Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (August 2017)


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Forager v Farmer, Elaborated — "And here is the key idea: individuals vary in the thresholds they use to switch between focusing on dealing with issues via an all-encompassing norm-enforcing talky collective, and or via general Machiavellian social skills, mediated by personal resources and allies."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 8/17: Exsitement

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Experience Shows the U.S. Can Weather the Storm — "Greater federal aid to the victims is a likely option. Still, it will not be obvious to many Americans why those who lost homes might end up receiving higher government benefits than people elsewhere who never had homes in the first place, and who may have inferior income prospects, especially if they live in rural areas."


Blog: Schneier on Security | The NSA's 2014 Media Engagement and Outreach Plan — "External Communication will address at least one of "fresh look" narratives: (1) NSA does not access everything. (2) NSA does not collect indiscriminately on U.S. Persons and foreign nationals. (3) NSA does not weaken encryption. (4) NSA has value to the nation."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Do dictators and autocracies build more impressive monuments?

Blog: Otium | Gleanings from Double Crux on “The Craft is Not The Community”


Blog: Slate Star Codex | My IRB Nightmarecf. Slate Star Codex | Highlights from the Comments on My IRB Nightmare

Blog: Marginal Revolution | More on Houston and flood insurance — "Created in 1968, the national flood program was actually supposed to help prevent risky development. Its complex rules required new construction within designated 100-year floodplains to meet higher floodproofing standards, and “substantially damaged” properties that received claims worth half their value to be relocated or elevated. But most of the program’s 100-year flood maps are woefully obsolete, relocation almost never happens, and Uncle Sam has continued to cut multiple checks for repetitive losses..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Classic Gerrymander — Note that the state senator who benefitted was a Democrat, yet the redistricting done by incumbent Republicans. Professional courtesy, or fear of losing a seat in the new district?

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | How a Good Tax Reform Goes Bad — "I’m sympathetic to the basic idea behind full expensing, as it reflects a time-honored economic principle that we should focus on incentives at the margins that will most boost growth. And current methods of determining expensing and depreciation seem to be chaotic, capricious and uneven in their impact across sectors. There is room for improvement. But so often the devil is in the details, and the simple idea of applying economic logic to the tax code can be harder to pull off than it might seem at first."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Where should you fear private internet censorship the most? — "It remains the case that the most significant voluntary censorship issues occur every day in mainstream non-internet society, including what gets on TV, which books are promoted by major publishers, who can rent out the best physical venues, and what gets taught at Harvard or for that matter in high school. In all of these areas, universal intellectual service was never a relevant ideal to begin with, and so it seems odd to me to pick on say Facebook. It’s still not nearly as important an influence as the above-mentioned parts of non-internet society, nor is it anywhere close to being as discriminatory." cf. Marginal Revolution | Should Apple and Google Ban Gab?.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Where India Goes — "Where India Goes, a book about the problem of open defecation in India, is the best social science book I have read in years." That's Alex, not Tyler, but still high praise.

Blog: Making Magic | State of Design 2017

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Facts about flood insurance — "The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) owes $24.6 billion to the Treasury. Most of it covered claims from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and floods in 2016, the program’s third most severe loss-year on record with losses exceeding $4 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which manages it."

Blog: GiveWell | From the archive: 6 tips on disaster relief giving

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Contra Askell on Moral Offsets — Recommended, even for SSC.

Podcast: 80,000 Hours | Alex Gordon-Brown on Quantitiative Trading — Alex is a coworker, a friend, and an EA, and here he presents a rather sober and cogent conversation with Robert Wiblin of how a career in quantitiative trading interacts with the life, goals, and values of an effective altruist.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The cost of running Harvard — "Total operating costs are $4.7 billion, with undergraduate tuition covering 6.4 percent of that, graduate tuition covering 11.2 percent."


Blog: Overcoming Bias | There’s Always Subtext

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Play in Easy Mode — Also consider: Don't Worry About the Vase | Play in Hard Mode

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Can Human-Like Software Win? — "Once human brain software is in the same sort of artificial computing hardware as all the other software, then the relative productivity of different software categories comes down to a question of quality: which categories of software tend to be more productive on which tasks?..."


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | HTTPS / Kurtz / eclipse / Charlottesville / Blum / P vs. NP

Blog: xkcd | Drone Training

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Productivity and market power in general equilibrium


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Political sentences to ponder what is really going on in the world and in Texas

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The Drive for Perfect Children Gets a Little Scary — "Would a more extroverted human race be desirable, all things considered? I genuinely don’t know, but at the very least I am concerned. The current mix of human personalities and institutions is a delicate balance which, for all of its flaws, has allowed society to survive and progress. I’m not looking to make a big roll of the dice on this one."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Ghana-Gandhi sentences of the day

Blog: GiveWell | Update on GiveWell’s intervention research in 2017


Blog: Julia.Galef | Unpopular ideas about social norms — h/t Tyler Cowen, who clarifies: "Julia Galef lists (but does not endorse) unpopular ideas. I agree with very few of them, by the way, but they are intrinsically interesting to ponder. What also strikes me is the implicit terms of debate, mostly moves toward greater social liberalism. How about Christian or extremely non-egalitarian ideas?"

Blog: Julia.Galef | Unpopular ideas about politics and economics

Blog: Magic Features | Commander (2017 Edition) Design Handoff — A look at what a Magic set-in-progress looks like.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Shruti Rajagopalan proposal on gender issues — "Economists should create a convention (not rule) by setting the example that at least one of the reference letter writers should be female. I think this one small move could nudge people towards a big change. Young grad students will be more likely to work with women in a position of authority. Schools will try to find more senior level female economists for the department. And the young male colleagues might just behave a little better..."


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Partial Credit — short story.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Who should be shamed, and who not?

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The Tenure Track Is Too Rigid to Help Diversity — "Such changes would make it easier for departments to hire teachers with more diverse life experiences, and that could and should include greater minority and gender representation. The 'up and out' feature of academic job tracks favors those who have been insiders from early on -- it limits social and economic mobility."


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Altruism is Incomplete

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Germany fact of the day, the growing north-south divide — "The gap between the unemployment rates in north and south, for instance, will soon be wider than that between east and west (see chart 2)."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Cancer, Herpes, Metformin and the FDA


Blog: The Guardian | Behind the scenes at London's globe-making workshop — h/t Tyler Cowen


Blog: Ribbonfarm | The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial — cw: long.


Blog: Schneier on Security | Confusing Self-Driving Cars by Altering Road Signs — "Researchers found that they could confuse the road sign detection algorithms of self-driving cars by adding stickers to the signs on the road. They could, for example, cause a car to think that a stop sign is a 45 mph speed limit sign. The changes are subtle, though -- look at the photo from the article."


Blog: The ANOVA | throwing out the individual differences baby with the group differences bathwater


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What I’ve been reading


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Compare Institutions To Institutions, Not To Perfection — Great title; post very quickly gets into the weeds.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The most expensive countries for buying an iPhone — "One lesson is that having crummy, overregulated retailing is worse for some of your prices than being an expensive country."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | National identity eases cross-cultural trust problems — ...relevant to the modern American political divide, or not?

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Something Was Wrong — "Last week we went to see a classroom for our son..."

Blog: Yonatan Zunger @ Medium | So, about this Googler’s manifesto. — "Until about a week ago, you would have heard very little from me publicly about this, because my job would have been to deal with it internally, and confidentiality rules would have prevented me from saying much in public... [S]ince I’m no longer on the inside, and have no confidential information about any of this, the thing which I would have posted internally I’ll instead say right here, because it’s relevant not just to Google, but to everyone else in tech."

Blog: Bits and Pieces | Guest post about governance by Professor James Engell — A bit procedural and dry, though (perhaps relatedly) seemingly patently correct. While I've at least seen two-sided debate about the moral issue of what is to be done about the clubs, is there anyone on record defending the Administration's authority to determine policy as they've done? cf. Statutes of Harvard University


Blog: Marginal Revolution | "Was the Grand Canal a substitute for Chinese ocean exploration?" — There's an obvious modern parallel, even between two projects of Elon Musk's, isn't there?

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Hazlett's Political Spectrum — That's broadcast spectrum, politicized -- not politics, spectrumized.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Was there a Housing Price Bubble? Revisited


Comic: xkcd | Bun Alertcf. xkcd | Bun

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Where the Falling Einstein Meets the Rising Mouse

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | — "China has already shown Facebook Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. that it is willing to do without their services. How would it help the world to have Apple join that list, either partially or in full? I don’t approve of Chinese censorship, but the VPNs are in fact illegal. It hardly seems unreasonable for a major company to follow the laws of the country it is operating in, even if those laws are unjust or imprudent."


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Is it Possible to Have Coherent Principles Around Free Speech Norms?cf. Betteridge