Related to external evaluations: 80000hours used to have a little box at the bottom of an article, indicating a score given to it by internal and external evaluators. Does anybody know, why this is not being done anymore?
Point 2 is fair, but do note that I did post this under question, so some degree of uncertainty is implied.
Point 3 seems like addressing a standard that is at the very least not consistently applied. I went back through all question posts of the last 6 months; this seems to be fairly similar in form to this question and does not contain a cost-benefit analysis either. And as already mentioned, it is still part of the question category.
1) I was aware of this podcast, and actually contemplated not posting because the superficial similarity between the topics might be a problem. First of all Lewis' criticism is not just slightly different, it's all about EA's discussion of cloth masks. About medical masks, which this post is about, he specifically says "medical masks are pretty good for the general population which I’ll just about lean in favor of, although all of these things are uncertain.". Furthermore I am uncertain whether one very recent expert's opinion should promote a huge shift in EA's consensus on this topic.
[Epistemic status: Uncertain]
While working on covid-19 is by no means neglected, working on unconventional solutions is. I would be surprised, if there is a serious organization outside of the EA sphere evaluating just one of these proposals:
Robin Hanson has suggested both variolation, and controlled infection of essential workers.
Distribution of medical knowledge to amateurs. As most people in the third world will not have access to medically trained professionals, they will turn to local sources of treatment. Having some people armed with a bunch of youtube videos and DIY respirators as your sole treatment option is terrible, but might be less terrible than no treatment or herbal remedies.
Research into whether these ideas might be valuable or could cause long term harm to the EA community might be really important.
Not an expert myself, but the naive calculations that I have seen with regards to herd immunity are incorrect. The precise numbers are just to illustrate the thought process.
"We need 60-70% of people to be immune, people 65 and younger make up 65 % percent of the population, so if they catch it we have achieved herd immunity to protect the elderly".
The flaw with that reasoning is that the immune people need to be essentially randomly distributed in the population. However, the elderly make up a sub population with their own distinct networks, in which the virus can spread after the quarantines are lifted.
It also would probably not work in much (probably the larger part) of the world, where the elderly live together with their families, unless one would relocate them to special made quarantines.
Fund a study to investigate the use of DIY-masks. Promote their use to at risk population, and fund add campaigns with scientists.
Although Western governments have come out against face masks, Eastern ones (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan) are strongly in favor of people wearing face masks to protect themselves. There is evidence, that even homemade masks are good at protecting people from respiratory droplets . These could be used if the shortage in surgical masks persist.
Since in the West nobody is promoting this evidence in favour of face masks, this is a potential high impact intervention.
There will not be a vaccine soon, but anti-viral drugs are currently in an FDA approved Phase 3 trial, and from what I have heard could be both approved and available in May.
There is evidence that higher temperatures will limit the spread: Africa has so far been mostly spared, and warm places like Singapore are doing much better than Japan or South Korea.
It's important to react with an open mind to outside criticism of EA work, and to especially engage with the strong points. Most of the responses posted here so far (including the links to tweets of other researchers) fail to do so.
Yes, the article has a much more accusing tone than content. But, the two main criticisms are actually clear and fairly reasonable, particularly given that OpenAi (as per the article) acknowledges the importance of being respected in the greater machine learning community:
1)Whatever it is that you think about the value of openness in AI research, if you call yourself OpenAI(!) people WILL expect you to be open about your work. Even though the Charta was changed to reflect that, most people will not be aware of this change.
2) I actually agree with the article that much of OpenAI's press releases feel like exaggerated hype. While I personally agree with the decision itself to not immediately release GPT-2, it was communicated with the air of "it's too dangerous and powerful to release". This was met with a strong negative reaction, which is not how you become the trusted authority on AI safety. (see here https://www.reddit.com/r/MachineLearning/comments/aqovhz/discussion_should_i_release_my_mnist_model_or/
Another instance that I personally thought was pretty egregious was the announcement of Microsoft's investment: https://openai.com/blog/microsoft/ :
We’re partnering to develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI.
Note that this sentence does not include "attempt", or "we hope will scale" .It is hard to read this without coming away with the impression that OpenAI has a very high degree of confidence in being able to build an AGI, and promising so to the world.
Just to be clear, to me the fact that Western government are already doing it is a positive point in favor of your proposal, since it is evidence for utility of contact tracing in containing the virus.
Your sections on incentive design is very persuasive, and seems like a great starting point.
And before I start with my concerns, Western governments are already kind of doing a similar thing: They identify contacts of infected people, including people who dined at the same restaurant at a similar time, in order to test them.
However, some concerns/questions that were partly raised in the fb group already:
0)Even basic questions about the virus and how it spreads are still unanswered, like how infectious one is during the incubation period. This makes more advanced questions regarding a risk score difficult to answer.
1) How likely are you to catch the virus at all just by being in the same area/frequenting the same shops as somebody infected? My impression from the Western cases so far was that it infections occurred generally with close contacts; this risk changes obviously when more infected people are around, but still should be estimated to decide whether such an app would be worth it.
2) Regarding the computation of the risk score: If you only use confirmed cases with voluntary sign up, you might not get enough data; if you use suspected cases by symptoms, you will get a lot of false positives due to worried people with the flu. In the absence of data on how to properly account for that, this is a very difficult problem.
3) You mention that Google traffic data is still useful, even when few people use it. I am not familiar with that part of the app, but if it involves some form of prediction, it is important to note that Google has had years to get this right. With a pandemic, you have at best months(!), and on top of that the situation changes constantly.
Given what I assume is a dearth of good historical data on every aspect of this , I think that calculating both an accurate risk score AND communicating it without doing more harm than good, is a very tough problem.
A dumbed down (but maybe not useful anymore) version of the app could just do without the risk score. It would essentially be a more convenient approach for governments to identify people who have been to certain areas to self-isolate or watch their symptoms. The location tracking and notification could still be done by the app, but the decision making would lie with health offices.