Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (March-April-May 2016)

Due to unforseen circumstances senior spring, I let three months of reading feed pile up at once. But here they are, all together, for your reading ignoring pleasure.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Ride sharing, vehicle accidents, and crime -- "[W]e investigate whether the introduction of the ride-sharing service, Uber, is associated with changes in vehicle accidents and crime. We find that Uber’s entry lowers the rate of DUIs and fatal accidents. For most specifications, we also find declines in arrests for assault and disorderly conduct."

Blog: Schneier on Security | The Fallibility of DNA Evidence


Blog: My Biased Coin | Class Evaluations, Again -- Fun to read, for anyone who knows Prof. Mitzenmacher Michael.


Comic: SMBC | Humans -- "Do you think humans really have feelings, or are they just programmed to act like they do?"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The dominance of the New York City subway -- "[R]idership on the New York City Subway accounts for all of the transit increase [in America] since 2005."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Some Good News on Organ Donation -- "[T]he legislation has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and a number of other groups including Fair Allocations in Research Foundation, Transplant Recipients International Organization and WaitList Zero." I've been thinking about organ donation (and kidneys in particular) a lot more, since it's the subject of one of my two summer research projects. I'm very pro- and pro-nudges, and tentatively pro-incentives; expect a blog post on all of that later.

Blog: Interfluidity | There's no substitute for a substitute -- "How much new housing would we actually have to build in San Francisco to address the housing affordability problem? The model is certainly contestable, but at least it gives us plausible magnitudes to talk about. To stabilize real rents at their current, absurdly unaffordable level, Fischer finds that the number of housing units would have to increase in real terms by 1.5% per year, holding other factors constant... The last time San Francisco achieved a unit growth rate of 1.5% was in…1941."

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Political appropriation -- File under 'disagree, but glad I read anyway.'

Self: My Faults My Own | Thou then wert our parent, the nurse of our soul... (A thank-you post)


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Notes from Changsha, Hunan province -- "Changsha is the ugliest and most ungainly Chinese city I have seen, which is saying something. Nonetheless for a food pilgrimage it is a serious rival for #1 spot in the world, perhaps surpassing Chengdu for the quality and novelty of its dishes."

Blog: Money Stuff | Libor Chats and Bitcoin Scams -- just for "And lo, a Unicorne shall come among ye, and ye shall call it by the name Theranos, or in the Old Tongues, Elasmotherium Haimatos. And it shall take your Bloode, but only a lyttle bit of your Bloode, and it shall do strange Magick upon said Bloode, and tell ye many Things. But then it shall come to pass that its Magick was [makes 'so-so' hand gesture], and that those Things were mostly not true. And ye shall barbecue that Unicorne."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Environmental lawsuits and the vengeance donors -- great snark re: Thiel/Gawker

Self: A Verse for Commencement Day


Blog: Schneier on Security | Companies Not Saving Your Data


Blog: Status 451 | Miller's Law in the Archipelago of Weird

Blog: Thing of Things | Living in a Gender Bubble


Blog: Marginal Revolution -- "Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN’s minimum crash test regulations, and support use of an airbag." vs. "In the Indian market these cars are competing against motorcycles."; cf. JeffTK | Make Buses Dangerous

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Military Egalitarianism: a short speculative fiction -- "In the Empire of Amerigo there is heated debate about the priorities of the polity... The opposing party, the Three-Percenters favors much higher social spending to the nation’s less fortunate citizens (who are for the most part within the global top three percent)."

Blog: Minding Our Way | Deliberate Once

Blog: Thing of Things | On Literary Criticism -- An excellent exposition of the criticism-as-descriptive / criticism-as-creative divide.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Only about one-quarter of corporate stock is owned by taxable shareholders


Comic: xkcd | Digital Data

Blog: Marginal Revolution | New York City fact of the day -- "Nearly three-quarters of the existing square footage in Manhattan was built between the 1900s and 1930s"


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Problem, No Solution Taboo? -- cf. Jaibot | The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics


Blog: [Marginal Revolution](What are the most cited books in the social sciences?) -- Kuhn, Rogers, Freire, Porter, Anderson, Vygotsky, Foucault, Rawls, Bandura, Geertz, and Foucault again. Marx at #17. By field: Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy...

Blog: Malcolm.O | Honing mode vs Jamming mode (in conversation) -- "when to correct and when to riff"


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Google data on when people search for jokes -- Cowen concludes, "It seems we search more for jokes in better, cheerier times".

Blog: A Symphony of Snores | Opponents are People, Too -- Steve Rubin is a professional Magic: The Gathering player; this post is applicable to how we talk about sport in general, though.

Paper: Aaronson | Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity -- An oldie that I re-discovered.


Blog: Schneier on Security | Unforeseen Costs of Security Training -- "Turns out it was a fake bomb left behind after a recent training exercise."

Humor: University Title Generator -- e.g., "Lead Assistant Chair of External Relations for the Task Force on Academic Compliance"


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Solidarity -- "Last month junior doctors in Britain went on strike for two days, protesting imposition of a new contract. There’s a lot of anger about this, and admittedly when you’re being rushed by ambulance into the emergency department for sudden onset chest pain, 'doctors are on strike today' is not something you want to hear. My normal instincts would be to question whether this is really necessary. My experience tells me it is."


Blog: I Quant NY | The NYPD Was Systematically Ticketing Legally Parked Cars for Millions of Dollars a Year -- Open Data Just Put an End to It

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Nordic Gender Equality Paradox -- "The main point is that there are plenty of Nordic women in politics, or on company boards, but few CEOs or senior managers. In fact the OECD country with the highest share of women as senior managers is the United States, coming in at 43 percent compared to 31 percent in the Nordics."


Neat: Typographica | Our Favorite Typefaces of 2015 --h/t Jeffrey Zeldman


Short: WaPo | Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight -- "[His neighbor] decided to try out some small talk. "Is Syracuse home?" she asked. No, he replied curtly. He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings." h/t Marginal Revolution, Schneier on Security

Self: At What Price ‘Progress’?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Driverless cars and robots are ahead of schedule -- Google self-driving cars, GM/Lyft self-driving partnership, AI test-takers, robotic protraiture, robot surgeons, and robot assembly workers "able to work alongside humans on its assembly lines and inside aircraft, in what would be a step change in the use of industrial robotics."


Long: Star Wars Buttons and Lights You May Have Missed -- "All science fiction before was very plastic and stupid uniforms and Flash Gordon stuff. Nothing was new. George was going right against that. My first conversation with him was that spaceships should be things you see in garages with oil dripping and they keep repairing them to keep them going, because that's how the world is. So we had the conversation and I got hired." h/t Matt Levine


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | The 8000th Busy Beaver number eludes ZF set theory: new paper by Adam Yedidia and me


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Be Nice, At Least until You Can Coordinate Meanness


Blog: JeffTK | Two Distribution Graphs


Paper: The growing problem of patent trolling -- Cohen, Gurun, Kominers


Blog: Aleteia: Leah Libresco | Give Us This Day Our Daily Hedgehog

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Why were Early Psychedelicists so Weird? -- interesting.

Blog: Popehat | Marc Randazza Wrote An Amicus Brief About Klingon, And It's Magnificent


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Albion's Seed -- "I read it...on the advice of people who kept telling me it explains everything about America. And it sort of does."


Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Cautionary tales: The good shit -- But seriously. I think that "Uncanny Valley" might be some of the best narrative nonfiction I've read in months.

Blog: SMBC | "A Cow" -- "A physicist, a biologist, and an economist are on a train..."


Neat: primary.guide -- h/t Marginal Revolution


Blog: Priceonomics | Why Thieves Steal Soap -- h/t Marginal Revolution

Crimson-Ed: Lowering Law School Tuition -- "But not across the board"

Comic: Arcane Bullshit



Silly: [All Prior Art](Computer generates all possible ideas to beat patent trolls.) -- "Computer generates all possible ideas to beat patent trolls." h/t Marginal Revolution

Long: Bloomberg | Amazon Doesn’t Consider the Race of Its Customers. Should It? -- Amazon rolls out "Prime Free Same-Day Delivery" to select ZIP codes in major cities, faces backlash re: the racial skew of said neighborhoods. Over the next week, Amazon responded by expanding the service to cover all ZIP codes in Boston, NYC, Chicago... cf. The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics

Blog: Thing of Things | Sacred Values Are How Ethical Injunctions Feel From The Inside

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Paul Krugman on a carbon tax -- Krugman leans anti-, on the premise that 'a large part of the solution is going to involve a fairly limited set of measures'.

Blog: Popehat | What Empathy Looks Like: Twitch Streamer Brandon Nance Resigns After Ranting At A Depressed Fan -- "Everyone knows that if you've fought depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder, you'll be much more patient and compassionate with others who suffer, right? Right?"

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | A few thoughts on liberal smugness

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Another reason why Harriet Tubman is a good pick


Blog: Volatile and Decentralized | Why I gave your paper a Strong Reject -- see also Volatile and Decentralized | Why I gave your paper a Strong Accept


Blog: Just Security | Feinstein--Burr, Encryption, and “The Rule of Law” and Just Security | Feinstein-Burr: The Bill That Bans Your Browser -- "It's such a badly written bill that I wonder if it's just there to anchor us to an extreme, so we're relieved when the actual bill comes along." h/t Schneier on Security

Blog: The Manual: Eric Meyer | We are What We Build -- "The challenge now is in how those fragments of our lives are treated. This is as much a social question as a technological problem, but the two are not separable. What Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and every other at-scale social network does now—everything they make possible or impossible, everything they make easier or harder—will shape what we think of as normal in a decade or two."


Short: Slate | Why Fans of Hamilton Should Be Delighted It’s Finally Stirring Criticism -- see also Interface of the Word | in the end, the work is what matters

Blog-comment: Scott on Shtetl-Optimized | Grading Trudeau on quantum computing -- re: "Why don’t you like the formulation 'a qubit can be both 0 and 1 at the same time'?"

Blog: Thing of Things | Avoid vs. Accept


Blog: Thing of Things | Against Deontologist Veganism

Short: YDN | CS dept. plans ULA expansion -- After one semester of employing undergraduate TAs in its offering of CS50, Yale decides to allow all CS courses the option of hiring undergraduate teaching staff. This is a good thing for Yale CS.

Self: In the Crimson Again -- UC, Do Your Research, with an opening quote from Chesterton.


Blog: Thing of Things | Solidarity

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Will the proliferation of affordable AI decimate the middle class? -- Alex says no, be analogy to the proliferation of Natural Intelligence [from China].

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | The truth is good enough, again -- "I have been told that criticism of Gould should be ignored or minimized because the larger battle against race science is so important. Indeed, the fight against race science could hardly be more important. That is precisely why we need to know the facts and tell the truth. When the stakes are high, the need to tell the truth only intensifies."


Blog: MIT.Admissions | An MIT Underwear Exposé (and Sorting Hat) -- "[I]t is tradition, a very important rule, and a sign of respect to sign emails to the Burton-Conner dormwide social mailing list with the color of the underwear you are wearing... This rule is a huge boon to those of us who are data-curious and kind of creepy."

Blog: Thing of Things | Transness As Choice

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Place plays a part in helping the poor live longer


Short: Motherboard | This Game Is Forcing Some Players to Be Women, And They're Freaking Out

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Should MetLife be designated “too big to fail”? -- more thoughts forthcoming, once regular posts pick back up. See also Marginal Revolution | Can We Prove a Bank Guilty of Creating Systemic Risk?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Will poets program your bots? -- The obvious answer is "yes", in contravention of Betteridge's Law.

Blog: Malcolm.O |
Polyphasic? No, but stably and happily biphasic.


Blog: Otium | The Peril of the Sublime


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Field experiments in markets


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The economics of pandemic influenza risk -- "Analyses in this paper suggest that the expected annual cost of pandemic influenza falls in the same range as does that of climate change although toward the low end."

Blog: Thing of Things | Parable of the Amateur Physicists

Blog: Overcoming Bias | School Is To Submit

Blog: GiveWell | GiveWell research plans for 2016 -- see also GiveWell | GiveWell’s progress in 2015


Blog: Thing of Things | Amateur Sociology Considered Harmful

Long: NYT | The CEO of Hamilton, Inc. -- h/t Marginal Revolution

Blog: GatesNotes | Who Should Get Foreign Aid? -- "[M]ost development agencies, such as the World Bank, use a country’s average income as the main factor in deciding whether it qualifies for aid. So the countries that are crossing the threshold into middle-income status risk losing much of the aid they’ve been getting (which includes grants, low-interest loans, technical assistance, and other kinds of support)."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The case for a belief in free will -- I disagree that it's the case, or even the best case. But then again, I expect I'm something like -3σ for cynicism -- controlled for the obvious things -- so that may be part of it.


Blog: Thing of Things | My Second April Fools’ Confession

Blog: Schneier on Security | Reddit's Warrant Canary Just Died -- i.e., Reddit received a National Security Letter, a FBI subpoena attached to a gag order prohibiting the servee from disclosing it. Reddit had a notice ('warrant canary') saying that they've never been served with one, which disappeared without notice; Reddit staff decline to discuss the matter. [not an April Fool's]


Blog: Thing of Things | Make America Great

Blog: Malcolm.O | A ritual to upgrade my Face

Blog: Overcoming Bias | What Price Kilo-Votes? / Overcoming Bias | Super-Voting Scenario

Blog: Open Philanthropy Project | Initial Grants to Support Corporate Cage-free Reforms -- "When I started as the Open Philanthropy Project’s Farm Animal Welfare Program Officer in October, I decided to prioritize investigating opportunities to speed up the corporate transition away from using eggs from caged hens. Based on that investigation, the Open Philanthropy Project recommended three grants, totaling $2.5 million over two years, to the Humane League, Mercy for Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States’ Farm Animal Protection Campaign. This post explains why I wanted to make our first farm animal welfare grants on corporate cage-free campaigns."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How out of bounds is the $15 California minimum wage? -- ""[T]he California minimum wage would represent 69 percent of the median hourly wage in the state..."


Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Categorically imperative -- "Progressivism (for lack of a better term) suffers from a ton of maladies. But if I had to isolate one underlying issue that threatens political progress more than any other, it’s this: the deepening progressive belief that all good people must treat all claims to offense or harm as legitimate."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Lawful Hacking and Continuing Vulnerabilities -- "This is how vulnerability research is supposed to work. Vulnerabilities are found, fixed, then published. The entire security community is able to learn from the research, and­ -- more important­ -- everyone is more secure as a result of the work. The FBI is doing the exact opposite. It has been given whatever vulnerability it used to get into the San Bernardino phone in secret, and it is keeping it secret. All of our iPhones remain vulnerable to this exploit."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Solitary confinement often isn’t solitary -- "[O]ver 80 percent of the 10,747 federal prisoners in solitary have a cellmate... 'If you can come up with a better way to do this, understanding the fact that we are 162 percent of capacity without double celling, I’m willing to listen to you,' an Illinois Corrections Department spokesman told reporters..."


Blog: Minding Our Way | You're allowed to be inconsistent


Blog: Thing of Things | Libertarian Social Justice Warrior: A Surprisingly Coherent Position

Op-Ed: WaPo | No, America isn’t 100 percent safe from terrorism. And that’s a good thing. -- h/t Schneier on Security

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Banning credit checks harms African-Americans -- file under 'economics is inconvenient'.


Blog: Otium | There Is No Secret Notebook


Neat: Brutalist Buildings Made From Lego Bricks -- h/t Marginal Revolution


News: University of Missouri announces budget cuts, hiring freeze -- "An anticipated enrollment decline of 1,500 students following protests that roiled the University of Missouri has forced the college to cut general revenue budgets by 5 percent and institute a hiring freeze to help close a projected $32 million shortfall." h/t Slate Star Codex


Self: They’re Not All Saints -- "If this project of divorcing ourselves from icons of our problematic past is truly important, there remains a great deal more work to do." File under "one's ponens is another's tollens.


Self: Oral Arguments from Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt