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There's pretty suspicious circumstantial evidence that SARS-COV-2 came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/03/the-virus-hunting-nonprofit-at-the-center-of-the-lab-leak-controversy

EAs are really concerned about engineered viruses leaking from labs.

Why isn't the lab leak hypothesis discussed on the EA Forum?




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I follow updates and arguments about the lab leak as a consequence of my EA-driven interest in biorisk. I don’t think that EA has a comparative advantage in shedding light on this hypothesis relative to those more directly involved in the investigation. I also think that it wouldn’t be that surprising from the perspective of common sense EA wisdom if the pandemic had zoonotic or lab leak origins. So not a ton of updating to do either way. This is why I don’t look to EA for information and analysis on this subject. Can’t speak for others.

Because it probably wasn't a lab leak. See:


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Is there any particular discussion you think we should be happening? My impression is EAs were concerned about lab leaks before, thought it was plausible but far from clear this was a lab leak, and continue to want more security for BSL labs in the future.

I think there are a lot of good reasons:

  • I think many newer EAs will not be tuned in to insiders' credences. The absence of discussion creates the impression that credences are low. (My credence is pretty high, maybe >50%)
  • Good analysis of whether this was a lab leak could move the needle for stakeholders who aren't convinced lab leaks are a serious concern
  • Public discussion around methodology to assess whether something was a lab leak can be very educational
  • Perhaps most interestingly is how various big stakeholders are dealing with the lab leak hypothesis: e.g. China didn't cooperate (expected), but Chinese scientists also published an article stating they don't believe the Wuhan wet market was the source. Many players in the NIH played an obfuscating role, which was surprising to me. There's also a lot of insights into the incentive structures that lead to this kind of dangerous research being conducted. It's very helpful to see how those structures play out in reality

(thoughts my own)

People discuss this in private a bunch, doesn't seem valuable to discuss it in public unless someone has additional important-but-nonsensitive information. 

Also in general there's various reasons (some very good, some meh) that biorisk people mostly eschew the EA Forum for serious object-level discussions, and prefer private online and offline spaces.

I think this is problematic, because it makes it very hard for new people to engage and learn

Absolutely, especially for Europeans in general, not just new people. But there's tradeoffs, the risks involve some topics that definitely shouldn't be discussed openly, and lots of Very Serious People seem to have decided that lab leak discussion should be mostly in-person.

I recommend cold calling. I PM'd ChristianKI on Lesswrong a few months ago and got some good info on this topic.

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