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This page collects my most important internet reading.
I aim for timelessness, conciseness, and delta.
I add new links quarterly (In Jan, Apr, Jul, Oct).
Archive by quarters below.
Note: I do not endorse anything in links below.
Other people’s links I read regularly
Links for Oct-Dec 2018
happiness is bullshit. the only times i’ve ever felt truly alive have been periods of total obsession with something. not always “pleasant” (perma) // people seriously underestimate the degree of high that is obsession. it is, imo, basically the greatest high there is. (perma)
There’s a debate about whether fish feel pain and the best moment is “actually plants might feel pain” (perma) (also, plants domesticate animals)
There is nothing natural about democracy. There is nothing natural about living in communities with complete strangers. There is nothing natural about large-scale anonymous cooperation.
There is something very natural about prioritizing your family over other people. There is something very natural about helping your friends and others in your social circle. And there is something very natural about returning favors given to you. These are all smaller scales of cooperation that we share with other animals and that are well described by the math of evolutionary biology. The trouble is that these smaller scales of cooperation can undermine the larger-scale cooperation of modern states. Although corruption is often thought of as a falling from grace, a challenge to the normal functioning state—it’s in the etymology of the word—it’s perhaps better understood as the flip side of cooperation. One scale of cooperation, typically the one that’s smaller and easier to sustain, undermines another.
“Fun study that asked people questions about things like where on a bike the pedals, chain, etc were. Surprisingly many people - even frequent cyclists - made basic errors when a bike wasn’t actually in front of them” (perma)
You would think that the Wright brothers’ historic flight from Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903 had little to do with chemistry. And yet it did. The engine they used came from an aluminum mold; since then aluminum has been a crucial ingredient in lightweight flying machines. The aluminum mold would not have been possible had industrial chemists like Charles Hall and Paul Héroult not developed processes like the Hall-Héroult process for refining the metal from its ore, bauxite. More elementally, the gasoline fueling the flight was the result of a refining process invented more than fifty years earlier by a Yale chemist named Benjamin Silliman. There was a fairly straight line from the Bayer and Silliman processes to Kitty Hawk. …
The more positive conclusion to be drawn from the story of convergent technology is to keep track of ancillary enabling technologies if you want to stay ahead of the curve. In case of the iPod, Jobs seems to have had the patience to wait before USB, battery and internet technologies became mature enough for Apple to release the device; in spite of being the third or fourth mp3 player on the market, the iPod virtually took over in a few years. …
Technology, like life on earth, is part of an ecosystem. Even breakthrough technology does not develop in a vacuum. Without convergence between different innovations, every piece of technology would be stillborn. Without the aluminum, without the refined petroleum, the Wright Flyer would have lain still in the sands of the Outer Banks.
In early November 1938, under the First Vienna Award, which was a result of the Munich agreement, Czechoslovakia (and later Slovakia)—after it had failed to reach a compromise with Hungary and Poland—was forced by Germany and Italy to cede southern Slovakia (one third of Slovak territory) to Hungary, while Poland invaded Zaolzie territory shortly after.
The power law of firm size in France is broken at 50 employees, exactly where the main labor regulations begin to bite. There are more French firms just below the regulatory threshold and a smaller fraction of firms greater than 50 throughout the rest of the distribution. This makes economic sense – the regulation causes some firms to hover just below 50 employees, but by being an additional cost it makes all firms with more than 50 employees smaller than they would otherwise be.
Psychiatrists studying a big family with hereditary mental illness found that each generation had earlier and worse symptoms - in part because people marrying in to the family were also mentally ill
Он оставался после тренировки, чтобы нанести еще сто ударов, и требовал, чтобы в воротах при этом стоял лучший голкипер команды — дублеры его не устраивали. Защитник «МЮ» Патрис Эвра однажды сказал: «Если Роналду позовет вас к себе в гости, не соглашайтесь. Вы будете там тренироваться, а не ужинать».
Помимо бесконечных тренировок на поле и в тренажерном зале, Криштиану проводил часы в компании аналитиков футбольной статистики, которые помогали ему определять правильную стратегию для разных игровых ситуаций: откуда начинать разбег, чтобы выпрыгнуть выше всех при подаче углового, как рассчитать траекторию полета мяча при ударах с разных дистанций, в каких зонах открываться при передаче из глубины.
Does it make sense to talk about a neuron representing a single feature instead of a confluence of features (a la Kording)? Is understanding the way a neuron responds in one context good enough?
If a neural response is correlated with something in the environment, does it represent it?
The Pirahã language and culture seem to lack not only the words but also the concepts for numbers, using instead less precise terms like “small size”, “large size” and “collection”. …
For many years I attempted to teach Biology and Genetics students the rudiments of statistics, with, alas, only limited success. The notions of population, sample, variance, hypothesis testing, etc. require more time and practice than can be devoted to them in such courses. Most students in the life sciences are math-phobic and few take statistics courses until they reach graduate school.
Ancient Greek sculptures were originally painted bright colors; they only appear white today because the original pigments have deteriorated. Some well-preserved statues still bear traces of their original coloration.
Open access is often argued about in the abstract. I want to talk about a specific case study where I have detailed data - usage patterns for my (open access) online book/monograph “Neural Networks and Deep Learning” (perma)
In 2017, 49,780,000 people living in the United States were born in other countries.
We demonstrate that the Faithfulness property that is assumed in much causal analysis is robustly violated for a large class of systems of a type that occurs throughout the life and social sciences: control systems. These systems exhibit correlations indistinguishable from zero between variables that are strongly causally connected, and can show very high correlations between variables that have no direct causal connection, only a connection via causal links between uncorrelated variables. Their patterns of correlation are robust, in that they remain unchanged when their parameters are varied. The violation of Faithfulness is fundamental to what a control system does: hold some variable constant despite the disturbing influences on it. No method of causal analysis that requires Faithfulness is applicable to such systems.
It used to be that airliners broke up in the sky because of small cracks in the window frames. So we fixed that. It used to be that aircraft crashed because of outward opening doors. So we fixed that. Aircraft used to fall out of the sky from urine corrosion, so we fixed that with encapsulated plastic lavatories. The list goes on and on. And we fixed them all.
So what are we left with? …
And so, with more rules we have solved most of the problems in the world. That just leaves the weird events left like disappearing 777’s, freak storms and ISIS. It used to be that even minor storms would be a problem but we have building codes now (rules). Free of rules, we’d probably have dealt with ISIS by now too.
Ultimately, this is why the world is getting weirder, and will continue to do so. Now with global media you get to hear about it all.
- Physical attractiveness influences people’s network preferences and outcomes.
- More attractive people prefer broker positions in social networks.
- The reported networks of more attractive people are relatively less dense.
Pemex was founded on the nationalist idea that Mexicans would themselves be responsible for developing Mexico’s oil wealth, and the profits would be used to benefit the country as a whole. It eventually grew bigger than Gazprom, the Russian state oil company, but it has always had a problem with internal malfeasance and featherbedding. “Corporate governance is poor,” says Duncan Wood, head of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center. “It’s disorganized. There are little fiefdoms within it. They strike deals with organized crime and turn a blind eye.” Patrick Corcoran, an analyst at InSight Crime, puts it even more succinctly: “Pemex is a massive cash cow, riddled with corruption.” …
Peña Nieto’s solution was to end Pemex’s monopoly and open the energy industry to foreign corporations, which he and his allies consider inherently more efficient and less susceptible to corruption than a state-owned enterprise. It took them five years to amend the constitution and implement a free-market framework — “the mother of all reforms,” …
The reforms were supposed to lower costs at the pumps but ended up doing the opposite. Public anger at the price hikes occasionally boiled over into riots, and contributed to the election of López Obrador.
“In 1996, not only did the Clinton team influence Russia’s election to Boris Yeltsin (who collapsed their economy and made the life expectancy go down by 5 years), they bragged about it in Time Magazine.” (perma)
Mr. Duncan assumed that Calvin, a solid B-student from an intact, hard-working family, just needed some help studying for the ACT ahead of applying for college—until the first day that Mr. Duncan sat down with him and realized that he was reading at the level of a second-grader. Despite a summer of hard work, Calvin wasn’t going anywhere.
“The lies told to Calvin,” Mr. Duncan writes, “were not told to torture him… . More often than not they existed to protect resources, or to safeguard jobs, or to control what kids were taught and how or whether they were tested on what they knew.” Calvin was ill-served by a system that kept passing him along to the next grade level when he hadn’t mastered the basic skills of the one before. …
Upon taking charge of the public schools in Chicago in 2001, he discovered (with the help of the Chicago-based economist Steven Levitt) that at least 5% of the city’s teachers were helping their students cheat on standardized tests. He was appalled but felt stymied: “If I’d asked Mayor [Richard] Daley to fire 5 percent of all Chicago teachers, then there would have been hell to pay.”
Immigrant students in American schools outperform their domestic peers, and the reason is about culture and attitude, the immigrant’s willingness to strive and persevere, right? Nah. Selection bias. So-called alternative charters have helped struggling districts turn it around, right? Not really; they’ve just artificially created selection bias. At Purdue, where there is a large Chinese student population, I always chuckled to hear domestic students say “Chinese people are all so rich!” It didn’t seem to occur to them that attending a school that costs better than $40,000 a year for international students acted as a natural screen to exclude the vast number of Chinese people who live in deep poverty. …
Sometimes, in fact, it is deliberately hidden in education. A few years ago, Reuters undertook an exhaustive investigation of the ways that charter schools deliberately exclude the hardest-to-educate students, despite the fact that most are ostensibly required to accept all kinds of students, as public schools are bound to. … Excluding students with cognitive and developmental disabilities is a notorious example. (Despite what many people presume, a majority of students with special needs take state-mandated standardized tests and are included in data like graduation rates, in most locales.) Simply the fact that parents typically have to opt in to charter school lotteries for their students to attend functions as a screening mechanism. …
Tell me how your students are getting assigned to your school, and I can predict your outcomes – not perfectly, but well enough that it calls into question many of our core presumptions about how education works.
Bacteriophage produce anti-CRISPR proteins, but they need to cooperate to have sufficient density to overwhelm bacterial defenses
Most of us have had similar experiences. A wise friend or acquaintance will look deeply into us, and see some latent aspiration, perhaps more clearly than we do ourselves. And they will see that we are capable of taking action to achieve that aspiration, and hold up a mirror showing us that capability in crystalline form. The usual self-doubts are silenced, and we realize with conviction: “yes, I can do this”.
This is an instance of volitional philanthropy: helping expand the range of ways people can act on the world.
There’s a rare, related activity which I think of as field finding. It’s not about problem finding, per se, but rather about developing an underlying narrative which generates many superb problems over decades or centuries.
Most of my favourite papers are field finding.
One phenomenon jumps out to you when you get seriously interested in history (even it you happen to be amateur like me). And that is that people tend to naively judge periods’ accomplishemnts largely based on how much they superficialy resemble our age. If period resembles ours we emphasize good parts and forget about flaws; if period looks alien we forget good parts, emphasize bad and sometimes even invent flaws out of tin air. Let me explain.
Brain injuries are sad. Worked with a guy who retired from the Navy (last assignment was in charge of supplies for an aircraft carrier), got a civilian logistics job with the Navy and became in charge of the warehouses in Norfolk. He was hit by a car while he was riding his bike to work; now he lives with his sister and has difficulty with his stocking job at Walmart. The worst thing is that he remembers how he used to be.
A unique longitudinal study published in 2016 by Hanane Bouchghoul and colleagues at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris unpacks that decision-making process. They interviewed 54 women—either Huntington’s carriers or wives of carriers—and found that if a couple received a favorable result in a first prenatal test, the majority had the child and stopped there. Most of those who got an unfavorable result terminated the pregnancy and tried again. If a second prenatal test produced a “good” result, they had the child and stopped. But if it produced a “bad” result and another termination, most changed strategy. Some opted for preimplantation genetic diagnosis, removing the need for termination, since only mutation-free embryos are implanted. Some abandoned the idea of having a child altogether. But nearly half, 45 percent, conceived naturally again, and this time they did not seek prenatal testing. Summarizing the findings, the geneticist on the team, Alexandra Dürr, says, “The desire to have a child overrides all else.”
“This sort of reminds me of my time on /r/nootropics, back before eternal September hit. There were a lot of smart people, even ridiculously smart people like /u/MisterYouAreSoDumb/ . But for all that, we did not make any progress.” (perma):
And a lot of our hypothesizing about various mechanisms of action (and even self experimentation) proved pretty futile. I don’t think we found a single drug that was more effective than nicotine as a cognitive enhancer, despite MisterYouAreSoDumb literally doing extremely impressive novel chemical research. Absent a scientific and legal tradition that supported enhancement research, little progress was made. Perhaps the problem is just intractable; I don’t know.
Instead we did what you are doing now, pattern matching various receptors and coming up with vague theories. As there are no regulatory issues blocking the kind of understanding you are hoping to achieve, I would strongly recommend formal education. For all its problems, I don’t think you will get very far outside a traditional research context.
“New paper throws some shade on the long-term historical persistence literature, argues missions and colonial settlement were even less randomly placed than thought.”
Despite having vast sums to invest, GDP growth per-capita outside of the booming sectors appears on average to have been no faster during the boom years than before. The paper finds no country in which (non-resource) growth per-person has been statisticallysignificantly higher during the boom years. In some Gulf states, oil rents have financed a migration-facilitated economic expansion with small or negative productivity gains. Overall, there is little evidence the booms have left behind the anticipated productivity transformation in the domestic economies. It appears that current policies are, overall, prooving insufficient to spur lasting development outside resource intensive sectors.
“Ease of piracy may have been a key component of @Adobe’s growth. No longer, with the subscription model it’s shifted to ~5y ago!” // “Companies will monitor and even maintain popular cracks of their software! If it starts getting used in commercial environments, it’s easier and more profitable to send the bill to legal dept than fight the pirates.” (perma)
… users flocked to the best user experience possible that was just decentralized enough to stay alive.
Precise Minds in Uncertain Worlds: Predictive Coding in Autism (seems like an uncannily accurate description of the experience of an autistic mind) (perma):
There have been numerous attempts to explain the enigma of autism, but existing neurocognitive theories often provide merely a refined description of 1 cluster of symptoms. Here we argue that deficits in executive functioning, theory of mind, and central coherence can all be understood as the consequence of a core deficit in the flexibility with which people with autism spectrum disorder can process violations to their expectations. More formally we argue that the human mind processes information by making and testing predictions and that the errors resulting from violations to these predictions are given a uniform, inflexibly high weight in autism spectrum disorder. The complex, fluctuating nature of regularities in the world and the stochastic and noisy biological system through which people experience it require that, in the real world, people not only learn from their errors but also need to (meta-)learn to sometimes ignore errors. Especially when situations (e.g., social) or stimuli (e.g., faces) become too complex or dynamic, people need to tolerate a certain degree of error in order to develop a more abstract level of representation. Starting from an inability to flexibly process prediction errors, a number of seemingly core deficits become logically secondary symptoms. Moreover, an insistence on sameness or the acting out of stereotyped and repetitive behaviors can be understood as attempts to provide a reassuring sense of predictive success in a world otherwise filled with error.
if a general planned to attack a city, he should promise to cancel the debts and free the slaves, in order to get the debtors to come over to his side. And if you’re defending a city, you also promise to cancel everyone’s debts and free the slaves. That’s how you get people on your side.Coriolanus did that in Rome, and Zedekiah in Judah. But both rulers went back on their word as soon as the fighting was over.
As best I can tell, the words “it’s the incentives” are magic. Once they’re uttered by someone, natural law demands that everyone else involved in the conversation immediately stop whatever else they were doing, solemnly nod, and mumble something to the effect that, yes, the incentives are very bad, very bad indeed, and it’s a real tragedy that so many smart, hard-working people are being crushed under the merciless, gigantic boot of The System. Then there’s usually a brief pause, and after that, everyone goes back to discussing whatever they were talking about a moment earlier.
It is widely understood that statistical correlation between two variables ≠ causation. But despite this admonition, people are routinely overconfident in claiming correlations to support particular causal interpretations and are surprised by the results of randomized experiments, suggesting that they are biased & systematically underestimating the prevalence of confounds/common-causation. I speculate that in realistic causal networks or DAGs, the number of possible correlations grows faster than the number of possible causal relationships. So confounds really are that common, and since people do not think in DAGs, the imbalance also explains overconfidence.
In Dagestan, there were five people in slavery - two girls and three men, and one of these people was just a relative of a friend. My friend and I set them free. The girls were from a provincial town near Nizhny Novgorod, they studied at vocational schools, and suddenly they were called to work at one of the fast food chains in Moscow. They arrived, and they were told that there are no places here, but there are vacancies in Sochi. So they got to Dagestan, where they began to engage in prostitution in order to “work out” the money that was allegedly spent on their relocation. And the men worked in a brick factory, but the story of how they fell into slavery was very similar.
A test patient who does not need treatment is sent to 180 dentists to receive recommendations …
27% of dentists recommend a filling to someone with no dental problems. 13 teeth suggested.
There’s recent news about some really interesting hardware implants. I wanted to take a bit to share more technical thoughts and details that can’t be reduced to a mainstream article on the topic. (perma)
the deworming campaign in the American South did not coincide with breaks in long-term trends that would invite eradication as the explanation.
the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river and red from the blood of the scientists and philosophers killed.
Taleb gives cautionary examples of what happens if you ignore this. You make some kind of beautiful model that tells you there’s only a 0.01% chance of the stock market doing some particular bad thing. Then you invest based on that data, and the stock market does that bad thing, and you lose all your money. You were taking account of the quantified risk in your model, but not of the unquantifiable risk that your model was incorrect.
In retrospect, this is an obvious point. But it’s also obvious in retrospect that everything classes teach about probability fall victim to it, to the point where it’s hard to even think about probability in non-ludic terms. I keep having to catch myself writing some kind of “Okay, assume the risk of a Black Swan is 10%…” example in this review, because then I know Taleb will hunt me down and violently assault me. But it’s hard to resist.
Links for Jul-Sep 2018
It is the very institutions that make the expansion of factor markets possible that also, perhaps inevitably, lead to the rise of a new ruling class that will alter their parameters so as to entrench their economic and political position. Far from the problem with factor markets in premodern (and developing) societies being that they simply aren’t being adequately supported at the social and political level, as the New Institutionalists argue, Van Bavel’s argument suggests the opposite: the problem is that factor markets are inherently self-defeating as an instrument for either freedom or prosperity, at least for the vast majority.
I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband.
The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.
Back in Maine, I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into the hamper. If he threw in two, I’d kiss him. Meanwhile, I would step over any soiled clothes on the floor without one sharp word, though I did sometimes kick them under the bed. But as he basked in my appreciation, the piles became smaller.”
Оперуполномоченный, раскрывший схему краж багажа в аэропорту Внуково, получил три года колонии. Воры признаны потерпевшими
Islam and Christianity [i.e. deontological moral systems] are big on slavery, but it’s mainly a finite list of do’s and don’ts from a Celestial Psychopath. Obey those, and you can go to a movie. Take a nap. The subjugation is grotesque, but it has an end, at least in this life.
Not so with utilitarianism. The world is a big machine that produces utility, and your job is to be a cog in that machine. Your utility is 1 seven billionth of the equation - which rounds to zero. It is your duty in life to chug and chug and chug like a good little cog without any preferential treatment from you, for you or anyone else you actually care about, all through your days without let.
“A typical thesis of positivistic philosophy of science is that all true theories in the special sciences [i.e., everything but fundamental physics, including non-fundamental physics] should reduce to physical theories in the long run. This is intended to be an empirical thesis, and part of the evidence which supports it is provided by such scientific successes as the molecular theory of heat and the physical explanation of the chemical bond. But the philosophical popularity of the reductivist program cannot be explained by reference to these achievements alone. The development of science has witnessed the proliferation of specialized disciplines at least as often as it has witnessed their reduction to physics, so the wide spread enthusiasm for reduction can hardly be a mere induction over its past successes.” I would go further than Fodor here, echoing Dupré above: the history of science has produced many more divergences at the theoretical level — via the proliferation of new theories within individual “special” sciences — than it has produced successful cases of reduction. If anything, the induction goes the other way around!
Polilov found that M.mymaripenne has one of the smallest nervous systems of any insect, consisting of just 7,400 neurons. For comparison, the common housefly has 340,000 and the honeybee has 850,000. And yet, with a hundred times fewer neurons, the wasp can fly, search for food, and find the right places to lay its eggs.
On top of that Polilov found that over 95 per cent of the wasps’s neurons don’t have a nucleus. The nucleus is the command centre of a cell, the structure that sits in the middle and hoards a precious cache of DNA. Without it, the neurons shouldn’t be able to replenish their vital supply of proteins. They shouldn’t work. Until now, intact neurons without a nucleus have never been described in the wild.
Among children aged 6–10 years, those born in June (the last month of the recommended school-year intake) were about twice as likely to have received ADHD medication than those born in the first intake month (the previous July); the relative risks (RRs) were 1.93 for boys (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.53–2.38) and 2.11 for girls (95% CI, 1.57–2.53).
Если вы думаете, что они не применили это – фигушки! – применили. В начале 90-х годов вооруженные этими 450 тоннами и специальным флотом грузовиков они опрыскали всем этим окрестности двух американских военно-морских баз, аэропорт Нарита, парламент, дворец императора и еще штаб-квартиру каких-то соперников. Увы, никто не пострадал, включая самих членов секты, которые не применяли особых предосторожностей. Удивительно, но это осталось незамеченным.
Потом у них был план применить все это с воздушных шаров. В 93-м году они начали экспериментировать с сибирской язвой, которую они опять же собирались генномодифицировать. Но опять же вследствие невеликого интеллектуального ресурса не смогли. Дальше пошли в ход опять гигантские ферментеры, чтобы распылять все это на врагов и опять ничего не получилось, и враги даже об этом не узнали.
То есть они много раз пытались делать Апокалипсис, но в связи с бездарностью не смогли, потому что, как я уже сказала, к сожалению, не самые лучшие становятся членами подобных культов. И всё это просто игнорировалось. Японская полиция, я боюсь, что просто вульгарно боялась, потому что было проще сказать, что это мирная секта. Перерыв на новости.
“Without vitamin C,” Anthony writes, “we cannot produce collagen, an essential component of bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues. Collagen binds our wounds, but that binding is replaced continually throughout our lives. Thus in advanced scurvy”—reached when the body has gone too long without vitamin C—“old wounds long thought healed will magically, painfully reappear.”
The impostor cell line that set back breast cancer research — cell lines that scientists study are selected for ease of studying more than for their usefulness to science:
And it turns out they [breast cancer cells] were especially useful, as they had the rare ability to spread in mice the way cancer metastasizes in people. In short order, labs around the country clamored for samples of MDA-MB-435 to study metastatic breast cancer. It proved so popular that in the late 1980s, the National Cancer Institute selected it as one of 60 key lines that would get extraordinary attention. …
Further investigation has since revealed that the cells are nearly identical to another cell line in the NCI-60, a melanoma cell line called M-14. The NCI put up a note of caution to alert breast cancer researchers that the cell line appeared to be misidentified. Some scientists who had spent many years studying this “breast cancer” dug in their heels.
Many scientists still don’t realize that this is a melanoma cell line, and they continue to publish “breast cancer” studies based on this skin cancer cell line. There are now more than 1,000 papers in scientific journals featuring MDA-MB-435—most of them published since Ross’s 2000 report.
Phil Birnbaum (On correlation, r, and r-squared, 2006) puts it comically:
The ballpark is ten miles away, but a friend gives you a ride for the first five miles. You’re halfway there, right? Nope, you’re actually only one quarter of the way there.
He rightly pointed out that r² expresses the effect size in a statistical sense, not in the real life sense. If only one is interested in the sums of the squares of the differences (i.e., deviations) the r² can make sense. But again, it’s meaningless from the real life perspective. From the real life perspective, brain size would explain 40% of the variance in IQ, not 16%.
Despite seeing it millions of times in pretty much every picture book, every novel, every newspaper and every email message, people are essentially unaware of the more common version of the lowercase print letter ‘g,’ Johns Hopkins researchers have found.
For a long time, I couldn’t listen to any spoken word. Audiobooks, podcasts, and their ilk just didn’t work for me. I would lose focus and think about other things, and have to go back in order to listen again to what I’d missed, and this was deeply frustrating because I had no idea how far back I needed to go and the whole point of listening to things is not having to interact with the source of the information.
Now I am always listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Whenever I’m in transit or walking around. The difference is a genuine One Weird Trick: speed up the audio.
“In honor of all the CEOs who have told me they are “crushing it,” and that they “can’t keep up with the growth” - I’d like to put forward just some of the many many mistakes I’ve made as CEO. Some were bad for @CircleUp , some were just embarrassing”
“The example I like to give is back in the days of Roman numerals, basic multiplication was considered this incredibly technical concept that only official mathematicians could handle,” he continues. “But then once Arabic numerals came around, you could actually do arithmetic on paper, and we found that 7-year-olds can understand multiplication. It’s not that multiplication itself was difficult. It was just that the representation of numbers — the interface — was wrong.”
Nudges can’t overcome that psychology. At times, they can even make it worse. One of Loewenstein’s studies used a series of reminders to see if people would put money in a federally funded, matched-savings program for low-income families. The results, posted in February to the Social Science Research Network, found that “none of our four interventions had the desired effect of increasing savings.” Some, in fact, discouraged saving because they were overly complicated and added stress to the savings process.
There seems to be a positive effect on short-term financial knowledge and awareness of the young, but there is no proven evidence on long-term behavior after being grown up. Studies on financial behavior of migrants and immigrants show almost no effect of financial education.
It has been known since antiquity that fresh foods in general, and lemons and oranges in particular, will cure scurvy. Starting with Vasco de Gama’s crew in 1497, sailors have repeatedly discovered the curative power of citrus fruits, and the cure has just as frequently been forgotten or ignored by subsequent explorers. [last time the cure was rediscovered by Europeans it was early 20th century]
The Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov denied not only the occurrence of any persecution but also the existence of gay men in Chechnya, adding that such people would be killed by their own families.
In one extreme case, I ended up rolling around on the floor with my eyes closed in order to understand the effect of a gauge transformation that was based on this type of interaction between different frequencies. (Incidentally, that particular gauge transformation won me a Bocher prize, once I understood how it worked.) I guess this last example is one that I would have difficulty communicating to even my closest collaborators. Needless to say, none of these analogies show up in my published papers, although I did try to convey some of them in my PDE book eventually.
In this essay we investigate personal memory systems, that is, systems designed to improve the long-term memory of a single person. In the first part of the essay I describe my personal experience using such a system, named Anki. As we’ll see, Anki can be used to remember almost anything. That is, Anki makes memory a choice, rather than a haphazard event, to be left to chance. I’ll discuss how to use Anki to understand research papers, books, and much else. And I’ll describe numerous patterns and anti-patterns for Anki use. While Anki is an extremely simple program, it’s possible to develop virtuoso skill using Anki, a skill aimed at understanding complex material in depth, not just memorizing simple facts.
It is possible to argue that the really influential book is not that which converts ten millions of casual readers, but rather that which converts the very few who, at any given moment, succeed in seizing power. Marx and Sorel have been influential in the modern world. not so much because they were best sellers (Sorel in particular was not at all a widely read author), but because among their few readers were two men, called respectiely.:Lenin, and Mussolini.
Dozens of nations think they are in the ‘middle-income trap’. Lant Pritchett and Larry Summers present new evidence that this trap is actually just growth reverting to its mean. This matters since belief in the ‘trap’ can lead governments to misinterpret current challenges. For lower-middle-income nations the 21st century beckons, but there are still 19th century problems to address. Moreover, sustaining rapid growth requires both parts of creative destruction, but only one is popular with governments and economic elites.
it’s better to be in an expanding world and not quite in exactly the right field, than to be in a contracting world where people’s worst behavior comes out and your mind is grooved in defensive and rent-seeking types of ways.
According to Ben Ramalingam’s Aid on the Edge of Chaos, international development is just such an invasive species. Why Dertu doesn’t have a vaccination clinic, why Kenyan schoolkids can’t read, it’s a combination of culture, politics, history, laws, infrastructure, individuals—all of a society’s component parts, their harmony and their discord, working as one organism. Introducing something foreign into that system—millions in donor cash, dozens of trained personnel and equipment, U.N. Land Rovers—causes it to adapt in ways you can’t predict.
A friend of mine works at an NGO that audits factories in India and China, inspecting them for child labor, forced labor, human-trafficking, everything celebrities are always warning us about. I asked him if, after ten years of inspections, conditions have gotten any better. “Yes and no,” he said. “Anytime you set a standard, some companies will become sophisticated to meet it, and others will become sophisticated to avoid it.”
Also, Rossi’s Rules:
The Iron Law of Evaluation: The expected value of any net impact assessment of any large scale social program is zero.
The Iron Law arises from the experience that few impact assessments of large scale social programs have found that the programs in question had any net impact. The law also means that, based on the evaluation efforts of the last twenty years, the best a priori estimate of the net impact assessment of any program is zero, i.e., that the program will have no effect.
“You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep,” he said of his No. 1 competitor. Not that he puts too much stock in his rival: “And we’re winning!”
“Okay I’m going to go on a bit of a rant about complexity in public policy. Working on SNAP (food stamps) for a number of years now I’ve seen just how complex this program is, but also how that complexity creates significant costs to the people whose lives it seeks to improve.”:
But here we also have a political economy problem: there is no natural constituency for public policy simplification. In fact, many groups benefit from existing complexity, and in general it’s a situation of concentrated benefits and diffused costs.
“CBS News buys 4 used photocopiers at random. // Like every digital copier since 2002, they have hard drives that store images of every copy, every scan, every fax. // They pull the images from the hard drives….”
There is no hidden reserve of smart people who know what they’re doing, anywhere. Not in government, not in science, not in tech, not at AppAmaGooBookSoft, nowhere. The world exists in the same glorious imperfection that it presents with.
Across 17 measures of (arguably) moral behavior, ranging from rates of charitable donation to staying in contact with one’s mother to vegetarianism to littering to responding to student emails to peer ratings of overall moral behavior, I have found not a single main measure on which ethicists appeared to act morally better than comparison groups of other professors
If you make up an impossible mean/SD, SPRITE will flag it. If you make up implausible data, SPRITE can find it. Again, not all the time. But enough.
Software updates: the “unknown unknown” of the replication crisis — sometimes, statistical software update formulas that calculate statistics, meaning, in a replication, newly calculated statistics may be different from the original ones, even if all procedures are held constant.
“We investigate whether online A/B experimenters “p-hack” by stopping their experiments based on the p-value of the treatment effect. Our data contains 2,101 commercial experiments in which experimenters can track the magnitude and significance level of the effect every day of the experiment. We use a regression discontinuity design to detect p-hacking, i.e., the causal effect of reaching a particular p-value on stopping behavior.
Experimenters indeed p-hack, especially for positive effects. Specifically, about 57% of experimenters p-hack when the experiment reaches 90% confidence. Furthermore, approximately 70% of the effects are truly null, and p-hacking increases the false discovery rate (FDR) from 33% to 42% among experiments p-hacked at 90% confidence. Assuming that false discoveries cause experimenters to stop exploring for more effective treatments, we estimate the expected cost of a false discovery to be a loss of 1.95% in lift, which corresponds to the 76th percentile of observed lifts.
But although Georgiou followed his protocol exactly, she found that treated mice did not swim for any longer than mice injected with a placebo. When she and three female and four male researchers investigated this disconnect by performing the experiments, they discovered that the ketamine acted as an antidepressant only when it was administered by men.
Jobs Involving Routine Tasks Aren’t Growing — nonroutine cognitive and nonroutine manual jobs are growing; routine cognitive and routine manual are not.
Whitehall operates on exactly opposite principles to those organisations where high performance creates real value.
“Male mice grow ovaries & female genitalia instead of testes if they are missing a small region of non-coding DNA. Deleting an element of Sox9 gives rise to XY’s (probably critical in humans), with full development of ovaries and female genitalia.”
What data patterns can lie behind a correlation coefficient? — a really good visualisation of the amount of information lost by calculating correlation
It’s very common for reviewers to read empirical papers and complain that there is no “theory”. But they don’t ask for theory to address any specific question. I think they are just looking for an easy reason to reject—-they skim and don’t see scary equations.
There are a lot of states for the dough ingredients that will turn to dough when mixed, but very few states that will separate into eggs and flour when mixed. Hence, the dough has the higher entropy. …
the idea that any system tries to minimize its energy is just nonsense. The reason that heavy particles decay if they can is because they can.
Women who engaged in premarital sex were condemned as immoral by 91% of the women in 1965, as compared with condemnation by only 42% of the men.
In April of 2017, Google’s Technology Stafﬁng Management team was instructed by Alogna to immediately cancel all Level 3 (0-5 years experience) software engineering interviews with every single applicant who was not either female, Black, or Hispanic and to purge entirely any applications by non-diverse employees from the hiring pipeline.
… the real focus should be on how these bots are better team players than humans. Humans pride themselves on this. Every darn Disney film focuses on this. Society is based on this. Yet these “dumb” bots used self play and coarse objectives to learn better team work than humans.
If there is no God who deems each human to be of equal worth or possessed with an immortal soul beloved by God, then why think we all deserve equal moral consideration? And what if, as Nietzsche argues, a morality of equality – and altruism and pity for suffering – were, in fact, an obstacle to human excellence? What if being a “moral” person makes it impossible to be Beethoven? Nietzsche’s conclusion is clear: if moral equality is an obstacle to human excellence, then so much the worse for moral equality. This is the less familiar and often shockingly anti-egalitarian Nietzsche.
The first step is to find someone on the team and ask for 30 minutes with them. In that meeting you have a simple agenda:
- For the first 25 minutes: ask them to tell you everything they think you should know. Take copious notes. Only stop them to ask about things you don’t understand. Always stop them to ask about things you don’t understand.
- For the next 3 minutes: ask about the biggest challenges the team has right now.
- In the final 2 minutes: ask who else you should talk to. Write down every name they give you.
Repeat the above process for every name you’re given. Don’t stop until there are no new names.
And then, when the procedure generates a bad result, we don’t call for less procedure. We say, “what can we do to absolutely prevent such failures in the future,” even though often the real answer is, “nothing, actually, because no procedure is perfect, and neither is any human.”
A friend of mine who is a quite successful doctor complains constantly about her job. When people applying to medical school ask her for advice, she wants to shake them and yell “Don’t do it!” (But she never does.) How did she get into this fix? In high school she already wanted to be a doctor. And she is so ambitious and determined that she overcame every obstacle along the way—including, unfortunately, not liking it.
Now she has a life chosen for her by a high-school kid.
The second you make your strongest point, the other party disappears. There is are two optional stages following on from that:
1) They try the defeasible argument on someone else, meaning they are in the business of making converts, not seekign truth.
2) They change their view without admitting they have ever held view.
The most important component of evolution is death
Or, said another way, it’s easier to create a new organism than to change an existing one. Most organisms are highly resistant to change, but when they die it becomes possible for new and improved organisms to take their place. This rule applies to social structures such as corporations as well as biological organisms: very few companies are capable of making significant changes in their culture or business model, so it is good for companies eventually to go out of business, thereby opening space for better companies in the future.
The Hidden Homelessness Crisis In California — a great video to update one’s mental model on the causes of poverty.
OpenAI paid its top researcher, Ilya Sutskever, more than $1.9 million in 2016. It paid another leading researcher, Ian Goodfellow, more than $800,000 — even though he was not hired until March of that year. Both were recruited from Google. …
“I turned down offers for multiple times the dollar amount I accepted at OpenAI,” Mr. Sutskever said. “Others did the same.” He said he expected salaries at OpenAI to increase as the organization pursued its “mission of ensuring powerful A.I. benefits all of humanity.” …
On the one hand, of course it’s none of my business to count money in other people’s pockets, on the other, can you really pay your researcher $1.9 million per year and claim that “Our full-time staff of 60 researchers and engineers is dedicated to working towards our mission regardless of the opportunities for selfish gain which arise along the way.” It looks as if said researchers are more motivated by money than by the desire to work towards your mission! Conversely, this does indeed fit with the mission statement:
In 2016, according to the tax forms, Mr. Brockman, who had served as chief technology officer at the financial technology start-up Stripe, made $175,000.
We cannot really test statistical models on fixed datasets, because is it statistically illegal. But science demands reproducibility and testing of statistical models on new random sample (new data) is by definition not reproducible. Absolute performance of such models therefore cannot be reproduced, what can be reproduced is a statistical test that with certain probability their performance lies in some interval.
a very large number of people reported at least some attraction to their own gender. In particular, 42% of females and 23% of males reported that a non-zero percent of people they are attracted to are of their own gender! Additionally, 25% of females and 14% of males said that 20% or more of the people they are attracted to are of their own gender!
Benezet went on to argue that the time spent on arithmetic in the early grades was wasted effort, or worse. In fact, he wrote: “For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child’s reasoning facilities.” All that drill, he claimed, had divorced the whole realm of numbers and arithmetic, in the children’s minds, from common sense, with the result that they could do the calculations as taught to them, but didn’t understand what they were doing and couldn’t apply the calculations to real life problems. He believed that if arithmetic were not taught until later on–preferably not until seventh grade–the kids would learn it with far less effort and greater understanding.
Can you blame me? A pair of conjoined twins, fused at the brain? A unique cable of neurons— a thalamic bridge— wiring those brains together, the same way the corpus callosum connects the cerebral hemispheres in your own head? Two people who can see through each others eyes, feel and taste what the other does, share motor control of their limbs— most remarkably, communicate mind-to-mind without speaking? Is it any wonder that at least one neuroscientist has described the twins as “a new life form”?
The results from this investigation demonstrate that individuals with high AMY1 copy number have an increased glycaemic response and a delayed insulin response after starch consumption. If these data are rep¬resentative of the larger population, it is possible that individuals with high AMY1 copy number are at greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
“I feel like people consistently overestimate how widely distributed individual technologies are, even where those technologies are clearly better than alternatives, easy to implement, and have minimal downside risk or cost to reverse adoption.”:
You should go to the gym. I should go to the gym. Almost everyone should go to the gym.
I do not go to the gym, as of this exact moment in time, despite knowing that it is the correct thing to do. Anyone who successfully modified behavior could justly claim fairly major benefits
How to Hire Your First Engineer — note how this advice applies to every area of life; in particular, if you want to expand your network (also, recall the “A Career Cold Start Algorithm” link):
Make a list of the best engineers you know, whether you think they’re available or not. Go through your Facebook and LinkedIn to jog your memory.
Invite them to lunch or dinner with them to talk about your startup.
Make the ask – would you consider joining us?.
Whatever they answer, ask a follow up question – if you did join us, which engineers would you most want to hire?.
Ask for an introduction to those people.
Repeat 2 – 5 with each of the introductions.
Repeat 1 – 6 ad infinitum, I know public company founders who still do this. Expect to be spending at least a third of your time on this alone.
“My Ph.D. co-advisor loved to tell a story about a lab he used to work in back in the day: there was a reaction that was key in the lab’s broader research goals, and the synthesis was typically handled by one graduate student. When that student graduated and left, to their dismay, they were unable to replicate his results.”
Also, If you want to find out how science works, you have to watch scientists doing it. (Not make plausible stuff up and rationalizing it.) // Learning an embodied know-how skill: getting the right amount of alcohol on the Q-tip used to clean a microscopy sample.
The Complexity of Simply Searching For Medical Advice — googling health advice frequently shows not just useless, but actively harmful advice:
There’s an asymmetry of passion at work. Which is to say, there’s very little counter-content to surface because it simply doesn’t occur to regular people (or, in this case, actual medical experts) that there’s a need to produce counter-content. Instead, engaging blogs by real moms with adorable children living authentic natural lives rise to the top, stating that doctors are bought by pharma, or simply misinformed, and that the shot is risky and unnecessary. The persuasive writing sounds reasonable, worthy of a second look. And since so much of the information on the first few pages of search results repeats these claims, the message looks like it represents a widely-held point of view. But it doesn’t. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, and it’s potentially deadly.
10 For centuries, as we discovered, Europe was the globe’s leading exporter of violence, and that is precisely why our postwar foreign policy was designed to ensure our permanent military hegemony over the Continent.
11) American power put an end to centuries of the same European war, and only American power, as we exercised it, could have ended this conflict. We ended it by credibly guaranteeing Germany’s security under the American nuclear umbrella.
Links for Apr-Jun 2018
Contrarian Investment, Extrapolation, and Risk: there are trading strategies that continue to outperform the market for many years. The authors argue that this happens because (1) investors shy away from “unglamorous” stocks, (2) incentives are misaligned for money managers, and (3) people are too impatient for abnormal returns. I strongly suggest reading the Summary and Interpretation of the Findings section of the paper. The way I interpret this paper is that technology doesn’t matter — you will always be able to outperform the market, as long as your preferences are idiosyncratic enough
Imagine a thousand tall towers all collapsing simultaneously. Imagine the noise, the pain, the horror of incomprehension, seeing dimly through the dust, ears ringing. That’s what was felt by a subset of tax lawyers, CFOs, CEOs and accounting firms all around the world. The US tax reform did have an impact on individuals, sure, but It was also about blowing up an enormous edifice of tax avoidance. There may not be many of us, but I feel this has been largely overlooked in the media.
“So this is a Pareto improvement - literally everyone in this story benefited from immigration - and yet the average income decreased and inequality increased.”: [inequality can be substituted for homelessness here]
Molyneux’s problem: “Although after restoration of sight, the subjects could distinguish between objects visually almost as effectively as they would do by touch alone, they were unable to form the connection between an object perceived using the two different senses.”, i.e. different senses are not intrinsically integrated
“my anxiety has a loophole that if somebody is else of equally or more uncomfortable I develop the sudden ability to Do The Thing”: same works for me. If someone is sadder than me, my sadness evaporates instantly and I’m fully concentrated on helping the other person. Also see The Heron and The Crane, Russian folk tale
To “See” Is to Feel Grateful? A Quasi-Signal Detection Analysis of Romantic Partners’ Sacrifices: “Findings consistently showed that sacrifices are equally likely to be missed as they are to be accurately detected, and about half of the time people “see” a sacrifice when the partner declares none. Importantly, “seeing” partners’ sacrifices—accurately or inaccurately—is crucial for boosting gratitude. In contrast, missed sacrifices fail to elicit gratitude, and the lack of appreciation negatively colors the partner’s satisfaction with the relationship when having sacrificed.”
Book Review: Twelve Rules for Life: “The people I listen to need to talk, because that’s how people think. People need to think…True thinking is complex and demanding. It requires you to be articulate speaker and careful, judicious listener at the same time. It involves conflict. So you have to tolerate conflict. Conflict involves negotiation and compromise. So, you have to learn to give and take and to modify your premises and adjust your thoughts – even your perceptions of the world…Thinking is emotionally painful and physiologically demanding, more so than anything else – except not thinking. But you have to be very articulate and sophisticated to have all this thinking occur inside your own head. What are you to do, then, if you aren’t very good at thinking, at being two people at one time? That’s easy. You talk. But you need someone to listen. A listening person is your collaborator and your opponent […] The fact is important enough to bear repeating: people organize their brains through conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds. Like hoarders, they cannot unclutter themselves. The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche. To put it another way: it takes a village to build a mind.”
The Heart of Research is Sick: my takeaways: (1) academic grants are made looking forward (i.e. trying to predict what the grantee is planning to do with the grant), instead, they should probably be made looking backward (i.e. looking at what the grantee has already achieved (or the grantee’s potential) and extrapolating); (2) postdocs are way too short and not enough ambitious long-term projects can be done by young researchers; (3) what can be measured [ahem, citations], will be measured and used as a metric for promotions, then gamed by everybody, then new metric etc. etc.; (4) apparently, hunting for grants takes a lot of researchers’ time. If anybody reading this is a biologist/neuroscientist, please message me firstname.lastname@example.org — I would love to interrogate you on the state of bio/neuro academia, especially the experience of young researchers during the PhD and postdoc years!
“I’ve been trying to cut down on my swearing, but holy fucking shit how does the United States fuck up incentive systems this badly to a degree that as far as I can tell is unmatched anywhere else in the developed world?”: part n out of ∞
The Moral Hazard of Lifesaving Innovations: Naloxone Access, Opioid Abuse, and Crime: “Saving lives is good. But the potential downside of easy access to Naloxone is that reducing the risk associated with abusing opioids could increase opioid abuse.”
The Charisma of Leaders: “In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James identifies the union of conscience and will in leaders as one of their defining attributes. By conscience he means their values, their morality, their meaning-systems; and by will he means their volition, their drive, their constant, daily intentionality. Thus: their actions are in accord with their ideals. Their desires constantly reflect their beliefs.”
The Experience of Reading: Empirical Evidence: “People differ immensely in what types of experiences they report while reading. Some people report visual imagery all the time; others report it rarely or never; and still others (the majority) report visual imagery fairly often but not all of the time. Similarly for inner speech and words on the page.”
Don’t mind the gap: “The gender pay gap is not a good measure of gender discrimination. The attention it is being given is disproportionate and misleading. If it leads to companies gaming it, its effects could be extremely counterproductive. It might improve for reasons that have nothing to do with improving the lot of women, or improvements in it might come at the expense of much more deprivileged groups in our society. On balance the introduction of mandatory reporting is probably harmful.”
Patrick Collison has a Few Questions for Tyler: “If your goal is simply to learn something, so often, reading a blog post is better than reading a book. Even if the book is, of course, much longer. Books embody knowledge, they store knowledge, they certify knowledge. Those are important, I’m not anti-book. But as a means of communicating knowledge, once you’ve read a certain number of key, earthquake, worldview-shattering books, books are way overrated. They’re actually a pretty weak, impotent way of learning new things.”
The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments: “Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero.”
“Take the United Arab Emirates, for example, where a majority of Computer Science college students are female. Like Sweden, the UAE has a very generous welfare state for its citizens (who I assume make up the vast majority of its college students), but unlike Sweden the UAE has no shortage of domestic workers, to the point that an astonishing 96% of Emirati families employ domestic workers to help take care of their children”
Does Far Transfer Exist? Negative Evidence From Chess, Music, and Working Memory Training: “the effect sizes are inversely related to the quality of the experimental design (e.g., presence of active control groups). This pattern of results casts serious doubts on the effectiveness of chess, music, and working memory training. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings; extend the debate to other types of training such as spatial training, brain training, and video games; and conclude that far transfer of learning rarely occurs.”
Female Chess Players Outperform Expectations When Playing Men: “Previous studies have found that stereotype threat is activated in female chess players when they are matched against male players. I used data from over 5.5 million games of international tournament chess and found no evidence of a stereotype-threat effect. In fact, female players outperform expectations when playing men.”
“The effects of social priming, the voodoo theory of social psychology, manifested themselves only when the experiments weren’t double blinded, exposing a self-fulfilling prophecy.”: “studies independently manipulated participants’ exposure to a prime and experimenters’ belief about which prime participants received. Across four experiments…experimenter belief, rather than prime condition, altered participant behavior, psychology”
“In ‘who knew this was a real problem?’, today there was an article in the Dutch news that 2.5 million of our 17 million citizens is ‘functionally illiterate’. The number is 1.3 million for people aged 16-65, and 65% of these have Dutch as their first language. These people are defined as not being able to fill out forms, understand medical instructions, or be able to read contracts, with most of them not able to use the internet. Many of them can’t get a job, get into massive debt, and other trouble, cause they have trouble with language and basic calculus. “
55 лет отмены в СССР платы за обучение в школах и вузах: “26 октября 1940 года было введено постановление №638 «Об установлении платности обучения в старших классах средних школ и в высших учебных заведениях СССР и об изменении порядка назначений стипендий». В старших классах школ и в вузах вводилось платное обучение и с установленным размером годовой оплаты. Обучение в столичных школах стоило 200 рублей в год; в провинциальных – 150, а за обучение в институте уже приходилось выкладывать 400 рублей в Москве, Ленинграде и столицах союзных республик, и 300 – в других городах.”
Cell by Cell, Scientists Map the Genetic Steps as Eggs Become Animals: “Even though they appeared to be going down one path already, the right outside signals could still prod them onto another.”
A Yanomamo Romance: “Such early marriages are common among the Yanomamo. They are not consummated for some time, if ever. The idea is that when the girl has her first menses, she already has a husband and protector. Single women beyond the age of puberty are routinely raped if they do not have husbands.” (also see my Gender Links Compendium)
Lessons from “The Profit”: “The correct metaphor for competition isn’t a boxing match that knocks out the inefficient firm. The correct metaphor is a slow tide. Inefficient firms must scramble for a bit of high ground but as the tide ebbs and flows they can occasionally catch a breath when their head bobs above the profit line. An inefficient firm can survive for years before it inevitably sinks.”
Scientific Reproducibility: Begley’s Six Rules: “The often used phrase “safe and well-tolerated” in an academic animal study means the animals didn’t look sick nor did they die. But it doesn’t mean that even gross organ pathology was ruled out, much less full histopathology, chemistry and blood counts, liver enzyme levels, etc… This language difference is an important factor in translation, but is much more nuanced than Begley’s Six Rules and needs to be considered in any academic-to-industry transfer.”
“Story: 1. Neurons in the brain are very chatty: they fire action potentials, their basic unit of communication, even when there is nothing to communicate. For example in this video, in visual cortex recordings in complete darkness. Lots of chatting:”
“It’s things like this that make the “It’s a private company, it can side in the culture war however it wants, don’t like it, go make your own” so disingenuous. Every time someone idealistic enough to think that will work tries, all manner of attacks occur that stymie them at every turn. DDoS, Chargebacks, coordinated media stories about “Company X is the new Company Y… FOR NAZIS!” “
‘Sadly many people today, often in without realizing it, endorse a key tenet of Hitler’s social project: the theory of “degenerate art”.’: a thread on classical and modern art
Birds Can See Earth’s Magnetic Fields, And We Finally Know How That’s Possible: well, but when will humans be able to do this?
How Britain and France’s economies match up: “French companies under-report employee working hours to avoid paying social charges. It’s the big secret no-one wants to talk about here. On a per hour basis, I’m not sure we are more productive than the British, apart from maybe in factories, where in France we invest in high-tech machinery that makes employees more productive. Again, as a way to lower tax and then avoid paying social charges!”
The Effect of Occupational Licensing on Consumer Welfare: Early Midwifery Laws and Maternal Mortality: sometimes occupational licensing is actually good!
‘Metrics Monday: 2SLS–Chronicle of a Death Foretold?: “2SLS estimates are falsely declared significant one third to one half of the time, depending on the method used for bootstrapping.”
Ordinary Life Improvements: a list of “[s]mall ways in which ordinary life has been getting better since the late ’80s/early ’90s”
Need To Know Basis: “Take nothing at face value. Don’t investigate things people say. Remember their minds are chaos.”
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 - 2013: “In two of the cases we read, fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene. In a small number of cases (which have already received media attention) the victims were arrested for offences such as breach of the peace or being drunk and disorderly, with no action taken against the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault against children.”
“In addition to being a professor, I also do freelance statistical consulting (my rent is too damn high). I thought it would be interesting to go over the way that people think about statistics in this hidden little corner of the internet.”: “Related, but p-hacking is just an incredibly natural temptation. I’d say that a good 50% of the insignificant results I return get a response asking how they can be changed. The most common phrasing is asking how they can be “fixed.” No concept of that being bad.”
On the (dis)unity of the sciences: “But of course there are easier examples: as I mentioned above, nobody has any clue about how to even begin to reduce the theory of natural selection, or economic theories, for instance, to anything below the levels of biology and economics respectively, let alone fundamental physics.”
Strength and Physique Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Master List: *a giant master list
When algorithms surprise us: “Another set of simulated robots were supposed to evolve into a form that could jump. But the programmer had originally defined jumping height as the height of the tallest block so - once again - the robots evolved to be very tall. The programmer tried to solve this by defining jumping height as the height of the block that was originally the lowest. In response, the robot developed a long skinny leg that it could kick high into the air in a sort of robot can-can.”
What You Can’t Say: “It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.”
Building for Muggles: “Slack took something that worked well but was completely inaccessible to the vast majority of people, and turned it into something that everyone can use. In doing so, became one of the fastest companies to reach a $1 Billion valuation ever.”
The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review.: “The evidence for psi is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them.”
Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law: “The oldest law of genetics says that gametes combine randomly, but experiments hint that sometimes eggs select sperm actively for their genetic assets.”
Reaction times match IQ for major causes of mortality: Evidence from a population based prospective cohort study: “The association between intelligence with mortality from the major causes is also seen with reaction times. That effect sizes are of similar magnitude is suggestive of a common cause. It also implies that the association of cognitive ability with mortality is unlikely to be due to any social, cultural or educational biases that are sometimes ascribed to intelligence measures.”
What Genghis Khan, but Elizabeth Can’t: “the city should have kept its part of the “bargain” year after year, and decade after decade, even if no Mongol troops ever passed again within five hundred miles of Elbonia. How could they achieve this?”
Crazy Eddie Saga: (from part 3) “As a 28 year old CPA myself, I understood that audits are very boring and tedious for these young single male auditors. […] Rather than overtly interfering, I engaged in a calculated plan to subtly distract them with cute Crazy Eddie employees reporting to me. I encouraged my female employees to flirt and get friendly with their young male PMM counterparts and discuss audit issues with them over lunch and dinner on Crazy Eddie’s tab. […] Our auditors wasted valuable time getting chummy with our management and female employees rather than paying attention to their jobs. As the scheduled completion of the audit neared, our auditors rushed to complete their field work and failed to undertake key audit procedures which enabled us to easily inflate our reported earnings.”
The financial scandal no one is talking about: “A newly qualified accountant in a major firm will generally slip into a career of what the academic Matthew Gill has called “technocratism”, applying standards lawfully but to the advantage of clients, not breaking the rules but not making a stand for truth and objectivity either. Progression to the partner ranks requires “fitting in” above all else. With serious financial incentives to get to the top, the major firms end up run by the more materially rather than ethically motivated bean counters. In the UK in 2017, none of the senior partners of the big firms had built their careers in what should be the firms’ core business of auditing. Worldwide, two of the big four were led by men who were not even qualified accountants.”
What’s Wrong With Growing Blobs of Brain Tissue?: ‘At what point would an organoid be worthy of moral status? Of respect? “At what point is it reasonable to at least discuss the question of sentience? Or conscious experience? Pain? Pleasure?” ‘
Why Exercise Alone May Not Be the Key to Weight Loss: “[…] exercisers, whatever their species, tend to become hungrier and consume more calories after physical activity. They also may grow more sedentary outside of exercise sessions. Together or separately, these changes could compensate for the extra energy used during exercise, meaning that, over all, energy expenditure doesn’t change and a person’s or rodent’s weight remains stubbornly the same.”
How Much Should We Trust the Dictator’s GDP Estimates?: “The results indicate that yearly GDP growth rates are inflated by a factor of between 1.15 and 1.3 in the most authoritarian regimes.”
“My undergrad Human Sexuality professor in undergrad had an encyclopedic knowledge about FGM. Spent an entire class period talking about the different types, what they were “for”, how old the little girls were when they had adults they trusted hold them down and cut them up with dull and rusty knives, and how many girls died because of infection or because the person performing the “operation” cut something they shouldn’t have. She told us a story about when she went to an African country on a humanitarian mission when she was still a practicing surgeon.”: Also see wiki on Female genital mutilation
“I think it is a TERRIBLE assumption that jobs shouldn’t exist unless they provide a “minimum amount of money required to live” - this requirement eliminates a large range of opportunities that would make the world a better place. I’ll give a few examples.”
The enrollment controversy: “competition among some Asian parents had reached a fever pitch. “Asian parents do their homework and the students are going to U of T or they’re going to Queen’s,” says Bondy, who points out that “Asians get more support from their parents financially and academically.” She also observed that the focus on academics was often to the exclusion of social interaction. “The kids were getting 98 per cent but they didn’t have other skills,” she says. “Their parents would come in and write in the resumé letters that they were in clubs. But the kids weren’t able to do anything in those clubs because they were academically focused.” “
Moving To The Bay Area: a collection of facts on cost of living, traffic, public transportation, and crime in San Francisco, e.g. “[…] San Francisco and surrounding cities have the worst roads in the US, with 71% of roads in “poor” condition, significantly worse than Detroit.”
“Rates of infant and child mortality are remarkably consistent across cultures and throughout history, outside of modern developed nations. On average, about 27% of infants died before the age of one and ~47% of children died before puberty.”
Conditional cooperation and confusion in public-goods experiments: “We show that variation in behavior in the public-goods game is better explained by variation in understanding and that misunderstanding leads to cooperation.”
“WHY do some people become ENTREPRENEURS?”: “Individuals with ACTUAL ability that EXCEEDS the SIGNAL value of their ability (ie they know they are better than employers can tell from credentials)…become entrepreneurs.”
Links for Jan-Mar 2018
On literature pollution and cottage-industry science: “but our lab only has resources for small n studies” is not a good excuse to publish shit
Different Worlds: nothing makes sense, except in light of individual variation, part n out of ∞
Moore’s Law and AGI Timelines: AGI most likely by late 2050s
Open-endedness: The last grand challenge you’ve never heard of: ML on “open-ended” problems is underexplored
In Understanding Business Fluctuations Not all GDP is Equal: shocks to different industries have different impact on GDP, thus the structure of the production can’t be ignored in macro
Dwelling in Possibility: the ability to hold the belief that everything is horrible and it doesn’t matter we will still win simultaneously is pretty important
Theory of Change: if you have a goal in mind, move backwards step by step from it to see how to reach it
Re: How do species evolve different numbers of chromosomes?: by inbreeding
The Strangeness of the Modern Mind: modern habits of mind (Universalism, Abstraction, Commensurability) are recent and far from being universal
Poll: Do you have a life mission?: 34% Yes; 31% No; 12% Used to; 23% Hope to
New Evidence on the Impacts of Birth Order: later-born children have worse general outcomes
The network nonsense of Albert-László Barabási: apparently a dude with h-index of 125 publishes mostly trivialities and nonsense (on networks)
What are the Laws of Biology?: “Most of what we do in biology and much of what we teach is describing what’s happening – not what a system is doing.”
Intelligent Lifespans: “As a rough rule of thumb, those of IQ 115 live 10 years longer than those of IQ 85.”
The importance of awareness for understanding language: “across 10 high-powered studies, we found no evidence that the meaning of a phrase or word could be understood without awareness”
“the unfortunate fuzziness of rape statistics”: nobody really knows the proportion of rape allegations that are sound
The Gender Earnings Gap in the Gig Economy: Evidence from over a Million Rideshare Drivers: Uber male drivers drive faster than female drivers, thus earn more
“figuring out a trait is highly heritable does not imply much about how that heritability comes about - whether it’s through an interaction with a social environment, interaction with environments created by the genes of those related to us”
The Song Dynasty’s Surrender: finale of an extremely interesting series on the history of China
The David Attenborough Style of Scientific Presentation: explicitly try to make any presentation as fun as possible
Cells are very fast and crowded places: insides of cells work largely probabilistically, not deterministically
Median income earned by cognitive class: longitudinal differences in income by IQ
A Review of “The Case Against Education”: signaling theory of education is not trivially true; also, you should continue to heavily discount everything written by Bryan Caplan
Can Electrically Stimulating Your Brain Make You Too Happy?: humans, just like rats, will keep pressing the button
Naked mole rats defy the biological law of aging: i.e. their death probability distribution is uniform over time
Somewhere Inside, a Path to Empathy: asperger’s and marriage
Tinbergen’s Four Questions: prerequisites for understanding any evolved behavior
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