Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (May 2018)


Blog: Slate Star Codex | In Search Of Missing US Suicides

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A microeconomic guide to travel, including Ethiopia

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is surfing the internet dead? — "And if you hate Twitter, it is your fault for following the wrong people (try hating yourself instead!). Follow experts and people of substance, not people who seek to lower the status of others. And if you’re really feeling the internet to be rather empty, head on over to Twitter search, still the most underrated single thing on the internet today (the MR search function is another underrated corner of the internet). Type in words of interest, such as “Ethiopia,” and what comes up will be gold."


Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The Little Things Matter: A Microeconomic Travel Guide — "How are the sidewalks?" / "How is the local coffee?" / "What kind of pollution?" / ...

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Software is Eating the World-Tesla Edition — "Last week Consumer Reports refused to recommend Tesla’s Model 3 because it discovered lengthy braking distances. This week Consumer Reports changed their review to recommend after Tesla improved braking distance by nearly 20 feet with an over the air software update..."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | A One Parameter Equation That Can Exactly Fit Any Scatter Plot — "In a very surprising paper (pdf) Steven Piantadosi shows that a simple function of one parameter (θ) can fit any collection of ordered pairs {Xi,Yi} to arbitrary precision. In other words, the same simple function can fit any scatter plot exactly, just by choosing the right θ. The intuition comes from chaos theory. We know from chaos theory that simple functions can produce seemingly random, chaotic behavior and that tiny changes in initial conditions can quickly result in entirely different outcomes (the butterfly effect). What Piantadosi shows is that the space traversed in these functions by changing θ is so thick that you can reverse the procedure to find a function that fits any scatter plot."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Facts about drugs, including fentanyl — "But with mobile phones, texting, and social media, transactions can now be arranged electronically and completed by home delivery, reducing the buyer’s risk and travel time to near zero and even his waiting time to minimal levels. In the recent Global Survey on Drugs, cocaine users around the world reported, that their most recent cocaine order was delivered in less time, on average, than their most recent pizza order."

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | Ethiopia Already Is the ‘China of Africa’ — "They share fast growth, a strong national history and a sense that the future will be great."

Blog: JeffTK | Reading to Kids


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Security Over Liberty

Blog: Overcoming Bias | More Than Death, Fear Decay — "It is not just that it is easier to create and train new CAS, relative to rejuvenating old ones. It seems more that we just don’t know how to prevent rot at any remotely reasonable cost. In software, designers often try to “refactor” their systems to slow the process of aging. And sometimes such designers report that they’ve completely halted aging. But these exceptions are mostly in systems that are small and simple, with stable environments, or with crazy amounts of redesign effort."

Blog: JeffTK | Handwriting for math etc



Self: My Faults My Own | Review: Terra Ignota Triologyi. e.​, _Too Like the Lightning_​, Seven Surrenders​, The Will to Battle

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Cities in Ethiopia, and why is the second largest one so small?

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Load-bearing — "It’s useful to think of these things as load-bearing. They’re not just nice - they’re part of your mental architecture, they’re part of what you’re using to thrive. And when they change, life can abruptly get much harder or sometimes just collapse on you entirely. And this is usually unexpected, because it’s hard to notice which parts of your environment and routine are load bearing. I often only notice in hindsight. 'Oh,' I say to myself after months of fatigue, 'having my own private space was load-bearing.' 'Oh,' after a scary drop in weight, 'being able to keep nutrition shakes next to my bed and drink them in bed was load-bearing.' 'Oh,' after a sudden struggle to maintain my work productivity, 'a quiet corner with my back to the wall was load-bearing.'"


Blog: Ben.Kuhn | Unintended consequences and GDPR (but not the way you think)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Has there been progress in philosophy? — "My opinion is that there is significant and ongoing progress in philosophy, we just don’t always name it as such..." and from the comments: "Those who aren't academic philosophers tend to misunderstand what academic philosophers think their job is. And the more-or-less standard understanding within the discipline is something like: conceptual analysis, the tidying of our often-messy conceptual resources. Put another way, philosophers are chiefly concerned with what Hume called 'relations of ideas' not 'matters of fact'."

Blog: Agnes.Callard | Progress in Philosophy — "So you are pretty much constantly thinking thoughts that, in one way or another, you inherited from philosophers. You don’t see it, because philosophical exports are the kinds of thing that, once you internalize them, just seem like the way things are. So the reason to read Aristotle isn’t (just) that he’s a great philosopher, but that he’s colonized large parts of your mind. Not everyone is interested in learning about the history of philosophy. But if you are the kind of person who is not happy about having delegated some of your most fundamental thinking to other people; if you want to go back and retrace those steps to make sure you are on board; if you want to take full ownership of your own mind, well, in that case the history of philosophy might be for you. "


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Gonder, Ethiopia

Blog: The Unit of Caring | How often should you actually be honest about the fact it’s the just and humane policy? — "But on the other hand - I think sometimes it actually holds us back to be lying. It is not true that ADHD meds help everyone with ADHD and are useless to anyone who doesn’t have ADHD. There are lots of people with ADHD for whom meds are useless, either because they got unlucky brain wiring and the meds do nothing or because they got unlucky brain wiring and the meds have too many side effects. And people without ADHD will also often find that ADHD meds improve their reasoning, concentration, problem-solving skills and working memory. That’s what’s actually true. And if no one says it because we’re worried it’ll interfere with access for people in need, then we can end up in completely insane situations like, well, the current situation."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Font Steganography

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Ethiopian food in Ethiopia


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Should Psychiatry Test For Lead More? — And here I was starting to get worried about Betteridge's Law

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Against Foreign Language Education

Blog: Conversations with Tyler | Nassim Taleb

Blog: JeffTK | Index Funds: US vs International

Comic: xkcd | Business Update

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Can Things Be Both Popular And Silenced?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Cultural Divide

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Why Not Thought Crime?

Blog: Bryan Caplan and Nassim Taleb


Blog: Jeffrey.Zeldman | For your pleasure

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Accounting for Capitalism: The World the Clerk Made — "All this office activity spurred a flurry of technological spillovers that included single standing desks and double-counter desks, sitting desks featuring nine or, alternately, fifteen pigeonholes, and drawers that could or could not be locked. 'Office chairs capable of swiveling and tilting' became available as well, together with less costly 'counting house stools' that lacked any upholstery. Paperweights, check cutters, pen wipers (the woolen variety being preferable to silk or cotton, which tended to leave fibers on the nib), pencil sharpeners, rulers, copying brushes, dampening bowls, blotting paper (less important for absorbing excess ink than for protecting the page from soiled hands), wastepaper baskets, sealing wax (including small sticks coated with a combustible material ignited by friction and designed to be discarded after a single use), seal presses, paper fasteners, letter clips (for holding checks while entering them into the daybook), writing pads, billhead and envelope cases, business cards, receiving boxes for papers and letters, various trays (for storing pins, wafers, pencils, and pens), and 'counting room calendars' spanning twelve- or sixteen-month cycles — all became standard business tools. So did the expanding inventory of 'square inkstands,' 'library inkstands,' and 'banker inkstands' designed with narrow necks which prevented evaporation and shallow bodies that kept the upper part of the pen from becoming covered in ink, thus avoiding blackened fingers and smudged documents."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Dematerialization: Humanity’s Biggest Surprise — "I love this talk for many reasons not the least of which is that Andrew has put all his data online."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Kenneth Arrow, weather officer


Blog: MISinformation | The Memo I Didn't Get


Blog: Compass Rose | Talents

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why forced data portability is a mistake

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Money for Blood is Good for All

Blog: The Unit of Caring | I told the CEO on Monday that my team was going to get overworked pretty soon at current growth... — "I get why people get sick of startups. I get why companies have to eventually have real process instead of running on ‘whoever has the bandwidth to make that happen, make it happen’. I am sure that the thing that’s good for me would be terrifying to lots of people. But - I didn’t know I could have this. And now I never want to give it up."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Bull Shit Jobs: A Theory — "Still, I think Graeber too often confuses 'tough jobs in negative- or zero-sum games' with 'bullshit jobs.' I view those as two quite distinct categories. Overall he presents the five types of bullshit jobs as flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters, but he spends too much time trying to lower the status of these jobs and not enough time investigating what happens when those jobs go away."


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Basic Income, Not Basic Jobs: Against Hijacking Utopia

Blog: Open Philanthropy | Update on Partnerships with External Donors


Blog: Thing of Things | Awkwardness and Verbal Consent — "But the real reason I use it is that the alternative seems awkward... For fuck’s sake, how do you ever get out of that state where you’re both cuddling on the bed together and you want to have sex but you keep getting distracted arguing about Star Wars?"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Friday assorted links

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Why are many tech jobs a lot more flexible and generous?


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 5/18

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Radical Markets

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Paul Simon: The Life

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Two moods about my own mortality

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Observations on the heritability of intelligence


Blog: Conversations with Tyler | Bryan Caplan

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Skip Value Signals

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Rooftop Solar is Expensive and Inefficient

Comic: xkcd | Research Areas by Size and Countedness


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Google Bans Bail Bond Ads, Invites Regulation — "Google’s decision to ban ads from bail bond providers is deeply disturbing and wrong-headed. Restrictions on advertising in the bail industry, as elsewhere, are also likely to reduce competition and raise prices. Both of these effects mean that more people will find themselves in jail for longer... Google’s decision is disturbing because it is so obviously a political decision. Google has banned legal services like bail bonding and payday lending from advertising on Google in order to curry favor with groups who have an ideological aversion to payday lending and the bail system. "

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Germany fact of the day — "Germany recorded an almost 10 per cent drop in crime last year to its lowest level since the early 1990s despite perceptions that the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers would lead to a rise in offences."

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Lots of things aren’t healthy for everyone

Blog: The ANOVA | How Charter Schools Cook the Books

Blog: Thing of Things | Link Post for May

Blog: Marginal Revolution | When was it possible to institute social democracy? — "As incomes soared, it was comparatively easy for government to skim some of the surplus for their new social insurance schemes, because even as their taxes went up, workers still got to take more money home every week. Governments ran into problems when the boom stopped, of course, but by then, political sentiment had cemented those programs in place."

Blog: Otium | Introducing the Longevity Research Institute

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What to make of Robert Aumann’s “agreement theorem”?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | How economists became so timid — "How to explain this timidity? As with many professions endowed with power (like the military), economics developed strict codes of internal discipline and conformity to ensure that this power was wielded consistent with community standards… The upshot is that economics has played virtually no role in all the major political movements of the past half-century, including civil rights, feminism, anticolonialism, the rights of sexual minorities, gun rights, antiabortion politics, and 'family values' debates."

Comic: xkcd | Driving Cars

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Anthony Downs on race and urbanism, that was then this is now

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | EA Gothic

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Thank you for your compassion toward...


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Sunday assorted links

Blog: Marginal Revolution | N.V.N.

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | The Zeroth Commandment


Blog: SMBC | Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Vavilov


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why Matthew E. Kahn is optimistic about microeconomics

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Germany fact of the day

Blog: Schneier on Security | LC4: Another Pen-and-Paper Cipher

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Polarization isn’t mainly about ideology


Blog: Overcoming Bias | Why Economics Is, And Should Be, Creepy

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Equality is a mediocre goal, aim for progress


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What will it take to reduce Bay Area housing costs?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | My talk at MIT Sloan School on simulations and science

Blog: The Unit of Caring | Review: Infinity War (spoilers)