output a probability distribution g(x) over possible f(x) for each of the 100 x. Then for a random 10 x, you generate an f(x) and reward the AI according to how much probability it assigned to what you generated.
Prediction-based medicine (PBM)

Many conditions have self-assessment questionnaires used in the research community. They could be given to patients at intervals.

What are some real life Inadequate Equilibria?
Answer by ZianApr 19, 20211

An EY category #3 example from emergency medical services (EMS) in the USA

>How things are currently, and why that's bad.
When someone tells a public safety access point (PSAP) that there might be a problem, the dispatcher generally sends an ambulance at a minimum. Then, the city or ambulance provider takes the nearest obvious patient(s) to the emergency room. The resulting EMS bill is often extremely high as well as the ER bill. Sometimes, the providers are not in-network and the patient must pay in full even if there was not a true emergency.

>How the... (read more)

On Sleep Procrastination: Going To Bed At A Reasonable Hour

To expand on this point, I get the impression that you've worked really hard. It may be time to take this problem to a medical doctor to find out if there is something they can suggest such as a diagnosis of one of the many conditions that result in sleep phase delay a la HPMOR.

1iamef9moIs "you" referring to me, the author of this post?
Rationalism before the Sequences


My knowledge before reading the article and comments could be summarized as :

  • These are some really great articles by ESR. I wonder why no one had taken them super seriously yet...
  • somewhat of an outsider perspective as FeepingCreature described
  • I wonder why some people have such strong opinions about this person

I think the main reason some people have strong opinions about ESR is that he has some strong opinions, some of which are highly controversial, and he states some of those controversial opinions openly. In particular, much in US politics is super-divisive, and in five minutes on Eric's blog you can readily find five things that some (otherwise?) reasonable people will get very angry about.

... I thought I should actually test that, so I went over to have a look. His blog has been a bit less political lately than at some other times. But in exactly five minu... (read more)

Urgent & important: How (not) to do your to-do list

Have you found a need to reserve time to visit the lower-priority categories on a routine basis?

For instance, it is very unlikely that I will run out of "must / later" items. I can think of many tasks to do that will end in disaster if they are not done.

But I also have things that should be done eventually like making small tweaks to my workspace or other things that qualify as moderate improvements (e.g. based on the expected return on investment from

How do you make time for those types of tasks that shouldn't be ignored forever?

1bfinn10moIn this case of making a small one-off tweak with long-term benefits, if the expected return is only moderate, i.e. Should, then it's always less important than Musts, so you should never do it - until & unless one day you run out of Musts. It may seem paradoxical that there are some things you Should do but it's optimal never to do them, but that just shows that you always have (even) more important things to do. However there's another kind of case which I call the Gym Paradox: it's never important to go to the gym today because you only miss out on 1 day of exercise, i.e. it's only a Could so should almost always be procrastinated; but it is important that you go to the gym (i.e. get exercise) sometimes, or you will become unhealthy. I haven't thought hard about this one and how to resolve it.
How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals?

This type of bank account is sometimes called a "controlled disbursement account" (e.g. It's often used by businesses. Other people have explained how to turn things into net 30 with a credit card.

Combined, you can maintain some control over the activity in your checking account.

Overconfidence is Deceit

Thanks for posting this article here. Sometimes it feels like I got into this rationality stuff too late or only after a lot of people scattered away.

(I hope no one minds that this comment doesn't talk about the article's contents.)

Your Cheerful Price

There's a cost to figuring out that someone is trustworthy.

You could think of it this way :

Cost of finding a friendly assisting intelligence + normal cost of a good or service >> cheerful price

(pun intended)

How do you optimize productivity with respect to your menstrual cycle?

Real DisabilityTM

That sounds like a really useful idea.

For example, perhaps it would help to quantify one's quality of life over a period to identify patterns.

And maybe there are certain metrics that should lead to certain actions (like the idea of a normal range in routine blood tests).

How would free prediction markets have altered the pandemic?

large, liquid, free prediction markets being made suddenly available to the public

I am going to be pessimistic and guess that very little would change because this scenario does not include any change to the type of people who take prediction markets seriously and we already have some prediction markets.

Specifically, I predict that if there were an absolutely perfect prediction market for "Vaccine X will be X% effective" and the resulting prediction (in January of 2020) was mostly 98 to 99, the FDA would not behave any differently from what we observed with Pfizer or Moderna.

2ChristianKl1yPredictions about when how much vaccine doses are available given certain actions could have helped us having enough vaccination doses.
Open & Welcome Thread - January 2021

Considering how much LW and the Sequences talk about doing Bayesian updates, I figured it's worth talking about a downside I am experiencing. I closely monitor Metaculus and adjust my vaccination expectations accordingly. I have certain events that are on hold until I get vaccinated. Therefore, the optimal strategy would seem to be:

  1. Look up a predicted vaccination date range (e.g. late April)
  2. Schedule the appointments for late April
  3. Go to step 1.

What I didn't expect was the level of effort required by step 2 after the first run through. It gets tiring to call people every few months and say something like "Oops, we have to reschedule again..."

(USA) N95 masks are available on Amazon

Effects of Sterilization With Hydrogen Peroxide and Chlorine Dioxide on the Filtration Efficiency of N95, KN95, and Surgical Face Masks (JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Jun; 3(6): e2012099.) says:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed KN95 masks (the Chinese version of the N95) as suitable alternatives to N95s when N95s are not available. 

Figure 1 indicates that a KN95 mask has similar filtration efficiency as a N95 when new. However, it acts differently (larger variation) after H2O2 sterilization and becomes very inefficient after ClO2 sterilization.

2adamzerner1ySo N95 isn't as negatively effected after these types of sterilizations? Any comments on whether N95 is more practical/appropriate for everyday people?
What is going on in the world?

I'm don't think the universe is obliged to follow any "high level narratives". I'm afraid I don't understand how thinking of events in these terms is helpful.

1MondSemmel1yThese narratives are frameworks, or models. There's the famous saying that all models are wrong, but some are useful. Here, the narratives take the complex world and try to simplify it by essentially factoring out "what matters". Insofar as such models are correct or useful, they can aid in decision-making, e.g. for career choice, prioritisation, etc. Even Less Wrong itself was founded on such a narrative, one developed over many years. Here's EY's current Twitter bio [], for instance: Similarly, a political science professor or historian might conclude a narrative about trends in Western democracies, or something. And the narrative that "Everyone is going to die, the way things stand." (from aging, if nothing else) is as simple as it is underappreciated by the general public. If we took it remotely seriously, we would use our resources differently. Finally, another use of the narratives in the OP is to provide a contrast to ubiquitous but wrong narratives, e.g. the doomed middle-class narrative that endless one-upmanship towards neighbors and colleagues will somehow make one happy.
How can I find trustworthy dietary advice?
Answer by ZianJan 17, 20211

UpToDate is a good starting point.

What skills or habits have lasting value through time?
Answer by ZianJan 12, 20213

Diligently followup on and solve (or minimize the impact of) health conditions and illnesses

2Duff1yWell-phrased. So following up on specific health conditions and illness one knows they have. I've done this by attempting to troubleshoot my own chronic digestive issues. But obviously each person's will be unique. We might add to also proactively do the things which address the most common health conditions that are lifestyle caused. For instance, quit smoking, drink less alcohol, exercise 30-60 minutes a day, eat more veggies, etc.
What to do if you can't form any habits whatsoever?

Are you referring to habit formation with treated ADHD or untreated? There are lots of studies that find dramatic differences in quality of life depending on your answer to that question.

(I won't even get into optimizing the treatment a la MTA.)

1masasin1yI'm on long-term release Ritalin with instant-release, which is the most effective of the ones that are legal in Belgium (I moved 3 years ago). It makes almost zero difference other than my mouth is slightly drier.
Covid 1/7: The Fire of a Thousand Suns

In the interest of not falling prey to the illusion of transparency, I must ask if you are familiar with normal hospital offload times in Southern California.

It was pretty common to have crews tied up waiting hours at emergency rooms even in normal circumstances.

Sample numbers from Central California : (read more)

Covid 1/7: The Fire of a Thousand Suns

full triage mode:

The crews are instructed to stop transporting patients who are unlikely to be resuscitated. In other words, before this point, patients were being transported to hospitals for the sake of warm fuzzies, not utilions.

From the perspective of terminal values, I'm not sure if this change actually changes anything.

8Douglas_Knight1y10% chance of survival is "unlikely" but it's lives, not warm fuzzies. It may not have been cost-effective, but it was buying something real. (And it may well have been cost-effective if it was marginal use of facilities that already existed.) 10% is the number I have heard for the specific category I have heard triaged against in LA, namely patients whose heart the EMT can't restart. Instead they can perform CPR to manually pump the heart on the trip to the hospital.
100 Tips for a Better Life

The $20 may be a stand in for consumer - hostile behaviors like bad customer service or high ATM fees.

100 Tips for a Better Life

I don't know the best way to phrase this but some of this advice is really foundational (eg exercise, sleep, etc). There should be an item here about rapidly and persistently getting professional medical and mental health when you have trouble with the basics.

Open & Welcome Thread - December 2020

I had a distinctly probabilistic experience at a doctor's office today.

Condition X has a "gold standard" way to diagnose it (my doctor described it as being almost 100%) but is very expensive (time, effort, and money). It is also not feasible while everyone is staying at home.

However, at the end of the visit, I had given him enough information to make a "clinical" diagnoses (from a statistically & clinically validated questionnaire, descriptions of alternative explanations that have been ruled out, etc) and start treating it.

In hindsight, I can see th... (read more)

Final Version Perfected: An Underused Execution Algorithm

How would you say this approach relates to

You wrote that it's important for your preferences to be fairly stable. I've been using a prioritizing grid (e.g. to go through my entire do list in 1 fell swoop. I wonder if that's more or less efficient than your approach.

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

Thanks for mentioning the 14 pairs of shoes. I felt a bit silly when doing something similar but I realized that while it's a hassle to carry lots of boxes to and from the local UPS drop off location, I'm not doing anything that is out-of-the-ordinary (if I were buying shoes in person at say, Nordstroms).

To extend your thought a little...if you have any pain walking around and switching shoes doesn't help or it hurts while walking barefoot, consult a doctor.

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

From one chronic health person to another...

Consider filling up a second dispenser ahead of time. That way, if you're completely exhausted but it's time to take your medication, you can yank the second box off the shelf and refill things when you're more awake. It also gives you a 1 week buffer to refill your prescription.

Pill counting trays are also helpful if you have to take medications that come in a bottle. Buy one that has Amazon reviews from real pharmacists and put the cap under the spout on the right side to catch any runaway pills. This will dramatically reduce the # of pills that fall to the floor.

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?
Answer by ZianDec 07, 20201


Buy new blanket that isn't falling apart. Semi-permanently reduced the ugh field.


If I take "Doctor diagnosed X" as strong evidence that I have X, then I should find the latest treatment guidelines/summary articles for X once a year. Led to a possibly permanent treatment algorithm (full or nearly-full symptom management) for 2 chronic problems with little to no side effects. Also caught a medication error with the acquired knowledge. Also a found a treatment that greatly helps (but not eliminates/prevents) another chronic condition.

May al... (read more)

Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine?
Answer by ZianDec 03, 20204

Please don't forget that some young healthy people are essential workers who might not really have a choice about this.

Open & Welcome Thread – November 2020

That's not in the Getting Started or the Questions sections, which are the places I looked.

Open & Welcome Thread – November 2020

I found 2 bugs in the Less Wrong website. Where do they go? (this is the first bug; I couldn't find a place to report problems after looking through the FAQ and home page)

2habryka1yThe best place for bug reports is the Intercom in the lower right corner. The second best place for bugs is our Github repo: []
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