Two people I’ve been reading for years and have been recently cited by Scott Aaronson as the most worthwhile writers on COVID-19 are Greg Cochran and Robin Hanson. Interestingly, the two of them have not seen eye-to-eye on this very issue. Since both of them have been on Bloggingheads in years past, I suggested the two discuss it there both in the comments at Overcoming Bias and in a twitter thread both were participating in. Both ultimately agreed to some sort of debate, although with the opposite of enthusiasm on Greg’s part.

Hanson himself had a livestreamed debate with Zvi Mowshowitz for Less Wrong on his proposal, as well as an even more recent discussion of his proposal for a group I hadn’t heard of before called The Stoa. News has been changing rapidly with time, and Hanson’s own focus in his proposal has shifted to the impact of small-dose variolation rather than merely shifting infection temporally to better fit our medical resources, with the dosage effect being something Cochran has acknowledged as a real possibility in his most recent podcast with James Miller.

I usually put up a blog post after every one of those podcasts, but recently they’ve been coming so quickly that I always figure there would be another one, and had actually thought I’d wait for the promised debate before making this post. They’ve had five podcasts dedicated to COVID-19 so far, on February 09, February 23, March 15, March 21 and March 29. His first blog post on it was February 06, and his blog has basically been dedicated to the topic ever since. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a single post summing up his thinking from a sequence of prior posts like Hanson’s most recent. As Cochran himself would tell you, his predictions have been rather accurate while people who thought he was overly pessimistic were contradicted by events, even if they later pretended they hadn’t actually made such incorrect predictions. For a point of comparison, Hanson’s first post suggesting controlled infection (without his later insight on dosage/variolation, which turned out to swamp the availability of ventilators) was on February 14.

UPDATE APRIL 01: The debate is set for tomorrow, April 02, hosted by Presans, here. Zvi also has a post on the topic, reflecting on his earlier debate with Hanson.
UPDATE APRIL 02: The “debate” featured a surprising amount of agreement, perhaps because Hanson had shifted his focus to the large benefits of variolation compared to infection “in the wild”, which helped further distinguish his proposal from other plans to permit “herd immunity” (though most of those don’t so tightly link infection to isolation). It wasn’t a complete consensus, as Cochran recalls too many medical hopes not panning out and instead of having variolation as the “Plan B” thinks we should be pursuing backup plans for every letter of the alphabet simultaneously. Presans has indicated that their recording will be available on the internet at some point, and I’ll link to that when I can.
UPDATE APRIL 06: It’s now on youtube.