The box most bioethicists are in is so small their thinking can’t extend beyond a few target people. In this case, the control group in a vaccine trial.
The subjects could be paid for the risk, which is what we do for jobs all the time. Those risk/reward amounts for risky jobs are used to make estimates for the value of human life. Life insurance would allow high-risk people (us geezers) to join the trials.
Their box doesn’t even consider human challenge trials (HCT) that give you very rapid and accurate data on efficacy even with pay and insurance to cover the risk. The lives saved by a month faster approval is in the 10’s of thousands more than offsetting and risk to a few people. Tracking the first million doses for side effects would provide the side effect data that is usually within days of injection.
Outside their mental box, 1000 people per day are dying for each day they study the issue and delay a decision, but those lives are not included in their thinking and analysis.
That is from Dallas. I would stress there are higher costs yet from delay, noting the hundreds of millions of people in developing nations who are falling back into poverty while the pandemic continues to rage. Some of them are dying too.
I’ve tried it a few times, and I think it will become “a thing.” You can read about it here, though it is time someone did a more current article. It is the best forum invented to date for mid-size, friendly, intellectual chats. Broadly speaking imagine a Zoom call, with competing topic-named rooms, the video turned off, and better queuing and calling upon people procedures. It doesn’t seem to induce fatigue the way Zoom calls do. The software has a fluidity and ease of use that I hardly ever see, as usually I hate new apps that people tell me to try.
I don’t know that it will ever be “my thing,” mostly because I can read so quickly, which raises my opportunity cost of consumption. (Though you can read with it on in the background — is it ever the case that no one in the audience is listening? Would that even matter?) In any case, I suspect it will take some real mind-share away from Twitter and Facebook, and now is the time for you to start learning about it.
So far it is invite-only, though I assume it will be opening up more broadly. Furthermore, an invitation is not so difficult to get. Arguably there is a problem with who gets invited or deplatformed, though so far this seems to bother the (non-participating) people on Twitter more than it disturbs anyone performing on Clubhouse itself.
It is much more Tiebout-like than Zoom, so someday this also may be an incredible data source on what leads to useful conversations, which are the best governance rules, and so on.
The accelerated economic growth also accelerated our path along the inverted-U shape of risk. Faster growth means people are richer sooner, so they value life more sooner, so society shifts resources to safety sooner—and ultimately we will begin the decline in risk sooner. As a result, the overall probability of an existential catastrophe—the area under the risk curve—declines!
…The model also suggests a broader insight. Making people richer doesn’t improve their well-being, but it can also change what they value. In this case, people value life more as they grow richer, and valuing life more leads them to care more about reducing existential risk.
That is from a very useful essay by Leopold Aschenbrenner. It is from the newly appeared second issue of Works in Progress, an excellent on-line journal. And here is Samuel Hughes defending pastiche.
“If quantum computing actually materializes, in the sense that it’s a large scale, reliable computing option for us, then we’re going to enter a completely different era of simulation,” Davoudi says. “I am starting to think about how to perform my simulations of strong interaction physics and atomic nuclei if I had a quantum computer that was viable.”
All of these factors have led Davoudi to speculate about the simulation hypothesis. If our reality is a simulation, then the simulator is likely also discretizing spacetime to save on computing resources (assuming, of course, that it is using the same mechanisms as our physicists for that simulation). Signatures of such discrete spacetime could potentially be seen in the directions high-energy cosmic rays arrive from: they would have a preferred direction in the sky because of the breaking of so-called rotational symmetry.
Telescopes “haven’t observed any deviation from that rotational invariance yet,” Davoudi says. And even if such an effect were to be seen, it would not constitute unequivocal evidence that we live in a simulation. Base reality itself could have similar properties.
Here is further discussion from Anil Anathaswamy. Via Robert Nelsen. As you may already know, my view is that there is no proper external perspective, and the concept of “living in a simulation” is not obviously distinct from living in a universe that follows some kind of laws, whether natural or even theological. The universe is simultaneously the simulation and the simulator itself! Anything “outside the universe doing the simulating” is then itself “the (mega-)universe that is simultaneously the simulation and the simulator itself.” etc.
Here is my 2x normal length Bloomberg column on that topic, as had been requested by Daniel Klein. The argument has numerous twists and turns, do read the whole thing but here is one bit (I will indent only their words):
“Here are the key words of the Great Barrington Declaration on herd immunity:
The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
What exactly does the word “allow” mean in this context? Again the passivity is evident, as if humans should just line up in the proper order of virus exposure and submit to nature’s will. How about instead we channel our inner Ayn Rand and stress the role of human agency? Something like: “Herd immunity will come from a combination of exposure to the virus through natural infection and the widespread use of vaccines. Here are some ways to maximize the role of vaccines in that process.”
And the close:
“In most parts of the Western world, normal openings for restaurants, sporting events and workplaces are likely to lead to spiraling caseloads and overloaded hospitals, as is already a risk in some of the harder-hit parts of Europe. Reopenings, to the extent they work, rely on a government that so scares people that attendance remains low even with reopening.
In that sense, as things stand, there is no “normal” to be found. An attempt to pursue it would most likely lead to panic over the numbers of cases and hospitalizations, and would almost certainly make a second lockdown more likely. There is no ideal of liberty at the end of the tunnel here.
Don’t get me wrong: The Great Barrington strategy is a tempting one. Coming out of a libertarian think tank, it tries to procure maximum liberty for commerce and daily life. It is a seductive idea. Yet consistency of message is not an unalloyed good, even when the subject is liberty…
My worldview is both more hopeful and more tragic. There is no normal here, but we can do better — with vigorous actions to combat Covid-19, including government actions. The conception of human nature evident in the Great Barrington Declaration is so passive, it raises the question of whether it even qualifies as a defense of natural liberty.”
MR Tyler again: You will note I do not make the emotional, question-begging argument that herd immunity strategies will kill millions (though I do think more people die under that scenario). If you argue, as many herd immunity critics do, that the elderly cannot be isolated, it seems you also should not be entirely confident that the currently non-infected can be isolated. The brutal truth is simply that a Great Barrington strategy put into practice would lead to rapidly spiraling cases and a rather quick and oppressive second lockdown, worse than what the status quo or some improved version of it is likely to bring. Total deaths are likely higher, along with more social trauma, due to the more extreme whipsaw effects, but no not by millions.
Let’s accelerate those biomedicals, people!
…a new magazine, media project, and intellectual community called American Purpose is launching at www.americanpurpose.com, and can also be found on Twitter at @americanpurpose.
American Purpose, through digital publishing, conversation and convening, and podcasts, will offer a spirited examination of politics and culture. Our aim is to support the revitalization of liberal democracy at home, while addressing the authoritarian challenges to liberal democracy abroad. And we will offer lively and engrossing discussion of history and biography, arts and culture, science and technology.
“American Purpose is committed to building an intellectual community and a space for much-needed dialogue about the United States’ role as the vanguard of classically liberal ideas and institutions around the world,” said Francis Fukuyama, chairman of the American Purpose editorial board.
1. No one is really a polymath.
2. No one is really a unimath, for that matter.
3. Many supposed polymaths apply a relatively small number of learning techniques to many fields. They remain specialized, although their modes of specialization happen not to line up with how the academic disciplines are divided. Say you apply non-parametric statistics to five different fields — do you have one specialization or five?
4. What to make of the economist who can run experiments, use computational methods, build models, run regressions, find new data sources, has mastered machine learning, can speak fluently about macroeconomics, and popularize for a lay audience. Is there any such person? (No.) Would he or she count as a polymath?
6. One of my views in talent search is that extremely talented people are almost always extraordinarily good at one or more entirely trivial tasks. “I can tell exactly how much people weigh just by looking at them.” That sort of thing. What is your claim in this regard? Polymaths also must encompass the trivial!
7. How many “polymaths” are great at say only seven very trivial tasks, and fail to excel at anything important. Should the polymath concept be held hostage to Jeremy Bentham?
8. Is Leibniz — amazing philosopher, an inventor of the calculus, mastery of languages, theologian, diplomacy, legal reform, inventor, political theorist, and supposed expert on China — the most amazing polymath of all time?
9. Leonardo seems a little thin in actual achievement (though not imagination) once you get past the visual arts. And there are fewer than fifteen paintings to his name.
10. I think of the 17th century as a peak time for polymaths. Enough chances to learn and create things, and read lots, but not so much knowledge that you could stand on only one frontier.
11. John Stuart Mill is the most impressive polymath economist.
12. Alan Turing contributed to virtually every field, but in some sense he did only one thing. Von Neumann did more than one thing, did he do two? He too contributed to virtually every field.
13. I am very much a fan of Susan Sontag, but I think of her as having done, in essence, “only one thing.”
14. Here is a good piece Beware the Casual Polymath.
I am very happy to recommend this book, especially to MR readers, the full title is The Polymath: A Cultural History from Leonardo da Vinci to Susan Sontag, by Peter Burke.
At the age of 86, he was one of Britain’s great liberals. He wrote columns for the FT for almost fifty years, defended capitalism, and also was an early advocate of an ngdp approach. From the FT:
Brittan had a wonderful, restless intelligence which made him an ideal, if demanding, companion…Peter Jay wrote that when he was economics editor of The Times, he was “haunted by the spectre . . . of Brittan endlessly at work, morning, noon and night, reading, reading, reading, while I tried ineffectually to reconcile the demands of work and family life”.
His Capitalism and the Permissive Society is now but a shell of a listing on Amazon, but I can recall Roy Childs excitedly telling me about the book. Back then, it seemed like the way forward for liberalism, a way to develop a truly emancipatory vision of free market capitalism. Now all that seems so long ago.
Here is Sam’s Wikipedia page, note the badly “off” and misrepresentative second sentence: “He was a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a non-profit organisation “restoring balance and trust to the climate debate” that has been characterised as promoting climate change denial.”
Here was Sam in the 2009 Spectator:
I have no expertise on the subject of global warming; nor do I have a strong view about it. But I do know attempted thought control and hostility to free speech when I see it; and I find these unlovely phenomena present among all too many of the enthusiasts for climate action. Words such as ‘denial’ are intentionally brought into the debate and recall those who deny the reality of the Nazi Holocaust.
Hawtrey came from a family long associated with Eton, where he was educated himself, before coming up to Trinity in 1898. In 1901 he was 19th Wrangler; in 1903 he briefly entered the Admiralty, before going to the Treasury, where he found his vocation as an economist and remained for forty-one years. He was a very faithful Apostle, attending every annual dinner until 1954, when he was prevented from going by ill health. He was devoted to Moore, whose impassioned singing of Die Beiden Grenadiere made him realize how horrible war was for the soldiers who actually did the fighting: this constituted an epiphany for Hawtrey, and reinforced his life-long Liberalism. Moore was so much the most important influence on the life and career of Sir Ralph Hawtrey that he spent his last years working on a systematic philosophical treatise (inspired also by Robin Mayor), which was to have been a summa of his twenty-odd books and the hundreds of letters he published in The Times. He was married to the famous pianist Titi d’Aranyi.
That is from Paul Levy’s book Moore: G.E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles. Here is more on Titi, also known as Hortense, who studied with Bartok and received numerous letters from him. And here is Scott Sumner on Hawtrey, one of the great monetary economists.
I do not feel qualified to have an opinion here, but this piece, by Benjamin Y. Hayden and Yael Niv, seems of some interest:
Much of traditional neuroeconomics proceeds from the hypothesis that value is reified in the brain, that is, that there are neurons or brain regions whose responses serve the discrete purpose of encoding value. This hypothesis is supported by the finding that the activity of many neurons and brain regions covaries with subjective value as estimated in specific tasks. Here we consider an alternative: that value is not represented in the brain. This idea is motivated by close consideration of the economic concept of value, which places important epistemic constraints on our ability to identify its neural basis. It is also motivated by the behavioral economics literature, especially work on heuristics. Finally, it is buoyed by recent neural and behavioral findings regarding how animals and humans learn to choose between options. In light of our hypothesis, we critically reevaluate putative neural evidence for the representation of value, and explore an alternative: that brains directly learn action policies. We delineate how this alternative can provide a robust account of behavior that concords with existing empirical data.
Via Benjamin Lyons.
For me one of the most fun episodes, here is the audio, video, and transcript. And here is the longer than ever before summary, befitting the chat itself:
Audrey Tang began reading classical works like the Shūjīng and Tao Te Ching at the age of 5 and learned the programming language Perl at the age of 12. Now, the autodidact and self-described “conservative anarchist” is a software engineer and the first non-binary digital minister of Taiwan. Their work focuses on how social and digital technologies can foster empathy, democracy, and human progress.
Audrey joined Tyler to discuss how Taiwan approached regulating Chinese tech companies, the inherent extraterritoriality of data norms, how Finnegans Wake has influenced their approach to technology, the benefits of radical transparency in communication, why they appreciate the laziness of Perl, using “humor over rumor” to combat online disinformation, why Taiwan views democracy as a set of social technologies, how their politics have been influenced by Taiwan’s indigenous communities and their oral culture, what Chinese literature teaches about change, how they view Confucianism as a Daoist, how they would improve Taiwanese education, why they view mistakes in the American experiment as inevitable — but not insurmountable, the role of civic tech in Taiwan’s pandemic response, the most important remnants of Japanese influence remaining in Taiwan, why they love Magic: The Gathering, the transculturalism that makes Taiwan particularly open and accepting of LGBT lifestyles, growing up with parents who were journalists, how being transgender makes them more empathetic, the ways American values still underpin the internet, what he learned from previous Occupy movements, why translation, rotation, and scaling are important skills for becoming a better thinker, and more.
This bit could have come from GPT-3:
COWEN: How useful a way is it of conceptualizing your politics to think of it as a mix of some Taiwanese Aboriginal traditions mixed in with Daoism, experience in programming, and then your own theory of humor and fun? And if you put all of that together, the result is Audrey Tang’s politics. Correct or not?
TANG: Well as of now, of course. But of course, I’m also growing, like a distributed ledger.
COWEN: You’re working, of course, in Taiwanese government. What’s the biggest thing wrong with economists?
TANG: You mean the magazine?
COWEN: No, no, the people, economists as thinkers. What’s their biggest defect or flaw?
TANG: I don’t know. I haven’t met an economist that I didn’t like, so I don’t think there’s any particular personality flaws there.
COWEN: Now, my country, the United States, has made many, many mistakes at an almost metaphysical level. What is it in the United States that those mistakes have come from? What’s our deeper failing behind all those mistakes?
TANG: I don’t know. Isn’t America this grand experiment to keep making mistakes and correcting them in the open and share it with the world? That’s the American experiment.
COWEN: Have we started correcting them yet?
TANG: I’m sure that you have.
That is the title of my latest Bloomberg column. Here is one excerpt:
The larger question is how to know when this great stagnation is ending. Counterintuitively, the answer might be when people are most upset — because that’s generally how most humans react to change, even when it proves beneficial in the longer run. These feelings arise in part from the chaos and disruption brought about by some pretty significant changes.
People, here is the good news and the bad news: Change is upon us. We are entering a new era of crises — in politics and biomedicine, with climate and energy, and not incidentally, about how prudently we spend our time.
The regretful truth is that progress is never going to be easy. The great technological advances of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, remember, were followed by two world wars and the rise of totalitarianism. Innovations such as radio and the automobile improved countless lives but also broadcast Hitler speeches and led to destructive tanks.
I’m not predicting the same catastrophe for today. I’m only saying that when the discontent is palpable, as it is right now in America, keep in mind that true breakthroughs may already be underway.
The examples are in the longer text. Recommended!
The author is David Edmonds, and the subtitle is The Rise and Fall of the Vienna Circle. I very much enjoyed this book, and found its direct style refreshing, and I hope it will serve as a model for others. The author actually tells you what you want to know!
I enjoyed the small tidbits. I had not known that Frank Ramsey traveled to Vienna for psychoanalysis, because he was in love with a married woman his senior. Ramsey ended up drinking the Freudian Kool-Aid, and also in Vienna became acquainted with Wittgenstein’s sister Gretl.
I had forgotten that Quine was two years the senior of A.J. Ayer. He also spoke sarcastically of his forthcoming audience with Wittgenstein but sought it nonetheless. Quine learned German remarkably quickly in Vienna, and then was lecturing philosophy in it without much difficulty.
Karl Popper was first an apprentice cabinetmaker, then a social worker, and then a teacher before he became a professional philosopher. When he moved to New Zealand during the War, the university library in Otago had fewer books than his father’s library back home.
You can pre-order the book here.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
Now consider another of my favorite pastimes, watching professional basketball. I have been following the NBA bubble with great interest. The Miami Heat are now favored to reach the NBA Finals, even though they were only the fifth-ranked team in the East at the end of the regular season. What happened? They have played with grit and determination, and their entire active roster showed up in first-rate physical shape. That’s not easy to do after a five-month layoff, as it required tremendous discipline.
In contrast, the Los Angeles Clippers were among the favorites to win the NBA title. They were recently eliminated by the Denver Nuggets, a very good team but not previously a top contender. In the final quarter of the last game of the series, the victorious Nuggets played with energy and verve, while the Clippers seemed to be gasping for air. After their defeat, some of the Clippers admitted that inferior conditioning was part of their problem.
So “staying in shape during a five-month layoff” is now a critical skill for a basketball player. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the Clippers need to revamp their roster. Maybe they should just wait for a return to normal times.
Might these changes in quality affect your choices beyond work — such as your decisions about friends, family relations, romance, and much more? Should you buy a dog, knowing you probably won’t be homebound two years from now? How about dating? On a first date, presumably, looks should matter less and social carefulness more. But again, for how long? It would be very strange, and probably unwise, to form a lasting relationship based on how well your romantic interest wears a mask.
Sadly the world has entered a new paralysis, most of all because no one knows when things will return to normal, or what might become normal, or what might remain strange. When this pandemic ends, one thing we can all look forward to is making better plans.
Recommended, at least until the pandemic is over.
Many of you ask me for reports of my evil twin brother Tyrone, but of course I demur because I am too embarrassed to pass along his doings. They get worse and worse. Nonetheless, Tyrone said he was going public with this one, so I thought the damage was done in any case. The sad news is that Tyrone is now an active proponent of QAnon. How can he fall for such fallacies and stupidities? He sent me this letter to explain his decision:
You have yourself blogged about the import of child abuse, and asked why it is not condemned more widely, most of all among elites. You even wrote that the right wing ignored the issue — I thought it is time to remedy that! We needed a right-wing movement to protect the world’s most vulnerable citizens, and it turned out that looked like QAnon. Besides, who is more of an elite than I am?
To be sure, the QAnon movement has its excesses, but do not all social movements? At least it attacks criminals rather than defending them. The key question is whether social movements shine a light on abusive practices that need further scrutiny, and there QAnon passes with flying colors.
QAnon truly has attracted attention — just look at all the complaints about Facebook enabling it. In this world you haven’t arrived until someone can turn a criticism of you into a criticism of Facebook.
Jeffrey Epstein was convicted of…stuff…and the world’s elites continued to treat him as normal and to take his money and fly on his plane. He wasn’t cancelled.
Roman Polanski had a successful and feted career after repeatedly doing very bad…stuff.
The sexual abuse of children has turned out to be rampant in the Catholic Church and also in Hollywood.
I saw the new HBO documentary Showbiz Kids: “In my experience, I know a lot of kids that grew up in the industry. And what surprised me when I got older was finding out that pretty much all of the young men were abused in some way, sexually.”
French intellectuals — and was there ever more of an elite than them? — petitioned to repeal age of consent laws so they can do…bad stuff…with less fear of the consequences. (See? Petitions really are wrong!)
By the way, Berlin authorities placed children with pedophiles for thirty years. And that is in Germany, a country with relatively responsible governance.
This is all so sickening I can’t go on any further, and we haven’t even discussed all that goes on over the internet.
There is in fact an epidemic of child abuse, it ruins or seriously damages many millions of lives, and elites are complicit in covering it up and refusing to address the preconditions that generate so much of it. These same elites often downplay or discourage the elevation of social conservatism, one of the few possible regulatory mechanisms society might have. In the very worst situations, these elites are directly complicit in covering up the abuse of children. Many of the elites partake in it themselves.
Which group has done more to publicize these failings than QAnon, the worthy successor to The Jerry Springer Show?
Yes, Yes I know. I do not endorse all of their hypotheses concerning political economy. Maybe Donald Trump will not in fact set all things straight, and perhaps the apocalypse is not around the corner. No, the molesters do not worship Satan, but given their behavior they might as well. Should we lock up all those journalists? I don’t know. Comet Ping Pong was never as good as Pupatella anyway. But look — this is what you get when you build a mass movement. The message does get dumbed down and the crazies climb on board, just as we have Antifa and some other weird groups and demands connected to what are otherwise valuable social marches. Tyler — you have to get used to this new world of internet communications! Walter Cronkite is gone. Either compete or give up, and I’m not willing to do the latter.
For whatever structural reason, elite media seem less obsessed with child abuse as an issue than is “non-elite media.” That is simply a reality we need to work with, and our unwillingness to discard traditional canons of journalism has led to the perpetuation of these abuses for centuries, indeed dating back to the very founding of the American nation.
Haven’t you read Marcuse on repressive tolerance?
“But actually diving into the sea of trash that is social science gives you a more tangible perspective, a more visceral revulsion, and perhaps even a sense of Lovecraftian awe at the sheer magnitude of it all: a vast landfill—a great agglomeration of garbage extending as far as the eye can see, effluvious waves crashing and throwing up a foul foam of p=0.049 papers. As you walk up to the diving platform, the deformed attendant hands you a pair of flippers. Noticing your reticence, he gives a subtle nod as if to say: “come on then, jump in”.”
The rot runs much deeper than the fallacies of QAnon.
Besides, it seems that the guy behind QAPPANON (don’t ask) is “
And Tyler, I know your criticize me for following these conspiracy theories. But you yourself have written of the need to imagine a future very different from the present and then bring it about? Is that not what a conspiracy tries to do? Do we not need to counter these evil conspiracies with some more benevolent plans?
Most of all, when it comes to evaluating social movements, you can only elevate so many victims at once. Isn’t the notion of children as the true victims the most universal and indeed the only vision that can unify this great nation? People complain about the truth-stretching in QAnon, and OK I get that, but isn’t their real worry the revolutionary re-appropriation of which groups in society can be granted true, #1 victimhood status? Just as Christianity accomplished a similar revaluation way back when? (And look at some of the wacky stuff that they believe — ever read The Book of Revelation Tyler?)
I don’t want QAnon to be in charge, but what other tool do we have to force elites to deal with this issue? Aren’t these just Saul Alinsky tactics? QAnon isn’t going to control Congress anyway.
Besides, is not apophenia one of the roots of creativity? Have not Millenarian movements played key and sometimes beneficial roles in Western history? Is not Christianity itself a Millenarian movement? How about all that weird ass shit on the back of your dollar bill?
Child abuse is the #1 issue in society right now so…pick your side! If you don’t like it, stop your silly blogging and come up with a better anti-child abuse movement.
TC again: See? This is why Tyrone doesn’t appear much on this blog any more. It used to be a funny or sometimes even thought-provoking schtick, but these days things are so out of control you’ve got to stick with message discipline. You can’t just let one speculation lead to the next, because we have so many crazies with major league internet platforms.
Rationalism. Fact-checking. Only one family member at a time (sorry sis!).
Please return tomorrow, or perhaps later in the day, for a proper analysis of the incidence of property tax reform in eastern Colorado. And perhaps there will be some new service sector jobs as well — you can apply! In the meantime, let’s hope that Tyrone’s QAnon fandom isn’t one of them.
And no, I’m not going to try to reenter the Philippines.