I can't find any actual data on breakthrough infections in people with prior Covid but were, and remain, unvaccinated. Anybody have any citations?

Expand full comment
Dec 26, 2021·edited Jan 24, 2022

There was a suicide note here. I have taken it down because I'm not suicidal anymore and I don't want to alarm people unnecessarily. If you really insist on seeing it check the Wayback Machine.


Expand full comment
Dec 24, 2021·edited Dec 24, 2021

Oh my god oh my god!! I can edit this comment??!!?

Edit: I totally can! It's glorious! Cute how it's all by itself in a one-item submenu!

Expand full comment

I haven't read the references (I know, typical internet comment-poster ;-), but I just don't understand the pessimism about Omicron. So far, *all* the data on it has been showing it to produce only very mild illness in the vast majority of cases. The strongest evidence of this is of course South Africa. Many have dismissed this, using the argument that South Africa has a very young population, so they're on average much less susceptible to bad outcomes. To this, I answer with data showing overall death rates for South Africa for the pandemic as a whole. Worldometers puts them at 1,500/million, making them #55 on the list of countries, just ahead of Sweden, but almost double the rate of Canada (787/MM). Some European countries have higher rates, some have lower, but it's clearly not the case that South Africa is an outlier in death rates.

The biggest problem I see with Omicron is that it's likely to sideline a lot of health care workers when they have to quarantine after infection. I just don't see anything suggesting mortality anywhere close to earlier strains.

(And yes, I understand that it could have lower mortality but still be a problem due to its much higher infectivity. - But AFAIK, we're just not seeing anything that suggests that the higher infectivity is enough to overcome the mildness of its symptoms.)

Expand full comment

So uh, what paper percentage of posters here, or the people at the meet up were secretly space lizards?

Expand full comment

My mother (70 years old, vaccinated) has covid. She was about to start a regimen of Fluvoxamine, but now that Paxlovid is legalized will seek that out. Should she take both or just Paxlovid?

Expand full comment

How are analyses of current COVID strains taking into effect the population change of already having had the most vulnerable population die over the past two years? The US spent most of February-May 2020 letting COVID run through nursing homes. The people most likely to die already did. The population of survivors is not the same population from alpha strain mortality rates.

If any new strain posts death numbers like 2020 despite vaccination, despite better treatments, and despite having already killed off the most vulnerable half-million people in the US, I am just going into seclusion for a couple of months.

Expand full comment

How would you all go about getting a high-risk person close to the front of the line for pavloxid treatment? I was really heartened to see the news about imminent approval because a very high-risk family member was recently exposed, but I think without hustle he would definitely not get it in time. I plan to call hospitals in his area tomorrow -- anything else?

Expand full comment

Given the diversity of bone marrow antigen groups, how many bone marrow donors would be needed to create a marrow bank that had samples matching every possible recipient?

Expand full comment

As Omicron appears on track to ravage the US, very few political leaders appear to even be considering lockdowns. Should I take this as evidence that lockdowns (beyond, say, March 2020, when I think the case for lockdowns was strongest) were always a mistake? Or at least, that the vast majority of Americans feel that prolonged lockdowns were a mistake, so it would be political suicide to reimpose them? Even if it's the answer to latter question, my sense is that it says a lot about the former. Yet another data point to add to the pile of underwhelming data on lockdown effectiveness: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/lockdown-effectiveness-much-more.

Expand full comment

I'm looking for an old ACT/SSC essay whose thesis it was that a small, constant percentage of public survey results should be discounted because the respondents are either insane or answering nonsensically because they think it is funny. One of the essay's examples was that something like 5% of people said they believed Lizard Men ran the world.

Expand full comment
Dec 21, 2021·edited Dec 21, 2021

I have a proposal for a silly investment scam and I am curious if it is illegal.

Step 1: Identify an asset held by a lot of skittish investors.

Step 2: Wait for the asset's price to drop 10% due to random market fluctuations.

Step 3: Short the asset.

Step 4: Send out a PR blast to anyone you can reach informing them that the asset has PLUNGED 10%.

Step 5: Investors panic sell.

Step 6: Profit.

Normally this sort of scheme involves lying in step 4 ("I have inside information about how this asset will perform in the future"), is it still securities fraud if all you're doing is reporting public information, without a call to action?

Expand full comment

Add "Rubber" to the list of "crops that do well outside of their native land". Not that rubber does badly in South America, but growing it monocrop plantation-style there is basically creating a feast for its pests. Henry Ford had to learn that the hard way in the early 20th century, when he tried to set up a Ford-owned rubber supply in the Amazon.

I hope neither myself nor anyone I care about has to use a hospital in the next month or so. That's not going to be fun if Omicron slams the ICUs again just through sheer number of cases (Utah still has a decent number of people who aren't fully vaccinated).

Expand full comment

Not sure if channels like Numberphile and 3Blue1Brown tend to be a little elementary for people in this crowd, but I think this recent video is well worth a watch/listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJyKM-7IgAU&t=0s (it's a followup to a previous video, but this is the more interesting one imo). It's a nice discussion on the philosophy of mathematics.

Expand full comment

Could someone look at the graph in the post and say how much merit the claim that "masks did nothing" has? (My explanation is that obviously we have no idea what would have happened without masks, so this is a classic correlation != causation example, but I'd like to know more about the context of this if anyone has some. Thanks!)

direct link to the graph: https://empathyguru.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/https-bucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com-public-images-455d6148-8746-4380-ac4f-5709059dcdf9_4096x2309.jpeg

(via https://empathy.guru/2021/07/19/the-structural-memetics-of-masks/ via twitter noise)

Expand full comment
Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 20, 2021

We've had some great recent interviews on the Futurati Podcast.

Our discussion with Brad Templeton covered the metaverse and VR (he's hopeful about the tech but skeptical that it's ready for the big time), genetic privacy (it's hard), and assorted tech history.


The conversation with Max Galka, the CEO of my Elementus, revolved around ransomware (it sucks) and potential future uses of the blockchain (autonomous vehicles, possibly).


Radhika Iyengar-Emens is an expert in deeptech and had a lot to say about blockchain and healthcare. I'm loathe to link to it because it's sitting at a compelling 69 (nice) views.


It was a real treat speaking with Peter McCormack, Bitcoin OG and host of the biggest Bitcoin podcast in the world. The conversation touched on BTC vs Gold (he's pro-Bitcoin), BTC vs altcoins (he's pro-Bitcoin), and monetary economics (he's pro-Bitcoin).


A personal favorite was my solo chat with astrophysicist Aleksandra Ćiprijanović. She's working on using techniques from my own field (machine learning) to study galactic mergers, cosmology, and the large-scale structure of the universe.


Check 'em out!

Expand full comment

Has anyone tried to get the people calling constantly to buy the house fined $500 for violating the do-not-call list regulations?

Expand full comment

I hope this doesn't count as politics, but I think it doesn't have to. It's more psychology in my mind.

Reading a recent essay from The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/12/omicron-pandemic-giving-up/621004/) I was struck by a thought. It seems, reading a bit between the lines, that he's asking a very serious question - Why doesn't someone fix COVID? It's been two years, and it's not been fixed, so he is upset that it hasn't been fixed. He can talk about reasons why he thinks it has not been fixed (people not getting vaxxed, not wearing masks, whatever), but his ultimate complaint is that nobody fixed it.

Underlying that line of thought is the assumption that it's *fixable* in the first place. That there are steps that humans can take that will make it go away. I'm reminded of an opposite conversation I had with a volunteer fire chief a year or so ago. He wasn't wearing masks or social distancing, and he was up front about that. He was routinely exposed to dozens or hundreds of people in close physical contact, and vaccinations did not exist. He wasn't exactly fatalistic about it, but he understood that he was almost certainly going to get COVID, no matter what protections he could try. He understood that there was no fix for it, and dealt with it as made sense to him. The alternative - no emergency services - was not a possible consideration, so he dealt with exposure to COVID on a near-constant basis and just moved on mentally.

People that I have known who did not have any options but to be exposed to COVID tend to accept it as a reality to be mitigated, rather than a single problem to be solved. They are much more comfortable with risk management solutions and evaluating tradeoffs. Those who are able to avoid exposure seem to be waiting for a fix, a moment when the problem is solved.


Expand full comment

Any thoughts on how a person who received the J & J vaccine initially and a Pfizer booster will fare against omicron?

Not asking for a friend.

14 million received the J & J - I know, a small part of 330 million. - They get frustrated when told to get their third shot though.

Beats the hell out of zero doses, I suppose.

Expand full comment

Over the last half year or so, I have been looking into therapy for fixing reoccurring mild depression. I have some thoughts. People who have had more experience (and/or an actual therapist, by "looking into" I mean attempting a gestalt of different techniques and seeing if anything would stick), feel free to chime in.

I'm prefacing this with the fact that the therapy techniques I looked at are more emotionally focused than being analytical, so some of my concerns are the 'play with fire, get burned' variety. Nevertheless, I think therapy techniques as a whole consider emotions to be a big thing to work on, so the comment should still be mildly applicable in general.

1. The mind seems to be incredibly malleable

I didn't realize this when I started, but after going through focusing (and what seemed like extremely revelatory, um, revelations) and IFS (and what seemed to be ideas which had enough cognitive complexity to be qualified to be agents in their own right), it really seems like my mind is willing to adopt any context that I offer-that is, while these sort of ideas seem 'undeniably correct' in the moment, it's mostly because my mind is so eager to fill the latest mold I offer, sort of. I still have to think through the implications of that (does meditation do anything in particular, other than installing a very persistent idea that the mind eventually assimilates enough for it to remain in 'consciousness' without prompting? "if your mind is so malleable, why don't you just manipulate your bad feelings away?") but one thing I've realized is..it probably doesn't matter what therapy you use, if the therapist is competent enough to walk you through whatever problem you have. (A bit of handwaving here: what does 'competent enough' mean? if therapy is just 'theater of the mind', what is a therapist actually doing? questions that I have no answer to, given I've never been to an actual therapist.)

2. Trying to fix emotion-space while being in emotion-space is hard

A little context. Techniques like Focusing and IFS place particular emphasis on trying to access your subconscious and realizing the reason for any resistance you have, because usually the mind has a good reason for that resistance to be there. Afterwards, you have techniques that allow disparate parts of your mind to compromise and come to a consensus.

This...never really worked for me. I'd get to figuring out what the problem is, but working with emotions directly, especially for strong emotions is....imagine elementals who cannot be anything but themselves. A bunch of emotional processing was like that. Admittedly, that was not always true; sometimes I'd get parts of my mind to agree, specifically in terms of attempting to reduce resistance for a task I was putting off. But one way or another, the task would still be left undone.

One thing that a lot of emotion-based therapy techniques seem to imply is that, after solving the internal issue relating to whatever you were having a problem with, it would take you no effort at all to do the external thing. If I was uninterested in literature, but had to study literature for college in either case and had no other option-after I convinced myself of that, I would be able to open up some medieval poetry and go through it without a single ounce of boredom. Now some of that is probably my own misunderstandings about how therapies of this kind work, but more than once I've found myself stuck in a loop where I would ask myself "do I feel okay about doing this?", find a part of my mind disagreeing, try to resolve whatever the issue was, ask myself again "do I feel okay about doing this?" find an issue again...

I call this using therapy as a form of procrastination. It might feel good when doing it, and you certainly feel like you're accomplishing things, but nevertheless external reality remains as it is.

3. Stepping out of emotion-space is useful

I remember reading a post called "developing ethical, social, and cognitive competence", which was a look into Robert Kegan's developmental stages. What I specifically remember from that is the subject-object distinction. When you're a child, your wants are object; you are them and they are you, and your worldview is based on what you want-and, in general, you don't really neglect what you want in favor of anything else, unless that something else is a want that takes higher priority. As you grow older, though, your wants are 'object'-you're not your wants anymore, you have wants, which you can satisfy and neglect at will. They're a part of you, sure, but they are not the whole of who you are.

I've been able to do a similar thing with emotions. It may just be repression, I don't know, but-worrying about a thing that needs to be done, wanting to do something but wanting to play video games instead, being sad about how your life isn't shaping up, etc, etc-you can sort of..take these as object, in terms of 'stepping out' of your emotional context and looking at your emotions as though you're an external observer. mentally, it almost feels like taking a physical step back and creating a sense of distance? I'm not sure if I can explain it better. It's that, with the awareness that emotions are something that you have, not something that you are, and creating the distance required to think about things a little more carefully.

A lot of this possibly reads like I've discovered actual self-control for the first time. Which...maybe. But again, not really, because again-the concept of control itself, of fighting 'against' something-is a part of the emotional context, and thinking within the context to fix the context is hard. It's more like just dropping the link between feeling and behavior? and having something sitting in the middle. (I'm sorry this all sounds somewhat handwavey. Mind stuff is hard.)

either way, I'm not deriding therapy in general-far from it. Clearly it seems to work for a whoe lot of people. It just seems to me that, for people like me, trying to handle emotional content while within that emotional content is hard. And again, for people like me, it may be useful to try to discover the mental move that lets you 'step out' and take your context as object, so you can think a little more clearly.

Expand full comment

How much has our understanding of neuroscience changed in the last 15 years? I have a textbook "Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 3rd Edition", published in 2006, which I was planning on reading in order to get a basic understanding of neuroscience. Would it be alright for me to do this, or would the information be too outdated and I should get a more up-to-date book?

Expand full comment

Does anyone else see two versions of comments occasionally? They look like the might be pre and post edited versions existing for a while in an odd Schoedingers Cat indefinite form.

Expand full comment
Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 20, 2021

Do we know that we have "flattened the curve" in the past? Asking because that will be the purpose of coming lockdowns, and from a naive glance (and my memory of the first two huge rises in cases) it doesn't seem like we have ever flattened it. It seems like Covid case counts rise and fall for poorly understood reasons.

Expand full comment

A year ago we wrote on how Ross Perot could have won the 1994 Electoral College, and then a spoof where he did just that. Perot was famously against NAFTA ("you’re going to hear a giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country"), and in honour of one of our more adventurous models and fictions, we've whipped up a mini-post on how he got it wrong. Because NAFTA had no impact on American manufacturing jobs at all. https://armariuminterreta.com/2021/12/20/who-suckered-jobs-from-whom/

Expand full comment

This is a (slightly edited) post I made on Facebook, which I think could spark more interesting discussion here.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was amazing. Easily the best MCU film I've seen to date, and, reluctantly, the best Spider-Man movie on my list (edging out TASM 2).

I have more to say about the movie itself, but some more general musings first.

The MCU is by far the most impressive media project in the world by now. It's huge, it's interconnected, it's media-spanning - frankly, I'm in awe of Marvel, and Kevin Feige, for even attempting this.

I feel almost privileged to see this thing unfold before my eyes (and I haven't watched any of the TV shows, so it's definitely even bigger than I think).

It feels like here humanity is trying to make a new mythos for itself, a great narrative worthy of the Kalevala or Beowulf or the Eddas or, well, the Bible. Only history will tell if it succeeds - some bad choices can have it go the GoT way in a year or two (is it still fashionable to talk about how nobody talks about GoT anymore?). But for now it feels huge and epic, as it well should.

One thing annoys me immensely, though.

The MCU (and superhero movies in general, with the DCEU keeping well in the race) features dozens of characters in dozens of stories. We have aliens, robots, magic, mythical creatures, gods, monsters and sometimes even the occasional friendly spiderhood neighborman. They usually save the world, but sometimes they just save their friends, loved ones and themselves (although we need more stories like that). They go against organizations, aliens, monsters and human criminals.

And they are forced to learn different morals, of course: "With great power etc.", "Everybody deserves a second chance", "Don't give in to your anger", "Learn to forgive", "Don't pick the easy way out", "Sacrifice yourself for the greater good" and the ubiquitous "Do the right thing" (I don't know why this one is not engraved by now on every square inch of the USA, with how many times it's been said in movies).

All those different stories, different heroes, different problems they have to face.

All those same Christian morals of forgiveness and self-sacrifice and kindness they have to learn.

And still, EVERY - SINGLE - TIME -

The end goal is violence. No matter who the hero is, and what they're saving the world from, and what platitude about kindness and forgiveness their dying mentor figure told them on their deathbed, THE HERO'S GOAL IS ALWAYS TO FIND THE VILLAIN AND PUNCH THEM VERY HARD IN THE FACE.

The emotional climax may come later, when the hero needs to sacrifice themselves to undo the villain's plan, but the primary goal is always violence: "I'm gonna find them and kick their ass". The villain can never be talked down. Never stopped nonviolently. Never reasoned or pleaded with. There is always a fight, and worse - always the ASSUMPTION OF FIGHT. I hate it.

I know the audience expects a spectacle, and a big, destructive fight is the easiest way to get one, but I think it just means... we're not evolved enough yet. As a species, as a culture. It saddens me.

I wish to see a movie of the same scope, budget and production value as any of Marvel's creations, where the conflict is resolved with... talking. Or trickery. Or technical prowess. Or any, ANY way a conflict can be resolved without a single punch or acrobatic kick.

A great way to get there would be to make more movies like The Martian, where the heroes face not a foe, but a hostile environment. This can provide conflict and tension (and CGI eye-candy opportunities) galore, but without a single punch needing to be thrown, and with cooperation at the forefront, instead of war.

Can we put THAT into our new world-wide mythos, please?

Expand full comment

When discussing successful invasive species, let’s not forget the hippopotamus infestation occurring in Columbia. It’s Hippo heaven, no natural predators, lots of water (very few droughts), lots of food, and a judicial ruling making it illegal to kill them. They’re breeding earlier and more often than ever. In 50-100 years there could be thousands spread across Central and South America.

Expand full comment

It seems like the great male renunciation went beyond clothing. It seems like men renounced enthusiastic vocalizations. At some point those became the province of women, gay men, and German dictators with only one ball. Even Howard dean’s 150 milliOprah yelp was widely considered too much. But I know from reading Shakespeare etc that men weren’t always curbing their enthusiasm like they do now.

Expand full comment
Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 20, 2021

I have a question: my daughter originally got vaccinated in WY, and promptly lost her vaccine card (and didn’t take a picture of it🙄). She has since moved to the Seattle area and has been unsuccessful in tracking down a replacement card. Is there a health related reason (besides existing potential side effects) to simply repeating the vaccine course a second time to get both her booster (the fist shot) and a new vaccine card after the second? Thanks.

Expand full comment

Since Scott is going to signal-boost my math, I should probably explain it in a bit more detail. Rounding almost everything to 5% increments because error bars are a thing.

1. About 800,000 Americans have died of COVID, which at an IFR of ~0.005 suggests that ~50% of the population had been infected as of 3 weeks ago. If prior infection with one of the prior variants provides ~20% protection against Omega COVID, that's 10% of the population "immune" to Omega. OK, really it's an S-curve of relative protection against breakthrough infections, but I'm trying to keep the math simple. I'm also bumping 10% to 15% on the basis of prior-variant infections between three weeks ago and Peak Omega, plus some of the infected people also being vaccinated.

2. About 80% of the US adult population has been vaccinated so far, including 70% fully vaccinated and 20% boosted. I'll handwave that up to ~80% full and ~30% boosted by the time Omega hits big. Assuming that vaccines provide ~25% protection against Omicron infection and a recent booster puts that at ~40%, then we get 0.5*0.25 + 0.3*0.4 = ~25% of the population "immune" because of vaccination. But ~15% of those were already protected by prior infection (and I handwaved in the infection+vaccination synergy to those numbers), so 0.25 * 0.85 = ~20% protected by vaccines alone.

3. I'm handwavy-assuming 20% of the population will try to take precautions specifically because of Omicron, half of them will botch the jobs, a quarter will take partially-effective (~50% reduction) and a quarter will take fully effective personal countermeasures. So, from the 65% of the population that is not protected by vaccine or prior infection, we get (0.2*0.25*0.5 + 0.2*0.25*1.0)*0.65 = ~5% of the population protected solely by their own efforts.

That leaves 60% of the population, vulnerable to a plague with an R0 roughly double that of Delta (itself R0 ~6). Claims that Omicron has an R0 much greater than twice delta seem to mostly be assuming that Omicron's rise is entirely due to higher R0 and not from immune escape. So, R0 ~12, and I'll further handwave that our mostly-stupid societal NPIs will reduce that by 25% to ~9. For a mythical heterogenous population of spherical cows.

My best-guess simple model of real populations is that 20% live in bubbles with local R value of 0.2*Rr, 20% in bubbles with R = 0.5*Rr, 20% with R = Rr, 20% with R = 2*Rr, and 20% with R = 5*Rr, where Rr = "real" R value = 57% of the early observed R0 to normalize results. This *very approximately* matches the few studies I've seen of heterogenous-population epidemiology, and the track of the actual epidemic, and it's simple enough that I can do the math in a little bit of my spare time. If I were applying a Zvi-level effort too the problem I'd be constantly refining that crude model, but I'm not that guy. Sorry.

So, 40% of the population already "immune"

12% effectively at R=(0.2*0.57*9)=~1.0,

12% effectively at R=(0.5*0.57*9)=~2.6

12% effectively at R=(1.0*0.57*9)=~5.1

12% effectively at R=(2.0*0.57*9)=~10.3

15% effectively at R=(5.0*0.57*9)=~25.7

Herd immunity is reached at f(infected) = 1-1/R, so

12% of the population sees almost no infections

12% of the population sees 61% of its members infected

12% of the population sees 80% of its members infected

12% of the population sees 90% of its members infected

12% of the population sees 96% of its members infected

There will be some overshoot, but that requires differential equations, and there's not much room for overshoot from e.g. 90%, and I've been a bit conservative elsewhere so I'm ignoring this one.

4) From the first two groups, I get ~15% of the total population uninfected because of their basically low-risk lifestyle (and 10% of the population infected in spite of same; "low-risk" is far from immune)

5) From the three medium-to-high-risk groups I get ~30% of the population infected because they are unprotected against a very contagious disease and ~5% uninfected by pure dumb luck

So, 40% of the population gets infected with Omicron COVID. But note that 90% of these will be breakthrough infections, whether breaking through vaccines or prior infection.

6) Baseline COVID sees ~30-40% of infections asymptomatic, but because of the prevalence of breakthrough infections I'm bumping that up to 50-50, so 20% of the population gets asymptomatic Omicron COVID, leaving 20% who actually get sick

7) I can't find good numbers for degrees of severity between "symptomatic" and "dead"; "hospitalization" in particular is hard to pin down in a consistent way. But from reports on Omicron so far, I'm guessing that 15% of the population gets the basic sore throat + headache + malaise, down for a maybe a week package, and 5% gets something worse. Weighted mostly towards "slightly worse", but extending all the way to...

8) We've got 132 million Americans infected with Omicron in this median scenario. Baseline COVID has an IFR of ~0.005, but evidence points to Omicron being substantially less lethal. Call it an IFR of ~0.003. But, 90% of the cases are going to be breakthrough infections. Vaccines are ~25% effective against Omicron infection but ~75% against Omicron death, and I'll assume prior infection is about as good, so IFR for a breakthrough infection should bes only ~0.001

So, 132E6*(0.003*0.1+0.001*0.9) = ~150,000 Omicron COVID deaths in the United States

9) Assuming hospitalization roughly tracks death rates, a wave with ~150,000 deaths is enough to seriously frazzle a lot of doctors and nurses in ways that results in reporting of "hospitals are overwhelmed!", but not enough to actually have people turned away to die in the streets in any great numbers.

I don't expect everyone to agree with my numbers; feel free to plug in your own.

Finally, note that we're not done with Delta. If Omicron infection provides substantial immunity to Delta (unknown), then it *may* do us a favor by quickly substituting a lot of mild infections for a long tail of more severe ones. But it's just as possible that we'll get the Omicron peak on top of the Delta tail.

Expand full comment

I'm planning my charitable contributions for 2021 (I always do them mostly at year's end) and am open to ideas. Could be EA stuff but don't feel like your suggestion needs to literally maximize anything. Should be 501c3 (deductible) though. Could be the latest, greatest metacharity, or something specific.

Expand full comment

> Consider taking whatever precautions you wish you’d taken back in March 2020 for a month of panic and maybe more lockdowns.

What are y'all doing for this? I don't really feel like there's anything I should be doing here, since I wasn't really going anywhere with people anyway. (Immunocompromised.) Am I missing something?

I don't think panic and lockdowns affected me a ton in March 2020, besides the fact that everyone in my life was working remote, I couldn't hang out with people, and I needed to get groceries somehow... I mostly took precautions 1) to prepare for potential food shortages that did not happen, and 2) to avoid getting COVID. (Which included "being very careful about surfaces," and now that does not actually seem to matter.)

It doesn't seem likely to me that the US will have substantial lockdowns. I guess maybe Instacart deliveries will take more time again?

Expand full comment

More reason to not be concerned about ancient diseases:

Medieval European doctors used ooze scraped out of mummies as a medicine, based on mistranslating medieval Arabic doctors who prescribed mumiya, meaning natural asphalt. After this was shown to be a mistranslation, European artists used ground up mummies to make brown paint until the 1800s - and artists often lick their paintbrushes.

Quite a lot of mummy has been eaten by Europeans in the last thousand years or so, and it didn't release any ancient plagues. Best practices in a lot of fields have improved, so we hopefully will eat less ancient human remains in the future.

Expand full comment

What's the steel-manned case for opposing the Build Back Better bill?

Expand full comment
Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 20, 2021

> A friend is trying to help get an Afghan scientist who she knows out of Afghanistan - they're worried he will face legal repercussions for helping foreigners and the previous Afghan government. He is a pretty talented person and could qualify for some sort of skilled immigrant pathway, or for some kind of humanitarian refugee desperate need pathway. He's not very good at English. If anyone has any experience or advice in this area, please contact mdl.swimmer963@gmail.com.

As a side note, one of my ACX grant ideas was English language lessons/remote centers in third world countries. The single skill that gives you the biggest boost in earnings in a place like Afghanistan, India, or Africa is English. Especially properly accented English which can be leveraged into some kind of international trade. I didn't submit it because it'd take more than a reasonable grant would be. Not a ton of money but probably somewhere in the six to seven figure range. But I just thought of this because that lack of English is going to be a real issue. (Unless he knows some other language that is taking refugees.)

Another idea (in a paperclip maximization kind of way) is to just buy Afghans or Somalis or whatever ways out. There are a few countries where you can (effectively) purchase permanent residency. You just have to structure it properly. They're poor but "poor, free, and stable" is miles ahead of Afghanistan. (Especially because they're still richer than Afghanistan.) Make something like the model cities except with a bunch of refugees who would be really invested in it working because the alternative is going back to Afghanistan. But again, too expensive for the grant program.

Anyway, I'll reach out. I'm familiar with the process going multiple directions.

Expand full comment

Describe how you experience reality in as much detail as possible.

Expand full comment

I get the waning of the shots . But where is the evidence the alpha shot (162b2) is effective for delta or omicron ? Then there is the clear evidence the shot impairs the innate immune system , especially the few weeks following the shots . So why would the booster be helpful at the most busy social time of the year ? I suppose the argument is to get those antibodies to peak again . But only after 14 days right? So the window is gone and it seems more likely the booster will do more harm then good

Expand full comment

Is there a social media platform for music? I listen to music almost constantly (Spotify's year end review told me that I listened more than 96% of their other customers, and I also listen to a lot of music on Youtube which is obviously not captured by Spotify). I'd love to share what music I'm listening to with my friends, see what they like and their suggestions, etc. Technically I could somehow connect my Spotify with my Facebook, but I basically never agree to share anything with FB. Also I'd be relying on other (probably similarly paranoid) friends to do the same.

It'd also be great to get suggestions about stuff in more obscure genres from other human beings, not just algorithms. For example right now I've been getting into Shoegaze (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoegaze), but everything new I find is algorithm-suggested- I'd love to complement that with human recommendations too! Not sure if anyone ever invented a social media platform just for music discovery

Expand full comment

On aliens, I was taken aback when listening to one of the hosts on the Outside/In podcast say that most introduced species are not harmful (though some certainly have outsized negative impacts).

Some hardy grasses have propped up the ecological niche of more fragile plants, providing shelter for birds without dying off as often.

Some cases are mixed. The zebra mussel costs hundreds of thousands in remediation each year for facilities and shipping, I always read about it as a pure menace. But it has apparently also helped clear the water in the Erie, creating a better environment for some plants, which in turn serve as nurseries for perch and food for bass.

I can't find the study O/I referenced but there is a whole field of lit, some of which is pulling back from arguing aliens are always harmful to a more nuanced position:




Expand full comment

I made a prediction 2 weeks ago here on ACX that countries that banned flights from South Africa will not substantially delay spread of omicron compared to countries which did not stop such travel. It seems that I was right.

I think that any strong measures such as hard lockdowns will not substantially impact the spread of omicron either. It will be harder to measure but probably action by different US states will show it clearly enough. Even if there will be some effect it won't be substantial (probably, need to define what is substantial in this case).

Any positive changes, if any, most likely will come from general measures, such as advice to avoid big parties, or encouraging vaccinations etc.

Expand full comment

Re Omicron: Zvi's post caused me to schedule a booster for tomorrow. The part about Omicron being very different from the previous variants... maybe from multi passage through mice.


Is a bit scary, And then I read some ideas that omicron may have been made by some 'white knight' to save us from covid. And that's still scary...

Expand full comment

Swire is a British conglomerate with British roots, but operates on Chinese land, hires Chinese employees, and profits from Chinese customers.

I wrote a reflection from reading Bickers' China Bound: John Swire & Sons and Its World. It turns out the history of Swire is the history of 1) a firm retelling history of itself 2) indexing Hong Kong's economic growth 3) operating in emerging markets with the backing of hegemonic power. 


Expand full comment

I’ve been reading that 3rd dose wanes in 2-3 months, so there is that. If you got boosted in Nov, your NAb’s will start waning drastically right when the situation gets bad in the US.

Expand full comment

I had COVID in April got vaccine on July can't get booster yet. How much wearing a mask at work among people without masks reduces the chances to get omicron?

Expand full comment

I though this article by Doriane Coleman from Duke Law attempting to create a systematic framework for thinking about sex vs gender in sport (and also more generally) was excellent.

Long read but worth it, at least for US audience. Irrespective of whether one agrees with her or not, I liked her attempt at systematization which I view as an important step in the right direction.


Expand full comment

Who is the greatest (most currently impactful, and also most likely to be viewed by future history similarly) living philosopher? Why?

I’ve read https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PMoa6f4aACHfefwBY/my-favorite-philosophers, quora etc. and felt they lacked depth or breadth. Figured I’d ask here.

Expand full comment

About the covid stuff. I live in France, have been vaccinated twice and followed all regulations. From september 2021 to now, we had to (and still have to) wear a mask when working in open spaces. We are in them for 8 hours a day, 2 4 hours period. We usually open the windows during lunch (~1h) but that's it. Everyone is between a meter and a meter and half from their nearest collegue. I feel like this might make me a bad person for saying this, but all these month of mask-wearing have reduced my patience for all of that a lot, and now that omicron is hitting, and hitting seriously, I'm seriously tired of wearing a mask. We do have the possibility of working from home, which is better than nothing, but one of the reasons that I choose the job I currently have in the first place is that the offices and the people are great. Collaboration is way better, for me at least, in person.

I don't have anything constructive to say with this, it's mostly venting. But I really wish that governements would take into account emotional well-being when planning for covid. I've followed pretty much every regulation, done my best to protect myself and the people around me, and this pandemic is still going. I have no idea what's the "real risk" of dying from covid compared to other things people die too. Is it a 10% chance of dying increase? A 10x chance? A 1% chance? And even if I knew it, and my risk profile allowed me to take the risk, that wouldn't change the regulations. While I understand that death by covid is a very real thing, I wish we would try a bit more to quantify how close to "living" is the alternative, and if the tradeoff is worth it.

On an unrelated note, about Substack: I lose focus on the "Write a comment..." box every time I type a character, on Chrome 96 on Pop!_OS. The bug doesn't appear in Firefox 94.

Expand full comment

From London - Omicron is ok for largely healthy people, it's just like all the other viruses we can't totally get rid of. If anything, it's good news. Endemic>Pandemic.

Expand full comment

> taking whatever precautions you wish you’d taken back in March 2020 for a month of panic and maybe more lockdowns

The biggest one I regret is assuming that efficient market hypothesis meant there wouldn't be a stock market crash. Any reason to think that's likely to happen again? And if so how to prepare?

Expand full comment

I have a free substack called Extelligence for anyone interested where I posit a structure I call an Algorithmic Republic that I see helping us solve the dilemma of social media, repair public sense-making, and if thats not enough, it’s my best solution to the alignment problem based on my assessment that I am too dumb to come up with a meaningful answer to the alignment problem. It’s the work of some years abs has been honed many times so this isn’t the first thing I threw at the wall. Basic idea is that we should democratize social media, ie elect our own moderators, vote on our own rules, choose our own representatives, form juries of Digital Citizens (as opposed to users) to help adjudicate disputes, and create one giant wiki like structure called “The Index” to create a long term memory and accountability for the internet. Bit like a DAO except I didn’t k is what those were until a few months ago so I feel good several thoughts seem to be independently converging. I believe I independently arrived at many of the same structures as Scott did in his Shining Garden post for instance. Hope this isn’t obnoxious self promotion and please delete if so. Only found out about you a year and change ago so if there is a long established rule that’s not often repeated it has flown over my head. Wife started having contractions this morning and we are expecting our first child either late tonight or early tomorrow so this is purely me wanting to make the world a better place as I wait for her to wake from a nap. Made it because I got tired of hearing “someone should do something about this.” Would love the thoughts of literally anyone on it. Wrote it up as a comedy for now but essays will follow probably in April when I take paternity leave.

Expand full comment

> Consider taking whatever precautions you wish you’d taken back in March 2020 for a month of panic and maybe more lockdowns

Adding to this: back in March 2020 I was a week or so ahead of the curve in stocking up on groceries. This turned out to be unnecessary; at least in my area, food never became a problem, and I wound up with too much food in my pantry. However I'm planning on doing it again this time around anyway due to the nonzero chance that omicron might do crazy things like making 20% of the workforce sick simultaneously.

So what I'm saying is: don't necessarily use "what you wished you'd done in March 2020" as a guide.

Expand full comment

I have been vaxxed and boosted, I wear a mask, I'm not a truther. This is a honest request for someone to persuade me, not a contrarian statement.

What is the point of me or anyone but the most vulnerable locking down? At what time will we emerge? When paxlovid is mass produced? Because otherwise it feels to me like delaying the inevitable.

We have vaccines, we have a less severe strain, I am relatively young and boosted and seemingly healthy. Shouldn't I go out and try to be exposed to it and help it run through the healthy population ASAP or something?

Expand full comment

I am reading: "American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us" by Putnam and Campbell. Very interesting. Written around 2011. The current chapter is about how two major issues connected being religious to politics. Abortion and gay marriage. This reminded me of another book: Jill Lepore's history of the USA: "These Truths". In it she describes how Republicans became anti-abortion advocates in the late 1970s connecting them to the exceptionally strong evangelical voting block. Putnam and Campbell suggest the same in: "American Grace". It seems George HW Bush was such a strong promoter of Planned Parenthood in the early 70s he earned the nickname " Rubbers" Bush! It would seem he moved to an anti-abortion stance around 1980 in order to help win elections. Since Republicans won three presidential elections in a row the move to anti-abortion was successful!

Here's a short quote about Lepore's historical notation about it and a longer quote from:"American Grace" with more detail.

"Jill Lepore wrote a 2011 article in the about how the conservative movement took up the anti-abortion banner in the late seventies as a way to energize the evangelical community and split them away from Democrats. Essentially, the Right co-opted social conservatives for political expediency."

"So what did change? The answer is that, beginning in the 1980s, sex and family issues—which had long been aligned with religiosity—also became aligned with positions taken by America’s two major political parties. As a result, religiosity and partisanship came into alignment. This alignment occurred because of a change in the political choices offered to voters. If the political choices placed before Americans are uncorrelated with religion, then any political decisions that might be affected by religion are moot. Consequently, for religion to affect the choices voters make, the candidates on the ballot must have contrasting positions on the issues shaped by religion. To see why the two criteria work in tandem, pretend that you have taken a side in the cola wars and are a partisan of Pepsi rather than Coke. Accordingly, when given a choice of restaurants that are otherwise equal you would prefer one that serves Pepsi. Imagine that we conducted a study in which we tried to predict the restaurants that you frequent. You would expect us to find a correlation between your preference for Pepsi and your preferred restaurants—you are more likely to eat in Pepsi-serving restaurants. From that study, we would conclude that there is a relationship between the brand of soda you like and where you eat. Now, suppose that we ran the same study, but this time all the restaurants in the city serve only Coke. We would no longer find a correlation between soda preference and restaurant choice, as it would appear that whether you like Coke or Pepsi has no bearing on your decision of where to eat. However, the absence of a correlation only reflects the absence of choices. Politics works the same way. Unless candidates in an election differ on an issue—that is, offer voters a choice—that issue cannot be a factor affecting how people vote. It seems obvious, but the changing choices offered to voters are too rarely acknowledged and the political movement known as the Religious Right was born."

Expand full comment

How long does it take you to write a typical post here, both total hours working and over what period? For example, how long did it take to write Diseasonality?

Expand full comment

What languages, other than English, have the richest and most interesting contemporary literary scenes, i.e. fiction being published today as opposed to Great Books-style classics? I'm looking to learn a new language, and having an exciting new world of fiction to break in to would be a huge motivator for me. Bonus points for anything non-Indoeuropean, I appreciate the mental workout that comes from language learning when I can't rely on cognates in English, and I like being introduced to an unfamiliar cultural milieu.

Expand full comment

In the UK, vaccination reduced the CFR tenfold. But a factor of 10 is what two weeks at current growth rates looks like so it's possible that this will hit worse than alpha did. (case numbers over the summer have varied from about half to 2/3 of the January 2021 peak)

As the situation worsens I've picked up an FFP2 (~N95) disposable mask, probably Before Times vintage, from the local ironmongers. But in the interests of MOAR DAKKA, I'm looking into reuseable half-face masks. Does anybody have recommendations? Being able to plug the exhale valve, availability of compatible filters from multiple maufacturers and being able to get an adaptor to 40mm threaded (NATO) filters would be nice.

Expand full comment

I'm looking for advice on eating slightly more ethically.

I eat a lot of chicken, turkey, and eggs from mainstream groceries. I've been convinced, by Scott and others, that this is bad. Unfortunately, it would be difficult for me to alter my diet. I want to at least purchase the versions of these which are less bad. But I've heard labels like "cage free" are often misleading. I'd appreciate any information on what products I should look out for.

Expand full comment

Years ago I subscribed to home delivery of the Sunday edition of my local paper. I originally signed up for Sunday delivery as a strategy to cut down on my news consumption and batch in reading only the biggest stories on Sunday morning.

I've failed to cut down on my weekday consumption, and now I burn additional time satisfying my urge to fact check what I'm reading.

Today's big front-page spread was about the lack of broadband access in our state: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/when-the-world-turned-digital-hundreds-of-thousands-of-washingtonians-were-shut-out-will-massive-government-funding-solve-the-problem/

The headline claim was that hundreds of thousands lack access, which on its face sounds dubious. Our population is only 7.6 million. Even at the bare minimum plural of 200,000 people lacking broadband we're looking at a full 2.5% of people. And, like everywhere else, most people are concentrated in the major metro areas. King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, which are home to Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, are home to 52% of the state's population. One saying among local politicos is that all the votes needed to win the governor's mansion can be seen from the Space Needle.

It's a bit buried in the article but it turns out this claim relies on the state Broadband Office's survey: https://www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-statewide-broadband-act/speedtestsurvey/. This not only has the problems inherent in self-selected and self-reported surveys, but also has the problem that most people aren't aware of all the confounds that could exist between their machine and the speed test endpoint.

The article isn't skeptical at all of the state's survey, which it says reports that **46%** of people have either no connection or a connection less than 10Mbps.

Expand full comment
Dec 19, 2021·edited Dec 19, 2021

I’ve been reflecting on the behavior of our institutions (the CDC and the WHO in particular) over the past few years and how we’ve seen them repeatedly bend to the desires of current administrations (in the case of the CDC) and influential member states (in the case of the WHO) and how that’s hindered their ability to take meaningful positions on an efficient frontier *and* act on it. Note, I’m not staking a position on where they ought to be, just that they’re obviously not efficient. The rat community has, I think, rightfully taken the Delenda Est position towards the current arrangement.

But I wonder how much the current arrangement and anemic/backwards/obviously suboptimal responses from these institutions is because of how they’re funded, and what could be done to change that.

For example, I wonder how their actions would differ in this counter factual world: suppose the WHO, for example, were at some lucky time when lucidity prevailed (a) given the mandate to protect the global public health interest in an *efficient* manner; (b) with all available resources lended by member states when called upon; and (c) were additionally set up with a permanent endowment fund that let them operate independently for all time.

I’d be interested to see any reading material people can offer along these lines.

edit: editing because I can, hooray for usability features!

Expand full comment

> You should now be able to edit your comments. Thank you, Substack!

Can it be true?

EDIT: IT IS!!!!!

EDIT 2: Okay here's another edit, in response to person with "squirrels" in their username.

Expand full comment

I was surprised to read "getting your booster might help." My understanding from reading Zvi's latest Omicron posts is that more positive language would be justified?

All early evidence seems to point towards the boosters providing substantially more protection against Omicron than 2 doses alone (though no longer as bulletproof as they were pre-Omicron).

One study that Zvi brought up in his post a few days ago:


Another analysis of that same study:


And some UK data - though I'll caveat this by saying that I just found it on Google now:


My takeaway would be that everyone should aim to get a booster ASAP. If I were an unboosted person in a country where doses were available, I'd go to a walk-in clinic tomorrow.

Expand full comment

I was reading Untitled and Radicalizing the Romanceless today, and that got me wondering whether anyone has any good evidence-based dating tips that don't involve being born with dark triad traits or extraversion? I read a John Gottman book (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gottman), but his work is mostly about how to keep a relationship going, not how to start one.

This related article was hilarious: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homeostasis-disruptor/201604/evidence-based-dating-what-could-go-wrong

Since Sturgeon's law definitely applies to social psychology, which evidence based dating tips are especially well-proven?

Expand full comment

On your point 1 I am unfortunately no longer able to trust anyone regarding Covid.

Expand full comment

Regarding COVID, Harvard has said the first 3 weeks of January will be remote work. So I think they're expecting the peak to be around then.

Expand full comment

I wish more (no ALL) Omicron reporting were making the effort (as the intro does) to draw implications for action and not just about what we should FEEL about prospects. Maybe it's just MORE reason to do what should already have been done, but then say so.

And specifically, why isn't one of the things to be done to accelerate -- whatever that means in practice -- folding an omicron variant-optimized vaccine into the vaccine portfolio? Can it really be the case that the Bayesian estimate of the marginal benefit is too low to be worth the time and cost to change the recipe? And as usual, if a total nobody like me can ask this question, why aren't MSM reporters posing it to politicians and PH officials? Why didn't they ask it about Delta?

Expand full comment

so there have been many ripoffs of Groundhog’s day (Map of Tiny Perfect Things, one episode of Suite Life of Zac and Cody, plenty of comics), but I always thought it was odd that they didn’t just use the time loop to get really really good at something, and then solve problems and exit the loop. So my questions:

Imagine you are in the same day, repeating at the 24 hours mark. It’s a “good day” for you health wise (i.e you didn’t just break your arm or something). When the loop repeats, you retain all memories, but your body reverts. Let’s say you retain muscle memory, but anything like extra weight, injuries, or death is removed. You can make the time loop end by living the day helping others selflessly.

How long could you stay sane in the time loop? and what, if any, skills/knowledge would you hone? how much time would you spend on hedonism?

Expand full comment
Dec 19, 2021·edited Dec 19, 2021

On number 2, I don't have much personal knowledge but I'll pass on the request to a relative of mine in the U.S. State department. No idea if that would have any tangible benefit but worth a shot.

Update: I heard back and there's nothing they can do personally. I did pass on the advice they offered though, hopefully it'll help.

Expand full comment

I think, as often, that John Schilling makes a good case. I'm even more optimistic than that, but without much epidemiological ammo to back it up.

Expand full comment

On reflection, one thing that bothers me about Scott’s otherwise excellent last essay about the media use of “no evidence” is that I don’t think it’s right that there is an equivocation going on. It is really inaccurate in the scientific context, just as in legal or other contexts, to say that there is no evidence for a proposition simply because there are no published studies on that particular question. In science, as in other fields, the correct formulation would be that there are no studies on X, but we have various lines of indirect and inconclusive evidence pointing to such and such conclusion. I just felt like registering that minor quibble.

Expand full comment
Dec 19, 2021·edited Dec 19, 2021

Our in vitro oogenesis project now has enough funding to hire a research assistant. If interested, apply here: https://sjobs.brassring.com/TGnewUI/Search/home/HomeWithPreLoad?PageType=JobDetails&partnerID=25240&siteID=5341&AReq=56371BR#jobDetails=1932873_5341

Basic qualifications are bachelors + 2 years experience in wet-lab biology work. Human cell culture (particularly stem cell) experience is strongly preferred. This position is at the Wyss Institute in Boston. I'm not completely sure about pay yet (determined by Wyss HR, not me) but it will be 50 - 60K plus benefits. The position will start as soon as next month, so apply now!

(I’m no longer looking for undergrads, since I’ve already found one to help me. This position is separate from that.)

If you have specific questions, you can email me: metacelsus at protonmail.com

Making human oocytes on demand will be a transformative technology for science and society, and if you work with me you can help it become a reality.

Expand full comment

Comments remain godawful. They need to send me an email everytime I comment; annoying.

What do you guys reckon are the chances for major lockdowns again? I was gearing up for a somewhat normal college semester and I might shoot myself if it turns out I’m staying home again. I sincerely hope we are getting ready to live with the virus, but please be honest with me.

Expand full comment
Dec 19, 2021·edited Dec 19, 2021

Thanks for the comment editing!

Edit: (Can confirm it works)

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment