Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (December 2016)


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why is there dynamic surge pricing for rides? -- "Why is dynamic pricing more prevalent in ride-hailing apps than movies and restaurants?..."

Blog: The Fashion Law | Actors Seek Posthumous Protections for Big-Screen Resurrections -- h/t Tyler Cowen


Blog: xkcd | 2017

Blog: Giving Gladly | Two standard donations and one new one

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Contra NYT on Economists on Education -- "A more accurate way to summarize this graph is “About twice as many economists believe a voucher system would improve education as believe that it wouldn’t.” By leaving it at “only a third of economists support vouchers”, the article implies that there is an economic consensus against the policy..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What to watch for in 2017

Blog: The Economist | Why doesn’t Hermès want you to buy their amazingly expensive bag? -- h/t Tyler Cowen

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Microchips in every American? -- "What better way to move toward that goal than to start with the category labeled as “disabled”..."


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | I'm a Tourist in Lagos. You Have a Problem With That? -- "My interest in GDP tourism dates back to my teenage years in the late 1970s... I’ve gone to see the key regions of the world’s largest and most successful economies, whether it be the port of Rotterdam, the skyline of Singapore or Chinese tech hubs like Shenzhen. I started in the 1980s with a trip to the then still-vital West German Ruhr. I don’t ever expect a GDP cruise or even a GDP tourist guide or agency, but perhaps a few Bloomberg readers won’t find this approach to travel so totally off the mark."

Blog: Thing of Things | An Emotion Regulation Technique That Works For Me -- "...So that made me wonder if trying to experience emotions I’m avoiding would make me have fewer overwhelming emotions. And the answer is yes!"

Blog: MeyerWeb | What Comes Next... -- "There is a documentary about the history of the web. It’s an hour long, and now it’s free to watch." (I haven't, but might someday.)

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Mount Misery -- See also Slate Star Codex | Book Review: House of God

Blog: Thing of Things | On Polyamory Advice --


Blog: Interfaces of the Word | My top 2016 moment: “What is Aleppo?” -- "Predictably, and in a sense deservedly, Johnson was raked over the coals for this. A major presidential candidate – one who had far more electoral impact than Jill Stein, for instance – not knowing about this important foreign policy issue was disturbing. But it’s essential to recognize what he actually got in trouble for. Johnson’s great failure, what actually fed his public humiliation, was not a lack of knowledge. It was a lack of knowingness."

Blog: Schneier on Security | How Signal Is Evading Censorship -- "A country like Egypt, with only a few small internet service providers tightly controlled by the government, can block any direct request to a service on its blacklist. But clever services can circumvent that censorship by hiding their traffic inside of encrypted connections to a major internet service, like the content delivery networks (CDNs) that host content closer to users to speed up their online experience -- or in Signal's case, Google's App Engine platform, designed to host apps on Google's servers."

Blog: Thing of Things | Do Women Date Assholes? A Study


Blog: Thing of Things | Secondary is Really a Broad Word

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Better Road, Grumpier Drivers and the Logic of Discontent -- "Note that longtime residents are undervaluing two aspects of the recent construction. First, without the widening, traffic probably would be worse yet. Second, the widening helps more people undertake the same rotten commute... And that is part of the logic that elected Donald Trump and drove Britons to vote to leave the European Union."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Security Risks of TSA PreCheck

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Avoid "Posthuman" Label


Blog: Measuring Shadows | 2016 Donations

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | A norm of free expression, on campus or elsewhere, is good, that’s my thoughts


Blog: Thing of Things | GWWC Pledge Drive

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The wisdom of Garett Jones -- "I would note that it is oh so hard for people to keep consistent views on labor markets (e.g., minimum wage vs. wage effects of immigration, or how about minimum wage vs. nominal wage stickiness?). Those moods and emotions keep on getting in the way…"

Comic: SMBC | The Room


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Why Trump Appointees Will Be Effective, for Better or Worse -- reminder that just because political appointees seem goonish and evil, they're not less likely to be 'effective'...

Blog: Zeldman.com | To Save Real News -- a designer's prescription.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | That was then, this is now, a continuing series -- "Legislative power grab for me but not for thee edition... In 2004, the Democratic-controlled [Massachusetts] State House pushed through a bill that stripped then-Gov. Mitt Romney of his power to fill Sen. John Kerry’s seat... But then in 2009, with Democrat Deval Patrick as governor, state legislators passed a bill...to give Patrick the power to choose a replacement for the terminally ill Democrat. Would Massachusetts legislators change the rules a third time for Warren?"


Blog: Marginal Revolution | How critical should we be of Vladimir Putin? -- "Both Republicans and Democrats are mired in contradictions. Let’s say you argue Putin really did “hack the election” in a meaningful way. You probably then ought to conclude that Obama was truly a deeply negligent president, in a manner unprecedented in recent times..." See also Overcoming Bias | When Is Talk Meddling Okay?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Very Depressing Paper on the Great Stagnation -- "'Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?' Yes, say Bloom, Jones, Van Reenen, and Webb. A well known fact about US economic growth is that it has been relatively constant over a hundred years or more. Yet we also know that the number of researchers has increased greatly over the same time period. More researchers and the same growth rate suggest a declining productivity of ideas."


Blog: SMBC | The Talk -- by Scott Aaronson(!) & Zach Weinersmith


Blog: Thing of Things | Thoughts on CFAR’s New Focus

Blog: Luke.Muehlhauser | Karpathy on nukes -- "As I am a scientist myself, I was particularly curious about the extent to which the nuclear scientists who conceived and designed the bomb influenced the ethical/political discussions. Unfortunately, it is clearly the case that the scientists were quickly marginalized and, in effect, told to shut up and just help build the bomb..."


Blog: Otium | Sane Thinking About Mental Problems

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Revolution Has Begun: Beyond Meat -- I, for one, welcome our cultured-meat future.

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Expect the Unexpected From Trump the Deal Maker -- Interesting speculation, at a minimum. Will be more interesting still to revisit in four years.

Blog: Anna Salamon @ LessWrong | Further discussion of CFAR’s focus on AI safety, and the good things folks wanted from “cause neutrality” -- Self-recommending, and I mean that in the sense that if you don't already want to read it, you're probably right that you don't want to.


Blog: Mike Bostock @ Medium | What Makes Software Good? -- An old post that I just discovered. Deep, and with real, accessible examples.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Reassessing the quality of government in China -- "For a while I have been arguing that China is much more of a meritocracy than many outsiders (or for that matter insiders) believe. You have to distinguish type I from type II error; the princelings do unjustly well but smart people from rural areas are elevated at fairly high rates."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The economics of Theodor Herzl and his Zionist vision

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | The birthering of the Democrats -- see also Interfaces of the Word | May you live in clarifying times

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Beware Futurism As Political Allegory -- "In general, you should expect to have more sensible and stable opinions related to choices you actually make often, and less coherent and useful opinions regarding choices you will make in the future, after you learn many new things. You should have less coherent opinions on how your future communities will evaluate the morality and social acceptability of your future choices. And your opinions on collective choices, such as via government, should be even less reliable, as your incentives to get those right are even weaker..."


Blog: Overcoming Bias | -- "When you need to make an immediate decision fast, direct easy methods look great. But when many varied people want to share an analysis process over a longer time period, more robust rigorous methods start to look better. Easy direct easy methods tend to be more uncertain and context dependent, and so don’t aggregate as well. Distant others find it harder to understand your claims and reasoning, and to judge their reliability. So distant others tend more to redo such analysis themselves rather than building on your analysis..."

Blog: Benquo @ LessWrong | Be secretly wrong -- Not sure I agree, but worth chewing on.


Blog: Otium | Ain’t Gonna Study War No More -- This I agree with, in all of its depth.

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The Worst Kind of Presidential Corruption -- "Lots of people are worried about corruption and conflicts of interest in a Donald Trump administration. Those are grim words, but imprecise ones. To understand what the biggest problems would probably be, some broader perspective is required."


Blog: Malcolm.O |
How I Learned to Stop Hurrying and Fall In Love (with a project)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | That was then, this is now: a continuing series, Coasean George Washington edition -- "Washington foresaw America’s great westward migration and he foresaw potential wealth for himself. Historian Edmund S. Morgan wrote: 'Washington believed that as a private citizen pursuing his own interests he could still be working for the good of the nation. He engaged without a qualm in a scheme that would benefit him financially, while it bolstered American independence in a way that he thought was crucial…'"

Blog: Overcoming Bias | The Good-Near Bad-Far Bias

Blog: Meyerweb | Not On This Day -- "Suppose you use Facebook (statistically, odds are at least 1 in 5 that you do). Further, suppose you have a period of your life, or even more than one, that you’d rather not be mined by Facebook’s 'On This Day' feature. Here’s how to set a blackout for any period(s) of time."

Blog: Otium | Police Shootings: How Bad Are Things?


Blog: A.Critch | Considerations against pledging donations for the rest of your life -- I've updated toward greater uncertainty on the course of action I've committed to, though not enough to shift my bottom-line opinion. I hope to think more and update more in the future.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Tim Duy on desperately searching for a new strategy -- "In fact I have a more or less bulletproof two-part remedy. I’ll phrase it in backward-looking terms, but it is not hard to divine the forward-looking implications, noting that in the short term we have the president-elect we have no matter what... 1. In 2012, have five percent of Democratic voters switch their support to Mitt Romney, so that Romney is elected."

Comic: xkcd | Never Seen Star Wars -- I, for the record, have seen Star Wars.

Blog: Otium | If Prison Were a Disease, How Bad Would It Be?


Blog: The GiveWell Blog | Why I mostly believe in Worms

Blog: Bits and Pieces | My remarks to the FAS meeting of December 6, 2016 -- see also Bits and Pieces | The State of the Debate; tl;dr the administration adjourned the faculty meeting without allowing the matter to come to vote.

Blog: Status 451 | Minimum Viable Citizen

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Condescending, certain, and incoherent

Blog: Money Stuff | Supreme Court Leaves Insider-Trading Law Alone -- I don't usually link to Matt Levine, since the things I find most amusing in his bloggings tend to reflect horrendously on lines of work that often get confused with mine, but this is a case where the interestingness-to-horrendousness balance is better than most.


Blog: Thing of Things | I’m Not An Effective Altruist Because I Prefer…

Blog: Schneier on Security | Guessing Credit Card Security Details -- "We investigated the Alexa top-400 online merchants' payment sites, and realised that the current landscape facilitates a distributed guessing attack. This attack subverts the payment functionality from its intended purpose of validating card details, into helping the attackers to generate all security data fields required to make online transactions."

Blog: Meyerweb | CSS Grid! -- c.f. Zeldman.com | Grid Layout & Flexbox City