Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (July 2017)


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Raise a Genius! — "I was hoping that this book would explain Lazslo Polgar’s secrets for raising gifted children. It does so only in very broad strokes. Nor does he seem to be holding much back. But it looks more like he doesn’t really have secrets, per se. The main things he does differently from everyone else are the things he’s talked about in every interview and documentary: he starts young (around the time the child is three), focuses near-obsessively on a single subject, and never stops."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | My health care question — "In the United States, Medicare starts at age 65. So to the extent health care improves health outcomes, we should see a noticeable uptick in results as people reach 65, at least relative to the trajectory of aging they otherwise would experience. Of course many other national health care systems treat 64 and 65-year olds as the same, so we can compare the American case to those alternatives. That would give us a better sense of the relative performance of single-payer coverage, no?"


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Against Signal-Boosting as Doxxing — "...my claim isn’t going to be that a completely innocent person was punished, so much as that this entire paradigm of punishment is dangerous"


Blog: Malcolm.Ocean | On “Being Grateful for the Opportunity to Train”

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What I am hearing about Republican tax reform — "No Border Adjustment Tax, even Ryan says that, lower rates for small business than for big business, full investment expensing, and an emphasis on permanence (how can they possibly manage that one?). Will there be a “skinny” version of this bill too?"

Blog: Schneier on Security | Zero-Day Vulnerabilities against Windows in the NSA Tools Released by the Shadow Brokers — "So of the five serious zero-day vulnerabilities against Windows in the NSA's pocket, four were never independently discovered. This isn't new news, but I haven't seen this summary before."

Blog: The ANOVA | for lack of what is found there


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Occupational Licensing Video — Disclosure: I've been occupationally licensed; a high fraction of the test was an remains entirely irrelevant to my day-to-day practice.

Blog: The ANOVA | yes, campus activists have attempted to censor completely mainstream views — "As is typical, the number one rhetorical move has been to insist that student activists are only targeting the worst of the worst, Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer and the like. The idea is that people with mainstream views are entirely free to say whatever they want without issue because they don’t directly threaten marginalized people. That idea is factually incorrect, as anyone with the barest grasp on the facts should know."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What I’ve been reading

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Are American corporate profits really so high? — "General Motors (GM) operates numerous plants in China. Suppose that one of these plants produces and sells one extra car. The profit will be added to CPATAX–a U.S. resident corporation, through its foreign affiliate, has earned money. But the wages and salaries paid to the workers and supervisors at the plant, and the compensation paid to the domestic suppliers, advertisers, contractors, and so on, will not be added to GDP, because the activities did not take place inside the United States. They took place in China, and therefore they belong to Chinese GDP. So, in effect, CPATAX/GDP will increase as if the sale entailed a 100% profit margin–actually, an infinite profit margin. Positive profit on a revenue of zero."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Don't Blame Griggs

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | In a Robot Economy, All Humans Will Be Marketers — "The more a sector exhibits economies of scale, and thus some monopoly profits, the higher wasteful advertising spending can rise. Although consumers enjoy these panderings to some degree, there’s a limit on value added. As workers shift from serving tables to greeting customers, many diners will feel just a little more welcome. Going to the bank will also be a more fun experience, as tellers who used to count cash are now trained to sell us on how the bank is managing our savings. Still, that’s an uninspiring vision of what we will do with the human labor freed up by robots. There’s a darker vision too: Some of those marketers may look toward fraud, such as the Wells Fargo employees who signed up unknowing customers for new accounts."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Facts about (Facebook) friends — I know some quirks of the Facebook graph per se that I came across in my thesis research, but these facts about how Facebook corresponds to the physical world are new to me.

Blog: The ANOVA | Study of the Week: Hitting the Books, or Hitting the Bong? — "Our reduced form estimates are roughly the same size as the effect as having a professor whose quality is one standard deviation above the mean (Carrell and West, 2010) or of the effect of being taught by a non-tenure track faculty member (Figlio, Shapiro and Soter, 2014). It is about twice as large as having a same gender instructor (Hoffmann and Oreopoulos, 2009) and of similar size as having a roommate with a one standard deviation higher GPA (Sacerdote, 2001). The effect of the cannabis prohibition we find is a bit smaller than the effect of starting school one hour later and therefore being less sleep-deprived (Carell, Maghakian & West, 2011)."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Complexity is Bad


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Newsworthy Deaths

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Write Down Your Process — "One of the big secrets of my Magic success was that I was constantly writing up what I had done and what I was thinking, in a style that chronicled my working and thinking process rather than sharing only the conclusions. I learned and improved by writing. Others told me they learned from my writing, which is always great to hear, but no one learned more than I did. Often I would start without knowing what I would conclude, and the result was better decks, thoughts and strategies than I would have had if I hadn’t been writing."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Politics Is Weird Right Now. Business Isn't. — "Sometimes we forget about companies, in part because it is the business of business that we don’t notice it too often for the wrong things. And don’t forget that most of the weird stories about Trump or politics refer to a pretty small slice of our world, further amplified by social media."


Blog: My Biased Coin | Current Harvard Oddness

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Choices are Bad


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Change is Bad


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Are the people in Middletown, Ohio “killers”?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Chongqing travel notes

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Chongqing travel notes


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What does the puffin tell us about the Atlantic? — "Next time you sit among the puffins on a summer evening, looking at their elegance and anxiety, that is what to hold in mind: not clowns but beauties, Ice Age survivors, scholar-gypsies of the Atlantic, their minds on an everlasting swing between island and sea, burrow and voyage, parent and child, the oscillating nomad masters of an unpacific ocean."; from The Seabird's Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers.

Blog: What's New | Maryam Mirzakhani — "Maryam was an amazing mathematician and also a wonderful and humble human being, who was at the peak of her powers. Today was a huge loss for Maryam’s family and friends, as well as for mathematics."


Blog: Julia.Galef | Should we build lots more housing in San Francisco? Three reasons people disagree — h/t Tyler Cowen.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Minimum Wage and Restaurant Hygiene Violations — "Using a difference-in-difference analysis on hygiene rating of food establishments in Seattle [where minimum wage increased annually between 2010 and 2013] as the treated group and from New York City [minimum wage was constant] as the control group, we find an increase in real minimum wage by $0.10 increased total hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent." and from the comments: "In the longer term (beyond 3 years), might there be a reverse trend? For example, as more hygienic robots and processes fill the gaps left by the short run decrease in human labor."

Blog: Thing of Things | Thoughts on Doxxing — "If the people who aren’t horrible racists get you fired from your job and send you death threats, and the only place you find solace and comfort is with other horrible racists, and becoming less of a racist would not stop the non-horrible-racists from attacking you but would separate you from your source of support– would you stop being a horrible racist? Would anyone?"

Blog: GiveWell | Mid-year update on GiveWell’s progress

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | 10 Chinese Megacities to See Before You Die — "Polluted and crowded. Also distinct and completely fascinating. And then there's the food."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | In Praise of Extreme Medicine — "The case for banning extreme sports, for example, is much stronger than the case for banning extreme medicine. Extreme sports don’t provide much benefit to the rest of humanity, other than some entertainment of questionable social value. Extreme medicine, on the other hand, has the potential to improve all our lives and at the very least is a useful warning about what not to do. Yet, extreme sports are lauded, or at least treated as mostly your own business (we do put some regulations on boxing and race car driving), while extreme medicine is heavily regulated and socially frowned upon."

Blog: The ANOVA | the mass defunding of higher education that’s yet to come — "For it to be a crisis does not depend on you having any conservative sympathies... No, for this to be a crisis requires only that you recognize that Republicans are one of two major political parties in American life, and that the structural realities of our system, and the cyclical nature of elections, ensures that there will be practical consequences of such a dire decline in popularity."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Why China May Never Democratize — "In essence, many of the wealthier Chinese trust the Communist Party to look after their interests more than they trust elections. Furthermore, the current political performance of the West is not in every way the ideal exemplar for democracy."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | On the Seattle Minimum Wage Studypart 1; part 2. Zvi deserves an enormous pile of kudos for wading into a mountain of confusing, gotcha-filled, badly confounded data, and wading out with the conclusion that his priors may have been wrong.

Blog: What's New | On the universality of potential well dynamics


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Strategic tennis grunts — On ping-pong: "A top US player with whom I grew up developed a style where he used only one side of the racket for both forehand and backhand, while frequently flipping between the spinny and dead sides of his racket that were colored the same. Players could hear the difference, however, as the dead side made a little thud when struck. His innovation was to stomp his foot on the floor each time he struck the ball (going beyond the norm of the time of just stomping on the serve). A subsequent regulatory change required rackets to have one red and one black side, to facilitate keeping track of which rubber covering is being used for a given shot."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Populism sentences to ponder — "It is easier for populist politicians to mobilise along ethno-national/cultural cleavages when the globalisation shock becomes salient in the form of immigration and refugees. That is largely the story of advanced countries in Europe. On the other hand, it is easier to mobilise along income/social class lines when the globalisation shock takes the form mainly of trade, finance, and foreign investment. That in turn is the case with southern Europe and Latin America. The US, where arguably both types of shocks have become highly salient recently, has produced populists of both stripes (Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump)."

Blog: The ANOVA | Study of the Week: To Remediate or Not to Remediate? — "Let’s set aside my perpetual questions about the difference between relative and absolute academic performance and how they are rewarded. We’re still left with this dilemma: can we possibly maintain some coherent standards for what a college degree means while dramatically expanding the people who get them?"

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Change Minds or Drive Turnout? — "As far as I can tell, the evidence leans against the win-by-extremism-turning-out-the-base argument. Extremists tend to do worse in elections. They don’t raise turnout of their base; in fact, they probably lower it. They may fire up their opponents’ base. And swing voters can make a big difference when a candidate appeals to them."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Paths of the Soul — "A birth, a death, a pilgrimage. A film about the 1,200-mile journey of a pregnant woman, a butcher who wants to atone for his sins and a rag-tag band of villagers who go on foot from their small village in Tibet to the sacred Mt. Kailash has become a surprise winner at the Chinese box office."


Self: My Faults My Own | Thoughts on “Be Reasonable” as a collaboration policy


Blog: My Biased Coin | Mitzenmacher and Upfal, 2nd Edition — The first edition, which I used for a text in Mitz's class, was easily in the top half of technical textbooks I've had occassion to use.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | China green energy projection of the day — "China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade... Keep this all in mind the next time you hear someone tout China as the new leader of the global green energy movement."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Cheer you up true story from Maine — "But in Maine, servers actively campaigned to overturn the results of a November referendum raising servers’ hourly wages from $3.75 in 2016 to $12 by 2024, saying it would cause customers to tip less and actually reduce their take-home income. The servers’ campaign against increasing the minimum wage was a blow to labor activists, who believed the Maine referendum could kick off similar votes in New York, Massachusetts and D.C."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What is the optimal speed of email response? — "Sometimes you won’t email back until you have something quite good to say, and discourse may be inefficiently slow. You are waiting, not only because you might be busy, but also to protect your reputation. It would be socially preferable to just 'get the response over with,' even if you seem a little duncey every now and then. In fact you are a little duncey..."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Commentary on US Election Security — "[W]e should be paying more attention to attacks that aim to undermine the legitimacy of an election rather than changing the election's result. Election-stealing attacks have gotten most of the attention up to now -- ­and we are still vulnerable to them in some places -- ­but it appears that external threat actors may be more interested in attacking legitimacy."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why do the NYT wedding pages seem so upper crust? — Unfortunately, doesn't actually answer the question about 'seem'.

Blog: The ANOVA | Lesson Plan: Teaching Prose Style to Freshmen — Exactly what is says on the tin, with excellent quotability: "Go in fear of the word 'tone,' which students will latch onto. It’s true of course that prose can have an academic / casual / formal / comedic / conversational / sad etc. tone, but tone is such a wooly term that without care it’ll end up being used without specificity. So ask: what makes a style mournful? Confessional? Old fashioned? Vulgar? Be specific!"

Blog: Popehat | CNN, Doxing, And A Few Ways In Which We Are Full of Shit As A Political Culture


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The political economy of American independence — "Why did the most prosperous colonies in the British Empire mount a rebellion? Even more puzzling, why didn’t the British agree to have American representation in Parliament and quickly settle the dispute peacefully? At first glance, it would appear that a deal could have been reached to share the costs of the global public goods provided by the Empire in exchange for political power and representation for the colonies..."

Self: My Faults My Own | Is Patriotism A Virtue? — Excerpted from Alasdair MacIntyre​'s 1984 lecture.


Blog: Slate Star Codex | To the Great City! — Scott Alexander is moving back to the Bay.

Blog: The ANOVA | if you’re in school, try the curriculum

Blog: Rough policy notes on Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza — h/t Tyler Cowen, see also Crooked Timber | Gellner, Mair and Europe.


Blog: Thing of Things | Data on Campus Censorship Cases — "[T]here is a definite tendency for censorship on college campuses to be censorship of conservative viewpoints, perhaps because conservative viewpoints tend to be underrepresented in academia. However, about a quarter of college censorship in this sample is of liberal viewpoints and a quarter is of apolitical viewpoints; this suggests it is a mistake to assume that censorship on college campuses is solely of conservative viewpoints..."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Do Republicans give their representatives more ideological slack?pace Betteridge.