Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (September 2017)


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Slack — The thing, not the software.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Draft animals as common property — "The elimination of private property rights can lead to inefficient use of productive assets. In China’s collectivization movement from 1955 to 1957, instead of transferring draft animals to the ownership of the collectives, peasants slaughtered them to keep the meat and hide."

Blog: GiveWell | Interim update on GiveWell’s money moved and web traffic in 2016


Blog: Marginal Revolution | My philosophy of interviewing

Blog: Schneier on Security | Department of Homeland Security to Collect Social Media of Immigrants and Citizens — "This is part of the general trend to scrutinize people coming into the US more, but it's hard to get too worked up about the DHS accessing publicly available information..."

Blog: JeffTK | Guardedness in EA — "But overall the increase in guardedness I've seen in the EA community makes me sad: as people or organizations become more knowledgeable and get various forms of influence they tend to communicate more minimally which means we hear less of the voices that are most informative."

Blog: Gates Notes | Leaving No One Behind — "In 2007, small groups of HIV patients from villages around Tete, Mozambique, decided to challenge this approach. Instead of walking for hours every month to pick up their antiretroviral (ARV) medication, they would send one of their group to pick up drugs for all the other group members on a rotating basis..."

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Michael Cohen (1992-2017) — I didn't know Michael personally, but I share one small connection -- we took 6.845 the same semester, and the error that he caught Scott Aaronson in (which Scott describes at the link) turned into my term project. It truly was a treat to take the class where, as Scott tells it, "he sat in the front and loudly interrupted me every minute, stream-of-consciousness style, so that my 'lectures' often turned into dialogues with him. Totally unforgivable—all the more so because his musings were always on point, constantly catching me in errors or unjustified claims".

Blog: The Unit of Caring | The opposite of American is... — (a claim about grammar)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Can an independent Puerto Rico work out?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What if Puerto Rico becomes part of an already existing state?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Kill the Jones Act Now! — "The Jones Act shouldn’t be temporarily lifted, the Jones Act should be killed." and Marginal Revolution | Facts and observations about the Jones Act.

Comic: xkcd | Worrying Scientist Interviews — "How worried you should be if you see local reporters interviewing scientists about a breaking news story, by field:"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The American government pays the NFL to tell its players to stand during the national anthem — "Before 2009, football players standing for the national anthem wasn’t even a thing. The teams stayed in the locker room until after “and the hoooome of the braaaave,” and then ran onto the field. No one was offended, and no one was on cable news eliciting tears from disrespected military families. But then, the Department of Defense and the National Guard got involved. They began to pay the NFL millions of dollars to have ostentatious flag ceremonies before games..."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Against Individual IQ Worries — "So to the people who write me heartfelt letters complaining about their low IQs, I want to make two important points. First, we’re not that good at measuring individual IQs. Second, individual IQs aren’t that good at predicting things." cf. Shtetl-Optimized | Also against individual IQ worries.

Twitter Thread: The politics of Star Trek Discovery — tl;dr "In light of our current geopolitical clusterfuck I think we could all do with a little optimism about humanity in our science fiction media." h/t Tyler Cowen.


Blog: Schneier on Security | The Data Tinder Collects, Saves, and Uses — "Some 800 pages came back containing information such as my Facebook "likes," my photos from Instagram (even after I deleted the associated account), my education, the age-rank of men I was interested in, how many times I connected, when and where every online conversation with every single one of my matches happened..."

Blog: Overcoming Bias | City Travel Scaling — "As cities are basically two-dimensional in space and one-dimensional in time, this implies that most visits to a place are by people who live nearby (not so surprising), and also by people who visit very infrequently (quite surprising)..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Roodman Replication — "David Roodman, working for the Open Philanthropy Project, has completed an absolutely tremendous replication and extension of many papers in the literature on deterrence and crime. He reaches two conclusions..."

Blog: JeffTK | PayPal Giving Fund — "The PayPal Giving Fund seems good enough that I feel like there must be a catch, but looking at it I think it's fine. So either there's something I'm missing, or we should be sending basically all large donations via the fund." tl;dr from the comments, no obvious reasons why this is bad?


Blog: Marginal Revolution | What I’ve been reading — Highlight: "The New Testament, translated by David Bentley Hart, Yale University Press. I’ve spent a good bit of time with this book, and if you own and read a few New Testaments, this should be one of them."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Water Runs Downhill: Toronto Edition — "More than 1,000 planned purpose-built rental units have instead been converted to condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area since Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government expanded rent control in the spring, according to a new report that warns the region’s rental supply crisis is poised to worsen."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 9/17: HURLy-bURLy

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Was banning Indian child labor counterproductive? — "I’m not trying to talk you into child labor with this post. Rather, you should be less confident in a lot of your moralizing about what is a good policy or an evil policy."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Solve for the Italian-Libyan equilibrium


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Intellectual fallout from the likely failure of Graham-Cassidy — "I agree Graham-Cassidy is a bad idea, but every time I hear the critics say it is heartless, or would 'take away' people’s health insurance, or 'kill people,' what I really hear is 'If we let everyone vote again on Obamacare, with a real time balanced budget constraint...'"

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is there a Rawlsian argument for redistribution as a form of social insurance? — "Rawls is almost always invoked selectively, rarely being applied across national borders or across the generations, cases where it yields screwy results. Rawls himself hesitated to approve of economic growth, because it does not maximize the well-being of the original “worst off” generation, which of course has to do some saving. He had sympathies with the idea of Mill’s stationary state. It’s fine to reject those conclusions, as indeed you should, but again maybe you’re not really a Rawlsian. You are a selective Rawlsian, if that."

Blog: Compass Rose | Why I am not a Quaker (even though it often seems as though I should be)

Blog: Thing of Things | Deontologist Envy


Blog: Thing of Things | In Defense of Unreliability

Blog: The Grumpy Economist | A paper, and publishing — h/t Tyler Cowen.

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | London's Uber Ban Is a Big Brexit Mistake — Tyler writes, in linking from his blog: "I should note that I prefer London cabs, because of their higher quality service, noting that the people most hurt by this ban are from lower-income groups."


Blog: Thing of Things | Why Attitudes Matter — "I suspect that action-based advice works best in relatively simple situations where there aren’t a lot of possible actions and where there are few situations that require a judgment call: for instance, it works great for “don’t hit people unless they started it”. Attitude-based advice works best for complicated situations where there are lots of possible ways of fucking up: for instance, it works well for intimate relationships, intellectual or artistic life, and career choice."

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Humans Cells In Multicellular Future Minds?

Blog: JeffTK | Kids and Global Warmingcf. Slate Star Codex | Contra Askell on Moral Offsets.


Blog: Thing of Things | Against EA PR — "I go pretty far on this. A lot of introductory effective altruism material uses global poverty examples, even articles which were written by people I know perfectly fucking well only donate to MIRI. I think people should generally either use examples from the cause they actually think is most effective, or use an equal number of existential risk, animal welfare, and global poverty examples, in order to reflect the disagreement in the effective altruist community."

Blog: MISinformation | Things you should know when taking college courses — Solid, basic information; maybe forward to a college freshman near you.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The economics of Graham-Cassidy


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha — "His book is called Mastering The Core Teachings Of The Buddha, but he could also have called it Buddhism For ER Docs. ER docs are famous for being practical, working fast, and thinking everyone else is an idiot. MCTB delivers on all three counts. And if you’ve ever had an attending quiz you on the difference between type 1 and type 2 second-degree heart block, you’ll love Ingram’s taxonomy of the stages of enlightenment."


Short: The Washington Post’s robot reporter has published 850 articles in the past year — h/t Tyler Cowen


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why do Swedes support their far-right parties? — "Using Swedish election data, I show that shocks to unemployment risk among unskilled native-born workers account for 5 to 7 percent of the increased vote share for the Swedish far-right party Sweden Democrats. In areas with an influx of unskilled immigrants equal to a one standard deviation larger than the average influx, the effect of the unemployment risk shock to unskilled native-born workers is exacerbated by almost 140 percent."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | I find it remarkable that cement is exported at all — "Below are the 15 countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of cement during 2016..."


Blog: Magic Daily | The September 15, 2017 Update — The full-art lands for Unstable are really pretty!

Blog: Marginal Revolution | A simple point about corporate tax reform — "There is a genuine question whether you should side with the theory or the empirics here, and I am myself agnostic. "

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The education culture that is China — A small anecdote here: I once went to get a new school ID without any other forms of ID whatsoever. The ID office clerk pulled up a picture from the system, compared it to my face, decided that I was in fact Ross Rheingans-Yoo, and issued me a new ID (for a replacement fee). It's heartening that computers have finally caught up to the task.

Comic: xkcd | What to Bring


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | My Big Numbers talk at Festivaletteratura

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Canada Imports Precious Bodily Fluids — "In 2004 Canada prohibited paying Canadian sperm donors, leading to a tremendous shortage as I had predicted in 2003 (see also my post, The Great Canadian Sperm Shortage)..."

Blog: Agenty Duck | Softs Review: Noise Cancelling Wireless Ear Buds — tl;dr Sony WI1000X noise-canceling earbuds are good.

Blog: Bits and Pieces | Motion updatetl;dr the Crimson reports (and Harry can't confirm) that the motion will be discussed at the October factulty meeting and voted in November.


Blog: Schneier on Security | Hacking Voice Assistant Systems with Inaudible Voice Commands — from the comments: "To be precise, those systems are not listening for inaudible frequencies. Microphone hardware is slightly nonlinear, this allows specially crafted sound to be demodulated to audible frequencies inside the microphone circuits."

Blog: Schneier on Security | On the Equifax Data Breach

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Using tax data to measure long-term trends in U.S. income inequality — "This study re-estimates the long-term trend in inequality after accounting for changes in the tax base, income sources missing from individual tax returns and changes in marriage rates. This more consistent estimate suggests that top one percent income shares increased by only about a quarter as much as unadjusted shares."


Blog: Ghost | Lead Product Designer at Ghost — Make my favorite blogging software better, maybe?

Blog: Luke.Muehlhauser | Hillary Clinton on AI risk — "Every time I went out to Silicon Valley during the campaign, I came home more alarmed about this. My staff lived in fear that I’d start talking about 'the rise of the robots' in some Iowa town hall. Maybe I should have. In any case, policy makers need to keep up with technology as it races ahead, instead of always playing catch-up." -- What Happened, p. 241.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Gorbachev: His Life and Times — "At first I didn’t want to read it, feeling I was already too familiar with the topic, but it was a fascinating treatment throughout, with many revelations. It is perhaps the best overall treatment of how the Soviet Union collapsed, and the parts on Gorbachev’s early career provide a superior look at how Soviet bureaucracy and the Communist Party actually functioned."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Will China invest $30 billion in Haiti?pace Betteridge.

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Toward a Predictive Theory of Depression


Blog: The Guardian | Eat, pray, live: the Lagos megachurches building their very own cities — h/t Tyler Cowen.

Blog: JeffTK | Using Docs for Running Notes


Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Best of Don’t Worry About the Vase

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Florida price gouging by the airlines? — "Airfare data by Hopper shows that the price hikes that took place this past week are similar to those from two weeks ago, suggesting that the price changes are typical for a week of departure flights."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Tesla’s Damaged Goods Problem — Props to Alex; this did turn into a cluster of critical pieces angling to stir up controversy.


Blog: Kalzumeus | Identity Theft, Credit Reports, and You — "[O]ne of my hobbies is that I used to ghostwrite letters to credit reporting agencies and banks. It is suddenly relevant after the Equifax breach, so I’m writing down what I know to help folks who might need this in the future."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Sticky wages are part of the macro labor market story, but not at the center

Blog: Marginal Revolution | How much does Fox News matter? — "We estimate that watching the Fox News Channel for this additional 2.5 minutes per week increases the vote share of the Republican presidential candidate by 0.3 percentage points among voters induced into watching by variation in channel position. The corresponding effect of watching MSNBC for 2.5 additional minutes per week is an imprecise zero."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Alan Krueger on opioids and labor force participation — "Krueger suggests that the increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men’s labor force participation during that same period, and 25 percent of the observed decline in women’s labor force participation."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Research on What Motivates ISIS -- and Other -- Fighters — "We reveal three crucial factors: commitment to non-negotiable sacred values and the groups that the actors are wholly fused with; readiness to forsake kin for those values; and perceived spiritual strength of ingroup versus foes as more important than relative material strength."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | How Do We Get Breasts out of Bayes Theorem?


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Predictive Processing and Perceptual Control

Blog: Marginal Revolution | What I've been reading

Blog: My Biased Coin | Simulated Annealing for JPEG Quantization


Blog: Julia.Galef | Unpopular ideas about crime and punishment

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Social media are making price gouging too difficult these days — "Instead of raising prices to very high levels, let’s say that the local big-box store sells out quickly during an emergency and has empty shelves for water. If those photos circulate, they will be interpreted as signs of general tragedy and want, rather than selfish corporate behavior. It’s too subtle an image to snap the price tag at pre-storm levels, contrast it with the empty shelves, and lecture your Facebook friends about the workings of market-clearing supply and demand and the virtues of flexibly adjusting prices."

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Book Review: Surfing Uncertainty

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why are VC returns correlated over time but mutual fund manager returns not?

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why you should read more about religion

Blog: Fake Charity Nerd Girl | On diversity hiring — "[W]e can actually get more minority candidates without lowering the bar by investing (a lot) more time. I’d be reluctant to say it’s obligatory for companies to do this, because that is valuable time your engineers could be engineering. But it’s a thing you can do."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Does the National Flood Insurance Program Have Redistributional Effects? — "Our findings indicate that premiums as a percentage of coverage purchased are regressive: premium shares are larger than income shares for lower-income zip codes. Payouts, however, also as a percentage of coverage purchased, are progressive, meaning lower-income zip codes receive a larger portion of claims paid. Overall net premiums (premiums – payouts) divided by coverage are also regressive." cf. Politico | How Washington lobbyists fought flood insurance reform.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | French cities are Roman sites rather than by the sea — "Here is the amazing fact: today, 16 of France’s 20 largest cities are located on or near a Roman town, while only 2 of Britain’s 20 largest are. This difference existed even back in the Middle Ages. So who cares? Well, Britain’s cities in the middle ages are two and a half times more likely to have coastal access than France’s cities, so that in 1700, when sea trade was hugely important, 56% of urban French lived in towns with sea access while 87% of urban Brits did."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | The new world of monopoly? What about flying? — "I frequently see airlines cited as an example where the American economy is obviously more monopolistic. By some metrics, yes, but what about the final deal?"


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | GapP, Oracles, and Quantum Supremacy