Thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic
So I have been trying to carefully follow independent thinkers who are writing about the coronavirus pandemic (and the economic crisis it triggered). I have been keeping a document logging thoughtful pieces I have found about the crisis so far and decided others might find it useful.
The dates are when the thing was published, not when I found it. Which means if you only look at the top you'll miss things, but I also don't know a good way to show all the stuff that's new and it seems like it would make things too complex. Anyway, I find things that link pretty far back sometimes so I add those things on the date they published. There's been several early March things go up since I first published this sometime in April.
I think logging this independent thinking is important because this could be a watershed event where the mainstream gets shunted and a new mainstream consensus gets established and that probably means fringe/niche/marginal thinkers ascend.
Mostly I'm looking at RSS feeds to find stuff to post here. Obviously, my sources for regular review has been growing as I go. These days folks are focused more on facts than analysis or broader macro perspectives with broader implications, but that is understandable.
To no small degree, this log is just a filtering of the enormous amount of stuff discussed on the blog Marginal Revolution, which is an amazing resource but also very close to overwhelming right now.
Last updated: June 7, 2020
June 7, 2020
Medical researcher attempts to estimate additional deaths from coronavirus resulting per day of protest. Estimates that with 600,000 people protesting he thinks the low end will be an additional 200 deaths per day, maybe as high as 1100. This seems alarmist.
"Now it feels like anything could happen. The future has been thrust open, to the point of maximum opportunity and maximum danger. Yet, it feels like we aren't prepared for this kind of disruption. If aliens landed on Earth today, it's hard to imagine what the response from humans might be, other than probably an 'unprecedented cut in interest rates.'" Rationally Exuberant.
June 6, 2020
Haque writes like such a mad person I haven't been able to read him for a bit but I opened up his latest on thinking the unthinkable. His point is that societies collapse quickly and that the America of today would look wild to anyone in 2015. Folks should plan to move fast.
June 5, 2020
Jonah Goldberg on the cognitive dissonance of epidemiologists on protests. Going to church, participating in an election is bad; going to protests is good.
Alex Tabarrok likes Operation Warp Speed (funding vaccines before they are proven) but worries that we should be funding even more weird ones.
Reopening in Europe is going okay one month in.
More people might be defended against the novel coronavirus than we realize because boring science reasons but that's nice.
June 4, 2020
There's going to be carnage in real estate. Commercial tenants aren't paying rent en masse and landlords are going to go bankrupt. That's definitely going to yield consolidation as huge landlords gobble up tiny ones at a huge discount. While it's tempting to be gleeful about landlords getting hit, this will only make for a worse world down the road unless lawmakers get creative. At times I have wished that the public sector owned more property so that it could curate the right tenants, though that would actually probably just feed corruption.
Pooled-testing, a strategy for reopening universities without making crazy new outbreaks go quickly.
June 3, 2020
"Remdesivir appears to be better than nothing," Science Mag.
The umpteenth story about what went wrong at the CDC, from the NYT:
The C.D.C.’s most fabled experts are the disease detectives of its Epidemic Intelligence Service, rapid responders who investigate outbreaks. But more broadly, according to current and former employees and others who worked closely with the agency, the C.D.C. is risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis — particularly one that shuts down the country and paralyzes the economy.
“It’s not our culture to intervene,” said Dr. George Schmid, who worked at the agency off and on for nearly four decades. He described it as increasingly bureaucratic, weighed down by “indescribable, burdensome hierarchy.”
NYT Opinion. Most of the problems come from a few cases. Super-spreaders! So limit crowds, closed spaces and close contact.
June 1, 2020
Some outlandish long-term virus predictions, by arnold kling. Among them: "We will quietly give up on a vaccine. Instead, the focus will shift toward general enhancement of our immune systems."
MargRev. If the 100,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 had been from some kind of human attack on our soil, we would have ploughed loads into fighting it. We have spent very little on increasing our capacity to actually fight this virus in the form of treatments, containment and vaccines.
May 31, 2020
Guardian. There's just something about Germans. Some people's may just be better suited to resisting disease than others. They are calling it immunological dark matter. It's wholly speculative right now, but it's a thing.
From the Coronavirus is Weird Files: Fewer cases at higher altitudes.
May 29, 2020
Pepcid might be useful. Researchers in NY are looking into it.
May 28, 2020
More young people are getting sick. This probably doesn't mean that the virus has itself changed. It probably means that older people are being more careful and younger people are being less careful.
May 27, 2020
MargRev: The case for a market for vaccines.
Homicide rates are increasing despite a general decrease in crime. Factor in the observation that the victim is usually known the perpetrator and this doesn't seem very surprising.
Everyone on a ship was tested for COVID-19 for a cruise that took place in March. 217 people. 59% infected. 6% hospitalized. One death.
May 26, 2020
Reproduction rates seem to stabilize around 1. Also it is crazy we have spent so much on stimulus and one of the jobs wasn't paying for a massive testing scheme which would have been a thing we could have hired a lot of people to do.
May 22, 2020
Breaking Smart: Venkatesh places the coronavirus pandemic into the context of the Great Weirding which he contends began with the killing of the gorilla Harambe. He then traces the Great Weirding around the world, which is basically populism striking back against liberalism.
Washington Examiner reporter: In Fairfax County, Virginia, 75% of all deaths had been in nursing homes (249 people).
May 21, 2020
I was hopeful as I read this essay in The New Republic that it might really illuminate something about prominent conservatives objection to quarantine but it didn't. I'm not sure what the point of it was other than to note that they like Trump.
The Portal: Eric Weinstein did a conversation with Balaji Srinivasan. There's a lot of good stuff on here about all kinds of things. Weinstein articulates a view that something like what Solzhenitsyn articulated toward the end of his life: you can't just upend everything. At the same time, this crisis has really illustrated what a hash our institutions have become, and for goodness sake it's not just Trump tho he's a bad sign. Srinivasan articulates that the ideas basically come down to three: exit the system, fix the system or the system is fine. He thinks there could be a synthesis in there. They also discuss ways in which an overlay has passed over our conversation such that certain hypotheses don't even get discussed as problematic, which makes it hard for scientific evaluation to progress. It's a 3 hours long ep I wrote this only having listened to half of it thus far on a jog. Also a small aside: interesting observation about how making a bet forces people to make very precise articulations of what they would like to do and a lot of times they end up not being able to make one.
May 20, 2020
National Review defends the record so far of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Tyler Cowen notes it's still a bit early to say.
Yahoo: So far Georgia's reopening doesn't seem to be doing any harm.
May 19, 2020
Aceso Under Glass: An attempt to anticipate the present economic situation by looking at a prior economic downturn that wasn't caused by business cycles, the 1973 Oil Crisis.
This coronavirus clusters a lot in ways that other diseases don't and that has everyone perplexed.
May 18, 2020
SSC: A million coronavirus things to think about, among them, a theory that talking loud and close is one of the big indicators of risk for a country.
May 17, 2020
I wish everyone would read this post from Tyler Cowen. So few people understand how to think about risk. It's very frustrating.
May 15, 2020
Filed under: we just don't know how this virus works — the idea of herd immunity looks pretty bleak.
I really hate the American way sometimes.
NYT story on the FDA shutting down promising pilot projects.
Starting from scratch or solving problems in a pure way is tempting, but it's bad and works poorly, a point that Tyler Cowen illuminates well here.
May 14, 2020
Arriving in Hong Kong these days (it gets pretty gross at one part, warning).
Rigidly regulating in action.
Why the herd immunity number may be way below 60%.
May 13, 2020
Matt Stoller continues to make a great case for class war. Example after example of big companies consolidating amid the current panic (and the Trump administration doing everything it can to help them).
The idea that the virus will never go away seems to be the most reasonable mental way to position onesself against this virus, though hell if I know what to do with that information.
Tyler Cowen has been repeating the point that our regulatory state is failing us because it keeps failing to show flexibility in light of emergencies. It's a good point. He also contends that it is misguided to blame Trump for these behaviors because any time he's paid attention to an agency he's slashed regulations. I think this is a good point but also a bit simplistic. Trump is a complex guy. He wants to be seen deregulating but he also doesn't want to be seen as ineffective so I have a feeling that career agency staff are a little unsure how to proceed under this administration and may be erring on the side of simply sticking to the letter of the rules so they can always look to that for defense. Still, it is a good frame from Cowen and worth thinking about.
May 12, 2020
LessWrong user lists out 182 benefits of COVID-19.
Arnold Kling argues that the R value of the virus is not helpful because it could propagate wildly among people who are well protected while poorly protected people could be shielded from that wild infection rate. IDK, man. But it's good to help folks think differently.
May 11, 2020
Paper in Science articulating notes of caution about challenge trials for COVID-19 vaccines, authored by Dr. Fauci among others.
MargRev: more on challenge trials.
Paper argues that people will strategically infect themselves with coronavirus if they think it will allow them to go back to work under an immunity pass regime.
May 9, 2020
Balaji breaks down what he thinks the three broad options are: total state, let it rip, fire up biomedicine like crazy.
Meanwhile Venkatesh Rao just nails the mood.
May 8, 2020
WHO releases guidelines for ethical challenge trials.
Matt Taibbi deals with mortgage servicers in his new newsletter. Uh... something something banks the american dream. If you didn't learn all this in 2008 go read the post, he explains everything. Long story short: in 2008 we should have created a publicly owned bad bank to take on all the bad debt for the malfeasant banks. Right now, we should create a public facility to manage mortgages for any mortgage servicers that shut down.
538: Americans didn't wait for stay-at-home orders.
May 7, 2020
I was mad at people I knew here who left but I tried not to show it but that was not wrong.
I should change the link just above linking the following but I'm not gonna whatever? "Covid19 is anything but a black swan. It is perhaps the most foreseen (and foreseeable) disaster of its kind in history. Which makes the people who “saw it coming” more like the ideological equivalent of self-important Yelp commenters, rather than Hari-Seldon-grade psychohistorical geniuses." Ribbonfarm.
May 5, 2020
This post is wildly rambly and lacks a clear thesis and is basically unreadable, but in the core of it is an important point that I can get you to much more quickly: decisions about letting societies open up or not are political decisions and not scientific ones. Scientists can estimate risks and economists can estimate costs and talk about ways to balance them out and model out how those change the longer we wait, but in the end it comes down to the state to decide, however that state works. Said more succinctly, it is a political decision. And this is fair. There is a cost benefit analysis. Anyone who says "one life lost is too many" should get out there and start rallying against highways as soon as this is over (I mean, I would probably join you), because 35,000 people die on roads every year so obviously we have not decided that one life is too many.
Metanomad: not really specifically about coronavirus but relevant to the discourse. In short a reminder that in a lot of conversations there's some abstraction often used to signify something that may or may not stand up to scrutiny. I actually don't think such signfiers are used as much in real journalism as this guy says tho maybe when journalists talk. Still, its' worth keeping in mind.
OvB: Also a good post on the discourse. Basically argues that a focused message does better than an unfocused one. Folks are misreading it (as usual) looking for what he's advocating when in fact he's simply making a useful observation that everyone should bear in mind whatever side you are on.
May 4, 2020
Obviously I don't really follow this but it's a sign that our method of detecting antibodies right now is not great.
Michelle Houlebecq complained that this disease isn't even sexually transmitted (I mean, obviously, dude that wouldn't reach people nearly as quickly), but also maybe it kind of is.
Balaji lists out countries with coronavirus cases way down. They seem mostly like very small countries except Australia.
May 3, 2020
There's been an under discussed narrative that's percolating more in the blogs and podcasts: whether or not the U.S. government is doing a good enough job giving people real information or if it is being parochial about it. Arnold Kling brainstorms up a good list of questions he thinks the Center for Disease Control should be exploring in an ongoing way and sharing out its findings.
Mike Pompeo goes on ABC to say there's strong evidence the virus originated in a lab. Two things here: 1) we need to know if the virus wasn't natural in origin for a lot of reasons, not least of which the fact any lab that created it would have a lot of data about it but 2) this is not a trustworthy administration. Still just because it often lies doesn't mean it always lies. This is a tough one. But we do need to know and the pundit class needs to remove their political lens from evaluating this data. And just to return to point 1: if the virus did come from a lab that's something everyone in the world doing genetic research needs to understand.
"We should all be preppers," in The Atlantic.
Ex-CDC guy writes about how once upon a time people believed the government existed to promote the general welfare and then makes a lot of points about a lot of things.
May 2, 2020
A 73-year old professor of structural biology who likes to watch numbers closely argues that COVID-19 seems to have a natural topping out point no matter what anyone does, and it never really goes exponential.
We are always fighting the last war. I mean we probably should in this case, but also we are.
Survey of nervousness about contact tracing.
May 1, 2020
Scott Alexander says he can't figure out why vaccine challenge trials aren't an ethical no-brainer.
London Review of Books notices that there are two tiny plague doctors on the original cover of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, so... famous philosopher and a plague essay: I guess that means it belongs on here?
April 29, 2020
Possibility I hadn't considered: excess deaths being seen now could be heavily time shifted. That is, they could be deaths that were going to occur soon just not quite yet.
MargRev: Tyler Cowen is pushing harder on human challenge trials.
April 28, 2020
Yglesias writes in Vox about how centralized isolation is almost unthinkable in the west. Is it though? No one has even floated it, I think just because they can't fathom the scale. Everyone we isolated would make a big difference though. It would be nice if someone tried.
People I like and respect and no in real life are going out of their way to make fun of hydroxychrloroquine use and the interest in it from the Trump adminsitration. I have always had a hard time being interested in anything about drugs, so this has been a thread that's been tough for me to follow. But then I see this. Have specific treatments really become partisan? How weird is that?
Wisconsin primary election did not turn into a disaster for voters' health which is encouraging.
April 27, 2020
Has anyone on earth not seen the news about the Oxford vaccine candidate? Anyway, here it is.
I have been waiting for this post. Matthew Yglesias of Vox pushes hard for human challenge trials (and redundant factories).
Sonya writes about how it sucks the West was poorly prepared for this pandemic but how it would also suck if we adequately prepared for every possible tail risk, at least structurally.
Arnold Kling calls the bailout culture right now "looting." This is not a fashionable take now but I am pretty worried about what happens to the dollar eventually.
April 26, 2020
Matt Stoller's newsletter BIG is a great way to stay informed on the machinations of the monied class but unless you're of that class I'm not sure it will make you feel better. My entire adult life I've been watching this country sell itself out and I don't really know what the upside is. I don't know if this was Stoller's point in writing this letter, but it definitely made me feel like that's just what we are really about. I listed to Tyler Cowen on Russ Roberts podcast yesterday (though it came out in mid-March), and Cowen said he believed COVID-19 would decimate the politics of people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I was hoping maybe Stoller would offer a counter-point to that, but I don't think he really did.
Kling. Computer models are not a way to really know things.
MargRev: Tabarrok links the declining share of the federal budget on research and innovation to Marc Andreessen's thesis about our failure to build (April 18).
Drs. Bret Weinstein and Heather Heyring discuss a lot of issues around COVID-19. The big one that interested me: this topic of whether or not the virus came from a lab somewhere (specifically China). I don't really understand why the media is resisting the possibility of this so much (at least it seems that way to me).
April 25, 2020
Someone asked me the other day whether I gave any credence to the discussion about the union breaking up. I don't really, but more and more I see where that line of thinking is coming from.
Too much financial intermediation, too much moral hazard.
April 24, 2020
OvB: Proposition that if people could be held liable for infecting others then we wouldn't need crude lockdowns to prevent the spread.
MargRev: Quit smelling yourself.
MargRev: Where we are at now II.
What if test and trace is evading the tough question of actually isolating people?
April 23, 2020
Is Bali weird? From MargRev.
This Washington Post story about a polypropylene factory full of workers living and working there for roughly a month is the craziest thing. Workers are heroes.
Brookings argues the government should start coming up with useful tasks that can be done from people's homes and paying unemployed homebodies to do them. MargRev linked this and mentioned that a lot of contact tracing work could be done from home (interviewing people and then interviewing people they have seen).
[Posting this on the day the page says it was last updated but it will probably change by the time you see it] Iceland is just better.
I could not possibly agree more.
April 22, 2020
MargRev: Spit works for testing.
Germany stands out for taking seriously the broad view of experts in the humanities in this crisis, rather than the rest of the West's continued worship of science.
A giant bibliography for pandemics.
April 21, 2020
VICE: We won't remember very much of this weird time later on. I don't even know what I remember about it now.
One analysis suggests that something like 40% of people infected with coronavirus are asymptomatic. That is crazy crazy crazy.
8 ways morality could dramatically shift in the COVID-19 era.
April 20, 2020
Roadmap for pandemic response by Harvard. RadEx is in the mix.
Vox's Matthey Yglesias is getting into the idea of challenge trials.
People love a narrative.
ShtOpt: Post calling on people sitting at home to get involved in increasing societal capacity to deal with the crisis. Self-organizing the resistance to the threat.
OvB: Robin Hanson proposes allowing people to sue people who infected them with a virus. As if this isn't insane enough, he also wants to make it harder for people not to create records that might incriminate them later. This guy is honestly doing his best to be the most dislikeable economist in the world.
NYT: Does the Singapore spike indicate anything for the U.S.? This feels like East Coast media bias to me, to be honest. I don't really think they are comparable. But... I mean, we will undoubtedly have a second spike. I just don't know what the Singapore case indicates for this extremely different place.
MargRev: Some guy at Google thinks all the math about infection rates out there has either bad data or bad math or both.
Farah Abdessamad reflecting on Heidegger and his reflections on how humans reflect:
"Through unsettling experiences, we acknowledge our being. Anxiety is not problematic per se but paves the way towards freedom. Why? Once we understand Dasein and chiefly its finitude, we can accept our being-towards-death and direct our Dasein and being-with-the-world."
Arnold Kling: Lockdown socialism. Fine but soak landlords. Okay honestly I was thinking about this... as much as we all like the idea of soaking landlords, it would just mean that the very worst landlords with the deepest pockets would consolidate. Everything is terrible.
April 19, 2020
MargRev: This economists v epidemiologists thing continues. If you care. I do sort of appreciate the economists rebelling against the cult of specialization here, tho it's also a bit ironic. Might just be an academic pissing contest breaking out in public.
ShtetlOpt: Admits the crisis has changed his calculation of what he should consider as tinfoil hat stuff.
Aceso: Blogger looks at data from past recessions to see "what happens."
New York City's problems was cars, not the subway. "This study suggests that far more attention should be paid to the dangers of spreading coronavirus by car. In New York City, immediately increasing the tolls on the city’s bridges and tunnels would discourage people from coming in and out of the city, spreading the virus as they go."
The inflection point of an exponentially growing phenomenon can never be predicted in advance, sorry (it feels like it should be foreseeable, I know).
Arnold Kling: If no one had a choice about exposure to this disease, everyone would choose a mild case sooner.
April 18, 2020
a16z: Andreessen's essay will be what folks are talking about in my world. In short: build more. Not a bad tweet-length rejoinder tho. And this tweet is more of an orthogonal critique.
Eudamonia: a tribute to feminist economics in the time of the crisis.
So I actually thought when I started this someone might actually find it useful but I'm pretty sure no one looks at it but me. That's fine tho. I guess I just have some trepidation about posting Coronachan. I usually don't do this but I'm going to note here that I discovered this post on May 28. It is insane. It basically wishes for maximum death. Which is insane. And yet it is carefully argued and it is a perspective that I suspect is out there in more hearts than would ever admit it. So. I am logging it. Merely logging it. Don't freak out.
April 17, 2020
MargRev: The IHME model for projecting deaths looks bad. Cowen critiques the degree of outcry.
Stories like this are so depressing. Basically: maybe has COVID. Very unclear how.
April 16, 2020
MargRev: Beating the drum that the regulatory state is failing the US, here's an example about why restaurant food can't be sent to grocery stores right now, there really probably should be some kind of off switch for certain regs when everything is weird.
A meditation on sticking around in New York City. Probably doesn't probably belong on here really but this is my site what are you going to do?
Cody Wilson (the 3D printed gun guy) writes that the US has been so stable and safe so long that it's vastly too easy to send it into a state of terror. Also weirdly he defends his guns in this. It's always about his guns. Anyway, this line was good: "Security is, intuitively, the best medium for terror."
Anonymous paper examining the case that COVID-19 emerged from a lab in Wuhan China.
Curtis Yarvin appeared on the first ep of Kantbot's podcast, Pseudodoxology, to talk about his epic post about a "tribune" to fix the American COVID-19 crisis. Two things about this: 1) hints are revealed of what the evomotional basis of this argument was for Modbug. 2) Kantbot tries to challenge him on the idea of culture, but the idea never really gets super spelled out because Yarvin keeps interrupting. They don't communicate super well but still you do sort of get hints of Kantbot's concern and a larger illuminating concern about America. Is he right that we lack a real culture or is it a case of not being able to see the nose on our faces?
April 15, 2020
Very deep dive into Vaccine prospects on the Science blog.
A research note from JP Morgan effectively suggests exposing younger and healthier people (that is, not young people with other issues) but not directly or intentionally. Basically, it contends that we should open up the economy to people who seem to have the least danger, because that would effectively allow protection to grow. The last paragraph reads:
"If restrictions were eased on all individuals aged below 60, and without any relevant co-morbidities, and if those above 60, and those with relevant co-morbidities, continued with the limits on free movement that are currently in place, then the public authorities can limit pressure on healthcare systemsand deaths while allowing significant parts of the economy and social systemto quickly return to something closer to normality. Importantly, age- and morbidity-related restrictions would allow a rapid return of economic activity and a rapid buildup of herd immunity among the young.This may ulti-mately protect the old, and those with morbidities, more quickly than the arrival of a vaccine. This strikes us as a pretty good second-best policy in the absence of an ability to test widely.It is not perfect, but it may be the least bad outcome."
MargRev: Realistic thinking about ongoing social distancing measures going into the two or three year time horizon suggest that the impact on demand and the economy could be much deeper than previously expected once you start thinking through implications until a vaccine.
Self-collected spitting and fluid stuff could work pretty well for at home testing.
PlanetMoney: A very necessary podcast dealing with the real question of the cost to the economy vs. the price of saving lives. I think this one gets it right but the first step is for people to get real about the fact that lives are definitely not "priceless." (they call it "the dismal science" for a reason but this is why we need them)
April 14, 2020
Ribbonfarm on liminality, the state in between phase changes.
"Liminality, like guano, is neither ugly, nor beautiful. It is pre-aesthetic. If you bring a comforting pre-formed aesthetic to the challenge of experiencing it, I think you will fail in every way that matters."
"We may all be going to hell, but the road there will be paved with many helpful infographics telling us exactly how we ended up on the road."
"I suspect the average Pandemic PowerPoint will be better than the average Pandemic Poem, but the best Pandemic Poem will be better than the best Pandemic PowerPoint. " — This could be the first really good post I have read on how to be in this crisis/historical moment.
SSC: Alexander addresses how hard prediction is generally but seems to say that journalists overindexed for trusting experts without interrogating them about their confidence. I do think this assumes they would have answered the question, which they wouldn't. It also fails to acknowledge that people FREAK OUT about all kinds of things that they shouldn't and journalists are very much in the business of telling people to calm down and they tend to be right most of the time. It puts them in a tough position. As a journalist it's pretty hard for to sort out how to operationalize the lessons here. We'll probably do better on diseases later but as Naval Ravikant said at t Human Rights Foundation online conference yesterday: we are always fighting the last war.
OvB: Exhibit B - The real partisan split in this crisis is between economists and epidemiologists. (Exhibit A was on MargRev).
McSweeney's actually did the mic drop on COVID-19 philosophy.
April 13, 2020
MargRev: If people have trepidations about other people until there is a vaccine, repercussions for the economy will persist.
April 12, 2020
OvB: An estimate of risks of different activity based on responses to Twitter polls. So... I guess this is helpful at telling us what geeky people are afraid of. Does it tell us much more than that though?
OvB: Variolation showing up in other media outlets, including instant dismissal by the New Yorker.
April 11, 2020
The part I don't quite get in this Haque essay is what he means when loans to the government become money credited to bank back accounts. That doesn't make sense to me.
April 10, 2020
Tyler Cowen writes down where he thinks we are in the crisis and it sounds correct.
Klein at Vox goes through all the coronavirus plans by the big think tanks and they give him chills.
Haque does his post from April 3 again, but more shrill. He argues that economies go into chaos at 25% employment and slip into autocracy at 40%. I sort of think America is too fundamentally strong to get there but I could be wrong. I mean he is articulating the worst case scenario and someone needs to.
April 9, 2020
Matt Stoller explains why funds are not reaching regular people from the bailout and why they will do less good than they should by the time they do.
Vox writes about challenge trials in their newsletter for effective altruists, Future Perfect.
April 8, 2020
Robin Hanson composed a variolation test design because he will never drop this.
Draft paper designing a scheme for massively scaling up checking tests for COVID-19.
PlanetMoney: There's a lot of bad landlords out there and all of us renters are tempted to vilify landlords en masse, but this story illuminates the fact that the smaller landlords tend to not be so bad. Which has left me thinking: what's going to happen if little landlords get rekt? The real assholes will probably by them up.
A long essay on science, medicine and raising qusestions about whether or not the health system and medicine in general has become more harmful than beneficial, not just in quotidian terms but in ontological terms, in changing the way we conceptualize our existence, not as people but members of a population and a collection of probabilities. The notion of self-algorithmization is blowing my mind. I found this on May 10, and it fairly well reflects how I see this on May 10. I don't think I was there at all on April 8.
April 7, 2020
When events make craziness sane. Scott Aaronson articulates a number of things that we are told are fixed and unchangeable that don't seem to be fixed and unchangeable to him and it is making him profoundly agitated. Same.
JD Vance, a conservative, takes to Twitter to take down other conservatives' dismissal of coronavirus.
April 6, 2020
OvB: Hanson responded to Cowen immediately.
MargRev: Tyler Cowen says fuck that to variolation, almost entirely for practical, structural reasons.
VGR raises a cunning line from the Queen: "I hope everyone can take pride in what they did during this time."
Some economists try to figure out how much consumption people will be willing to give up to avoid deaths. They estimate 26% on average.
April 5, 2020
MargRev. Oh man when Marginal Revolution blogs about an idea the normie reporters are gonna see it. Alex Tabarrok does variolation.
April 4, 2020
Spain says on La Sexta that it intends to implement a Universal Basic Income ASAP. They want to make it permanent too.
Moldbug on Medium. Oh God. So long. He's gonna argue for monarchy or something right? He starts off making a very strong point though that our nation can't be as aggressive as it needs to be, even on a plan that's too weak. I have thought of this too. Imagine us actually organizing for house-to-house testing. Are you kidding? Then on some of the better plans he write: "Since they are not political scientists, they seem unaware that they live in the most safety-conscious, risk-averse country on earth or in history." Oh here it is: "The strongest possible response will come from a new agency, built as a startup. This Coronavirus Authority will scale up faster than any existing organization can execute. It will use the old agencies only where it finds them useful. And it will dissolve itself once the virus is beaten." Gonna have to use this one: "One pathology of libertarian thinkers is their tendency to equate power with its abuses. We are coming out of a century of spectacularly bad and abusive government. The existence of child abuse is not a refutation of parenting." OK I will say this for Modbug, he deals with the real question: "Ethicists, of course, will tell you that no one could give informed consent to this kind of dangerous Nazi-tier 'experiment.' Surely the camps are just around the corner." Yeah he wants a temportary dictator. I guess it's a thing Rome did. Woah.
Twitter thread on why the temporary reductions in CO2 won't actually matter in the long term for the climate.
April 3, 2020
Bill Gates articulates when it makes sense to waste a few billion dollars, from MargRev. It's tough to think this way, but the point is that distributing vaccines to take time and it's better to build wrong manufacturing processes now to have the right one (you don't know which it is) ready to roll sooner.
Decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen, margRev.
Holy moley, Nic Carter. Does an amazing job brining aspects of the right and the left together in one cogent argument that rises above both.
Haque on the fact that America is not doing enough and that it's going to throw us back years and years economics-wise. I'm not sure I really believe that. But maybe! I certainly believe we aren't doing enough. Is is economic suicide? That feels like a bit much. But I could be wrong. The post does not feel truthy tho.
April 2, 2020
Robin Hanson argues for variolation by saying that getting below 1 for R0 won't be enough but it goes into statistics gobbledygook and I don't follow it. He still wants to gas the youths.
Thread on Cellex immunity test linked by MargRev
A blog post marking the tipping point on masks, I think.
April 1, 2020
Scott Alexander reviews The Precipice, a book by Tony Ord, that anticipates existential risks, things like pandemics. Ooph. Bad time to come out. One critique he has is that people look at it and doesn't seem so bad but really it is quite bad, much more likely than, for example, the banking crisis.
The Zvi: Didn't even read close to all of this. Very long meditation on viral load linked by Hanson.
March 31, 2020
SSC: There's only one study on cloth masks and its against them but also it was weak and maybe didn't look at all the right things. I believe more and more in the "makes sense when you think about it" heuristic
Charles Seisenstein: No clue who this is but @jack tweeted this out. It's a long post arguing that the coronavirus can show us all how to live again. Which is a nice point. It's completely mental but he is making a lot of nice points. We are vastly too risk averse. OK man but also you are quite insane. On a lot of levels I think this is the opposite of the Moldbug/Curtis Yarvin post above.
Timeline up to this moment posted in ShtOpt comment.
March 30, 2020
OvB: Hanson puts down his big piece on intentional exposure into an essay on "variolation." He links to a number of other posts linked below but I'll add those links here from the quote where he does it. "(As others have been also been suggesting.)" [a few of them are in other languages and I am ignoring those.]
Also, a paper came out from an epidemiologist and a bioethicist on challenge trials (not variolation, but close).
Shtetl Optimized: Good God it's almost like I wrote this post. He talks about an event on Feb 4.
The New Yorker on pandemics as a historical force.
March 29, 2020
Melissa Chen says that ideology is a problem in the COVID era. +1.
March 27, 2020
Real Clear Politics surveys the way various large institutions downplayed the threat, until they didn't. A lot of good (bad) moments captured here but it falls prey to the silly notion that "the media" is one thing. This passage is especially representative of that fallacy: "On Feb. 7, The Daily Beast was saying, 'Coronavirus, with zero American fatalities, is dominating headlines, while the flu is the real threat.' As late as March 4, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was telling viewers, 'So if you’re freaked out at all about the coronavirus, you should be more concerned about the flu.' (The media has come full circle on the comparisons to the seasonal flu – on Tuesday the Washington Post was fretting, 'Trump again downplays coronavirus by comparing it to the seasonal flu.' Media, heal thyself!)" Three different publications! There's no contradiction when the Washington Post says something different than the Daily Beast or CNN!
March 26, 2020
Bioethicist argues for a human challenge trial to speed up getting vaccines to market, in Nature.
March 25, 2020
Federalist. Cited by Hanson. Constructs it as "controlled voluntary infection." Compares it to so called "chickenpox parties." One of the only posts I've seen to deal seriously with the social conversation around such a proposal, and only briefly:
Does a society like ours allow people the freedom to participate in CVI programs? How do we deal with potential liability issues? Will we allow parents to make these sorts of infection decisions for both themselves and their children? Are there people who should not be allowed to participate because of age or pre-existing conditions?
If people are willing to risk deliberate infection for the sake of themselves and the greater good, should the government, and therefore taxpayers, cover any medical and hospitalization costs they may incur in the process? It is quite possible the answers to such questions might differ in various countries or even parts of a given country. Fortunately the CVI approach is amenable to implementation on any level, from communities to cities, regions, or an entire nation.
March 24, 2020
Variolation. Some psychiatrist. Calls them "COVID Hotels" and argues that the risk is vastly less than volunteering to go to war.
Zeynep Tufcecki writes in the Atlantic that COVID-19 was not a black swan but a grey rhino. She explains that even if COVID-19 were "just the flu" it still would have been very bad from a systemic standpoint without preparation, because if the flu is bad and you have another flu that alone could overwhelm the system. But of course it was worse than that.
March 23, 2020
Slate Star Codex weighs in on the surgical mask thing and basically says they probably make sense in higher risk settings but also not if people act riskier. He also links to a good blog post that explains why doctors are such a pain in the ass right now.
March 22, 2020
EandCo guy, Umair Haque, on everyone starting to wrap their heads around existential risk and too big institutions. He basically argues that this was the week everyone learned that everything could go south. It's a good post, if a painful one. Who is this guy?
This is not capitalism. On the bailout and money. This is a sort of defense of capitalism that puts a lot of left and right ideas together in my mind. Incentives not to shit on workers and the environment but also to keep making new and useful and creative stuff. "This is your brain on central banking, regulatory capture, and financialization. This is not capitalism."
March 21, 2020
People are being very pragmatic out there. I just read this post on LessWrong about people discussing what they should do if they get sick and how to tell if they should go to the hospital or not.
John Michael Greer on the Hermitix podcast, fitting coronavirus into his broader view about collapse. He projects that this will all be over soon. That is not correct in the end.
March 20, 2020
Glen Weyl and Jaron Lanier write about why Taiwan's community organization and more decentralized technology sector helped organize maybe the best pandemic response.
March 19, 2020
Robin Hanson digs into the feasibility of genuinely squashing the virus, as the popular Medium post suggested. "Western government agencies and expert communities so far have had a bad record dealing with Covid-19. At first they criticized China’s strong measures and focused on signaling political correctness." Addendum: "Note that the many responses defending suppression talk about how many lives could be saved, and how they can imagine a plan that would work, but none address the issue of how competent is our government to implement such plans. Amazing how easily people slip from “it could be done” to “my government could do this." He is hell bent on just attacking the governments and convincing people to do intentional, controlled exposure.
EconTalk podcast: Russ Roberts and Tyler Cowen look down the road on COVID-19. Includes this moment I and no one foresaw:
Tyler Cowen: I think there will be a huge wave of promiscuous sex once there's the first break in the virus, for instance.
Russ Roberts: There goes my G-rating on EconTalk.
Tyler Cowen: I'm sorry.
March 14, 2020
Robin Hanson wrote a post called "Expose the Young." Goddammit. He edited it "substantially" yesterday and my PC accidentally switched off it and when I switched back it is all different. Argh, I hate that. I don't really know what this post says to be honest. The math becomes pretty impenetrable and the graphs are poorly labeled.
Tyler Cowen calls the British approach of saying, "Aw fuck it" bold. Twitter thread explaining it. I just don't get how anyone can justify this. There's just not enough capacity in hospitals.
March 12, 2020
What game is Boris Johnson playing? Does he have this idea that they can let a bunch of people die but keep the economy going and become the great British Empire again once they hit herd immunity earlier? And build something like Autarky. Dreams of Autarky.
Some guy who runs a site called EandCo and is very popular but I have never heard of skewers the shit out of what Boris Johnson is doing. He does not like it. I need to read more by that guy. I think he might be a philosophical type.
ShtOpt: A guest essay that closes with Ecclesiastes. A literary plea to take this seriously.
Japan's testing strategy was more about epidemiology than medicine (because there is no cure anyway).
March 11, 2020
WHO declares a pandemic.
Greta Thunberg asks climate protesters to move their protests online because of the novel coronavirus.
March 10, 2020
Thinking through the costs and benefits of hiding away in order to prevent getting COVID-19.
March 9, 2020
TFW: Humanity has lost the plot. Ribbonfarm.
February 29, 2020
AcesoUnderGlass. Pragmatic stuff about avoiding infection risk in the home and the particular peskiness of coronaviruses. Copper tape?
February 27, 2020
Probaway: this post was linked by Hanson later. It goes in a fresh direction and argues that by creating variolation hotels scientists could effectively direct the evolution of the virus to a weaker form. That feels like a bold claim but maybe.
February 17, 2020
Hanson doubles down on his controlled infection proposal, but also has a weak riposte at the end: "(Btw, as such an option isn’t now available, and I don’t work in critical infrastructure, it wouldn’t help society much for me to just “go infect yourself”, as many have suggested in so many colorful ways. And as I don’t own my family, I can’t volunteer them.)"
February 14, 2020
Robin Hanson articulates the controlled exposure idea.
He has been hurt by the way the public respoinded to the idea of controlled exposure.