nhaliday + commentary   898

Comparing within- and between-family polygenic score prediction | bioRxiv
See this thread for our new study on polygenic scores within fraternal twin pairs! Main point: take extra care with polygenic scores for traits like IQ & education, because they're confounded by (what seem to be) socioeconomic status effects. Not so for traits like height & BMI.
The idea is that the parenting is caused by the parental genotype, so it gets (mis)classified as a genetic effect on the children. It's really another way of looking at "genetic nurture" - see the papers from last year.
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13 days ago by nhaliday
Language Log » English or Mandarin as the World Language?
- writing system frequently mentioned as barrier
- also imprecision of Chinese might hurt its use for technical writing
- most predicting it won't (but English might be replaced by absence of lingua franca per Nicholas Ostler)
linguistics  language  foreign-lang  china  asia  anglo  world  trends  prediction  speculation  expert-experience  analytical-holistic  writing  network-structure  science  discussion  commentary  flux-stasis  nationalism-globalism 
8 weeks ago by nhaliday
Jordan Peterson is Wrong About the Case for the Left
I suggest that the tension of which he speaks is fully formed and self-contained completely within conservatism. Balancing those two forces is, in fact, what conservatism is all about. Thomas Sowell, in A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles describes the conservative outlook as (paraphrasing): “There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.”

The real tension is between balance on the right and imbalance on the left.

In Towards a Cognitive Theory of Polics in the online magazine Quillette I make the case that left and right are best understood as psychological profiles consisting of 1) cognitive style, and 2) moral matrix.

There are two predominant cognitive styles and two predominant moral matrices.

The two cognitive styles are described by Arthur Herman in his book The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, in which Plato and Aristotle serve as metaphors for them. These two quotes from the book summarize the two styles:

Despite their differences, Plato and Aristotle agreed on many things. They both stressed the importance of reason as our guide for understanding and shaping the world. Both believed that our physical world is shaped by certain eternal forms that are more real than matter. The difference was that Plato’s forms existed outside matter, whereas Aristotle’s forms were unrealizable without it. (p. 61)

The twentieth century’s greatest ideological conflicts do mark the violent unfolding of a Platonist versus Aristotelian view of what it means to be free and how reason and knowledge ultimately fit into our lives (p.539-540)

The Platonic cognitive style amounts to pure abstract reason, “unconstrained” by reality. It has no limiting principle. It is imbalanced. Aristotelian thinking also relies on reason, but it is “constrained” by empirical reality. It has a limiting principle. It is balanced.

The two moral matrices are described by Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Moral matrices are collections of moral foundations, which are psychological adaptations of social cognition created in us by hundreds of millions of years of natural selection as we evolved into the social animal. There are six moral foundations. They are:

The first three moral foundations are called the “individualizing” foundations because they’re focused on the autonomy and well being of the individual person. The second three foundations are called the “binding” foundations because they’re focused on helping individuals form into cooperative groups.

One of the two predominant moral matrices relies almost entirely on the individualizing foundations, and of those mostly just care. It is all individualizing all the time. No balance. The other moral matrix relies on all of the moral foundations relatively equally; individualizing and binding in tension. Balanced.

The leftist psychological profile is made from the imbalanced Platonic cognitive style in combination with the first, imbalanced, moral matrix.

The conservative psychological profile is made from the balanced Aristotelian cognitive style in combination with the balanced moral matrix.

It is not true that the tension between left and right is a balance between the defense of the dispossessed and the defense of hierarchies.

It is true that the tension between left and right is between an imbalanced worldview unconstrained by empirical reality and a balanced worldview constrained by it.

A Venn Diagram of the two psychological profiles looks like this:
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july 2018 by nhaliday
John Dee - Wikipedia
John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher,[5] and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy. He was also an advocate of England's imperial expansion into a "British Empire", a term he is generally credited with coining.[6]

Dee straddled the worlds of modern science and magic just as the former was emerging. One of the most learned men of his age, he had been invited to lecture on the geometry of Euclid at the University of Paris while still in his early twenties. Dee was an ardent promoter of mathematics and a respected astronomer, as well as a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery.

Simultaneously with these efforts, Dee immersed himself in the worlds of magic, astrology and Hermetic philosophy. He devoted much time and effort in the last thirty years or so of his life to attempting to commune with angels in order to learn the universal language of creation and bring about the pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind. However, Robert Hooke suggested in the chapter Of Dr. Dee's Book of Spirits, that John Dee made use of Trithemian steganography, to conceal his communication with Elizabeth I.[7] A student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination. Instead he considered all of his activities to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world, which Dee called "pure verities".

In his lifetime, Dee amassed one of the largest libraries in England. His high status as a scholar also allowed him to play a role in Elizabethan politics. He served as an occasional advisor and tutor to Elizabeth I and nurtured relationships with her ministers Francis Walsingham and William Cecil. Dee also tutored and enjoyed patronage relationships with Sir Philip Sidney, his uncle Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Edward Dyer. He also enjoyed patronage from Sir Christopher Hatton.

mind meld

Leave Me Alone! Misanthropic Writings from the Anti-Social Edge
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april 2018 by nhaliday
More arguments against blockchain, most of all about trust - Marginal REVOLUTION
Auditing software is hard! The most-heavily scrutinized smart contract in history had a small bug that nobody noticed — that is, until someone did notice it, and used it to steal fifty million dollars. If cryptocurrency enthusiasts putting together a $150m investment fund can’t properly audit the software, how confident are you in your e-book audit? Perhaps you would rather write your own counteroffer software contract, in case this e-book author has hidden a recursion bug in their version to drain your ethereum wallet of all your life savings?

It’s a complicated way to buy a book! It’s not trustless, you’re trusting in the software (and your ability to defend yourself in a software-driven world), instead of trusting other people.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Theories of humor - Wikipedia
There are many theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous. Among the prevailing types of theories that attempt to account for the existence of humor, there are psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humor to be very healthy behavior; there are spiritual theories, which consider humor to be an inexplicable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.[1] Although various classical theories of humor and laughter may be found, in contemporary academic literature, three theories of humor appear repeatedly: relief theory, superiority theory, and incongruity theory.[2] Among current humor researchers, there is no consensus about which of these three theories of humor is most viable.[2] Proponents of each one originally claimed their theory to be capable of explaining all cases of humor.[2][3] However, they now acknowledge that although each theory generally covers its own area of focus, many instances of humor can be explained by more than one theory.[2][3][4][5] Incongruity and superiority theories, for instance, seem to describe complementary mechanisms which together create humor.[6]


Relief theory
Relief theory maintains that laughter is a homeostatic mechanism by which psychological tension is reduced.[2][3][7] Humor may thus for example serve to facilitate relief of the tension caused by one's fears.[8] Laughter and mirth, according to relief theory, result from this release of nervous energy.[2] Humor, according to relief theory, is used mainly to overcome sociocultural inhibitions and reveal suppressed desires. It is believed that this is the reason we laugh whilst being tickled, due to a buildup of tension as the tickler "strikes".[2][9] According to Herbert Spencer, laughter is an "economical phenomenon" whose function is to release "psychic energy" that had been wrongly mobilized by incorrect or false expectations. The latter point of view was supported also by Sigmund Freud.

Superiority theory
The superiority theory of humor traces back to Plato and Aristotle, and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. The general idea is that a person laughs about misfortunes of others (so called schadenfreude), because these misfortunes assert the person's superiority on the background of shortcomings of others.[10] Socrates was reported by Plato as saying that the ridiculous was characterized by a display of self-ignorance.[11] For Aristotle, we laugh at inferior or ugly individuals, because we feel a joy at feeling superior to them.[12]

Incongruous juxtaposition theory
The incongruity theory states that humor is perceived at the moment of realization of incongruity between a concept involved in a certain situation and the real objects thought to be in some relation to the concept.[10]

Since the main point of the theory is not the incongruity per se, but its realization and resolution (i.e., putting the objects in question into the real relation), it is often called the incongruity-resolution theory.[10]


Detection of mistaken reasoning
In 2011, three researchers, Hurley, Dennett and Adams, published a book that reviews previous theories of humor and many specific jokes. They propose the theory that humor evolved because it strengthens the ability of the brain to find mistakes in active belief structures, that is, to detect mistaken reasoning.[46] This is somewhat consistent with the sexual selection theory, because, as stated above, humor would be a reliable indicator of an important survival trait: the ability to detect mistaken reasoning. However, the three researchers argue that humor is fundamentally important because it is the very mechanism that allows the human brain to excel at practical problem solving. Thus, according to them, humor did have survival value even for early humans, because it enhanced the neural circuitry needed to survive.

Misattribution theory
Misattribution is one theory of humor that describes an audience's inability to identify exactly why they find a joke to be funny. The formal theory is attributed to Zillmann & Bryant (1980) in their article, "Misattribution Theory of Tendentious Humor", published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They derived the critical concepts of the theory from Sigmund Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious (note: from a Freudian perspective, wit is separate from humor), originally published in 1905.

Benign violation theory
The benign violation theory (BVT) is developed by researchers A. Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren.[47] The BVT integrates seemingly disparate theories of humor to predict that humor occurs when three conditions are satisfied: 1) something threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be", 2) the threatening situation seems benign, and 3) a person sees both interpretations at the same time.

From an evolutionary perspective, humorous violations likely originated as apparent physical threats, like those present in play fighting and tickling. As humans evolved, the situations that elicit humor likely expanded from physical threats to other violations, including violations of personal dignity (e.g., slapstick, teasing), linguistic norms (e.g., puns, malapropisms), social norms (e.g., strange behaviors, risqué jokes), and even moral norms (e.g., disrespectful behaviors). The BVT suggests that anything that threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be" will be humorous, so long as the threatening situation also seems benign.


Sense of humor, sense of seriousness
One must have a sense of humor and a sense of seriousness to distinguish what is supposed to be taken literally or not. An even more keen sense is needed when humor is used to make a serious point.[48][49] Psychologists have studied how humor is intended to be taken as having seriousness, as when court jesters used humor to convey serious information. Conversely, when humor is not intended to be taken seriously, bad taste in humor may cross a line after which it is taken seriously, though not intended.[50]

Philosophy of humor bleg: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/philosophy-humor-bleg.html

Inside Jokes: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/inside-jokes
humor as reward for discovering inconsistency in inferential chain



People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. Most people are able to experience humour—be amused, smile or laugh at something funny—and thus are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour inducing it to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational.


Ancient Greece
Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semi-historical dialogue character) in the Philebus (p. 49b) the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics (1449a, pp. 34–35), suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.


Confucianist Neo-Confucian orthodoxy, with its emphasis on ritual and propriety, has traditionally looked down upon humour as subversive or unseemly. The Confucian "Analects" itself, however, depicts the Master as fond of humorous self-deprecation, once comparing his wanderings to the existence of a homeless dog.[10] Early Daoist philosophical texts such as "Zhuangzi" pointedly make fun of Confucian seriousness and make Confucius himself a slow-witted figure of fun.[11] Joke books containing a mix of wordplay, puns, situational humor, and play with taboo subjects like sex and scatology, remained popular over the centuries. Local performing arts, storytelling, vernacular fiction, and poetry offer a wide variety of humorous styles and sensibilities.


Physical attractiveness
90% of men and 81% of women, all college students, report having a sense of humour is a crucial characteristic looked for in a romantic partner.[21] Humour and honesty were ranked as the two most important attributes in a significant other.[22] It has since been recorded that humour becomes more evident and significantly more important as the level of commitment in a romantic relationship increases.[23] Recent research suggests expressions of humour in relation to physical attractiveness are two major factors in the desire for future interaction.[19] Women regard physical attractiveness less highly compared to men when it came to dating, a serious relationship, and sexual intercourse.[19] However, women rate humorous men more desirable than nonhumorous individuals for a serious relationship or marriage, but only when these men were physically attractive.[19]

Furthermore, humorous people are perceived by others to be more cheerful but less intellectual than nonhumorous people. Self-deprecating humour has been found to increase the desirability of physically attractive others for committed relationships.[19] The results of a study conducted by McMaster University suggest humour can positively affect one’s desirability for a specific relationship partner, but this effect is only most likely to occur when men use humour and are evaluated by women.[24] No evidence was found to suggest men prefer women with a sense of humour as partners, nor women preferring other women with a sense of humour as potential partners.[24] When women were given the forced-choice design in the study, they chose funny men as potential … [more]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Prisoner's dilemma - Wikipedia
caveat to result below:
An extension of the IPD is an evolutionary stochastic IPD, in which the relative abundance of particular strategies is allowed to change, with more successful strategies relatively increasing. This process may be accomplished by having less successful players imitate the more successful strategies, or by eliminating less successful players from the game, while multiplying the more successful ones. It has been shown that unfair ZD strategies are not evolutionarily stable. The key intuition is that an evolutionarily stable strategy must not only be able to invade another population (which extortionary ZD strategies can do) but must also perform well against other players of the same type (which extortionary ZD players do poorly, because they reduce each other's surplus).[14]

Theory and simulations confirm that beyond a critical population size, ZD extortion loses out in evolutionary competition against more cooperative strategies, and as a result, the average payoff in the population increases when the population is bigger. In addition, there are some cases in which extortioners may even catalyze cooperation by helping to break out of a face-off between uniform defectors and win–stay, lose–switch agents.[8]

Nature boils down to a few simple concepts.

Haters will point out that I oversimplify. The haters are wrong. I am good at saying a lot with few words. Nature indeed boils down to a few simple concepts.

In life, you can either cooperate or defect.

Used to be that defection was the dominant strategy, say in the time when the Roman empire started to crumble. Everybody complained about everybody and in the end nothing got done. Then came Jesus, who told people to be loving and cooperative, and boom: 1800 years later we get the industrial revolution.

Because of Jesus we now find ourselves in a situation where cooperation is the dominant strategy. A normie engages in a ton of cooperation: with the tax collector who wants more and more of his money, with schools who want more and more of his kid’s time, with media who wants him to repeat more and more party lines, with the Zeitgeist of the Collective Spirit of the People’s Progress Towards a New Utopia. Essentially, our normie is cooperating himself into a crumbling Western empire.

Turns out that if everyone blindly cooperates, parasites sprout up like weeds until defection once again becomes the standard.

The point of a post-Christian religion is to once again create conditions for the kind of cooperation that led to the industrial revolution. This necessitates throwing out undead Christianity: you do not blindly cooperate. You cooperate with people that cooperate with you, you defect on people that defect on you. Christianity mixed with Darwinism. God and Gnon meet.

This also means we re-establish spiritual hierarchy, which, like regular hierarchy, is a prerequisite for cooperation. It is this hierarchical cooperation that turns a household into a force to be reckoned with, that allows a group of men to unite as a front against their enemies, that allows a tribe to conquer the world. Remember: Scientology bullied the Cathedral’s tax department into submission.

With a functioning hierarchy, men still gossip, lie and scheme, but they will do so in whispers behind closed doors. In your face they cooperate and contribute to the group’s wellbeing because incentives are thus that contributing to group wellbeing heightens status.

Without a functioning hierarchy, men gossip, lie and scheme, but they do so in your face, and they tell you that you are positively deluded for accusing them of gossiping, lying and scheming. Seeds will not sprout in such ground.

Spiritual dominance is established in the same way any sort of dominance is established: fought for, taken. But the fight is ritualistic. You can’t force spiritual dominance if no one listens, or if you are silenced the ritual is not allowed to happen.

If one of our priests is forbidden from establishing spiritual dominance, that is a sure sign an enemy priest is in better control and has vested interest in preventing you from establishing spiritual dominance..

They defect on you, you defect on them. Let them suffer the consequences of enemy priesthood, among others characterized by the annoying tendency that very little is said with very many words.

To recap, we started with a secular definition of Logos and noted that its telos is existence. Given human nature, game theory and the power of cooperation, the highest expression of that telos is freely chosen universal love, tempered by constant vigilance against defection while maintaining compassion for the defectors and forgiving those who repent. In addition, we must know the telos in order to fulfill it.

In Christian terms, looks like we got over half of the Ten Commandments (know Logos for the First, don’t defect or tempt yourself to defect for the rest), the importance of free will, the indestructibility of evil (group cooperation vs individual defection), loving the sinner and hating the sin (with defection as the sin), forgiveness (with conditions), and love and compassion toward all, assuming only secular knowledge and that it’s good to exist.

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma is an Ultimatum Game: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/07/iterated-prisoners-dilemma-is-ultimatum.html
The history of IPD shows that bounded cognition prevented the dominant strategies from being discovered for over over 60 years, despite significant attention from game theorists, computer scientists, economists, evolutionary biologists, etc. Press and Dyson have shown that IPD is effectively an ultimatum game, which is very different from the Tit for Tat stories told by generations of people who worked on IPD (Axelrod, Dawkins, etc., etc.).


For evolutionary biologists: Dyson clearly thinks this result has implications for multilevel (group vs individual selection):
... Cooperation loses and defection wins. The ZD strategies confirm this conclusion and make it sharper. ... The system evolved to give cooperative tribes an advantage over non-cooperative tribes, using punishment to give cooperation an evolutionary advantage within the tribe. This double selection of tribes and individuals goes way beyond the Prisoners' Dilemma model.

implications for fractionalized Europe vis-a-vis unified China?

and more broadly does this just imply we're doomed in the long run RE: cooperation, morality, the "good society", so on...? war and group-selection is the only way to get a non-crab bucket civilization?

Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent:


analogy for ultimatum game: the state gives the demos a bargain take-it-or-leave-it, and...if the demos refuses...violence?

The nature of human altruism: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02043
- Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher

Some of the most fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origins, our social relations, and the organization of society are centred around issues of altruism and selfishness. Experimental evidence indicates that human altruism is a powerful force and is unique in the animal world. However, there is much individual heterogeneity and the interaction between altruists and selfish individuals is vital to human cooperation. Depending on the environment, a minority of altruists can force a majority of selfish individuals to cooperate or, conversely, a few egoists can induce a large number of altruists to defect. Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism, pointing towards the importance of both theories of cultural evolution as well as gene–culture co-evolution.


Why are humans so unusual among animals in this respect? We propose that quantitatively, and probably even qualitatively, unique patterns of human altruism provide the answer to this question. Human altruism goes far beyond that which has been observed in the animal world. Among animals, fitness-reducing acts that confer fitness benefits on other individuals are largely restricted to kin groups; despite several decades of research, evidence for reciprocal altruism in pair-wise repeated encounters4,5 remains scarce6–8. Likewise, there is little evidence so far that individual reputation building affects cooperation in animals, which contrasts strongly with what we find in humans. If we randomly pick two human strangers from a modern society and give them the chance to engage in repeated anonymous exchanges in a laboratory experiment, there is a high probability that reciprocally altruistic behaviour will emerge spontaneously9,10.

However, human altruism extends far beyond reciprocal altruism and reputation-based cooperation, taking the form of strong reciprocity11,12. Strong reciprocity is a combination of altruistic rewarding, which is a predisposition to reward others for cooperative, norm-abiding behaviours, and altruistic punishment, which is a propensity to impose sanctions on others for norm violations. Strong reciprocators bear the cost of rewarding or punishing even if they gain no individual economic benefit whatsoever from their acts. In contrast, reciprocal altruists, as they have been defined in the biological literature4,5, reward and punish only if this is in their long-term self-interest. Strong reciprocity thus constitutes a powerful incentive for cooperation even in non-repeated interactions and when reputation gains are absent, because strong reciprocators will reward those who cooperate and punish those who defect.


We will show that the interaction between selfish and strongly reciprocal … [more]
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Mistakes happen for a reason | Bloody shovel
Which leads me to this article by Scott Alexander. He elaborates on an idea by one of his ingroup about their being two ways of looking at things, “mistake theory” and “conflict theory”. Mistake theory claims that political opposition comes from a different understanding of issues: if people had the same amount of knowledge and proper theories to explain it, they would necessarily agree. Conflict theory states that people disagree because their interests conflict, the conflict is zero-sum so there’s no reason to agree, the only question is how to resolve the conflict.

I was speechless. I am quite used to Mr. Alexander and his crowd missing the point on purpose, but this was just too much. Mistake theory and Conflict theory are not parallel things. “Mistake theory” is just the natural, tribalist way of thinking. It assumes an ingroup, it assumes the ingroup has a codified way of thinking about things, and it interprets all disagreement as a lack of understanding of the obviously objective and universal truths of the ingroup religion. There is a reason why liberals call “ignorant” all those who disagree with them. Christians used to be rather more charitable on this front and asked for “faith”, which they also assumed was difficult to achieve.

Conflict theory is one of the great achievements of the human intellect; it is an objective, useful and predictively powerful way of analyzing human disagreement. There is a reason why Marxist historiography revolutionized the world and is still with us: Marx made a strong point that human history was based on conflict. Which is true. It is tautologically true. If you understand evolution it stands to reason that all social life is about conflict. The fight for genetical survival is ultimately zero-sum, and even in those short periods of abundance when it is not, the fight for mating supremacy is very much zero-sum, and we are all very much aware of that today. Marx focused on class struggle for political reasons, which is wrong, but his focus on conflict was a gust of fresh air for those who enjoy objective analysis.

Incidentally the early Chinese thinkers understood conflict theory very well, which is why Chinese civilization is still around, the oldest on earth. A proper understanding of conflict does not come without its drawbacks, though. Mistakes happen for a reason. Pat Buchanan actually does understand why USG open the doors to trade with China. Yes, Whig history was part of it, but that’s just the rhetoric used to justify the idea. The actual motivation to trade with China was making money short term. Lots of money. Many in the Western elite have made huge amounts of money with the China trade. Money that conveniently was funneled to whichever political channels it had to do in order to keep the China trade going. Even without Whig history, even without the clueless idea that China would never become a political great power, the short-term profits to be made were big enough to capture the political process in the West and push for it. Countries don’t have interests: people do.

That is true, and should be obvious, but there are dangers to the realization. There’s a reason why people dislike cynics. People don’t want to know the truth. It’s hard to coordinate around the truth, especially when the truth is that humans are selfish assholes constantly in conflict. Mistakes happen because people find it convenient to hide the truth; and “mistake theory” happens because policing the ingroup patterns of thought, limiting the capability of people of knowing too much, is politically useful. The early Chinese kingdoms developed a very sophisticated way of analyzing objective reality. The early kingdoms were also full of constant warfare, rebellions and elite betrayals; all of which went on until the introduction in the 13th century of a state ideology (neoconfucianism) based on complete humbug and a massively unrealistic theory on human nature. Roman literature is refreshingly objective and to the point. Romans were also murderous bastards who assassinated each other all the time. It took the massive pile of nonsense which we call the Christian canon to get Europeans to cooperate in a semi-stable basis.

But guess what? Conflict theory also exists for a reason. And the reason is to extricate oneself from the ingroup, to see things how they actually are, and to undermine the state religion from the outside. Marxists came up with conflict theory because they knew they had little to expect from fighting from within the system. Those low-status workers who still regarded their mainstream society as being the ingroup they very sharply called “alienated”, and by using conflict theory they showed what the ingroup ideology was actually made of. Pat Buchanan and his cuck friends should take the message and stop assuming that the elite is playing for the same team as they are. The global elite, of America and its vassals, is not mistaken. They are playing for themselves: to raise their status above yours, to drop their potential rivals into eternal misery and to rule forever over them. China, Syria, and everything else, is about that.

Heh heh. It’s a lost art. The Greeks and Romans were realists about it (except Cicero, that idealistic bastard). They knew language, being the birthright of man, was just another way (and a damn powerful one) to gain status, make war, and steal each other’s women. Better be good at wielding it.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : The Model to Beat: Status Rank
People often presume that policy can mostly ignore income inequality if key individual outcomes like health or happiness depend mainly on individual income. Yes, there’s some room for promoting insurance against income risk, but not much room. However, people often presume that policy should pay a lot more attention to inequality if individual outcomes depend more directly on the income of others, such as via envy or discouragement.

However, there’s a simple and plausible income interdependence scenario where inequality matters little for policy: when outcomes depend on rank. If individual outcomes are a function of each person’s percentile income rank, and if social welfare just adds up those individual outcomes, then income policy becomes irrelevant, because this social welfare sum is guaranteed to always add up to the same constant. Income-related policy may influence outcomes via other channels, but not via this channel. This applies whether the relevant rank is global, comparing each person to the entire world, or local, comparing each person only to a local community.

That 2010 paper, by Christopher Boyce, Gordon Brown, and Simon Moore, makes a strong case that in fact the outcome of life satisfaction depends on the incomes of others only via income rank. (Two followup papers find the same result for outcomes of psychological distress and nine measures of health.) They looked at 87,000 Brits, and found that while income rank strongly predicted outcomes, neither individual (log) income nor an average (log) income of their reference group predicted outcomes, after controlling for rank (and also for age, gender, education, marital status, children, housing ownership, labor-force status, and disabilities). These seem to me remarkably strong and robust results. (Confirmed here.)
ratty  hanson  commentary  study  summary  economics  psychology  social-psych  values  envy  inequality  status  s-factor  absolute-relative  compensation  money  ranking  local-global  emotion  meaningness  planning  long-term  stylized-facts  britain  health  biases  farmers-and-foragers  redistribution  moments  metrics  replication  happy-sad 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Adam Smith, David Hume, Liberalism, and Esotericism - Call for Papers - Elsevier
A very good economics journal--famously an outlet for rigorous, outside the box thinking--is publishing a special issue on hidden meanings in the work of two of the world's greatest thinkers.

Another sign the new Straussian age is upon us: Bayesians update accordingly!
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/05/ft-podcasts-on-us-china-competition-and.html

A new recommended career path for effective altruists: China specialist: https://80000hours.org/articles/china-careers/
Our rough guess is that it would be useful for there to be at least ten people in the community with good knowledge in this area within the next few years.

By “good knowledge” we mean they’ve spent at least 3 years studying these topics and/or living in China.

We chose ten because that would be enough for several people to cover each of the major areas listed (e.g. 4 within AI, 2 within biorisk, 2 within foreign relations, 1 in another area).

AI Policy and Governance Internship: https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ai-policy-governance-internship/

Deciphering China’s AI Dream
The context, components, capabilities, and consequences of
China’s strategy to lead the world in AI

Europe’s AI delusion: https://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-europes-ai-delusion/
Brussels is failing to grasp threats and opportunities of artificial intelligence.

When the computer program AlphaGo beat the Chinese professional Go player Ke Jie in a three-part match, it didn’t take long for Beijing to realize the implications.

If algorithms can already surpass the abilities of a master Go player, it can’t be long before they will be similarly supreme in the activity to which the classic board game has always been compared: war.

As I’ve written before, the great conflict of our time is about who can control the next wave of technological development: the widespread application of artificial intelligence in the economic and military spheres.


If China’s ambitions sound plausible, that’s because the country’s achievements in deep learning are so impressive already. After Microsoft announced that its speech recognition software surpassed human-level language recognition in October 2016, Andrew Ng, then head of research at Baidu, tweeted: “We had surpassed human-level Chinese recognition in 2015; happy to see Microsoft also get there for English less than a year later.”


One obvious advantage China enjoys is access to almost unlimited pools of data. The machine-learning technologies boosting the current wave of AI expansion are as good as the amount of data they can use. That could be the number of people driving cars, photos labeled on the internet or voice samples for translation apps. With 700 or 800 million Chinese internet users and fewer data protection rules, China is as rich in data as the Gulf States are in oil.

How can Europe and the United States compete? They will have to be commensurately better in developing algorithms and computer power. Sadly, Europe is falling behind in these areas as well.


Chinese commentators have embraced the idea of a coming singularity: the moment when AI surpasses human ability. At that point a number of interesting things happen. First, future AI development will be conducted by AI itself, creating exponential feedback loops. Second, humans will become useless for waging war. At that point, the human mind will be unable to keep pace with robotized warfare. With advanced image recognition, data analytics, prediction systems, military brain science and unmanned systems, devastating wars might be waged and won in a matter of minutes.


The argument in the new strategy is fully defensive. It first considers how AI raises new threats and then goes on to discuss the opportunities. The EU and Chinese strategies follow opposite logics. Already on its second page, the text frets about the legal and ethical problems raised by AI and discusses the “legitimate concerns” the technology generates.

The EU’s strategy is organized around three concerns: the need to boost Europe’s AI capacity, ethical issues and social challenges. Unfortunately, even the first dimension quickly turns out to be about “European values” and the need to place “the human” at the center of AI — forgetting that the first word in AI is not “human” but “artificial.”

US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

US military: "But... maybe just a computer vision app."

US AI researchers: "NO."

AI-risk was a mistake.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
What Peter Thiel thinks about AI risk - Less Wrong
TL;DR: he thinks its an issue but also feels AGI is very distant and hence less worried about it than Musk.

I recommend the rest of the lecture as well, it's a good summary of "Zero to One"  and a good QA afterwards.

For context, in case anyone doesn't realize: Thiel has been MIRI's top donor throughout its history.

other stuff:
nice interview question: "thing you know is true that not everyone agrees on?"
"learning from failure overrated"
cleantech a huge market, hard to compete
software makes for easy monopolies (zero marginal costs, network effects, etc.)
for most of history inventors did not benefit much (continuous competition)
ethical behavior is a luxury of monopoly
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Chickenhawks – Gene Expression
I know I seem like a warblogger, and I promise I’ll shift to something more esoteric and non-current-eventsy very soon, but check this table out on fatalities by profession. It ranges from 50 per 100,000 for cab-drivers to 100 per 100,000 for fisherman & loggers. Granted, there have surely been work related fatalities in the American military in the past year, but we’ve had about 30 fatalities so far, and perhaps we’ll go up to 200-300 in the current campaign if we don’t get into house-to-house fighting. How many fatalities occurred during the Afghan campaign? Look at this table of historic casualty rates. I don’t do this to say that being a soldier is something that isn’t a big deal-but for me, the “chickenhawk” insult seems less resonant taking into the account the changes that have been wrought by technology in the post-Vietnam era. Casualty rates seem to be approaching the order of magnitude of some of the more cvil dangerous professions. That is most certainly a good thing.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Why Sex? And why only in Pairs? - Marginal REVOLUTION
The core conclusion is that mutations continue to rise with the number of sex-participating partners, but in simple Red Queen models the limiting features of the genotypes is the same whether there are two, three, or more partners.

Men Are Animals: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/06/men-are-animals.html
I agree with all the comments citing motility/sessility.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Mathematical Theory of Deep Neural Networks (Princeton workshop)
"Recently, long-past-due theoretical results have begun to emerge. These results, and those that will follow in their wake, will begin to shed light on the properties of large, adaptive, distributed learning architectures, and stand to revolutionize how computer science and neuroscience understand these systems."
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.


So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.


To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!


Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Self-Serving Bias | Slate Star Codex
Since reading Tabarrok’s post, I’ve been trying to think of more examples of this sort of thing, especially in medicine. There are way too many discrepancies in approved medications between countries to discuss every one of them, but did you know melatonin is banned in most of Europe? (Europeans: did you know melatonin is sold like candy in the United States?) Did you know most European countries have no such thing as “medical school”, but just have college students major in medicine, and then become doctors once they graduate from college? (Europeans: did you know Americans have to major in some random subject in college, and then go to a separate place called “medical school” for four years to even start learning medicine?) Did you know that in Puerto Rico, you can just walk into a pharmacy and get any non-scheduled drug you want without a doctor’s prescription? (source: my father; I have never heard anyone else talk about this, and nobody else even seems to think it is interesting enough to be worth noting).


And then there’s the discussion from the recent discussion of Madness and Civilization about how 18th century doctors thought hot drinks will destroy masculinity and ruin society. Nothing that’s happened since has really disproved this – indeed, a graph of hot drink consumption, decline of masculinity, and ruinedness of society would probably show a pretty high correlation – it’s just somehow gotten tossed in the bin marked “ridiculous” instead of the bin marked “things we have to worry about”.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? - Marginal REVOLUTION
Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

IOW, the opposite of what Dick Florida said.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The rate of return on everything - Marginal REVOLUTION
Here is what I learned from the paper itself:

1. Risky assets such as equities and residential real estate average about 7% gains per year in real terms.  Housing outperformed equity before WWII, vice versa after WWII.  In any case it is a puzzle that housing returns are less volatile but about at the same level as equity returns over a broader time span.
2. Equity and housing gains have a relatively low covariance.  Buy both!
3. Equity returns across countries have become increasingly correlated, housing returns not.
4. The return on real safe assets is much more volatile than you might think.
5. The equity premium is volatile too.
6. The authors find support for Piketty’s r > g, except near periods of war.  Furthermore, the gap between r and g does not seem to be correlated with the growth rate of the economy.

I found this to be one of the best and most interesting papers of the year.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
A genetic map of the world – Gene Expression
The above map is from a new preprint on the patterns of genetic variation as a function of geography for humans, Genetic landscapes reveal how human genetic diversity aligns with geography. The authors assemble an incredibly large dataset to generate these figures. The orange zones are “troughs” of gene flow. Basically barriers to gene flow.  It is no great surprise that so many of the barriers correlate with rivers, mountains, and deserts. But the aim of this sort of work seems to be to make precise and quantitative intuitions which are normally expressed verbally.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Grumpy Economist: Bitcoin and Bubbles
Bitcoin is not a very good money. It is a pure fiat money (no backing), whose value comes from limited supply plus these demands. As such it has the huge price fluctuations we see. It's an electronic version of gold, and the price variation should be a warning to economists who long for a return to  gold. My bet is that stable-value cryptocurrencies, offering one dollar per currency unit and low transactions costs, will prosper in the role of money. At least until there is a big inflation or sovereign debt crisis and a stable-value cryptocurrency not linked to government debt emerges.

The Kareken-Wallace Cryptocurrency Price Indeterminacy theorem will someday receive the attention it deserves

Cryptocurrencies also raise in a new way questions of exchange rate indeterminacy. As Kareken and Wallace (1981) observed, fiat currencies are all alike: slips of paper not redeemable for anything. Under a regime of floating exchange rates and no capital controls, and assuming some version of interest rate parity holds, there are an infinity of exchange rates between any two fiat currencies that constitute an equilibrium in their model.

The question of exchange rate indeterminacy is both more and less striking between cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies. It is less striking because there are considerably more differences between cryptocurrencies than there are between paper money. Paper money is all basically the same. Cryptocurrencies sometimes have different characteristics from each other. For example, the algorithm used as the basis for mining makes a difference – it determines how professionalised the mining pools become. Litecoin uses an algorithm that tends to make mining less concentrated. Another difference is the capability of the cryptocurrency’s language for programming transactions. Ethereum is a new currency that boasts a much more robust language than Bitcoin. Zerocash is another currency that offers much stronger anonymity than Bitcoin. To the extent that cryptocurrencies differ from each other more than fiat currencies do, those differences might be able to pin down exchange rates in a model like Kareken and Wallace’s.

On the other hand, exchange rate indeterminacy could be more severe among cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies because it is easy to simply create an exact copy of an open source cryptocurrency. There are even websites on which you can create and download the software for your own cryptocurrency with a few clicks of a mouse. These currencies are exactly alike except for their names and other identifying information. Furthermore, unlike fiat currencies, they don’t benefit from government acceptance or optimal currency area considerations that can tie a currency to a given territory.

Even identical currencies, however, can differ in terms of the quality of governance. Bitcoin currently has high quality governance institutions. The core developers are competent and conservative, and the mining and user communities are serious about making the currency work. An exact Bitcoin clone is likely to have a difficult time competing with Bitcoin unless it can promise similarly high-quality governance. When a crisis hits, users of identical currencies are going to want to hold the one that is mostly likely to weather the storm. Consequently, between currencies with identical technical characteristics, we think governance creates something close to a winner-take-all market. Network externalities are very strong in payment systems, and the governance question with respect to cryptocurrencies in particular compounds them.

Explaining a price rise via future increases in the asset's value isn't good economics. The invisible hand should be pushing today's price up to the point where it earns normal expected returns. +
I don't doubt the likelihood of a future cryptocurrency being widely used, but that doesn't pin down the price of any one cryptocurrency as the Kareken-Wallace result shows. There may be a big first mover advantage for Bitcoin but ease of replication makes it a fragile dominance.

I actually can't believe governments are allowing bitcoin to exist (they must be fully on board with going digital at some point)

btc will eventually come in direct competition with national currencies, which will have to raise rates dramatically, or die

The technology of Bitcoin Cash is very similar to the technology of Bitcoin. It offers the same sorts of anonymity, security, and so forth. There are some reasons to believe that in the future, Bitcoin Cash will be a bit easier to trade than Bitcoin (though that is not true in the present), and there are some other technological differences between them, but I’d be surprised to learn that those differences are accounting for any substantial fraction of the price differential.

The total supplies of Bitcoins and of Bitcoin Cash are currently about equal (because of the way that Bitcoin Cash originated). In each case, the supply will gradually grow to 21 million and then stop.

Question 1: Given the near identical properties of these two currencies, how can one sell for ten times the price of the other? Perhaps the answer involves the word “bubble”, but I’d be more interested in answers that assume (at least for the sake of argument) that the price of Bitcoin fairly reflects its properties as a store of value. Given that assumption, is the price differential entirely driven by the fact that Bitcoin came first? Is there that much of a first-mover advantage in this kind of game?

Question 2: Given the existence of other precious metals (e.g. platinum) what accounts for the dominance of gold as a physical store of value? (I note, for example, that when people buy gold as a store of value, they don’t often hesitate out of fear that gold will be displaced by platinum in the foreseeable future.) Is this entirely driven by the fact that gold happened to come first?

Question 3: Are Questions 1 and 2 the same question? Are the dominance of Bitcoin in the digital store-of-value market and the dominance of gold in the physical store-of-value market two sides of the same coin, so to speak? Or do they require fundamentally different explanations?

Champ/Freeman in 2001 explain why the dollar-bitcoin exchange rate is inherently unstable, and why the price of cryptocurrencies is indeterminate:

Lay down a marker:
And remember that the modern macro dogma is that monetary systems matter little for prosperity, once bare competence is achieved.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Power of Abortion Policy - Marginal REVOLUTION
I provide new evidence on the relative “powers” of contraception and abortion policy in effecting the dramatic social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s. Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Understanding differences in life expectancy inequality - Marginal REVOLUTION
The life expectancy gap at age 40 between high income and low income individuals is substantial. I explore how medical expenditures and unhealthy behaviors account for the life expectancy gap. The data reveals the following. First, low income individuals tend to spend more on healthcare than high income individuals at all ages. Moreover, health disparities by income is salient due to differences in unhealthy behaviors such as heavy smoking. To answer how much dierences in access to medical services and unhealthy behaviors can explain in light of these stylized facts, I construct a life cycle model. The distinctive features of the model are that it flexibly incorporates unobserved, potentially correlated initial human and health capital stocks and embed unhealthy behaviors. Furthermore, the model includes two health systems: private health insurance and Medicare. The main findings are i) differences in access to medical care driven by income inequality potentially accounts for 12.5% of the life expectancy gap, ii) health insurance increases longevity for low income individuals, but modestly, iii) the health condition when young shapes the trend in average medical expenditures by income groups and iv) the impact of differences in unhealthy behaviors is predominant in understanding the life expectancy gap.

Health spending negatively correlated with health outcomes: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/health-spending-negatively-correlated-with-health-outcomes/
Pointer from Tyler Cowen. In the paper, Katera argues that the lower life expectancy of lower-income individuals reflects differences in their behavior rather than differences in access to medical services. My thoughts:

1. This seems consistent with Hansonian medicine, in which on average the benefits of more health care spending are about zero. But it also could suggest a counter to the Hanson view. That is, it could be that at the margin everyone benefits from more health care spending, but because the people who spend more tend to be people who behave in unhealthy ways, the benefits of more spending are difficult to tease out from the data. It is like trying to measure the relationship between policing and crime. If areas with a lot of crime tend to require more police, then a simple correlation analysis might suggest that adding police does not help to reduce crime.

2. Katera’s findings are not politically correct. I am on the record as saying that academic economics is headed toward a state in which findings like this will make one almost unemployable. Imagine trying to get Katera hired in a sociology department. Katera’s experience as a job candidate will be help to indicate how far along we are on this path.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. ("Civilizational decline," as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

5. The Chinese have almost entirely closed the technology gap with the West, and dominate important areas of manufacturing. It seems very likely that their economy will eventually become significantly larger than the US economy. This is the world that strategists have to prepare for. Wars involving religious fanatics in unimportant regions of the world should not distract us from a possible future conflict with a peer competitor that threatens to match or exceed our economic, technological, and even military capability.

However, I'm not sure that OBOR (One Belt One Road) and a focus on the "world island" of Eurasia will be a winning strategy for China. Mackinder's dream of a unified or even fully economically integrated world island will have to overcome the limitations (in human capital, institutions, culture, etc.) of the under-developed middle...

The belt-and-road express: China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21721678-silk-routes-are-not-always-appealing-they-sound-china-faces-resistance-cherished-theme

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Open Thread, 11/26/2017 – Gene Expression
A few days ago there was a Twitter thing about top five books that have influenced you. It’s hard for me to name five, but I put three books down for three different reasons:

- Principles of Population Genetics, because it gives you a model for how to analyze and understand evolutionary processes. There are other books out there besides Principles of Population Genetics. But if you buy this book you don’t need to buy another (at SMBE this year I confused Andy Clark with Mike Lynch for a second when introducing myself. #awkward)
- The Fall of Rome. A lot of historical writing can be tendentious. I’ve also noticed an unfortunate tendency of historians dropping into contemporary arguments and pretty much lying through omission or elision to support their political side (it usually goes “actually, I’m a specialist in this topic and my side is 100% correct because of obscure-stuff where I’m shading the facts”). The Fall of Rome illustrates the solidity that an archaeological and materialist take can give the field. This sort of materialism isn’t the final word, but it needs to be the start of the conversation.
- From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. To know things is important in and of itself. My own personal experience is that the returns to knowing things in a particular domain or area do not exhibit a linear return. Rather, it exhibits a logistic curve. Initially, it’s hard to make sense of anything from the facts, but at some point comprehension and insight increase rapidly, until you reach the plateau of diminishing marginal returns.

If you haven’t, I recommend you subscribe to Patrick Wyman’s Tides of History podcast. I pretty much wait now for every new episode.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
King Kong and Cold Fusion: Counterfactual analysis and the History of Technology
How “contingent” is technological history? Relying on models from evolutionary epistemology, I argue for an analogy with Darwinian Biology and thus a much greater degree of contingency than is normally supposed. There are three levels of contingency in technological development. The crucial driving force behind technology is what I call S-knowledge, that is, an understanding of the exploitable regularities of nature (which includes “science” as a subset). The development of techniques depend on the existence of epistemic bases in S. The “inevitability” of technology thus depends crucially on whether we condition it on the existence of the appropriate S-knowledge. Secondly, even if this knowledge emerges, there is nothing automatic about it being transformed into a technique that is, a set of instructions that transforms knowledge into production. Third, even if the techniques are proposed, there is selection which reflects the preferences and biases of an economy and injects another level of indeterminacy and contingency into the technological history of nations.

Moslem conquest of Europe, or a Mongol conquest, or a post-1492 epidemic, or a victory of the counter-reformation would have prevented the Industrial Revolution (Joel Mokyr)
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Disaggregating the economy: cost of living | askblog
here are the US states color-coded according to per capita GDP with an adjustment for Regional Price Parities: that is, it’s a measure of income adjusted for what it actually costs to buy housing and other goods. With that change, California, New York, and Maryland are no longer in the top category. Hoever, a number of midwestern states like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and my own Minnesota move into the top category. A number of states in the mountain west and south that were in the lowest-income category when just looking at per capita GDP move up a category or two when the Regional Price Parities are taken into account.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

For Harari the great innovation that separated us from the apes was what he calls the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 years ago when we started migrating out of Africa, which he thinks gave us the same sort of modern minds that we have now. 'At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history...Survival in that area required superb mental abilities from everyone' (55), and 'The people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities we have' (44). Not surprisingly, then, 'We'd be able to explain to them everything we know - from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics - and they could teach us how their people view the world' (23).

It's a sweet idea, and something like this imagined meeting actually took place a few years ago between the linguist Daniel Everett and the Piraha foragers of the Amazon in Peru (Everett 2008). But far from being able to discuss quantum theory with them, he found that the Piraha couldn't even count, and had no numbers of any kind, They could teach Everett how they saw the world, which was entirely confined to the immediate experience of the here-and-now, with no interest in past or future, or really in anything that could not be seen or touched. They had no myths or stories, so Alice in Wonderland would have fallen rather flat as well.


Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Indiana Jones, Economist?! - Marginal REVOLUTION
In a stunningly original paper Gojko Barjamovic, Thomas Chaney, Kerem A. Coşar, and Ali Hortaçsu use the gravity model of trade to infer the location of lost cities from Bronze age Assyria! The simplest gravity model makes predictions about trade flows based on the sizes of cities and the distances between them. More complicated models add costs based on geographic barriers. The authors have data from ancient texts on trade flows between all the cities, they know the locations of some of the cities, and they know the geography of the region. Using this data they can invert the gravity model and, triangulating from the known cities, find the lost cities that would best “fit” the model. In other words, by assuming the model is true the authors can predict where the lost cities should be located. To test the idea the authors pretend that some known cities are lost and amazingly the model is able to accurately rediscover those cities.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Measles and immunological amnesia | West Hunter
A new paper in Science , by Michael Mina et al,  strongly suggests that measles messes up your immunological defenses for two or three years. This is the likely explanation for the fact that measles inoculation causes much greater decreases in child morbidity and mortality than you’d expect from preventing the deaths directly due to measles infection. The thought is that measles whacks the cells that carry immunological memory, leaving the kid ripe for reinfections.  I think there can be a similar effect with anti-cancer chemotherapy.

If correct, this means that measles is much nastier than previously thought. It must have played a significant role in the demographic collapse of long-isolated peoples (such as the Amerindians). Its advent may have played a role in the population decrease associated with the decline of the Classical world.  Even though it is relatively new (having split off from rinderpest a couple of thousand years ago) strong selection for resistance may have  favored some fairly expensive genetic defenses (something like sickle-cell) in Eurasian populations.

We already know of quite a few complex side effects of infectious disease, such the different kind of immunosuppression we see with AIDs, Burkitt’s lymphoma hitting kids with severe Epstein-Barr infections followed by malaria, acute dengue fever that requires a previous infection by a different strain of dengue, etc: there may well be other important interactions and side effects, news of which has not yet come to Harvard.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Constitutional Economics of Autocratic Succession on JSTOR
Abstract. The paper extends and empirically tests Gordon Tullock’s public choice theory of the nature of autocracy. A simple model of the relationship between constitutional rules governing succession in autocratic regimes and the occurrence of coups against autocrats is sketched. The model is applied to a case study of coups against monarchs in Denmark in the period ca. 935–1849. A clear connection is found between the specific constitutional rules governing succession and the frequency of coups. Specifically, the introduction of automatic hereditary succession in an autocracy provides stability and limits the number of coups conducted by contenders.

Table 2. General constitutional rules of succession, Denmark ca. 935–1849

To see this the data may be divided into three categories of constitutional rules of succession: One of open succession (for the periods 935–1165 and 1326–40), one of appointed succession combined with election (for the periods 1165–1326 and 1340–1536), and one of more or less formalized hereditary succession (1536–1849). On the basis of this categorization the data have been summarized in Table 3.

validity of empirics is a little sketchy

The graphic novel it is based on is insightful, illustrates Tullock's game-theoretic, asymmetric information views on autocracy.

Conclusions from Gorton Tullock's book Autocracy, p. 211-215.: https://astro.temple.edu/~bstavis/courses/tulluck.htm
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism” in the United States∗
In a classic 1893 essay, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the American frontier promoted individualism. We revisit the Frontier Thesis and examine its relevance at the subnational level. Using Census data and GIS techniques, we track the frontier throughout the 1790–1890 period and construct a novel, county-level measure of historical frontier experience. We document the distinctive demographics of frontier locations during this period—disproportionately male, prime-age adult, foreign-born, and illiterate—as well as their higher levels of individualism, proxied by the share of infrequent names among children. Many decades after the closing of the frontier, counties with longer historical frontier experience exhibit more prevalent individualism and opposition to redistribution and regulation. We take several steps towards a causal interpretation, including an instrumental variables approach that exploits variation in the speed of westward expansion induced by prior national immigration in- flows. Using linked historical Census data, we identify mechanisms giving rise to a persistent frontier culture. Greater individualism on the frontier was not driven solely by selective migration, suggesting that frontier conditions may have shaped behavior and values. We provide evidence suggesting that rugged individualism may be rooted in its adaptive advantage on the frontier and the opportunities for upward mobility through effort.


The Origins of Cultural Divergence: Evidence from a Developing Country.: http://economics.handels.gu.se/digitalAssets/1643/1643769_37.-hoang-anh-ho-ncde-2017-june.pdf
Cultural norms diverge substantially across societies, often even within the same country. In this paper, we test the voluntary settlement hypothesis, proposing that individualistic people tend to self-select into migrating out of reach from collectivist states towards the periphery and that such patterns of historical migration are reflected even in the contemporary distribution of norms. For more than one thousand years during the first millennium CE, northern Vietnam was under an exogenously imposed Chinese rule. From the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries, ancient Vietnam gradually expanded its territory through various waves of southward conquest. We demonstrate that areas being annexed earlier into ancient Vietnam are nowadays more (less) prone to collectivist (individualist) culture. We argue that the southward out-migration of individualist people was the main mechanism behind this finding. The result is consistent across various measures obtained from an extensive household survey and robust to various control variables as well as to different empirical specifications, including an instrumental variable estimation. A lab-in-the-field experiment also confirms the finding.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America - Bloomberg
“It reminds me of a craps table,” Brown, the commercial real estate analyst, says. “Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It’s based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren’t going to get better in any of these places.”

HOW DOLLAR GENERAL BECAME RURAL AMERICA’S STORE OF CHOICE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-dollar-general-became-rural-americas-store-of-choice-1512401992

The Supply Chain In Lieu Of The Welfare State: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/12/04/the-supply-chain-in-lieu-of-the-welfare-state/

“Over the last five years a new Dollar General opened every four-and-a-half hours…”

That is from The Economist. The article attributes much of the success of the chain to its location decisions, such as opening near churches, schools, highways, and post offices.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Returns to skills around the world: Evidence from PIAAC
Age differences in individual returns to numeracy skills. At age 20-24, a standard deviation higher test score predicts a 7% boost in hourly wages, while at age 40-44 the boost is almost 20%.

only OECD countries

developing world:
The relationship between school performance and future wages in Brazil: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1517758014000265
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october 2017 by nhaliday
An investigation of the unexpectedly high fertility of secular, native-born Jews in Israel: Population Studies: Vol 70, No 2
Secular, native-born Jews in Israel enjoy the socio-economic status of many affluent populations living in other democratic countries, but have above-replacement period and cohort fertility. This study revealed a constellation of interrelated factors which together characterize the socio-economic, cultural, and political environment of this fertility behaviour and set it apart from that of other advanced societies. The factors are: a combination of state and family support for childbearing; a dual emphasis on the social importance of women's employment and fertility; policies that support working mothers within a conservative welfare regime; a family system in which parents provide significant financial and caregiving aid to their adult children; relatively egalitarian gender-role attitudes and household behaviour; the continuing importance of familist ideology and of marriage as a social institution; the role of Jewish nationalism and collective behaviour in a religious society characterized by ethno-national conflict; and a discourse which defines women as the biological reproducers of the nation.

Fertility trends in Israel and Palestinian territories

my impression is the evidence actually favors propaganda effects over tax credits and shit. but I need to gather it all together at some pt
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Political Typology: Beyond Red vs. Blue | Pew Research Center
The new typology has eight groups: Three are strongly ideological, highly politically engaged and overwhelmingly partisan – two on the right and one on the left. Steadfast Conservatives are staunch critics of government and the social safety net and are very socially conservative. Business Conservatives share Steadfast Conservatives’ preference for limited government, but differ in their support for Wall Street and business, as well as immigration reform. And Business Conservatives are far more moderate on social issues than are Steadfast Conservatives.

At the other end of the spectrum, Solid Liberals express liberal attitudes across almost every realm – government, the economy and business and foreign policy, as well as on race, homosexuality and abortion – and are reliable and loyal Democratic voters.

Taken together, these three groups form the electoral base of the Democratic and Republican Parties, and their influence on American politics is strong. While Solid Liberals, Steadfast Conservatives and Business Conservatives collectively make up only 36% of the American public, they represent 43% of registered voters and fully 57% of the more politically engaged segment of the American public: those who regularly vote and routinely follow government and public affairs.

The other typology groups are less partisan, less predictable and have little in common with each other or the groups at either end of the political spectrum. The one thing they do share is that they are less engaged politically than the groups on the right or left.

Young Outsiders lean Republican but do not have a strong allegiance to the Republican Party; in fact they tend to dislike both political parties. On many issues, from their support for environmental regulation to their liberal views on social issues, they diverge from traditional GOP orthodoxy. Yet in their support for limited government, Young Outsiders are firmly in the Republicans’ camp.

Hard-Pressed Skeptics have been battered by the struggling economy, and their difficult financial circumstances have left them resentful of both government and business. Despite their criticism of government performance, they back more generous government support for the poor and needy. Most Hard-Pressed Skeptics say they voted for Obama in 2012, though fewer than half approve of his job performance today.

The Next Generation Left are young, relatively affluent and very liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. But they have reservations about the cost of social programs. And while most of the Next Generation Left support affirmative action, they decisively reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason why many blacks are unable to get ahead.

The Faith and Family Left lean Democratic, based on their confidence in government and support for federal programs to address the nation’s problems. But this very religious, racially and ethnically diverse group is uncomfortable with the pace of societal change, including the acceptance of homosexuality and non-traditional family structures.

And finally, an eighth group, the Bystanders, representing 10% of the public, are on the sidelines of the political process. They are not registered to vote and pay very little attention to politics.


The Faith and Family Left is by far the most racially and ethnically diverse group in the typology: In fact, just 41% are white non-Hispanic; 30% are black, 19% are Hispanic and 8% are other or mixed race. The Faith and Family Left also is less affluent and less educated than the other Democratically-oriented groups, and is older as well.

They also have strong religious convictions, which distinguishes them from Solid Liberals and the Next Generation Left. Fully 91% say “it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.” No more than about one-in-ten in the other Democratically-oriented groups agree. And the Faith and Family Left have much more conservative positions on social issues. Just 37% favor same-sex marriage, less than half the share of the other two groups on the left.

The Faith and Family Left support activist government and a strong social safety net, though by less overwhelming margins than Solid Liberals. And while the Faith and Family Left support affirmative action programs, just 31% believe that “racial discrimination is the main reason many black people can’t get ahead these days.” Among the much less racially diverse Solid Liberals, 80% think racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress.


First, Steadfast Conservatives take very conservative views on key social issues like homosexuality and immigration, while Business Conservatives are less conservative – if not actually progressive – on these issues. Nearly three-quarters of Steadfast Conservatives (74%) believe that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Among Business Conservatives, just 31% think homosexuality should be discouraged; 58% believe it should be accepted.

Business Conservatives have generally positive attitudes toward immigrants and 72% favor a “path to citizenship” for those in the U.S. illegally, if they meet certain conditions. Steadfast Conservatives are more critical of immigrants; 50% support a path to citizenship, the lowest share of any typology group.

Second, just as Steadfast Conservatives are opposed to big government, they also are skeptical of big business. They believe that large corporations have too much power, and nearly half (48%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests. By contrast, as their name suggests, Business Conservatives are far more positive about the free market, and overwhelmingly regard business – and Wall Street – positively.

group profiles (including demographics): http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/appendix-1-typology-group-profiles/

2017 redux:
Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left: http://www.people-press.org/2017/10/24/political-typology-reveals-deep-fissures-on-the-right-and-left/
Nearly a year after Donald Trump was elected president, the Republican coalition is deeply divided on such major issues as immigration, America’s role in the world and the fundamental fairness of the U.S. economic system.

The Democratic coalition is largely united in staunch opposition to President Trump. Yet, while Trump’s election has triggered a wave of political activism within the party’s sizable liberal bloc, the liberals’ sky-high political energy is not nearly as evident among other segments in the Democratic base. And Democrats also are internally divided over U.S. global involvement, as well as some religious and social issues.


Divisions on the right

The political typology finds two distinctly different groups on the right – Core Conservatives and Country First Conservatives, who both overwhelmingly approve of Trump, but disagree on much else – including immigration and whether it benefits the U.S. to be active internationally.

Core Conservatives, who are in many ways the most traditional group of Republicans, have an outsized influence on the GOP coalition; while they make up just 13% of the public – and about a third (31%) of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – they constitute a much larger share (43%) of politically engaged Republicans.

This financially comfortable, male-dominated group overwhelmingly supports smaller government, lower corporate tax rates and believes in the fairness of the nation’s economic system. And a large majority of Core Conservatives (68%) express a positive view of U.S. involvement in the global economy “because it provides the U.S. with new markets and opportunities for growth.”

Country First Conservatives, a much smaller segment of the GOP base, are older and less educated than other Republican-leaning typology groups. Unlike Core Conservatives, Country First Conservatives are unhappy with the nation’s course, highly critical of immigrants and deeply wary of U.S. global involvement.

Nearly two-thirds of Country First Conservatives (64%) – the highest share of any typology group, right or left – say that “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

A third Republican group, Market Skeptic Republicans, sharply diverges from the GOP’s traditional support for business and lower taxes. Only about a third of Market Skeptic Republicans (34%) say banks and other financial institutions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, lowest among Republican-leaning typology groups.

Alone among the groups in the GOP coalition, a majority of Market Skeptic Republicans support raising tax rates on corporations and large businesses. An overwhelming share (94%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, which places the view of Market Skeptic Republicans on this issue much closer to Solid Liberals (99% mostly unfair) than Core Conservatives (21%).

In contrast to Market Skeptic Republicans, New Era Enterprisers are fundamentally optimistic about the state of the nation and its future. They are more likely than any other typology group to say the next generation of Americans will have it better than people today. Younger and somewhat less overwhelmingly white than the other GOP-leaning groups, New Era Enterprisers are strongly pro-business and generally think that immigrants strengthen, rather than burden, the country.

Divisions on the left


While there have long been racial, ethnic and income differences within the Democratic coalition, these gaps are especially striking today. Reflecting the changing demographic composition of the Democratic base, for the first time there are two majority-minority Democratic-leaning typology groups, along with two more affluent, mostly white groups.

Solid Liberals are the largest group in the Democratic coalition, and they make up close to half (48%) of politically engaged Democrats and Democratic-leaning … [more]
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The First Men in the Moon | West Hunter
But what about the future? One generally assumes that space colonists, assuming that there ever are any, will be picked individuals, somewhat like existing astronauts – the best out of hordes of applicants. They’ll be smarter than average, healthier than average, saner than average – and not by just a little.

Since all these traits are significantly heritable, some highly so, we have to expect that their descendants will be different – different above the neck. They’d likely be, on average, smarter than any existing ethnic group. If a Lunar colony really took off, early colonists might account for a disproportionate fraction of the population (just as Puritans do in the US), and the Loonies might continue to have inordinate amounts of the right stuff indefinitely. They’d notice: we’d notice. We’d worry about the Lunar Peril. They’d sneer at deluded groundlings, and talk about the menace from Earth.

Depends on your level of technical expertise. 2 million years ago, settlement of the Eurasian temperate zone was bleeding-edge technology – but it got easier. We can certainly settle the Solar system with near-term technology, if we choose to. And you’re forgetting one of the big payoffs: gafia.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Post-Columbian Evolution – Holes | West Hunter
At this point, we have some decent examples of post-Columbian evolution, genetic changes in New World populations after 1492. There is evidence for selection for increased fertility in Quebec, along with increased mutational load due to relaxed selection. Something similar must have occurred in American colonial populations.

I think that the Amish are probably becoming plainer, thru the boiling-off process – which can’t be a common mechanism, because it requires very high fertility, enough to sustain a substantial defection rate.

HbS (sickle-cell) gene frequency has almost certainly decreased significantly among African-Americans – a simple model suggests by about half. There has probably been a decrease in other expensive malaria defenses.


In principle, if you had an immune gene that defended against an Old World pathogen that didn’t cross into America, Amerindians would have gradually accumulated nonfunctional variants, just from mutational pressure. the percentage of people with such mutations in any particular immune defense gene would not be very high (not in only 500 generations) but since there are many such genes, the fraction of Amerindians with at least one such hole in their immunological armor might have been significant. Probably this would have been more of a problem in the Caribbean islands, where the Taino seem to have just melted away… Presumably most such holes are gone now in surviving populations, but you might be able to identify them in pre-Columbian DNA.

I see where some Kraut is saying that we now know that human evolution is continuing. I think that’s been an obvious conclusion for almost 160 years.

Sarazzin acknowledges it.

interesting guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thilo_Sarrazin
He became well-known worldwide after publishing a controversial book about Muslim immigrants in Germany in 2010.[3] In his book Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany abolishes itself"),[4] he denounces the failure of Germany's post-war immigration policy, sparking a nationwide controversy about the costs and benefits of multiculturalism.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Catalonia Independence Drive: a Case-Study in Applied Cultural Evolution - Peter Turchin
The theoretically interesting question is what is the optimal size of a politically independent unit (“polity”) in today’s world. Clearly, optimal size changes with time and social environment. We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

In today’s Europe, however, war has ceased to be an evolutionary force. It may change, but since 1945 the success or failure of European polities has been largely determined by their ability to deliver high levels of living standards to their citizens. Economics is not the only aspect of well-being, but let’s focus on it here because it is clearly the main driver behind Catalonian independence (since culturally and linguistically Catalonia has been given a free rein within Spain).


This is applied cultural evolution. We can have lots of theories and models about the optimal polity size, but they are worthless without data.

And it’s much more than a scientific issue. The only way for our societies to become better in all kinds of ways (wealthier, more just, more efficient) is to allow cultural evolution a free rein. More specifically, we need cultural group selection at the level of polities. A major problem for the humanity is finding ways to have such cultural group selection to take place without violence. Which is why I find the current moves by Madrid to suppress the Catalonian independence vote by force criminally reckless. It seems that Madrid still wants to go back to the world as it was in the nineteenth century (or more accurately, Europe between 1500 and 1900).

A World of 1,000 Nations: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/a-world-of-1000-nations/

Brief note on Catalonia: https://nintil.com/brief-note-on-catalonia/
This could be just another footnote in a history book, or an opening passage in the chapter that explains how you got an explosion in the number of states that began around 2017.

Nationalism, Liberalism and the European Paradox: http://quillette.com/2017/10/08/nationalism-liberalism-european-paradox/
Imagine for a moment that an ethnic group declared a referendum of independence in an Asian country and the nation state in question promptly sought to take the act of rebellion down. Imagine that in the ensuing chaos over 800 people were injured in a brutal police crackdown. Imagine the international disgust if this had happened in Asia, or the Middle East, or Latin America, or even in parts of Eastern and Central Europe. There would be calls for interventions, the topic would be urgently raised at the Security Council —and there might even be talks of sanctions or the arming of moderate rebels.

Of course, nothing of that sort happened as the Spanish state declared the Catalonian independence referendum a farce.


Remarkably, EU officials have largely remained mute. France’s new great hope, Monsieur Macron has sheepishly supported Spain’s “constitutional unity,” which is weasel-speak for national sovereignty—a concept which is so often dismissed by the very same European nations if it happens immediately outside the geographical region of EU. And this attitude towards nationalism—that it is archaic and obsolete on the one hand, but vitally important on the other—is the core paradox, and, some would say, hypocrisy, that has been laid bare by this sudden outbreak of tension.

It is a hypocrisy because one could argue that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a consistent and very real attempt to undermine sovereignty in many different parts of the world. To be fair, this has been done with mostly good intentions in the name of institutionalism and global governance, the “responsibility to protect” and universal human rights. With history in the Hegelian sense seemingly over after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, nationalism and great power politics were thought to be a thing of the past—a quaint absurdity—an irrelevance and a barrier to true Enlightenment. But unfortunately history does tend to have a sardonic sense of humour.

The entire European project was built on two fundamentally different ideas. One that promotes economic welfare based on borderless free trade, the free market and social individualism. And the other, promoting a centralized hierarchy, an elite in loco parentis which makes decisions about how many calories one should consume, what plastic one should import, and what gross picture of shredded lungs one should see on the front of a cigarette packet. It endorses sovereignty when it means rule by democracy and the protection of human rights, but not when countries decide to control their borders or their individual monetary and economic policies. Over time, defending these contradictions has become increasingly difficult, with cynical onlookers accusing technocrats of defending an unjustifiable and arbitrary set of principles.

All of this has resulted in three things. Regional ethnic groups in Europe have seen the examples of ethnic groups abroad undermining their own national governments, and they have picked up on these lessons. They also possess the same revolutionary technology—Twitter and the iPhone. Secondly, as Westphalian nation-states have been undermined repeatedly by borderless technocrats, identity movements based on ethnicity have begun to rise up. Humans, tribal at their very core, will always give in to the urge of having a cohesive social group to join, and a flag to wave high. And finally, there really is no logical counterargument to Catalans or Scots wanting to break apart from one union while staying in another. If ultimately, everything is going to be dictated by a handful of liege-lords in Brussels—why even obey the middle-man in Madrid or London?

Spain should have either forcibly assimilated Catalonia as France did with its foreign regions, or established a formal federation of states
ah those are the premodern and modern methods. The postmodern method is to bring in lots of immigrants (who will vote against separation)
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.


When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.


If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.


Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.


Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.


First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.


Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
German Election: The AfD Profits from Non-Voters and Merkel Defectors | ZEIT ONLINE
The conservatives and center-left suffered huge losses while the right-wing populist AfD became Saxony's most powerful party. We analyzed the data so you don’t have to.

The anti-Muslim AfD just scored big in Germany’s election. What does this mean for German Muslims?: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/09/25/the-anti-muslim-afd-just-scored-big-in-germanys-election-what-does-this-mean-for-german-muslims/

The Germans Turn Right: http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-germans-turn-right/article/2009880
- Christopher Caldwell

The German Election—A Conservative Analysis: http://quillette.com/2017/09/28/german-election-conservative-analysis/
As traditional European conservatives were pushed Left-ward by media and academic communities on immigration and social and religious rights, the vacuum was filled by the rise of blut-und-boden far right parties all across Europe. In a Sophoclean twist of fate, the European political center and center-Left is now dying, thanks to the very person that liberals like to portray as the “new leader” of the free world.

The End of German Stability: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_good_fight/2017/11/germany_s_coalition_talks_collapse_threatening_stability.html
The collapse of coalition talks bodes badly for Angela Merkel, and for democratic governments everywhere.

Austrian legislative election, 2017: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_legislative_election,_2017
Austria heads for right-leaning coalition: http://www.politico.eu/article/austria-heads-for-right-leaning-coalition-early-projections/
Finally an election where the far right actually did best (barely) among youngest voters: FPÖ got 30% of the <30 vote. SPÖ voters old #nrw17

European Populism Is Here to Stay: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/opinion/european-populism-is-here-to-stay.html

Czech Republic:

Dealing with the Dignity Deficit: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/04/05/dealing-dignity-deficit/
Are the grievances tearing our societies apart at this hyper-polarized moment insurmountable? A week with some AfD voters and politicians gave me a measure of hope.

More importantly, a generous welfare state appears at best to be an inadequate solution to the problems and pathologies of checker-boarded economic dislocation. The pesky question of dignity remains: Despite what boosters of a universal basic income try to tell us, our modern sense of purpose and identity remains closely tied to what we “do” for a living. Making disempowered people more comfortable does not necessarily make them less frustrated.


But since when are openness, cosmopolitanism, and diversity intrinsic to a complete definition of liberalism? They make no significant appearance in any of the foundational texts of liberal political thought. They are merely the product of the demands that globalization and urbanization places upon us “anywheres”, which we in turn try to wedge into the liberal canon in order to erase any discomfort we may feel about change pulling the ideological rug out from under our feet. Historical accounts of earlier periods of urbanization are rightly dispassionate in describing people flocking to cities out of economic want. And they correctly identify the emergence of the middle class and its attendant values as the product of complex factors interacting in these new circumstances. We instead now disfigure analysis into a form or moral self-congratulation.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1%, uneven benefits for the middle class, report says - The Washington Post
Trump tweets: For his voters.
Tax plan: Something else entirely.
This is appallingly stupid if accurate


Treasury Removes Paper at Odds With Mnuchin’s Take on Corporate-Tax Cut’s Winners: https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-removes-paper-at-odds-with-mnuchins-take-on-corporate-tax-cuts-winners-1506638463

Tax changes for graduate students under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: https://bcide.gitlab.io/post/gop-tax-plan/
H.R.1 – 155th Congress (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) 1 proposes changes to the US Tax Code that threatens to destroy the finances of STEM graduate students nationwide. The offending provision, 1204(a)(3), strikes section 117(d) 2 of the US Tax Code. This means that under the proposal, tuition waivers are considered taxable income.

For graduate students, this means an increase of thousands of dollars in owed federal taxes. Below I show a calculation for my own situation. The short of it is this: My federal taxes increase from ~7.5% of my income to ~31%. I will owe about $6300 more in federal taxes under this legislation. Like many other STEM students, my choices would be limited to taking on significant debt or quitting my program entirely.

The Republican War on College: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/republican-college/546308/

Trump's plan to tax colleges will harm higher education — but it's still a good idea: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-taxing-colleges-is-a-good-idea-2017-11
- James Miller

The Republican Tax Plan Is a Disaster for Families With Children: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-a-disaster-for-families-with-children/
- Kevin Drum

The gains from cutting corporate tax rates: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/11/corporate-taxes-2.html
I’ve been reading in this area on and off since the 1980s, and I really don’t think these are phony results.

Entrepreneurship and State Taxation: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2018003pap.pdf
We find that new firm employment is negatively—and disproportionately—affected by corporate tax rates. We find little evidence of an effect of personal and sales taxes on entrepreneurial outcomes.

nobody in the comments section seems to have even considered the comparison with universities

The GOP Tax Bills Are Infrastructure Bills Too. Here’s Why.: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-republican-tax-bills-impact-infrastructure.html
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september 2017 by nhaliday
WLGR: The Julian marriage laws (nos. 120-123, etc.)
In 18 B.C., the Emperor Augustus turned his attention to social problems at Rome. Extravagance and adultery were widespread. Among the upper classes, marriage was increasingly infrequent and, many couples who did marry failed to produce offspring. Augustus, who hoped thereby to elevate both the morals and the numbers of the upper classes in Rome, and to increase the population of native Italians in Italy, enacted laws to encourage marriage and having children (lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus), including provisions establishing adultery as a crime.

Jus trium liberorum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_trium_liberorum
The ius trium liberorum, meaning “the right of three children” in Latin,[1] was a privilege rewarded to Roman citizens who had borne at least three children or freedmen who had borne at least four children.[2] It was a direct result of the Lex Iulia and the Lex Papia Poppaea, bodies of legislation introduced by Augustus in 18 BC and 9 AD, respectively.[3] These bodies of legislation were conceived to grow the dwindling population of the Roman upper classes. The intent of the jus trium liberorum has caused scholars to interpret it as eugenic legislation.[4] Men who had received the jus trium liberorum were excused from munera. Women with jus trium liberorum were no longer submitted to tutela mulierum and could receive inheritances otherwise bequest to their children.[5] The public reaction to the jus trium liberorum was largely to find loopholes, however. The prospect of having a large family was still not appealing.[6] A person who caught a citizen in violation in this law was entitled to a portion of the inheritance involved, creating a lucrative business for professional spies.[7] The spies became so pervasive that the reward was reduced to a quarter of its previous size.[8] As time went on the ius trium liberorum was granted to those by consuls as rewards for general good deeds, holding important professions or as personal favors, not just prolific propagation.[9] Eventually the ius trium liberorum was repealed in 534 AD by Justinian.[10]

The Purpose of the Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/3292043

Roman Monogamy: http://laurabetzig.org/pdf/RomanMonogamy.pdf
- Laura Betzig

Mating in Rome was polygynous; marriage was monogamous. In the years 18BC and AD 9 the first Roman emperor, Augustus, backed the lex Julia and the lex Papia Poppaea, his “moral” legislation. It rewarded members of the senatorial aristocracy who married and had children; and it punished celibacy and childlessness, which were common. To many historians, that suggests Romans were reluctant to reproduce. To me, it suggests they kept the number of their legitimate children small to keep the number of their illegitimate children large. Marriage in Rome shares these features with marriage in other empires with highly polygynous mating: inheritances were raised by inbreeding; relatedness to heirs was raised by marrying virgins, praising and enforcing chastity in married women, and discouraging widow remarriage; heirs were limited— and inheritances concentrated—by monogamous marriage, patriliny, and primogeniture; and back-up heirs were got by divorce and remarriage, concubinage, and adoption. The “moral” legislation interfered with each of these. Among other things, it diverted inheritances by making widows remarry; it lowered relatedness to heirs by making adultery subject to public, rather than private, sanctions; and it dispersed estates by making younger sons and daughters take legitimate spouses and make legitimate heirs. Augustus' “moral” legislation, like canon law in Europe later on, was not, as it first appears, an act of reproductive altruism. It was, in fact, a form of reproductive competition.

Did moral decay destroy the ancient world?: http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2014/01/17/did-moral-decay-destroy-the-ancient-world/


Cato the Elder speaks on proposed repeal of the Oppian Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lex_Oppia) - from Livy's History of Rome, Book 34

"What pretext in the least degree respectable is put forward for this female insurrection? 'That we may shine,' they say."

The Crisis of the Third Century as Seen by Contemporaries: https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/9021/4625
"COMPLAINTS OF EVIL TIMES are to be found in all centuries which
have left a literature behind them. But in the Roman Empire
the decline is acknowledged in a manner which leaves no
room for doubt."

Morals, Politics, and the Fall of the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/642930

The purpose of writing Ab Urbe Condita was twofold: the first was to memorialize history and the second was to challenge his generation to rise to that same level. He was preoccupied with morality, using history as a moral essay. He connects a nation’s success with its high level of morality, and conversely a nation’s failure with its moral decline. Livy believed that there had been a moral decline in Rome, and he lacked the confidence that Augustus could reverse it. Though he shared Augustus’ ideals, he was not a “spokesman for the regime”. He believed that Augustus was necessary, but only as a short term measure.

Livy and Roman Historiography: http://www.wheelockslatin.com/answerkeys/handouts/ch7_Livy_and_Roman_Historiography.pdf

Imperial Expansion and Moral Decline in the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435293
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september 2017 by nhaliday
American income statistics aren't quite what people are saying they are — Adam Smith Institute
not very convincing rebuttal to wage stagnation, frankly (yes a few products have gotten cheaper/better, but do you have some sort of rigorous PPP adjustment via a representative basket of goods? healthcare is probably not all that much better...)
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity - American Economic Association
We investigate the empirical relationship between ethnicity and culture, defined as a vector of traits reflecting norms, values, and attitudes. Using survey data for 76 countries, we find that ethnic identity is a significant predictor of cultural values, yet that within-group variation in culture trumps between-group variation. Thus, in contrast to a commonly held view, ethnic and cultural diversity are unrelated. Although only a small portion of a country’s overall cultural heterogeneity occurs between groups, we find that various political economy outcomes (such as civil conflict and public goods provision) worsen when there is greater overlap between ethnicity and culture. (JEL D74, H41, J15, O15, O17, Z13)

definition of chi-squared index, etc., under:
II. Measuring Heterogeneity

Table 5—Incidence of Civil Conflict and Diversity
Table 6—Public Goods Provision and Diversity

χ2 diversity: raising the risk of civil war. Desmet, Ortuño-Ortín, Wacziarg, in the American Economic Review (1/N)

What predicts higher χ2 diversity? The authors tell us that, too. Here are all of the variables that have a correlation > 0.4: (7/N)

one of them is UK legal origin...

online appendix (with maps, Figures B1-3): http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty_pages/romain.wacziarg/downloads/2017_culture_appendix.pdf
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Accurate Genomic Prediction Of Human Height | bioRxiv
Stephen Hsu's compressed sensing application paper

We construct genomic predictors for heritable and extremely complex human quantitative traits (height, heel bone density, and educational attainment) using modern methods in high dimensional statistics (i.e., machine learning). Replication tests show that these predictors capture, respectively, ~40, 20, and 9 percent of total variance for the three traits. For example, predicted heights correlate ~0.65 with actual height; actual heights of most individuals in validation samples are within a few cm of the prediction.


I'm in Mountain View to give a talk at 23andMe. Their latest funding round was $250M on a (reported) valuation of $1.5B. If I just add up the Crunchbase numbers it looks like almost half a billion invested at this point...

Slides: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits

Here's how people + robots handle your spit sample to produce a SNP genotype:

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september 2017 by nhaliday
Peer review is younger than you think - Marginal REVOLUTION
I’d like to see a detailed look at actual journal practices, but my personal sense is that editorial review was the norm until fairly recently, not review by a team of outside referees.  In 1956, for instance, the American Historical Review asked for only one submission copy, and it seems the same was true as late as 1970.  I doubt they made the photocopies themselves. Schmidt seems to suggest that the practices of government funders nudged the academic professions into more formal peer review with multiple referee reports.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Here Be Sermons | Melting Asphalt
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge: https://www.lesserwrong.com/posts/9QxnfMYccz9QRgZ5z/the-costly-coordination-mechanism-of-common-knowledge
- Dictatorships all through history have attempted to suppress freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Why is this? Are they just very sensitive? On the other side, the leaders of the Enlightenment fought for freedom of speech, and would not budge an inch against this principle.
- When two people are on a date and want to sleep with each other, the conversation will often move towards but never explicitly discuss having sex. The two may discuss going back to the place of one of theirs, with a different explicit reason discussed (e.g. "to have a drink"), even if both want to have sex.
- Throughout history, communities have had religious rituals that look very similar. Everyone in the village has to join in. There are repetitive songs, repetitive lectures on the same holy books, chanting together. Why, of all the possible community events (e.g. dinner, parties, etc) is this the most common type?
What these three things have in common, is common knowledge - or at least, the attempt to create it.


Common knowledge is often much easier to build in small groups - in the example about getting off the bus, the two need only to look at each other, share a nod, and common knowledge is achieved. Building common knowledge between hundreds or thousands of people is significantly harder, and the fact that religion has such a significant ability to do so is why it has historically had so much connection to politics.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
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