nhaliday + marginal   80

The first ethical revolution – Gene Expression
Fifty years ago Julian Jaynes published The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Seventy years ago Karl Jaspers introduced the concept of the Axial Age. Both point to the same dynamic historically.

Something happened in the centuries around 500 BCE all around the world. Great religions and philosophies arose. The Indian religious traditions, the Chinese philosophical-political ones, and the roots of what we can recognize as Judaism. In Greece, the precursors of many modern philosophical streams emerged formally, along with a variety of political systems.

The next few centuries saw some more innovation. Rabbinical Judaism transformed a ritualistic tribal religion into an ethical one, and Christianity universalized Jewish religious thought, as well as infusing it with Greek systematic concepts. Meanwhile, Indian and Chinese thought continued to evolve, often due to interactions each other (it is hard to imagine certain later developments in Confucianism without the Buddhist stimulus). Finally, in the 7th century, Islam emerges as the last great world religion.

...

Living in large complex societies with social stratification posed challenges. A religion such as Christianity was not a coincidence, something of its broad outlines may have been inevitable. Universal, portable, ethical, and infused with transcendence and coherency. Similarly, god-kings seem to have universally transformed themselves into the human who binds heaven to earth in some fashion.

The second wave of social-ethical transformation occurred in the early modern period, starting in Europe. My own opinion is that economic growth triggered by innovation and gains in productivity unleashed constraints which had dampened further transformations in the domain of ethics. But the new developments ultimately were simply extensions and modifications on the earlier “source code” (e.g., whereas for nearly two thousand years Christianity had had to make peace with the existence of slavery, in the 19th century anti-slavery activists began marshaling Christian language against the institution).
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april 2018 by nhaliday
The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate - Machine Intelligence Research Institute
How Deviant Recent AI Progress Lumpiness?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/how-deviant-recent-ai-progress-lumpiness.html
I seem to disagree with most people working on artificial intelligence (AI) risk. While with them I expect rapid change once AI is powerful enough to replace most all human workers, I expect this change to be spread across the world, not concentrated in one main localized AI system. The efforts of AI risk folks to design AI systems whose values won’t drift might stop global AI value drift if there is just one main AI system. But doing so in a world of many AI systems at similar abilities levels requires strong global governance of AI systems, which is a tall order anytime soon. Their continued focus on preventing single system drift suggests that they expect a single main AI system.

The main reason that I understand to expect relatively local AI progress is if AI progress is unusually lumpy, i.e., arriving in unusually fewer larger packages rather than in the usual many smaller packages. If one AI team finds a big lump, it might jump way ahead of the other teams.

However, we have a vast literature on the lumpiness of research and innovation more generally, which clearly says that usually most of the value in innovation is found in many small innovations. We have also so far seen this in computer science (CS) and AI. Even if there have been historical examples where much value was found in particular big innovations, such as nuclear weapons or the origin of humans.

Apparently many people associated with AI risk, including the star machine learning (ML) researchers that they often idolize, find it intuitively plausible that AI and ML progress is exceptionally lumpy. Such researchers often say, “My project is ‘huge’, and will soon do it all!” A decade ago my ex-co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky and I argued here on this blog about our differing estimates of AI progress lumpiness. He recently offered Alpha Go Zero as evidence of AI lumpiness:

...

In this post, let me give another example (beyond two big lumps in a row) of what could change my mind. I offer a clear observable indicator, for which data should have available now: deviant citation lumpiness in recent ML research. One standard measure of research impact is citations; bigger lumpier developments gain more citations that smaller ones. And it turns out that the lumpiness of citations is remarkably constant across research fields! See this March 3 paper in Science:

I Still Don’t Get Foom: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/07/30855.html
All of which makes it look like I’m the one with the problem; everyone else gets it. Even so, I’m gonna try to explain my problem again, in the hope that someone can explain where I’m going wrong. Here goes.

“Intelligence” just means an ability to do mental/calculation tasks, averaged over many tasks. I’ve always found it plausible that machines will continue to do more kinds of mental tasks better, and eventually be better at pretty much all of them. But what I’ve found it hard to accept is a “local explosion.” This is where a single machine, built by a single project using only a tiny fraction of world resources, goes in a short time (e.g., weeks) from being so weak that it is usually beat by a single human with the usual tools, to so powerful that it easily takes over the entire world. Yes, smarter machines may greatly increase overall economic growth rates, and yes such growth may be uneven. But this degree of unevenness seems implausibly extreme. Let me explain.

If we count by economic value, humans now do most of the mental tasks worth doing. Evolution has given us a brain chock-full of useful well-honed modules. And the fact that most mental tasks require the use of many modules is enough to explain why some of us are smarter than others. (There’d be a common “g” factor in task performance even with independent module variation.) Our modules aren’t that different from those of other primates, but because ours are different enough to allow lots of cultural transmission of innovation, we’ve out-competed other primates handily.

We’ve had computers for over seventy years, and have slowly build up libraries of software modules for them. Like brains, computers do mental tasks by combining modules. An important mental task is software innovation: improving these modules, adding new ones, and finding new ways to combine them. Ideas for new modules are sometimes inspired by the modules we see in our brains. When an innovation team finds an improvement, they usually sell access to it, which gives them resources for new projects, and lets others take advantage of their innovation.

...

In Bostrom’s graph above the line for an initially small project and system has a much higher slope, which means that it becomes in a short time vastly better at software innovation. Better than the entire rest of the world put together. And my key question is: how could it plausibly do that? Since the rest of the world is already trying the best it can to usefully innovate, and to abstract to promote such innovation, what exactly gives one small project such a huge advantage to let it innovate so much faster?

...

In fact, most software innovation seems to be driven by hardware advances, instead of innovator creativity. Apparently, good ideas are available but must usually wait until hardware is cheap enough to support them.

Yes, sometimes architectural choices have wider impacts. But I was an artificial intelligence researcher for nine years, ending twenty years ago, and I never saw an architecture choice make a huge difference, relative to other reasonable architecture choices. For most big systems, overall architecture matters a lot less than getting lots of detail right. Researchers have long wandered the space of architectures, mostly rediscovering variations on what others found before.

Some hope that a small project could be much better at innovation because it specializes in that topic, and much better understands new theoretical insights into the basic nature of innovation or intelligence. But I don’t think those are actually topics where one can usefully specialize much, or where we’ll find much useful new theory. To be much better at learning, the project would instead have to be much better at hundreds of specific kinds of learning. Which is very hard to do in a small project.

What does Bostrom say? Alas, not much. He distinguishes several advantages of digital over human minds, but all software shares those advantages. Bostrom also distinguishes five paths: better software, brain emulation (i.e., ems), biological enhancement of humans, brain-computer interfaces, and better human organizations. He doesn’t think interfaces would work, and sees organizations and better biology as only playing supporting roles.

...

Similarly, while you might imagine someday standing in awe in front of a super intelligence that embodies all the power of a new age, superintelligence just isn’t the sort of thing that one project could invent. As “intelligence” is just the name we give to being better at many mental tasks by using many good mental modules, there’s no one place to improve it. So I can’t see a plausible way one project could increase its intelligence vastly faster than could the rest of the world.

Takeoff speeds: https://sideways-view.com/2018/02/24/takeoff-speeds/
Futurists have argued for years about whether the development of AGI will look more like a breakthrough within a small group (“fast takeoff”), or a continuous acceleration distributed across the broader economy or a large firm (“slow takeoff”).

I currently think a slow takeoff is significantly more likely. This post explains some of my reasoning and why I think it matters. Mostly the post lists arguments I often hear for a fast takeoff and explains why I don’t find them compelling.

(Note: this is not a post about whether an intelligence explosion will occur. That seems very likely to me. Quantitatively I expect it to go along these lines. So e.g. while I disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics, I don’t disagree with the central thesis or with most of the arguments.)
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april 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
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
Team *Decorations Until Epiphany* on Twitter: "@RoundSqrCupola maybe just C https://t.co/SFPXb3qrAE"
https://archive.is/k0fsS
Remember ‘BRICs’? Now it’s just ICs.
--
maybe just C
Solow predicts that if 2 countries have the same TFP, then the poorer nation should grow faster. But poorer India grows more slowly than China.

Solow thinking leads one to suspect India has substantially lower TFP.

Recent growth is great news, but alas 5 years isn't the long run!

FWIW under Solow conditional convergence assumptions--historically robust--the fact that a country as poor as India grows only a few % faster than the world average is a sign they'll end up poorer than S Europe.

see his spreadsheet here: http://mason.gmu.edu/~gjonesb/SolowForecast.xlsx
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Are Sunk Costs Fallacies? - Gwern.net
But to what extent is the sunk cost fallacy a real fallacy?
Below, I argue the following:
1. sunk costs are probably issues in big organizations
- but maybe not ones that can be helped
2. sunk costs are not issues in animals
3. sunk costs appear to exist in children & adults
- but many apparent instances of the fallacy are better explained as part of a learning strategy
- and there’s little evidence sunk cost-like behavior leads to actual problems in individuals
4. much of what we call sunk cost looks like simple carelessness & thoughtlessness
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december 2017 by nhaliday
SEXUAL DIMORPHISM, SEXUAL SELECTION, AND ADAPTATION IN POLYGENIC CHARACTERS - Lande - 1980 - Evolution - Wiley Online Library
https://twitter.com/gcochran99/status/970758341990367232
https://archive.is/mcKvr
Lol, that's nothing, my biology teacher in high school told me sex differences couldn't evolve since all of us inherit 50% of genes from parents of both sexes. Being a raucous hispanic kid I burst out laughing, she was not pleased
--
Sex differences actually evolve more slowly because of that: something like 80 times more slowly.
...
Doesn't have that number, but in the same ballpark.

Sexual Dimorphism, Sexual Selection, And Adaptation In Polygenic Characters

Russell Lande

https://twitter.com/gcochran99/status/999189778867208193
https://archive.is/AR8FY
I believe it, because sex differences [ in cases where the trait is not sex-limited ] evolve far more slowly than other things, on the order of 100 times more slowly. Lande 1980: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1558-5646.1980.tb04817.x

The deep past has a big vote in such cases.
...
as for the extent that women were voluntarily choosing mates 20k years ago, or 100k years ago - I surely don't know.

other time mentioned: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:3a7c5b42dd50
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The Moon And Tides
Why does the Moon produce TWO water tides on the Earth and not just one?
"It is intuitively easy to understand why the gravitational pull of the Moon should produce a water tide on the Earth in the part of the ocean closest to the moon along the line connecting the center of the Moon with the center of the Earth. But in fact not one but TWO water tides are produced under which the Earth rotates every day to produce about two high tides and two low tides every day. How come?

It is not the gravitational force that is doing it, but the change in the gravitational force across the body of the Earth. If you were to plot the pattern of the Moon's 'tidal' gravitational force added to the Earth's own gravitational force, at the Earth's surface, you would be able to resolve the force vectors at different latitudes and longitudes into a radial component directed towards the Earth's center, and a component tangential to the Earth's surface. On the side nearest the moon, the 'differential' gravitational force is directed toward the Moon showing that for particles on the Earth's surface, they are being tugged slightly towards the Moon because the force of the Moon is slightly stronger at the Earth's surface than at the Earth's center which is an additional 6300 kilometers from the Moon. On the far side of the Earth, the Moon is tugging on the center of the Earth slightly stronger than it is on the far surface, so the resultant force vector is directed away from the Earth's center.

The net result of this is that the Earth gets deformed into a slightly squashed, ellipsoidal shape due to these tidal forces. This happens because if we resolve the tidal forces at each point on the Earth into a local vertical and horizontal component, the horizontal components are not zero, and are directed towards the two points along the line connecting the Earth and the Moon's centers. These horizontal forces cause rock and water to feel a gravitational force which results in the flow of rock and water into the 'tidal bulges'. There will be exactly two of these bulges. At exactly the positions of the tidal bulges where the Moon is at the zenith and at the nadir positions, there are no horizontal tidal forces and the flow stops. The water gets piled up, and the only effect is to slightly lower the weight of the water along the vertical direction.

Another way of thinking about this is that the gravitational force of the Moon causes the Earth to accelerate slightly towards the Moon causing the water to get pulled towards the Moon faster than the solid rock on the side nearest the Moon. On the far side, the solid Earth 'leaves behind' some of the water which is not as strongly accelerated towards the Moon as the Earth is. This produces the bulge on the 'back side' of the Earth."- Dr. Odenwald's ASK THE ASTRONOMER
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The weirdest people in the world?
Abstract: Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world’s top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Researchers – often implicitly – assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these “standard subjects” are as representative of the species as any other population. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species – frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. Many of these findings involve domains that are associated with fundamental aspects of psychology, motivation, and behavior – hence, there are no obvious a priori grounds for claiming that a particular behavioral phenomenon is universal based on sampling from a single subpopulation. Overall, these empirical patterns suggests that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity. We close by proposing ways to structurally re-organize the behavioral sciences to best tackle these challenges.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Global determinants of navigation ability | bioRxiv
Using a mobile-based virtual reality navigation task, we measured spatial navigation ability in more than 2.5 million people globally. Using a clustering approach, we find that navigation ability is not smoothly distributed globally but clustered into five distinct yet geographically related groups of countries. Furthermore, the economic wealth of a nation (Gross Domestic Product per capita) was predictive of the average navigation ability of its inhabitants and gender inequality (Gender Gap Index) was predictive of the size of performance difference between males and females.

- Figure 1 has the meat
- gender gap larger in richer/better-performing countries
- Anglo and Nordic countries do best (Finnish supremacy wins the day again)
- surprised China doesn't do better, probably a matter of development
- Singapore is close behind the Anglo-Nords tho
- speculation that practice of orienteering (originally Swedish) may be related to Nords doing well
- somewhat weird pattern wrt age
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Evidence-based | West Hunter
The central notion of evidence-based medicine is that our understanding of human biology is imperfect. Some of the idea we come up with for treating and preventing disease are effective, but most are not, worse than useless. So we need careful, rigorous statistical studies before implementing those ideas on a wide scale. A good example of doing this the wrong way was when when doctors started recommending having babies sleep prone, which roughly doubled the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome for the next several decades.

It seems to me that our understanding of psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and education is at least as imperfect as our understanding of biomedicine.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/evidence-based/#comment-65904
“Measure twice, cut once” – can’t get much more elitist than that!

Carefully testing innovations on a small scale before widely implementing them is pretty much the opposite of what self-appointed elites have done. Are you deef or something?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/evidence-based/#comment-66035
To the extent that they diverge from accepted best practice, physicians, on average, add negative value. I’ve seen this in action, and statistical studies back it up. In other words, Gregory House is a fictional character.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Does your weight change between the poles and the equator? (Intermediate) - Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer
You are right, that because of centrifugal force you will weigh a tiny amount less at the Equator than at the poles. Try not to think of centrifugal force as a force though; what's really going on is that objects which are in motion like to go in a straight line and so it takes some force to make them go round in a circle. (Centrifugal force is a fictitious force that shows up in the equations of motion for an object in a rotating reference frame - such as on Earth's Equator.)

So some of the force of gravity (centripetal force) is being used to make you go around in a circle at the Equator (instead of flying off into space) while at the pole this is not needed. The centripetal acceleration at the Equator is given by four times pi squared times the radius of the Earth divided by the period of rotation squared (4×π2×R/T2). Earth's period of rotation is a sidereal day (86164.1 seconds, slightly less than 24 hours), and the equatorial radius of the Earth is about 6378 km. This means that the centripetal acceleration at the Equator is about 0.03 m/s2 (metres per second squared). Compare this to the acceleration due to gravity which is about 9.8 m/s2 and you can see how tiny an effect this is - you would weigh about 0.3% less at the equator than at the poles!

There is an additional effect due to the oblateness of the Earth. The Earth is not exactly spherical but rather is a little bit like a "squashed" sphere (technically, an oblate spheroid), with the radius at the Equator slightly larger than the radius at the poles. (This shape can be explained by the effect of centrifugal acceleration on the material that makes up the Earth, exactly as described above.) This has the effect of slightly increasing your weight at the poles (since you are close to the centre of the Earth and the gravitational force depends on distance) and slightly decreasing it at the equator.

Taking into account both of the above effects, the gravitational acceleration is 9.78 m/s2 at the equator and 9.83 m/s2 at the poles, so you weigh about 0.5% more at the poles than at the equator.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Medicine as a pseudoscience | West Hunter
The idea that venesection was a good thing, or at least not so bad, on the grounds that one in a few hundred people have hemochromatosis (in Northern Europe) reminds me of the people who don’t wear a seatbelt, since it would keep them from being thrown out of their convertible into a waiting haystack, complete with nubile farmer’s daughter. Daughters. It could happen. But it’s not the way to bet.

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.

...

Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Most people didn’t suffer this kind of problem with doctors, since they never saw one. Charles had six. Now Bach and Handel saw the same eye surgeon, John Taylor – who blinded both of them. Not everyone can put that on his resume!

You may wonder how medicine continued to exist, if it had a negative effect, on the whole. There’s always the placebo effect – at least there would be, if it existed. Any real placebo effect is very small: I’d guess exactly zero. But there is regression to the mean. You see the doctor when you’re feeling worse than average – and afterwards, if he doesn’t kill you outright, you’re likely to feel better. Which would have happened whether you’d seen him or not, but they didn’t often do RCTs back in the day – I think James Lind was the first (1747).

Back in the late 19th century, Christian Scientists did better than others when sick, because they didn’t believe in medicine. For reasons I think mistaken, because Mary Baker Eddy rejected the reality of the entire material world, but hey, it worked. Parenthetically, what triggered all that New Age nonsense in 19th century New England? Hash?

This did not change until fairly recently. Sometime in the early 20th medicine, clinical medicine, what doctors do, hit break-even. Now we can’t do without it. I wonder if there are, or will be, other examples of such a pile of crap turning (mostly) into a real science.

good tweet: https://twitter.com/bowmanthebard/status/897146294191390720
The brilliant GP I've had for 35+ years has retired. How can I find another one who meets my requirements?

1 is overweight
2 drinks more than officially recommended amounts
3 has an amused, tolerant atitude to human failings
4 is well aware that we're all going to die anyway, & there are better or worse ways to die
5 has a healthy skeptical attitude to mainstream medical science
6 is wholly dismissive of "a|ternative” medicine
7 believes in evolution
8 thinks most diseases get better without intervention, & knows the dangers of false positives
9 understands the base rate fallacy

EconPapers: Was Civil War Surgery Effective?: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/htrhcecon/444.htm
contra Greg Cochran:
To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.

Medical Prehistory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/
What ancient medical treatments worked?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76878
In some very, very limited conditions, bleeding?
--
Bad for you 99% of the time.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76947
Colchicine – used to treat gout – discovered by the Ancient Greeks.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76973
Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm)
Wrap the emerging end of the worm around a stick and slowly pull it out.
(3,500 years later, this remains the standard treatment.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebers_Papyrus

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76971
Some of the progress is from formal medicine, most is from civil engineering, better nutrition ( ag science and physical chemistry), less crowded housing.

Nurses vs doctors: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/
Medicine, the things that doctors do, was an ineffective pseudoscience until fairly recently. Until 1800 or so, they were wrong about almost everything. Bleeding, cupping, purging, the four humors – useless. In the 1800s, some began to realize that they were wrong, and became medical nihilists that improved outcomes by doing less. Some patients themselves came to this realization, as when Civil War casualties hid from the surgeons and had better outcomes. Sometime in the early 20th century, MDs reached break-even, and became an increasingly positive influence on human health. As Lewis Thomas said, medicine is the youngest science.

Nursing, on the other hand, has always been useful. Just making sure that a patient is warm and nourished when too sick to take care of himself has helped many survive. In fact, some of the truly crushing epidemics have been greatly exacerbated when there were too few healthy people to take care of the sick.

Nursing must be old, but it can’t have existed forever. Whenever it came into existence, it must have changed the selective forces acting on the human immune system. Before nursing, being sufficiently incapacitated would have been uniformly fatal – afterwards, immune responses that involved a period of incapacitation (with eventual recovery) could have been selectively favored.

when MDs broke even: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/#comment-58981
I’d guess the 1930s. Lewis Thomas thought that he was living through big changes. They had a working serum therapy for lobar pneumonia ( antibody-based). They had many new vaccines ( diphtheria in 1923, whopping cough in 1926, BCG and tetanus in 1927, yellow fever in 1935, typhus in 1937.) Vitamins had been mostly worked out. Insulin was discovered in 1929. Blood transfusions. The sulfa drugs, first broad-spectrum antibiotics, showed up in 1935.

DALYs per doctor: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/
The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden – the number of years lost. I’m wondering just much harm premodern medicine did, per doctor. How many healthy years of life did a typical doctor destroy (net) in past times?

...

It looks as if the average doctor (in Western medicine) killed a bunch of people over his career ( when contrasted with doing nothing). In the Charles Manson class.

Eventually the market saw through this illusion. Only took a couple of thousand years.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100741
That a very large part of healthcare spending is done for non-health reasons. He has a chapter on this in his new book, also check out his paper “Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism” http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/showcare.pdf
--
I ran into too much stupidity to finish the article. Hanson’s a loon. For example when he talks about the paradox of blacks being more sentenced on drug offenses than whites although they use drugs at similar rate. No paradox: guys go to the big house for dealing, not for using. Where does he live – Mars?

I had the same reaction when Hanson parroted some dipshit anthropologist arguing that the stupid things people do while drunk are due to social expectations, not really the alcohol.
Horseshit.

I don’t think that being totally unable to understand everybody around you necessarily leads to deep insights.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100744
What I’ve wondered is if there was anything that doctors did that actually was helpful and if perhaps that little bit of success helped them fool people into thinking the rest of it helped.
--
Setting bones. extracting arrows: spoon of Diocles. Colchicine for gout. Extracting the Guinea worm. Sometimes they got away with removing the stone. There must be others.
--
Quinine is relatively recent: post-1500. Obstetrical forceps also. Caesarean deliveries were almost always fatal to the mother until fairly recently.

Opium has been around for a long while : it works.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100839
If pre-modern medicine was indeed worse than useless – how do you explain no one noticing that patients who get expensive treatments are worse off than those who didn’t?
--
were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
--
My impression is that while people may be “kinda dumb”, ancient customs typically aren’t.
Even if we assume that all people who lived prior to the 19th century were too dumb to make the rational observation, wouldn’t you expect this ancient practice to be subject to selective pressure?
--
Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

Theodoric of York, bloodletting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvff3TViXmY

details on blood-letting and hemochromatosis: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100746

Starting Over: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/starting-over/
Looking back on it, human health would have … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Tidal locking - Wikipedia
The Moon's rotation and orbital periods are tidally locked with each other, so no matter when the Moon is observed from Earth the same hemisphere of the Moon is always seen. The far side of the Moon was not seen until 1959, when photographs of most of the far side were transmitted from the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3.[12]

never actually thought about this
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Earth-Moon system
nice way of expressing Kepler's law (scaled by AU, solar mass, year, etc.) among other things

1. PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF THE MOON
2. LUNAR PHASES
3. ECLIPSES
4. TIDES
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Subgradients - S. Boyd and L. Vandenberghe
If f is convex and x ∈ int dom f, then ∂f(x) is nonempty and bounded. To establish that ∂f(x) ≠ ∅, we apply the supporting hyperplane theorem to the convex set epi f at the boundary point (x, f(x)), ...
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Roche limit - Wikipedia
In celestial mechanics, the Roche limit (pronounced /ʁɔʃ/) or Roche radius, is the distance within which a celestial body, held together only by its own gravity, will disintegrate due to a second celestial body's tidal forces exceeding the first body's gravitational self-attraction.[1] Inside the Roche limit, orbiting material disperses and forms rings whereas outside the limit material tends to coalesce. The term is named after Édouard Roche, who is the French astronomer who first calculated this theoretical limit in 1848.[2]
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Yale Law Journal - Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/06/why-amazon-bought-whole-foods/530652/
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/17/the-distribution-channel-comes-to-you/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2017/06/18/amazon-whole-foods-deal-is-bad-news-for-store-cashiers-and-the-fight-for-15-minimum-wage/
Amazon Must Be Stopped: https://newrepublic.com/article/119769/amazons-monopoly-must-be-broken-radical-plan-tech-giant

Amazon Will Go To Denver: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/09/10/amazon-will-go-to-denver/
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/09/upshot/where-should-amazon-new-headquarters-be.html
http://www.paddypower.com/bet?action=go_event&category=SPECIALS&ev_class_id=45&ev_type_id=22711&ev_id=13023353&force_racing_css=&ev_desc=Where%20will%20Amazon%20build%20their%20Second%20Headquarters?
https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/this-city-hall-brought-to-you-by-amazon/
Real things cities are offering to get Amazon HQ2
*Chicago: Let Amazon keep employees' income tax
*SoCal: Give away $100M in land
*Boston: City employees working just for Amazon
*Fresno: Let Amazon decide how to spend tax dollars

https://www.wsj.com/articles/rules-of-engagement-how-cities-are-courting-amazons-new-headquarters-1522661401
Washington, D.C., might have a leg up, having already hosted Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos for visits when he considered acquiring the Washington Post, which he now owns. Mr. Bezos also purchased the former Textile Museum in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood for $23 million in 2016 and is currently turning it into a private residence.

28-year-old makes millions buying from Walmart, selling on Amazon: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/28-year-old-makes-millions-buying-from-walmart-selling-on-amazon/ar-AAupB8i

https://twitter.com/DKThomp/status/954028684788273153
https://twitter.com/hyperplanes/status/954020562262781952
https://archive.is/uNk1p
https://archive.is/phiTA
Thread: Why Amazon’s HQ2 is going to Fairfax County

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-19/amazon-is-sure-acting-like-it-s-going-to-pick-the-d-c-area

https://twitter.com/NeonPeonage/status/955436146183561216
https://archive.is/lJeaz
walmart is the only entity that has even a slim chance at preventing jeff bezos from intermediating every commodity exchange in the world, u must respect

https://twitter.com/holerepairer/status/955469951833436160
https://archive.is/ig58T
"I tried to save you, but you didn't listen. Now you'll have to face Him alone..."

What Amazon does to wages: https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21735020-worlds-largest-retailer-underpaying-its-employees-what-amazon-does-wages
Is the world’s largest retailer underpaying its employees?

Flat or falling industry wages are common in the cities and towns where Amazon opens distribution centres, according to an analysis by The Economist. Government figures show that after Amazon opens a storage depot, local wages for warehouse workers fall by an average of 3%. In places where Amazon operates, such workers earn about 10% less than similar workers employed elsewhere.

What Amazon Does to Poor Cities: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/02/amazon-warehouses-poor-cities/552020/
The debate over Amazon’s HQ2 obscures the company’s rapid expansion of warehouses in low-income areas.

The Facts Behind Trump’s Tweets on Amazon, Taxes and the Postal Service: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/us/politics/trump-amazon-post-office-fact-check.html

If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon Has a Patent for It.): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/technology/amazon-wristband-tracking-privacy.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/01/582370715/wrist-watching-amazon-patents-system-to-track-guide-employees-hands
https://boingboing.net/2018/02/02/amazon-patent-could-lead-to-do.html
https://www.jwz.org/blog/2018/02/amazon-patents-wristbands-shock-collars-designed-to-steer-employees-movements/

auto-management -> automation dystopia: http://marshallbrain.com/manna.htm

Amazon’s vision for the future: delivery drone beehives in every city: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/23/15860668/amazon-drone-delivery-patent-city-centers
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june 2017 by nhaliday
One-for-One Rule - Canada.ca
How does it change current practices?
Businesses told the Red Tape Reduction Commission that the burden of existing regulation has been growing unchecked.

The One-for-One Rule requires regulatory changes that increase administrative burden costs to be offset with equal reductions in administrative burden. In addition, ministers are required to remove at least one regulation when they introduce a new one that imposes administrative burden costs on business.

Guidelines and tools are available to help departments and agencies implement these new requirements.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Data We Have vs. the Data We Need: A Comment on the State of the “Divergence” Debate (Part I) | The NEP-HIS Blog
https://nephist.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/the-data-we-have-vs-the-data-we-need-a-comment-on-the-state-of-the-divergence-debate-part-ii/
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/832260704690434048
Maybe as reaction to Pomeranz, the Great Divergence gets dated earlier & earlier & earlier on the slimmest evidence. Next: Pangaea breakup
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/876088100774174720
I think it's a bit out of control, the urge to keep bringing the roots of the great divergence earlier and earlier and earlier
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/628527390453538816
@s8mb @antonhowes I am impatient w explanations which do not start w origination/adoption/diffusion technology as proximate cause
@s8mb @antonhowes in respect of which finance, market integration, & formal institutions all dead ends for divergence of West with the Rest
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/847054219790159879
Are you more with Pomeranz that there's not major difference until c. 1750 or 1800, or do you put departure much earlier?
it's now beyond doubt established there was a major diff in living standards, state capacity, market integr+
between the most advanced regions of China and the most advanced regions of Europe, no doubt
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/534328741754048512
@bswud +broadberry estimates evidence groupthink on matter (i.e., everyone wants to locate precursor to IR earlier and earlier) @antonhowes

The Little Divergence: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/the-little-divergence/
http://voxeu.org/article/european-and-asian-incomes-1914-new-take-great-divergence
The Early Transformation of Britain's Economy: https://growthecon.com/blog/Britain-Shares/
There’s a nice working paper out by Patrick Wallis, Justin Colson, and David Chilosi called “Puncturing the Malthus Delusion: Structural Change in the British Economy before the Industrial Revolution, 1500-1800”. The big project they undertake here is to mine the probate inventories (along with several other sources) from Britain in this period to build up a picture of the rough allocation of workers across sectors. They do a very nice job of walking through their data sources, and the limitations, in the paper, so let me leave those details aside. In short, they use the reported occupations in wills to back out a picture of the sectoral structure, finding it consistent with other sources based on apprentice records, as well as prior estimates from specific years.

http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2013/11/another-look-at-rise-of-west-but-with.html
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Agricultural Basis of Comparative Development
This article shows, in a two-sector Malthusian model of endogenous population growth, that output per capita, population density, and industrialization depend upon the labor intensity of agricultural production. Because the diminishing returns to labor are less pronounced, high labor intensity (as in rice production) leads not only to a larger population density but also to lower output per capita and a larger share of labor in agriculture. Agronomic and historical evidence confirm that there are distinct, inherent differences between rice and wheat production. A calibration of the model shows that a relatively small difference in labor intensity in agriculture can account for a large portion of the observed differences in industrialization, output per capita, and labor productivity between Asia and Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution. Significantly, these differences can be explained even though sector-level total factor productivity levels and the efficiency of factor markets are held constant in the two regions.

INDUSTRIOUS PEASANTS IN EAST AND WEST: MARKETS, TECHNOLOGY, AND FAMILY STRUCTURE IN JAPANESE AND WESTERN EUROPEAN AGRICULTURE: http://sci-hub.tw/http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8446.2011.00331.x/abstract
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Logic | West Hunter
All the time I hear some public figure saying that if we ban or allow X, then logically we have to ban or allow Y, even though there are obvious practical reasons for X and obvious practical reasons against Y.

No, we don’t.

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005864.html
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/002053.html

compare: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:190b299cf04a

Small Change Good, Big Change Bad?: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/02/small-change-good-big-change-bad.html
And on reflection it occurs to me that this is actually THE standard debate about change: some see small changes and either like them or aren’t bothered enough to advocate what it would take to reverse them, while others imagine such trends continuing long enough to result in very large and disturbing changes, and then suggest stronger responses.

For example, on increased immigration some point to the many concrete benefits immigrants now provide. Others imagine that large cumulative immigration eventually results in big changes in culture and political equilibria. On fertility, some wonder if civilization can survive in the long run with declining population, while others point out that population should rise for many decades, and few endorse the policies needed to greatly increase fertility. On genetic modification of humans, some ask why not let doctors correct obvious defects, while others imagine parents eventually editing kid genes mainly to max kid career potential. On oil some say that we should start preparing for the fact that we will eventually run out, while others say that we keep finding new reserves to replace the ones we use.

...

If we consider any parameter, such as typical degree of mind wandering, we are unlikely to see the current value as exactly optimal. So if we give people the benefit of the doubt to make local changes in their interest, we may accept that this may result in a recent net total change we don’t like. We may figure this is the price we pay to get other things we value more, and we we know that it can be very expensive to limit choices severely.

But even though we don’t see the current value as optimal, we also usually see the optimal value as not terribly far from the current value. So if we can imagine current changes as part of a long term trend that eventually produces very large changes, we can become more alarmed and willing to restrict current changes. The key question is: when is that a reasonable response?

First, big concerns about big long term changes only make sense if one actually cares a lot about the long run. Given the usual high rates of return on investment, it is cheap to buy influence on the long term, compared to influence on the short term. Yet few actually devote much of their income to long term investments. This raises doubts about the sincerity of expressed long term concerns.

Second, in our simplest models of the world good local choices also produce good long term choices. So if we presume good local choices, bad long term outcomes require non-simple elements, such as coordination, commitment, or myopia problems. Of course many such problems do exist. Even so, someone who claims to see a long term problem should be expected to identify specifically which such complexities they see at play. It shouldn’t be sufficient to just point to the possibility of such problems.

...

Fourth, many more processes and factors limit big changes, compared to small changes. For example, in software small changes are often trivial, while larger changes are nearly impossible, at least without starting again from scratch. Similarly, modest changes in mind wandering can be accomplished with minor attitude and habit changes, while extreme changes may require big brain restructuring, which is much harder because brains are complex and opaque. Recent changes in market structure may reduce the number of firms in each industry, but that doesn’t make it remotely plausible that one firm will eventually take over the entire economy. Projections of small changes into large changes need to consider the possibility of many such factors limiting large changes.

Fifth, while it can be reasonably safe to identify short term changes empirically, the longer term a forecast the more one needs to rely on theory, and the more different areas of expertise one must consider when constructing a relevant model of the situation. Beware a mere empirical projection into the long run, or a theory-based projection that relies on theories in only one area.

We should very much be open to the possibility of big bad long term changes, even in areas where we are okay with short term changes, or at least reluctant to sufficiently resist them. But we should also try to hold those who argue for the existence of such problems to relatively high standards. Their analysis should be about future times that we actually care about, and can at least roughly foresee. It should be based on our best theories of relevant subjects, and it should consider the possibility of factors that limit larger changes.

And instead of suggesting big ways to counter short term changes that might lead to long term problems, it is often better to identify markers to warn of larger problems. Then instead of acting in big ways now, we can make sure to track these warning markers, and ready ourselves to act more strongly if they appear.

Growth Is Change. So Is Death.: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html
I see the same pattern when people consider long term futures. People can be quite philosophical about the extinction of humanity, as long as this is due to natural causes. Every species dies; why should humans be different? And few get bothered by humans making modest small-scale short-term modifications to their own lives or environment. We are mostly okay with people using umbrellas when it rains, moving to new towns to take new jobs, etc., digging a flood ditch after our yard floods, and so on. And the net social effect of many small changes is technological progress, economic growth, new fashions, and new social attitudes, all of which we tend to endorse in the short run.

Even regarding big human-caused changes, most don’t worry if changes happen far enough in the future. Few actually care much about the future past the lives of people they’ll meet in their own life. But for changes that happen within someone’s time horizon of caring, the bigger that changes get, and the longer they are expected to last, the more that people worry. And when we get to huge changes, such as taking apart the sun, a population of trillions, lifetimes of millennia, massive genetic modification of humans, robots replacing people, a complete loss of privacy, or revolutions in social attitudes, few are blasé, and most are quite wary.

This differing attitude regarding small local changes versus large global changes makes sense for parameters that tend to revert back to a mean. Extreme values then do justify extra caution, while changes within the usual range don’t merit much notice, and can be safely left to local choice. But many parameters of our world do not mostly revert back to a mean. They drift long distances over long times, in hard to predict ways that can be reasonably modeled as a basic trend plus a random walk.

This different attitude can also make sense for parameters that have two or more very different causes of change, one which creates frequent small changes, and another which creates rare huge changes. (Or perhaps a continuum between such extremes.) If larger sudden changes tend to cause more problems, it can make sense to be more wary of them. However, for most parameters most change results from many small changes, and even then many are quite wary of this accumulating into big change.

For people with a sharp time horizon of caring, they should be more wary of long-drifting parameters the larger the changes that would happen within their horizon time. This perspective predicts that the people who are most wary of big future changes are those with the longest time horizons, and who more expect lumpier change processes. This prediction doesn’t seem to fit well with my experience, however.

Those who most worry about big long term changes usually seem okay with small short term changes. Even when they accept that most change is small and that it accumulates into big change. This seems incoherent to me. It seems like many other near versus far incoherences, like expecting things to be simpler when you are far away from them, and more complex when you are closer. You should either become more wary of short term changes, knowing that this is how big longer term change happens, or you should be more okay with big long term change, seeing that as the legitimate result of the small short term changes you accept.

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html#comment-3794966996
The point here is the gradual shifts of in-group beliefs are both natural and no big deal. Humans are built to readily do this, and forget they do this. But ultimately it is not a worry or concern.

But radical shifts that are big, whether near or far, portend strife and conflict. Either between groups or within them. If the shift is big enough, our intuition tells us our in-group will be in a fight. Alarms go off.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation
- Ekelund, Hébert, Tollison

This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discrimination, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good "spiritual services" on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil governments. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination. Informal tests of this proposition are conducted by considering primogeniture and urban growth as proxies for wealth stability.

Causes and Consequences of the Protestant Reformation: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/becker-pfaff-rubin-2016.pdf
- Sascha O. Becker, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin

The Protestant Reformation is one of the defining events of the last millennium. Nearly 500 years after the Reformation, its causes and consequences have seen a renewed interest in the social sciences. Research in economics, sociology, and political science increasingly uses detailed individual-level, city-level, and regional-level data to identify drivers of the adoption of the Reformation, its diffusion pattern, and its socioeconomic consequences. We take stock of this research, pointing out what we know and what we do not know and suggesting the most promising areas for future research.

Table 1: Studies of the Supply and Demand-Side Factors of the Reformation
Table 2: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Human Capital
Table 3: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Work and Work Ethic
Table 4: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Economic Development
Table 5: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Governance
Table 6: Studies on the “Dark” Consequences of the Reformation

LUTHER AND SULEYMAN: http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.tw/stable/40506214
- Murat Iyigun

Various historical accounts have suggested that the Ottomans' rise helped the Protestant Reformation as well as its offshoots, such as Zwinglianism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism, survive their infancy and mature. Utilizing a comprehensive data set on violent confrontations for the interval between 1401 and 1700 CE, I show that the incidence of military engagements between the Protestant Reformers and the Counter-Reformation forces between the 1520s and 1650s depended negatively on the Ottomans' military activities in Europe. Furthermore, I document that the impact of the Ottomans on Europe went beyond suppressing ecclesiastical conflicts only: at the turn of the sixteenth century, Ottoman conquests lowered the number of all newly initiated conflicts among the Europeans roughly by 25 percent, while they dampened all longer-running feuds by more than 15 percent. The Ottomans' military activities influenced the length of intra-European feuds too, with each Ottoman-European military engagement shortening the duration of intra-European conflicts by more than 50 percent. Thus, while the Protestant Reformation might have benefited from - and perhaps even capitalized on - the Ottoman advances in Europe, the latter seems to have played some role in reducing conflicts within Europe more generally.

Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: http://www.jeremiahdittmar.com/files/RRR_20170919.pdf
- Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, Noam Yuchtman*

Using novel microdata, we document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation: a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To understand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources had important consequences. First, it shifted the allocation of upper-tail human capital. Graduates of Protestant universities increasingly took secular, especially administrative, occupations. Protestant university students increasingly studied secular subjects, especially degrees that prepared students for public sector jobs, rather than church sector-specific theology. Second, it affected the sectoral composition of fixed investment. Particularly in Protestant regions, new construction from religious toward secular purposes, especially the building of palaces and administrative buildings, which reflected the increased wealth and power of secular lords. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences. Our findings indicate that the Reformation played an important causal role in the secularization of the West.

look at Figure 4, holy shit

History: Science and the Reformation: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v550/n7677/full/550454a.html?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews&sf126429621=1
The scientific and religious revolutions that began 500 years ago were not causally related, but were both stimulated by printing, argues David Wootton.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/923940525673103360
https://archive.is/JElPv
No, the Reformation did not cause the scientific revolution. Nice brief article. 👍

No RCT = No causal claims, for or against ;)
Though I'm open to a regression discontinuity design! cc: @pseudoerasmus
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may 2017 by nhaliday
There Is No Such Thing as Decreasing Returns to Scale — Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal
Besides pedagogical inertia—enforced to some extent by textbook publishers—I am not quite sure what motivates the devotion in so many economics curricula to U-shaped average cost curves. Let me make one guess: there is a desire to explain why firms are the size they are rather than larger or smaller. To my mind, such an explanation should proceed in one of three ways, appropriate to three different situations.
econotariat  economics  micro  plots  scale  marginal  industrial-org  business  econ-productivity  efficiency  cost-benefit  explanation  critique  clarity  intricacy  curvature  convexity-curvature  nonlinearity  input-output 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Edge.org: 2017 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?
highlights:
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

soft:
- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth & Human Biodiversity | Pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/HoustonEuler/status/889522526057050112
Good policy or good luck? Country growth performance and temporary shocks*: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/easterly-kremer-pritchett-summers.pdf

Africa is urbanising without globalising: https://capx.co/africa-is-urbanising-without-globalising/
What most African cities get by on is money from natural resources. As the Brookings Institution explains here, African cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth. The elite who capture oil or mining revenues have to live somewhere – and they concentrate their spending in cities. That is why the nightlife and restaurant scene in Kinshasa is so good, even though nothing else works. It’s the main thing the city produces. The poor flock in, hoping to feed on the scraps. Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

Why Africa’s development model puzzles economists: https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21726697-structural-transformation-its-economies-not-following-precedents-why

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/861010320483024896
So many African countries are poor because they lack freedom, property rights, markets, and the rule of law.

People are laughing at this but it's true. Trouble is property rights and rule of law are much easier said than done.

Dentists and Freedom in Ivory Coast: https://www.cato.org/blog/dentists-freedom-ivory-coast
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Levels or changes?: Ethnic context, immigration and the UK Independence party vote
It argues that high levels of established ethnic minorities reduce opposition to immigration and support for UKIP among White Britons. Conversely, more rapid ethnic changes increase opposition to immigration and support for UKIP. Longitudinal data demonstrates that these effects are not produced by self-selection.
study  sociology  politics  polisci  government  elections  britain  eric-kaufmann  causation  endo-exo  migration  diversity  putnam-like  populism  longitudinal  stock-flow  marginal  us-them  identity-politics  flux-stasis  wonkish  phalanges  endogenous-exogenous 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter
https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/greg-cochran-part-2
https://medium.com/@houstoneuler/annotating-part-2-of-the-greg-cochran-interview-with-james-miller-678ba33f74fc

- conformity and Google, defense and spying (China knows prob almost all our "secrets")
- in the past you could just find new things faster than people could reverse-engineer. part of the problem is that innovation is slowing down today (part of the reason for convergence by China/developing world).
- introgression from archaics of various kinds
- mutational load and IQ, wrath of khan neanderthal
- trade and antiquity (not that useful besides ideas tbh), Roman empire, disease, smallpox
- spices needed to be grown elsewhere, but besides that...
- analogy: caste system in India (why no Brahmin car repairmen?), slavery in Greco-Roman times, more water mills in medieval times (rivers better in north, but still could have done it), new elite not liking getting hands dirty, low status of engineers, rise of finance
- crookery in finance, hedge fund edge might be substantially insider trading
- long-term wisdom of moving all manufacturing to China...?
- economic myopia: British financialization before WW1 vis-a-vis Germany. North vs. South and cotton/industry, camels in Middle East vs. wagons in Europe
- Western medicine easier to convert to science than Eastern, pseudoscience and wrong theories better than bag of recipes
- Greeks definitely knew some things that were lost (eg, line in Pliny makes reference to combinatorics calculation rediscovered by German dude much later. think he's referring to Catalan numbers?), Lucio Russo book
- Indo-Europeans, Western Europe, Amerindians, India, British Isles, gender, disease, and conquest
- no farming (Dark Age), then why were people still farming on Shetland Islands north of Scotland?
- "symbolic" walls, bodies with arrows
- family stuff, children learning, talking dog, memory and aging
- Chinese/Japanese writing difficulty and children learning to read
- Hatfield-McCoy feud: the McCoy family was actually a case study in a neurological journal. they had anger management issues because of cancers of their adrenal gland (!!).

the Chinese know...: https://macropolo.org/casting-off-real-beijings-cryptic-warnings-finance-taking-economy/
Over the last couple of years, a cryptic idiom has crept into the way China’s top leaders talk about risks in the country’s financial system: tuo shi xiang xu (脱实向虚), which loosely translates as “casting off the real for the empty.” Premier Li Keqiang warned against it at his press conference at the end of the 2016 National People’s Congress (NPC). At this year’s NPC, Li inserted this very expression into his annual work report. And in April, while on an inspection tour of Guangxi, President Xi Jinping used the term, saying that China must “unceasingly promote industrial modernization, raise the level of manufacturing, and not allow the real to be cast off for the empty.”

Such an odd turn of phrase is easy to overlook, but it belies concerns about a significant shift in the way that China’s economy works. What Xi and Li were warning against is typically called financialization in developed economies. It’s when “real” companies—industrial firms, manufacturers, utility companies, property developers, and anyone else that produces a tangible product or service—take their money and, rather than put it back into their businesses, invest it in “empty”, or speculative, assets. It occurs when the returns on financial investments outstrip those in the real economy, leading to a disproportionate amount of money being routed into the financial system.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The Geography of U.S. Productivity - The Atlantic
America's Most and Least Distressed Cities: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/09/distressed-communities/541044/
The large parts of America left behind by today's economy: https://www.axios.com/americas-fractured-economic-well-being-2488460340.html
Key findings:
- New jobs are clustered in the economy's best-off places, leaving one of every four new jobs for the bottom 60% of zip codes.
- 57% of the national rise in business establishments and 52% of employment growth from 2011-2015 were in prosperous areas.
- Most of today's distressed communities have seen zero net gains in employment and business establishment since 2000. In fact, more than half have seen net losses on both fronts.
- Half of adults living in distressed zip codes are attempting to find gainful employment in the modern economy armed with only a high school education at best.
- The healthier the economy, the healthier the person — people in distressed communities die five years earlier.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The lopsided age distribution of partisan politics, visualized - The Washington Post
controlling for demographics: http://www.pleeps.org/2016/06/23/the-mystery-of-millennial-politics/
https://twitter.com/epkaufm/status/903376370759196672
White millennials in US relatively similar to older whites in both partisanship & conservatism, shows Deborah Schildkraut at #APSA2017
https://twitter.com/wccubbison/status/903699883332427777
https://archive.is/WHpvc
Incredibly important paper from #APSA2017 by @debbiejsr & Satia Marotta on racial views of white millennials
cf: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:8bdede501f24
https://twitter.com/SeanMcElwee/status/905104283036774400
People mistakenly believe that younger people have always been more liberal. In reality, the current age divide is larger than ever.

The future belongs to the Left: http://www.edwest.co.uk/spectator-blogs/the-future-belongs-to-the-left/
Labour is now the party of the middle class: http://www.edwest.co.uk/spectator-blogs/labour-is-now-the-party-of-the-middle-class/

The Zero-Sum Society: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/the-zero-sum-society/
Record house prices are stopping couples having 160,000 children because they cannot afford bigger homes or are stuck in rental flats: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4699862/House-prices-stopping-couples-having-160-000-children.html
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56eddde762cd9413e151ac92/t/5968e14e86e6c08c90fda56c/1500045650060/Housing+and+fertility.pdf
Conservatism has no future unless it tackles housing: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/conservatism-no-future-unless-tackles-housing/
https://twitter.com/Birdyword/status/915676030110715904
https://archive.is/ezoDy
Wealth is unevenly distributed generally, but much less so in property than financial wealth - far bigger constituency for protecting it (Bristol Uni 2015)
This is why the 'house prices should fall' line is a dead end. Ex-pensions it's most of all the wealth majority of people have.

US at min wage: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/06/rent-is-affordable-to-low-wage-workers-in-exactly-12-us-counties/529782/

How Britain voted at the 2017 general election: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election/
In electoral terms, age seems to be the new dividing line in British politics. The starkest way to show this is to note that, amongst first time voters (those aged 18 and 19), Labour was forty seven percentage points ahead. Amongst those aged over 70, the Conservatives had a lead of fifty percentage points.
https://twitter.com/Peston/status/902990464697208835
This has got to embarrass most sensible Tory MPs
(poll numbers for specific issues)
https://twitter.com/tomhfh/status/917376537867051009
https://archive.is/IHhSz
John Curtice giving us @DUConservatives a slightly painful talk 😬
...
John Curtice is explaining that Labour’s economic policies did almost nothing to galvanise the young. It was their social liberalism.
Older voters more likely to care about rent control or redistribution than young.
Tuition fees are a misdiagnosis.
It’s SOCIAL LIBERALISM.
“In many ways the cues and mood music are more important than the policy.”
“The prominence of social issues have never been as big a dimension as they played in 2017.
Neither had the disparity in age.”
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march 2017 by nhaliday
PsycARTICLES - Is education associated with improvements in general cognitive ability, or in specific skills?
Results indicated that the association of education with improved cognitive test scores is not mediated by g, but consists of direct effects on specific cognitive skills. These results suggest a decoupling of educational gains from increases in general intellectual capacity.

look at Model C for the coefficients

How much does education improve intelligence? A meta-analysis: https://psyarxiv.com/kymhp
Intelligence test scores and educational duration are positively correlated. This correlation can be interpreted in two ways: students with greater propensity for intelligence go on to complete more education, or a longer education increases intelligence. We meta-analysed three categories of quasi-experimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 datasets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities, of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the lifespan, and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

three study designs: control for prior IQ, exogenous policy change, and school age cutoff regression discontinuity

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/skoptsys/#comment-97601
It’s surprising that there isn’t much of a fadeout (p11) – half of the effect size is still there by age 70 (?!). That wasn’t what I expected. Maybe they’re being pulled upwards by smaller outlier studies – most of the bigger ones tend towards the lower end.

https://twitter.com/gwern/status/928308706370052098
https://archive.is/v98bd
These gains are hollow, as they acknowledge in the discussion. Examples:
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Links 6/15: URLing Toward Freedom | Slate Star Codex
Why do some schools produce a disproportionate share of math competition winners? May not just be student characteristics.

My post The Control Group Is Out Of Control, as well as some of the Less Wrong posts that inspired it, has gotten cited in a recent preprint article, A Skeptical Eye On Psi, on what psi can teach us about the replication crisis. One of the authors is someone I previously yelled at, so I like to think all of that yelling is having a positive effect.

A study from Sweden (it’s always Sweden) does really good work examining the effect of education on IQ. It takes an increase in mandatory Swedish schooling length which was rolled out randomly at different times in different districts, and finds that the districts where people got more schooling have higher IQ; in particular, an extra year of education increases permanent IQ by 0.75 points. I was previously ambivalent about this, but this is a really strong study and I guess I have to endorse it now (though it’s hard to say how g-loaded it is or how linear it is). Also of note; the extra schooling permanently harmed emotional control ability by 0.5 points on a scale identical to IQ (mean 100, SD 15). This is of course the opposite of past studies suggest that education does not improve IQ but does help non-cognitive factors. But this study was an extra year tacked on to the end of education, whereas earlier ones have been measuring extra education tacked on to the beginning, or just making the whole educational process more efficient. Still weird, but again, this is a good experiment (EDIT: This might not be on g)
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Are the Rich More Selfish than the Poor, or Do They Just Have More Money? A Natural Field Experiment
We present new evidence from a natural field experiment in which we “misdeliver” envelopes to rich and poor households in a Dutch city, varying their contents to identify motives for returning them. Our raw data indicate the rich behave more pro-socially. Controlling for pressures associated with poverty and the marginal utility of money, however, we find no difference in social preferences. The primary distinction between rich and poor is simply that the rich have more money.

also, apparently the Netherlands has highest wealth inequality in Europe (anglo-dutch heritage?)

https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6j8703/culture_war_roundup_for_the_week_following_june/djcpbys/
https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6xkyyu/culture_war_roundup_for_the_week_following/dmio3ax/

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/does-power-really-

Socio-Economic Status and Inequalities in Children’s IQ and Economic Preferences: http://www.dice.hhu.de/fileadmin/redaktion/Fakultaeten/Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche_Fakultaet/DICE/Discussion_Paper/274_Deckers_Falk_Kosse_Pinger_Schildberg_Hoerisch.pdf
We document that children from high SES families are more intelligent, patient and altruistic, as well as less likely to be risk-seeking.
study  economics  field-study  class  inequality  morality  ethics  society  marginal  cost-benefit  money  europe  germanic  integrity  correlation  incentives  confounding  values  stereotypes  justice  wealth  noblesse-oblige  dignity  envy  class-warfare  honor  psychology  social-psych  sociology  egalitarianism-hierarchy  altruism  cooperate-defect  multi  poast  reddit  social  discussion  ssc  news  org:mag  org:anglo  org:biz  replication  academia  social-science  error  westminster  haidt  power  broad-econ  poll  s-factor  iq  patience  time-preference  pdf  attaq 
march 2017 by nhaliday
Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?
Our most interesting, strong, and robust results are for the association of 1500 AD technology with per capita income and technology adoption today. We also find robust and significant technological persistence from 1000 BC to 0 AD, and from 0 AD to 1500 AD.

migration-adjusted ancestry predicts current economic growth and technology adoption today

https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/was-todays-poverty-determined-in-1000-b-c/

Putterman-Weil:
Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14448
Persistence of Fortune: Accounting for Population Movements, There Was No Post-Columbian Reversal: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1257/mac.6.3.1
Extended State History Index: https://sites.google.com/site/econolaols/extended-state-history-index
Description:
The data set extends and replaces previous versions of the State Antiquity Index (originally created by Bockstette, Chanda and Putterman, 2002). The updated data extends the previous Statehist data into the years before 1 CE, to the first states in Mesopotamia (in the fourth millennium BCE), along with filling in the years 1951 – 2000 CE that were left out of past versions of the Statehist data.
The construction of the index follows the principles developed by Bockstette et al (2002). First, the duration of state existence is established for each territory defined by modern-day country borders. Second, this duration is divided into 50-year periods. For each half-century from the first period (state emergence) onwards, the authors assign scores to reflect three dimensions of state presence, based on the following questions: 1) Is there a government above the tribal level? 2) Is this government foreign or locally based? 3) How much of the territory of the modern country was ruled by this government?

Creators: Oana Borcan, Ola Olsson & Louis Putterman

State History and Economic Development: Evidence from Six Millennia∗: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cifUljlPpoURL7VPOQRGF5q9H6zgVFXe/view
The presence of a state is one of the most reliable historical predictors of social and economic development. In this article, we complete the coding of an extant indicator of state presence from 3500 BCE forward for almost all but the smallest countries of the world today. We outline a theoretical framework where accumulated state experience increases aggregate productivity in individual countries but where newer or relatively inexperienced states can reach a higher productivity maximum by learning from the experience of older states. The predicted pattern of comparative development is tested in an empirical analysis where we introduce our extended state history variable. Our key finding is that the current level of economic development across countries has a hump-shaped relationship with accumulated state history.

nonlinearity confirmed in this other paper:
State and Development: A Historical Study of Europe from 0 AD to 2000 AD: https://ideas.repec.org/p/hic/wpaper/219.html
After addressing conceptual and practical concerns on its construction, we present a measure of the mean duration of state rule that is aimed at resolving some of these issues. We then present our findings on the relationship between our measure and local development, drawing from observations in Europe spanning from 0 AD to 2000 AD. We find that during this period, the mean duration of state rule and the local income level have a nonlinear, inverse U-shaped relationship, controlling for a set of historical, geographic and socioeconomic factors. Regions that have historically experienced short or long duration of state rule on average lag behind in their local wealth today, while those that have experienced medium-duration state rule on average fare better.

Figure 1 shows all borders that existed during this period
Figure 4 shows quadratic fit

I wonder if U-shape is due to Ibn Kaldun-Turchin style effect on asabiya? They suggest sunk costs and ossified institutions.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
how big was the edge? | West Hunter
random side note:
- dysgenics running at -.5-1 IQ/generation in NW Europe since ~1800 and China by ~1960
- gap between east asians and europeans typically a bit less than .5 SD (or .3 SD if you look at mainland chinese not asian-americans?), similar variances
- 160/30 * 1/15 = .36, so could explain most of gap depending on when exactly dysgenics started
- maybe Europeans were just smarter back then? still seems like you need additional cultural/personality and historical factors. could be parasite load too.
west-hunter  discussion  history  early-modern  science  innovation  comparison  asia  china  divergence  the-great-west-whale  culture  society  technology  civilization  europe  frontier  arms  military  agriculture  discovery  coordination  literature  sinosphere  roots  anglosphere  gregory-clark  spearhead  parasites-microbiome  dysgenics  definite-planning  reflection  s:*  big-picture  🔬  track-record  scitariat  broad-econ  info-dynamics  chart  prepping  zeitgeist  rot  wealth-of-nations  cultural-dynamics  ideas  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  occident  modernity  microfoundations  the-trenches  marginal  summary  orient  speedometer  the-world-is-just-atoms  gnon  math  geometry  defense  architecture  hari-seldon 
march 2017 by nhaliday
List of games in game theory - Wikipedia
https://twitter.com/BretWeinstein/status/961503023854833665
https://archive.is/qLsD4
The most important patterns:

1. Prisoner's Dilemma
2. Race to the Bottom
3. Free Rider Problem / Tragedy of the Commons / Collective Action
4. Zero Sum vs. Non-Zero Sum
5. Externalities / Principal Agent
6. Diminishing Returns
7. Evolutionarily Stable Strategy / Nash Equilibrium
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Einstein's Most Famous Thought Experiment
When Einstein abandoned an emission theory of light, he had also to abandon the hope that electrodynamics could be made to conform to the principle of relativity by the normal sorts of modifications to electrodynamic theory that occupied the theorists of the second half of the 19th century. Instead Einstein knew he must resort to extraordinary measures. He was willing to seek realization of his goal in a re-examination of our basic notions of space and time. Einstein concluded his report on his youthful thought experiment:

"One sees that in this paradox the germ of the special relativity theory is already contained. Today everyone knows, of course, that all attempts to clarify this paradox satisfactorily were condemned to failure as long as the axiom of the absolute character of time, or of simultaneity, was rooted unrecognized in the unconscious. To recognize clearly this axiom and its arbitrary character already implies the essentials of the solution of the problem."
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Diamond on domestication | West Hunter
Jared Diamond, in discussing animal domestication, claims that the local availability of species with the right qualities for domestication was key, rather than anything special about the biology or culture of the humans living there. In some cases that may be true: there aren’t many large mammals left in Australia, and they’re all marsupials anyway. Stupid marsupials. He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals.

...

In fact, in my mind the real question is not why various peoples didn’t domesticate animals that we know were domesticable, but rather how anyone ever managed to domesticate the aurochs. At least twice. Imagine a longhorn on roids: they were big and aggressive, favorites in the Roman arena.

Let me throw out an idea originated by an old friend, Ivy Smith. Consider mice, cats, and toxoplasma. Toxoplasma is a protozoan with a two stage life cycle: one in an intermediate host (mice and rats, among others) and a definitive host (some feline). Toxoplasma only reproduces sexually in the definitive host, and it ‘wants’ to end up there. It manipulates the behavior of the intermediate host in ways that increase the probability of transmission to the definitive host. For one thing, it makes mice like the smell of cat urine, which elicits fear in uninfected mice. In fact, it seems that toxoplasma-infected mice are sexually excited by cat urine. How weird – a parasite rechanneling sexual interest…

The idea is that at least some individual aurochs were not as hostile and fearful of humans as they ought to have been, because they were being manipulated by some parasite. The parasite might have caused a general reduction of fear or aggression without infecting or aiming at humans – or, maybe, humans really were the definitive host, and the parasite knew exactly what it was doing. The beef tape worm – which we originally acquired from lions or hyenas back in Africa a couple of million years ago – might have gained from making infected bovines quiet, passive, maybe even overly friendly in the presence of humans. This would have made domestication a hell of a lot easier.

Parenthetically, such host manipulation may play a really important ecological role. For all we know, if canids and felids had to rely purely on their own abilities, they’d starve.

The beef tape worm may not have made it through Beringia. More generally, there were probably no parasites in the Americas that had some large mammal as intermediate host and Amerindians as the traditional definite host. Amerindians simply hadn’t been there very long. Domesticating bison may have too hard for unaided humans, back in the day.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/i-will-reread-and-review-jared-diamonds-book-guns-germs-and-steel/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/category/ggs/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/why-the-aurochs-could-not-be-domesticated/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/buffalo-gourds-and-josephson-junctions/
Every technique is in competition with rival techniques. This inhibits the development of new techniques, even if they have high potential in the long run. To succeed, they have to beat out existing techniques in the short run.

For example, there are potential advantages for superconducting electronics for computing, but CMOS keeps improving. It’s a moving target: it’s not enough to be good, or interesting, you have to be better. Soon, not in 50 years. This is particularly difficult considering the enormous amount of resources currently invested in improving semiconductor computing technology.

In the same way, one successful domestication tends to inhibit other domestications. Several crops were domesticated in the eastern United States, but with the advent of maize and beans, most were abandoned. Maybe if those Amerindians had continued to selectively breed sumpweed for a few thousand years, it would have been competitive: but nobody is that crazy. Pretty crazy, but not that crazy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/the-masters-of-the-future/
In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that all human groups have equal mental capabilities – except for the inhabitants of New Guinea, who are clearly smarter than the human norm.

If this is the case, there’s money to be made. Good performance in a lot of high-paying jobs requires intelligence above some fairly high threshold. Such people are scarce [outside of New Guinea], and that means that their labor is expensive. The fraction of individuals above a high threshold increases dramatically with a higher mean, and since people in PNG don’t have high incomes, there is a fantastic arbitrage opportunity here. You could locate some of the many geniuses that must exist in PNG, rapidly and inexpensively teach them high-tech skills (which they would learn easily, since they’re geniuses, natch), apply for H1B visas, and them resell them to the highest Silicon Valley bidder. This wouldn’t last, of course – these guys would not stay peons forever. They’d be generating their own start-ups in a few years, founding hedge funds, dominating the Vegas poker tournaments, etc. Some, less materialistic, would become grandmasters, win Fields medals, or write seminal books about the attractions of cannibalism. Still, you could make a lot of money in the short run, and if you were careful to build good relationships with your employees, they might let you in on the ground floor of an IPO later.

Poul Anderson, always a visionary, foresaw this. A character in one his books put it thusly:” I am a racist – a dedicated, fanatical racist – who maintains, and can scientifically prove, that his own race is inferior. The only true humans on earth, my friends, the main line of evolution, the masters of the future, are the lordly Melanesians. ”

Of course that character was feigning insanity, but still.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/world-without-stars/#comment-63613
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/png-data/
PNG = Papua New Guinea
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/png-uber-alles/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/persistence/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/something-changed/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/psychometrics/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/regional-change/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/domesticated-animals-and-human-disease/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/not-without-honor/

final review:
Guns, Germs, and Steel revisited: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/guns-germs-and-steel-revisited/

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/guns-germs-and-steel-revisited/#comment-95596
He never says he was willing to wave the point, so how do you know that?

Next, europeans and Chinese ( northeast Asians) test smarter than anyone else. Noticeably so. And they act it, more or less. kinda sorta. More complicated mistakes.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/guns-germs-and-steel-revisited/#comment-95761
lower genetic diversity in Amerindians+possibility that fast mutating viruses might adapt to their host and hit relatives harder
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Lognormal Jobs
could be the case that exponential tech improvement -> linear job replacement, as long as distribution of jobs across automatability is log-normal (I don't entirely follow the argument)

Paul Christiano has objection (to premise not argument) in the comments
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Beware General Visible Prey
So, bottom line, the future great filter scenario that most concerns me is one where our solar-system-bound descendants have killed most of nature, can’t yet colonize other stars, are general predators and prey of each other, and have fallen into a short-term-predatory-focus equilibrium where predators can easily see and travel to most all prey. Yes there are about a hundred billion comets way out there circling the sun, but even that seems a small enough number for predators to careful map and track all of them.
hanson  risk  prediction  futurism  speculation  pessimism  war  ratty  space  big-picture  fermi  threat-modeling  equilibrium  slippery-slope  anthropic  chart  deep-materialism  new-religion  ideas  bio  nature  plots  expansionism  malthus  marginal  convexity-curvature  humanity  farmers-and-foragers  diversity  entropy-like  homo-hetero  existence  volo-avolo  technology  frontier  intel  travel  time-preference  communication  civilization  egalitarianism-hierarchy  peace-violence  ecology  cooperate-defect  dimensionality  whole-partial-many  temperance  patience  thinking  long-short-run  prepping  offense-defense 
october 2016 by nhaliday
The Financial Burden of Having Children and Fertility Differentials Across Development and Life Stages: Evidence from Satisfaction Data | SpringerLink
To address this challenge, we focus our attention on the peculiar movement of satisfaction in the financial domain of life, which is measured by standardizing financial satisfaction by overall life satisfaction, and perform regression analyses using World and European Integrated Values Survey. The results show that the negative impact of having an additional child on satisfaction becomes particularly greater in the financial domain as income increases and total fertility rate (TFR) decreases. The results also indicate that having children offers a sense of financial security to the elderly in high TFR countries while this is not the case in lower TFR countries. These results support the general idea that the heavier financial burden of having children is a major cause of fertility decline and provide policy implications to find a way out of extremely low fertility.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Democracy does not cause growth | Brookings Institution
64-page paper
Democracy & Growth: http://www.nber.org/papers/w4909
The favorable effects on growth include maintenance of the rule of law, free markets, small government consumption, and high human capital. Once these kinds of variables and the initial level of real per-capita GDP are held constant, the overall effect of democracy on growth is weakly negative. There is a suggestion of a nonlinear relationship in which democracy enhances growth at low levels of political freedom but depresses growth when a moderate level of freedom has already been attained.

The growth effect of democracy: Is it heterogenous and how can it be estimated∗: http://perseus.iies.su.se/~tpers/papers/cifar_paper_may16_07.pdf
In particular, we find an average negative effect on growth of leaving democracy on the order of −2 percentage points implying effects on income per capita as large as 45 percent over the 1960-2000 panel. Heterogenous characteristics of reforming and non-reforming countries appear to play an important role in driving these results.

Does democracy cause innovation? An empirical test of the popper hypothesis: http://www.sciencedirect.com.sci-hub.cc/science/article/pii/S0048733317300975
The results from the difference-in-differences method show that democracy itself has no direct positive effect on innovation measured with patent counts, patent citations and patent originality.

Benevolent Autocrats: https://williameasterly.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/benevolent-autocrats-easterly-draft.pdf
A large literature attributes this to the higher variance of growth rates under autocracy than under democracy. The literature offers alternative explanations for this stylized fact: (1) leaders don’t matter under democracy, but good and bad leaders under autocracy cause high and low growth, (2) leaders don’t matter under autocracy either, but good and bad autocratic systems cause greater extremes of high and low growth, or (3) democracy does better than autocracy at reducing variance from shocks from outside the political system. This paper details further the stylized facts to test these distinctions. Inconsistent with (1), the variance of growth within the terms of leaders swamps the variance across leaders, and more so under autocracy than under democracy. Country effects under autocracy are also overwhelmed by within-country variance, inconsistent with (2). Explanation (3) fits the stylized facts the best of the three alternatives.

Political Institutions, Size of Government and Redistribution: An empirical investigation: http://www.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment/pdf/WP/WP89.pdf
Results show that the stronger democratic institutions are, the lower is government size and the higher the redistributional capacity of the state. Political competition exercises the strongest and most robust effect on the two variables.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/899466295170801664
https://archive.is/sPFII
Fits the high-variance theory of autocracies:
More miracles, more disasters. And there's a lot of demand for miracles.

Measuring the ups and downs of governance: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2017/09/22/measuring-the-ups-and-downs-of-governance/
Figure 2: Voice and Accountability and Government Effectiveness, 2016
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/917444456386666497
https://archive.is/EBQlD
Georgia, Japan, Rwanda, and Serbia ↑ Gov Effectiveness; Indonesia, Tunisia, Liberia, Serbia, and Nigeria ↑ Voice and Accountability.

The logic of hereditary rule: theory and evidence: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/69615/
Hereditary leadership has been an important feature of the political landscape throughout history. This paper argues that hereditary leadership is like a relational contract which improves policy incentives. We assemble a unique dataset on leaders between 1874 and 2004 in which we classify them as hereditary leaders based on their family history. The core empirical finding is that economic growth is higher in polities with hereditary leaders but only if executive constraints are weak. Moreover, this holds across of a range of specifications. The finding is also mirrored in policy outcomes which affect growth. In addition, we find that hereditary leadership is more likely to come to an end when the growth performance under the incumbent leader is poor.

I noted this when the paper was a working paper, but non-hereditary polities with strong contraints have higher growth rates.
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Achilles and the Tortoise Talk About Floss – spottedtoad
Exactly- people already want their teeth to be clean. People already can afford floss if they want to get it. People already have been told their whole life, more-or-less, that they should floss. To a large degree, if they’re the kind of person who can follow through with flossing, they’re already doing it. So if you go and put up signs around your medical school telling people they can get paid for a study of flossing if they don’t already floss and then you randomly assign them to be told to floss or not, you’re not testing the effect of flossing, you’re testing the effect of being told one more time to floss if you’ve already proved that you don’t like to do it. Maybe it’s not even that good for you personally, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good for most people who are already flossing.
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august 2016 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Evidence for (very) recent natural selection in humans
height (+), infant head circumference (+), some biomolecular stuff, female hip size (+), male BMI (-), age of menarche (+, !!), and birth weight (+)

Strong selection in the recent past can cause allele frequencies to change significantly. Consider two different SNPs, which today have equal minor allele frequency (for simplicity, let this be equal to one half). Assume that one SNP was subject to strong recent selection, and another (neutral) has had approximately zero effect on fitness. The advantageous version of the first SNP was less common in the far past, and rose in frequency recently (e.g., over the last 2k years). In contrast, the two versions of the neutral SNP have been present in roughly the same proportion (up to fluctuations) for a long time. Consequently, in the total past breeding population (i.e., going back tens of thousands of years) there have been many more copies of the neutral alleles (and the chunks of DNA surrounding them) than of the positively selected allele. Each of the chunks of DNA around the SNPs we are considering is subject to a roughly constant rate of mutation.

Looking at the current population, one would then expect a larger variety of mutations in the DNA region surrounding the neutral allele (both versions) than near the favored selected allele (which was rarer in the population until very recently, and whose surrounding region had fewer chances to accumulate mutations). By comparing the difference in local mutational diversity between the two versions of the neutral allele (should be zero modulo fluctuations, for the case MAF = 0.5), and between the (+) and (-) versions of the selected allele (nonzero, due to relative change in frequency), one obtains a sensitive signal for recent selection. See figure at bottom for more detail. In the paper what I call mutational diversity is measured by looking at distance distribution of singletons, which are rare variants found in only one individual in the sample under study.

The 2,000 year selection of the British: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-2000-year-selection-of-the-british/

Detection of human adaptation during the past 2,000 years: http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/05/07/052084

The key idea is that recent selection distorts the ancestral genealogy of sampled haplotypes at a selected site. In particular, the terminal (tip) branches of the genealogy tend to be shorter for the favored allele than for the disfavored allele, and hence, haplotypes carrying the favored allele will tend to carry fewer singleton mutations (Fig. 1A-C and SOM).

To capture this effect, we use the sum of distances to the nearest singleton in each direction from a test SNP as a summary statistic (Fig. 1D).

Figure 1. Illustration of the SDS method.

Figure 2. Properties of SDS.

Based on a recent model of European demography [25], we estimate that the mean tip length for a neutral sample of 3,000 individuals is 75 generations, or roughly 2,000 years (Fig. 2A). Since SDS aims to measure changes in tip lengths of the genealogy, we conjectured that it would be most likely to detect selection approximately within this timeframe.

Indeed, in simulated sweep models with samples of 3,000 individuals (Fig. 2B,C and fig. S2), we find that SDS focuses specifically on very recent time scales, and has equal power for hard and soft sweeps within this timeframe. At individual loci, SDS is powered to detect ~2% selection over 100 generations. Moreover, SDS has essentially no power to detect older selection events that stopped >100 generations before the present. In contrast, a commonly-used test for hard sweeps, iHS [12], integrates signal over much longer timescales (>1,000 generations), has no specificity to the more recent history, and has essentially no power for the soft sweep scenarios.

Catching evolution in the act with the Singleton Density Score: http://www.molecularecologist.com/2016/05/catching-evolution-in-the-act-with-the-singleton-density-score/
The Singleton Density Score (SDS) is a measure based on the idea that changes in allele frequencies induced by recent selection can be observed in a sample’s genealogy as differences in the branch length distribution.

You don’t need a weatherman: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/you-dont-need-a-weatherman/
You can do a million cool things with this method. Since the effective time scale goes inversely with sample size, you could look at evolution in England over the past 1000 years or the past 500. Differencing, over the period 1-1000 AD. Since you can look at polygenic traits, you can see whether the alleles favoring higher IQs have increased or decreased in frequency over various stretches of time. You can see if Greg Clark’s proposed mechanism really happened. You can (soon) tell if creeping Pinkerization is genetic, or partly genetic.

You could probably find out if the Middle Easterners really have gotten slower, and when it happened.

Looking at IQ alleles, you could not only show whether the Ashkenazi Jews really are biologically smarter but if so, when it happened, which would give you strong hints as to how it happened.

We know that IQ-favoring alleles are going down (slowly) right now (not counting immigration, which of course drastically speeds it up). Soon we will know if this was true while Russia was under the Mongol yoke – we’ll know how smart Periclean Athenians were and when that boost occurred. And so on. And on!

...

“The pace has been so rapid that humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recorded history."

bicameral mind: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/you-dont-need-a-weatherman/#comment-78934

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/you-dont-need-a-weatherman/#comment-78939
Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Ashkenazi Jews all have high levels of myopia. Australian Aborigines have almost none, I think.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/you-dont-need-a-weatherman/#comment-79094
I expect that the fall of all great empires is based on long term dysgenic trends. There is no logical reason why so many empires and civilizations throughout history could grow so big and then not simply keep growing, except for dysgenics.
--
I can think of about twenty other possible explanations off the top of my head, but dysgenics is a possible cause.
--
I agree with DataExplorer. The largest factor in the decay of civilizations is dysgenics. The discussion by R. A. Fisher 1930 p. 193 is very cogent on this matter. Soon we will know for sure.
--
Sometimes it can be rapid. Assume that the upper classes are mostly urban, and somewhat sharper than average. Then the Mongols arrive.
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august 2016 by nhaliday
Teachers: Much More Than You Wanted To Know | Slate Star Codex
Random Thoughts on the Idiocy of VAM: https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/random-thoughts-on-the-idiocy-of-vam/
Scott Alexander reviews the research on value-added measurement of teacher quality. While Scott’s overview is perfectly fine, any such effort is akin to a circa 1692 overview of the research literature on alchemy. Quantifying teacher quality will, I believe, be understood in those terms soon enough.

Value-Added and Social Desirability Bias, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/09/value-added_and.html
The policy that dramatically passes the cost-benefit test is "deselection," better known as firing bad teachers.

What's up? I once again point my accusatory finger at Social Desirability Bias. Rewarding good teachers sounds a lot nicer than firing bad teachers. So when research comes along that potentially recommends both, pundits and politicians don't coolly crunch the numbers. They leap to the recommendation that's pleasing to the ear. So what if the original researchers find that firing bad teachers wins with flying colors? Move along folks, nothing to see here...
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may 2016 by nhaliday
Too much of a good thing | The Economist
None of these accounts, though, explain the most troubling aspect of America’s profit problem: its persistence. Business theory holds that firms can at best enjoy only temporary periods of “competitive advantage” during which they can rake in cash. After that new companies, inspired by these rich pickings, will pile in to compete away those fat margins, bringing prices down and increasing both employment and investment. It’s the mechanism behind Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

In America that hand seems oddly idle. An American firm that was very profitable in 2003 (one with post-tax returns on capital of 15-25%, excluding goodwill) had an 83% chance of still being very profitable in 2013; the same was true for firms with returns of over 25%, according to McKinsey, a consulting firm. In the previous decade the odds were about 50%. The obvious conclusion is that the American economy is too cosy for incumbents.

Corporations Are Raking In Record Profits, But Workers Aren’t Seeing Much of It: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/07/corporations-are-raking-in-record-profits-but-workers-arent-seeing-much-of-it/
Even Goldman Sachs thinks monopolies are pillaging American consumers: http://theweek.com/articles/633101/even-goldman-sachs-thinks-monopolies-are-pillaging-american-consumers
Schumpeter: The University of Chicago worries about a lack of competition: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21720657-its-economists-used-champion-big-firms-mood-has-shifted-university-chicago
Some radicals argue that the government is now so rotten that America is condemned to perpetual oligarchy and inequality. Political support for more competition is worryingly hard to find. Donald Trump has a cabinet of tycoons and likes to be chummy with bosses. The Republicans have become the party of incumbent firms, not of free markets or consumers. Too many Democrats, meanwhile, don’t trust markets and want the state to smother them in red tape, which hurts new entrants.

The Rise of Market Power and the Decline of Labor’s Share: https://promarket.org/rise-market-power-decline-labors-share/
A new paper by Jan De Loecker (of KU Leuven and Princeton University) and Jan Eeckhout (of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics UPF and University College London) echoes these results, arguing that the decline of both the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power.

...

Measuring markups, De Loecker explained in a conversation with ProMarket, is notoriously difficult due to the scarcity of data. In attempting to track markups across a wide set of firms and industries, De Loecker and Eeckhout diverged from the standard way in which Industrial Organization economists look at markups, the so-called “demand approach,” which requires a lot of data on consumer demand (prices, quantities, characteristics of products) and models of how firms compete. The standard approach, explains De Loecker, works when it is tailor-made for particular markets, but is “not feasible” when studying markups across many markets and over a long period of time.

To do that, De Loecker and Eeckhout use another approach, the “production approach,” which relies on standard, publicly-available balance sheet data and an assumption that firms will try to minimize costs, and does not require other assumptions regarding demand and market competition.

...

Markups, De Loecker and Eeckhout note, do not necessarily imply market power—but profits do. The enormous increase in profits over the past 35 years, they argue, is consistent with an increase in market power. “In perfect competition, your costs and total sales are identical, because there’s no difference between price and marginal costs. The extent to which these two numbers—the sales-to-wage bill and total-costs-to-wage bill—start differing is going to be immediately indicative of the market power,” says De Loecker.

Markup increases, De Loecker and Eeckhout find, became more pronounced following the 2000 and 2008 recessions. Curiously, they find that economy-wide it is mainly smaller firms that have the higher markups, which according to De Loecker is indicative of widely different characteristics between various industries. Within narrowly defined industries, however, the standard prediction holds: firms with larger market shares have higher markups as well. “Most of the action happens within industries, where we see the big guys getting bigger and their markups increase,” De Loecker explains.

http://www.janeeckhout.com/wp-content/uploads/RMP.pdf

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/marching-markups.html
The authors are correct that this can easily account for the apparent US productivity slowdown. Holding real productivity constant, if firms move up their demand curves to sell less at a higher prices, then total output, and measured GDP, get smaller. Their numerical estimates suggest that, correcting for this effect, there has been no decline in US productivity growth since 1965. That’s a pretty big deal.

Accepting the main result that markups have been marching upward, the obvious question to ask is: why? But first, let’s review some clues from the paper. First, while industries with smaller firms tend to have higher markups, within each small industry, bigger firms have larger markups, and firms with higher markups pay higher dividends.

There has been little change in output elasticity, i.e., the rate at which variable costs change with the quantity of units produced. (So this isn’t about new scale economies.) There has also been little change in the bottom half of the distribution of markups; the big change has been a big stretching in the upper half. Markups have increased more in larger industries, and the main change has been within industries, rather than a changing mix of industries in the economy. The fractions of income going to labor and to tangible capital have fallen, and firms respond less than they once did to wage changes. Firm accounting profits as a fraction of total income have risen four fold since 1980.

...

If, like me, you buy the standard “free entry” argument for zero expected economic profits of early entrants, then the only remaining possible explanation is an increase in fixed costs relative to variable costs. Now as the paper notes, the fall in tangible capital spending and the rise in accounting profits suggests that this isn’t so much about short-term tangible fixed costs, like the cost to buy machines. But that still leaves a lot of other possible fixed costs, including real estate, innovation, advertising, firm culture, brand loyalty and prestige, regulatory compliance, and context specific training. These all require long term investments, and most of them aren’t tracked well by standard accounting systems.

I can’t tell well which of these fixed costs have risen more, though hopefully folks will collect enough data on these to see which ones correlate strongest with the industries and firms where markups have most risen. But I will invoke a simple hypothesis that I’ve discussed many times, which predicts a general rise of fixed costs: increasing wealth leading to stronger tastes for product variety. Simple models of product differentiation say that as customers care more about getting products nearer to their ideal point, more products are created and fixed costs become a larger fraction of total costs.

Note that increasing product variety is consistent with increasing concentration in a smaller number of firms, if each firm offers many more products and services than before.

https://niskanencenter.org/blog/markups-market-power/
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/08/robin-hansons-take-rising-margins-debate.html

https://growthecon.com/blog/Markups/

Variable costs approach zero: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/variable-costs-approach-zero/
4. My guess is that, if anything, the two-Jan’s paper understates the trend toward high markups. That is because my guess is that most corporate data allocates more labor to variable cost than really belongs there. Garett Jones pointed out that these days most workers do not produce widgets. Instead, they produce organizational capital. Garett Jones workers are part of overhead, not variable cost.

Intangible investment and monopoly profits: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/09/intangible-investment-monopoly-profits.html
I’ve been reading the forthcoming Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy, by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, which is one of this year’s most important and stimulating economic reads (I can’t say it is Freakonomics-style fun, but it is well-written relative to the nature of its subject matter.)

The book offers many valuable theoretical points and also observations about data. And note that intangible capital used to be below 30 percent of the S&P 500 in the 70s, now it is about 84 percent. That’s a big increase, and yet the topic just isn’t discussed that much (I cover it a bit in The Complacent Class, as a possible source of increase in business risk-aversion).

...

Now, I’ve put that all into my language and framing, rather than theirs. In any case, I suspect that many of the recent puzzles about mark-ups and monopoly power are in some way tied to the nature of intangible capital, and the rising value of intangible capital.

The one-sentence summary of my takeaway might be: Cross-business technology externalities help explain the mark-up, market power, and profitability puzzles.

Why has investment been weak?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/why-has-investment-been-weak.html
We analyze private fixed investment in the U.S. over the past 30 years. We show that investment is weak relative to measures of profitability and valuation — particularly Tobin’s Q, and that this weakness starts in the early 2000’s. There are two … [more]
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march 2016 by nhaliday
52 Concepts You Missed in School for your Cognitive Toolkit | Peter McIntyres
idk about the actual quality of these but the idea of cataloguing useful mental models/biases is nice

his description of Aumann's agreement theorem seems to be incorrect/miss the point
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january 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : abstracteconpatterns

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