Covid 4/7/22: Opening Day

Baseball is back, and only a week late. As a fan with an infant, even though my Mets are somehow already without our top two starting pitchers, I am thrilled. Things are not fully open without opening day. Aside from putting masks on for the subway, life is now fully back to the way it used to be.

Someone told me they had Covid this morning, and I treated it exactly the way I would have if they’d said they had a cold. I checked to see if I’d been exposed (I hadn’t), I wished them a speedy recovery, but I in no way worried about the situation. People get sick sometimes, things go around. It’s life.

Europe’s situation is somewhat less comfortable, but everyone has rightfully decided to get on with life regardless. I am impressed. This new wave there will start declining soon enough, as there are not enough people left to infect for it to do otherwise.

Here cases are picking up a bit in some areas as BA.2’s dominance sets in, but still at low levels. I do not expect any serious trouble.

China is another story.

Executive Summary

  1. BA.2 now dominant. Cases high in Europe, inching up in some places in USA.
  2. China’s attempts at containment seem doomed to fail.
  3. Congress agrees to let us spend $10bb on Covid treatments.
  4. Deaths finally drop a lot in USA.

Let’s run the numbers.

The Numbers

Predictions

Prediction from last week: 210k cases (+11%) and 5,100 deaths (-10%).

Results: 178k cases (-1%) and 3,823 deaths (-34%) (!).

Prediction for next week: 190k cases (+6%) and 2,950 deaths (-23%).

Note: Florida reported 0 cases and 0 deaths this week, 0 cases two weeks ago and a lot of cases one week ago. For now I have set all three weeks to be equal to half the cases reported a week ago, and this week’s deaths at half of last week’s deaths. It’s pretty embarrassing at this stage to think you can only report case numbers every two weeks but I do think this is an intentional choice on their part. I also undid the -123 deaths in West Virginia one day this week, which is obviously a correction of past data.

Failing to catch the Florida situation last week was part of the reason I predicted +11% last week (and from a too-high base) but I still would have predicted a slight increase in cases, so these results definitely exceed expectations.

On deaths, this is amazing news, and seems like it confirms the ‘these deaths are largely not actually Covid deaths’ as the explanation for why the death rate has looked so high. I did not dare actually predict the drop, but I can’t see any other explanation.

Deaths

I do not expect this to revert. Quite the opposite. I expect things to continue to improve, as the giant numbers of past Covid cases fall out of the ‘with Covid’ window.

Cases

BA.2 goes from 55% to 72% of cases for week ending April 4.

The South did not decline as much as this indicates but I do not want to do too many manual corrections. The only substantial increase is in the Northeast, where BA.2 has taken over, with New York seeing enough increase to catch up to the entire Midwest region. I continue not to be all that concerned about this.

Ontario wastewater numbers not looking so good.

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Presuming BA.2 and BA.1 show up similarly in wastewater (I don’t have any reason to think they don’t, but they might not) it does look like things are headed close to the previous peak. Which is super weird, given how many people were recently infected, but also it seems highly unlikely things would get substantially worse this time around, there simply aren’t enough people left to infect.

Scott Gottlieb speculates we might be catching only one in seven or eight cases. Which would mean the virus is rather harmless.

UK case levels are very high.

However, a reminder that these huge numbers of cases are not entirely a bad sign.

As usual, hospitals are the place to be concerned, and there are claims we should be concerned.

You can see that the BA.2 wave in the UK is effectively slightly milder, but also not much smaller than the BA.1 wave. The situation is not good, but the good news is that no one is flirting with making a bad situation worse via new restrictions, and this too shall pass relatively soon.

Physical World Modeling

New immunity study just dropped (study). Looking great.

Never reason from a (Covid-prevention) rules change.

Nate Silver proposes the theory that Europe imposed restrictions during BA.1 Omicron, which limited its spread, which is why it is experiencing a surge under BA.2. This strikes me as a reverse morality play. Case levels in Europe for BA.1 were extremely high and it does not much matter what restrictions were in place.

Mina thread about how symptom onset relates to vaccines. Breakthrough infections cause faster immune reactions, which means faster symptoms, which makes it easier to control spread because you realize you are sick earlier relative to when you are infectious. This explanation is great.

Of course, the vaccine also improves the timeline in other ways, but this shows why things may be better for you even without that help.

China

What was the plan?

Whoops. And agreed, testing everyone was never going to get it done, although perhaps failing slower so you don’t get blamed was the plan?

Here are Chinese cases on a log scale, the majority are still in Shanghai but far from all.

This looks very over to me. I do not want to fully count China out, but I do not see how they come back from this. The reluctance to shut down Shanghai was understandable, but by the time they did shut it down it was clear that the problem is simply going to keep showing up elsewhere and at other times.

A woman made the mistake of trying to go to Beijing, which will require five weeks quarantine: Two weeks on arrival, then a week self-arranged in Shanghai because she arrived there, then two weeks in Beijing. Bad luck to have flown into Shanghai, but even without that this is still a month.

Drone orders Shanghai residents under quarantine ‘not to open the window or sing.’ There are so many different levels of wrong there.

That’s not the worst of it. There are supply chain issues when no one is allowed outside. What do you do when you got no food?

If it is day 16 of locking down one of the world’s biggest cities, the people aren’t allowed to open windows and have no way to get food, and cases still aren’t declining either there or across the country, what is the plan?

The sooner China admits it has lost and starts preparing to mitigate the damage, the better off they will be. Continuing to lock down Shanghai is digging the hole deeper.

Prevention and Prevention Prevention Prevention

White House uses obviously correct ‘test negative before you exit quarantine’ protocol, ignoring obviously incorrect alternative CDC protocol.

Belgium requires all indoor spaces have CO2 monitors.

Among other things, Bryan Caplan reports that ‘Covid caution’ in Eastern Europe is almost entirely over.

Covid tests. Our price cheap ($3/test).

RCT shows that you can get an additional vaccination per $1 spent using Facebook ads that feature Trump’s vaccine endorsement. Or at least, you used to be able to do that.

Think of the Children

Good news or bad news?

The results:

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The media reaction (from what seems to be a reliably quite terrible reporter):

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The confusion:

The simple explanation:

This results in claims and results like this tragedy.

Now featuring this remarkably straight face and short nose.

I have no idea why the courts are involved on either side of this, either.

Our kid’s preschool thus is forced to force our four year old child to mask, despite everyone knowing this is pointless and stupid.

Once again: After two years of isolation, no, the kids are not alright.

In Other News

The good news is we now have the very non-zero quantity of $10 billion of Covid funding, as per the deal announced by Mitt Romney.

The bad news is that we continue to have $0 in additional Covid funds, this is paid for by ‘repurposing unspent Covid funds,’ and also $0 for foreign Covid response aid.

NYT travel advice for the Covid era is outright ‘stop being poor.’

Links for NYC free testing and same day Paxlovid.

CDC announces plan to ‘revamp’ agency, Gottlieb is so close to the right take.

Challenge trial where people will strive not to have died of dysentery.

Scott Sumner on lack of social trust and how it relates to vaccination and excess death.

About that whole Gain of Function Research problem (direct link).

Includes this from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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Here is Kelsey Piper on risk of man-made pandemics created in name of prevention. I’ve decided to allow links to Vox when it’s her work.

The Atlantic reviews some very bad Covid predictions from early in the pandemic.

Not Covid

New large RCT: No benefits to a low salt diet. Which is good news.

California has 40% less small businesses than it had two years ago. Things do not seem to be improving on this front.

How the senate works when it works.

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40 Responses to Covid 4/7/22: Opening Day

  1. TheZvi says:

    Note: Looks like whatever was causing bad WordPress image sizing has gone away. If the problem returns please let me know right away via comment.

  2. sniffnoy says:

    So, uh, what’s up with these new XD/XE/XF variants…? Are those going to cause yet further waves…?

  3. waterfire says:

    It all looks pretty dystopian in the global scale.

    Any thoughts about the voices like this one (e.g.: https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2022/03/24/covid-3-24-22-respite/#comment-19065)? I have some young nerdy male friends (probably one of the primary demographics for blogs like this one), and there’s a concerning rate of people falling into similar forms of severe despair, just as if the turmoil of last months and years added to the prior problems, entrapping a large number of people without any clear solutions.

    • TheZvi says:

      Yeah, wish I had a better response and/or a better understanding of how/why it got so bad for so many people. I do think that anyone smart/aware enough to be reading this blog should be able to be fine if they apply themselves, but that doesn’t make it easy.

      • Feels Vase Man says:

        I’m afraid that’s not the case – what should such a person do to be fine? SSRI or alternative + CBT or alternative + not-very-unhealthy lifestyle + “try having fun”?

        • TheZvi says:

          I mean that doesn’t sound like a BAD plan, and certainly is better than the default actions if things are going badly.

          SSRIs I am guessing are over-used in situations where someone’s life objectively sucks – if you’re not depressed because of a chemical imbalance, and instead you’re depressed because of depressing things happening to you, it’s likely not the way. But also at some point perhaps you are sufficiently stuck in a negative feedback loop that you use one anyway until things are no longer objectively depressing?

          Healthy: Yes yes yes. At a minimum, anyone who is despairing should get in shape. Lift weights, do your cardio, eat not too much and all that. This will help a lot – you’ll feel better, you’ll be more confident, you’ll have more energy (physical and mental), and also others will like and respect you more. Total package. Easier said than done, I know, but if you’re blocked on other stuff you can do this first. Doing this first unblocked a lot of things for me and I didn’t even finish the job.

          CBT/alternative: Very particular to the person, but CBT has a record of being effective, so worth trying.

          “Try having fun”: Actually, yes. Practice, practice, practice, and also opportunity. The dumb advice is real – go be with the people, interact and talk with them, f*** around (in all senses) and find out. Do it in person to max extent possible. A lot of this is simply not being afraid of failure or of hurting others (so long as you’re being a reasonable human), but you won’t be confident and you won’t be comfortable and you won’t know what to do without the practice. There are a LOT of options out there and you can choose what works for you.

          Doing Thing, almost anything at all, is better than doing nothing (where nothing includes anything that is contained and can’t go anywhere, like video games).

          Also, if you have nothing else going on, you can focus in on being really good at something, ideally something profitable, with the bulk of your time. At a minimum, if you are reading this, you have the tools to (1) get in shape unless you have a major health issue, (2) make a good living that leaves you with reasonable time, if necessary by coding or gambling/trading, at which point you really can start on the other stuff with huge advantages.

          Another concrete thing to do, if it seems necessary, is martial arts – helps with getting in shape, and also really helps with being able to confidently move in the world and feel safe doing stuff. Whatever connects with you is fine, but I hear Ju Jitsu is the best ‘actually know how to actually win a fight’ standard play available.

          (Also, I’d have some more specific advice on certain fronts of things that can put you in high demand and are interesting/educational to do, if I talk to someone privately and off the record.)

          I don’t mean to knock anyone’s despair, I went through years of it being tough on such fronts, but if the obvious sounds like it will never work, I’m curious why exactly.

          I mean, at some point I should presumably try writing stuff.

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          One trick for getting into exercising if you currently hate it is to start with really silly small amounts. Like, jog an eighth of a mile. Do five push-ups. But do them every Monday/Wednesday/Friday no matter what.

          Then when you eventually inevitably want to keep increasing that, the crucial part is that you push back against *that* part of yourself. You know you could run a half mile today, but it hasn’t even been three months since you started with the eighth miles, so a half mile is Not Allowed and you run a quarter. Sorry, exercise-desiring self. Them’s the rules, and I’m in charge here. (You can imagine how this completely remolds your self-image into that of an actually kinda athletic person.)

          Even two years in, stick to 0.75 mile jogs (you can let yourself run moderately fast compared to when you started) and don’t let yourself add too many other lifts–pull-ups are really good, and I like wrist rolls with a weight on the end of a cord to wrap around a rod since wrist/finger strength is more generally useful than most other muscles (and you get Popeye forearms).

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          Also I kinda think your late teens and early twenties are just supposed to suck, at least in a society that has College. Just make sure you don’t do anything too self-destructive, try to get better on even just one axis while you suffer, and always have the idea that once you reach about 27 you’ll have an important binary choice between self-actualization and a really bad majority of your life. Having the experience of hitting kinda-bottom before that, and the deadline, and the additional general life experience/brain development, helps make it not too difficult to get that choice right once you get there.

        • TheZvi says:

          Going to disagree that college-adjacent-time has to suck. College was great for me, I spent the whole time as a pro Magic competitor, but also I missed out on just college, which can also be great – I mean you kind of have tons of free time and get to pick classes to take while not having to work and there’s lots of young people all around in the same spot? Why would this default to sucking?

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          Right, sometimes I forget most people weren’t homeschooled so college was a relative step up in freedom compared to earlier school, instead of a big step down. Expand the age range that sucks to include earlier school too, for those people.

          You’re evaluated on things that don’t matter and have to trade off actual learning to maximize your chances on those evaluations, getting Goodharted out of becoming a learning person.

          It’s the first big exposure to what are supposed to be serious competent adults doing interesting things, so all your delusions about that get shattered at once.

          The chaotic and byzantine job application process (where sucky candidates swirl in the market forever so a lot of the system is designed around sucky-until-proven-not, but not all companies make it very easy to prove not) is fast approaching at a time when you have the least mental energy available to apply to it, so there’s that looming dread.

          At every turn the college tries to financially exploit you, and your fellow students cheerfully vote to raise fees to build unnecessary renovations to the football stadium.

          There are few viable romantic candidates because you decided to accept a full ride scholarship to a very lax-on-application-strength school for peasants and foreigners (no joke how were so many of the girls 5’1″ 180lb?!), and your professors visibly suffer as they spend class after class reteaching the same material because this is a 3000/4000-level class and the administration did not let the illiterate now-upperclassmen fail out in earlier classes/applying like they should have. (this paragraph might be more specific to my experience)

        • etheric42 says:

          @Anonymous-backtick

          Your experience isn’t universal. I’ll add a personal anecdata point that freedom of homeschooling + living at home, vs freedom of college + living on your own / on campus is still a step up.

          You’re evaluated on things that don’t matter so no reason to stress about them and have to trade off chatting with the professors against chatting with your peers.

          You know you’ll land a fine job because you’re used to being capable on your own and your definition of fine means it would be okay if you didn’t make a lot of money and instead had the time to do what you want.

          There are plenty of viable romantic candidates because you decided to accept a full ride scholarship to a very lax-on-application-strength school and there are others there who did the same thing. Who may also have been homeschooled too. That you can probably meet on the first few days there after you get the essentials taken care of like a couple of D&D groups and a regular posse for food and networking.

          And your professors visibly suffer as they spend class after class talking to people who aren’t listening to them and didn’t listen to professors they had before so they’ll end up spending most of the class talking to you and maybe a couple of others so you get nearly one-on-one instruction and great contacts if you want to go to grad school. Not to mention other perks like if you miss a deadline the professor moving the deadline for the whole class because if someone like YOU missed the deadline the professor must have been too aggressive.

          There’s a lot of different perspectives on the situation.

        • TheZvi says:

          I’d emphasize that it’s less in college that you’re evaluated on arbitrary things, and more like you’re *not actually evaluated.* At all. I mean, yes, you need to PASS or it’s bad for you (and de facto this often means a C or higher or whatever, Ds get you in trouble too, etc) but that’s really not hard to do unless you’re actually failing. Similarly, if someone rejects you or you’re not popular in the social scene, nothing really happens (most of the time). There are certain live wires to not cross, sure, but mostly the stakes are kind of fake.

          (If you want to go to grad school / med school / etc you need to care about grades more, but that’s probably dumb anyway)

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          “I’d emphasize that it’s less in college that you’re evaluated on arbitrary things, and more like you’re *not actually evaluated.* At all. I mean, yes, you need to PASS or it’s bad for you (and de facto this often means a C or higher or whatever, Ds get you in trouble too, etc) but that’s really not hard to do unless you’re actually failing.”

          In my particular case, I had to keep a pretty high GPA or lose the scholarship. Which sort of turns a lot of little nearly-inconsequential decisions into a Pascal’s Mugging where choosing wrong increases the risk of going into six figure debt. I never ended up getting below an A-, but… some of those classes were still recognizably hard, and I think even outside of the scholarship case, the average person in the “depressed geek” group we’re talking about could conceivably fail such a class entirely if they didn’t put a lot of effort in. Or burn out.

          My GPA ended up mattering a lot for the particular job I ended up in and believe it or not their formula for starting salary, but that’s not normal.

          “And your professors visibly suffer as they spend class after class talking to people who aren’t listening to them and didn’t listen to professors they had before so they’ll end up spending most of the class talking to you and maybe a couple of others so you get nearly one-on-one instruction and great contacts if you want to go to grad school.”

          Yeah, a few of the professors went that route instead of repeating the material, and indeed I did get some good contacts/interesting life experiences out of that. I once wrote a midterm, had to take it anyway, then was met outside the classroom before the next class by the “oh shit we forgot something”-faced professor who was about to present slides of statistics for how the class did and apparently felt honor-bound to include *all* the statistics, who said in a doomed voice, “I’ve got the scores… there’s an outlier.”

          “You know you’ll land a fine job because you’re used to being capable on your own and your definition of fine means it would be okay if you didn’t make a lot of money and instead had the time to do what you want.”

          Few of the people around you are getting a fine job in this situation, and you’re hearing lots of blackpilled anguish, and that rubs off (even if I should’ve realized the extent to which it didn’t apply). And again, not everyone in the group we’re talking about is “used to being capable on their own”.

          “Not to mention other perks like if you miss a deadline the professor moving the deadline for the whole class because if someone like YOU missed the deadline the professor must have been too aggressive.”

          How about perks like the professor writing a test question with incorrect grammar that changed the meaning (i.e. there was a reading of the question that had correct grammar, but it was a somewhat stranger one), so only someone like YOU answered it literally, which got you no points? Or a genetics professor actually agreeing with you that yes, her true or false quiz question was written in a way such that the answer was blatantly false, but it was kinda close to true because there were two similar terms at play that most students would conflate, and if she had treated “false” as the right answer they all would have gotten it wrong, so she is marking your “false” answer as wrong and will not be persuaded otherwise?

          Still think that this place isn’t geek hell?

        • TheZvi says:

          I acknowledge that some people have scholarships to maintain that mean GPA matters for them, although from what I’ve seen a true geek is not in much danger there. I do get that it can still be stressful mugging-style, even if you’re 99%+ to be fine.

          The other stuff sounds like… I mean, yeah, sometimes people are unfair and you get penalized for being technically correct or whatever. I agree it sucks when it happens, but that sounds like an actual learning opportunity for something that actually matters, and at the cost of a few points on a test that, if you’re getting questions right that everyone else always gets wrong, is going to be fine anyway.

          As for the job prospects, my understanding is that most people through most of history did pretty crappy jobs that anyone here would have hated, and this situation is much better now than it was in the past – you have basically full employment, and a lot of geek skills are in super high demand. I mean, yes, if you just passively don’t do anything, it’s going to be tough to find something great, but that can’t be the standard.

          Anyway, I think I’ll wrap up there, but I think fundamentally this is a Revolution of Rising Expectations – people can think that they should be able to live in Geek Heaven, so anything short of that is Geek Hell, and life’s general suckiness much of the day/time can no longer be abided.

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          Life doesn’t generally suck much of the day/time. Both before and several years after college, life is pretty great.

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          Like, what I’m trying to communicate with those professor examples is not that “a few particular people decided to be unfair”, but that a bureaucracy profiting from making what was supposed to be a place of learning and research into a No Child Left Behind diploma mill gave a lot of people a lot of bad incentives and generally warped everything about living in that situation. There are lots of workplaces that don’t have anything similar to those problems, even if the DEI people are trying to change that.

        • etheric42 says:

          You had anecdata that it was bad. I had anecdata that it was good. We both sound like we came from similar situations (homeschooled to scholarship-paid lower-tier state college).

          I’ve got similar anecdata about homebuying (bought one in a hip city while working part time and my wife was working part time) and starter jobs (put in the years in a call center, but moved beyond it) and income (friends that make 30% more than I do and don’t have kids always acting/feeling poor while I feel rich).

          I wish I had a way to reliably export my perspective to those who it would make happier.

        • Basil Marte says:

          > I acknowledge that some people have scholarships to maintain that mean GPA matters for them, although from what I’ve seen a true Scotsman is not in much danger there.

          Executive function as separate from the detail-oriented kind of conscientiousness (and from intelligence)? Procrastination or outright missing that there had been an assignment, rather than the sort of sloppiness that gets individual points deducted (or inability to get the material).

      • “I’d have some more specific advice on certain fronts of things that can put you in high demand and are interesting/educational to do.”

        If this was a general invitation to ask I’d certainly be interested to hear a pitch. Otherwise disregard. I can be reached at brevondavis@gmail.com. Though I admit if it’s a job that requires much geek skill I might be ill equipped. My main foray into technical work was a several month period of trying to learn coding, and I wasn’t able to learn much in the end.

    • Basil Marte says:

      I have a few. The shorter is https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/sane-thinking-about-mental-problems/ of which I particularly recommend the section “frames and fluidity”.
      The longer (much, much longer) is the Meaningness blog.

      General thoughts:
      1) Don’t care so much what random strangers think of you. I don’t mean people who have obvious power over you (e.g. at job interview) but “society” in general. In an atomized mass society (such as the one we live in), fretting about how it would reflect badly on you in the eyes of random strangers if you didn’t conform to social expectations is a mistake. Help little old ladies up the stairs because *you* think it to be good, not because of how they will judge you. Different perspective: you (or if you don’t trust yourself, then your friends/relatives) have much more detailed and accurate information about yourself than strangers do, thus how the latter evaluate you can be basically ignored.
      2) Wishing for the world to be otherwise than it is accomplishes either nothing or the one thing of making you feel bad. If you can’t change some fact you wish were otherwise, find out whether this is a game theory concern, and if not, then concentrate on it being *normal* just like gravitation is normal.
      3) You’ve already noticed you have some comparative disadvantages (and comparative advantages, though those aren’t mentioned in the linked comment). Toy microecon problem: for you the curve of produced social capital (as a function of time/effort/attention spent) is lower/shorter than usual, while the curve of produced engineering/programming/etc. is higher/longer. Solve for the optimum, i.e. allocate time/… until the marginal product per expenditure matches. If anyone expresses disapproval of the implied product mix, feel free to ignore them (or to explain the toy problem, and when they invariably don’t get how it could possibly apply to human behavior, then ignore them).
      4) There’s a bunch of stuff about sex/relationships. I think it’s useful to figure out what are the various things that various people want out of it, both to orient what you want out of it, and whether/how to seek it.
      Some seek it as a status symbol (the goal is to brag to their fellow men/women about their trophies).
      Some seek it as a friendly amateur tennis match (emphasis on the cooperative-adversarial form, where someone may sit in the stands and keep a score, yet the players end up satisfied not if they completely dominate their opponent but if they are roughly evenly matched, if both notional “winner” and “loser” earned honor by playing well) without this creating any noteworthy commitment to the other player.
      Some seek it as a sign of intimacy, trust, being accepted (big philosophical ouch here, if you know the other person knows which specific outward behavior you seek as a proxy for their state of mind, you can already tell right now that observing that behavior will tell you very little).
      Some seek it due to social pressure, because not seeking it is not “normal” (this can be direct, with relatives saying these exact words, or somewhat imaginary, where this judgment-by-society is inferred).
      Some seek it as an instrumental goal on the way to having children (including the theory that casual dating is a step toward eventually marrying someone else and having children).
      Some seek it for still other reasons.
      Note that generally these “some” are not meant as mutually exclusive, particular people may pursue/accomplish multiple of these goals at the same time (though I expect some pairwise exclusions). This variety implies rather a few things: that you can make inferences (or just ask) about which one(s) of these goals do the groups of people socializing/meeting at various places mostly have, and which one(s) do individual people have. Or that many of these goals can be more efficiently fulfilled by other means.

      • Basil Marte says:

        I want to go back and correct 1). Relatives, “friends”, even actual friends have an incomplete (generally, even sparser than you think) picture of you, thus you shouldn’t unconditionally take their opinion. If they give an actual argument, or it is easy to reconstruct, then just see how convincing you find it. If not, in theory it would still be correct to reduce to the previous, but in practice you can probably ignore it, because they live in a very different mental world from your own. Understanding theirs is probably fascinating and maybe even useful, but isn’t a high priority (and tends to devalue their opinion of you since you can tell what other things — things you disagree with — it comes from).

        Why would you not trust yourself to have the final say about you?
        — It would look arrogant to others.
        — The sort of people associated with saying it out loud tend to do poorly.
        — You expect you would misjudge it.
        Exercise for the reader: what’s wrong with each of these three reasons?

  4. myst_05 says:

    NYT’s advice on travel is really bad because it fails to inform readers that if you test positive for COVID before your flight to the US, you can just fly to Mexico instead and cross overland – no test of any kind required that way. Just wear a good mask on the flight and you’ll be just fine.

  5. Kevin Whitaker says:

    The 40%-of-small-businesses data was way out of date, and seemingly inconsistent with other sources even at the time, which is probably why Andreesen deleted the tweet afterward https://twitter.com/MattBinder/status/1511472440702078988

  6. TheZvi says:

    Ah, ok. I did think it seemed like a lot, but Marc is generally reliable.

  7. Ben says:

    Zvi, what do you think are the main reasons why BA2 caused such an uptick in Europe but doesn’t seem like it will here? Is it because the US has had that much more infection induced immunity vs. vaccine induced immunity? Is it the timing of vaccination and vaccine waning? Is it the amount of testing for disease in U.S. vs Europe? Is it because we mask our 2 year olds? :)

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  9. Anonymous-backtick says:

    Off-topic… the recent AI progress posts on Yudkowsky’s twitter are pretty eye-popping scary. Starting to look like Ukraine and Covid and all the rest of the Current Thing/Great Reset aren’t going to matter because foom is rapidly approaching (like, 30% it happens in the next 5 years rapidly approaching).

    (Or a patient AI has already been pulling strings to dismantle societal capability to fight back against it. Not the most ridiculous hypothesis in a world with U.S. president Joe Biden.)

  10. Sebastian H says:

    It looks like we are hitting the crisis inflection point in Shanghai. Where it goes from here is unpredictable (in terms of government response, in terms of Covid it is about to rip through the population). https://twitter.com/realsexycyborg/status/1512734595485106179?s=21&t=vTpGTEA3WKzNuc9nAZhXJQ

    • TheZvi says:

      Wow, thank you. That matches what I expected to see, but still a big update to see it put so starkly. The stakes seem very clear here: China (as my draft of next week’s post already says) gave clear signs it could not quarantine all of Shanghai, did it anyway, and are now facing the consequences, so they have to choose when to waive the white flag.

      Which is of course what they should do – yes it will kill a lot of people but it’s not like there is a way to avoid any of that. Whereas if they continue on the path they are on, they risk losing the mandate of heaven very quickly.

  11. DNA says:

    Zvi, if you’re planning to write a post dedicated to making life worth living (or even enjoyable) again, then could you please mention the potential (technological?) replacements for romantic relationships, with or without the sexual component?

    For less attractive and more sensitive/risk-avoidant guys, dating is now a rigged game not worth playing at all, and the common wisdom concerns beneficial but otherwise insufficient coping strategies, such as having friends or adopting a dog. Maybe there’s something better, such as the clever combination of empathogens, chatbots, and VR, that can trick the brain into feeling like one has a genuinely loving gf? I wish somebody smart gave it a serious consideration, as it could save millions of lives.

    • TheZvi says:

      I want to be clear I’m not anything like ready to write that post right now – I need to find a lot of time and get it right. But it does seem important to write it.

      My take on this is basically Futurama’s: Don’t Date Robots, don’t try to fool the brain here, yes there are things you can do to make it less painful while you work on it, but you got to tough it out. Giving up on romantic relationships and children like that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you’re sensitive or risk-avoidant, well, that’s something you’ll need to fix. If you’re unattractive to the extent that it mostly can’t be fixed, that sucks, but it seems very rare to me that this should lower one’s options so much that you can’t do better than giving up. You’ll have to settle on some similar fronts probably, and/or really impress in other ways, but it can be done.

      I know it’s all cheap talk to say such things, but really – the only excuse I’ll accept is the decision to go really hardcore into another high value project for the time being (e.g. startup founder or another all-in-or-fold situation), and even then I’m skeptical.

      • Hey Apple says:

        Why is it a mistake, given the level of difficulty, risks, trends, and all the humiliation?

        Assuming I’m really into high value projects, who should I talk to about Satisfactory Robot Dating as of 2022?

        • Peaceful Robotraditionalism says:

          Bumping the question, as the answer could be a literal lifesaver for me. Where to look for key players and advancements in the space of healthy and wholesome “artificial” love/closeness/intimacy? What kind of setups are the 2022 approximation of Joi from “Blade Runner”?

          There’s no way I’m going to tough it out. There’s no way society will ever grasp the complexity of the issue, things get worse each month, and even “top dissident thinkers” struggle with embracing the depth of the problem. At this stage, there’s simply no way I would want to participate in this rigged game and social affairs. I don’t care about the stigma. Just give me the tech and let me live an invisible life.

        • TheZvi says:

          Tech isn’t there. Chat bots are improving, physical options are improving, but we are at least 5-10 years away from anything that would qualify as what’s being looked for here.

          I realize this doesn’t address anyone’s practical needs, but can you think of anything that would change your perspective, make things more reasonable, that might be achieved via policy or other plausible changes one could look to do? If so, what would help?

  12. Last week the FDA’s VRBPAC met to discuss booster policy: timing, strain composition, multivalent vs monovalent, what efficacy signals should trigger a booster, and so on.

    I blogged about it here, going through all the presentations to try to extract the high points.

    There was some really nice data presented! SARS-CoV-2 is now known to mutate faster than influenza, by 2.5 – 12.3 fold. The median frequency for an Omicron-like event (with wide uncertainty on apparently a Poisson distribution) is every couple years. First boosters made a huge difference vs Omicron. Nucleocapsid antibodies indicate approximately 50% of the young have had COVID-19, so it’s gonna be harder for another wave to hit. The most complex SIR model I’ve ever seen validated pretty well on past data, and forecast a near-term end to the pandemic. The Israeli data on 2nd boosters showed 2-4x reduction in death rates, though possibly compromised by the volunteer effect.

    It was a long meeting and they didn’t have the task to decide anything. But there’s lots of good evidence on boosters and the pandemic (probably) burning out, finally.

  13. fh says:

    Zvi, regarding the artificial intimacy – I guess that the alternative paths, such as policymaking, are a lost cause. Nonpartisan/liberal men’s rights movement has been there for half a century and achieved nothing. People are often unaware of how radically things have changed in the last couple of years, and there’s no way any feasible policy or social intervention will meaningfully improve the status quo.

    If the first technological substitutes are supposed to arrive in early 2030s, then one way to go might be the chemical castration, but I guess it’s risky – it may not be available on demand and fully reversible after 10 years, plus it probably won’t reduce the need for closeness/validation/affection, which is way more important than the sexual aspect.

    • TheZvi says:

      I do want to say that I feel for those experiencing this kind of pain. And I want to see if something can be done about it, on various levels – even if it’s not inevitable, it does seem common, and it royally sucks.

      However: I never buy the whole ‘things can get radically worse and in fact are getting radically worse but nothing could possibly be done to make it better.’ Especially with the possibility in 2025 of a Trump-lead Republican trifecta with 60 votes (which for many other reasons, you might well strongly not like, but it could happen), and the ability to ask for what you actually want, including things that aren’t strictly policy, there isn’t anything that might undo these changes? The world is doomed hereafter to contain zero friends and hate you, even if those with the levers of power were to listen to you and care?

      Or, if you can’t provide any answers there, then help the rest of us understand in as concrete terms as possible – what exactly changed so much in the last few years that is so bad? I mean yes, I can guess, but it seems like I shouldn’t be guessing. I’d actually be willing to hop on a video call for a bit if you’d like, I really want to get to the bottom of what is actually happening.

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