Keeping up with the FITs, 11/23

Robert Wright on tribalism; Scott Alexander on COVID treatment; Tyler Cowen on AI; John Cochrane on inflation

Robert Wright writes,

saying more about what I mean by that term—and what that meaning implies about the dynamics of “tribal psychology”—might be helpful for some people as they try to do fewer deplorably tribal things and more commendably anti-tribal things.

Most of the rest of his post is behind his paywall. But since “tribalism” is in my wheelhouse, I subscribed just to see it.

I would say, “Own your tribalism.” Or as Julia Galef would put it, if you consider yourself to always be in scout mindset (non-tribal), you’re not. In fact, if Wright is looking for an alternative pejorative to “tribalism,” I would suggest either “myside bias” or “soldier mindset.”

Speaking of scout mindset, who better than Scott Alexander to provide a meta-analysis of research on Ivermectin as a COVID treatment? The good news for Ivermectin is that Scott finds some reliable studies that show good results. The bad news is that those studies all come from countries where worms are prevalent, and Ivermectin is already known for being effective against worms. His bottom line:

Ivermectin doesn’t reduce mortality in COVID a significant amount (let’s say d > 0.3) in the absence of comorbid parasites: 85-90% confidence

On the sociology of Ivermectin, he writes

Ivermectin supporters were really wrong. I enjoy the idea of a cosmic joke where ivermectin sort of works in some senses in some areas. But the things people were claiming - that ivermectin has a 100% success rate, that you don’t need to take the vaccine because you can just take ivermectin instead, etc - have been untenable not just since the big negative trials came out this summer, but even by the standards of the early positive trials. Mahmud et al was big and positive and exciting, but it showed that ivermectin patients recovered in about 7 days on average instead of 9. I think the conventional wisdom - that the most extreme ivermectin supporters were mostly gullible rubes who were bamboozled by pseudoscience - was basically accurate.

He doesn’t call out Bret and Heather. And he points out that the gullible rubes in fact were looking at studies and trying to follow the science.

They have a very reasonable-sounding belief, which is that if dozens of studies all say a drug works really well, then it probably works really well. When they see dozens of studies saying a drug works really well, and the elites saying “no don’t take it!”, their extremely natural conclusion is that it works really well but the elites are covering it up.

Read the whole essay when you have time. I think it’s a classic.

Sam Altman asks Tyler Cowen a lot of interesting questions (not just about AI) in this podcast. Tyler gives a lot of interesting answers, especially about the emergence of weird new jobs.

John Cochrane writes,

Inflation is entirely about "demand," not "supply." Fixing the ports, the chips, the pipelines, the labor disincentives, the regulations, are all great and good, and the key to economic growth. But they will not on their own do much to slow inflation. We are having inflation because the government printed up a few trillion dollars, and borrowed a few trillion more, and wrote people checks. People are spending the checks. 

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