Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (March 2017)


Blog: Interesting Times | Are the Brits Bonkers to Brexit? — and "Should the Dems filibuster Gorsuch?"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What about moving the American capital out West? — "It has become increasingly clear that the D.C. bureaucracy and policy world will be able to thwart most of what the Trump administration might have been thinking of doing. In this particular case I see much upside in that, but still it is a dangerous precedent. The political culture of the ruling capital city should not always hold such sway."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How many direct reports should an American president have? — "[T]he total number of executive entities is 157. I cannot think of any corporation in which the CEO has so many direct reports. This number ought to be fewer than ten."

Blog: The ANOVA | do peer effects matter? nah — "Of course, none of this means there’s no human value in sending your kids to school with elite peers. There are many things that matter in life beyond quantitative education indicators. (Though you’d never know that if you listen to some pundits.)"


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Avoiding Emotional Dominance Spirals — "There is the basic problem of someone dropping the ball, and offering submission rather than fixing the problem on some level. As someone who tried to run a company, this is especially maddening. I do not want you to show your submission, I want you to tell me how you are going to fix what went wrong, and avoid making the same mistake again! I want you to tell me how you have learned from this experience. That makes everyone perform better."

Blog: The ANOVA | looking beyond test scores in defense of after school programs — "Askarinam’s defensiveness, it seems to me, reflects the way that the widespread acceptance of test score obsession has boxed us in. Too many well-meaning progressives have adopted this reductive view of the purpose of education; they then end up unable to defend programs they favor when the results of those programs on test scores are inevitably small or nonexistent."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Trump’s executive order on climate change — "Contrary to numerous reports, President Donald Trump’s executive order on climate change does not come even close to eliminating President Barack Obama’s legacy with respect to greenhouse-gas reductions..."

Blog: Thing of Things | Arguments Against Guaranteed Basic Income


Blog: Marginal Revolution | A Visit to the Lasalgaon Onion Market

Blog: The ANOVA | welcome to the ANOVA — Freddie is back, with a less-political blog? Okay.

Blog: GiveWell | GiveWell’s research plans for 2017

Blog: The ANOVA | why selection bias is the most powerful force in education


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Once We Listened to the Beatles. Now We Eat Beetles. — "Music made us get up and dance, or occasionally throw a rock. Food, especially if combined with wine, encourages a state of satiety and repose. Most conversation about food is studiously nonpolitical and removed from controversial social issues."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Does AI really help the defense in military situations? — wanders through "Is warfare more like chess or more like the NBA?"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | This one is a real blooper and I cannot let it pass by — That statistic going around that international-student applications are down 40%? Utterly false, despite being reported in the Times. Even the statistic which is true-to-facts (40% of schools see decline in applicants) is grossly misleading, since ~40% of schools saw an increase in applicants as well.

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | How to Shake Up the Complacent Class: A Debate

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Supply Side Health Care Reform — "We could reach greater agreement if we focused on supply and innovation. What are the key areas where agreement is likely?"


Blog: MentalFloss | There's a Wire Above Manhattan That You've Probably Never Noticed — h/t Tyler Cowen, cf. Wikipedia | Eruv.


Blog: Otium | Closer to Fine

Blog: Marginal Revolution | California labor market sentences to ponder — "Growers who can afford it have already begun raising worker pay well beyond minimum wage... But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields. Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born..."


Blog: Interesting Times | Is Political Gravity Finally Sinking Donald Trump? — and "The response of Americans to terror is to be terrified — 9/11’s trauma has never been fully exorcised. Until we get over that, until we manage to stiffen our upper lips like the Brits, jihadist terrorists will exercise control over the American psyche like no one else..."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Guided by the Beauty of Our Weapons — "If you want people to be right more often than chance, you have to teach them ways to distinguish truth from falsehood. If this is in the face of enemy action, you will have to teach them so well that they cannot be fooled. You will have to do it person by person until the signal is strong and clear. You will have to raise the sanity waterline. There is no shortcut."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Every conference should invite two hitchhikers — "It occurred to me that many conferences could try to be more diverse. No, I am not referring to gender or race or ethnicity, although that may be true as well. I am referring to personality types and life experiences. Perhaps each conference should have at least one or two people who are not driven to succeed, not the member of any elite group, and not assured of their standing in the world."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Optimism about the margin is sometimes pessimism about the infra-margin — "The mood states of “optimism” and “pessimism” are often misleading ways of classifying or thinking about people’s views on the economy, or indeed about other matters too. Those descriptors do not distinguish between attitudes toward likely final outcomes, as opposed to attitudes about benchmarks and constraints."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Meditations on Mexico City — "If I had to summarize my take in one word, it would be healthy. By that I certainly do not mean sanitary."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Welfare and warfare — "Britain’s welfare state has its origins in the discovery that many of the men who presented themselves to recruiting offices during the Boer war were not healthy enough to fight. Before the second world war, British liberals would have seen the creation of a government-run national health service as an unwarranted intrusion of government into private life. After 1945 it seemed a just reward for a population that had suffered."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Does AI in warfare help the offense or the defense? — An exercise in out-of-field intuition: Guess the answer before clicking the link.


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Your yearly dose of is-the-universe-a-simulation — "But it should surprise no one that, amid all the discussion of computation and fundamental physics, the question of whether the universe 'really' 'is' a simulation has barely come up. Why would it, when there are so many more fruitful things to ask? All I can say with confidence is that, if our world is a simulation, then whoever is simulating it (God, or a bored teenager in the metaverse) seems to have a clear preference for the 2-norm over the 1-norm, and for the complex numbers over the reals."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Cato | Between Authoritarianism and Human Capital — "The world has done a big reset lately on the proper presumptions and expectations for our future. A lot more is up for grabs than we had thought, and many of the dangers come from a very different direction than many people had expected, namely from a kind of old-style authoritarianism, souped up by the clever use of social media."

Comic: xkcd | Color Pattern

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Debating American Complacency — "I agree that complacency is very often individually rational. But there is a negative social consequence, as dynamism fades and innovation slows down and mobility stalls. We’re living with the consequences of all that right now."

Blog: MeyerWeb | Questions and Answers

Editorial: Ross Douthat @ NYT | White Pride and Prejudice — h/t Tyler Cowen, also: Guy Who Got a C on Constitutional-Amendment Paper GETS CONSTITUTION AMENDED


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Better Babblers — "[T]he more kinds of conversation styles that simple machines can manage, the more humans will try to avoid talking in those styles, a least when not talking to machines..."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | The Demiurge's Bigger Brother — Excellent science fiction.

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Having 50 States Is a Bit of a Drag — "Unfortunately, we’re probably at the point where American federalism does more to hinder than to help growth."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Demovote 101, the future polity that is Danish? — "We are...building two things: 1) A web-based platform for Danish citizens to vote on all legislature put forth in parliament. 2) A political party to vote according to the general vote on the platform."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Great Britain fact of the day — "the [English] census of 1851 for the first time registered a majority as living in urban areas…the rest of the world remained overwhelmingly rural, perhaps one-tenth of humanity living in towns. The exceptionalism persisted throughout the century..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The US Civil War, Globalization and the City of Bombay — "As cotton exports from the United States fell, exports from Persia, Egypt and especially India boomed. As Sven Beckert put it: 'The bombardment of Fort Sumter…announced that India’s hour had come.'"

Blog: MeyerWeb | Handiwork — "The story of a mixer-breaking cookbook, the vault of all practical human knowledge, and what I see when I look at my hands."

Comic: xkcd | Vomiting Emoji


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | On Automoderation -- Zvi concretizes much the the vague disease I was feeling around Automoderation, despite it being an eminently plausible approach to its design specification.


Blog: JeffTK | Slack tool: predict -- Note that Jeff's implementation is of a market mechanism that's not budget-balanced, and rewards marginal improvements of the "last price", rather than marginal improvements of the "current best price". I suspect that these design decisions have the net effect of denoising the signal of predicter quality.

Blog: Schneier on Security | New Gmail Phishing Scam -- "The article is right; this is frighteningly good."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Baffling Politics of Paid Maternity Leave in India -- "When I gave a lecture at a local university, for example, I apparently shocked the students when I said matter-of-factly: 'India would be a better country if it were richer and more unequal.' I think India’s extreme poverty makes this obviously true in a utilitarian sense, i.e. better for Indians, but it wasn’t so obvious to the students some-of-whom discussed inequality in terms that could easily have been duplicated at Berkeley. The inequality conversation has jumped the pond in ways that seem to me to be completely inappropriate." cf. Marginal Revolution | India is a much more Entrepreneurial Society than the United States (and that’s a problem)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Cyber plus nuclear equals Uh-Oh -- deeper than you think: "[O]ne state has penetrated the other state’s launch system, so that it could stop a nuclear counter attack. The state that has penetrated the launch system knows that it has a military advantage. However, if it reveals the advantage to the target state, the target state will be able to patch its system, destroying the advantage. The target state does not know that it is at a disadvantage, and it cannot be told by the attacker..."

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Restaurant Guide 2: Pizza

Comic: xkcd | Onboarding -- Some day, prints of original Munroes will adorn the living rooms of the rich and conspicuously-consuming. Our children will deride them as being "bad art" and "pointless" and "a thing that people only pretend to like to look smart", but they'll be wrong.


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Seeing Like a State -- This review caused me to insert Seeing Like a State near the top of my to-read stack.

Blog: Ryan Avent @ Medium | The productivity paradox -- h/t Tyler Cowen. Also h/t Tyler: Legal Nomads interviews Matt Levine

Blog: Agenty Duck | Automoderation -- The weirdest part of reading this post is that, when Brienne attempted to communicate the feeling of 'not being able to filter out conversational threads', I completely missed that she was doing it on first read. Something something illusion of transparency, I suppose.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Does knowing the price lower your enjoyment of goods and services? -- It's my pleasure to introduce Tyler Cowen, master of the blog post needing nothing more than a title.

Blog: [Shtetl-Optimized | Insert D-Wave Post Here] (http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3192) -- Contrary to the title, there's actually enough D-Wave skepticism to make classic Aaronson fans like me content with the world.


Blog: Bits and Pieces | I know it's a dumb question, but -- "...what does it mean when it says that USGSOs seeking to be recognized are expected to maintain 'in both policy and practice ... Publication of the demographic breakdown of the organization’s membership'?" (One day, internecine Harvard politics will no longer occupy pride of place on Faults. But, owing to the weakness of your author, today is not that day.)

Blog: Why Music Ownership Matters -- h/t Tyler Cowen

Comic: ZenPencils | Weapon of Choice -- "No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy."

Blog: Schneier on Security | France Abandons Plans for Internet Voting -- This makes the civic optimist in me sad, though I will defer to Bruce's expertise in opposing internet voting on the security demerits.

Comic: SMBC | Free Will

Comic: xkcd | Best-Tasting Colors


Blog: Open Philanthropy | Our Progress in 2016 and Plans for 2017

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Two Irelands Have Ties Brexit Can't Destroy -- "I’m seeing a world where the past is emerging as stronger than we had thought, and where nationalism has arguably been the most influential idea since the 17th century. That probably means the two Irelands still have some surprises in store for us."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How Emotions are Made -- "I can say this book is very well-written, it covers material not found in other popular science books, and it comes strongly recommended by Daniel Gilbert. I asked a friend of mine who researches directly in this area, and she reports that Barrett’s view is in fact taken seriously by other researchers, it has been very influential, and it is has been gaining in popularity. Make of that what you will."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | General complaints about economic inequality do not seem to spur action -- "'Be careful how complain' is one of the overarching points here, and it is a point which is not heeded so very often."

Blog: Bits and Pieces | More about the Implementation


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Scholarly Publishing and its Discontents -- "This is an ideal book of sorts. He writes it clearly, says what he wants to, ends it, and then gives it away for free." (link)

Blog: Overcoming Bias | The Robot Protocol -- "Such public robots may vary enormously in their mental and physical capacities, but if they are to mix smoothly with humans in public they then we will probably expect them to maintain a minimal set of common social capacities... It seems feasible to start now to think about the design of such a robot protocol."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Are there good new formats for giving talks?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Robert E. Kelly on the German-Korean unification parallel -- "Internationally: today’s external patron (the United States) of the free Korean half is weakening, while the external patron (China) of the communist half is strengthening. The opposite was true of the United States and West Germany, and the Soviet Union and East Germany, in 1989..."

Long: Meet the Companies Literally Dropping ‘Irish’ Pubs in Cities Across the World -- h/t Tyler Cowen, "the globalization of Irish pub design"

Blog: Schneier on Security | The CIA's "Development Tradecraft DOs and DON'Ts" -- "DO NOT use US-centric timestamp formats such as MM-DD-YYYY. YYYYMMDD is generally preferred. / Rationale: Maintains consistency across tools, and avoids associations with the United States."


Interview: Star City Games | God Of Magic: An Interview With Richard Garfield -- h/t Magic Daily


Blog: Marginal Revolution | My favorite things Ireland -- "Poetry: I pick Joyce’s Ulysses, then Yeats and also Seamus Heaney, especially if the word 'bog' appears in the poem..."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | South Sudan sentences to ponder -- "Late last month, famine was declared in two counties of the civil-war torn East African country of South Sudan... A few days later the South Sudanese government hiked the fee for work permits for foreign aid workers from $100 to $10,000..."

Blog: Bits and Pieces | How it would probably work in practice -- "Now what will happen when two students are vying for the role as captain of the softball team, and one is in a sorority? Probably depends on a lot of variables--who else on the team is in a similar organization, the degree of consensus about whether the policy is appropriate, etc. Same thing if two students are competing for Rhodes endorsements, etc. Their peers will have to decide whether to turn them in..."


Blog: Otium | What’s Your Type: Identity and its Discontents --

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 3/17 -- Come for "modern activism, and possibly the entire modern left, is shaped by what techniques are optimized to succeed on a college campus with a moderately friendly administration.", stay for Wikipedia | Postpositive adjectives in Modern English.

Blog: Schneier on Security | Google Discloses Details of an Unpatched Microsoft Vulnerability -- ...ninety days after they gave Microsoft ninety days to patch it, just like last time. Next!

Blog: Marginal Revolution | India is a much more Entrepreneurial Society than the United States (and that’s a problem)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Devil is in the Details -- "...although the piece does not feel dramatic at first it is one of my favorite articles of the year."

Self: My Faults My Own | Happy Housing Day!


Blog: NYU | What if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Had Swapped Genders? -- This is really one of those things you have to see to understand: A re-staging of the Trump/Clinton debates played by actors with genders reversed. There's a two-minute clip at the link, and that alone sheds some light on how we got here... h/t Tyler Cowen

Blog: Bits and Pieces | Where the rubber meets the road

Blog: Overcoming Bias | The Great Cycle Rule -- In which Robin Hanson performs pseudo-Fourier Analysis on all of human history.


Blog: Margo Seltzer @ Bits and Pieces | Guest Post on Nondiscrimination

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | 'Border Adjustment Tax' Just Means New Loopholes

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Immigrant Doctors -- "According to the Immigrant Doctors Project, those 7000 physicians [from the six countries targeted in Donald Trump’s new Executive Order] provide 14 million doctors’ appointments each year and many of them are located in the poorer, whiter, and rural parts of the country..."


Editorial: Tyler Cowen @ The American Interest | America’s Placebo President? -- far broader than the title implies; excerpt: "It is hard for many Trump critics to understand that many of Trump’s supporters are, so far, getting what they wanted. If you think that Trump can’t possibly restore those manufacturing jobs and bring 4 percent growth, you’re right—but you’re also missing the point. Trump supporters see their leader as planting some very visible flags in the culture wars..."

Comic: SMBC | Requiem for a Dilbert -- cw: post-modern, existential angst

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Should we tax robots? -- "Presumably the claim is that there is either a distributional or an “externalities from a happy human being” reason to slow the rate at which capital is substituted for labor. But if we accept that assumption, should we tax robots or subsidize wage labor?" Tyler sketches a model, but leaves the (important!) parameters to the empiricists...

Blog: Schneier on Security | Uber Uses Ubiquitous Surveillance to Identify and Block Regulators -- "One discussion we need to have is whether or not this behavior is legal. But another, more important, discussion is whether or not it is ethical. Do we want to live in a society where corporations wield this sort of power against government? Against individuals? Because if we don't align government against this kind of behavior, it'll become the norm."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Anitdepressant Pharmacogenomics: Much More than You Wanted to Know -- exactly what it says on the tin.

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Behavior -- The Control of Perception


Blog: Ben Kuhn | Stock options are really complicated

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Restaurant Guide 1: Restaurants should not look like (most) restaurants


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Short Termism