This weekly post is for things that are not Omicron. For the Omicron news, see my Omicron updates (#1, #2, #3), the last of which came out the same day as this post. There’s an extensive speed premium, so I’ve gone to a more-than-weekly schedule on that, although I hope to return to weekly-only soon and only do 0-2 more non-Thursday Omicron posts. We’ll see how that goes.
The news other than Omicron was relatively quiet and expected, except for the part where we are at best barely approving Molnupiravir (post on that here). Too quiet, as case counts and deaths dropped an extreme amount due to the holiday, far more than I expected. That makes predicting next week’s numbers especially hard, but I expect a lot of cases and deaths to be officially tallied next week.
We now have some useful prediction markets up on Covid issues, so it’s worth looking at what they say and thinking about what other markets we could generate. I encourage you to suggest additional markets in the comments, with as much detail as possible.
Well Defined. The resolution mechanisms must be clear and transparent.
Quick Resolution. The longer it takes, the less people will be interested.
Probable Resolution. There has to be a definitive outcome most of the time.
Limited Hidden Information. If others know what I don’t, I’m the sucker.
Sources of Disagreement and Interest. Suckers at the table.
To these, of course, we can add an implied sixth, which is
Real Money. Money talks, bullshit walks. Are we doing this or not?
Thus, now that we have Polymarket posting real Covid-19 markets, we have the potential to learn things that matter, with a level of resolution we can use, and I’m glad I’ve been able to help them figure out what markets to offer.
While Paxlovid Remains Illegal and is expected to remain illegal for at least several weeks, the FDA did manage to finally meet to discuss whether or not to legalize the other Covid-19 treatment pill, Merck’s Molnupiravir. While later data reduced effectiveness estimates from 50% to 30%, that’s still much better than 0% and it uses a unique mechanism that can probably be profitably combined with other treatments, so one might naively think that after sufficient stalling for appearances this would be easy.
One would be wrong. The vote was 13-10, was restricted to those at high risk, and could easily have failed outright.
I may want to later refer back to this, so it’s splitting off into its own post.
It’s now been three days since Post #1. The situation is evolving rapidly, so it’s time to check in. What have we learned since then? How should we update our beliefs and world models? There will inevitably be mistakes as we move quickly under uncertainty, but that’s no reason not to do the best we can.
The last day has seen the imposition of new travel restrictions and spreading alarm about the Omicron variant. It sure looks like a repeat of what happened with Alpha and Delta, as well as the original strain back in early 2020, and that we are probably doing this again.
How will this play out this time? It’s very early. There’s tons of unknowns. Yet there is a lot we can say already, and many actions need to happen now to have any hope of doing much good. So it’s time to move fast, see what we can say right now and try to capture the speed premium.
I’ll start with a summary of what we know about the game board based on previous experience, then look at what we know about Omicron and what moves have been played so far in this round.
For my first Thanksgiving post, which somehow was both a year ago and almost a year into the pandemic, I gave thanks at the end of the post. With all that’s happened, it seems more appropriate to do this at the beginning of the post instead this year. So I’m going to do that, and deal with this week’s news – the rise in cases, the lockdowns in Europe and all that other stuff – later.
I’ll be working from the previous version, and including almost everything from last year, plus some additions. It is crazy how little this needed to be modified after an entire year, and how many of these are still in the present tense when they could so easily have been in the past tense. Time goes by, so slowly. Keep pushing that rock up that hill, everyone.
What Alex Tabarrok called The Paxlovid Paradox is getting noticed by the people who notice such things, and completely ignored by everyone else. I’ve split off this week’s Paxlovid update to help make the situation easier to notice, and easier to remember and reference later, lest we forget.
Supply and Demand
The good news is that we are confident Paxlovid is safe and effective and the purchasing department is acting accordingly. Once we decide it is legal, we’ve secured our supply. The Biden administration has agreed to pay $5 billion for 10 million treatments. I previously thought this was 10 million pills as did the source, but I’ve been informed it was 10 million treatments, which means I was about to be happy to pay ten times what we’re actually paying. Kind of neat.
They’re going to make a profit from saving people’s lives. Outrageous!
The bad news, of course, is that Paxlovid Remains Illegal.
I had already written most of this week’s post, and also spun out a way-too-long way-too-deep dive on what happened with a retracted FLCCC paper that that I was planning to publish today but I can’t yet because the rabbit hole is still getting deeper, when Scott Alexander posted Ivermectin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know.
My reaction to that was a deep sense of gratitude, as I was worried I’d have to write something because someone had to and no one else would. Then Scott Alexander wrote it. So now I didn’t have to. I don’t agree with every decision he made, I definitely ‘have thoughts’ and I’ll probably end up writing about that, but it can wait for another week.
There’s a variety of other stuff going on as well, including a rise in cases that is unlikely to be going away any time soon, none of it terribly surprising. Paxlovid remains illegal and somehow this may not be easy, various mandates were imposed, children noticed it was nice not to wear masks, and those against vaccination have their latest crazy nonsense where they think they can ‘detox’ and undo the vaccination shot. What a time to be alive.
Recently, a discussion of potential AGI interventions and potential futures was posted to LessWrong. The picture Eliezer presented was broadly consistent with my existing model of Eliezer’s model of reality, and most of it was also consistent with my own model of reality.
Those two models overlap a lot, but they are different and my model of Eliezer strongly yells at anyone who thinks they shouldn’t be different that Eliezer wrote a technically not infinite but rather very large number of words explaining that you need to think for real and evaluate such things for yourself. On that, our models definitely agree.
It seemed like a useful exercise to reread the transcript of Eliezer’s discussion, and explicitly write out the world model it seems to represent, so that’s what I’m going to do here.