Covid 11/19: Don’t Do Stupid Things

There is very good news. We have a second vaccine! Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have now shown 94%+ effectiveness in treating Covid-19. Not to be outdone by Moderna’s report of 94.5% effectiveness, Pfizer has its final results and they are excellent. 95% effective, 94% effective in people over 65, no major safety concerns. They plan to apply for emergency use authorization within days and likely already have done so by the time you read this. Estimates are that we can vaccinate 20 million people by year’s end.

There is also very bad news. We have more positive test results than ever before, more hospitalizations than ever before, and a substantially increased positive test rate. Deaths lag tests, but are on track to rise proportionally to the rise in tests. 

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2020 Election: Prediction Markets versus Polling/Modeling Assessment and Postmortem

Moderation/Commenting: I tried to minimize it, but this post necessarily involves some politics. See note at end of post for comment norms. I hope for this to be the last post I make that has to say anything about the election.

Previously: Evaluating Predictions in Hindsight, PredictIt: Presidential Market is Increasingly Wrong

There have been several posts evaluating FiveThirtyEight’s model and comparing its predictions to those of prediction markets. I believe that those evaluations so far have left out a lot of key information and considerations, and thus been highly overly generous to prediction markets and overly critical of the polls and models. General Twitter consensus and other reactions seem to be doing a similar thing. This post gives my perspective.

The summary is:

  1. The market’s movements over time still look crazy before the election, they don’t look great during the election, and they look really, really terrible after the election. 
  2. The market’s predictions for safe states were very underconfident, and it looks quite stupid there, to the extent that one cares about that.
  3. According to the Easy Mode evaluation methods, Nate’s model defeats the market.
  4. The market’s predictions on states relative to each other were mostly copied from the polls slash Nate Silver’s model, which was very good at predicting the order, and the odds of an electoral college versus popular vote split at various margins of the popular vote.
  5. The market’s claim to being better is that they gave Trump a higher chance of winning, implying similar to what Nate predicted if the final popular vote was Biden +4, which is about where it will land.
  6. My model of the market says that it was not doing the thing we want to give it credit for, but rather representing the clash between two different reality tunnels, and the prices over time only make sense in that context.
  7. The market priced in a small but sane chance of a stolen election before the election, but seems to have overestimated that chance after the election and not adjusted it over time.
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Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

Spoiler Alert below the fold, can’t be helped.

We have perhaps the best possible news. Pfizer’s vaccine is over 90% effective, and they are going to ask for emergency use authorization in a few weeks. Woo-hoo!

We also have very bad news. It was clear the numbers were going to get worse, and they are substantially worse than I expected. Things are about to get quite bad out there. Also the attempts to overturn the results of the election aren’t great.

There’s a thought I can’t shake, though.

You ever think a writer is getting a bit lazy when it comes time to wrap things up? 

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Covid 11/5: Don’t Mention the War

Mutation has always been an elephant in the Covid-19 room, and I haven’t paid as much attention to it as I should have. It is increasingly clear the Covid-19 has mutated, and the new strain is substantially more infectious than the old one and now virtually the only strain. One write-up from the Financial Times: Scientists warn a more infectious coronavirus variant spreading across Europe. The new strain doesn’t seem different from the old one once you are infected, in terms of your prognosis or chance of death, and immunity to either strain gives immunity to both. 

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Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About

Trump wishes to register a complaint

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Spoiler-Free Review and then Semi-Walkthrough: Star Traders: Frontiers

Star Traders: Frontiers is a Tier 2 open-world game in which you have a starship and you go where you want and do what you want. You can be any or all of: A merchant who takes spices from one port and moves them to another port, an explorer of wilderness planets, a pirate who preys on shipping, a bounty hunter with a licence to kill, a scavenger, a spy, a warrior and more. You can take part in blood feuds or politics or steer clear of them as the eras fly by. There’s tons of room to have the experiences you want to have, rather than the ones the game wants you to have. And if you want a real challenge, there are difficulty levels and achievements for that, too. 

Star Traders: Frontiers is available on your phone. You can play it that way if you’d like, but it suffers with the screen that small, so I recommend playing on a computer or at least a tablet.

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Covid 10/22: Europe in Crisis

America’s Covid-19 situation has clearly entered a third wave. Cases and positive test percentages across the country are rising steadily, and deaths are finally starting to follow suit over the last few days. The scaremongers greatly oversold things, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem, especially in the Midwest. My biggest worry at this point is that this wave could lead to ineffectual but damaging attempts at additional lockdowns. My biggest hope is that this will let us rush the vaccines out there faster and the control systems will kick in within a few weeks, same as they did last time. 

Europe’s Covid-19 situation is much, much worse. They controlled things without going for eradication and without establishing proper long term containment strategies. Then they tried to reopen exactly the maximum while keeping containment, which failed. Now they’re paying the price. European case counts are skyrocketing and have passed 100,000 per day. Within a few days they will almost certainly pass America in deaths per day as well. Hopefully my readers over there can provide more insight and good sources to follow, and we can see if this can expand to cover Europe more over the next few weeks and months.

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The Uncertainty of Death and Taxes

Follow-up of sorts to: Easy Mode and Hard Mode, also Spoiler-Free Review: Death and Taxes

Epistemic Status: Early exploration of concepts that deserve a better, tighter treatment at a future time. This has been in my drafts for a while, figure I’ll push it out there and then redo the important stuff again later.

Spoiler Alert: This post is about and contains full spoilers for the game Death and Taxes, attempting to use it to make broader points. Death and Taxes is a game that benefits greatly from being played blind, which is kind of the point of this post. If you’re debating whether to play the game, see my short spoiler-free review. This post is designed not to rely at all on the reader having played, but it will definitely ruin what the game is going for.

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PredictIt: Presidential Market is Increasingly Wrong

Previously about PredictIt this election cycle: Free Money at PredictIt: 2020 General Election

Free Money at PredictIt?

It is important, on occasion, to state the obvious, on the record, at the proper time.

The prediction (alternatively, read: gambling) markets on the 2020 Presidential Election increasingly do not make sense. 

In particular, their movements over time do not make any sense.

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Covid 10/15: Playtime is Over

Previously: Covid 10/8: October Surprise

Last week the President got Covid-19, so the post was all about details and timelines. This week, the President has tested negative multiple times and my town closed its playground due to mask non-compliance, so let’s take a step back. A summary of the story so far, if you will, so that we can imagine where it will likely go from here.

A deadly pandemic falls upon the land. Hundreds of thousands or even millions may die. Huge percentages of all businesses may close, a large fraction of jobs may be lost, perhaps permanently. Social isolation threatens to radically decrease quality of life well beyond the loss of material prosperity. Tens of millions cannot pay their bills and face eviction. Impossible choices must be made.

Once all this is clear, the people divide into two camps, mostly along existing partisan lines.

One group claims their goal is to prevent economic disaster while saving lives. In practice, they act as if their goal was to have everyone ignore the pandemic, actively flouting all precautions and discouraging any countermeasures that might help.

The other group claims their goal is to save lives while preventing economic disaster. In practice, they act as if their goal was to destroy as much economic and social value as possible in the name of the pandemic as a Sacrifice to the Gods, and to pile maximum blame upon those who do not go along with this plan, while doing their best to slow down or block solutions that might solve the pandemic without sufficiently destroying economic or social value.

Is that unfair? Look around you. Think about all you’ve read, seen and heard since February. In this space and elsewhere. Decide for yourself.

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