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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 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 email@example.com — 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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