Max Kaye's Site

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Max's Blog

Refutation of the idea that lockdowns are comparably bad to an unmitigated pandemic, OR evidence of humanity as a failed civilisation.

Edit 2020-08-03: I don't stand by this article. I think it's poorly written, and on a subject I don't know enough about. I'm glad I wrote it because it's been part of my progression to taking ideas (and seeking their improvement) more seriously. I've left it basically untouched besides these edits for posterity's sake.

Edit (June): this isn't written well enough, and I intend to move this to a category off the main page in the near future.

I could be wrong, but if I am I don't know why, so please enlighten me. As it stands, this feels robust to me atm. Comments/discussion: (FI link once posted) Alternative: Since GitHub is not great for discussion, if you – for whatever reason – do not think it's a good enough makeshift-forum: please post on Curi’s open discussion, and if possible please post a link in the github thread or email/msg me so I’m aware.

Refutation of lockdowns are comparably bad to coronavirus, or, if that's wrong, then the alternate: we're all wrong and going to die soon regardless. (humanity: poof)

If lockdowns were comparably bad (i.e. similar enough) to the near-unmitigated spread of coronavirus and thus covid -- e.g. say the US drops the measures taken up recently; like if they lifted them today -- if lockdowns were that bad, then it means whatever society we had leading up to that has failed, epistemically and culturally. Whatever those values are that were held, were not good enough. That is because: even at society's pinnacle of technology, information, and ability (or at least capacity) to reason; despite all that we were UNABLE to devise a method of dealing with this problem that is preferable to the problem itself. A stubling at the beginning of inifinty. The view that lockdowns are comparably bad MUST imply that ALL popular strategies -- for society, political theory, whatever -- all were INCAPABLE of being preferred to the literal ravaging of society by a new disease we couldn't deal with.

Remember, this isn't just about the US or any one country, it's about all countries. If you have extreme cases you thought supported your case: have no weight here entirely because they're the exception -- unless they pointedly refute this conjecture. The only 'out' here is literally new knowledge. Knowledge young enough that it cannot have had enough time to even spread as a meme, let alone be instantiated as any real sort of governance system. No political position popular enough to be widely known at this point can satisfy this. It should be surprising to most people. That said, people claiming the lockouts are killing thousands of people, they don't have any of those new ideas.

If this horrid reality is the case, and if some countries have done better than others then maybe (but only maybe) there is hope, however if it is somehow the case that lockdowns are that bad, and that country suffers the same consequences in the long run, then this is the first time in modern (post ww2) history we have truly failed as humans and people. The first time we've been entirely incapable of any improvement. We were not able to rise to the challenge, and this is the fault of everyone in that arena. Left, Right, Libertarian, Liberalist, Fascist, Communist, and the worst of the lot: centrists3. They all failed. Moreover, we're starting to get to the point that maybe democracy failed. Which would be earth-shatteringly bad, and, in the absence of an equally earth-shattering innovation, gives us no reason besides blind hope for any future beyond this century, give or take. If we go backwards, we die; we can't support the level of specialisation needed for progress if we lose too many people. In any case:


  1. the above implies that we as a species are NOT CAPABLE OF SUSTAINED EXISTANCE (we survive by luck),
  2. that ENTIRELY NEW SYSTEMS WHICH MUST BE SURPRISING TO ALL DOMINANT PHILOSOPHIES (yes, this means yours1) are necessary for the continuation of the human 'experiment' (for lack of a better way to describe this thing we call life); or, finally,
  3. that an assumption was wrong.

If I have not made an error, the only conclusions I know how to reach must be one of the above (maybe I've missed a possible conclusion, or you know something surprising I don’t).

Since (1) contradicts the principle of optimism it is not the case2. (2) must eventually be true unless we out pace it, it is possible it plays a role, but we need to compare it with (3), wherein I think the thesis is incorrect as it implies contradictions in reality and no sufficient reason is given for e.g. implying the principle of optimism is false.

So: (1) is wrong. (2) might be right, but there's no reason it needs to be if (3). If not (3) then (2), which means we don't have much time left.

[1]: Not necessarily if you’re reading this via FI – I just don’t know enough to claim that. I mean there's the chance an good idea comes from elsewhere, I just don't have a good reason to believe that atm given the audience I predict.

[2]: I mean it might be that the principle of optimism is wrong, but we’d need some pretty extraordinary reasoning (or: that’s my suspicion).

[3]: centrist are the worst of the lot because they lack an even superficially consistent philosophy, which is the only way to stay centrist. At least you or I can try to persuade the others, but centrists can run around hiding behind whichever idea takes their fancy. A consistent philosophy must make some self-consistent and wide-reaching claims about reality which is incompatible with the notion of centrism, except in the most myopic of situations. This is, ofc, presuming the others are willing to entertain rational debate without violence; if you go past that point they are - for all intents and purposes, relevant here, at least - indistinguishable.