nhaliday + stagnation   117

Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
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march 2019 by nhaliday
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
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
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America - Bloomberg
“It reminds me of a craps table,” Brown, the commercial real estate analyst, says. “Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It’s based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren’t going to get better in any of these places.”

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

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

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/01/u-s-fact-day-2.html
“Over the last five years a new Dollar General opened every four-and-a-half hours…”

That is from The Economist. The article attributes much of the success of the chain to its location decisions, such as opening near churches, schools, highways, and post offices.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

...

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
American income statistics aren't quite what people are saying they are — Adam Smith Institute
not very convincing rebuttal to wage stagnation, frankly (yes a few products have gotten cheaper/better, but do you have some sort of rigorous PPP adjustment via a representative basket of goods? healthcare is probably not all that much better...)
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The Complacent Intellectual Class | David V. Johnson
I WOULD LIKE TO COIN A PHRASE, the complacent intellectual class, to describe the overwhelming number of pundits, thought leaders, and policy wonks who accept, welcome, or even enforce slovenly scholarship. These people might, in the abstract, like research that maintains the highest standards, they might even consider themselves academics or bona fide researchers, when in fact they have lost the capacity of maintaining even the most basic standards of rigor.

I am motivated to do so after reading Tyler Cowen’s new book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I propose the term with some trepidation. Cowen—a George Mason University economist, libertarian theorist, and “legendary blogger” (to quote the book’s inset)—is often a smart commentator who puts his finger on a lot of interesting social phenomena, introduces novel ideas, and proves worth reading from time to time.

But books are different from blog posts and op-eds. And this book fails so glaringly that it makes me despair for this country’s literary culture and intellectual life in general. So let me use Cowen’s latest venture to illustrate what we should all demand from the work of our intellectual class, lest our nation continue to vegetate in the pretend-thinking of #AspenIdeas pseudo-academia.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Is the economy illegible? | askblog
In the model of the economy as a GDP factory, the most fundamental equation is the production function, Y = f(K,L).

This says that total output (Y) is determined by the total amount of capital (K) and the total amount of labor (L).

Let me stipulate that the economy is legible to the extent that this model can be applied usefully to explain economic developments. I want to point out that the economy, while never as legible as economists might have thought, is rapidly becoming less legible.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL SKILLS IN THE LABOR MARKET*
key fact: cognitive ability is not growing in importance, but non-cognitive ability is

The labor market increasingly rewards social skills. Between 1980 and 2012, jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force. Math-intensive but less social jobs—including many STEM occupations—shrank by 3.3 percentage points over the same period. Employment and wage growth was particularly strong for jobs requiring high levels of both math skill and social skill. To understand these patterns, I develop a model of team production where workers “trade tasks” to exploit their comparative advantage. In the model, social skills reduce coordination costs, allowing workers to specialize and work together more efficiently. The model generates predictions about sorting and the relative returns to skill across occupations, which I investigate using data from the NLSY79 and the NLSY97. Using a comparable set of skill measures and covariates across survey waves, I find that the labor market return to social skills was much greater in the 2000s than in the mid 1980s and 1990s. JEL Codes: I20, I24, J01, J23, J24, J31

The Increasing Complementarity between Cognitive and Social Skills: http://econ.ucsb.edu/~weinberg/MathSocialWeinberger.pdf

The Changing Roles of Education and Ability in Wage Determination: http://business.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@commerce/@research/documents/doc/uow130116.pdf

Intelligence and socioeconomic success: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal research: http://www.emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Intelligence-and-socioeconomic-success-A-meta-analytic-review-of-longitudinal-research.pdf
Moderator analyses showed that the relationship between intelligence and success is dependent on the age of the sample but there is little evidence of any historical trend in the relationship.

https://twitter.com/khazar_milkers/status/898996206973603840
https://archive.is/7gLXv
that feelio when america has crossed an inflection point and EQ is obviously more important for success in todays society than IQ
I think this is how to understand a lot of "corporate commitment to diversity" stuff.Not the only reason ofc, but reason it's so impregnable
compare: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:e9ac3d38e7a1
and: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:a38f5756170d

g-reliant skills seem most susceptible to automation: https://fredrikdeboer.com/2017/06/14/g-reliant-skills-seem-most-susceptible-to-automation/

THE ERROR TERM: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/the-error-term/
Imagine an objective function- something you want to maximize or minimize- with both a deterministic and a random component.

...

Part of y is rules-based and rational, part is random and outside rational control. Obviously, the ascent of civilization has, to the extent it has taken place, been based on focusing energies on those parts of the world that are responsive to rational interpretation and control.

But an interesting thing happens once automated processes are able to take over the mapping of patterns onto rules. The portion of the world that is responsive to algorithmic interpretation is also the rational, rules-based portion, almost tautologically. But in terms of our actual objective functions- the real portions of the world that we are trying to affect or influence- subtracting out the portion susceptible to algorithms does not eliminate the variation or make it unimportant. It simply makes it much more purely random rather than only partially so.

The interesting thing, to me, is that economic returns accumulate to the random portion of variation just as to the deterministic portion. In fact, if everybody has access to the same algorithms, the returns may well be largely to the random portion. The efficient market hypothesis in action, more or less.

...

But more generally, as more and more of the society comes under algorithmic control, as various forms of automated intelligence become ubiquitous, the remaining portion, and the portion for which individual workers are rewarded, might well become more irrational, more random, less satisfying, less intelligent.

Golden age for team players: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/10/social-skills-increasingly-valuable-to-employers-harvard-economist-finds/
Strong social skills increasingly valuable to employers, study finds

Number of available jobs by skill set (over time)

Changes in hourly wages by skill set (over time)

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/947904725294260224
https://archive.is/EEQA9
A resolution for the new year: Remember that intelligence is a predictor of social intelligence!
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Fruit: Nyekulturny | West Hunter
The methodology is what’s really interesting.  Kim Lewis and Slava Epstein sorted individual soil bacteria into chambers of a device they call the iChip, which is then buried in the ground – the point being that something like 98% of soil bacteria cannot be cultured in standard media, while in this approach, key compounds (whatever they are) can diffuse in from the soil, allowing something like 50% of soil bacteria species to grow.  They then tested the bacterial colonies (10,000 of them) to see if any slammed S. aureus – and some did.

...

I could be wrong, but I wonder if part of the explanation is that microbiology – the subject – is in relative decline, suffering because of funding and status competition with molecular biology and genomics (sexier and less useful than microbiology) . That and the fact that big pharma is not enthusiastic about biological products.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Seven charts that show how the developed world is losing its edge
Savings China’s gross savings (at market exchange rates) are nearly as large as those of the US and EU combined. China saves almost half of its national income. This extraordinarily high share is likely to fall but that decline is set to be gradual, since Chinese households are likely to remain frugal and the share of profits in national income is likely to remain high.

80% of the US had no real increase in income 2005 to 2012-2014

Time to worry about the American consumer?: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/08/03/2192172/time-to-worry-about-the-american-consumer/
Two basic ways to spend more money: you can earn more and save the same, or you can earn the same and save less. Newly revised data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that American consumers have spent the past two years embracing option 2. The average American now saves about 35 per cent less than in 2015:

...

Not since the beginning of 2008 have Americans saved so little — and that’s before accounting for inflation. It could be a sign of trouble ahead.

https://twitter.com/menangahela/status/956993883556208641
https://archive.is/HKov7
this seems not good

China's Financial Debt: Everything You Know Is Wrong: http://www.unz.com/article/chinas-financial-debt-everything-you-know-is-wrong/
As China Piles on Debt, Consumers Seek a Piece of the Action: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/business/china-debt-consumers.html
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Unenumerated: How to succeed or fail on a frontier
There is a thread of space development that more closely resembles the pay-you-go methods of Portugal and other successful explorers and developers of frontiers. These involve launching useful satellites into orbit for communications and surveillance. As with the Portuguese, these serve both military and commercial purposes. They are not just for show. Spinoffs of these spacecraft form the flotilla of small unmanned spacecraft we have sent to by now explore all the planets of the solar system, as well as several comets and asteroids. The succesful Hubble telescope is a spinoff of the U.S. National Reconaissance Office's spy satellites. And environmental satellites have revolutionized weather prediction and climate study on our home planet. Recently, space tourism with suborbital rockets has demonstrated a potential to develop a new thread of pay-as-you-go space development largely unrelated to the prior gargantuan manned spaceflight efforts.

The Zheng He and NASA style of frontier-as-PR, where the emphasis is on showing the glory of the government, is a recipe for failure in the exploration and development of new frontiers. It is in sharp contrast to the pay-as-you go method by which tiny Portugal conquered the world's oceans, exemplified today by the practical unmanned satellites of the commercial and military efforts. It is by these practical efforts, that fund themselves by commercial revenue or practical military or environmental benefit, and not by glorious bureaucratic white elephants, that the successful pioneers will, in good time, explore and develop the solar system.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Links 6/17: Silinks Is Golden | Slate Star Codex
Vox tries its hand at an explainer about the Sam Harris / Charles Murray interview. Some criticism from Gene Expression, The Misrepresentation Of Genetic Science In The Vox Piece On Race And IQ. From Elan, The Cherry-Picked Science In Vox’s Charles Murray Article. From Sam Harris, an accusation that the article just blatantly lies about the contents of the publicly available podcast (one of the authors later apologizes for this, but Vox hasn’t changed the article). From Professor Emeritus Richard Haier, who called it a “junk science piece” and tried to write a counterpiece for Vox (they refused to publish it, but it’s now up on Quillette). And even from other Vox reporters who thought it was journalistically shoddy. As for me, I think the article was as good as it could be under the circumstances – while it does get some things wrong and is personally unfair to Murray, from a scientific point of view I’m just really glad that the piece admits that IQ is real, meaningful, and mostly hereditary. This was the main flashpoint of the original debate twenty-five years ago, it’s more important than the stuff on the achievement gap, and the piece gets it entirely right. I think this sort of shift from debating the very existence of intelligence to debating the details is important, very productive, and worth praising even when the details are kind of dubious. This should be read in the context of similar recent articles like NYMag’s Yes, There Is A Genetic Component To Intelligence and Nature’s Intelligence Research Should Not Be Held Back By Its Past.

interesting comment thread on media treatment of HBD and effect on alt-right: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/14/links-617-silinks-is-golden/#comment-510641

AskHistorians: Did Roman legionnaires get PTSD? “For the Romans, people experiencing intrusive memories were said to be haunted by ghosts…those haunted by ghosts are constantly depicted showing many symptoms which would be familiar to the modern PTSD sufferer.”

The best new blog I’ve come across recently is Sam[]zdat, which among other things has been reviewing various great books. Their Seeing Like A State review is admittedly better than mine, but I most appreciated The Meridian Of Her Greatness, based on a review of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. Go for the really incisive look at important ideas and social trends, stay for the writing style.

What lesson should we draw about Democrats’ prospects from the Republicans’ 7 point win in the Montana special election? (point, counterpoint).

An analysis showing Donald Trump’s speech patterns getting less fluent and more bizarre over the past few years – might he be suffering from mild age-related cognitive impairment? Also, given that this can be pretty subtle (cue joke about Trump) and affect emotional stability in complicated ways, should we be more worried about electing seventy-plus year old people to the presidency?

PNAS has a good (albeit kind of silly) article on claims that scientific progress has slowed.

New study finds that growth mindset is not associated with scholastic aptitude in a large sample of university applicants. Particularly excited about this one because an author said that my blog posts about growth mindset inspired the study. I’m honored to have been able to help the progress of science!
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) - Reason.com
https://www.dropbox.com/s/al533ecu82w29y1/BusinessCycleFallout.pdf
https://twitter.com/MarkKoyama/status/881893997706399744
This is like a reversal of the industrious revolution studied in my JEBO paper: new consumption technologies are money cheap but time pricey
http://www.nber.org/papers/w23552
https://www.1843magazine.com/features/escape-to-another-world
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13723996
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/07/what-are-young-men-doing.html
https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/08/americas-lost-boys

http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/work-becomes-optional/
participation has changed along an understudied margin of labor supply. I find that “in-and-outs”—men who temporarily leave the labor force—represent a growing fraction of prime age men across multiple data sources and are responsible for roughly one third of the decline in the participation rate since 1977. In-and-outs take short, infrequent breaks out of the labor force in between jobs, but they are otherwise continuously attached to the labor force. Leading explanations for the growing share of permanent labor force dropouts, such as disability, do not apply to in-and-outs. Instead, reduced-form evidence and a structural model of household labor supply both indicate that the rise of in-and-outs reflects a shift in labor supply, largely due to the increasing earnings of men’s partners and the growth of men living with their parents.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen. My thoughts:

1. When we think of labor force participation declining, we think of, say, John Smith, deciding to never work again. What this paper is saying is that the statistics reflect something different. One month Smith takes a break, then next month he gets a job and Tom Jones takes a break.

2. I think we have always had a large number of workers who are not fully employed year round. That is, there have always been a lot of workers who take breaks between jobs. This is common in construction work, for example.

3. I don’t know if this matters for the phenomenon at hand, but we used to have inventory recessions. In those cases, workers would be out of a job for a while, but they would still be in the labor force, because they were waiting to be recalled by the firm that had laid them off.

4. It seems to me that this is an important paper. Re-read the last sentence in the quoted excerpt.

Job outlook growing worse for young American men: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/01/02/job-outlook-growing-worse-young-american-men-opinion/996922001/
As one might imagine, the absence of a job, quality education, or spouse has not bred otherwise productive citizens. Multiple studies have found that young men have replaced what would otherwise be working hours with leisure time at a near 1-1 ratio. Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, found that young men spent a startling 75 percent of this leisure time playing video games, with many spending more than 30 hours a week gaming and over 5 million Americans spending more than 45 hours per week.

Higher suicide rates, violent crime, and drug addiction among young men have followed. Suicide rates in the United States are at a 30-year high, with men more than three and a half times more likely to take their own lives than women. Around the United States, violent crimes, homicide in particular, has increased in two-thirds of American cities, with overwhelming young male perpetrators driving the increase. A 2015 Brookings Institute study estimated that nearly half of working-age American men who are out of the labor force are using painkillers, daily.

These problems have been “invisible” for too long.

As video games get better, young men work less and play more: http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/video-games-get-better-young-men-work-less-and-play-more

Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force?: https://www.kansascityfed.org/~/media/files/publicat/econrev/econrevarchive/2018/1q18tuzemen.pdf

Prime-Age Men May Never Return to U.S. Workforce, Fed Paper Says: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-23/prime-age-men-may-never-return-to-u-s-workforce-fed-paper-says
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Is America Encouraging the Wrong Kind of Entrepreneurship?
Of Baumol’s many contributions to economics, the most famous is cost disease, which explains why high-productivity industries raise costs and therefore prices in low-productivity industries. The insight is particularly relevant now, as economic activity has shifted into low-productivity services like health care and education, where price increases are devouring public and household budgets, and whose continued low productivity has weighed down U.S. productivity growth overall.

But there’s a lesser-known idea of Baumol’s that is equally relevant today and that may help explain America’s productivity slump. Baumol’s writing raises the possibility that U.S. productivity is low because would-be entrepreneurs are focused on the wrong kind of work.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Is Pharma Research Worse Than Chance? | Slate Star Codex
Here’s one hypothesis: at the highest level, the brain doesn’t have that many variables to affect, or all the variables are connected. If you smack the brain really really hard in some direction or other, you will probably treat some psychiatric disease. Drugs of abuse are ones that smack the brain really hard in some direction or other. They do something. So find the psychiatric illness that’s treated by smacking the brain in that direction, and you’re good.

Actual carefully-researched psychiatric drugs are exquisitely selected for having few side effects. The goal is something like an SSRI – mild stomach discomfort, some problems having sex, but overall you can be on them forever and barely notice their existence. In the grand scheme of things their side effects are tiny – in most placebo-controlled studies, people have a really hard time telling whether they’re in the experimental or the placebo group.

...

But given that we’re all very excited to learn about ketamine and MDMA, and given that if their original promise survives further testing we will consider them great discoveries, it suggests we chose the wrong part of the tradeoff curve. Or at least it suggests a different way of framing that tradeoff curve. A drug that makes you feel extreme side effects for a few hours – but also has very strong and lasting treatment effects – is better than a drug with few side effects and weaker treatment effects. That suggests a new direction pharmaceutical companies might take: look for the chemicals that have the strongest and wackiest effects on the human mind. Then see if any of them also treat some disease.

I think this is impossible with current incentives. There’s too little risk-tolerance at every stage in the system. But if everyone rallied around the idea, it might be that trying the top hundred craziest things Alexander Shulgin dreamed up on whatever your rat model is would be orders of magnitude more productive than whatever people are doing now.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
My review of Robert Gordon's *Rise and Fall of American Growth* - Marginal REVOLUTION
And here is the “oops” aspect of the book:

What Gordon neglects to mention, however, is that he is also the author of a 2003 Brookings essay titled “Exploding Productivity Growth,” in which he optimistically predicted that productivity in the United States would grow by 2.2 to 2.8 percent for the next two decades, most likely averaging 2.5 percent a year; he even suggested that a three percent rate was possible.

…Gordon offers a brief history of the evolution of his views on productivity. Yet he does not mention the 2003 essay, nor does he explain why he has changed his mind so dramatically. He also fails to cite other proponents of the stagnation thesis, even though…their work predates his book.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
GDP Per Capita Growth -- 1980s Growth Patterns & Economic Policy | National Review
When we compare the post-2000 era to 1947–2000, a huge divergence in GDP growth per capita emerges. Between 1947 and 2000, inflation-adjusted GDP per capita grew a little over 2 percent a year. Since 2000, it has grown at about 0.9 percent a year. So, GDP growth per person has more than halved since Y2K. This slowdown in per capita GDP growth is unprecedented in the postwar era. In no 15-year period between 1947 and 2000 did average annual GDP growth per capita fall below 1.5 percent, so a 15-year stretch of under 1 percent is a radical departure from recent history.
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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
Housing Constraints and Spatial Misallocation
We quantify the amount of spatial misallocation of labor across US cities and its aggregate costs. Misallocation arises because high productivity cities like New York and the San Francisco Bay Area have adopted stringent restrictions to new housing supply, effectively limiting the number of workers who have access to such high productivity. Using a spatial equilibrium model and data from 220 metropolitan areas we find that these constraints lowered aggregate US growth by more than 50% from 1964 to 2009.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Sending Jobs Overseas
*The Great Convergence*: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/11/the-great-convergence.html

Richard Baldwin on the New Globalization: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/04/the-new-globalization.html
To really understand how this changed the nature of globalization, consider a sports analogy. Suppose we have two football teams, one that needs a quarterback but has too many linebackers, and one that needs a linebacker but has too many quarterbacks. If they sit down and trade players, both teams win. It’s arbitrage in players. Each team gets rid of players they need less of and gets players they need more of. That’s the old globalization: exchange of goods.

Now let’s take a different kind of exchange, where the coach of the better team goes to the field of the worse team and starts training those players in the off-season. This is very good for the coach because he gets to sell his knowledge in two places. You can be sure that the quality of the league will rise, all the games will get more competitive, and the team that’s being trained up will enjoy the whole thing. But it’s not at all certain that the players of the better team will benefit from this exchange because the source of their advantage is now being traded.

In this analogy, the better team is, of course, the G7, and not surprisingly this has led to some resentment of globalization in those countries. The new globalization breaks the monopoly that G7 labor had on G7 know-how…

good reviews here:
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Convergence-Information-Technology-Globalization/dp/067466048X
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Concentration and Growth | Dietrich Vollrath
Ultimately, and this is my impression, not some kind of established fact, concentration likely lowers innovative activity. Put it this way, the null hypothesis should probably be that concentration lowers innovation. An individual industry needs to provide evidence they are on the “right side of the curve” in the first AAH figure to believe concentration would be good for productivity growth in the long run.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Income Inequality | Inequality.org
Worsening American Income: Inequality: Is world trade to blame?: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/worsening-american-income-inequality-is-world-trade-to-blame/
America: A dromedary, not a Bactrian camel: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/05/america_a_drome.html

Department of Awful Statistics: Income Inequality Edition: https://thedailybeast.com/department-of-awful-statistics-income-inequality-edition
A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality: https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality
Income inequality in the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States
The Geography of U.S. Inequality: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/06/upshot/up-geo-inequality.html

40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/02/349863761/40-years-of-income-inequality-in-america-in-graphs
good charts of trends in income percentiles, wage stagnation, etc.
Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts: http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/
FIGURE 4
Middle-class wages are stagnant—Middle-wage workers’ hourly wage is up 6% since 1979, low-wage workers’ wages are down 5%, while those with very high wages saw a 41% increase
Cumulative change in real hourly wages of all workers, by wage percentile,* 1979–2013

A Relentless Widening of Disparity in Wealth: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/business/economy/a-relentless-rise-in-unequal-wealth.html
Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html
American Inequality in Six Charts: http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/american-inequality-in-six-charts

US income inequality: caused by financiers and tech entrepreneurs: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2006/09/us-income-inequality-caused-by.html
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Get Ready to See This Globalization 'Elephant Chart' Over and Over Again - Bloomberg
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may 2017 by nhaliday
No, U.S. Manufacturing Isn't Really Booming - Bloomberg View
Current manufacturing output is 41 percent higher than back in the happy days of 1997. That doesn't sound like a decline!

There's a catch, though. As economist Susan N. Houseman of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan, points out, about half of the growth in U.S. manufacturing output since 1997 has been in just one sector: computer and electronics manufacturing.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/25/most-americans-unaware-that-as-u-s-manufacturing-jobs-have-disappeared-output-has-grown/
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The Incoherence of the Philosophers - Wikipedia
Al-Ghazali's insistence on a radical divine immanence in the natural world has been posited[7] as one of the reasons that the spirit of scientific inquiry later withered in Islamic lands. If "Allah's hand is not chained", then there was no point in discovering the alleged laws of nature.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' by Thomas Piketty, reviewed | New Republic
by Robert Solow (positive)

The data then exhibit a clear pattern. In France and Great Britain, national capital stood fairly steadily at about seven times national income from 1700 to 1910, then fell sharply from 1910 to 1950, presumably as a result of wars and depression, reaching a low of 2.5 in Britain and a bit less than 3 in France. The capital-income ratio then began to climb in both countries, and reached slightly more than 5 in Britain and slightly less than 6 in France by 2010. The trajectory in the United States was slightly different: it started at just above 3 in 1770, climbed to 5 in 1910, fell slightly in 1920, recovered to a high between 5 and 5.5 in 1930, fell to below 4 in 1950, and was back to 4.5 in 2010.

The wealth-income ratio in the United States has always been lower than in Europe. The main reason in the early years was that land values bulked less in the wide open spaces of North America. There was of course much more land, but it was very cheap. Into the twentieth century and onward, however, the lower capital-income ratio in the United States probably reflects the higher level of productivity: a given amount of capital could support a larger production of output than in Europe. It is no surprise that the two world wars caused much less destruction and dissipation of capital in the United States than in Britain and France. The important observation for Piketty’s argument is that, in all three countries, and elsewhere as well, the wealth-income ratio has been increasing since 1950, and is almost back to nineteenth-century levels. He projects this increase to continue into the current century, with weighty consequences that will be discussed as we go on.

...

Now if you multiply the rate of return on capital by the capital-income ratio, you get the share of capital in the national income. For example, if the rate of return is 5 percent a year and the stock of capital is six years worth of national income, income from capital will be 30 percent of national income, and so income from work will be the remaining 70 percent. At last, after all this preparation, we are beginning to talk about inequality, and in two distinct senses. First, we have arrived at the functional distribution of income—the split between income from work and income from wealth. Second, it is always the case that wealth is more highly concentrated among the rich than income from labor (although recent American history looks rather odd in this respect); and this being so, the larger the share of income from wealth, the more unequal the distribution of income among persons is likely to be. It is this inequality across persons that matters most for good or ill in a society.

...

The data are complicated and not easily comparable across time and space, but here is the flavor of Piketty’s summary picture. Capital is indeed very unequally distributed. Currently in the United States, the top 10 percent own about 70 percent of all the capital, half of that belonging to the top 1 percent; the next 40 percent—who compose the “middle class”—own about a quarter of the total (much of that in the form of housing), and the remaining half of the population owns next to nothing, about 5 percent of total wealth. Even that amount of middle-class property ownership is a new phenomenon in history. The typical European country is a little more egalitarian: the top 1 percent own 25 percent of the total capital, and the middle class 35 percent. (A century ago the European middle class owned essentially no wealth at all.) If the ownership of wealth in fact becomes even more concentrated during the rest of the twenty-first century, the outlook is pretty bleak unless you have a taste for oligarchy.

Income from wealth is probably even more concentrated than wealth itself because, as Piketty notes, large blocks of wealth tend to earn a higher return than small ones. Some of this advantage comes from economies of scale, but more may come from the fact that very big investors have access to a wider range of investment opportunities than smaller investors. Income from work is naturally less concentrated than income from wealth. In Piketty’s stylized picture of the United States today, the top 1 percent earns about 12 percent of all labor income, the next 9 percent earn 23 percent, the middle class gets about 40 percent, and the bottom half about a quarter of income from work. Europe is not very different: the top 10 percent collect somewhat less and the other two groups a little more.

You get the picture: modern capitalism is an unequal society, and the rich-get-richer dynamic strongly suggest that it will get more so. But there is one more loose end to tie up, already hinted at, and it has to do with the advent of very high wage incomes. First, here are some facts about the composition of top incomes. About 60 percent of the income of the top 1 percent in the United States today is labor income. Only when you get to the top tenth of 1 percent does income from capital start to predominate. The income of the top hundredth of 1 percent is 70 percent from capital. The story for France is not very different, though the proportion of labor income is a bit higher at every level. Evidently there are some very high wage incomes, as if you didn’t know.

This is a fairly recent development. In the 1960s, the top 1 percent of wage earners collected a little more than 5 percent of all wage incomes. This fraction has risen pretty steadily until nowadays, when the top 1 percent of wage earners receive 10–12 percent of all wages. This time the story is rather different in France. There the share of total wages going to the top percentile was steady at 6 percent until very recently, when it climbed to 7 percent. The recent surge of extreme inequality at the top of the wage distribution may be primarily an American development. Piketty, who with Emmanuel Saez has made a careful study of high-income tax returns in the United States, attributes this to the rise of what he calls “supermanagers.” The very highest income class consists to a substantial extent of top executives of large corporations, with very rich compensation packages. (A disproportionate number of these, but by no means all of them, come from the financial services industry.) With or without stock options, these large pay packages get converted to wealth and future income from wealth. But the fact remains that much of the increased income (and wealth) inequality in the United States is driven by the rise of these supermanagers.

and Deirdre McCloskey (p critical): https://ejpe.org/journal/article/view/170
nice discussion of empirical economics, economic history, market failures and statism, etc., with several bon mots

Piketty’s great splash will undoubtedly bring many young economically interested scholars to devote their lives to the study of the past. That is good, because economic history is one of the few scientifically quantitative branches of economics. In economic history, as in experimental economics and a few other fields, the economists confront the evidence (as they do not for example in most macroeconomics or industrial organization or international trade theory nowadays).

...

Piketty gives a fine example of how to do it. He does not get entangled as so many economists do in the sole empirical tool they are taught, namely, regression analysis on someone else’s “data” (one of the problems is the word data, meaning “things given”: scientists should deal in capta, “things seized”). Therefore he does not commit one of the two sins of modern economics, the use of meaningless “tests” of statistical significance (he occasionally refers to “statistically insignificant” relations between, say, tax rates and growth rates, but I am hoping he does not suppose that a large coefficient is “insignificant” because R. A. Fisher in 1925 said it was). Piketty constructs or uses statistics of aggregate capital and of inequality and then plots them out for inspection, which is what physicists, for example, also do in dealing with their experiments and observations. Nor does he commit the other sin, which is to waste scientific time on existence theorems. Physicists, again, don’t. If we economists are going to persist in physics envy let us at least learn what physicists actually do. Piketty stays close to the facts, and does not, for example, wander into the pointless worlds of non-cooperative game theory, long demolished by experimental economics. He also does not have recourse to non-computable general equilibrium, which never was of use for quantitative economic science, being a branch of philosophy, and a futile one at that. On both points, bravissimo.

...

Since those founding geniuses of classical economics, a market-tested betterment (a locution to be preferred to “capitalism”, with its erroneous implication that capital accumulation, not innovation, is what made us better off) has enormously enriched large parts of a humanity now seven times larger in population than in 1800, and bids fair in the next fifty years or so to enrich everyone on the planet. [Not SSA or MENA...]

...

Then economists, many on the left but some on the right, in quick succession from 1880 to the present—at the same time that market-tested betterment was driving real wages up and up and up—commenced worrying about, to name a few of the pessimisms concerning “capitalism” they discerned: greed, alienation, racial impurity, workers’ lack of bargaining strength, workers’ bad taste in consumption, immigration of lesser breeds, monopoly, unemployment, business cycles, increasing returns, externalities, under-consumption, monopolistic competition, separation of ownership from control, lack of planning, post-War stagnation, investment spillovers, unbalanced growth, dual labor markets, capital insufficiency (William Easterly calls it “capital fundamentalism”), peasant irrationality, capital-market imperfections, public … [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
‘How dare you work on whites’: Professors under fire for research on white mortality - The Washington Post
the paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/angus-deaton-qa/518880/
The Nobel laureate Angus Deaton discusses extreme poverty, opioid addiction, Trump voters, robots, and rent-seeking.

co-authored the "dead white people paper" w/ wife

http://andrewgelman.com/2017/03/23/mortality-rate-trends-age-ethnicity-sex-state/
point about expansion of education seems important
https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/correlates-of-middle-aged-white-mortality/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/24/the-disease-killing-white-americans-goes-way-deeper-than-opioids/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/death-rates-rise-for-wide-swath-of-white-adults-1490240740
http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/the-despair-of-learning-that-experience-no-longer-matters
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/02/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html

Diverging Life Expectancies and Voting Patterns in the 2016 US Presidential Election.: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28817322
Changes in county life expectancy from 1980 to 2014 were strongly negatively associated with Trump's vote share, with less support for Trump in counties experiencing greater survival gains. Counties in which life expectancy stagnated or declined saw a 10-percentage-point increase in the Republican vote share between 2008 and 2016.

DESPAIR AND DECADES-LONG DEINDUSTRIALIZATION: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/despair-and-decades-long-deindustrialization/

WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/weve-been-here-before/
A concept that seems to me to be missing from the Ruhm vs. Case/Deaton debate on “deaths of despair” is that of social crisis.

This seems to me to be the case for American Indians, who began experiencing what looks like a similar social crisis to non-college educated whites about a decade beforehand: rapidly escalating rates of suicide, drug overdoses, exit from the workforce, and even alcohol-related deaths (which were already very high for American Indians well before 2000, of course):

...

The common thread here would seem to be replacement of workforce participation with transfer payments, particularly cash transfers (since, my own reservations about Medicaid aside, increases in in-kind payments and SNAP since the 80s haven’t seemed to exert the same disruptive effect.) As I’ve said before, it seems very likely to me that technology will push an ever larger segment of society out of the economy, sooner or later, but how to prevent this from tearing apart our social fabric I don’t know.

Once It Was Overdue Books. Now Librarians Fight Overdoses.: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/nyregion/librarians-opioid-heroin-overdoses.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Why the West Got Rich, part 1/N: War - Jared Rubin's Website
https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/829545637939146753
of course I don't understand why some people want to focus on the Middle East with respect to the great divergence
"why not China (and East Asia in general)" was inspired by East Asia's rapid convergence in the 20th century
I don't understand why anyone thinks Middle East divergence is a big puzzle just bec Muslims were good at mediaeval math/science

https://link.springer.com/epdf/10.1007/s11127-017-0464-6?author_access_token=UKpI-JzRIuDXSQTvbpV4Z_e4RwlQNchNByi7wbcMAY5WWZoYPYPAPXfaMHepEKzc4xIF1PKzwjo_oeauy2y_p-qOh2Du-0SJ7TOtBqu1W5DR708D5EmJlkNPyR-2FEivIkuG0bK6twh_bnuCQHwF2Q==
Jared Rubin: Rulers, religion, and riches: Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not?
- Mark Koyama

Islam and Economic Performance: Historical and Contemporary Links: https://sites.duke.edu/timurkuran/files/2017/09/Islam-Economic-Performance-Kuran-JEL-in-press.pdf
- Timur Kuran

This essay critically evaluates the analytic literature concerned with causal connections between Islam and economic performance. It focuses on works since 1997, when this literature was last surveyed. Among the findings are the following: Ramadan fasting by pregnant women harms prenatal development; Islamic charities mainly benefit the middle class; Islam affects educational outcomes less through Islamic schooling than through structural factors that handicap learning as a whole; Islamic finance hardly affects Muslim financial behavior; and low generalized trust depresses Muslim trade. The last feature reflects the Muslim world’s delay in transitioning from personal to impersonal exchange. The delay resulted from the persistent simplicity of the private enterprises formed under Islamic law. Weak property rights reinforced the private sector’s stagnation by driving capital out of commerce and into rigid waqfs. Waqfs limited economic development through their inflexibility and democratization by restraining the development of civil society. Parts of the Muslim world conquered by Arab armies are especially undemocratic, which suggests that early Islamic institutions, including slave-based armies, were particularly critical to the persistence of authoritarian patterns of governance. States have contributed themselves to the persistence of authoritarianism by treating Islam as an instrument of governance. As the world started to industrialize, non-Muslim subjects of Muslim-governed states pulled ahead of their Muslim neighbors by exercising the choice of law they enjoyed under Islamic law in favor of a Western legal system.

Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not: http://theforum.erf.org.eg/2017/09/10/west-got-rich-middle-east-not-implications-twenty-first-century/
- There are two reasons to be more pessimistic than optimistic about the economic and political future of the Middle East.
- First, much of the economic opportunity offered by the one-time resource boom has been squandered.
- Second, as oil revenues dry up and rulers have less capacity to buy support via subsidies and graft, the odds of them leaning even more heavily on religious legitimacy are high.

The Long Divergence: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/the-long-divergence/
I just finished The Long Divergence, by Timur Kuran, which tries to explain the Middle East’s economic backwardness. It’s a path-dependence argument: mistakes were made, and one thing led to another.

His thesis is that particular features of local culture and Islamic law inhibited modernization. He argues that these factors inhibited the development of complex sub-state organizations, in particular the modern business corporation. He blames factors that tended to disperse wealth: the egalitarian Islamic inheritance system and polygyny. Today they wouldn’t matter to a corporation, but in the past they interfered with concentration of assets that would have been useful in establishing larger-scale concerns. He thinks that the Quranic ban on interest was mostly an irritant, routinely evaded, but it didn’t help.

He talks about the mysterious trend in which non-Muslim minorities became ever wealthier and more influential over the past couple of centuries, even though they were supposed to be second-class citizens. Trade was dominated by religious minorities (Greeks, Armenians, and sometimes Jews), as well as new sectors of the economy like insurance and finance. Also in new industries: “In major cities, water,gas, electricity, telephone, tram, and subway services were founded mostly through foreign capital, and the managerial staff was overwhelmingly non-Muslim.”
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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 DEMISE OF U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH: RESTATEMENT, REBUTTAL, AND REFLECTIONS
The United States achieved a 2.0 percent average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita between 1891 and 2007. This paper predicts that growth in the 25 to 40 years after 2007 will be much slower, particularly for the great majority of the population. Future growth will be 1.3 percent per annum for labor productivity in the total economy, 0.9 percent for output per capita, 0.4 percent for real income per capita of the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution, and 0.2 percent for the real disposable income of that group.

The primary cause of this growth slowdown is a set of four headwinds, all of them widely recognized and uncontroversial. Demographic shifts will reduce hours worked per capita, due not just to the retirement of the baby boom generation but also as a result of an exit from the labor force both of youth and prime-age adults. Educational attainment, a central driver of growth over the past century, stagnates at a plateau as the U.S. sinks lower in the world league tables of high school and college completion rates. Inequality continues to increase, resulting in real income growth for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution that is fully half a point per year below the average growth of all incomes. A projected long-term increase in the ratio of debt to GDP at all levels of government will inevitably lead to more rapid growth in tax revenues and/or slower growth in transfer payments at some point within the next several decades.

There is no need to forecast any slowdown in the pace of future innovation for this gloomy forecast to come true, because that slowdown already occurred four decades ago. In the eight decades before 1972 labor productivity grew at an average rate 0.8 percent per year faster than in the four decades since 1972. While no forecast of a future slowdown of innovation is needed, skepticism is offered here, particularly about the techno-optimists who currently believe that we are at a point of inflection leading to faster technological change. The paper offers several historical examples showing that the future of technology can be forecast 50 or even 100 years in advance and assesses widely discussed innovations anticipated to occur over the next few decades, including medical research, small robots, 3-D printing, big data, driverless vehicles, and oil-gas fracking.

keep in mind, "the world is just atoms" and I think I know some things that Robert J Gordon doesn't
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march 2017 by nhaliday
The Creativity of Civilisations | pseudoerasmus
- in most of the premodern period, the density of observed achievement (relative to population, time, space) was so small that you don’t need very many intelligent people to explain it;
- I really don’t know what the intelligence of premodern peoples was, but we probably shouldn’t infer the population mean from premodern achievements;
- there’s no need to invoke dysgenic or eugenic reasons for the fluctuations in the fortunes of civilisations, as so many cranks are wont to do.

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/why-the-arabic-world-turned-away-from-science
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/24/arab-islamic-science-was-not-arab-islamic/
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2003/11/24/iranians-aren-t-arabs/
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Has creative destruction become more destructive? - Marginal REVOLUTION
However, we conjecture that recently the destructive component of innovations has increased relative to the size of the creative component as the new technologies are often creating products which are close substitutes for the ones they replace whose value depreciates substantially in the process of destruction. Consequently, the contribution of recent innovations to GDP is likely upwardly biased.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Thiel talks fracking and globalization - Axios
"What's very striking is that on some level I think fracking represents a bigger economic form of progress for our society as a whole than the innovation in Silicon Valley."
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Macroeconomic Conditions and Opioid Abuse
We find that as the county unemployment rate increases by 1 percentage point, the opioid death rate (per 100,000) rises by 0.19 (3.6%) and the ED visit rate for opioid overdoses (per 100,000) increases by 0.95 (7.0%). We also uncover statistically significant increases in the overall drug death rate that are driven in most specifications by increases in opioid deaths. These results hold when performing a state, rather than county, level analysis. The results are primarily driven by adverse events among whites, although there is some sensitivity to choice of models in the results for nonwhites. Additionally, the findings are relatively stable across time periods; they do not pertain only to recession years, but instead represent a more generalizable and previously unexplored connection between economic development and the severe adverse consequences of substance abuse.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Gummo - Wikipedia
Gummo is a 1997 American dystopian art film written and directed by Harmony Korine, starring Jacob Reynolds, Nick Sutton, Jacob Sewell, and Chloë Sevigny. The film is set in Xenia, Ohio, a small, poor Midwestern American town that had been previously struck by a devastating tornado. The loose narrative follows several main characters who find odd and destructive ways to pass time, interrupted by vignettes depicting other inhabitants of the town.

https://www.reddit.com/r/TrueFilm/comments/5ub6g5/gummo_a_raw_unfiltered_look_at_how_ugly_life_can/
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march 2017 by nhaliday
They All Did – spottedtoad
The worsening prospects for low-education American workers over the last 40 years is a hard problem because it is overdetermined. Almost every plausible candidate for a cause of this deterioration has its partisans, and all of them have believable evidence at hand. Immigration, deunionization, “bad trade deals,” automation, low-inflation monetary policy, slowed GDP growth, worsened human capital, regulatory overreach, mass incarceration, cultural changes that make working less attractive, fragmented families, welfare state programs and technology that make not-working tolerable if not enjoyable, government programs and philanthropy dedicated to “fighting” various social ills that instead create vested interests in perpetuating those problems while disrupting civil society that can actually ameliorate them, reduced social trust, cultural fragmentation and diminished sense of national identity, unhealthy lifestyles, an education and credential-based economy that necessarily excludes a huge fraction of the society, a ruling class that despises half the country…

No one wants the real cause to be: all the above.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Our Demographic Decline - The Daily Beast
https://twitter.com/ThomasHCrown/status/880926029027696640
http://quillette.com/2017/02/02/if-youre-reading-this-essay-you-should-probably-have-more-children/
https://twitter.com/toad_spotted/status/898520772632694785
https://archive.is/AoVcV
Hypothesis: to slow demographic/cultural transformation,no ideology will make any difference,only rich/powerful people having huge families.
You can keep one or two kids walled off from a decaying society,if you have enough money and connections. You can't do that with eight kids.
...
I don't worship Elon Musk,but it seems nonaccidental that only plutocrat with any kind of vital or inspiring vision of the future has 5 kids

Demographics, Robots, and AI | Elon Musk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA4ydDUsgJU
- TFRs about 50% of replacement throughout much of Europe. what's that gonna do to society?
- like the comment about people needing to develop a sense of duty to reproduce.

I think I think demographics is is a real issue where people are not having kids in a lot of countries and very often they'll say I'll solve it with immigration. Immigration from where?! If...Europe has an average of many plots...Europe have an average of of a 50 or six...you know they're only at fifty or sixty percent of what's needed for replacement or China for that matter they're at half replacement rate where exactly are we going to find six hundred million people to replace the ones that were never born. I think people are going to have to regard to some degree than the notion of having kids as almost a social duty. Within reason, I mean just if you can and you're so inclined you should, you should. You know it's like otherwise civilization will just die literally.

https://twitter.com/toad_spotted/status/869959152898117634
that's true of older generation of, eg, NYT writers but I think this new crop will just have fewer kids, be less hypocritical, more terrible

https://twitter.com/jeffgiesea/status/997126388086951937
https://archive.fo/7fk4a
Many of the smartest people I know are quietly giving up on America. They don't see viable future. Very troubling.
They are choosing "exit" instead of voice. Abandoning politics. This takes many forms:
>denialism - tuning it out; moving to the country or gated community
>localism - rebuilding at local levels
>futurism - embracing tech to build the future
>nihilism - not voting; drugs
People point to American resilience throughout history. They view this period of time as different for a variety of reasons: debt, demographics, cultural decline, destructive technology, etc. Late-stage empire decline.

that netouyo__ comment (deleeted) about 'The Sopranos' and how the subtext was that we're at the end of America, not the beginning
news  demographics  fertility  world  developing-world  usa  economics  stylized-facts  time-preference  individualism-collectivism  wonkish  org:lite  society  trends  douthatish  biophysical-econ  malaise  demographic-transition  current-events  population  econotariat  chart  nihil  zeitgeist  rot  journos-pundits  modernity  multi  twitter  social  discussion  rant  rhetoric  :/  healthcare  right-wing  unaffiliated  org:mag  org:popup  dysgenics  musk  barons  ratty  hypocrisy  media  video  presentation  interview  europe  the-great-west-whale  automation  prediction  legacy  duty  intervention  migration  china  asia  civilization  incentives  interests  self-interest  death  gibbon  sulla  prepping  the-watchers  noblesse-oblige  status  propaganda  backup  politics  stagnation  culture  culture-war  sv  tech  exit-voice  local-global  government  drugs  debt  race  technology  decentralized  elite  the-bones  techtariat  tv  gnon  🐸  venture  pessimism 
february 2017 by nhaliday
I Want a New Drug | West Hunter
Big pharma has taken a new course over the past few years. In the past, most useful drugs originated in some kind of living organism – penicillin, quinine, insulin, etc etc. Nowadays, big pharmaceutical companies use combinatorial chemistry and computer modeling. Merck has sold off its biological-products research arm. This new approach, combined with doubled spending on drug R&D, has been a resounding failure. The rate of development of fundamentally new drugs – ‘new molecular entities’ – is running about 40% of that seen in the 1970s. Since big pharma makes its money from drugs that are still on patent, this slowed innovation is a real threat to their bottom line.

...

I think that this is an instance of a more general trend: often a modern, advanced approach shows up, and it persists long after it’s been shown to be a miserable failure. You can see some of the reasons why: the people trained in the new technique would lose out if it were abandoned. Hard to imagine combinatorial chemists rooting around in a garbage can looking for moldy fruit.
west-hunter  discussion  pharma  medicine  FDA  randy-ayndy  regularizer  critique  minimalism  bio  nature  low-hanging  drugs  error  scitariat  info-dynamics  innovation  ideas  discovery  meta:medicine  stagnation  parasites-microbiome  the-trenches  alt-inst  dirty-hands  regulation  civil-liberty  proposal  corporation  fashun 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Greenspan now agrees with Soros; Galbraith interview and a calculation
Easy Question: What growth rate advantage (additional GDP growth rate per annum) would savage, unfettered markets need to generate to justify these occasional disasters?

Answer: an additional 0.1 percent annual GDP growth would be more than enough. That is, an unregulated economy whose growth rate was 0.1 percent higher would, even after paying for each 20 year crisis, be richer than the heavily regulated comparator which avoided the crises but had a lower growth rate.

Hard Question: would additional regulation decrease economic growth rates by that amount or more?

Unless you think you can evaluate the relative GDP growth effects of two different policy regimes with accuracy of better than 0.1 percent, then the intellectually honest answer to the policy question is: I don't know. No shouting, no shaking your fist, no lecturing other people, no writing op eds, just I don't know. Correct the things that are obviously stupid, but don't overstate your confidence level about additional policy changes.

(Note I'm aware that distributional issues are also important. In the most recent era gains went mostly to a small number of top earners whereas the cost of the bailout will be spread over the whole tax base.)

http://voxeu.org/article/endogenous-growth-and-lack-recovery-global-crisis
Wall St. lending to Main St. even as many decry Dodd-Frank: https://apnews.com/0e4ee980a46549908733afb2f6824def/wall-st-lending-main-st-even-many-decry-dodd-frank
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Secular Stagnation? The Effect of Aging on Economic Growth in the Age of Automation
Several recent theories emphasize the negative effects of an aging population on economic growth, either because of the lower labor force participation and productivity of older workers or because aging will create an excess of savings over desired investment, leading to secular stagnation. We show that there is no such negative relationship in the data. If anything, countries experiencing more rapid aging have grown more in recent decades. We suggest that this counterintuitive finding might reflect the more rapid adoption of automation technologies in countries undergoing more pronounced demographic changes, and provide evidence and theoretical underpinnings for this argument.
pdf  study  economics  growth-econ  stagnation  trends  demographics  automation  acemoglu  contrarianism  correlation  econometrics  econ-productivity  malaise  hmm  age-generation  speedometer  japan  asia  fertility  modernity  input-output 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Links 1/17: Inaugurl Address | Slate Star Codex
“Fanatics got into the Capitol building and committed a mass shooting on Congress while it was in session, and you’ve never heard of them…people have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States” A review of Days Of Rage and history lesson on the 1970s underground. Highly recommended.

New Yorker: The Mosul Dam in Iraq could fail soon, potentially causing a flash flood and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

An ecologist denounces calls to “drain the swamp” as an insult to swamps: “Given the sea of misinformation we currently find ourselves swimming in, I feel this is as good a time as any to clarify what swamps actually are and why they should be regarded as wonderful and valuable parts of nature rather than objects of derision and hatred.” If any of you are oceanographers, can you troll the Washington Post for me by denouncing their use of the term “sea of misinformation”?

The Seasteading Institute announces a deal with French Polynesia to build the first seastead in a lagoon there. I’m still confused on whether they’ve got funding or anything else besides the location. Still a big step.

80,000 Hours’ guide to what charities to give to this season. A good supplement to GiveWell’s Top Charities list

Vox: Why the war on poverty failed, and what to do now. In the form of a long and detailed history of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyveysant neighborhood. Not clear that anyone actually knows what to do now beyond a few good common-sense suggestions.

RIP utilitarian philosopher Derek Parfit: “When I believed the non-reductionist view [of personal identity], I also cared more about my inevitable death. After my death, there will [be] no one living who will be me. I can now redescribe this fact. Though there will later be many experiences, none of these experiences will be connected to my present experiences by chains of such direct connections as those involved in experience-memory, or in the carrying out of an earlier intention. Some of these future experiences may be related to my present experiences in less direct ways. There will later be some memories about my life. And there may later be thoughts that are influenced by mine, or things done as the result of my advice. My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad.”

Alex K. Chen on Quora on the speculation that Ritalin may be long-term safer than Adderall. See also this review article. This is definitely not yet psychiatric common knowledge or consensus.

Meta-analysis in the American Journal Of Nutrition: Red meat does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Acemoglu and Restropo: Economic stagnation is not due to aging populations.

User dogtasteslikechicken at the r/slatestarcodex subreddit gives a good summary of the Flynn Effect. But it looks like he is confused about some of the same things I am. For example, rich people and the nobility probably had good nutrition and education in the past. So we might expect a Flynn effect based on nutrition and education not to affect them as much. But if this were true, we would expect a skewed or bimodal distribution in the past (un-Flynned poor people with bad nutrition + Flynned rich people with good nutrition), which I don’t think ever clearly showed up.

Some fallout from the Buzzfeed story on growth mindset I linked last week. The Spectator published what I think is a really nasty and evidence-free denunciation of the phenomenon. Mindset researcher David Yeager has tried to set the record straight and argues that growth mindset actually replicates just fine, eg in this paper, and that several other large and rigorous replications are being attempted. Dweck herself has a reply up here. And Timothy Bates put his failed replications online here. Looks like it will be an interesting year in this field.

Does pupil size correlate with intelligence? (blog post, paper)
ratty  yvain  ssc  links  politics  terrorism  history  left-wing  risk  trump  lol  randy-ayndy  thiel  announcement  effective-altruism  charity  checklists  news  org:data  class  inequality  philosophy  death  profile  dennett  drugs  nootropics  attention  safety  neuro  study  meta-analysis  cardio  nutrition  food  acemoglu  economics  growth-econ  stagnation  demographics  contrarianism  trends  reddit  social  discussion  iq  growth  psychology  social-psych  albion  critique  replication  org:lite  iraq-syria  MENA  biodet  commentary  multi  current-events  growth-mindset 
january 2017 by nhaliday
The Mythological Machinations of The Compensation/Productivity Gap – New River Investments – Medium
We in fact find that the surplus productivity growth that did not flow to the corporate sector, or even to the very rich, but in fact flowed to the very poor.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/852585347980636160
@PatrickIber an old chestnut. statistical illusion. wages deflated by CPI. productivity/output deflated by PPI or output deflator

pseudoerasmus: "would have voted for Bernie were I an american"
org:med  data  analysis  contrarianism  econ-productivity  economics  trends  macro  supply-demand  compensation  distribution  inequality  winner-take-all  malaise  regularizer  money  stagnation  multi  econotariat  pseudoE  broad-econ  twitter  social  commentary  discussion  debate  critique  growth-econ  econometrics  econ-metrics  history  mostly-modern  labor  intricacy  clarity  politics  2016-election  piketty  stylized-facts  vampire-squid  gotchas  time-series 
january 2017 by nhaliday
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