Monthly Roundup #3

It’s that time again.

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Housing and Transit Roundup #3

Previously: #1, #2

In honor of much of northern California coming face to face with the Builder’s Remedy, I’m doing this first, ahead of the monthly general roundup. Here we go.

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Covid 2/2/23: The Emergency Ends on 5/11

We finally have a date. On May 11, the official Covid Emergency ends. The actual emergency is, of course, long over, but for technical reasons the official change will have to wait a bit.

A related question is when it stops making sense to continue writing weekly Covid posts. My basic plan for a while has been ‘when there stops being content for them’ and somehow I still end up with a bunch of content every week. That does not mean this is the right format for that content, or that this is the right content to be creating.

I will continue to think more about this, and have not made a decision yet.

The other news is that we finally have a reformulation of all shots of the Covid vaccine… to the version we approved for boosters that is already out of date. We will likely never have a properly up to date Covid vaccine again. Oh well.

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Simulacra Levels Summary

For More Detail, Previously: Simulacra Levels and Their Interactions, Unifying the Simulacra Definitions, The Four Children of the Seder as the Simulacra Levels.

A key source of misunderstanding and conflict is failure to distinguish between combinations of the following four cases.

  1. Sometimes people model and describe the physical world, seeking to convey true information because it is true.
  2. Other times people are trying to get you to believe what they want you to believe so you will do or say what they want.
  3. Other times people say things mostly as slogans or symbols to tell you what tribe or faction they belong to, or what type of person they are.
  4. Then there are times when talk seems to have have gone strangely meta or off the rails entirely. The symbolic representations are mostly of the associations and vibes of other symbols. The whole thing seems more like a stream of words, associations and vibes. It sounds like GPT-4.

One can refer to these as the simulacra levels as a useful fake framework for understanding this. When looking at talk, one can ask what level or levels a statement or discussion is on, and which ones people care about in context. One can also ask about the level a person, group or civilization most cares about. That is also how they default to understanding new talk.

This concept has important details that are difficult to understand. The posts linked up top offer discussions of four definitions that all point at the same dynamics. Each is stronger at capturing different elements.

As a more concise alternative, this post gathers together the most vital information.

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Covid 1/26/23: Case Count Crash

A large decline in cases, right at the end of January.

This week’s fun exercise is the clash between a call for the CDC to focus on being a center for disease control and offload its quixotic side quests, versus a former head of the CDC insisting that people will die (die I tell you!) if such dangerous changes are implemented.

Executive Summary

  1. Cases down by 27%.
  2. Former FDA head calls for CDC to be CDC, former CDC head returns fire.
  3. Jury duty? School? Covid positive? No problem, come on down.
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Movie Review: Megan

I will follow my usual procedure here – a fully spoiler-free 1-bit review, then a mostly spoiler-free short review to determine if you should see it, then a fully detailed spoiler-filled analysis.

Fully Spoiler-Free 1-Bit Review – Should You See Megan In Theaters, Yes or No?

Yes.

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Covid 1/19/23: Flipped Numbers

It was a quiet week. All the longer term news was as one would expect. That is good news.

The only surprise was that deaths jumped again while cases fell, rather than the other way around. On net, that too is good news.

If news remains this quiet for a while, I would be able to stop doing weekly Covid updates. Even more good news.

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On AI and Interest Rates

Note, To say it up front: None of this, or anything ever on this blog, is investment advice.

This post on the EA form, highlighted by Tyler Cowen, points out that

  1. Transformative aligned AI would increase real interest rates. A lot.
  2. Transformative unaligned AI would increase real interest rates. A lot.
  3. Markets continue to have low interest rates not pricing this in.
  4. Therefore, either (A) AI not only isn’t about to end the world it also is not about to do anything economically that powerful or (B) the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) is false.

In conclusion:

There is no one in the market to price this in. Beyond avoiding wrong-way investments and locking in low-interest loans, the few who buy the hypothesis have better trades to make than betting on future interest rates.

Nor is the market meaningfully considering and then rejecting the hypothesis.

The pre-Covid-pandemic market did not peak until February 20, 2020.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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On Cooking With Gas

Research meta-analysis says gas stoves give off unsafe N02 levels and increase risk of childhood asthma by 34% and are responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma.

None of this is new. The way safety panic works is that you focus on a particular risk this week and an attempt is made to make everyone’s life worse in its name.

Emily Oster takes a deeper dive on the original studies. She is not impressed.

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Covid 1/12/23: Unexpected Spike in Deaths

Quite a lot of deaths got reported by quite a lot of different states this week. Case numbers did not spike, and instead actively declined. What’s going on? It is right after Christmas and New Years, which means the least reliable reporting of the year, and no one cares much anymore – Indiana and Illinois didn’t bother reporting anything on either front – so the obvious explanation is this is a lot of backlog dumping with the new year. It could however also be that XBB.1 is doing its thing and no one is bothering to test anymore. Error bars are very high for next week.

What I am not worried about, given the case numbers, is that this wave is going to get out of hand. Even if things are worse than we thought right now, it is a bounded worse, and mostly should not much alter our behaviors.

Executive Summary

  1. Huge spike in deaths, likely holiday reporting issues. Some chance it reflects a lot of unreported XBB.1 cases. Cases actively declined this week.
  2. New ‘Twitter files’ on vaccine information is a hack hit job, nothing to see there.
  3. The origin of the athlete death claims is dumber than you expected.
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