comment by Halffull ·
2020-03-25T15:01:48.420Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Was thinking a bit about the how to make it real for people that the quarantine depressing the economy kills people just like Coronavirus does.
Was thinking about finding a simple good enough correlation between economic depression and death, then creating a "flattening the curve" graphic that shows how many deaths we would save from stopping the economic freefall at different points. Combining this was clear narratives about recession could be quite effective.
On the other hand, I think it's quite plausible that this particular problem will take care of itself. When people begin to experience depression, will the young people who are the economic engine of the country really continue to stay home and quarantine themselves? It seems quite likely that we'll simply become stratified for a while where young healthy people break quarantine, and the older and immuno-compromised stay home.
But getting the time of this right is everything. Striking the right balance of "deaths from economic freefall" and "deaths from an overloaded medical system" is a balancing act, going too far in either direction results in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Then I got to thinking about the effect of a depressed economy on x-risks from AI. Because the funding for AI safety is
1. Mostly in non-profits
2. Orders of magnitude smaller than funding for AI capabilities
It's quite likely that the funding for AI safety is more inelastic in depressions than than the funding for AI capabilities. This may answer the puzzle of why more EAs and rationalists aren't speaking cogently about the tradeoffs between depression and lives saved from Corona - they have gone through this same train of thought, and decided that preventing a depression is an information hazard.Replies from: Halffull, Greg_Colbourn
↑ comment by Greg_Colbourn ·
2020-03-25T15:35:39.881Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Maybe also that the talk of preventing a depression is an information hazard when we are at the stage of the pandemic where all-out lockdown is the biggest priority for most of the richest countries. In a few weeks when the epidemics in the US and Western Europe are under control, and lockdown can be eased with massive testing, tracing and isolating of cases, then it would make more sense to freely talk about boosting the economy again (in the mean time, we should be calling for governments to take up the slack with stimulus packages. Which they seem to be doing already).Replies from: Halffull
↑ comment by Halffull ·
2020-03-25T16:14:40.258Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
This argument has the same problem as recommending people don't wear masks though, if you go from "save lives save lives don't worry about economic impacts" to "worry about economics impacts it's as important as quarantine" you lose credibility.
You have to find a way to make nuance emotional and sticky enough to hit, rather than forgoing nuance as an information hazard, otherwise you lose the ability to influence at all.
This was the source of my "two curves" narrative, and I assume would be the approach that others would take if that was the reason for their reticence to discuss.