nhaliday + studying   57

Why read old philosophy? | Meteuphoric
(This story would suggest that in physics students are maybe missing out on learning the styles of thought that produce progress in physics. My guess is that instead they learn them in grad school when they are doing research themselves, by emulating their supervisors, and that the helpfulness of this might partially explain why Nobel prizewinner advisors beget Nobel prizewinner students.)

The story I hear about philosophy—and I actually don’t know how much it is true—is that as bits of philosophy come to have any methodological tools other than ‘think about it’, they break off and become their own sciences. So this would explain philosophy’s lone status in studying old thinkers rather than impersonal methods—philosophy is the lone ur-discipline without impersonal methods but thinking.

This suggests a research project: try summarizing what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it.
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june 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
Docta Ignorantia – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
One minor advantage of cultural homogeneity is that it gives you tools to figure out exactly how ignorant a society’s authors and intellectuals truly were. In an era when the pool of books written on any given topic was small, then if someone says something quirky we can eventually, given enough time and coffee, figure out exactly where he got his quirky ideas from.


However it may be, Schelling was a genius, and his contemporaries recognized his genius at an early age and rewarded it. For us this may be slightly difficult to parse, at first: how can you recognize the intellectual talent of a man — of a boy, really — who is in fact deeply ignorant of his own field, philosophy? How can you make him a professor and expect him to lecture on what he has only just started to study?

In our already-degenerate culture, talent has become synonymous with grinding. Having no common standards for the good, the beautiful, and the true, we have no easy way to judge whether someone who disagrees with us is far-sighted or short-sighted. (Imagine looking at Monet’s haystacks for the very first time.) With no consensus on the questions that matter, to seek standards for expertise we have no choice but to turn to the things that don’t matter: the raw mass of (relatively) uncontroversial background material that anyone hoping to become an expert on a certain subject would find useful.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis
We found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

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

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


Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Does Learning to Read Improve Intelligence? A Longitudinal Multivariate Analysis in Identical Twins From Age 7 to 16
Stuart Richie, Bates, Plomin

SEM: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4354297/figure/fig03/

The variance explained by each path in the diagrams included here can be calculated by squaring its path weight. To take one example, reading differences at age 12 in the model shown in Figure​Figure33 explain 7% of intelligence differences at age 16 (.262). However, since our measures are of differences, they are likely to include substantial amounts of noise: Measurement error may produce spurious differences. To remove this error variance, we can take an estimate of the reliability of the measures (generally high, since our measures are normed, standardized tests), which indicates the variance expected purely by the reliability of the measure, and subtract it from the observed variance between twins in our sample. Correcting for reliability in this way, the effect size estimates are somewhat larger; to take the above example, the reliability-corrected effect size of age 12 reading differences on age 16 intelligence differences is around 13% of the “signal” variance. It should be noted that the age 12 reading differences themselves are influenced by many previous paths from both reading and intelligence, as illustrated in Figure​Figure33.


The present study provided compelling evidence that improvements in reading ability, themselves caused purely by the nonshared environment, may result in improvements in both verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability, and may thus be a factor increasing cognitive diversity within families (Plomin, 2011). These associations are present at least as early as age 7, and are not—to the extent we were able to test this possibility—driven by differences in reading exposure. Since reading is a potentially remediable ability, these findings have implications for reading instruction: Early remediation of reading problems might not only aid in the growth of literacy, but may also improve more general cognitive abilities that are of critical importance across the life span.

Does Reading Cause Later Intelligence? Accounting for Stability in Models of Change: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/cdev.12669
Results from a state–trait model suggest that reported effects of reading ability on later intelligence may be artifacts of previously uncontrolled factors, both environmental in origin and stable during this developmental period, influencing both constructs throughout development.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
WLGR: The Julian marriage laws (nos. 120-123, etc.)
In 18 B.C., the Emperor Augustus turned his attention to social problems at Rome. Extravagance and adultery were widespread. Among the upper classes, marriage was increasingly infrequent and, many couples who did marry failed to produce offspring. Augustus, who hoped thereby to elevate both the morals and the numbers of the upper classes in Rome, and to increase the population of native Italians in Italy, enacted laws to encourage marriage and having children (lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus), including provisions establishing adultery as a crime.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Imperial Expansion and Moral Decline in the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435293
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Where are my iBooks stored in macOS Sierra? - Ask Different
example for finding mentions of a string:
<go to that direction>
pt -c 'foobar' | awk -F: 'function dir(path) {sub("/.*", "", path); return path} {a[dir($1)]+=$2} END{for (k in a) {print a[k], k}}' | sort -nr
now wrapped up in a script: ~/bin/ibooks_mentions
q-n-a  stackex  workflow  yak-shaving  integration-extension  studying  sleuthin  info-foraging  osx  desktop  multi  terminal  unix  howto 
august 2017 by nhaliday
ipad - Is it possible to search for text in iBooks or the Kindle app? - Ask Different
If you wanted to know whether you can enter a search term at the top-level of these apps and have them search across all books stored in the app: No, currently neither iBooks nor the Kindle app have such a feature.

However, I have seen this capability on the Kindle device itself – I own a Kindle keyboard model and there is a "search my items" option available that will search all books on the device for a given term.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
applescript - How do I collect all of my notes and highlights from iBooks? - Ask Different
iBooks doesn't have AppleScript support. The annotations are stored in a SQLite file: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.iBooksX/Data/Documents/AEAnnotation/.
q-n-a  stackex  osx  desktop  howto  yak-shaving  studying  integration-extension  sleuthin  workflow  info-foraging 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Reading | West Hunter
Reading speed and comprehension interest me, but I don’t have as much information as I would like.  I would like to see the distribution of reading speeds ( in the general population, and also in college graduates).  I have looked a bit at discussions of this, and there’s something wrong.  Or maybe a lot wrong.  Researchers apparently say that nobody reads 900 words a minute with full comprehension, but I’ve seen it done.  I would also like to know if anyone has statistically validated methods that  increase reading speed.

On related topics, I wonder how many serious readers  there are, here and also in other countries.  Are they as common in Japan or China, with their very different scripts?   Are reading speeds higher or lower there?

How many people have  their houses really, truly stuffed with books?  Here and elsewhere?  Last time I checked we had about 5000 books around the house: I figure that’s serious, verging on the pathological.

To what extent do people remember what they read?  Judging from the general results of  adult knowledge studies, not very much of what they took in school, but maybe voluntary reading is different.

The researchers claim that the range of high-comprehension reading speed doesn’t go up anywhere near 900 wpm. But my daughter routinely reads at that speed. In high school, I took a reading speed test and scored a bit over 1000 wpm, with perfect comprehension.

I have suggested that the key to high reading speed is the experience of trying to finish a entire science fiction paperback in a drugstore before the proprietor tells you to buy the damn thing or get out. Helps if you can hide behind the bookrack.

Beijingers' average daily reading time exceeds an hour: report: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201712/07/WS5a293e1aa310fcb6fafd44c0.html

Free Speed Reading Test by AceReader: http://www.freereadingtest.com/

claims: 1000 wpm with 85% comprehension at top 1%, 200 wpm at 60% for average


Take a look at "Reading Rate: A Review of Research and Theory" by Ronald P. Carver
The conclusion is, basically, that speed reading courses don't work.
You can teach people to skim at a faster rate than they'd read with maximum comprehension and retention. And you can teach people study skills, such as how to summarize salient points, and take notes.
But all these skills are not at all the same as what speed reading usually promises, which is to drastically increase the rate at which you read with full comprehension and retention. According to Carver's book, it can't be done, at least not drastically past about the rate you'd naturally read at the college level.
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june 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.
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
Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter

- 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
Backwardness | West Hunter
Back around the time I was born, anthropologists sometimes talked about some cultures being more advanced than others. This was before they decided that all cultures are equal, except that some are more equal than others.


I’ve been trying to estimate the gap between Eurasian and Amerindian civilization. The Conquistadors were, in a sense, invaders from the future: but just how far in the future? What point in the history of the Middle East is most similar to the state of the Amerindian civilizations of 1500 AD ?

I would argue that the Amerindian civilizations were less advanced than the Akkadian Empire, circa 2300 BC. The Mayans had writing, but were latecomers in metallurgy. The Inca had tin and arsenical bronze, but didn’t have written records. The Akkadians had both – as well as draft animals and the wheel. You can maybe push the time as far back as 2600 BC, since Sumerian cuneiform was in pretty full swing by then. So the Amerindians were around four thousand years behind.

Excepting the use of iron, sub-Saharan Africa, excepting Ethiopia, was well behind the most advanced Amerindian civilizations circa 1492. I am right now resisting the temptation to get into a hammer-and-tongs discussion of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Blood River, etc. – and we would all be better off if I continued to do so.

The Battle of Blood River (Afrikaans: Slag van Bloedrivier; Zulu: iMpi yaseNcome) is the name given for the battle fought between _470 Voortrekkers_ ("Pioneers"), led by Andries Pretorius, and _an estimated 80,000 Zulu attackers_ on the bank of the Ncome River on 16 December 1838, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Casualties amounted to over 3,000 of king Dingane's soldiers dead, including two Zulu princes competing with Prince Mpande for the Zulu throne. _Three Pioneers commando members were lightly wounded_, including Pretorius himself.


In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. Adams's, we talked of a printed letter from the Reverend Herbert Croft, to a young gentleman who had been his pupil, in which he advised him to read to the end of whatever books he should begin to read. JOHNSON. 'This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through? These Voyages, (pointing to the three large volumes of Voyages to the South Sea, which were just come out) WHO will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of Savages is like another.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned Savages.' JOHNSON. 'Don't cant in defence of Savages.' BOSWELL. 'They have the art of navigation.' JOHNSON. 'A dog or a cat can swim.' BOSWELL. 'They carve very ingeniously.' JOHNSON. 'A cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.' I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi; so desisted.

Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/deja-vu-all-over-again-america-and-europe/
In terms of social organization and technology, it seems to me that Mesolithic Europeans (around 10,000 years ago) were like archaic Amerindians before agriculture. Many Amerindians on the west coast were still like that when Europeans arrived – foragers with bows and dugout canoes.

On the other hand, the farmers of Old Europe were in important ways a lot like English settlers: the pioneers planted wheat, raised pigs and cows and sheep, hunted deer, expanded and pushed aside the previous peoples, without much intermarriage. Sure, Anglo pioneers were literate, had guns and iron, were part of a state, all of which gave them a much bigger edge over the Amerindians than Old Europe ever had over the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and made the replacement about ten times faster – but in some ways it was similar. Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

On the gripping hand, the Indo-Europeans seem to have been something like the Plains Indians: sure, they raised cattle rather than living off abundant wild buffalo, but they too were transformed into troublemakers by the advent of the horse. Both still did a bit of farming. They were also alike in that neither of them really knew what they were doing: neither were the perfected product of thousands of years of horse nomadry. The Indo-Europeans were the first raiders on horseback, and the Plains Indians had only been at it for a century, without any opportunity to learn state-of-the-art tricks from Eurasian horse nomads.

The biggest difference is that the Indo-Europeans won, while the Plains Indians were corralled into crappy reservations.

Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/12/20/1708800115.full
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.

Fig. 2.

The General Social Complexity Factor Is A Thing: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/12/21/the-general-social-complexity-factor-is-a-thing/
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus


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=




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/




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.

The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

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.

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.

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 Numbers Speak: Foreign Language Requirements Are a Waste of Time and Money, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
25.7% of respondents speak a language other than English. Within this sample, 41.5% claim to speak the other language "very well." Within this sub-sub-sample, just 7.0% say they learned to speak this foreign language in school. If you multiply out these three percentages, you get 0.7%. The marginal product of two years of pain and suffering per high school graduate: less than one student in a hundred acquires fluency. (And that's self-assessed fluency, which people almost surely exaggerate).

If you lower the bar from "very well" to "well" the picture remains grim: merely 2.5% of GSS respondents claimed to reach this level of foreign language competence in school.

confirms my intuition

Language is Culture: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/language-is-culture/
First of all, LKY, peace be with him, was not a “self-taught linguist”. He’s a guy who learned some languages as an adult. That doesn’t make him a linguist. This makes him a language learner. There’s billions of those across the world. Lee Kuan Yew certainly wasn’t very good at it; the ability to learn foreign languages doesn’t correlate very strongly with IQ.

Mr. Lee held the popular idea that language was a zero-sum game? No, Mr. Lee understood the commonsensical idea that your brain has limited storage capacity. Like anything else. Your brain is made of atoms. It is not made of magic. It is not made of godly dust. It is a material thing. It is, in a sense, a container of information, and information takes space. It obviously does in computers; pray tell, NYT, why the brain should have infinite capacity? It doesn’t make sense.

Now I don’t know if LKY thought of it in these terms. I think that, as a language learner, he went by experience. I guess the more time he spent practicing Mandarin, or Hokkien, or Malay, the worse his English prose got. And that’s exactly how it works. Happens to me all the time, and happens to anyone who uses 2 or more languages regularly. The more different the languages, the less commons structures they share, the more acute the problem. Again, there is no reason why it should not be so. Information takes space. It isn’t hard.

Alas, it is true that academic linguists will not tell you this, even though they probably did in the 1950s. That is not because common sense has been “refuted”. It is because since the 1960s academia has morphed into a worldwide racket of fraud and deceit. If you read this blog you already know that; economics is bogus, climate science is bogus, psychology is bogus; even more than half of medical papers are bogus. Well, surprise surprise, linguistics is also bogus. The language learning industry is huge. There’s a lot of money in telling people that the brain is made of magic dust, that they can learn whatever they want whenever they want, as long as they give you money. 3 languages at the same time? Go for it! Kids are like sponges, they can learn anything. No, they can’t.
econotariat  cracker-econ  org:econlib  language  foreign-lang  education  efficiency  error  data  critique  cost-benefit  analysis  learning  multi  gnon  right-wing  zero-positive-sum  retention  tradeoffs  studying  cynicism-idealism  culture  society  polisci  politics  asia  developing-world  polis  conquest-empire  diversity  general-survey  quixotic 
april 2017 by nhaliday
New studies show the cost of student laptop use in lecture classes - Daniel Willingham
In-lecture media use and academic performance: Does subject area matter: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217304983
The study found that while a significant negative correlation exists between in-lecture media use and academic performance for students in the Arts and Social Sciences, the same pattern is not observable for students in the faculties of Engineering, Economic and Management Sciences, and Medical and Health Sciences.

scitariat  education  higher-ed  learning  data  study  summary  intervention  internet  attention  field-study  effect-size  studying  regularizer  aversion  the-monster  multi 
april 2017 by nhaliday
Arthur Schopenhauer: Chapter XXIV, On Reading and Books
Ignorance degrades a man only when it is found in company with wealth. A poor man is subdued by his poverty and distress; with him his work takes the place of knowledge and occupies his thoughts. On the other hand, the wealthy who are ignorant live merely for their pleasures and are like animals, as can be seen every day. Moreover, there is the reproach that wealth and leisure have not been used for that which bestows on them the greatest possible value.

When we read, someone else thinks for us; we repeat merely his mental process. It is like the pupil who, when learning to write, goes over with his pen the strokes made in pencil by the teacher. Accordingly, when we read, the work of thinking is for the most part taken away from us. Hence the noticeable relief when from preoccupation with our thoughts we pass to reading. But while we are reading our mind is really only the playground of other people’s ideas; and when these finally depart, what remains? The result is that, whoever reads very much and almost the entire day but at intervals amuses himself with thoughtless pastime, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who always rides ultimately forgets how to walk. But such is the case with very many scholars; they have read themselves stupid. [...]
pdf  essay  big-peeps  history  early-modern  europe  philosophy  info-foraging  rant  rhetoric  meta:rhetoric  signal-noise  prioritizing  literature  learning  info-dynamics  aristos  lol  aphorism  germanic  the-classics  attention  studying  blowhards  retention  class  realness  thinking  neurons  letters 
march 2017 by nhaliday
The Learning Brain: Neuronal Recycling and Inhibition: Zeitschrift für Psychologie: Vol 224, No 4
Reading is an example of complex learning specific to human beings. In readers, an area of the brain is dedicated to the visual processing of letters and words, referred to as the visual word form area (VWFA). The existence of this brain area is paradoxical. Reading is too recent to be a phylogenic product of Darwinian evolution. It likely develops with intense school training via a neuroplastic ontogenic process of neuronal recycling: neurons in the lateral occipitotemporal lobe originally tuned to the visual recognition of stimuli, such as faces, objects, and animals, will be recycled for the visual recognition of letters and words. Thus, the VWFA inherits the intrinsic properties of these neurons, notably, mirror generalization, a process (or heuristic) applied to all visual stimuli that enables the recognition of a stimulus irrespective of its left-right orientation. On its own, this inherited property is not adapted to reading because it makes children confuse mirror letters, such as b and d in the Latin alphabet. In this article, we present evidence that inhibitory control is critical to avoid mirror errors inherited from the neuronal recycling process by blocking the mirror generalization heuristic in the context of reading. We subsequently argue that the “neuronal recycling + inhibitory control” law constitutes a general law of the learning brain by demonstrating that it may also account for the development of numeracy.
study  psychology  cog-psych  neurons  neuro  evolution  evopsych  learning  eden  attention  models  thinking  retrofit  roots  psych-architecture  inhibition  studying  🌞 
february 2017 by nhaliday
ExtraTricky - On Taking Notes in Math Class
Perhaps this fictional story convinced you, and perhaps it didn't. I'm not going to claim I have proof that notes are detrimental to every student, or even on average. I don't know about any research in that area. But if you want to try out not taking notes for yourself, here are my recommendations for how to do it.
- During lecture, try to find the main new ideas being presented. If something is just algebraic manipulation, trust yourself to be able to do that on the homework if you need to.
- If the course doesn't have written materials available, do write down definitions. Keep these very short. Most definitions are only a single sentence. If you're writing more than that you're probably writing something that's not included in the definition.
- Be ready to struggle with the homework. Being stuck on a problem for hours is extremely common for mathematicians, even though it doesn't always seem that way. On one of my problem sets at MIT I was stuck near the end of a solution for around ten hours before realizing that it could be finished in a reasonably simple manner.
- When you get your homework back, make sure you have a complete and correct solution. If it's the one you turned in, great. If the teacher posts homework solutions, read through and keep that. Those solutions are now your notes.
- When exam time comes, go through those homework problems as study materials. If you end up getting stuck on one of those problems again, chances are it'll be in the same place you got stuck the first time, and your mind will connect the dots.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
The Uniqueness of Italian Internal Divergence | Notes On Liberty
Measuring Productivity Dispersion: Lessons From Counting One-Hundred Million Ballots: http://cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12273
We measure output per worker in nearly 8,000 municipalities in the Italian electoral process using ballot counting times in the 2013 general election and two referenda in 2016. We document large productivity dispersion across provinces in this very uniform and low-skill task that involves nearly no technology and requires limited physical capital. Using a development accounting framework, this measure explains up to half of the firm-level productivity dispersion across Italian provinces and more than half the north-south productivity gap in Italy. We explore potential drivers of our measure of labor efficiency and find that its association with measures of work ethic and trust is particularly robust.

Interregional Migration, Human Capital Externalities and Unemployment Dynamics: Evidence from Italian Provinces: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/168560/1/Econstor.pdf
Using longitudinal data over the years 2002-2011 for 103 NUTS-3 Italian regions, we document that net outflows of human capital from the South to the North have increased the unemployment rate in the South, while it did not affect the unemployment rate in the North. Our analysis contributes to the literature on interregional human capital mobility suggesting that reducing human capital flight from Southern regions should be a priority

EXPLAINING ITALY’S NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE: Experimental evidence of large differences in social norms of cooperation: http://www.res.org.uk/details/mediabrief/9633311/EXPLAINING-ITALYS-NORTH-SOUTH-DIVIDE-Experimental-evidence-of-large-differences-.html
Amoral Familism, Social Capital, or Trust? The Behavioural Foundations of the Italian North-South Divide: http://conference.iza.org/conference_files/CognitiveSkills_2014/casari_m8572.pdf

At the root of the North‐South cooperation gap in Italy Preferences or beliefs?: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ecoj.12608
Southerners share the same pro‐social preferences, but differ both in their belief about cooperativeness and in the aversion to social risk ‐ respectively more pessimistic and stronger among Southerners.

Past dominations, current institutions and the Italian regional economic performance: http://www.siecon.org/online/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DiLiberto-Sideri.pdf
We study the connection between economic performance and the quality of government institutions for the sample of 103 Italian NUTS3 regions, including new measures of institutional quality calculated using data on the provision of four areas of public service: health, educational infrastructures, environment and energy. In order to address likely endogeneity problems, we use the histories of the different foreign dominations that ruled Italian regions between the 16th and 17th century and over seven hundred years before the creation of the unified Italian State. Our results suggest a significant role of past historical institutions on the current public administration efficiency and show that the latter makes a difference to the economic performance of regions. Overall, our analysis confirms that informal institutions matter for development, and that history can be used to find suitable instruments

Figure 1 – Institutional quality: territorial distribution

Figure 5: Italy during the period 1560-1659 (part A) and corresponding current provinces (part B)

Figure 6 –Former Spanish provinces

Italy’s North-South divide (1861-2011): the state of art: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/62209/1/MPRA_paper_62209.pdf
My main argument is summed up in the conclusions: there was a socio-institutional divide between the North and the South of the peninsula, that pre-exists Unification, in some respects grows stronger with it and is never bridged throughout the history of post-unification Italy. Admittedly, some socio-institutional convergence took place in the last decades, but this went in a direction opposite to the desirable one − that is, the North and Italy as a whole have begun to look similar to the South, rather than vice versa.

La cartina dell’ISTAT che mostra dove si leggono più libri in Italia: http://www.ilpost.it/flashes/istat-lettori-regioni-italiane/
ISTAT map showing where more books are read in Italy
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Psychological comments: Does Age make us sage or sag?
Khan on Twitter: "figure on right from @tuckerdrob lab is depressing (the knowledge plateau). do i read in vain??? https://t.co/DZzBD8onEv": https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/809439911627493377
- reasoning rises then declines after age ~20
- knowledge plateaus by age 35-40
- different interpretation provided by study authors w/ another graph (renewal)
- study (can't find the exact graph anywhere): http://www.iapsych.com/wj3ewok/LinkedDocuments/McArdle2002.pdf

School’s out: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/schools-out/
I saw a note by Razib Khan, in which he mentioned that psychometric research suggests that people plateau in their knowledge base as adults. I could believe it. But I’m not sure it’s true in my case. One might estimate total adult knowledge in terms of BS equivalents…

Age-related IQ decline is reduced markedly after adjustment for the Flynn effect: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20349385/
Twenty-year-olds outperform 70-year-olds by as much as 2.3 standard deviations (35 IQ points) on subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). We show that most of the difference can be attributed to an intergenerational rise in IQ known as the Flynn effect.


For these verbal subtests, the Flynn effect masked a modest increase in ability as individuals grow older.

Predictors of ageing-related decline across multiple cognitive functions: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616302707
Cognitive ageing is likely a process with few large-effect predictors

A strong link between speed of visual discrimination and cognitive ageing: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4123160/
Results showed a moderate correlation (r = 0.460) between inspection time performance and intelligence, and a strong correlation between change in inspection time and change in intelligence from 70 to 76 (r = 0.779). These results support the processing speed theory of cognitive ageing. They go beyond cross-sectional correlation to show that cognitive change is accompanied by changes in basic visual information processing as we age.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Thoughts on graduate school | Secret Blogging Seminar
I’ll organize my thoughts around the following ideas.

- Prioritize reading readable sources
- Build narratives
- Study other mathematician’s taste
- Do one early side project
- Find a clump of other graduate students
- Cast a wide net when looking for an advisor
- Don’t just work on one thing
- Don’t graduate until you have to
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule – The Mission – Medium
better than the title suggests, eg, Ben Franklins personal routine looks a lot like what I arrived at independently
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august 2016 by nhaliday
Compound Interest Is The Least Powerful Force In The Universe | Slate Star Codex
some summary of Gregory Clark's arguments

SLAVERY AND THE INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION OF HUMAN CAPITAL: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/refs/Mozilla_Scrapbook/w9227.pdf
Using a variety of different comparisons, (e.g. within versus across regions) I find that it took roughly two generations for the descendants of slaves to "catch up" to the descendants of free black men and women.

The lasting effect of intergenerational wealth transfers: Human capital, family formation, and wealth: http://sci-hub.tw/http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X17302788
Jargon aside, their results show that bequests tend not to benefit people much unless they have high human capital

The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War: https://www.nber.org/papers/w25700
The nullification of slave-based wealth after the US Civil War (1861-65) was one of the largest episodes of wealth compression in history. We document that white southern households with more slave assets lost substantially more wealth by 1870 relative to households with otherwise similar pre-War wealth levels. Yet, the sons of these slaveholders recovered in income and wealth proxies by 1880, in part by shifting into white collar positions and marrying into higher status families. Their pattern of recovery is most consistent with the importance of social networks in facilitating employment opportunities and access to credit.

Shocking Behavior : Random Wealth in Antebellum Georgia and Human Capital Across Generations: https://www.nber.org/papers/w19348
We track descendants of those eligible to win in Georgia's Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, which had nearly universal participation among adult white males. Winners received close to the median level of wealth - a large financial windfall orthogonal to parents' underlying characteristics that might have also affected their children's human capital. Although winners had slightly more children than non-winners, they did not send them to school more. Sons of winners have no better adult outcomes (wealth, income, literacy) than the sons of non-winners, and winners' grandchildren do not have higher literacy or school attendance than non-winners' grandchildren. This suggests only a limited role for family financial resources in the transmission of human capital across generations and a potentially more important role for other factors that persist through family lines.

Lottery Winners Don't Get Healthier: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/politically-incorrect-paper-of-the-day-3.html
N.B. the result is not that most lottery winners go bankrupt or that winning money doesn’t help people–the result, as Robin Hanson might say, is that bankruptcy isn’t about money.

Low leverage of wealth on your children’s traits is something that exists in a particular society, with a particular kind of technology. Back in medieval times, a windfall could have kept your kids alive in a famine, and that certainly had a long-term positive effect on their cognitive skills. Dead men take no tests. The most effective medical interventions today are cheap – everyone in Sweden and the US already has them – but there are places where those interventions are not universally available. Some families in Mozambique can afford artemisin, some can’t – this must make a difference.


It is not just wealth that has a small effect on your kid’s potential: playing Mozart doesn’t help either. Other than locking away the ball-peen hammers, it’s hard to think of any known approach that does have much effect – although we don’t know everything, and maybe there are undiscovered effective approaches (other than genetic engineering). For example, iodine supplements have a good effect in areas that are iodine-deficient. We now know (since 2014) that bromine is an essential trace element – maybe people in some parts of the world would benefit from bromine supplementation.

What about the social interventions that people are advocating, like Pre-K ? Since shared family effects (family environment surely matters more than some external social program) are small by adulthood, I think they’re unlikely to have any lasting effect. We might also note that the track record isn’t exactly encouraging. If there was a known and feasible way of boosting academic performance, you’d think that those teachers in Atlanta would have tried it. Sure beats prison.

Maybe there’s an effective approach using fmri and biofeedback – wouldn’t hurt to take a look. But even if it did work, it might simply boost everyone equally, and obviously nobody gives a shit about that.

They can read simple things. Useful things. If you want to talk about higher levels of literacy, or the lack thereof (functional illiteracy), you need to define your terms. And you should act fast, before I define functional illiteracy – which would include anyone who wasn’t reading Anna Karenina in middle school.
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june 2016 by nhaliday
soft question - How do you not forget old math? - MathOverflow
Terry Tao:
I find that blogging about material that I would otherwise forget eventually is extremely valuable in this regard. (I end up consulting my own blog posts on a regular basis.) EDIT: and now I remember I already wrote on this topic: terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/write-down-what-youve-d‌​one

The only way to cope with this loss of memory I know is to do some reading on systematic basis. Of course, if you read one paper in algebraic geometry (or whatever else) a month (or even two months), you may not remember the exact content of all of them by the end of the year but, since all mathematicians in one field use pretty much the same tricks and draw from pretty much the same general knowledge, you'll keep the core things in your memory no matter what you read (provided it is not patented junk, of course) and this is about as much as you can hope for.

Relating abstract things to "real life stuff" (and vice versa) is automatic when you work as a mathematician. For me, the proof of the Chacon-Ornstein ergodic theorem is just a sandpile moving over a pit with the sand falling down after every shift. I often tell my students that every individual term in the sequence doesn't matter at all for the limit but somehow together they determine it like no individual human is of any real importance while together they keep this civilization running, etc. No special effort is needed here and, moreover, if the analogy is not natural but contrived, it'll not be helpful or memorable. The standard mnemonic techniques are pretty useless in math. IMHO (the famous "foil" rule for the multiplication of sums of two terms is inferior to the natural "pair each term in the first sum with each term in the second sum" and to the picture of a rectangle tiled with smaller rectangles, though, of course, the foil rule sounds way more sexy).

One thing that I don't think the other respondents have emphasized enough is that you should work on prioritizing what you choose to study and remember.

Timothy Chow:
As others have said, forgetting lots of stuff is inevitable. But there are ways you can mitigate the damage of this information loss. I find that a useful technique is to try to organize your knowledge hierarchically. Start by coming up with a big picture, and make sure you understand and remember that picture thoroughly. Then drill down to the next level of detail, and work on remembering that. For example, if I were trying to remember everything in a particular book, I might start by memorizing the table of contents, and then I'd work on remembering the theorem statements, and then finally the proofs. (Don't take this illustration too literally; it's better to come up with your own conceptual hierarchy than to slavishly follow the formal hierarchy of a published text. But I do think that a hierarchical approach is valuable.)

Organizing your knowledge like this helps you prioritize. You can then consciously decide that certain large swaths of knowledge are not worth your time at the moment, and just keep a "stub" in memory to remind you that that body of knowledge exists, should you ever need to dive into it. In areas of higher priority, you can plunge more deeply. By making sure you thoroughly internalize the top levels of the hierarchy, you reduce the risk of losing sight of entire areas of important knowledge. Generally it's less catastrophic to forget the details than to forget about a whole region of the big picture, because you can often revisit the details as long as you know what details you need to dig up. (This is fortunate since the details are the most memory-intensive.)

Having a hierarchy also helps you accrue new knowledge. Often when you encounter something new, you can relate it to something you already know, and file it in the same branch of your mental tree.
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june 2016 by nhaliday

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