Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (May 2017)


Comic: xkcd | Voting Systems

Comic: SMBC | Moody — "So, what happened? Who killed whatever was alive? Why has poetry been handed over to activists and obscuritantists?"


Blog: Otium | The Face of the Ice

Blog: Agenty Duck | Curiosities List 1 — "i keep a list of 'curiosities'. my curiosities list contains stuff that at some point made me go, “huh, that’s interesting. i wonder…” but then i realized it wasn’t worth interrupting what i was doing. every now and then, i go through the list and do a bunch of googling. this time i took notes."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Companies by revenue per employee — Rather obvious in hindsight, really.

Blog: Schneier on Security | Who Are the Shadow Brokers?

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Germany Is the Silicon Valley of Political Innovation — "When it comes to politics and political institutions, Germany’s record since the end of World War II as an innovator is virtually without parallel, akin to the role of Silicon Valley in tech."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Proust as speculator — "Focusing on more than 350 letters between Proust and Hauser and drawing on records of the Rothschild Archive and financial data assembled from the twenty-one-volume Kolb edition of Proust’s letters, Balsamo reconstructs Proust’s finances and provides a fascinating window into the writer’s creative and speculative process. Balsamo carefully follows Proust’s financial activities, including investments ranging from Royal Dutch Securities to American railroads to Eastern European copper mines, his exchanges with various banks and brokerage firms, his impetuous gifts, and the changing size and composition of his portfolio...."

Blog: Thing of Things | Thoughts Concerning Homeschooling

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | The Social Justice Warriors are right

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Hungarian Education II: Four Nobel Truths


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Swiss travel notes — "Probably the Swiss have never seen a better time. Their countryside is gorgeous and intact, and their major cities are creative and flourishing, yet many Swiss remain deeply unhappy about inward migration..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Nation-building, nationalism, and wars — "Starting in the late 18th century, states switched from mercenaries to a mass army by conscription. In order for the population to accept to fight and endure war, the government elites began to provide public goods, reduced rent extraction and adopted policies to homogenize the population with nation-building."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Beatles satellite radio Sirius XM station — "Is this a good idea? A whole station devoted to Beatles music and Beatles music-derived products, plus a few early musical inspirations? I ask as a fan, not a critic. Based on about a week of listening, here are my impressions..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Clyde Schechter defends IRBs (from the comments) — "In my experience, most protocol delays in IRB review boiled down to issues of clarifying ambiguous language or providing additional background information so that the appropriateness of the proposal can be better assessed. I suspect that much of that could be avoided with better training of investigators on how to write their submissions..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | India Fact of the Day — "This is a social catastrophe. It is due not only to labour-market distortions, but to a host of constraints on the creation, operation and, not least, closure of organised and large-scale businesses..."


Blog: Slate Star Codex | The Atomic Bomb Considered as Hungarian High School Science Fair Project


Self: My Faults My Own | On “’till the stock of the Puritans die” — attention-conservation notice:​ Taking poetry seriously. Wholehearted, uncynical, unapologetic Harvardiana.

Blog: Schneier on Security | Ransomware and the Internet of Things — "Like every other instance of product safety, this problem will never be solved without considerable government involvement."

Blog: The ANOVA | Study of the Week: Better and Worse Ways to Attack Entrance Exams — "What I am asking for, in other words, is that we focus on telling the whole story rather than distorting what we know about part of the story. There is so much to criticize in our system and how it doles out rewards, so let’s attack weakness, not strength."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Those Modern Pathologies — Good satire.

Blog: On Economics and Management | Writing — Notes on writing, for World Bank economists, from Paul Romer. h/t Tyler Cowen


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | How to Destroy Civilization — "Epistemic Status: Parable. Can’t tell to what extent I am being serious but it’s not zero."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Art Collecting Today — "I liked everything in this book, note that the author is a Ph.d economist, has been a partner for McKinsey and also held a major position for Christie’s. That said, I felt it should have done much more to explain how art is used for money laundering, and also tax arbitrage through donations at inflated prices, based on corrupt appraisals. Those are big reasons why art prices for highly liquid works have boomed so much over the last few decades. Arguably art markets are some of the most corrupt markets in the Western world today..."

Neat: ChannelFireball | What If All Creatures in Magic Would Enter the Battlefield at the Same Time?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Trump administration, lookism, and the Saudis — "It strikes me that it has become politically acceptable among some of the high status people in my Twitter feed to make fun — if only implicitly — of the ugly, idiosyncratic, puzzled, sweaty, or otherwise mockable images sometimes presented by members of the Trump administration..."

Long: The New Yorker | The World is Running Out of Sand — h/t Tyler Cowen.

Blog: Co.Design | Google's 3 Secrets to Designing Perfect Conversations — h/t Tyler Cowen


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Unsong of unsongs — Scott Aaronson reviews Unsong, which really is as good as he says.

Blog: A.Critch | Deserving Trust, II: It’s not about reputation — "This is what I call deserving trust. This framework fits both with my felt-sense of wanting to deserve trust, and with my normative understanding of decision theory. It’s not about having a reputation of being trustworthy. It’s about doing today what people and institutions who might now be unable to observe or punish you would want you to do when they made the decision to trust you."

Blog: Noahpinion | The NIMBY challenge — "But if NIMBY theorists like Price really believe that induced demand determines SF rents, they should do the following thought experiment: Imagine destroying a bunch of luxury apartments in SF. Just find the most expensive apartment buildings you can and demolish them. " Zero is not a magic number! h/t Tyler Cowen.


Blog: xkcd | Doctor Visit

Blog: Marginal Revolution | “If only there were a vast empirical literature…” — Rambling read on how to handle "a vast empirical literature", especially in the context of trying to resolve debates.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Most distinctive words: New York vs. Texan erotica — Just manifestly self-recommending.


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Maine Is Drowning in Lobsters — "It's a seafood sustainability success story! But there's been an interesting twist since Acheson wrote those words in 2003. That already-record-setting Maine lobster harvest has more than doubled..."

Blog: Otium | Dwelling in Possibility — in which Sarah describes something that feels very unnatural to her. (It feels very natural to me...)

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Postmarketing Surveillance is Good and Normal — "This is nefazodone, an antidepressant withdrawn after the discovery that it causes liver failure once every 300,000 patient-years. That is, if 300,000 patients took it for one year, there would be one extra case of liver failure. How, exactly, do you want to discover this in pre-approval studies?"


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Number of -ly adverbs per 10,000 words — ...among some arbitrarily-selected well-known authors. Self-recommending, really.

Blog: Schneier on Security | The US Senate Is Using Signal — "The US Senate just approved Signal for staff use. Signal is a secure messaging app with no backdoor, and no large corporate owner who can be pressured to install a backdoor."


Blog: Schneier on Security | NSA Brute-Force Keysearch Machine — "Whatever the details, this is exactly the sort of thing the NSA should be spending their money on. Breaking the cryptography used by other nations is squarely in the NSA's mission."

Blog: Overcoming Bias | I’m Not Seaing It — Hanson on seasteading.

Blog: Otium | What’s Up With Minimum Wage?

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Cost of Health Insurance Isn't All About Fairness — "Society may have an obligation to help out babies (and mothers), plus they will someday finance our retirement, so let’s make childbearing easy. That said, governments have numerous means of subsidizing childbearing -- direct payments, tax credits, free clinical services and public education -- and it’s not obvious that regulating insurance pricing is this best way to achieve this end."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Bail Out — "I’m confused these charities haven’t received more attention, if only to debunk them properly.", though Scott ends up more optimistic about the Bronx Freedom Fund than that sentence perhaps implies.

Blog: The ANOVA | Study of the Week: What Actually Helps Poor Students? Human Beings


Blog: Ars Technica | How I accidentally stopped a global Wanna Decryptor ransomware attack


Short: The Atlantic | A Special Prosecutor Is Not the Answer — "Suppose a prosecutor were investigating a politician for alleged violations of election law. Suppose the prosecutor could not assemble sufficient evidence to justify an indictment—but did discover that the politician had received large financial assistance from organized-crime figures years before, beyond the statute of limitations. A responsible prosecutor would have to keep silent about that discovery. If it’s not a prosecutable crime, it might as well never have happened, from a prosecutor’s point of view."

Self: My Faults My Own | Three Gifts from Penny Rheingans

Blog: Agenty Duck | Meditation Design


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Apple Watch can detect an early sign of heart disease — "As with the regulation of DNA tests, the regulation of these devices is going to raise important free speech issues. It’s one thing to ensure that the devices do what they say they do at reasonable accuracy (measure heart rate, identify genes etc.) but regulating what advice may be given on the basis of such readings is problematic. Can the FDA regulate a website that says go see your doctor if your heart rate monitor exhibits these particular readings? Why is an app that tells you the same thing any different?"

Blog: The ANOVA | norm referencing, criterion referencing, and ed policy — "As I’ve been saying lately, I think that there are some basic aspects of education and education policy that we simply haven’t thought through adequately, and we all could benefit from going back to the basics and pulling apart what we think we want", here grades, which, well, yes.


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Silicon Valley: A Reality Check — "When Capitol Hill screws up, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis get killed. When Wall Street screws up, the country is plunged into recession and poor families lose their homes. When Silicon Valley screws up, people who want a pointless Wi-Fi enabled juicer get a pointless Wi-Fi enabled juicer. Which by all accounts makes pretty good juice."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | What Democrats Won't Admit About Voters and Health Care — "But keep in mind that the American Health Care Act of 2017 does not prevent states from spending whatever is needed to cover pre-existing conditions, if they so choose. The underlying truth is that voters at the state level just aren’t that interested in paying for these benefits, preferring instead to lower taxes, or to spend the money on roads, schools and prisons."

Blog: What's New | Generalisations of the limit functional — Legible to me, which most of Tao's posts are decidedly not. Likely that means that it's hopelessly elementary, but if your mathematical skill and perspective is like mine...


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 5/17

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How long until another Industrial Revolution would have taken place?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Raudat Tahera and the Power of Religion to Induce Cooperation — "Then they will move out of their crumbling structures into temporary quarters while some 250 buildings spread across 16.5 acres will be torn down and redeveloped. After completion, the old owners will move back in to (part) of the now much larger and better planned area. It’s a big-push plan and, remarkably, it seems to be working. So far, the Trust has bought 87% of the buildings in the area and construction is active. Holdouts can be a problem but every Dawoodi child who comes of age has to swear loyalty to the Dawoodi leader and disobedience brings pressure and social boycott."

Blog: Otium | How Much Work is Real? — "This is what it means to live in a 'mixed economy.' Not everything that everyone does for a living is genuinely useful."


Blog: xkcd | Lunch Order — mostly for Randall's depiction of a military hairstyle.


Blog: JeffTK | Replace Infrastructure Wholesale? — Jeff is wrong, as people point out in the comments, but that doesn't make his idea uninteresting...


Blog: Marginal Revolution | How much do people value health insurance? — "For example, we estimate that subsidizing insurer prices by 90% would lead only about three-quarters of potential enrollees to buy insurance."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The show so far, a continuing series — "In my view, the Republicans have had a very weak hand to play on health care (not enough good ideas!), but over the last week they have played it brilliantly (which is not the same thing as having good policies)."

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | This Week’s BS

Blog: The ANOVA | nihilism in, nihilism out — "I believe this because of a vast array of research showing remarkable continuity in individual student outcomes over the course of life, even in profoundly different educational circumstances. Is that nihilism? No. There are all sorts of other benefits that education can provide, to individuals and society, than just raising test scores or graduation rates."

Blog: Thing of Things | The Cluster Structure of Genderspace — Basically what it says on the tin, but with graphs.


Blog: GiveWell | Why GiveWell is partnering with IDinsight — "Unlike [other] organizations, we don’t expect IDinsight to itself become a top charity. Instead, we hope it will help GiveWell support the development of more top charities and increase our understanding of the organizations we recommend..."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Getting High on Your Own Supply — "Of course, remaining epistemically pure and never winning anything isn’t much fun either, so whatever. I guess my only advice for the Democrats is: don’t get high on your own supply."


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Thoughts on the murderer outside my building — This from a man who's had a murderer outside his building twice now...


Op-Ed: The Crimson | A Report From the Frontlines of the Free Speech Wars — Danielle S. Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Neat: Vanilla JS — "Vanilla JS is so popular that browsers have been automatically loading it for over a decade!"

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Neutral vs. Conservative: The Eternal Struggle