Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (May 2020)


Blog: Market Design | What values do we bequeath to our grandchildren? Alberto Alesina et al. on the generations following the Cultural Revolution in China — "[T]he revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically and culturally in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Grandchildren of the pre-revolution elites earn 17 percent more than those from non-elite households. In addition, the grandchildren of pre-revolution elites differ in their cultural values: they are less averse to inequality, more individualistic, more pro-market, more pro-education, and more likely to see hard work as critical to success."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Christo, RIP

Blog: Marginal Revolution | That was then, this is now, Minneapolis racial animus edition — "Running an unconventional campaign that spent little money and relied on volunteer labor, Stenvig won the 1969 election by pledging to 'take the handcuffs off the police' and to crack down on 'racial militants,' criminals, and student protesters. Capturing 62 percent of the vote against a moderate Republican opponent, Stenvig shocked the city’s political establishment with his convincing victory. Running again as an independent in 1971, Stenvig defeated Harry Davis, Minneapolis's first black mayoral candidate, receiving a remarkable 71 percent of the vote..."


Blog: GiveWell | GiveWell’s plans for 2020

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Time to Mitigate, Not Contain

Blog: The Grumpy Economist | Unemployment insurance weaning

Blog: The Grumpy Economist | Airlines and information — "Spend 1 week and $10 million. Find out if air travel is safe or not. Tell us the answer. If as I suspect the answer is that you're about as likely to catch corona virus on an airplane as you are to die in an airline crash, then let us know. Recovery without second wave depends on up-to-date accurate information on how the virus spreads -- and how it does not spread."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Bush Did North Dakota

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Creationism, Unchallenged — I don't think this scans coherently with the "ideological dark matter" segment from Slate Star Codex | I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup -- SA doesn't read or hear about creationists, but if they were quietly gaining ground while unchallenged, would that show up in the metrics here?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Deficit Myth and Modern Monetary Theory


Blog: Schneier on Security | Websites Conducting Port Scans

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Stansbury and Summers on the declining bargaining power of labor — Cowen: "Rather than labor losing bargaining power, I think of the key development as 'management measuring the marginal product of labor more precisely.' Admittedly that does lower the bargaining power of the majority of workers, given the 20/80 rule, or whatever you think the proper proportions are (Stansbury and Summers themselves presumably are underpaid, but in general wage dispersion has been going up in high-skilled sectors)."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The case for a market allocation of vaccines


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Our regulatory state is failing us — "Furthermore, permission is contingent on 'mitigations and procedures included in the AA RWM ‘Corp SMS and Team – 200512- 01 / Hand Sanitizer in Amenity Kits and Snack Bags' [being] 'completed and complied with.' Any deviations require advance coordination with the dedicated FAA Certificate Management Office for American Airlines 'prior to any further flights that provide personal use quantities of hand sanitizer gel and sanitizing wipes to customers.'"

Blog: Market Design | Incentive compatibility is not enough: evidence from the Israeli matching market for psychologists, by Hassidim, Romm and Shorrer — I saw an earlier version of this paper presented at a conference, and it's still an astounding result: "We present direct field evidence of preference misrepresentation under the strategy-proof deferred acceptance in a high-stakes matching environment. We show that applicants to graduate programs in psychology in Israel often report that they prefer to avoid receiving funding, even though the mechanism preserves privacy and funding comes with no strings attached and constitutes a positive signal of ability."

Blog: The ANOVA | goodbye Miles

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | The Collapsing Leviathan

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A weird Lancastrian method for reopening higher education — "[H]ave students use an app to arrange in-person meetings, in groups of five, for periods of a few weeks running. Social distancing and masks can be applied as conditions at the time dictate. The app will match students on the basis of stated interests, and sometimes by other methods too, such as levels of mathematical sophistication or if you wish cultural diversity. The app also will tell them where to meet on campus, all classes being held outside... For the final semester grade each student writes a 20-25 pp. paper about what he or she learned through these units. Professors and sometimes TAs would grade those papers, and do note this is not an insuperable grading burden. It rewards the 'did you learn anything useful at all?' approach, rather than 'did you manage to sit and suffer through through all of your boring classes?'."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Three myths about federal regulation


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Rewatching Dirty Harry (no real spoilers)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Vaccine Testing May Fail Without Human Challenge Trials — "[O]f 10,000 people recruited to test the vaccine in the coming weeks — some of whom will be given a placebo — he expected fewer than 50 people to catch the virus. If fewer than 20 test positive, then the results might be useless, he warned..."


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Plague in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey — "If you prevent the executions [of the infected], you are called a hero. Later in the game, you are informed a plauge has spread throughout Kefalonia. No one makes the connection or blames you..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Fairfax County fact of the day

Neat: Technovelgy | Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas (sorted by publication date) — h/t Tyler Cowen.


Blog: Market Design | Should emergency medical supplies go to the highest bidders? (That isn't necessarily what economists think...) — Responses from economists -- what do you expect before checking?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Price of Peace — "One surprise is that the author seems to 'get' the Bloomsbury Circle, Woolf, and the like, even though he is not an old, crusty British pain in the ass..."

Blog: World Optimization | The year is 2020. Your heroine is working for a digital currency exchange...

Blog: World Optimization | A thing no one told me about being an adult


Interview: 80,000 Hours | Danny Hernandez on forecasting and measuring some of the most important drivers of AI progress

Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Do It Now

Neat: Smokescreen — h/t Tyler Cowen.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Interview with Josh Angrist


Blog: Dormin | The Taiwan Junket: A Story of Political Farce & Fools — h/t Scott Alexander.


Interview: Conversations with Tyler @ Medium | Paul Romer on a Culture of Science and Working Hard — "I think the Bank is trying to serve two missions, and it can’t do both. One is a diplomatic function, which I think is very important. The World Bank is a place where somebody who represents the government of China and somebody who represents the government of the United States sit in a conference room and argue, “Should we do A or B?” Not just argue, but discuss, negotiate. On a regular basis, they make decisions... That, I think, is the value of the World Bank right now. The problem is that that diplomatic function is inconsistent with the function of being a provider of scientific insight. The scientific endeavor has to be committed to truth, no matter whose feathers get ruffled. There’s certain convenient fictions that are required for diplomacy to work. You start accepting convenient fictions in science, and science is just dead..."

Blog: Market Design | Convalescent plasma collection and distribution

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Covid career advice for young workers

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The new economics of chess — "Do not underestimate Magnus Carlsen. He has been #1 in classical chess, rapid, and blitz, all at the same time. He is a huge YouTube star in chess. He has won a tournament about chess trivia, and he has been #1 in fantasy football for the whole world (not an easy feat). And now he is bringing an economic revolution to chess, with himself as the #1 labor and equity earner at the same time."


Blog: Market Design | Qingyun Wu defends his dissertation--remotely

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A charter city finally in Honduras? (from Mark Lutter)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Early distancing can be very potent


Blog: JeffTK | English Bread Regulations

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Coronalinks 5/18/20: When All You Have Is A Hammer, Everything Starts Looking Like A Dance


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The economy that is New Brunswick (that’s Canada, not New Jersey) — "...Middle school students must have permission from their parents and will make about $13 an hour. High school students will be paid about $15 an hour. Jacob expects they will not perform nearly as well as the experienced foreign workers..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How bad is Covid-19 risk compared to other risks?

Blog: Schneier on Security | Another California Data Privacy Law


Blog: Ben.Kuhn | Learning to build conviction — "Overall, I probably did a pretty bad job. But, importantly, I was able to see my mistakes play out in the real world. Instead of modeling what other people would tell me to do, I built a model of the problem directly. So when I got negative feedback, it wasn’t 'Mentor X thinks this plan is bad' but 'the world works differently than you expected.'..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is the coronavirus making UBI look better? — "Another positive sign for UBI is that most Americans seem keen to return to their workplaces. One fear has been that UBI would lead to a couch-potato culture, with people choosing to stay at home even when they’re finally able to leave. But blue-collar service workers are continuing to brave the front lines even when faced with reasonably high risks of infection. They are not trying to get fired so they can collect unemployment. White-collar workers, meanwhile, are feeling restless and unproductive. Working from home may become more common, but most people seem eager to get back to the office — especially if the alternative is a combination workplace/schoolhouse..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What is the FDA Doing Now??! — "An innovative coronavirus testing program in the Seattle area — promoted by the billionaire Bill Gates and local public health officials as a way of conducting wider surveillance on the invisible spread of the virus — has been ordered by the federal government to stop its work pending additional reviews."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | How to think about uni-disciplinary advice


Blog: The Grumpy Economist | Strategies for Monetary Policy

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The general lesson still has yet to sink in — "Apple Store’s Temperature Checks May Violate EU Privacy Rules, Says German Data Protection Office -- The general point is this: you cannot over the longer run have a society based on such inflexible rules of adjustment. For decades it may seem possible, due to underlying stasis, but eventually the truth will be revealed. No single anecdote will be so convincing, and it will take a long time for the failures to pile up. And in the meantime this will breed disrespect for the more valuable laws."


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Legends of Runeterra: Early Review — "Overall, a mixed bag. I don’t want to discourage those looking for a new game. Check it out! It’s free, the joy of seeing what they’re up to makes the first few hours reasonable (and, again, totally free), and you’ll know quickly if what this game is offering appeals to you."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | “Our regulatory state is failing us” — "If you wish, consider a simple question. When the CDC pooh-poohed masks early on, or botched their testing kit thereby delaying U.S. testing by weeks or maybe months, did the permanent staff of the CDC rise up and rebel and leak howling protests to the media, realizing that thousands of lives were at stake? That is surely what would happen if say the current FDA announced it was going to approve thalidomide..."


Blog: 80,000 Hours | Ways people trying to do good accidentally make things worse, and how to avoid them

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Some reflections on GRE scores — "There are many top economists on Twitter, most of them Democrats, who would never ever utter a word about GRE scores in a blog post or on Twitter. Yet when on an admissions committee, they will ruthlessly enforce the strictest standards for math GRE scores without hesitation. Not only in top ten programs, but in top thirty programs and even further down the line in many cases. It is very, very hard to get into a top or even second-tier economics program without an absolutely stellar math GRE score, and yes that is enforced by the same humans who won’t talk about the issue..."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Monday assorted links2 million chickens to be killed because there aren’t enough workers to kill them.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Human Challenge Trials

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What sports I’ve been watching


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Covid-19: Comorbidity

Blog: Marginal Revolution | HHS turned down a big opportunity to make a lot of masks early

Blog: Tesla | Getting Back to Work


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Miracle of the Internet — "The surge in traffic, on the internet as a whole and on AT&T’s part of the network, is extraordinary in a way that the phrase 20 percent increase doesn’t quite capture. AT&T’s network is carrying an extra 71 petabytes of data every day. How much is 71 petabytes? One comparison: Back at the end of 2014, AT&T’s total network traffic was 56 petabytes a day; in just a few weeks, AT&T has accommodated more new traffic every day than its total daily traffic six years ago. (During the pandemic, the AT&T network has been carrying about 426 petabytes a day—one petabyte is 1 million gigabytes.)"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | World’s Largest Producer of Rubbing Alcohol Can’t Manufacturer Hand Sanitizer — "Surely now, with people clamoring for germ-sanitizing alcohol, this excess supply [of ethanol] can be put to good use. Not so fast. The Food and Drug Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have prohibited the use of ethanol in place of isopropyl alcohol even though both are equally effective as germ-killers..."