Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, trader, artist, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

Metaculus and medians

or, Some scope-sensitive snafus in summing estimates


Should I expect monkeypox to be a big deal for the world? Well, fortunately, Metaculus has a pair of questions that ask users to predict how many infections and deaths there will be in 2022:



203 users(!) made 817 predictions of infections, and Metaculus helpfully aggregates those into a "community prediction" of ~248k infections. 77 users made 180 predictions of deaths, with a community prediction of 541.

The y-axis is on a log scale (as are the predictors' distributions). This is a good choice! Whatever you expect the most-likely case to be, there's definitely a chance with things like this that one a misestimation or shift in one factor can make it bigger or smaller by a multiple, not just an additive amount.

What's not a good choice is to report the median outcome of the aggregate position as the "community prediction". This causes a


The FDA on Fluvoxamine, round 1

Yesterday, the US FDA responded to a submission for Emergency Use Authorization (that was submitted 146 days earlier) for use of fluvoxamine "for the outpatient treatment of adults 24 years and older...to prevent progression to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization" (p. 2).

The FDA's conclusion is:

Due to limitations in the available clinical study results for fluvoxamine in the proposed patient population, lack of compelling in vitro and in vivo data to support the proposed [mechanism of action] of fluvoxamine for the treatment of mild COVID-19 disease, and context of increasingly available therapies with well-characterized [mechanisms of action] and consistent efficacy results in nonhospitalized patients, the FDA cannot reasonably conclude that fluvoxamine may be effective for the treatment of COVID-19. As such, FDA has determined that the criteria for issuance of an EUA are not met at this time.

While the FDA has concluded that the existing clinical data are insufficient to support the issuance of an EUA, these data suggest that further clinical investigation may


Series I (April 2022 update)

To recap:

The Series I savings bond is a US government bond offered to US citizens, with purchases limited to $10k per person per year. It pays interest set by a formula based on the official inflation rate, with a built-in lag. (...)

In particular, the interest rate formula for bonds bought before May 1, 2022 will be:

  • 3.56% until October 1
  • X% for the next 6 months (where X% is the inflation of CPI-U from Sept 2021 to March 2022)
  • Y% for the following 6 months (where Y% is the inflation of CPI-U from March 2022 to Sept 2022)

...and so on. You'll forfeit the last 3 months of interest if you redeem anytime before 5 years (which I'm assuming will be correct to do).

When we checked in December, we'd seen 2 months of the Sept'21->Mar'22 period and I had conservatively estimated that the 6-month inflation rate would come in at 2.17%, implying a


So you want to work on biosecurity

an incomplete reading list, seeking suggestions

Since announcing my career change to working on biosecurity (Twitter thread), I've had a few people ask me for resources for learning more about (careers in) pandemic preparedness and biosecurity. Here are some resources that I've found helpful in my reading and exploration, in the hopes that they'll be helpful for you, too.

(living list, updated as I find more things)

Other reading Lists

Article-to-paper sized content


Onward, again

This January, I left my job as a trader at Jane Street (most recently in Hong Kong) to take a role leading a project at the FTX Foundation. I have positive things to say about Jane Street as an excellent place for many of my friends to work, and my open offer of thoughts and advice to anyone hoping to work there remains, well, open.

Looking forward, I'm thrilled to be working with the Foundation because I want to help build a better future. I've been interested in thoughtful, rigorous, altruistic attempts to improve the world since 2013, and pledged in 2016 to donate at least a tenth of my income to the most effective organizations I can find. I am beyond excited to find an opportunity where I estimate I'll do even more good than I could by earning and donating a quant trader's salary (which I still think was really, really good for the world, on any objective scale).

It's still early days here, and we don't


To Icosian Reflections

At just under nine years since I started blogging, I'm changing this blog to a new name. There's no huge story here, just a vague but growing dissatisfaction with My Faults My Own as my brand for personal writing.


I took the name My Faults My Own in August 2013, in homage to Vi Hart's video Doodling in Math Class: Connecting Dots, particularly the quote:

Here's the thing about connecting dots. You can have all the steps laid out for you, taking whatever next step is easiest and closest and be sure of what you're getting the whole time. This way is safe and comfortable.

Or, you can try new ways of connecting dots and not know what you're going to get. Maybe it will be something great, maybe it will fail. And when it fails it will be your fault. You can't blame anyone else, not mathematics or the system or the check-boxes.

But if I am to have faults, I would rather they be my own.


Donations 2021

This post describes my thoughts, at the end of 2021, about donating money to make the universe a better place. I remain committed to using at least 10% of what income I earn to do so.

This year is the first time since 2017 that I'm substantially changing my approach to donations. In 2017, I shifted my focus from mainly global poverty/health to a mix of global poverty, animal welfare, long-term future, and meta EA. This year, I'm shifting to a mix of global poverty, animal welfare, and explicitly 'exploratory' categories.


Perhaps the most important long-term development in effective altruism in 2020 and 2021 has been the crypto boom, which has moved at least $30 billion of wealth to committed effective altruists. (The most widely visible of these is Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX.) I would roughly estimate that the top ~ten self-identifying EAs now have plans to move at least $45 billion of donations to EA causes in the next ~30 years -- even in the

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