Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (July 2016)


Long: Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the DNC, Nights 1, 2, 3, 4 -- If you missed the coverage and are left wondering what exactly happened in Philadelphia, Sully's coverage is the most insightful commentary anywhere. And it's important, because the convention revealed a very profound shift, the Democratic response to the Trumpening of the Republican Party. But Sully explains it best, so I'll let him tell it.

Blog: Schneier on Security | The Security of Our Election Systems


Short: Vox: Dylan Matthews | It's Barack Obama's party. Hillary Clinton just happens to be its nominee.

Blog: Schneier on Security | Real-World Security and the Internet of Things -- "The next president will probably be forced to deal with a large-scale Internet disaster that kills multiple people. I hope he or she responds with both the recognition of what government can do that industry can't, and the political will to make it happen."

Blog: Money Stuff | Gloomy Bankers and TARP Fraud -- "I say unto you that criminal law enforcement is not a good tool for systemic financial regulation, or for political legitimation, or to 'help the narrative.' It always ends in disappointment. (It is also a moral disaster to imprison people for the sake of a narrative! But no one cares about that.) If you set up an agency to go after big-time crooks, you will mostly catch small-time crooks, because most crooks are small-time crooks, particularly the catchable ones. And then people will be mad at you for not catching big-time crooks, and your protestations that the big-time guys aren't crooks will ring hollow."

Blog: Thing of Things | Language Policing: Intersectionality

Comic: SMBC | History Books: A Guide

Blog: Popehat | A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry


Short: FiveThirtyEight | Trump Is Driving Catholic Voters Toward Clinton -- or perhaps more precisely, he's driving Catholic voters towards "anyone but Trump". Interesting to see how Clinton's Jesuit VP changes the picture.

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Post-Partisanship is Hyper-Partisanship

Comic: xkcd | Politifact

Humor: Hillary Clinton’s husband wore a fetching pantsuit to honor her nomination for US president

Blog: Thing of Things | On Transgender Children

Blog: Popehat | John Hinckley, Jr. and the Rule of Law

Long: MIT Technology Review | How Vector Space Mathematics Reveals the Hidden Sexism in Language

USFA: New Division I Epee Format Introduced in NAC Pilot Program -- Well, at least it's not repechage.


Viz: Geography of Jobs

Blog: Agenty Duck | On Becoming Poems

Blog: GiveWell | Deworming might have huge impact, but might have close to zero impact -- If I'm reading correctly, GiveWell estimates that deworming has about a 1% chance to be a 1000x more effective investment than cash transfers.

Blog: Thing of Things | Two Corollaries To Growth Mindset

Blog: Unequally Yoked | My Good Catch Catches Them All


Blog: Slate Star Codex | How the West was Won


Comic: xkcd | Walking Into Things -- "A childhood spent walking while reading books has prepared me surprisingly well for today's world."

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | My biology paper in Science (really) -- "How did I end up as a coauthor on such a thing? A little over a year ago, two MIT synthetic biologists...came to my office saying they had a problem they wanted help with. Why me? I wondered. Didn’t they realize I was a quantum complexity theorist, who so hated picking apart owl pellets and memorizing the names of cell parts in junior-high Life Science, that he avoided taking a single biology course since that time?"


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Does Lucifer in fact inhabit the corpus of Hillary Clinton? -- "1. Under the most plausible “yes” scenario, Lucifer inhabits the corpus of us all, not just the Clinton family grandchildren included."; continues through another seven points. See also Cass Sunstein's The Republican Convention, Translated for Liberals

Longish: #epicfail -- How Britain Stronger In Europe blew it on the basics of PR & marketing communications -- h/t Tyler Cowen.


Blog: Tesla | Master Plan, Part Deux -- Or, an explanation of the Tesla/SolarCity merger plan.

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Who’s in and who’s out, that’s (still) the only question

Short: Bloomberg | Google Cuts Its Giant Electricity Bill With DeepMind-Powered AI -- Do you want to get Skynet? This is how we get Skynet. h/t Matt Levine.

Blog: Thing of Things | Effective Altruism as Anti-Colonialist

Comic: xkcd | Inflection -- "‘Or maybe, because we're suddenly having so many conversations through written text, we'll start relying MORE on altered spelling to indicate meaning!' / 'Wat.'"


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Let them eat internet! -- "Households making $25,000-$35,000 a year spend ninety-two more minutes a week online than households making $100,000 or more a year in income, and differences vary monotonically over intermediate income levels."

Blog: Welcome To The Rationalist Movement, Phil Sandifer


Blog: MeyerWeb | Pokéstop and Think -- "I know this isn’t tidy. In a just world, the idea of dropping Lures for sick kids [bedridden in hospitals] would be pure and right, with no potential downsides. But then, in a just world, there would be no need of children’s hospitals."


Blog: Malcolm.O |
5 Things I’ve Learned from Extensive Couchsurfing


Blog: GiveWell | Weighing organizational strength vs. estimated cost-effectiveness -- "We remain conflicted about this tradeoff and regularly debate it internally, and we think reasonable donors may disagree about which organization to support." Really, were you expecting a clean answer? The world is a hella complicated place.

Short: Mike Pence's Economic Voting Record -- Apparently, he's consistently anti-bailout, anti-public-housing, pro-trade, and a mixed bag on some other stuff. h/t Tyler Cowen.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Kidney Gift Vouchers -- Donate a kidney now; get promised a kidney for your loved ones later. As a pro-kidney-exchange shill, I'm very much intrigued, though as someone who deeply wants kidney exchanges to work, I'm concerned about the subtleties of building institutional trust required.

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | is/ought, again -- "I have said before that 'should' is the most useless word in politics. There is contemporary obsession with what should be, in some abstract moral sense, that obscures what is, and to the benefit of no one."; this is the strain of deBoer I agree with 100%.

Short: Bloomberg Politics | Clinton Aims Party’s ‘Wall Street’ Tax at Flash Boys, Not Banks -- Good? Bad? Complicated. (Note also that a financial transactions tax would hit high-frequency traders pretty darn hard, even if it treated them the same as longer-term investors.)


Blog: Luke.M | Rapoport’s First Rule and Efficient Reading -- "You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, 'Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.'"


Blog: IEEE Spectrum | Google Needs Two Cultures to Address Age Discrimination and Diversity -- I'm just leaving this here until I have time to respond to it in long-form. h/t Matt Levine.

Comic: xkcd | Gnome Ann -- cw: puns

Comic: PHD Comics | Doing Research vs. Writing About Research


Blog: Overcoming Bias | "AI as Software" Grant -- In 'worlds colliding', Robin Hanson receives a three-year grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to "analyze potential scenarios in the future development of artificial intelligence", particularly "a broad positive analysis of the multipolar scenario wherein AI results from relatively steady accumulation of software tools. That is, he proposes to assume that human level AI will result mainly from the continued accumulation of software tools and packages, with distributions of cost and value correlations similar to those seen so far in software practice, in an environment where no one actor dominates the process of creating or fielding such software." This as distinct from the case where EvilCorp creates Skynet out of whole cloth. OPP says: "While we do not believe that the class of scenarios that Professor Hanson will be analyzing is necessarily the most likely way for future AI development to play out, we expect his research to contribute a significant amount of useful data collection and analysis that might be valuable to our thinking about AI more generally, as well as provide a model for other people to follow when performing similar analyses of other AI scenarios of interest."

Blog: Thing of Things | Against ‘Enthusiastic Consent’


Blog: GiveWell | Why we don’t currently recommend charities focused on vaccine distribution -- tl;dr vaccinations are for the most part cost-effective, but there isn't much room for more funding in current charities, due to the extraordinary efforts of some strong backers.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | When will the United Kingdom invoke Article 50? -- "Or will it at all?"


Blog: Marginal Revolution | In defense of Davos, or at least its cosmopolitanism


Blog: Overcoming Bias | See a Wider View

Video: Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion -- h/t Tyler Cowen, who names it the "optical illusion of the year", quite rightfully so.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Claims about clutter


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Sorry, but you Kant have that -- Graph: The British public wants the right to work in the EU, but they don’t want EU citizens to have the right to work in the UK.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why did the Stars Wars and Star Trek worlds turn out so differently?

Blog: Is the referee process fair? -- Card and DellaVigna's research suggests 'yes'. h/t Tyler Cowen. Unrelatedly, under the same hat tip, Legacy of drug lord Escobar's pet hippos: "Police killed or locked up Escobar's drug gang, but not the hippos in his private zoo. Left to themselves on his Napoles Estate, they bred to become what's said to be the biggest wild hippo herd outside Africa -- a local curiosity and a hazard."

Comic: xkcd | Speed and Danger