All of Juan Cambeiro's Comments + Replies

Engineering the Apocalypse: Rob Reid and Sam Harris on engineered pandemics (transcript)

Thanks for doing this, and I had a similar experience of being deeply affected by this story.

I'm by no means a biosecurity expert (I do have a bio background and forecasting experience related to COVID). Overall, I was also impressed and I have no especially strong criticisms of the content here except to say that his bullishness on UVC light and the BCG vaccine as important parts of "hardening society against future pandemics" seems unwarranted. 

UVC light: even if you could somehow get the technology to work and  get regulatory approval, this wo... (read more)

What EA projects could grow to become megaprojects, eventually spending $100m per year?

I think the gist of this idea might be something like a massively-scaled up prediction platform that focuses on recruiting subject-matter experts and pays them to make predictions on questions relevant to their expertise while perhaps additionally discussing important/neglected trends in their fields. 

How are resources in EA allocated across issues?

This is interesting, thanks. Do you plan on making funding/people allocation estimates using this methodology in the future? If so perhaps it'd be worthwhile for us to expand Metaculus forecasting on future EA resources to include questions on future funding/people allocation, with the aim of informing efforts to address the gap between ideal future portfolios and expectations for what future portfolios will actually be.

7Benjamin_Todd6moMy hope is that someone with more time to do it carefully will be able to do this in the future. Having on-going metaculus forecasts sounds great too.
I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

What news sites, data sources, and/or experts have you found to be most helpful for informing your forecasts on COVID-19?

Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

In an earlier Twitter thread, Trevor Bedford says "my rough guess would be that an infected individual would on average transmit to one further individual each day in the protest setting" — so I think he was using 0.9/0.95 as the R0 to estimate the impact of the protests. But I don't think this is a safe assumption and I'm concerned that the R0 might be significantly higher than ~1 in a mass gathering.

In any case, the most reliable modeling I've seen (and that Trevor cite... (read more)

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3Sean_o_h2yThanks Juan, I hadn't seen that most recent R0 estimate you link to - concerning.
Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

I'm not convinced that we would have already seen a significant uptick in reported/confirmed case numbers quite yet (weren't the largest protests this past Saturday?). The median incubation period is ~5 days, most people don't get tested at the time of symptom onset, and the PCR test turnaround time still seems to still be at least a day or two. Perhaps most importantly, most of the protestors seem to be relatively young and so many may be asymptomatic or may have mild cold/flu-like symptoms. I'm more interested in (and concerned about)... (read more)

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3Sean_o_h2yRight. But with regard to R0 =0.9, I understand R0=0.9 was being used as the background R0 prior to the impact of the protest, rather than the R0 following the impact of the protests (if 'background' R0 is <1, then the impact of an R0-increasing event/set of events will have a lesser effect than if 'background' R0 is >1). It may be the case, as you suggest, that R0 has increased significantly since the start of the protests until now (whether due to the protests or in combination of other factors), in which case protests right now are happening against a higher R0 than these estimates assume - but we don't have the data. I agree that NYC will be interesting.
Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

I don't know why the discussion is being limited to the R0 being 0.90 or 0.95. Is it not plausible — indeed, likely — that the R0 might be 1, 1.1, 1.2 or even much higher? Anything above R0=1 would imply a cascade of transmission events that would result in far more deaths than any figures these analyses are showing, and it seems reasonable to be very concerned about that even if these transmission chains are stopped or burn out at some point in the near future.

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3Sean_o_h2yR0 could certainly be much higher in principle, though if it is, it doesn't seem to be reflected in the number of positive cases being recorded in the US - which has been holding steady or slightly declining for the past month - or the number of deaths (declining, although there would be a lag there). These indicators could be misleading of course - the US, like the UK, is nearly certainly undertesting and undercounting cases. However, the number of tests has been going up, and if the number of cases being 'caught' isn't increasing this is some indication that R0 is somewhere a little below 1. So I would tentatively agree with the OP's suggestion here. [] One reason looking at different assessments based on R0=0.9 is informative is that it illustrates just how high the uncertainty and room for error is in these sorts of analysis. The OP predicts 75,000 deaths as a plausible possibility; Bedford predicts 150-600/day, so 2,100 -8,400 over the course of 2 weeks of protests (assuming each day carries the same impact on R0, which is probably wrong); both using R0=0.9 as a central assumption, and recognising that the present R0 is a key factor. Because present value of R0 is such a critical factor, comparing different estimates at the same R0 makes it easier to compare/contrast. One of my personal concerns is that the BLM protests may end up unduly scapegoated (in terms of their role being overestimated) for any increase in cases and deaths; the US administration has done quite a bit of scapegoating already in my view, and there are many ways in which its own response has been far from adequate. My intuition is that other aspects of states reopening prematurely are likely to play a bigger impact in a possible second wave. If there were a significant overestimation of the impact of the BLM protests for example, this would be bad not only for the BLM movement and a
Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

Trevor Bedford's back-of-the-envelope calculation estimates 200-1100 deaths per day of protests. Note that his analysis assumes an R0 of 0.95, which is definitely not a safe assumption.

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9Sean_o_h2yHe did another analysis assuming R0 of 0.9, obtaining estimate of 150-600 downstream deaths per day of protests. []
Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

There doesn't seem to be any local transmission in the US yet - so for now, I guess it probably wouldn't help much (though it would still help prevent the spread of the common cold/flu!).

If/when there is local transmission, following this advice will be very important.

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Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Thanks for this. I found this article on how to personally prevent its spread helpful:

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4Khorton2yThe CDC and WHO emphasise handwashing, not gloves. "WHO experts advise against wearing gloves on the basis that hand-washing is more important and people wearing gloves are less likely to wash their hands." []
5arikr2yFor people living in the US, at what point does it become particularly important to start following these methods? I assume it’s always beneficial, but risk adjusted not particularly important until there start being more cases in the US or until we start having more cases. Is that assumption right or dangerously wrong?
Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice?

Thanks for writing this!

What about x-risks? Do you think it would be helpful to frame the importance of protecting/enabling the future existence of vast numbers of happy people in terms of justice? Perhaps an argument can be made that it isn't fair to future/current generations that they aren't given the opportunity to exist/continue to exist? This is obviously a more difficult case given that there would be no stakeholders if a true x-risk were to occur - and the presence of stakeholders may be required for the idea of justice to even come into play(?)

2kbog3yI can't really tell; x-risks as a monolithic area of study and activism is new. Society pretty much agrees that extinction is bad so I don't think these ethical and rhetorical ideas matter as much, you can just make good technical arguments about risks and let other people figure out the rest.