Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (April 2017)


Blog: Minding Our Way | Assuming Positive Intent — Good advice.


Blog: MISinformation | Flipping at Scale: FAQ — Many, many excellent Q/As about running a flipped classroom 'at scale'. Margo is very good at doing this -- I've been her student and TF in flipped classes, and they were some of the best classes I've seen run, period.


Neat: Mike Bostock @ Medium | A Better Way to Code — "I am building an integrated discovery environment called d3.express. It’s for exploratory data analysis, for understanding systems and algorithms, for teaching and sharing techniques in code, and for sharing interactive visual explanations. To make visualization easier—to make discovery easier—we first need to make coding easier."


Blog: The ANOVA | Study of the Week: When it Comes to Student Satisfaction, Faculty Matter Most


Blog: xkcd | Geochronology

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | U.S. Can Afford Trump's Radical Tax Cut — "I’ve been seeing some of my fellow economists claim -- incorrectly -- that we can’t afford those changes. There are some potential problems with President Donald Trump’s proposal, but there is no fiscal reason such a tax plan ought be ruled out... To put it bluntly, I am suspicious of ideological motives when anyone says we can afford a big dose of government stimulus but we cannot afford a corresponding private stimulus."

Blog: Open Philanthropy | Some Case Studies in Early Field Growth — Long, diverse, interesting. No clean conclusions, just some history of a wide variety of "early field" movements.


Blog: The ANOVA | selection bias: a parable — "Now here’s the question for all of you: was introducing the screening mechanism of the practice accreditation test a cynical ploy to artificially boost their metrics? Or by preventing students from entering a program designed to lead to a job they ultimately couldn’t get, were they doing the only moral thing?"

Blog: Otium | On Drama

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: The Hungry Brain — "The Hungry Brain gives off a bit of a Malcolm Gladwell vibe, with its cutesy name and pop-neuroscience style. But don’t be fooled. Stephan Guyenet is no Gladwell-style dilettante. He’s a neuroscientist studying nutrition, with a side job as a nutrition consultant, who spends his spare time blogging about nutrition, tweeting about nutrition, and speaking at nutrition-related conferences. He is very serious about what he does and his book is exactly as good as I would have hoped. Not only does it provide the best introduction to nutrition I’ve ever seen, but it incidentally explains other neuroscience topics better than the books directly about them do."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The culture and polity that is Singapore, strategic sand reserve edition

Blog: The ANOVA | the Official Dogma of Education (version 1.0)


Blog: Marginal Revolution | When Labor is Cheap — "Labor is cheap in India which leads to some differences from the United States... At offices, cleaning staff are on permanent hire so they come not once or twice a week but once or twice an hour. The excessive (?) cleanliness of the private spaces makes the contrast between private cleanliness and public squalor all the more striking..."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Against Facebook

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Against Facebook: Comparison to Alternatives and Call to Action — I can confirm that an RSS reader is wonderful technology that fundamentally changed how I consume online media.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Chinese influence on Hollywood box office — "Hollywood executives can rattle off the rules for getting a movie approved by Chinese censors: no sex (too unseemly); no ghosts (too spiritual). Among 10 prohibited plot elements are 'disrupts the social order' and 'jeopardizes social morality.' Time travel is frowned upon because of its premise that individuals can change history."

Blog: Compass Rose | Effective Altruism is self-recommending -- a critique.


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Fight Inequality!' Is a Poor Rallying Cry — "...Yet a study of the concept reveals uncomfortable truths, namely that most Americans don’t mind inequality nearly as much as pundits and academics suggest."

Blog: MISinformation | Happy Birthday Harry — "Come Henry and Stuart, Margo and Michael / Salil and David continue the cycle / Then Sasha joined to make the number seven / Only four more and we'll be at eleven!"


Blog: Popehat | The Seductive Appeal of the "Nazi Exception"

Review: GrubStreet | The Absolute Best Egg Sandwich in New York — h/t Matt Levine.


Blog: Lessons from Mid-Century Soviet Higher Education — h/t Tyler Cowen

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | If Google achieves superintelligence, time zones will be its Achilles heel

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Learning to Love Scientific Consensus


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | United We Blame

Blog: JeffTK | How to make housing cheaper


Blog: Malcolm.O | Acts of Speech and States of Mind


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Maximum Government, Minimum Governance? — "It was a brilliant slogan that neatly captured India’s dichotomous problem, too much government and not enough capacity to actually govern. Since then, however, Modi’s government has not done much to fulfill its promise. The latest absurdity is a plan to govern the size of meal portions that restaurants may serve..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Which colonies fared best under British rule? — "So it was “keeping an option on captive buyers and fighters” (India) vs. “maximizing the value of the land for Empire” (Singapore). Both were selfish strategies, but the latter did better for the colony in question."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Relevance of BR Ambedkar in Modern India — "'Gandhi has become all things to all people…he is the Saint of the Status Quo.' The image of Ambedkar, however, still signals a demand for justice and an insistent claim that not all is yet right."


Blog: Magic Daily | The Tokens of Amonkhet — 26 tokens!

PDF: Political Economy Lecture Notes (Acemoglu) — 569 pages! h/t Tyler Cowen, also Naked Capitalism

Blog: The ANOVA | from the archives: physical restraint as the least bad option

Blog: What's New | Counting objects up to isomorphism: groupoid cardinality — linked because it's a rare Terry Tao post about math proper that I can actually understand.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | It’s time for some game theory, United Airlines edition — "One problem with using money to buy people out of queues is that it encourages more upfront queuing to begin with, and that involves negative externalities for passengers as a whole. In any model of stochastic demand and fixed capacity in the short run, demand will sometimes be too high, and I don’t know of many retail markets that rely on price alone to ration quantity. Given that reality, I am not sure why everyone is insisting the airlines should do things this way."

Blog: xkcd | Hottest Editors

Interview: Patrick Collison has a Few Questions for Tyler [Cowen] — "You wrote with Derek Parfit back in the early ’90s about how our intuitions about the discount rate we should have for the future are wrong. The discount rate should be much lower, and we should care way more about people in the distant future. And if you believe that, shouldn’t that, on this particular cultural point, cause you even more concern? Because 500, 1,000, 5,000 years’ time, we’re not just slightly but enormously decreasing the amount of culture that they can expect."


Blog: Schneier on Security | New Destructive Malware Bricks IoT Devices — comment: "You have commented in the past that poor security is often a negative externality, and the situation will not improve until something changes in the economic analysis for the manufacturers of insecure things. Brickerbot sounds like a way of making that externality a direct cost for the manufacturers because any manufacturer selling something insecure will be driven to bankruptcy by the warrenty returns and bad reviews..."

Blog: Dylan Matthews @ Vox | Why I gave my kidney to a stranger — and why you should consider doing it too — I found this a clear explanation of the experience -- and the costs and inconveniences -- of a kidney donation. h/t Tyler Cowen, who says "I wish I could just offer cash to the marginal kidney donor."

Blog: Open Philanthropy | Why Are the US Corporate Cage-Free Campaigns Succeeding? — does an excellent job answering the question.

Blog: Thing of Things | Book Post for March — attention-conservation notice: entirely pregnancy-related books.

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Mormon Transhumanists — "The most obvious difference I saw is that [Mormon Transhumanist Association] does community very well, with good organization, little shirking, and lots of polite, respectful, and friendly interaction. This makes sense. Mormons in general have strong community norms, and one of the main functions of religion is to build strong communities. Mormonism is a relatively high commitment religion, and those tend to promote stronger bonds."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | — "...Maybe it’s time to see British rule in India as the horror it really was."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Sacred Principles as Exhaustible Resources — "I think of respect for free speech as a commons. Every time some group invokes free speech to say something controversial, they’re drawing from the commons – which is fine, that’s what the commons is there for. Presumably the commons self-replenishes at some slow rate as people learn philosophy or get into situations where free speech protects them and their allies." cf. Slate Star Codex | Clarification to "Sacred Principles as Exhaustible Resources"


Blog: Schneier on Security | Fourth WikiLeaks CIA Attack Tool Dump — "When they first started appearing, I suspected that it was not an insider because there wasn't anything illegal in the documents. There still isn't, but let me explain further. The CIA documents are all hacking tools. There's nothing about programs or targets. "

Blog: Otium | Don’t Shoot the Messenger — "One of the things about living in what feels like the shadow of the end of the world — there’s been apocalypse in the zeitgeist since at least the 1980’s and maybe longer — is that it’s very counterintuitive to think about a future that might last a long time... I think we may have lost certain social technologies that have to do with expecting there to be a future, and it might be important to regain them."

Blog: Thing of Things | Keep Your Identity Large — "If the only identity you have is Lisp programmer, then it’s terrifying to think about not being a Lisp programmer. How will you know who you are? How can you relate to other people? On the other hand, if you have a lot of identities, you have something to fall back on..."


Blog: Interesting Times | The Trump Doctrine: Unpredictability and Incoherence


Blog: Popehat | Lawsplainer: How The Seventh Circuit Decided That Sexual Orientation Discrimination Violates Federal Law — "The decision, concurrence, and dissent are all notable for how meta they are — how much they address the concept and process of judging and overturning precedent, and how Congressional intent is to be read..."


Blog: Popehat | No, A Federal Judge Did Not Find That Donald Trump Incited Violence


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Iron Fist is Weak

Blog: Slate Star Codex | G.K. Chesterton on AI Risk