Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (February 2018)


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Some Thoughts on School Shootings, Media, and the Consequences of Fear

Blog: Marginal Revolution | My Conversation with Robin Hanson

Comic: xkcd | Interaction


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Bad-News Boxes

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 2/18: Link Biao Incident

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The decline of life insurance

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Categories of Sacredness

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How much do public sector unions matter politically?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why Did Trump Pay Less than Clinton For Ads on Facebook?


Blog: The Unit of Caring | Anonymous asked: How do we teach the very very rich compassion? — "The first thing I thought in response to this ask was “the rich people I know are all sweethearts who work extraordinarily long hours identifying the best organizations to grant their money to” but then I remembered that I only hang out with people who do that."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Why Gun Laws May Finally Change: Kids Are Leading

Blog: Schneier on Security | E-Mail Leaves an Evidence Trail

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The case for autocratic term limits


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Policemen in schools: what do they accomplish?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Could the tech companies run everything better?


Blog: Jeffrey.Zeldman | We need design that is faster and design that is slower. — "Our whole industry, as I’ve just defined it, needs design that is faster for people who are trying to get things done, for they are our customers and should not be burdened by our institutional surrenders. We need design that is slower for people who are trying to comprehend, for they are our only chance of saving the world."

Comic: PHD | Winter Olympics

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The fight for liberty in our time, SB 827


Blog: Valentine Smith @ LessWrong | Mythic Mode

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Signal Inertia

Blog: The ANOVA | the involuntary admission barrier to care

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The Syria Memory Hole Is Opening Up a Bigger Danger

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What is the value of studying a foreign language in high school?

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Express Pool — "I want public transit to be good enough to compete with Uber. I really do. But do I want it enough to spend an extra $10 and one hour every day, or enough to walk an extra three miles with my computer and all my other work stuff? "

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | little things that annoy me: articles about how a group of people should be put in jail that don’t actually name any specific people or any specific crimes committed by any of them


Blog: MIT Admissions | Policies, Principles, and Protests — "[S]ome students who have been admitted to MIT’s Class of 2022 have asked us if their acceptance will be rescinded if they are disciplined for joining the protests, while other applicants still under consideration are wondering if they have to choose between speaking out and getting in. We have already informed those who asked that, in this case, a disciplinary action associated with meaningful, peaceful participation in a protest will not negatively impact their admissions decision, because we would not view it as inappropriate or lacking integrity on its face. The purpose of this blog post is to communicate that fact more broadly and explain our reasoning as to why..." cf. a list of >100 schools with similar statements.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists


Blog: HLR | Are We Running Out of Trademarks? An Empirical Study of Trademark Depletion and Congestion — h/t Tyler Cowen.

Blog: Ben.Kuhn | What to care about in a job

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Ideal labor laws — "My job is a great place to work, not because of regulations but because my company wants employees to stay and knows we’ll leave if we’re not kept happy. This is an immense form of privilege, obviously. I want to do everything I can to create conditions where every company knows their employees will leave if overworked, will leave if mistreated, will leave if not provided a fulfilling environment, will leave if the free breakfast and lunch doesn’t have good vegetarian options, will leave if they’re not offered flexible hours, will leave if they’re not given autonomy and meaningful work… jobs don’t have to suck, and I want to create the conditions under which employers have to create jobs that don’t suck, because employees have the bargaining power and they won’t be able to find anyone to work for them if they aren’t offering awesome working conditions."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | How Building Regulations Subsidize Mansions

Blog: Schneier on Security | Facebook Will Verify the Physical Location of Ad Buyers with Paper Postcards — "It's not a great solution, but it's something..."

Blog: Money Stuff | Trading Is a Good Way to Set a Price — "But cryptocurrencies, in Elliott's telling, are not just a scam, or a good scam. They are "one of the most brilliant scams in history." ... What else is on that list? I like Yuval Noah Harari's argument, in "Sapiens," that Homo sapiens's major advantage as a species is our ability to generate collective fictions... Harari argues that fiction "has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively," and thus given us "the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers." Harari's list of powerful fictions includes religion, nation-states, human rights, money and the limited liability corporation. Laugh as you will, but the limited liability corporation is not a stone, or a healthy pig. It is just an example of the ability of humans to generate abstract concepts and use them to coordinate action, "to seize upon ether and hope to ride it to the stars." Viewed in a certain light the corporation, or money, or nation-states, or religion, are some "of the most brilliant scams in history." Being on that list augurs well for a scam's longevity, and for its real value. If Bitcoin lasts for 10,000 years and facilitates a freer and more productive economy, then it really will be one of the most brilliant scams in history. And you'll be glad you bought Bitcoins.

Blog: Popehat | Lawsplainer: The NLRB Damore Memo — "Here's what [the NLRB's Advice Memo is] not: a court ruling that Damore's memo was discrimination or harassment, authority for the proposition that his memo would support a sexual harassment claim (among other things, actionable sexual harassment has to be severe or pervasive), a ruling that governs Damore's civil case or any other claim based on other laws, or precedent that binds anyone other than NLRB staff. It is merely an internal administrative rejection of Damore's assertion that Google violated the Act through his firing."

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | I really like the word “speciesism.” — "[M]ainly, because it only means one thing. No one will call you a speciesist for thinking that chickens aren’t as smart as humans, or for not wanting to date a mosquito, or for privately thinking that cats are kind of creepy. Beliefs about empirical facts are never called out as speciesist. No one says that of course we’re all speciesist, because we all have implicit bias, and all benefit from human privilege or something, and then the next day calls someone evil for saying something speciesist..."

Comic: xkcd | Self-Driving Issues

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why are U.S. firms holding more cash?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Skin in the Game, the new Nassim Taleb book

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | I definitely remember when I first read the Sequences... — "I definitely remember when I first read the Sequences, getting a sort of 'world is mad' feeling. But looking back, I’m having a hard time remembering what that feeling was about. Because … my world was never that mad? ... I mean, I’m sure I got some insight from reading the Sequences and discovering the rationality community. I wish I could remember what it was."


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Technological Unemployment: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Tulip Mania Wasn't

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | How to Test Your Favorite Conspiracy Theory

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Monday assorted links

Blog: Jeffrey.Zeldman | Beyond Engagement: the content performance quotient

Comic: SMBC | The Truth


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Sunday assorted links

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Black Panther (evaluations, only minor spoilers)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Spock’s Brain

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | Things I’ve heard rationalists say they have no idea how anyone could do


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Saturday assorted links

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Enlightenment Now, the new Steven Pinker book

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Anonymous asked: Hi! I'm an EA graduating BA in May with an excellent GPA, and would love your advice... How would you compare the effectiveness of an earning-to-give career path like that, to starting at a place like GiveWell?

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | simulationist theodicy is the best thing to confuse people with at parties

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | There is no success in Elena Ferrante’s world — "Time passes, things change. There are never endings at all. Things happen one after another until you are murdered or die of consumption or disappear one day, entirely without a trace."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What Should be Done About Bulgaria’s Population Decline?

Blog: The Unit of Caring | GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Project are hiring for a lot of roles right now. I’ve been...


Blog: Popehat | The Persistence of Tyranny

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is Los Angeles America’s most “right-wing” city?

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Trump Embarks on a Gigantic Fiscal Experiment: Debate

Blog: Marginal Revolution | My debate with Noah Smith on fiscal policy

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Anonymous asked: Is it fun having roommates?

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Five apology languages — "So you know how there’s that book that claims there are five love languages, and people will have better relationships if they know what kinds of love their partner(s) value, and how to make them feel loved?... The guy who wrote that also wrote one for apologies, though it doesn’t seem to have gotten as much uptake..." cf. The Unit of Caring | Interesting, if your apology language is showing insight...

Blog: Malcolm.Ocean | Laughter and Dominance: 5-year reflection on againstness training

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Can it Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The side effects of the decline of men


Blog: Marginal Revolution | My Conversation with Matt Levine

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The Side Effects of the Decline of Men

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Wednesday assorted links

Blog: Open Philanthropy | New Job Opportunities

Blog: The Unit of Caring | How do you feel about the religion discourse, if you're aware of it?

Blog: Schneier on Security | Can Consumers' Online Data Be Protected?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why the center-left became immoderate

Comic: xkcd | Robots


Blog: MIT Faculty Newsletter | #MeToo at MIT: Harassment and Systemic Gender Subordination — "The #MeToo movement has so far focused on some of the worst forms of sexual predation, which certainly deserve attention and justice. However, to understand women’s persistent inequality – not only harassment per se, it is time to address the many men who have not harassed women but have also not acknowledged their contributions, not mentored them, not promoted them, all the while grooming one man after another to take his rightful place for succession and success in the workforce."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | We’ve Got Five Years, What A Surprise

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Small Change Good, Big Change Bad?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The evolution of Eurish

Blog: GiveWell | Revisiting leverage

Blog: Gates Notes | 10 tough questions we get asked

Blog: Schneier on Security | Jumping Air Gaps

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Review of Vivek Wadhwa’s Washington Post column on quantum computing

Blog: Schneier on Security | Cabinet of Secret Documents from Australia


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Direct Instruction: A Half Century of Research Shows Superior Results — "Many teachers don’t like DI when first exposed to it because it requires teacher training and discipline. Teachers are not free to make up their own lesson plans. But why should they be? Lesson plans should be developed by teams of cognitive psychologists, educational researchers and other experts who test them using randomized controlled trials; not made up by amateurs who are subject to small-sample and confirmation bias. Contrary to the critics, however, DI does leave room for teachers to be creative. Actors also follow a script but some are much better than others. Instructors who use DI enjoy being effective."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The distribution of cities, then and now — "Overall, I view this regularity as a negative for the prospects for liberalism and democracy in emerging economies, as urban concentration can encourage too much rent-seeking and kleptocracy. It also reflects the truly amazing wisdom of (some of) our Founding Fathers, who saw a connection between liberty and decentralized agrarianism. It suggests a certain degree of pessimism about China’s One Belt, One Road initiative."

Blog: Otium | Atypical & Treatment-Resistant Depression

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Direct Instruction: A Half Century of Research Shows Superior Results

Blog: The Unit of Caring | I like your blog. It's very helpful and insightful despite your bad taste in fanfiction :P

Blog: Schneier on Security | Internet Security Threats at the Olympics

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Direct Instruction: A Half Century of Research Shows Superior Results — "What if I told you that there is a method of education which significantly raises achievement, has been shown to work for students of a wide range of abilities, races, and socio-economic levels and has been shown to be superior to other methods of instruction in hundreds of tests?"


Blog: The Unit of Caring | Are you a rationalist?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The twenty-page essay exam

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Fill me in on this ideal world of yours. It strikes me that the neighbors of mister experimental Wyoming constitution man won't necessarily appreciate their annexation into this new emergent nanostate. How would you adjudicate disputes over who got ownership of desirable real estate, and who had to leave for fear of bloodshed, Partition of India style?

Blog: Overcoming Bias | How Human Are Meditators?

Blog: The Unit of Caring | dataandphilosophy: “However, the US is unique in that it was racially diverse early, requiring its...

Blog: The Unit of Caring | ... my apologies but do men really need even more coddling over how women being at an extreme risk of violence at men's hands makes things harder for men somehow?


Blog: The Unit of Caring | Antiretributivism implies that a person who receives closure on seeing the murderer of their child go to prison (even when that murderer is harmless and the imprisonment is known to have no deterrent effect), and a person who receives just the same amount of gratification and relief from pain by sending an innocent to prison, are morally on a par. That is absurd. Denying that some people deserve extreme suffering––and that revenge is sometimes justified, even heroic––is inhuman and poisonous.

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Eternal, and Hearthstone Economy versus Magic Economy

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Saturday assorted links


Blog: Virginia Postrel @ Bloomberg View | Lessons From a Slow-Motion Robot Takeover — "Although mechanized cotton harvesters were available in the 1920s, they didn’t catch on until after World War II. As long as farms needed workers to hoe weeds and thin cotton plants, replacing them at harvest time made little economic sense. Chemicals, not machines, solved that part of the problem; the ground between rows in Terry’s field is perfectly bare." h/t Tyler Cowen

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Friday assorted links

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Bias in Advertising vs Subscription Driven Media


Blog: The ANOVA | Miles in his dotage

Blog: Ben.Kuhn | Where, why and how I donated in 2017

Blog: Jeffrey.Zeldman | A beginning consultant brings skills, an experienced consultant brings value.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Uber Pay Gap

Blog: Overcoming Bias | A Salute To Median Calm


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Three updates


Blog: Ben.Kuhn | People seem very confused about 401(k) loans

Blog: Overcoming Bias | The Ems of Altered Carbon — "I see no minor modification to make this into a realistic future scenario. It is made to be a morality play, to help you feel righteous indignation at those damn rich folks who think they can just live forever by working hard and saving their money over centuries. If there are ever poor humans who can’t afford to live forever in very human-like bodies, even if they could easily afford android or virtual immortality, well then both the rich and the long-lived should all burn! So you can feel morally virtuous watching hour after hour of graphic sex and violence toward that end."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Will truckers be automated? (from the comments)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | When is coarse grading better?


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Interpretive cards (MWI, Bohm, Copenhagen: collect ’em all) — "[W]hen (at the TAs’ insistence) we put an optional ungraded question on the final exam that asked students their favorite interpretation of QM, we found that there was no correlation whatsoever between interpretation and final exam score—except that students who said they didn’t believe any interpretation at all, or that the question was meaningless or didn’t matter, scored noticeably higher than everyone else."

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | Anonymous asked: Is being a war reenactor bad because it’s getting fun out of a war? Your thoughts please. — "I feel like if you’re really into Confederates or whatever it is better to get stuff like that out of your system in a fantasy setting where things are clearly marked as fantasy and everyone is consenting, then try to be as non-Confederate as possible in real life."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The slowing pace of life expectancy gains since 1950

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How should you take and write notes in books?

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Anonymous asked: Hello, may I ask re your stance on prison abolition you don't seem to take into account the victims of crimes sense of the need for justice to be done if you don't mind me saying. — cw: discussion of the morality of justice w/r/t sexual abuse crimes


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Will self-driving trucks increase the demand for truck drivers?


Blog: Malcolm.Ocean | 12017 Yearly Review

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Thursday assorted links

Blog: Marginal Revolution | U.S.A. mood affiliation fact of the day

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Taxing Land to Pay for Trains Will Work. In Some Places.

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Anonymous asked: I feel like people on this site are unaware that libertarian is like... "cares about rights of individuals" — "I think that this is sometimes a matter of different languages. Libertarians could easily make the case for libertarianism from the perspective of concern for how the government harms marginalized people, with an emphasis on incarceration and regressive taxation and inconsistent law enforcement and regulations which are impossible to comply with if you can’t afford a lawyer, and Washington D.C.’s appalling law banning childcare without a college degree... But libertarians usually don’t do this. If you go to a libertarian forum or Facebook group, you see a lot more rejoicing over cuts to foreign aid and arguing about whether taxation is theft than you see people going 'Black Lives Matter is entirely right about its core point which is that you should be rightfully furious when cops are shooting citizens' or 'the CIA overthrows foreign governments and that’s totally unacceptable' or 'prisons are appalling'."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Ben Thompson on the Amazon consortium and health care