Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (June 2016)


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Against Prestige -- "So now I enter a new crusade: I am against prestige. I don’t yet know how, but I will seek ways help people doubt and distrust the prestigious, so they can be more open to focusing on outcomes. Not to doubt that the prestigious are more impressive, but that letting them run the show produces good outcomes. I will be happy if other competent folks join me, though I’m not especially optimistic. Yet."

Blog: Tesla | A Tragic Loss -- First known fatality in a Tesla, after 130M service miles (cf. national average: 94M, world average: 60M)

Blog: Thing of Things | On Queerness and Male Friendship -- interesting subthesis: Queerness-as-a-possibility is a threat to close male-male friendships only if 'straight' is a positive identity (distinct from the descriptive 'heterosexual').

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Can you rocker romany, can you fake a bosh -- Prime deBoer: "And so today we have these radical queer arguments and terms bandied about by the very people who perpetuate a world of entrenched and powerful inequality, Pride flags whipping in the breeze in front of Goldman Sachs, people in $3,000 suits dismissing the gender binary as they meet for cocktails in a hideously expensive DC hotel. Meanwhile, the grubby masses, lacking access to the kind of private liberal arts colleges where one learns these Byzantine codes, now can add political and moral poverty to their economic and social poverty."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Greece fact of the day -- If I'm reading correctly, Greeks are, on average, spending 106% of their income each year, liquidating their savings. "In other words, the collapse of Greece is worse than we had thought."

Blog: I Quant NY | Payer or Prayer- A Look at NYC’s $650 Million Property Tax Breaks Related to Religion -- Combing through $650M of religious property tax exemptions.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | AI Downs Fighter Pilot -- Add 'aerial dogfight' to the list of games computers can beat humans at. Also: "The AI was running on a $35 Raspberry Pi."

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Once More, With Feeling -- Hanson against Philosophical Zombieism, succinctly.


Blog: Thing of Things | Healthy, Happy, Sustainable -- esp. in altruism.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is there a market liberal case for Brexit? -- argues no.

Comic: xkcd | New Bug -- "Is this a normal bug, or one of those horrifying ones that prove your whole project is broken beyond repair and should be burned to the ground? / It's a normal one this time, I promise."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What are the other lessons of the Brexit vote?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Stupid is as stupid does -- Hollande warns that Brexit might make London "unacceptable" for derivatives clearing. Haha, pull the other one... I think.


Blog: Schneier on Security | Facebook Using Physical Location to Suggest Friends -- Top comment: "Hell, let the NSA sell its data too. This horse is out of the barn and over the mountains. Might as well get a stud fee." though apparently, Facebook has pulled back from this one.

Blog: GiveWell | Challenges in finding a great Vitamin A charity -- tl;dr GiveWell believes that Vitamin A supplementation is a promising intervention (inexpensive, and comparatively high-impact), but has no standout charities that they can currently recommend.

Self: Review: Anathem


Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Everyone is reading that infographic incorrectly -- i.e. the difference between "racists are overwhelmingly Brexiteers" (81%) and "Brexiteers are overwhelmingly racist" (14%). See instead Marginal Revolution | Why Brexit happened and what it means

Comic: xkcd | Local News


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Molenbook notes -- "Molenbeek is the 'Islamist' section of Brussels which recently became well-known as a breeding ground for terror attacks; it is sometimes described as a kind of desperate hell hole... Naturally I wanted to see it. I visited yesterday morning and saw the fruit, vegetable, and clothing market, and then walked around for another two hours. It was charming, everyone was friendly to me, and I never felt threatened."

Comic: xkcd | Theft Quadrants -- "How hard thing would be to steal / How bad it would be if someone stole it"

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Welcome to the future -- "This is the future of the West: a contest between elitist greed and populist proto-fascism." Classic Freddie; I for one enjoy disagreeing with someone who is lays their beliefs flat on the table.

Blog: Thing of Things | Parable of the Skills Gap

Blog: Things of Interest | Write Like A Programmer -- "I program computers and I also write. There is more than one way to program, but there are a few good practices in programming which have analogous good practices in writing. Here is how you write like a programmer. The following is not necessarily advice."


Blog: Reason.com: Ken White | Confessions of an Ex-Prosecutor -- "Culture and law conspire to make prosecutors hostile to constitutional rights."

Blog: Money Stuff | Hedge Fund Still Wants Its Tax-Avoidance Profits -- "Not even the wildest Occupy Wall Street fantasies imagine a financial system that is quite so nakedly rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. If you are in the sort of business where you come across risk-free multimillion-dollar opportunities... at the direct expense of national tax authorities, you might want to keep quiet about it. Even if it goes wrong sometimes, just eat... the disappointing [only] 23 percent profits -- and move on to the next trade. Airing this sort of dirty laundry in court runs the risk of ruining it for everybody."

Blog: GiveWell | Mid-year update to top charity recommendations -- tl;dr "We continue to recommend all four of our top charities. Our recommendation for donors seeking to directly follow our advice remains the same: we recommend they give to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), which we believe has the most valuable current funding gap."

Comic: SMBC | Innumeracy -- "In short: if people understood math, the economy would tank immediately." I'd argue that the shitty parts of the economy would tank, but that's a point for another time.

Blog: Thing of Things | On Disrespect In Romantic Relationships -- Novel, important, interesting.


Blog: Thing of Things | Be Cautious About Saying That Things Have Changed -- ...especially if, like me, your point of view on "things" (read: political culture) has been moving recently.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Middle Class is Shrinking Because Many People are Getting Richer in re: be cautious about saying that things have changed, I suppose.

Comic: SMBC | Statistics -- "TSA agent: Are you carrying any explosive chemicals?"

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Beware Prestige-Based Discretion -- ...because it's easy to exploit discretion to harvest prestige.

Blog: JeffTK | Blogging Thresholds -- "How to blog: lower your threshold until you start writing."


Blog:* Marginal Revolution | Ban the Box or Require the Box? -- Alex argues that banning the box pushes box-conscious employers to find shadow channels to discriminate on boxiness...e.g. race.

Humor: JeffTK | Mike Mulligan and His Obsolete Technology -- "Mike Mulligan had a steam shovel. It was very powerful, but it was also very polluting. When it was new people were willing to take this tradeoff, but as more efficient earth moving machinery was developed cities started to ban coal-burning construction equipment." / "Mike Mulligan was having a good time digging. It wasn't easy work, but it was thrilling, throwing dirt and belching smoke, burning coal as fast as he could, trying to finish before the EPA arrived. He finished the third corner, neat and square, but the sun was nearly down."

Comic: SMBC | Favorites -- "Well, what's your favorite thing? / Quark-gluon interactions."

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Entirely too many points of entirely unsolicited advice for young writers from someone running out the door


Blog: Malcolm.O | Boggling at being a computational creature made of stuff

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The political preferences of U.S. religious groups -- in one handy chart.


Blog: Aleteia: Leah Libresco | Hamilton, Temptation, and Grace -- Catholic readings of temptation, sin, mercy, and forgiveness in the Tony-winning musical.

Self: Provide for the Common Defense -- "I’m anti-war and anti-draft, but if limiting the draft to men helps men like this send our soldiers to war and sleep well at night, then I support the expansion of the Selective Service."


Paper: A Probabilistic Analysis of the Fermi Paradox -- Solomonides, Terzian; "We predict that under 1 percent of the galaxy has been reached at all thus far, and we do not anticipate to be reached until approximately half of the stars/planets have been reached. We offer a prediction that we should not expect this until at least 1,500 years in the future. Thus the Fermi paradox is not a shocking observation, and humanity may very well be contacted within our species' lifespan." I don't have the right intuition to spot-check their math, though if you do, I'd love to hear it?


Blog: Thing of Things | Orlando

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | I am opposed to a Hillary Clinton presidency because of her policies and her political judgment -- I don't agree, but I agree.

Self: [Meta] My Faults My Own is now (happily) hosted by Digital Ocean


Court: SEC vs. Caledonian Bank Ltd. -- "This dispute reveals, yet again, that no application is too preposterous for a federal judge. Verdmont Capital seeks an order directing the SEC to pay for deposition transcripts and travel expenses incurred in the SEC's depositions of two of its principals in London, which the SEC agreed would be conducted "at the cost and expense" of the SEC. The SEC understood that agreement to authorize reimbursement of all "reasonable commercial" expenses. Apparently, Verdmont's principals understood it to authorize a bacchanalian adventure." h/t Matt Levine.

Blog: Minding Our Way | Dive in

Blog: Thing of Things | Assorted Thoughts On Scrupulosity

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | It tolls for thee -- also LA Times Op-Ed: Ken White | Go ahead and hate Gawker, but don't cheer its downfall; I'm not sure I fully agree, but good reading nonetheless.


Blog: JeffTK | Remote Rounds

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What is doctors’ compliance rate for hand hygiene procedures? -- 52%...when they know they're being observed. 22% otherwise.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Where does economics fail the worst at quantification?

Blog: Popehat | Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About The First Amendment.


Neat: OSS Saboteur's Manual 1944 -- Note that the sections on managerial sabotage resemble standard modern office procedures. h/t Bruce Schneier.

Comic: xkcd | Man Page


Short: Australian Researchers Believe They've Found the World's Ugliest Color -- "The research was done for an important reason, however, as the Australian government will now use it on packaging to help deter consumers from buying tobacco products." h/t Tyler Cowen.

Blog: Tesla | A Grain of Salt -- This just in, Tesla Motors goes above and beyond the call. Actually wait, no that's not news.

Short: Cabybaras break out of Toronto zoo, on the lam for 3 weeks -- When I spent a semester writing an operating system with my friend Keno, we named it CapybaraOS, so I've got a fondness in my heart for the world's fastest rodent. h/t Matt Levine.


Blog: Thing of Things | On Taste


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Daddy, why didn’t you blog about Trump? -- Saturday saw Terence Tao coming out against Donald Trump; today, it's Scott Aaronson. Content warning: commentary on the interplay of the transformation of the social justice movement and the resurgence of the neoreactionary right; if this topic is likely to get your goat, maybe give it a pass.

Blog: Thing of Things | Everyone Is The Hero Of Their Own Story

Blog: Volatile and Decentralized | Death by peer review

Long: What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis -- What does Mormonism have in common with Orthodox Judaism...that Orthodox Judaisim doesn't share with Hasidic Judaism? A demographic problem. h/t Tyler Cowen


Neat: WSJ | Visualizing Hamilton's Rhymes -- Amazing. See also How the Toronto Symphony Orchestra uses graphic design to guide its audiences though its music.

Blog: Vox: Dylan Matthews | Basic income advocates lost the battle in Switzerland. They're winning the war.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What is neo-reaction? -- Tyler is much less charitable (but perhaps more to-the-point) than Scott Alexander was. Relevant and timely because, as Tyler correctly identifies, the Rise of Trump is driven by the return of neoreaction. See also Marginal Revolution | Why was the American populist backlash so long in coming?

Blog: Schneier on Security | Hijacking the PC Update Process -- "There have been plenty of attacks published against updaters and package management tools in the past, so we can expect OEM's to learn from this, right? Spoiler: we broke all of them (some worse than others)... We'd like to pat ourselves on the back for all the great bugs we found, but the reality is, it's far too easy."

Blog: Thing of Things | Loving Thy Actual Enemies

Blog: Otium | Nootropics


Blog: Marginal Revolution | That was then, this is now -- 2012: "The Republican Party will continue to lose presidential elections if it comes across as mean-spirited and unwelcoming toward people of color, Donald Trump tells Newsmax."

Blog: Agenty Duck | Requests vs. Statements Of Desire -- "It’s important that we have different concepts for what I want independently of you, what you want independently of me, and what our joint extrapolated volition prescribes. If you respond to your belief about my belief about what our joint extrapolated volition prescribes, when I’ve intended only to provide evidence of my independent desires, then… problems."


Blog: What's New | It ought to be common knowledge that Donald Trump is not fit for the presidency of the United States of America -- One of the brightest mathematicians of our time is stooping to blogging about politics, that's how important this is.

Blog: Malcolm.O | You flow downhill (and you can sculpt the hill)


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession -- If I were interested in stepping on a landmine, I'd suggest that this is one of those things that suggests that UBI is preferable to minimum-wage welfare. But if I just leave the link and the suggestion here, hopefully no one will excoriate me for it.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Does tenure encourage risk-taking? -- Apparently no. So that's a strike against UBI, I suppose. (Though: is risk-taking a trait we want to encourage societally?)

Blog: MeyerWeb | Fearing The Cure -- content warning: death, loss, regret.


Neat: Aaronson Oracle -- Prove that you have free will by pressing keys that this algorithm can't predict! h/t Shtetl-Optimized | “Can computers become conscious?”: My reply to Roger Penrose.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Intuitions about commodification are culturally relativistic -- "A non-relative male paying for a meal was once so anomalous that it was considered — and not always incorrectly — prostitution...with police officers staking out bars and restaurants and even arresting daters."

Blog: Popehat | Libertarianism as Ten Questions Rather Than Ten Answers -- I'm a huge fan of the format.

Blog: Thing of Things | Why I’m Skeptical Of Thought Experiments -- See also Scott Aaronson's paper Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity.


Short: The Lost Secret Sign Language of Sawmill Workers -- "What they discovered, though, floored them. The researchers witnessed a sign language system complete enough that workers could call each other 'you crazy old farmer,' tell a colleague that he was 'full of crap,' or tell each other when the foreman was 'fucking around over there.'" h/t Tyler Cowen

Blog: Thing of Things | Why EA Should Be Welcoming To Religious People

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Uruguay fact of the day

Blog: Marginal Revoution | Against Historic Preservation

Comic: xkcd | Map Age Guide

Blog: What's New | How to assign partial credit on an exam of true-false questions? -- tl;dr proper scoring rules, though I've got issues with the discussion of unknown unknowns at the end that I won't go into here.