Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (June 2017)


Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Libertarian Universal Basic Income — Oh, but that would be privatization, and bad. Snark aside, the proposal smacks of Chesterton's Fence, though I'm not conversant enough in the economics at play to take a stab at it.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A technological history of the White House — "A modern central heating system wasn’t installed until Harry S. Truman’s term, but the AC comes first." This isn't surprising to anyone who's spent time in DC, I think.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Friday assorted links — Linked for Tyler's comment on Vox | What might we be learning from Google sex searches -- "Is a marginal vs. infra-marginal distinction relevant here? Maybe you search for what you are curious about because you don’t have it at the margin, rather than it being your core desire." See also Quora | Friday assorted links


Blog: The ANOVA | (Actual) Study of the Week: Academic Outcomes for Preemies — Goes nicely with: The ANOVA | genetic behaviorism supports the influence of chance on life outcomes


Blog: Malcolm.Ocean | Towards being purpose-driven without fighting myself

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Put Down the iPhone and Appreciate Its Genius — "Finally, names can be deceiving. The iPhone isn’t fundamentally a phone, even though Steve Jobs himself thought that phone service was the killer app for the product. Instead, it’s an all-purpose communications device, music player, recorder, camera, map, adviser, software distributor and dating-enabler rolled into one. When Siri gets better it will be a companion too. As iPhones and other smartphones became more widespread, the number of phone calls I received declined. No other device has done more to make the phone less necessary."


Blog: Otium | In Defense of Individualist Culture

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Deerslayer, an appreciation — I haven't ordered, but Tyler is quite full of praise.


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Conversation Deliberately Skirts the Border of Incomprehensibilitycf. Don't Worry About the Vase | Just Saying What You Mean is Impossible

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Do Americans spend more money on the health care of the poor than the rich? — "I tracked down the source paper by Eric French and Elaine Kelly (pdf), and it does seem to be true, noting that the numbers exclude long-term care for the elderly..."

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Forget The Maine


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What is the proper penalty for scientific fraud the culture that is China what would Gary Becker say? — "In April courts approved a new policy calling for stiff prison sentences for researchers who fabricate data in studies that lead to drug approvals. If the misconduct ends up harming people, then the punishment on the table even includes the death penalty."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Regulation of Charlatans in High-Skill Professions — "Although both standards and disclosure drive charlatans out of the market, consumers are worse off because of the resulting reduction in competition amongst producers. Producers, on the other hand, strictly benefit from the regulation, implying that the regulation we observe in these markets likely derives from producer interests."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | On Dragon Army — "This is a long post is long post responding to a almost as long (and several weeks and several controversy cycles old, because life comes at you fast on the internet) post, which includes extensive quoting from the original post and assumes you have already read the original. If you are not interested in a very long analysis of another person’s proposal for a rationalist group house, given that life is short, you can (and probably should) safely skip this one."


Blog: Ben.Kuhn | Startup options are much better than they look — "...What if, instead of easily-duped employees and stupid evil companies, everyone in this story was acting in a basically rational and decent way?" Sequel to Ben.Kuhn | Stock options are really complicated

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The commerce that is Chinese — "The plan was based on Tencent’s expectations that China is set to become the world’s largest esports market. Tencent predicted there will be 220 million esports players in China and 335 million globally by the end of this year." / "The number of Chinese 'red tourists' who visit Russia to retrace a shared communist history has been soaring in recent years, contributing to the wave of Chinese visitors to Russia that has grown with the help of closer bilateral relations between the countries..."


Blog: Popehat | Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? — "We should all keep talking about threats to free speech. But the discussion should be seasoned with recognition of how strongly its legal underpinnings are right now."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Beijing notes — "[F]or all the talk of lactose intolerance, dairy products are booming. Taxi drivers seem to have lost their reluctance to pick up Westerners. More and more hutongs have been removed from downtown (duh). There is a street with three different outlets selling Mexican-style churros. Overall it feels nicer and more normal."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Wednesday assorted links — “'Socialists who think charter school success can’t be scaled' occupy an interesting ideological space. — Adam Ozimek"

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Against Murderism — "People talk about 'liberalism' as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the 'kill people for being Protestant' thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully."


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Forget Caesar. Shakespeare Has Another Role for Trump. — "I see Trump as not a ruler but rather akin to the various fools, jesters or, in the case of Lear, the character of Edgar, who appears before the king in disguise and warns him of his enemies. Don’t interpret the word 'fool' too literally here. The most common features of these characters is that they speak between the cracks in the action and utter sentiments that no one else dares to voice. That’s Trump on Twitter."

Blog: Giving What We Can | A New President of Giving What We Can — I'm excited about the priorities that Julia Wise lays out here.

Blog: Overcoming Bias | A Tangled Task Future — "In this post I will argue that, in a nutshell, this is how we are slowly automating our world of work: we are un- and re-tangling it. This has many implications, including for the long-term future of human-like creatures in a competitive world. But first we have a bit of explaining to do."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The true Thomas Bayes — "Bayes’s first publication was a theological work, entitled Divine Benevolence ([Bayes], 1731)... The essay dealt with how to handle the problem of evil in the world."


Blog: Otium | Momentum, Reflectiveness, Peace

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The musical culture that is China — “Unlike western pop, which trades on authenticity and the idea of performers singing from the heart, SNH48 is run more like a tech start-up than a musical group. Taking its inspiration from Japanese group AKB48, instead of a core group it runs on teams of interchangeable singers—a strategy managers hope will allow it to build generations of young female stars and longer-lasting revenue streams.”


Blog: Ben.Kuhn | Surviving lots of travel — Sleep on the plane; be robust to everything; minimize stress/rushing/hassle, along with many sub-points on each.


Blog: Conversations with Tyler | Jill Lepore — Lepore on Charles Dickens's 1842 visit to America: "I was going to write a book about it, and in the end I decided narratively it was too unsatisfying because you’re waiting for the redemptive moment and it just doesn’t come." And of Steve Bannon: "...wearing the kind of baggy coat, and he’s got the bulbous red nose, and he’s a very Dickensian character in that sense. Dickens would have written him extremely well."

Blog: The ANOVA | g-reliant skills seem most susceptible to automation

Blog: Overcoming Bias | A Call To Adventure — "One way to create meaning for your life is join a grand project. Or start a new one. A project that is both obviously important, and that might also bring you personal glory, if you were to made a noticeable contribution to it. Yes, most don’t seek meaning this way. But many of our favorite fictional characters do. If you are one of the few who find grand adventures irresistibly romantic, then this post is for you. I call you to adventure."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | How I think about vocabulary — "Relative to my education, including self-education, I think of myself as commanding only a limited English-language vocabulary. Some of this comes from having studied two foreign languages as an adult, which means picking up vocabulary in other languages instead, as the marginal value of a word in the foreign language usually will be higher. Another factor is the complementarity of “direct speech” modes and a fairly modest vocabulary; it doesn’t make sense to talk common sense and suddenly interject “albescent.”"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Land of the free home of the brave fact of the day — "…we estimate that refugees pay $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their first 20 years in the U.S."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Economists' View of Qatar Cutoff Is a Little Scary — "American security guarantees are falling in value."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Persona 5: Spoiler-Free Review — Not for me, but maybe if I had significantly more desire to consume video game media.


Comic: xkcd | Decades — "It's weird how for 20 years we stopped grouping our cultural memories by decade because '2000s' is ambiguous and and 'Aughts' and 'Teens' never really stuck."

Blog: Magic Daily | Metamorphosis 2.0 — The "Block Model" of Magic expansions is dead. Maybe other people saw this coming, but as someone on the fringes of the community (with strong formative memories of playing Magic when I was younger)...wow. For context: Hipsters of the Coast | Never Metamorphosis I Didn't Like, h/t Magic Daily

Blog: GiveWell | Separating GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Projectcf. Open Philanthropy | The Open Philanthropy Project Is Now an Independent Organization

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Scott Sumner’s 25 best movies of the new millennium — "Scott’s list is much better than the NYT “weak tea” effort." cf. also Ross Douthat's list.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why do American movie theaters now have assigned seats? — "Everyone who has armchair-theorized why movie theaters don’t sell assigned seats in advance is now obligated to explain why this has changed and how that’s consistent with their model. I will start. My theory was based on the value of advertising to movie-goers who must arrive early to get preferred seats and then are a captive audience. This has become significantly less valuable now that said movie-goers can bring their own screens and be captive to some other advertiser."

Long: NYT | The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning — h/t Bruce Schneier


Comic: xkcd | Glacial Erratic


Blog: Otium | Kindness Against The Grain — Difficult to describe.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Geography of Family Differences and Intergenerational Mobility — "[R]egardless of interpretation this paper does seem to me to make some very real progress toward figuring out what is going on in those mobility studies."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why was the Qatar cut-off so extreme and sudden? — "In a rational actor model (ha), this cut-off would be lifted in about a week from now."

Comic: xkcd | Dubious Study

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What do economists know about school vouchers? — "Vouchers have been neither the rousing success imagined by proponents nor the abject failure predicted by opponents…The most robust finding is that voucher threats induce public schools to improve."

Blog: The ANOVA | Why universities can’t be the primary site of political organizing — "I’m not saying it would be good or bad for campus to be the key site of a given movement’s organizing strategy. I’m saying that it’s not going to work, for good or bad."

Blog: McKinsey | Battery storage: The next disruptive technology in the power sector — "Eventually, combining solar with storage and a small electrical generator (known as full grid defection) will make economic sense—in a matter of years, not decades, for some customers in high-cost markets." Am I the only one terrified of this future? h/t Tyler Cowen

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | There's a Strategic Reason for Trump's Tweets — "Let’s say you think that a big chunk of the American public has a natural affinity for your views, but they have been corrupted by the liberal media and political establishment and the cult of political correctness. If only they could keep on hearing the truth, over time they would shift in your direction, even if they don’t end up supporting you personally. For instance, you might think that most voters are instinctively nationalist, and ultimately will end up thinking in nationalistic terms, no matter where their party loyalties fall..."


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Conformity Excuses — "[S]ince we do a lot of conforming, there must be a lot of bias here. So we can uncover and understand a lot of our biases if we can identify and understand these excuses. Here are a few possibilities that come to mind. I expect there are many others..."

Blog: Open Philanthropy | New Report on Consciousness and Moral Patienthood — "In short, my tentative conclusions are that I think mammals, birds, and fishes are more likely than not to be conscious, while (e.g.) insects are unlikely to be conscious. However, my probabilities are very “made-up” and difficult to justify, and it’s not clear to us what actions should be taken on the basis of such made-up probabilities."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

Blog: Thing of Things | Some Observations On 'Cis By Default' Identification

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Is Pharma Research Worse than Chance?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Wonder Woman, the movie — "Very enjoyable and well-paced, at least until the very end, and Gal Gadot is spectacular. Yet immediately beneath the facade of the apparently rampant feminism is a quite traditional or even reactionary tale of martial virtue being inescapable, gender attraction overwhelming all other social considerations, and Christian sacrifice and redemption. (Hollywood is usually less left-wing than you think it is going to be.)"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | My first political memory and my grandmother’s commentary — "I still have fairly good political memories of the early 1970s, including (especially) Watergate, and now this knowledge is worth more than it used to be."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Book Review: Weapons of Math Destruction — Review of the class "now I don't have to read the book, since [Zvi] read it for me".


Blog: GiveWell | How GiveWell uses cost-effectiveness analyses — "Due to the uncertainties and imprecision described above, we look for very large differences in modeled cost-effectiveness when making decisions about which charities to investigate or recommend."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Would deregulated building lead to higher urban density? — "In terms of raw potential, it seems quite likely there is more “zoning-prevented housing” in the suburbs or in fairly low-density areas than in already high-density ones. The result could easily be that uniform upzoning boosts metro-wide population, but also causes a shift of population out of the center, into the ‘burbs, where geography may prove less of a constraint..."

Blog: The ANOVA | Study of the Week: Feed Kids to Feed Them — Say what you will about Freddie; he's not usually one to treat arguments like soldiers.