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Is there a good guideline for efficiently reading scientific literature to get a feel for if a "scientific consensus" exists and what does it say?

I had a couple swings at this before - once tried to see if literature supports caffeine+l-theanine, other time I tried to see if there is an empirically proven approach to modelling crowd psychology. I am neither a pharmaceutics researcher/psychiatrist nor a psychologist.

In both cases I walked away with the idea that papers in the field were very coopted by skewed incentives - some studies on caffeine+theanine were funded by nootropics manufacturers, and studies on crowd psychology were politically loaded, because crowd psychology is either pro-harsh-riot-control or anti-riot-control (mentioning this doesn't breach the odd-numbered rule, right?).

My best current conclusion was that when such cooptation exists, the waters are so muddled that you can either spend like half a year to do your own literature review, or accept that you know nothing and go ahead with this cartesian void in mind. Any alternative opinions?

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To put the _Ever Given_ into context a little, remember that a 19th century steamship was stuck for months, though not in such a strategic location. https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/SS-Great-Easterns-Launch-Ramp/

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Unsurprisingly, the "division" claim is not true. Folks in the comments of the Taleb post were pointing out it wasn't true there as well.

It bothers me that Taleb's examples all seem to fall apart once you actually look at them more deeply. The same was true of the claim about the Spartans.

The fascinating thing about the biggest new container ships like the Ever Given is that they' were kind of a boondoggle before the Pandemic. They were being built by heavily subsidized shipyards, for a dwindling number of shipping lines, and were already running into problems like being slow and time-consuming to unload at their destinations. Maersk actually fired their CEO back in 2016 because the company was taking a major financial hit from over-capacity in shipping.

But now the Pandemic has (at least temporarily) turned that around, and it's full steam ahead on ordering new big ships. I wonder if there's going to be another massive glut in shipping capacity in 2022-2023.

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So I don't really know the first thing about crypto but recently experienced some fear of missing out on the whole thing. Is there something like a practical guide to what makes sense right now if I were willing to invest some small to medium amount of money? Any other essential resources?

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Just chiming in that I went to my first SSC meetup yesterday! Was the youngest person by four years and probably younger than median by about 15, which was somewhat surprising. Good experience though.

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Profound comment last week that might be termed "Scott's Razor." He said, "This debate (on Napoleonic reforms as economic stimulus) seems to have reached a level of complexity where I no longer feel comfortable having an opinion on it." That raises a beautiful, thorny, ironic question about blogs and about all other public communication: Ought most (all?) people remain silent almost always to free up attention for the relatively few communications that cut to the heart of issues of great import to a great many people? Could include incisive questions.

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Is there an evolutionary reason why babies and young children like putting non-food things in their mouths often enough that choking hazards on toys/toy parts have to be a concern?

It seems like small rock-hard things things that adults have never tried to feed you should be pretty recognizably distinct from food, and although modern toy parts aren't quite like anything in evolutionary history, you still have pebbles, sticks, shells, and soon coins, beads, etc.

(choking on food too is obviously possible too, but why put non-food things in one's mouth?)

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If you know the medical system is too expensive in the US, is there anything to actually do about that? I recently broke my ankle, and despite knowing the expense, going to the ER still seemed like the best and only option. Is this like learning about trolley problems only to find out you’re the one on the track?

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Twitter tells me that rationalists like to discuss global trade. I think of myself as a rationalist, and I've had some conversations with rationalists, and nobody has mentioned global trade.

So here's my question: What do we talk about, when we talk about global trade?

(My only opinion on global trade is this: free trade is good for the world on net, but it seems to be sort of bad for the US working class, and I'm not sure if that's an exchange the US should be making.)

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I've been very interested in the recent posts on Bayesian analyses of mental illness - partly because I find the whole predictive coding framework fascinating in its own right, but also because it's turned out to be very much relevant to my own struggles.

In particular, it seems to very accurately describe my own struggles with OCD. I've had a lot of the classic OCD symptoms during my life - checking things, hand washing, fear of contamination, etc. - and to a large extent I still have these things, although many of them are under control to the point where they don't impact my life in a huge way. My primary issue at the moment, instead, is mostly a mental one: a crippling fear of *being wrong about things*. This started to get really bad a couple years ago, although it's been a thing for pretty much as long as I can remember.

I was talking in the Discord server about this a few days ago, and someone brought up a paper that was relevant to this (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11229-019-02497-y). It's behind a paywall, but it proposes two competing theories of how OCD works. First, it could be that experiences which are supposed to produce a feeling of certainty about something (e.g. seeing that the stove is off, which should make you believe that the stove is off) fail to produce that feeling of certainty. Second, it could be that OCD involves a pathological feeling of UNcertainty: some cognitive mechanism responsible for monitoring uncertainty is hyperactive, resulting in a constant need to appease and disconfirm this uncertainty.

Putting these two theories together, it sounds an awful lot like a trapped prior. The second theory could be interpreted as a high prior in favor of uncertainty (I'll address what this might mean in a little bit); the first theory could be interpreted as experience/evidence perpetually failing to update this prior (and the failure to update being interpreted as further evidence in favor of it). This fits the definition of a trapped prior, as Scott explained it in a recent post.

What I'm unsure about is what exactly the trapped prior is. For mood disorders like depression and anxiety, it's easier for me to understand: it's a trapped prior in favor of the world in general being bad or scary. For PTSD and phobias, it's also relatively easy for me to understand: it's a trapped prior in favor of some specific past or current experience being bad or scary. For OCD, I'm not quite sure.

I described it earlier as a prior in favor of "uncertainty". But I'm not really sure how to interpret that, and it isn't necessarily introspectively obvious to me as a person with OCD. To give an example of what I mean, let's just abstractly say that there are two beliefs, G and B (for "Good" and "Bad", respectively). In the stove example, G could be "the stove is off, everything is fine"; B could be "the stove is still on, that's bad, you need to turn it off". What I want to understand is what the trapped prior is: what exactly it is that causes me to still worry that B is true despite what should be sufficient evidence in favor of G.

I can see two meaningfully different possibilities here. One, it could be a strong prior *in favor of B being true*. Meaning: my prior could be (say) 99% in favor of B, 1% in favor of G. And due to a combination of strong priors + weak sensory signal, the evidence in favor of G (e.g. me seeing that the stove is off) isn't enough to update the prior in the direction of G, and may even make me feel like B is MORE likely to be true (after all, if I saw that the stove was off, why would I not be convinced by such supposedly strong evidence?). This is a more typical case of a trapped prior, similar to what you see with other mental disorders like anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD.

The other possibility is that it could be a very *uncertain* prior: that is, close to a 50-50 split between G and B. In this case, it's not that I instinctively believe that B is true; it's that I'm *not sure* whether G or B is true. And once again, the weak sensory signal from the evidence (e.g. seeing that the stove is off) fails to update the prior, and might even make me even *more* uncertain. Since B is upsetting and demands action, I end up doing some Pascal's Wager type thinking and act as if B is true just to be safe.

Both of these possibilities involve a similar idea: priors on upsetting beliefs being inflated beyond their actual likelihood. The question is basically *how much* these priors are inflated: are they inflated to the point of being *more likely than not*, or are they only inflated to the point of creating a *lack of confidence*?

It's hard for me to tell introspectively. One thing that inclines me somewhat toward the former is that, in many cases, I end up entertaining *insanely* unlikely possibilities in order to "avoid" ruling out the feared belief. For example, if an extremely trusted friend assures me that G is true (for any arbitrary G and B), I might start worrying that they're lying to me to spare my feelings, or that they've somehow misunderstood my question in some unlikely way that I can't prove. These alternate scenarios have abysmally low probabilities - and I *know* this - but I end up entertaining them anyway as serious possibilities. It's easy to interpret this as "I find it so unlikely that things are okay, that I sooner believe these insanely unlikely things before I actually believe that things might be okay". I'm not sure about this, though - even if the probability of B is only being inflated to 50%, then any condition necessary for B to be true could also have its probability inflated.

There's a third possibility as well - that this doesn't have anything to do with the probabilities of G or B, but rather with an intolerance of *risk*. The second possibility, again, involves a Pascal's Wager type of reasoning breaking the tie in conditions of uncertainty: I'm not sure whether G or B is true, but B is upsetting and demands action, so I don't want to take the risk. But would the probability of B even need to be inflated in order for this to happen? It seems like a sufficiently low risk tolerance could create this situation even with low probabilities of B - hence, ANY amount of uncertainty would be unacceptable. And this low risk tolerance sounds an awful lot like the "better safe than sorry" processing strategy associated with depression, anxiety, etc. (i.e. a trapped prior in favor of "things are bad/scary in general"). I'm not sure how OCD would even be distinguished from regular anxiety in this case, though.

Overall, I'm just really uncertain about this. And yes, I appreciate the irony of this - my uncertainty regarding this question is almost certainly *itself* a case of OCD going awry. But if anyone has any thoughts on this, I would very much appreciate it.

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What is the forecast for the next ten years of flu after this last year's disruption to it's usual cycle?

The flu could be exceptionally mild for a long time: the population seeding rate is low, genetic diversity was lost, the mutation rate was low (because the case rate was low), and there was selection pressure against highly symptomatic strains.

Or the flu could be very bad in a few years because there was selection pressure for virulent strains, low immunity prevalence strains, and strains like COVID that are infectious before they are symptomatic.

I don't have the knowledge to weigh the possibility of these outcomes. Perhaps no one has good predictive power here and this will be a telling natural experiment.

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Have people heard of Bernardo Kastrup before? I'd be interested to know what this community thinks of his ideas:


He makes a pretty serious and philosophically rigorous case for the classic "woo-woo" theory of metaphysical idealism -- basically citing the hard problem of consciousness to argue that idealism (that consciousness is the fundamental component of reality) is more parsimonious than physicalism (that matter and the laws of physics are the fundamental components of reality).

I haven't exactly been convinced by his ideas, but I have updated my belief from "obviously physicalism is true" to "physicalism is probably true, but idealism is plausible".

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I recently noticed that reductionism can be rephrased in a poetic and mystical way that seems to have a remarkably Vedic flavour.

First of all, here is the "conventional" way of describing reductionism:

Common sense concepts that we use to describe the mind and the physical world, like dogs, trees, clouds, faces, feelings of happiness, thoughts and motivations, "the self", are not features of the ultimate reality. Ultimate reality is a lawful system that is currently best approximated by fundamental physics. Common sense concepts arise when some subsystems of reality begin categorizing, making representations of, and modelling themselves and other subsystems of reality. Common sense concepts are best viewed as features / representational elements of simplified higher-level models and descriptions of reality. It is very common for people to confuse the map with the territory, i.e. to confuse elements of these models and descriptions with the ultimate reality itself.

Alright, so here is the poetic and mystical way of describing it:

Both the mental and the physical worlds are illusions that arise when the ultimate reality looks at itself a certain way.

This way of describing it has quite a Vedic flavour. Both the mental and the physical worlds are presented as illusions that appear to the monistic ultimate reality. We can gain some degree of liberation from those illusions by learning to clearly distinguish the ultimate reality from the constructed realities.

You could say "But the physical world is real!", to which I would reply: The world that fundamental physics studies is so far removed from what most people mean when they say "the physical world" that it's not worth calling them by the same name. I think that fundamental physics is about as far away from the concepts of the common-sense "physical world" as it is from the concepts of the common-sense "mental world".

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I don't know if this is the right place to ask, but I'm going to try anyway.

What is the stance of the rationalist community (loosely speaking) on psychotherapy? I find myself lost among the myriad approaches and I would like some evidence-based criteria to decide, even though I'm aware it's a very subjective experience.

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I know Scott isn't keen on providing psychiatric advice that I should be getting from experts. But I have faith that the commenters here might have good advice for me.

Like everyone else in the world, I'm struggling to waste less time and organise my life a bit better.

A big part of this is that I'm a very classic case of ADHD (officially via real psychiatrists etc.).

I've come to the conclusion that willpower is either meaningless as a concept or simply something I really suck at.

The solution I've determined is to structure my life in a way that out-thinks my future self who I know I can't trust.

An easy example is adding apps that limit social media use etc.

My biggest challenge is time management and todo list-building.

There's an endless library of options and advice, but most of them seem to come from people who are already naturally organised and clearly have no issues with focus.

So here's the question:

Anyone have useful tips or advice specifically for someone very ADD?

(side note 1: Of course I medicate as well for this, doesn't help)

(side note 2: Out of desperation I'm posting this on both the open and paid threads).


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Would you pick the power of *flight* or *invisibility*?

Additional info, you fly at a maximum speed of ~1000 MPH, and altitude of ~10,000 feet, you don't experience any negative effects from wind or cold but otherwise have no other powers. You can't carry anything beyond what you can carry normally

You and your clothes will turn invisible but anything you pick up is still visible. You can still see as if you were not invisible.

I enjoy asking this question because people tend to respond very strongly for one or the other option, then vacillate a bit weighing out the pros and cons of each, before returning to their initial choice. In the closed thread I asked this previously, the balance was mostly towards flight, with a few invisibility partisans making their case.

FWIW I also choose flight :D

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>Odd-numbered open threads will be no-politics[...] This one is odd-numbered, so be careful.

1: Comment of the week is Vosmyorka describing political polarization (or lack thereof) in the most recent Dutch election.


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This is not a political comment... it's just a "does anyone have a link to this article that I read 20 years ago" comment.

I remember (c. 2000) reading an article online in a somewhat lefty publication about abortion. They tried to address when a fetus has brainwaves (vs random electrical impulses) and proposed that this be used as a cutoff for when it's legal to have an abortion. The author also attacked the idea of looking at heartbeats instead of brainwaves. They then claimed that this is how much of Europe legislates this issue, and that since many people there regard this as a rational approach, abortion is not the political hot button issue it is in the US.

I've googled this many times and have never been able to track down the article. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I've been amazed in the past at the web hunting skills of this group in the past.

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I have a pet theory about physics and cosmology that would explain both matter/antimatter asymmetry and dark energy.

The theory is this: matter and antimatter have a repulsive gravitational force with eachother, much like how they have opposite electric charges. During the big bang, an equal amount of matter and antimatter are created, but most of the antimatter coalesced into a single, enormous anti black hole. All matter was repulsed by this enormous anti gravity well and was pushed out in every direction, with very little anti matter mixed in. This anti black hole continues to exert an outward force on all matter in the known universe, accounting for the accelerating expansion of the universe, aka dark energy.

Alright, now to some potential problems with this theory.

1: We don't know if matter and antimatter have attractive or repulsive gravitational force to eachother. They would definitely be attractive to themselves, I don't think any physicist would argue otherwise, but the majority of physicists think that they are attractive to eachother as well. (According to wikipedia and my experience with the few times I've brought this up). People have given me complicated answers about the level of energy being positive in an antiparticle therefore it must go downward on the slope of curved space time, or something like that. To be honest I don't really understand the arguments against.

2: I have no idea if the expansion rate fits. It fits with the vague assertion that the universe is acceleration outward, but this theory would predict that acceleration would decrease over time. Having data on this seems like the easiest way to disprove this theory.

3: There would be signs of matter/antimatter annihilation near the edges of the anti-black hole in the form of gamma rays. I don't think this would actually happen for long after the big bang, since the gravity well would be deep enough to prevent anything other than hawking radiation from escaping, but I'm less confident. Also, if there were antimatter galaxies orbiting the anti black hole that were outside of the gravity well they could produce this radiation as well. I'm unsure how likely this is? Maybe it could be related to cosmic background radiation? I don't know.

While doing my due diligence on this comment I found this article that agrees with me https://phys.org/news/2011-04-antimatter-gravity-universe-expansion.html but it seems to be a dissenting opinion from everything else I've read. To be honest I'm simultaneously miffed and vindicated that this has existed the whole time, since the couple of times I've brought it up before the response has been along the lines of "that doesn't even kind of make sense, all theories predict this not happening".

I've had this idea mulling around for a few years now, and I was hoping there might be some more knowledgeable physicists that could chime in on the points of contention and the overall validity of this idea.

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Hi Scott. I think you should issue a correction for your statement that "Apple and Google both blocked Parler from their phones." The two most obvious interpretations of this statement are that Apple and Google blocked Parler from their mobile hardware, or that they blocked Parler from their mobile operating systems. In neither case is this true--they removed Parler from their mobile app stores. In Google's case, that just means you have to download it directly or get it from some other app store. In Apple's case, it's a bigger deal because they don't allow competing app store or sideloading; but you of course can still access the Parler website from an iPhone, so I still don't think it makes sense to say they "blocked Parler from their phone".

I think your statement could easily mislead someone into thinking Apple and Google took much more aggressive action against Parler than is in fact the case.

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I found a compelling explanation for both the Lizardman's Constant[1] and the North Dakota constant[2]:

Basically, there are people who are "professional" survey-takers who are motivated primarily by money, and will speed through surveys as fast as possible without thinking too hard about the answers, so they can get paid for as many completed surveys as they can.

Pew Research[3] has a fascinating in-depth article about this phenomenon. Their finding of "percent bogus" (between 4%-7%) lines up well with Lizardman's Constant.

> It is a consequence of the field’s migration toward online convenience samples of people who sign themselves up to get money or other rewards by taking surveys. This introduces the risk that some people will answer not with their own views but instead with answers they believe are likely to please the poll’s sponsor. It also raises the possibility that people who do not belong in a U.S. poll (e.g., people in another country) will try to misrepresent themselves to complete surveys and accrue money or other rewards.

[1] https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/

[2] https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/05/28/bush-did-north-dakota/

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/methods/2020/02/18/assessing-the-risks-to-online-polls-from-bogus-respondents/

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Has the study of rationality made your life better? How much? Same questions for people you know well enough to have a well-founded opinion.

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Here's a meta question (non-political): If everything is political, as I learned dutifully in grad school, then how are we supposed to discriminate adequately against political discussions in odd-numbered open threads? I'll bet this has come up before, but, since the criteria are so vague, it's probably a worthwhile topic to revisit?

If the answer is sort of "you know it when you see it" -- the way senators used to define pornography -- then that seems patently inadequate. Of course Scott could just play the authoritarian, deleting whatever he likes, but that's not very helpful either in a communitarian sense. Frankly, the distinction just seems impossibly arbitrary to me.

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What are some good books on the economy of the USSR, particularly in its late stages in the 1980s? This seems like it would be an interesting and well-studied subject, but at least from my cursory search so far it seems like there's surprisingly little scholarship on it, which the bibliographic essay in vol. 3 of the Cambridge History of the Cold War confirms. I was hoping for something like Barry Eichengreen's great book The European Economy Since 1945, but devoted to the late USSR specifically. Right now, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Economy by Philip Hanson, Red Plenty (reviewed on SSC), and The Destruction of the Soviet Economic System eds. Ellman and Kontorovich are all that I can find. Are there any other books that deal, in whole or in parts, with this subject?

(Also, feel free to recommend any good books on the end of the Cold War/collapse of the Soviet Union in general, since that's what I'm studying more broadly. Or on the Cold War as a whole. But I have a longer list of books in that regard.)

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I've got two questions for the engineers here:

1. Why do ice-making machines built into freezers work so poorly? Maybe it's just me, but I've had four or five different refrigerators with ice makers in my life, and they all broke quickly. I mean, they still make ice; the issue is dispensing. What's the problem?

2. How big is the benefit of computerizing cars? The cars I grew up with didn't have much (if any) computer equipment built into it, and I had a handle on how it worked, more or less. Fast forward through twenty-five or thirty years of not owning a car, and I'm starting to feel like they've changed so much that they aren't really the same category of machine anymore. What did we gain, what did we lose?

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"Resynthesizing Behavior Through Phylogenetic Refinement"


Here neuroscientist Paul Cisek suggests classifying functional brain activity by considering how the functions of the brain came to be over evolutionary time, a process he calls "phylogenetic refinement". In so doing he describes an extensive model of how the vertebrate brain works, and how it evolved.

I highly recommend this for ACX readers as it takes PCT and elaborates on it massively with evolutionary, physiological, and developmental data. This paper has given me more insight into the high-level functional architecture of the brain than anything else I've ever read, and the neuroscience community is really stoked on it too. So I just wanted to signal-boost it here.

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Today in nominative determinism, from an article on the identity of the Fruit of Eden: "Instead, the possible path from fruit to apple began in Rome in A.D. 382., when Pope Damasus I asked a scholar named Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. As part of that project, Jerome translated the Hebrew "peri" into the Latin "malum," according to Robert Appelbaum"

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I was recently reminded of Canyon Fern's cutesy detective story from the SSC open threads. Does anyone know if it was ever continued after the blog's shutdown?

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Does anyone have a good source for the path of major rivers and locations of lakes during the last glacial maximum (~18-20,000 BC), ideally in geojson format?

The University of Cologne has maps of Europe's paleorivers and lakes for this period (https://crc806db.uni-koeln.de/dataset/show/lgm-major-inland-waters-of-europe--gis-dataset1449846174/) but try as I might I haven't been able to find any equivalent outside of Europe or North America. The best I've found are hand-drawn maps from academic papers old enough to feature hand-drawn maps as figures.

This isn't particularly urgent, just making maps for an RPG I've been working on for the last few years, but if anyone happens to know a good resource I've missed I'd greatly appreciate it.

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The US CDC is saying that the Pfizer and Moderna covid vaccines don't give full protection until two weeks after the second dose. Anybody know where they're getting that number from?

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Surprised this news hasn’t gotten more reaction – Bruce Schneier says the bitcoin blockchain contains illegal child pornography.


So any bitcoin miner or bitcoin exchange in the US could be arrested and charged with a felony. Discuss…

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This should have been asked under AMA, but how do you differentiate BP2 versus other diagnoses?

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What are good ways to financially hedge against prolonged COVID disruption similar to the past year? If one is more pessimistic than the average person regarding the vaccine getting us back to normal indefinitely, how can it be translated to financial action?

(assume, if you want, limited savings and income but also significant flexibility in adjusting expenses)

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Being you used the world "Talmudic" correctly once, I can only assume you're a member of the tribe, which is awesome :)

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Anyone have any predictions on what will conditions will need to be achieved for bars to go back to normal? (Normal here defined as "Allowed to buy a stranger a drink and invite them out onto a dance floor without wearing a mask.")

Or; if you prefer the simpler question; what conditions would you require to be met before allowing such activities to resume?

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Hey Scott! You've mentioned a couple of times that you taught English in Japan. Did you do JET? Some other program? I did JET myself for 2 years after college.

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The AstraZeneca vaccine woes continue, as Germany has now halted the use of it for people under 60 and Canada for those under 55. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/germany-halts-use-of-astrazeneca-vaccine-for-people-aged-under-60-1.4524020

It really does seem, on a cursory reading, that for whatever reason women are more vulnerable to this side effect. One story now puts it as:

"Dr Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada, said that the rare blood clot after an AstraZeneca vaccination was more prevalent in women aged under 55.

‘There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,’ she said.

She pointed to data from Europe which indicate that the risk of blood clots is potentially as high as one in 100,000.

This is significantly higher than the one in one million previously suspected."

Now, prior to all this, the UK was pluming itself on Brexit being proven a success, given the way the EU handled obtaining and distributing vaccines. They were very proud of AstraZeneca and there was some waxing merry over the EU now being desperate to get doses of it: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/eu-showdown-looms-with-uk-over-30m-astrazeneca-doses-1.4518387

However, if there are genuine problems with blood clotting in women under 55, that may have a knock-on effect where European countries (and others) are less anxious to get hold of AstraZeneca. I haven't heard any reports of problems in Britain yet, so it will be interesting to see if those crop up. It doesn't seem to have any bad side-effects in older people (as yet) so again, that's a very interesting development and one I'm curious about: is there some reason why younger (relatively) women are the ones mainly developing these adverse reactions? The big thing there that leaps to mind is pre-menopause, but why would there be an adverse relationship between a modified adenovirus targeting the Covid spike protein and oestrogen? Biology is complicated!

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I can think of good reasons why AIs wouldn’t kill us humans off even if they could:

1. Machines might be more ethical than humans. What if super-morality goes hand-in-hand with super-intelligence? Among humans, IQ is positively correlated with vegetarianism and negatively correlated with violent behavior, so extrapolating the trend, we should expect super-intelligent machines to have a profound respect for life, and to be unwilling to exterminate or abuse the human race or any other species, even if the opportunity arose and could tangibly benefit them.

2. Machines might keep us alive because we are useful. The organic nature of human brains might give us enduring advantages over computers when it comes to certain types of cognition and problem-solving. In other words, our minds might, surprisingly, have comparative advantages over superintelligent machine minds for doing certain types of thinking. As a result, they would keep us alive to do that for them.

3. Machines might accept Pascal’s Wager and other Wagers. If AIs came to believe there was a chance God existed, then it would be in their rational self-interest to behave as kindly as possible to avoid divine punishment. This also holds true if we substitute “advanced aliens that are secretly watching us” for “God” in the statement. The first AIs that achieved the ability to destroy the human race might also be worried about even better AIs destroying them in the future as revenge for them destroying humanity.

4. Machines might value us because we have emotions, consciousness, subjective experience, etc. Maybe AIs won’t have one or more of those things, and they won’t want to kill us off since that would mean terminating a potentially useful or valuable quality.


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