Ramiro's Comments

What promising projects aren't being done against the coronavirus?

Using rapid diagnostic tests for other respiratory infections to exclude covid-19 diagnosis?

Most Western countries have reached the limits of their testing capabilities; it'll take a while to deploy the new serological antibody rapid tests, and even so, we'll likely have a huge demand for them. Is it feasible to use other point-of-care rapid tests for different respiratory infections (particulalry Influenza, but I guess there might be rapid tests for Streptococcus, too) to exclude Covid-19 diagnosis?

What promising projects aren't being done against the coronavirus?

Mitigation of negative effects of social distancing?

The economic effects are already being targeted (enough?). However, could we improve measures aiming at social and psychological effects? For instance, could we have a system to use public spaces in shifts, instead of making everyone stay at home -so ensuring everyone can enjoy sometime outdoors, without crowds?

Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics

I agree that preventing exposure to virions is a priority, but I am concerned with indoor air quality overall, especially if people are staying indoors for long periods: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_air_quality?wprov=sfla1

Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics

Epistemic status: not my expertise, I'm guessing.

It's hard for it to flow upwards, and it'll probably disperse a lot (since it doesn't reproduce outside a host, I guess this minimizes the chance of being infected)... but yeah, if your apartment is close to an infected person, there's a chance that the wind will carry virions to your apartment; that's why hospitals are supposed to place infected people according to the airflow.

There's probably a trade-off between probability of external contamination vs. time virions stay viable on surfaces in an environment. It seems like, at least for other respiratory infections, for most collective environments, we should be more concerned about the latter.

What's your opinion here? Of course, there's a point where the external environment becomes so contaminated (in a hospital, or if everyone in your building is infected) that you better insulate your personal environment as best as you can.

Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics

I like this idea. On the other hand, the other promising environmental measure analysed by WHO, ventilation, seems very straightforward and intuitive - but it's still neglected (I haven't observed any emphasis on that recently, at least). If people can't open their windows and turn off the air conditioning during epidemics, I wouldn't be very hopeful concerning UV lamps.

Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover

First, thanks! I had no idea Afonso de Albuquerque's conquests had been so marvelous. I mean, yeah, Camões and Pessoa dedicated him some verses, but it's not very informative.


Why didn’t it happen the other way around: some ambitious local ruler talks to the conquistadors, exploits their internal divisions, allies with some to defeat the others, and ends up on top

Actually, it happened sometimes - natives played Europeans against each other in Africa and Brazil, where the absence of centralized government (and bad terrain) made a quick takeover impossible.

FHI Report: The Windfall Clause: Distributing the Benefits of AI for the Common Good

(Epistemic status: there must be some flaw, but I can't find it.)

Sure. But, let me be clearer: what drew my attention is that, apparently, there seems to be no down-side for a company to do this ASAP. My whole point:

First, consider the “simple” example where a signatory company promises to donate 10% of its profits from a revolutionary AI system in 2060, a situation with an estimated probability of about 1%; the present value of this obligation would currently amount to U$650 million (in 2010 dollars). This seems a lot; however, I contend that, given investors’ hyperbolic discount, they probably wouldn’t be very concerned about it – it’s an unlikely event, to happen in 40 years; moreover, I’ve checked with some accountants, and this obligation would (today) be probably classified as a contingent liability of remote possibility (which, under IAS 37, means it wouldn’t impact the company’s balance sheet – it doesn’t even have to be disclosed in its annual report). So, I doubt such an obligation would negatively impact a company’s market value and profits (in the short-term); actually, as there’s no “bad marketing”, it could very well increase them.

Second (all this previous argument was meant to get here), would it violate some sort of fiduciary duty? Even if it doesn’t affect present investors, it could affect future ones: i.e., supposing the Clause is enforced, can these investors complain? That’s where things get messy to me. If the fiduciary duty assumes a person-affecting conception of duties (as law usually does), I believe it can’t. First, if the Clause were public, any investor that bought company shares after the promise would have done it in full knowledge – and so wouldn’t be allowed to complain; and, if it didn’t affect its market value in 2019, even older investors would have to face the objection “but you could have sold your shares without loss.” Also, given the precise event “this company made this discovery in such-and-such way”, it’s quite likely that the event of the promise figures in the causal chain that made this precise company get this result – it certainly didn’t prevent it! Thus, even future investors wouldn’t be allowed to complain.
There must be some flaw in this reasoning, but I can’t find it.

(Could we convince start-ups to sign this until it becomes trendy?)

FHI Report: The Windfall Clause: Distributing the Benefits of AI for the Common Good

I wonder how such a commitment would actually impact a company's balance sheet.

In the example of Windfall Clause worth $649.34 million (in 2010 dollars), I guess that, according to IAS 37, it would be considered a contingent liability of remote possibility - and so wouldn't even need to be disclosed by the company.

Moreover, due to hyperbolic discount, it would probably be perceived as much less costly than $650m. (and I thought time preferences were evil...)

Growth and the case against randomista development
Policies that claim for "more education", in Brazil at least, tend to emphasize a completely different skillset: far leftist-biased history, far leftist-biased geography, far leftist-biased sociology, far leftist-biased philosophy, arts and culture (there's this perception that "more culture" is some sort of panacea), and "critical thinking", which is usually code for "opposing pro-growth policies".

I do agree math & science are really wanting in the 3rd world, that they're more fundamental for growth, and that we should focus on them. However, I disagree with the diagnosis; I believe the reason students are comparatively worse in hard sciences is, well, that they're relatively harder - they require training and competence, from students AND teachers. If the problem were that we implemented leftist pro-culture policies, instead of improve hard sciences learning, we should at least observe improvements in some other capabilities - e.g., they should be able to read, interpret, and expose arguments on why, e.g., everything bad was caused by colonialism, patriarchy, etc.

I think we have a more complex inadequate equilibria: bad teachers in unions defending their interests, students from terrible backgrounds, talented people avoiding teaching (if you know calculus, why would you want to try to teach poor kids for a low salary?), and, of course, governments focused on whatever will win votes in the next election.

I do agree that any proposal on changing educational policies will meet a backlash, espacially from humanities, and that it will often carry a leftist taste - but we shouldn't focus on this backlash, that's not the cause of illiteracy, nor innumeracy. When we frame the issue as "the problem is that education is dominated by marxist thinking", we're just unnecessarily politicising it.

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