Online home of Jeremy Scheff

Environmentalism is so fucked

People are worried about carbon emissions and energy usage and shit like that. But AGI is (probably) coming. And AGI doesn't just require software and hardware, it requires energy. Lots of it.

Even if we had done smart things in energy policy, such as continuing to build nuclear power plants so that we were running almost entirely on clean energy now, we'd still be fucked just because of the coming massive increase in energy demand.

Regardless of whether AGI leads to positive or negative outcomes for humanity, you don't want someone else to get it before you, do you? The advantage of being first to AGI would probably be even larger than being first to nuclear weapons or any other transformative technology in history. So any corporation/government with any reasonable amount of resources is going to be scrambling to be first.

And that means they'll be using whatever energy they have. Coal, oil, natural gas, all will be sacrified to manifest the Sand God.

My COVID origin take

There are three major hypotheses for the origin of COVID:

  1. Natural zoonosis - jump from animals to humans, such as at the Wuhan wet market
  2. Lab leak of engineered virus - leak of an engineered virus at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) through gain-of-function research
  3. Other WIV-related origin - non-engineered virus exposed to humans somehow through the activities of the WIV (such as a lab leak, or infecting someone out collecting samples for WIV in some bat cave)

#1 is the mainstream opinion, advocated by most prominent scientists and government officials.

#2 is treated by some as a conspiracy theory, but certainly seems like less of a crazy conspiracy theory than it did a couple years ago.

#3 is kind of mundane compared to #2, so maybe gets less attention, but IMHO it is very plausible.


Do Covid lockdowns still make sense in the US?

There are two possible goals that a government might have when imposing lockdown. The first goal is to eradicate the disease. The second goal is to prevent overloading hospitals with tons of sick patients at the same time. This is the "flatten the curve" strategy, where the idea isn't really to prevent people from getting infected, but to spread out the infections over time.

Those two goals are pretty different. Eradicating the disease is much harder. It requires a much stricter lockdown, and it is much more difficult to achieve when the disease is widespread in the population. Flattening the curve is easier (not "easy", just "easier") because it requires a less strict lockdown.


A simple explanation for why modeling COVID-19 is hard

Over at FiveThirtyEight there is a great article about why it's so hard to model the effects COVID-19. Basically their answer is that there are many factors that go into a model, but many of them are very uncertain, and many of them are also dynamic. For instance, what is the probability of transmission when an infected person interacts with a non-infected person? There's a lot of uncertainty in that estimate. But also, it's going to change over time. Particularly, as the pandemic worsens, people will likely do more social distancing and other mitigation strategies, resulting in a lower transmission rate.

Tricky stuff to predict precisely! But I think that's not quite the complete picture, and there's an even simpler and clearer explanation.


My take on COVID-19

I have a bit of time on my hands right now, so I figured I'd write up my current COVID-19 take. Not really because I think anyone cares. I mean, there are many better informed takes out there. I'm mostly writing this for myself, so I can look back on it and see how my perception has changed.


What happened to the Pete Buttigieg "High Hopes" dance?

In late 2019, a few videos appeared online showing some Pete Buttigieg supporters doing a corny dance to Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes". Here's one, and another, yet another, and still one more.

The rapid release of all those different videos suggested to me that this was not an isolated incident. Crazed Mayor Pete fans must be doing that lame dance all over the place!

I was excited to see more videos. But sadly that never happened. Those are still the only four Pete Buttigieg dance videos I have ever seen.

So what happened? Did Mayor Pete decide to crush the high hopes of his supporters by banning their fun little dance? Or are they still doing it, but with extreme levels of security to prevent further online ridicule?

Basic income vs. basic job

Chris Stucchio wrote an article about the differences between basic income and basic job policies, based on relatively straightforward math. Briefly, basic income says give everyone money with no strings attached and get rid of other forms of welfare. Basic job is the same, except anyone who can work is mandated to work, either in a normal job like today or in a New Deal-style government works program.

Chris's main conclusion was that basic job came out looking way better than basic income. Additionally, a major purpose of his post was to encourage other people to play around with the math as well rather than just bloviating. Since I'm a big basic income proponent and have some quibbles with how he came to conclude that basic income doesn't look too good, I will follow his lead and play around with the math.


Vote and die: are you more likely to cast the deciding vote in the election, or to die on your way to your polling place?

Vote or die? Or, vote and die?

Here is a calculator that will compare the odds of your single vote swinging the 2012 US presidential election with the odds of you dying on the way to your polling place.


Relationship between Ames Straw Poll and Iowa Caucuses results

In recent weeks, there have been a lot of people decrying the importance of the Ames Straw poll, likely because the mainstream media is worried that Ron Paul will win it. Here's one prominent example, titled "The Ames Straw Poll Has Limited Predictive Value". Of course, if you actually read the article, it doesn't really demonstrate what is claimed in the title. So, I wanted to look at this issue a little more systematically. Unfortunately, I got scooped by that bastard Nate Silver who wrote an article about this exact issue this morning, after I had already almost finished mine. So instead, this will be an exercise in open source journalism.