Author: Ben

$100,000 Challenge Following Recent Covid-19 Studies

A recent study, the first randomized controlled trial of its kind, showed that high doses of vitamin D (calcifediol) reduce the severity of Covid-19 in hospitalized patients. The researchers reported a 30-fold(!) reduction in intensive care admissions of Covid-19 patients. We at Rootclaim analyzed these findings and concluded that even under conservative assumptions accounting for limitations in the study, the effect is still significant and likely around 5-fold. We further demonstrated that since the risks of treatment are low, this treatment protocol should be immediately implemented.

See complete analysis

Many health professionals, government officials, and other decision makers worldwide have seen the study results, but they are yet to update treatment guidelines. This may happen despite their best intentions, and their vast medical knowledge:

  • Not many have the background in statistics and probability required to assess the validity of this study, and distinguish it from the dozens of previous invalidated claims.
  • They’re affected by omission bias – they default to the “safe” alternative of inaction, waiting for more data, rather than choosing action. It’s easier to later defend inaction rather than be criticized for acting too soon. 

In this particular case the decision to act now is clear:

  • Similar treatments have been performed for decades, and the risks are known to be low, especially in this setting when patients can be monitored at the hospital.
  • The benefits of the treatment, on the other hand, are potentially enormous, effectively reducing Covid-19 severity to that of the seasonal flu.

While caution is often the correct path when dealing with public health, this is a case where decisions should be made swiftly, using the best available models. At Rootclaim we develop such models, so when our analysis exposed the implications of the new findings, we decided to promote the adoption of the proposed treatment. We hope that this unique challenge will allow the information to reach more decision makers, and save the over 100,000 lives that will likely be lost while waiting for further studies.

The Challenge

Rootclaim is willing to bet $100,000 that vitamin D (e.g. calcifediol) is effective in reducing the severity of Covid-19.

Our claim:  By April 1st, 2022, it will be accepted by health professionals that a vitamin D treatment protocol similar to that used in the study is better than existing treatments (remdesivir and corticosteroids) in reducing the odds of severe outcomes. These existing treatments are estimated to effect a 1.5 reduction in odds of admission to the ICU, which will be used as the threshold.

This challenge is intended to show that the reluctance to implement a vitamin D protocol today is irrational. A decision maker who is not pushing to adopt the proposed protocol is effectively claiming that the probability that this protocol is better than existing treatments is low. But that would also imply that taking the bet is very profitable. Therefore, any professional not accepting this challenge, is implicitly admitting that their decision not to promote the treatment is wrong.

Procedure

  • The challenger needs to show that they can commit $100,000. We are open to discussing lower or higher amounts, and the funds can be pooled from multiple sources.
  • Both sides will agree in advance on the specifics of how a winner is determined, and what arbitration mechanism to use, if need be. 
  • The challenger needs to declare that they do not have access to any relevant non-public information. This is to protect from abuse in case of unpublished research (there is still a small chance that further research will discover the treatment is ineffective).
  • For the same reason, we may update these terms or withdraw the offer, as new information emerges. Of course, once a bet is made it is final and cannot be withdrawn.

If you’re not willing to risk your own money betting against vitamin D, why are you willing to risk someone else’s life?

Stonehenge by the numbers

There have been many hypotheses surrounding Stonehenge and its long-lost origins. Can a mathematical assessment by Rootclaim help shed light on its original purpose?

The large prehistoric monument in rural England is comprised of a circle of upright stones. It was constructed around 5,000 years ago, under circumstances that have long been lost in the annals of history. Some believe that Stonehenge served a religious function, while others say it was used as a burial site or a place of mystical healing. Yet others argue that it served as a giant calendar. There are also conflicting claims about how the bluestones used to build Stonehenge were moved from their place of origin 150 miles away. One explanation is that a glacier flow moved the stones, while another view says that people transported them from quarries in Preseli.

How can probability theory help?

Probability theory helps researchers measure uncertainty. And there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding Stonehenge. By using a probabilistic framework, we can model the likelihood of each piece of evidence relating to Stonehenge. Continue reading

When Logic Goes Wrong: Survival Guide

Logic Is Dead

As discussed in a previous post, logic fails in the real world. Real-world problems do not lend themselves to logical reasoning since any non-trivial issue involves some uncertainty (Was the report accurate? Is the test result a false-positive?). When the problem is also complex, involving large amounts of information with intricate dependencies, then uncertainty can render the logical argument meaningless.

How Does Anyone Make Decisions?

Given these hurdles, how has humanity managed to make any progress at all? How do we deal with uncertain information in cases of high complexity? Continue reading

Every Logical Argument You Ever Made Was Wrong

Isn’t Logic Great?

Who doesn’t like logic? We idolize Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve mysteries by “eliminating the impossible.” In arguments with friends, we try to prove we’re right using logic, rather than intuition or emotions. And we especially enjoy pointing out others’ logical fallacies–preferably using latin terms.

Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Finding logical fallacies is actually much less impressive than you might think. That’s because in the real world, all arguments violate the principles of formal logic.

Yes, perhaps every logical argument you have ever encountered was flawed.

Continue reading

Calculating Accurate Inputs

Serial: A Game of Numbers

Every analyst has their methods: take a poll, measure social media buzz, weigh various key factors. Rootclaim’s analysis of Serial: Who killed Hae Min Lee provides a good example of how the Rootclaim system uses hard numbers in order to “calculate reality” – to determine mathematically which hypothesis is the most likely.

Rootclaim recently took on one of the most controversial criminal convictions: that of Adnan Syed, sentenced to jail for murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Syed’s conviction has been featured in the podcasts Serial and Undisclosed, and followers of the case have debated the minutiae on forums such as Reddit. Until now, discussion forums have focused on how a few particular pieces of evidence proved one hypothesis or another. Rootclaim has put together the first concerted effort to gather all the relevant information into one cohesive analysis.

Continue reading

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