35 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Except that is not the question you asked. That question, if indeed it is, was framed by the preceding: “What about conspiratorial ideation on certain other topics? …”

    In altering the framing you have changed the subject. Why?

    Also does the question about “conspiratorial ideation” still pertain to your “truth” propositions (2) and (3)? If so, why those and not (1)?

    Another commenter posted a link to an article which reported that people who accept (some specific) ideas about conspiracies are different, politically, from people who don’t.

    I wondered whether this is also true in the case of other ideas about conspiracies, not mentioned in that article, and listed three.

    So as far as I can tell, unless I misunderstood the original article, my framing is the same as the one appearing in that article. I know for sure that I framed my question about the three instances I listed in the same way for all three.

  2. Simplifying a bit, conspiratorial ideation (which here means accepting conspiracy theories that are contrary to the expert consensus – so thinking the Watergate break in was the result of conspiracy doesn’t count) …

    I’m pretty sure that the first context in which I encountered the word ‘ideation’, and the one in which I have most often encountered it, is in the phrase ‘suicidal ideation’, which I have understood to mean ‘thinking about suicide’. So I took the expression ‘conspiratorial ideation’ to mean ‘thinking about conspiracies’, without considering the relation of those thoughts to an expert consensus, if any existed, and specifically when I formulated my three example statements I was not thinking about the existence of expert consensus on any of them. What I was thinking about those three statements is that all of them mention conspiracies and that all of them are accepted as true by some people and not accepted as true by other people (so the idea of differences between those people who accept them and those people who do not accept them would be meaningful).

  3. Epidemic Statistics.

    I am not a medical professional nor am I a statistician. Nevertheless, I am trying to understand what current publicly available statistics mean with respect to the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak. I refer to the worldometers site.

    Closed global cases list, at the time of writing, Brisbane time 9:15 am, 9/3/2020;

    64,778 Cases which had an outcome.
    60,973 (94%) Recovered / Discharged.
    3,805 (6%) Deaths.

    This would seem to give a raw death-rate of 6% for the population as a whole. A number of early studies are giving an estimated death rate of 3% to 5.8%. By their nature early epidemic statistics must only be of detected cases. I deduce this without knowledge in this field. We cannot know how many undetected cases there are. If for example, 50% of all cases are mild to asymptomatic and result in no seeking of tests or treatment then the real death rate is not 6% but 3%. If 90% of all cases are mild to asymptomatic and result in no seeking of tests or treatment then the real death rate is not 6% but 0.6%. Presumably statistical studies of control groups (non-presenters etc.) could eventually aid in detecting something closer to the real infection rate.

    If the real death rate is 0.6% is this cause for concern? Given that the disease is contagious, spreading quickly and easily (R0 from 1.5 to 4), a number of medical authorities are saying that up to 2/3rds of the world population will be infected within a couple of years. Let us a assume a lower proportion and assume 4 billion get infected in that time frame. If my arithmetic is right that is 24 million deaths world wide. For Australia, that is about 150,000 people.

    Basically, if you are over 50 years you need to be, not worried, but cautious about where you go, especially so if you have pre-existing medical conditions and/or are male.


    To sum up here, I am saying that a lot of people in the vulnerable demographic still appear to be taking this epidemic lightly. That could be a big mistake.

    My next post will be about the possible economic consequences of this epidemic.

  4. J-D: I think partly this is confused by including both “actual conspiracies” and “fiction about which conspiracies are theorised” without distinguishing the two, but then concluding “both are evidence of mental illness”. If you want to talk about the latter then sure, some people use evidence of actual conspiracies to justify flights of fancy, but the existence of people who believe in actual conspiracies doesn’t really tell you anything about the other group. Kind of how “some people think the earth is such a large oblate spheroid that it can appear locally flat” doesn’t really help you understand flat earthers.

    I suspect that carefully explaining terms would probably resolve the argument. Or at least change it from two people both thinking the other is fundamentally misunderstanding the facts.

  5. I made no reference to mental illness, and if there was any reference to it in the article cited earlier then I missed it. What I took from the article cited earlier was the idea of there being political differences between people who accept as true statements referring to conspiracies and people who don’t, in the case of particular statements referring to conspiracies mentioned in the article, and I was wondering whether this would be true in the case of other statements referring to conspiracies, for which there are also some people who accept them as true and some people who don’t.

  6. Iconoclast, One of the interesting features of Australian discussions is that policy-makers are waiting for things to get serious before they enact containment policies for the virus. The assumption seems to be that – maybe – Australia will not replicate the experience of France, Germany, and Italy.

    But if we will replicate that experience then the time for containment is now – before the virus gets out of control. We should learn from China and Singapore. Schools should be shut – kids don’t generally experience severe symptoms from the virus but are potentially major agents for infecting others – and shut now. People should be encouraged to remain in their homes. Sporting events and large gatherings of people should end. Those in crucial occupations should be equipped with masks and hand sanitizers.

    For the life of me, I cannot see the sense of waiting for things to get really bad before we act.

    We also need to show the type of political leadership of the Singapore PM – talk to the people frankly about the scale of the problem we face and encourage socially-responsible action. So far all we get is the “don’t panic” message which is counterproductive. We do face a real threat and people need to make sacrifices now to limit the scale of this threat.

  7. > Schools should be shut

    That will also help reduce the number of people going to work to share the virus. Or reduce the number of children because leaving kids at home alone can be educational in the Darwinian sense. The problem is all the people who have less than six months sick leave available, including especially the victims of the zero-hours contract and the “self-employed” suppliers of labour to the likes of Uber. I’d guess that more than half the workforce can’t take even one month off without crippling financial distress. I can’t imagine the current government stepping in to guarantee decent incomes to anyone, let alone those in greatest need (a fair go is only for those who already have a go, after all).

    But this is the sort of question Prof Quiggin is probably better equipped to answer than I am.

  8. Moz, Watch the US. While sick leave provisions might be inadequate in Australia they are non-existent for many US workers – not turning up for work is identified as shirking. In addition, the US does not have a public health system and seems to be rather complacent about Covid -19.

    The US will follow European experience but with greater adverse consequences.

  9. > I made no reference to mental illness

    I’m sorry, perhaps I misunderstood your reference to “conspiratorial ideation”. You seemed to be looking for a link between unhealthy levels of thinking about conspiracies and peoples political views. Do you instead mean the completely normal and healthy expectation that people with similar interests might work together? I assume not, otherwise why label it conspiracy thinking?

  10. You seemed to be looking for a link between unhealthy levels of thinking about conspiracies and peoples political views.

    I didn’t use the word ‘unhealthy’, so how did I give that impression?

  11. J-D: by using the language used to describe mental illness. “suicidal ideation” isn’t neutral, and for me that’s the only context I had for “ideation”. Until I looked that up I had no idea it was design jargon (my spill chequer also doesn’t know the word). “Conspiracy” is also not neutral, and it’s often used to label people as mentally unwell. That’s the associations the term brings up, and there are other terms that don’t have those associations, so it seems plausible that that was your intention.

    That’s why I asked you to define your terms, but instead you’re “just asking questions” https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Just_asking_questions

  12. “let’s get it over with as soon as we can, then get back to normal”

    Has it been established that you can only get it once? Who knows, maybe once you’ve had it your immune system is compromised and you’re more likely to get it again. Or not. I don’t think anybody has any FI.

  13. Harry Clarke,

    I think the government’s strategy is to pretend to be doing containment while actually enacting a (very poor) delaying strategy. Overall, delay rather than containment is the only realistic strategy long term. However, the tactics to implement the strategy have been wrong from the start and this has weakened and compromised our delaying strategy. The first part of containment really is exclusion. “Exclusion containment” should have been a lot stronger early on. That is to say we should have banned ALL travel from countries with outbreaks as soon as their outbreaks occurred and were known. The sole exception would have been Australian citizens being brought home. They should have gone to quarantine for four or maybe six weeks once arriving in Australia. Foreign students, or anyone else not Australian citizens should not have been permitted to arrive in Australia at all if their home or originating country already had cases.

    The value of the tough early stance would be to delay and mitigate damage to people and economy in Australia. The farther behind the main wave of infection that a country is, the more it benefits from data and discoveries about the pathogen and treatment, prevention and immunization.

    You are correct in saying that Australia’s internal containment should already be much stronger. People are underestimating this virus and the health and economic damage it will do. Poor internal containment in Australia will very likely result in peak pandemic loads which will overwhelm our medical and hospital systems and wreak havoc on our economy.

  14. That’s why I asked you to define your terms

    The term ‘conspiratorial ideation’ came into this discussion from an article which somebody else cited, so wasn’t introduced by me, but if you go back to my second comment in this Sandpit you will see where I wrote

    … I took the expression ‘conspiratorial ideation’ to mean ‘thinking about conspiracies’ …

  15. > from an article which somebody else cited

    Ooops, I’d forgotten that. Sorry.

  16. J-D when I write my thesis, before I submit, will you puruse it for any inconsistency please.

    If you stopped asking questions, I’d be amazed and assured of minimal ambiguity and zero circular reasoning.

    I’m serious.

  17. The wealth effect of the COVID19 virus may destabilise global money
    flows. Flights to safe havens
    may tighten liquidity in OECD countries The IMF may have to bail out over indebted members.

  18. Re quarantine, just redefine where it came from and all will be well. I won’t reference you know who.

    Today on twitsville…
    “Peter W. Singer @peterwsinger
    Trying to rebrand Coronavirus as “Wuhan virus” in no way reduces either the disease or Trump’s role in wasting important preparatory time essential to public health. That his team and @gop took the time right now to try this rebranding illustrates so much that is so wrong…”

    “Fox & Friends and Mike Pompeo try to rebrand coronavirus as “the Wuhan virus”

    “The World Health Organization has urged people not to call it that

    PUBLISHED 03/06/20 10:12 AM EST

    MIKE POMPEO (SECRETARY OF STATE): So, it’s a complicated challenge. The Wuhan virus that began at the end of last year is something that this administration is taking incredibly seriously.”…


  19. KT2: I’ve been told that just as emissions less than 3% of the total don’t matter, death rate of less than 3% also means everyone is safe.

    I wonder if that’s the delay,deflect,deny strategy just naturally carrying across to the latest problem?

  20. When a person over 70 tries to tell me the death rate is 3% I reply, “Not for you buddy.”

  21. Hey, I’ve got a generally great immune system so I’ll be alright Jack. Will also have fun in seeing Millennials realise that recessions exist; and officials seeing that absurd monetary policy has consequences down the track. On the other hand I could lose my job or die. Oh well, that’s life.

  22. Ikonoclast – and all… please comment on this “Explorable Explaination”.

    Interactive – change values to see your scenario play out – did you save lives or slow down infection rate. Did you know of the two types of network effect?

    Going Critical.
    “This is our topic for today: the way things move and spread, somewhat chaotically, across a network. Some examples to whet the appetite:

    – Infectious diseases jumping from host to host within a population
    – Memes spreading across a follower graph on social media
    – A wildfire breaking out across a landscapeIdeas and practices diffusing through a culture
    – Neutrons cascading through a hunk of enriched uranium

    Ikonoclast says 10:50 am
    “I am not a medical professional nor am I a statistician. [ Nor I ] Nevertheless, I am trying to understand what current publicly available statistics mean with respect to the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak. I refer to the worldometers site.” Plug values into Going Critical.

    And… ” When a person over 70 tries to tell me the death rate is 3% I reply, “Not for you buddy.”.

    I was at grandma’s yesterday with my child. Grandma said straight up “I’m dead if I get it”. Very sobering comment.

    I assume some here may know and understand the diffusion effect outlined in above “Going Critical” explorable explaination. It was enlightening for me, and so I hope you pass this on to others who may want to understand these effects.

  23. If anyone is interested in the pedigree of Explorable Explanations see;

    Seymour Aubrey Papert 
    [ Logos / turtle robot for school kids ]
    “American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator, who spent most of his career teaching and researching at MIT.[2][3][4] He was one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, and of the constructionist movement in education.[5] He was co-inventor, with Wally Feurzeig and Cynthia Solomon, of the Logo programming language.[2][6][7][8][9]

    Brett Victor. See DynamicLand – WOW I want it here now.

    “Bret Victor is an interface designer, computer scientist, and electrical engineer known for his talks on the future of technology. He currently works as a researcher at Dynamicland. ”

    Nicky Case – instigator of Explorable Explainations.
    Play this to see cooperation vs cheat – say toilet paper!

    “During World War I, peace broke out. 

    “It was Christmas 1914 on the Western Front.
    Despite strict orders not to chillax with the enemy, British
    and German soldiers left their trenches, crossed No Man’s Land,
    and gathered to bury their dead, exchange gifts, and play games. 

    “Meanwhile: it’s 2017, the West has been at peace for decades, and wow, we suck at trust. Surveys show that, over the past forty years, fewer and fewer people say they trust each other. So here’s our puzzle: 

    “Why, even in peacetime, do friends become enemies?
    And why, even in wartime, do enemies become friends? 

    “I think game theory can help explain our epidemic of distrust –
    and how we can fix it! So, to understand all this… [ Nash eq ]




    You have one choice. In front of you is a machine: if you put a coin in the machine, the other player gets three coins – and vice versa. You both can either choose to COOPERATE (put in coin), or CHEAT (don’t put in coin).

    “Let’s say the other player cheats, and doesn’t put in a coin.
    What should you do?


    Even you JQ & Ernestine will enjoy and refresh your knowledge I believe.

  24. What should you do?

    Report the experimenters for failure to comply with the requirements of the Human Research Ethics Committee.

  25. J-D. It will be…
    “Incorporating Nueroscience into Decisons”. Paper.

    Friston, oscillation math, and bounded agents. Bounded by your brain’s existing pathways. Easy!

    Emotional Econonmics & Opportunity Costs: know past, know future. Article.

    Here is the inspriation – oscillation math just about cracked.

    The Math of How Crickets, Starlings, and Neurons Sync Up

    For example, making the coupling between two oscillators in the cluster unidirectional instead of mutual not only doesn’t disturb the cluster’s synchrony, it actually makes its state more robust to noise and perturbations from elsewhere in the network.

    Indeed, we live because of synchronization. Neurons in our brains fire in synchronous patterns to operate our bodies and minds, and pacemaker cells in our hearts sync up to generate the beat.

    Many researchers suspect chimeras arise naturally. The brain itself seems to be a complicated kind of chimera, in that it simultaneously sustains both synchronous and asynchronous firing of neurons. Last year, researchers found qualitative similarities between the destabilization of chimera states and epileptic seizures. 


    Side note: if, as surgeons and air traffic controllers don’t -don’t -exhibit a p-wave firing after action potential – you feel pain, then p-wave triggers to act (no I am not a neuroscientist obviously) yet both those professions (and epileptic response) are still able (or too chaotic in the case of epilepsy ) make intense life saving decisions in real time, some neuroscience in decision making and therefore economics, seems a worthy goal. This I have yet to nail down.

    2yrs away I’d say. It makes my brain hurt sometimes. As in;

    “A non-inclusive list of types of oscillatory activity found in the central nervous system:

    Delta wave
    Theta wave
    Alpha wave
    Mu wave
    Beta wave
    Gamma wave
    PGO waves
    Sleep spindle
    Thalamocortical oscillations
    Subthreshold membrane potential oscillations
    BurstingCardiac cycle
    Epileptic seizure
    Mathematical modeling of electrophysiological activity in epilepsy
    Sharp wave–ripple complexes

  26. That game of trust is amusing as a multi-round game, because the always-defect strategy is self-defeating – the other player eventually runs out of coins to put in the machine.

    Which is a bit like the Australian economy under a Liberal government – they starve the lower classes of funds, consumer spending dries up and suddenly jobs’n’growth withers.

  27. Active COVID-19 cases in China, that is people who are actually sick, have fallen to less than one-third their peak. Active cases in South Korea have leveled off. The situation is still serious in Italy, but it does look like active cases there are starting to level off. So with an appropriate response it is possible to get outbreaks under control. It’s not easy, but a lot better than the alternative.

  28. I think it’s way too early to say that, Ronald. It is just as likely that when things go back to normal, the virus will spread rapidly again.

    Since the overwhelming majority of deaths are among the old and people already in poor health, I think might be best if nature is allowed to run its course.

    I really don’t think young people should have their education, leisure etc compromised for the sake of a middle aged farts with underlying health problems such as myself.

  29. Hugo, from previous outbreaks in the past we know that if vigilance is maintained outbreaks can be contained. Even if COVID-19 becomes endemic in parts of the world and so is always waiting to spread, slowing the rate at which this happens is very helpful for preventing medical capacity from being overrun and gives time for highly effective measures such as a vaccine to be developed. Even just having more time to make more gloves and masks is helpful. Letting the virus rip would be a lousy choice as it would result in many deaths from people being unable to receive help from overstretch medical resources, including some young people who otherwise would have survived. And some young people actually care about old farts, even if they are bad at showing it sometimes.

  30. Ronald, the old and unhealthy could be assisted with self isolation and protection as an alternative to shutting everything down and having military goons wandering about with guns to make sure young folk aren’t having fun or an education.

  31. Moz of Yarramulla
    ” I wonder if that’s the delay,deflect,deny strategy just naturally carrying across to the latest problem?”

    It is all of the above and, I have kept thinking of the boiling frog syndrome. We are shocked at covid19 but seem not to bother about road deaths, pm2s, and;

    “The second-deadliest Ebola epidemic in history stole the headlines in 2019 – … A little reported measles epidemic took over 5,000 lives, while more than 470 people died of cholera.”


    Our attention is easily swayed.

  32. Follow up to – Our attention is easily swayed.

    “What Ebola taught me about coronavirus: panic will get us nowhere

    “We must take care, but not lose sight of the bigger picture. Fixating on the virus means we often ignore wider social and economic priorities

    “By choosing to continue with their lives during the Ebola outbreak, my friends and neighbours in Freetown did not lose sight of the bigger picture. In hindsight, their responses make a lot of sense, even if they were actively discouraged at the time. A few years on, with health services and the economy still desperately poor inSierra Leone, it is clear that a multi-billion-dollar international response was too preoccupied with Ebola and ignored the wider priorities of ordinary people.

    “If there is one lesson I learned from my research on Ebola in Sierra Leone, it is this: take care but don’t panic about the virus and lose sight of the bigger picture. I hope that in responding to coronavirus, we as individuals – and our institutions – can learn something from those who have been through this before.

    Dr Jonah Lipton is a postdoctoral researcher at the Firoz Lalji Centre forAfrica, London School of Economics


  33. Hugo, I think you over estimate what is necessary to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. You are probably also over estimating how much young people enjoy socializing. Most of them are fine with spending a few weeks on the internet.

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