nhaliday + arbitrage   76

How good are decisions?
A statement I commonly hear in tech-utopian circles is that some seeming inefficiency can’t actually be inefficient because the market is efficient and inefficiencies will quickly be eliminated. A contentious example of this is the claim that companies can’t be discriminating because the market is too competitive to tolerate discrimination. A less contentious example is that when you see a big company doing something that seems bizarrely inefficient, maybe it’s not inefficient and you just lack the information necessary to understand why the decision was efficient.

Unfortunately, arguments like this are difficult to settle because, even in retrospect, it’s usually not possible to get enough information to determine the precise “value” of a decision. Even in cases where the decision led to an unambiguous success or failure, there are so many factors that led to the result that it’s difficult to figure out precisely why something happened.

One nice thing about sports is that they often have detailed play-by-play data and well-defined win criteria which lets us tell, on average, what the expected value of a decision is. In this post, we’ll look at the cost of bad decision making in one sport and then briefly discuss why decision quality in sports might be the same or better as decision quality in other fields.

Just to have a concrete example, we’re going to look at baseball, but you could do the same kind of analysis for football, hockey, basketball, etc., and my understanding is that you’d get a roughly similar result in all of those cases.

We’re going to model baseball as a state machine, both because that makes it easy to understand the expected value of particular decisions and because this lets us talk about the value of decisions without having to go over most of the rules of baseball.

exactly the kinda thing Dad likes
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5 weeks ago by nhaliday
Manifold – man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.
Silicon Valley (Big Tech and startups and VC)
Financial Markets
Academia (Good, Bad, and Ugly)
The View from Europe
The View from Asia (Life in PRC? Fear and Loathing of PRC?)
Frontiers of Science (AI, Genomics, Physics, ...)
Frontiers of Rationality
The Billionaire Life
What Millennials think us old folks don't understand
True things that you are not allowed to say
Bubbles that are ready to pop?
Under-appreciated Genius?
Overrated Crap and Frauds?
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march 2019 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.


At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Career Options for Scientists
Most PhD students in the biological sciences will not go on to become academics. For these individuals, choosing the best career path can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many options that allow them to take advantage of skills they hone during graduate and postdoctoral work.

The declining interest in an academic career: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0184130
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World – Foundational Research Institute
Evaluating the effectiveness of our actions, or even just whether they're positive or negative by our values, is very difficult. One approach is to focus on clear, quantifiable metrics and assume that the larger, indirect considerations just kind of work out. Another way to deal with uncertainty is to focus on actions that seem likely to have generally positive effects across many scenarios, and often this approach amounts to meta-level activities like encouraging positive-sum institutions, philosophical inquiry, and effective altruism in general. When we consider flow-through effects of our actions, the seemingly vast gaps in cost-effectiveness among charities are humbled to more modest differences, and we begin to find more worth in the diversity of activities that different people are pursuing.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Alzheimers | West Hunter
Some disease syndromes almost have to be caused by pathogens – for example, any with a fitness impact (prevalence x fitness reduction) > 2% or so, too big to be caused by mutational pressure. I don’t think that this is the case for AD: it hits so late in life that the fitness impact is minimal. However, that hardly means that it can’t be caused by a pathogen or pathogens – a big fraction of all disease syndromes are, including many that strike in old age. That possibility is always worth checking out, not least because infectious diseases are generally easier to prevent and/or treat.

There is new work that strongly suggests that pathogens are the root cause. It appears that the amyloid is an antimicrobial peptide. amyloid-beta binds to invading microbes and then surrounds and entraps them. ‘When researchers injected Salmonella into mice’s hippocampi, a brain area damaged in Alzheimer’s, A-beta quickly sprang into action. It swarmed the bugs and formed aggregates called fibrils and plaques. “Overnight you see the plaques throughout the hippocampus where the bugs were, and then in each single plaque is a single bacterium,” Tanzi says. ‘

obesity and pathogens: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/alzheimers/#comment-79757
not sure about this guy, but interesting: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/alzheimers/#comment-79748

All too often we see large, long-lasting research efforts that never produce, never achieve their goal.

For example, the amyloid hypothesis [accumulation of amyloid-beta oligomers is the cause of Alzheimers] has been dominant for more than 20 years, and has driven development of something like 15 drugs. None of them have worked. At the same time the well-known increased risk from APOe4 has been almost entirely ignored, even though it ought to be a clue to the cause.

In general, when a research effort has been spinning its wheels for a generation or more, shouldn’t we try something different? We could at least try putting a fraction of those research dollars into alternative approaches that have not yet failed repeatedly.

Mostly this applies to research efforts that at least wish they were science. ‘educational research’ is in a special class, and I hardly know what to recommend. Most of the remedial actions that occur to me violate one or more of the Geneva conventions.

APOe4 related to lymphatic system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolipoprotein_E

Look,if I could find out the sort of places that I usually misplace my keys – if I did, which I don’t – I could find the keys more easily the next time I lose them. If you find out that practitioners of a given field are not very competent, it marks that field as a likely place to look for relatively easy discovery. Thus medicine is a promising field, because on the whole doctors are not terribly good investigators. For example, none of the drugs developed for Alzheimers have worked at all, which suggests that our ideas on the causation of Alzheimers are likely wrong. Which suggests that it may (repeat may) be possible to make good progress on Alzheimers, either by an entirely empirical approach, which is way underrated nowadays, or by dumping the current explanation, finding a better one, and applying it.

You could start by looking at basic notions of field X and asking yourself: How do we really know that? Is there serious statistical evidence? Does that notion even accord with basic theory? This sort of checking is entirely possible. In most of the social sciences, we don’t, there isn’t, and it doesn’t.

Hygiene and the world distribution of Alzheimer’s disease: Epidemiological evidence for a relationship between microbial environment and age-adjusted disease burden: https://academic.oup.com/emph/article/2013/1/173/1861845/Hygiene-and-the-world-distribution-of-Alzheimer-s

Amyloid-β peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimer’s disease: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/340/340ra72

Fungus, the bogeyman: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21676754-curious-result-hints-possibility-dementia-caused-fungal
Fungus and dementia
paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep15015
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Yale Law Journal - Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

Amazon Must Be Stopped: https://newrepublic.com/article/119769/amazons-monopoly-must-be-broken-radical-plan-tech-giant

Amazon Will Go To Denver: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/09/10/amazon-will-go-to-denver/
Real things cities are offering to get Amazon HQ2
*Chicago: Let Amazon keep employees' income tax
*SoCal: Give away $100M in land
*Boston: City employees working just for Amazon
*Fresno: Let Amazon decide how to spend tax dollars

Washington, D.C., might have a leg up, having already hosted Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos for visits when he considered acquiring the Washington Post, which he now owns. Mr. Bezos also purchased the former Textile Museum in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood for $23 million in 2016 and is currently turning it into a private residence.

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

Thread: Why Amazon’s HQ2 is going to Fairfax County


walmart is the only entity that has even a slim chance at preventing jeff bezos from intermediating every commodity exchange in the world, u must respect

"I tried to save you, but you didn't listen. Now you'll have to face Him alone..."

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

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

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

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

If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon Has a Patent for It.): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/technology/amazon-wristband-tracking-privacy.html

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

Amazon’s vision for the future: delivery drone beehives in every city: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/23/15860668/amazon-drone-delivery-patent-city-centers
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Living with Inequality - Reason.com
That's why I propose the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club. The tenth commandment—"You shall not covet"—is a foundation of social peace. The Nobel Laureate economist Vernon Smith noted the tenth commandment along with the eighth (you shall not steal) in his Nobel toast, saying that they "provide the property right foundations for markets, and warned that petty distributional jealousy must not be allowed to destroy" those foundations. If academics, pundits, and columnists would avowedly reject covetousness, would openly reject comparisons between the average (extremely fortunate) American and the average billionaire, would mock people who claimed that frugal billionaires are a systematic threat to modern life, then soon our time could be spent discussing policy issues that really matter.

Enlightenment -> social justice: https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/866448789825105920
US reconquista: https://twitter.com/AngloRemnant/status/865980569397731329
envy and psychology textbooks: https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/887115182257917952

various Twitter threads: https://twitter.com/search?q=GarettJones+inequality


Civilization means saying no to the poor: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/civilization-means-saying-no-to-the-poor/
Although I instinctively dislike him, I do agree with Professor Scott on one point: “exploitation” really is the essence of civilization, whether by exploitation one simply means authority as described by those insensible to its moral force or more simply the refusal of elites to divulge their resources to the poor.

In fact, no human creation of lasting worth could ever be made without a willingness to tell the poor to *** off. If we really listened to the demands of social justice, if we really let compassion be our guide, we could have no art, no music, no science, no religion, no philosophy, no architecture beyond the crudest shelters. The poor are before us, their need perpetually urgent. It is inexcusable for us ever to build a sculpture, a cathedral, a particle accelerator. And the poor, we have it on two good authorities (the other being common sense), will be with us always. What we give for their needs today will have disappeared tomorrow, and they will be hungry again. Imagine if some Savonarola had come to Florence a century or two earlier and convinced the Florentine elite to open their hearts and their wallets to the poor in preference for worldly vanities. All that wealth would have been squandered on the poor and would have disappeared without a trace. Instead, we got the Renaissance.

Reward the lawless; punish the law abiding. Complete inversion which will eventually drive us back to the 3rd world darkness whence we came.

This idea that a group is only honorable in virtue of their victimization is such a pernicious one.
for efficiency, just have "Victims of WASPs Day." A kind of All Victims' Day. Otherwise U.S. calendar will be nothing but days of grievance.
Bonald had a good bit on this (of course).
Steve King is supposedly stupid for claiming that Western Civilization is second to none. One might have supposed that Catholics would take some pride as Catholics in Western civilization, a thing that was in no small part our creation. Instead, the only history American Catholics are to remember is being poor and poorly regarded recent immigrants in America.

Don't even bother with the rat race if you value big family. I won the race, & would've been better off as a dentist in Peoria.
.. College prof in Athens, OH. Anesthesiologist in Knoxville. State govt bureaucrat in Helena.
.. This is the formula: Middle America + regulatory capture white-collar job. anyone attempting real work in 2017 america is a RETARD.
.. Also unclear is why anyone in the US would get married. knock your girl up and put that litter on Welfare.
You: keep 50% of your earnings after taxes. 25% is eaten by cost of living. save the last 25%, hope our bankrupt gov doesn't expropriate l8r
The main difference in this country between welfare and 7-figure income is the quality of your kitchen cabinets.

wtf: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm
$159,770 per year
$76.81 per hour

18% (Much faster than average)

Admission into dental school is highly competitive. Along with undergraduate performance, students are evaluated for their Dental Admissions Test (DAT) scores. Students have the opportunity to take this test before graduating college. After gaining admission into dental school, students can go on to complete four years of full-time study to earn the Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine. Students typically spend the first two years learning general and dental science in classroom and laboratory settings. They may take courses like oral anatomy, histology and pathology. In the final years, dental students participate in clinical practicums, gaining supervised, hands-on experience in dental clinics.

Career ideas for the minimally ambitious dissident who wants to coast, shitpost, & live well:
- econ phd -> business school prof
- dentistry
- 2 years of banking/consulting -> F500 corp dev or strategy
- gov't bureaucrat in a state capital
Bad career ideas, for contrast:
- law
- humanities prof
- IT
- anything 'creative'

[ed.: Personally, I'd also throw in 'actuary' (though keep in mind ~20% risk of automation).]

Best life advice: try getting a boring, not very high status but decently paying job. Like programming payroll software. SJWs are uninterested.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Why I see academic economics moving left | askblog
I have a long essay on the scientific status of economics in National Affairs. A few excerpts from the conclusion:

In the end, can we really have effective theory in economics? If by effective theory we mean theory that is verifiable and reliable for prediction and control, the answer is likely no. Instead, economics deals in speculative interpretations and must continue to do so.

Young economists who employ pluralistic methods to study problems are admired rather than marginalized, as they were in 1980. But economists who question the wisdom of interventionist economic policies seem headed toward the fringes of the profession.

This is my essay in which I say that academic economics is on the road to sociology.

Property Is Only Another Name for Monopoly: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2818494
Hanson's take more positive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/10/for-stability-rents.html

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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 Morality of Sperm Donation - Gwern.net
There is a third benefit. Surprisingly, sperm donor-assisted pregnancies result in 1/5th the number of birth defects as pregnancies in general. (The CDC tells me that the defect rate is 1 in 33 or ~3%, and that birth defects in 2006 directly killed 5,819 infants.) Much of this large benefit stems from the paternal age effect - older fathers’ sperm result in more birth defects, lowered IQ, linked to autism, etc. To the extent that a sperm donor donating displaces, at the margin, the conception of future offspring at an elder age, donation directly reduces birth defects and the other mentioned effects.

Indeed, given the mixed data on whether sperm count rates are falling with time and the more reliable data on the striking increases with paternal age of negative effects like birth defects or autism - perhaps due to increased mutations4 - it may be worthwhile even for non-donators to bank their sperm for later use. A quick perusal of one sperm bank’s prices suggests that a 20-year old could store a large sample of his sperm until he is 40 for ~$5000 with the ultimate artificial insemination adding <$4000 to the final cost; if this resulted in cutting the risk of his children being autistic by 30%, would it be worthwhile? Perhaps. It is worth considering.
ratty  gwern  hmm  sex  genetics  genetic-load  paternal-age  parenting  developmental  disease  data  effective-altruism  arbitrage  cost-benefit  analysis  faq  planning 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: How Brexit was won, and the unreasonable effectiveness of physicists
‘If you don’t get this elementary, but mildly unnatural, mathematics of elementary probability into your repertoire, then you go through a long life like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. You’re giving a huge advantage to everybody else. One of the advantages of a fellow like Buffett … is that he automatically thinks in terms of decision trees and the elementary math of permutations and combinations… It’s not that hard to learn. What is hard is to get so you use it routinely almost everyday of your life. The Fermat/Pascal system is dramatically consonant with the way that the world works. And it’s fundamental truth. So you simply have to have the technique…

‘One of the things that influenced me greatly was studying physics… If I were running the world, people who are qualified to do physics would not be allowed to elect out of taking it. I think that even people who aren’t [expecting to] go near physics and engineering learn a thinking system in physics that is not learned so well anywhere else… The tradition of always looking for the answer in the most fundamental way available – that is a great tradition.’ --- Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s partner.


If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is – hire physicists, not communications people from normal companies, and never believe what advertising companies tell you about ‘data’ unless you can independently verify it. Physics, mathematics, and computer science are domains in which there are real experts, unlike macro-economic forecasting which satisfies neither of the necessary conditions – 1) enough structure in the information to enable good predictions, 2) conditions for good fast feedback and learning. Physicists and mathematicians regularly invade other fields but other fields do not invade theirs so we can see which fields are hardest for very talented people. It is no surprise that they can successfully invade politics and devise things that rout those who wrongly think they know what they are doing. Vote Leave paid very close attention to real experts. ...

More important than technology is the mindset – the hard discipline of obeying Richard Feynman’s advice: ‘The most important thing is not to fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.’ They were a hard floor on ‘fooling yourself’ and I empowered them to challenge everybody including me. They saved me from many bad decisions even though they had zero experience in politics and they forced me to change how I made important decisions like what got what money. We either operated scientifically or knew we were not, which is itself very useful knowledge. (One of the things they did was review the entire literature to see what reliable studies have been done on ‘what works’ in politics and what numbers are reliable.) Charlie Munger is one half of the most successful investment partnership in world history. He advises people – hire physicists. It works and the real prize is not the technology but a culture of making decisions in a rational way and systematically avoiding normal ways of fooling yourself as much as possible. This is very far from normal politics.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent
Falling Behind? is a recent (March 2014) book by Michael Teitelbaum of the Sloan Foundation, a demographer and long time critic of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) shortage claims. Falling Behind? is an excellent book with a wealth of data and information on the history of booms and busts in science and engineering employment since World War II, STEM shortage claims in general, and lobbying for “high-skilled” immigration “reform”. Although I have been a student of these issues for many years, I encountered many facts and insights that I did not know or had not thought of. Nonetheless the book has a number of weakenesses which readers should keep in mind.

... The evidence assembled in this book leads inescapably to three core findings:

o First, that the alarms about widespread shortages or shortfalls in the number of U.S. scientists and engineers are quite inconsistent with nearly all available evidence;

o Second, that similar claims of the past were politically successful but resulted in a series of booms and busts that did harm to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise and made careers in these fields increasingly unattractive; and

o Third, that the clear signs of malaise in the U.S. science and engineering workforce are structural in origin and cannot be cured simply by providing additional funding. To the contrary, recent efforts of this kind have proved to be destabilizing, and advocates should be careful what they wish for. ...

- “In the academic job market, there is no noticeable shortage in any discipline. In fact, there are signs of an oversupply of Ph.D.’s vying for tenure-track faculty positions in many disciplines (e.g., biomedical sciences, physical sciences).”
- “In the government and government-related job sector, certain STEM disciplines have a shortage of positions at the Ph.D. level (e.g., materials science engineering, nuclear engineering) and in general (e.g., systems engineers, cybersecurity, and intelligence professionals) due to the U.S. citizenship requirement. In contrast, an oversupply of biomedical engineers is seen at the Ph.D. level, and there are transient shortages of electrical engineers and mechanical engineers at advanced-degree levels.”
- “In the private sector, software developers, petroleum engineers, data scientists, and those in skilled trades are in high demand; there is an abundant supply of biomedical, chemistry, and physics Ph.D.’s; and transient shortages and surpluses of electrical engineers occur from time to time.”

The STEM Crisis is a Myth: An Ongoing Discussion: http://spectrum.ieee.org/static/the-stem-crisis-is-a-myth-an-ongoing-discussion

STEM: Still No Shortage: https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/stem-still-no-shortage-c6f6eed505c1
- Freddie deBoer

Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/education/edlife/stem-jobs-industry-careers.html
The number of graduates with technical majors (shown: bachelor, master and Ph.D. degrees awarded in 2015-16) tends to outpace job openings (shown: 2014-24 projections, annualized). Computer science is the exception.

I don’t think anyone is prepared for how far off of reality the Higher-Ed/STEM/High-Tech/Immigration story is. Even Bannon.

This is arguably the steepest pyramid scheme in the US & in the strategic sector that can least afford it. Yet it has ZERO to do with merit or xenophobia.
As such it is defended by a single mega lie of such size that no one can afford to rethink it. Myself included. It‘s a lie that has defined who we are for 50 years. I’m 53 and know nothing other than the lie. And the lie plays on the best parts of our American soul & narrative.
Work backwards. You‘ll see that perhaps the top 5-10 and not the top 100 universities should be training most all PhDs. Administrators should be fired. Tuition slashed. Strategic rivals barred from our labs. Diversity decreased or addressed *radically* earlier. Debt forgiven.
More students discouraged from four year college and into higher stability occupations. Massive salaries paid in fields that could restart growth. Transparency and accountability decreased for researcher and jacked up for administrations. Sports scholarships and legacies removed.
It’s so crazy what we need to do, that it‘s just easier to call anyone who dares rethink it an elitist or a xenophobe or an idiot or a pessimist or a nationalist. So I’m obviously going to be called all those things. As I was when I talked about mortgage backed securities in ‘02.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden : Nature Human Behaviour
A segment comprising 22% of the cohort accounted for 36% of the cohort’s injury insurance claims; 40% of excess obese kilograms; 54% of cigarettes smoked; 57% of hospital nights; 66% of welfare benefits; 77% of fatherless child-rearing; 78% of prescription fills; and 81% of criminal convictions. Childhood risks, including poor brain health at three years of age, predicted this segment with large effect sizes. Early-years interventions that are effective for this population segment could yield very large returns on investment.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Exclusive Interview: How Jared Kushner Won Trump The White House
not sure how much of this I believe (that is, whether any of it had any effect compared to general dissatisfaction of rust belt voters)
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Diamond on domestication | West Hunter
Jared Diamond, in discussing animal domestication, claims that the local availability of species with the right qualities for domestication was key, rather than anything special about the biology or culture of the humans living there. In some cases that may be true: there aren’t many large mammals left in Australia, and they’re all marsupials anyway. Stupid marsupials. He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals.


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

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

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

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

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

Every technique is in competition with rival techniques. This inhibits the development of new techniques, even if they have high potential in the long run. To succeed, they have to beat out existing techniques in the short run.

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

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

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that all human groups have equal mental capabilities – except for the inhabitants of New Guinea, who are clearly smarter than the human norm.

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

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

Of course that character was feigning insanity, but still.

PNG = Papua New Guinea

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

He never says he was willing to wave the point, so how do you know that?

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

lower genetic diversity in Amerindians+possibility that fast mutating viruses might adapt to their host and hit relatives harder
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november 2016 by nhaliday
The best kind of discrimination – The sideways view
I think it would be nice if the world had more price discrimination; we would produce more goods, and those goods would be available to more people. As a society we could enable price discrimination by providing more high-quality signals to be used by price discriminators. The IRS is in a particularly attractive position to offer such signals since income is a particularly useful signal. But realistically I think that such a proposal would require coordination in order to get consumers’ consent to make the data available (and to ensure that only upper bounds were available); the total gains are probably not large enough to justify the amount of coordination and complexity that is required.

apparently about 1/3 of income goes to capital-holders, and 2/3 to workers (wonder what the source for that is, and how consistent it is across industries)
clever-rats  ratty  alt-inst  economics  proposal  policy  markets  arbitrage  hmm  efficiency  street-fighting  analysis  gray-econ  🤖  acmtariat  compensation  distribution  objektbuch  capital  labor  cost-benefit  capitalism  ideas  discrimination  supply-demand  micro 
november 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Two Kinds Of Status
prestige and dominance

More here. I was skeptical at first, but now am convinced: humans see two kinds of status, and approve of prestige-status much more than domination-status. I’ll have much more to say about this in the coming days, but it is far from clear to me that prestige-status is as much better than domination-status as people seem to think. Efforts to achieve prestige-status also have serious negative side-effects.

Two Ways to the Top: Evidence That Dominance and Prestige Are Distinct Yet Viable Avenues to Social Rank and Influence: https://henrich.fas.harvard.edu/files/henrich/files/cheng_et_al_2013.pdf
Dominance (the use of force and intimidation to induce fear) and Prestige (the sharing of expertise or know-how to gain respect)


According to the model, Dominance initially arose in evolutionary history as a result of agonistic contests for material resources and mates that were common among nonhuman species, but continues to exist in contemporary human societies, largely in the form of psychological intimidation, coercion, and wielded control over costs and benefits (e.g., access to resources, mates, and well-being). In both humans and nonhumans, Dominance hierarchies are thought to emerge to help maintain patterns of submission directed from subordinates to Dominants, thereby minimizing agonistic battles and incurred costs.

In contrast, Prestige is likely unique to humans, because it is thought to have emerged from selection pressures to preferentially attend to and acquire cultural knowledge from highly skilled or successful others, a capacity considered to be less developed in other animals (Boyd & Richerson, 1985; Laland & Galef, 2009). In this view, social learning (i.e., copying others) evolved in humans as a low-cost fitness-maximizing, information-gathering mechanism (Boyd & Richerson, 1985). Once it became adaptive to copy skilled others, a preference for social models with better than average information would have emerged. This would promote competition for access to the highest quality models, and deference toward these models in exchange for copying and learning opportunities. Consequently, selection likely favored Prestige differentiation, with individuals possessing high-quality information or skills elevated to the top of the hierarchy. Meanwhile, other individuals may reach the highest ranks of their group’s hierarchy by wielding threat of force, regardless of the quality of their knowledge or skills. Thus, Dominance and Prestige can be thought of as coexisting avenues to attaining rank and influence within social groups, despite being underpinned by distinct motivations and behavioral patterns, and resulting in distinct patterns of imitation and deference from subordinates.

Importantly, both Dominance and Prestige are best conceptualized as cognitive and behavioral strategies (i.e., suites of subjective feelings, cognitions, motivations, and behavioral patterns that together produce certain outcomes) deployed in certain situations, and can be used (with more or less success) by any individual within a group. They are not types of individuals, or even, necessarily, traits within individuals. Instead, we assume that all situated dyadic relationships contain differential degrees of both Dominance and Prestige, such that each person is simultaneously Dominant and Prestigious to some extent, to some other individual. Thus, it is possible that a high degree of Dominance and a high degree of Prestige may be found within the same individual, and may depend on who is doing the judging. For example, by controlling students’ access to rewards and punishments, school teachers may exert Dominance in their relationships with some students, but simultaneously enjoy Prestige with others, if they are respected and deferred to for their competence and wisdom. Indeed, previous studies have shown that based on both self- and peer ratings, Dominance and Prestige are largely independent (mean r = -.03; Cheng et al., 2010).

Status Hypocrisy: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/01/status-hypocrisy.html
Today we tend to say that our leaders have prestige, while their leaders have dominance. That is, their leaders hold power via personal connections and the threat and practice of violence, bribes, sex, gossip, and conformity pressures. Our leaders, instead, mainly just have whatever abilities follow from our deepest respect and admiration regarding their wisdom and efforts on serious topics that matter for us all. Their leaders more seek power, while ours more have leadership thrust upon them. Because of this us/them split, we tend to try to use persuasion on us, but force on them, when seeking to to change behaviors.


Clearly, while there is some fact of the matter about how much a person gains their status via licit or illicit means, there is also a lot of impression management going on. We like to give others the impression that we personally mainly want prestige in ourselves and our associates, and that we only grant others status via the prestige they have earned. But let me suggest that, compared to this ideal, we actually want more dominance in ourselves and our associates than we like to admit, and we submit more often to dominance.

Cads, Dads, Doms: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/07/cads-dads-doms.html
"The proper dichotomy is not “virile vs. wimpy” as has been supposed, but “exciting vs. drab,” with the former having the two distinct sub-groups “macho man vs. pretty boy.” Another way to see that this is the right dichotomy is to look around the world: wherever girls really dig macho men, they also dig the peacocky musician type too, finding safe guys a bit boring. And conversely, where devoted dads do the best, it’s more difficult for macho men or in-town-for-a-day rockstars to make out like bandits. …

Whatever it is about high-pathogen-load areas that selects for greater polygynous behavior … will result in an increase in both gorilla-like and peacock-like males, since they’re two viable ways to pursue a polygynous mating strategy."

This fits with there being two kinds of status: dominance and prestige. Macho men, such as CEOs and athletes, have dominance, while musicians and artists have prestige. But women seek both short and long term mates. Since both kinds of status suggest good genes, both attract women seeking short term mates. This happens more when women are younger and richer, and when there is more disease. Foragers pretend they don’t respect dominance as much as they do, so prestigious men get more overt attention, while dominant men get more covert attention.

Women seeking long term mates also consider a man’s ability to supply resources, and may settle for poorer genes to get more resources. Dominant men tend to have more resources than prestigious men, so such men are more likely to fill both roles, being long term mates for some women and short term mates for others. Men who can offer only prestige must accept worse long term mates, while men who can offer only resources must accept few short term mates. Those low in prestige, resources, or dominance must accept no mates. A man who had prestige, dominance, and resources would get the best short and long term mates – what men are these?

Stories are biased toward dramatic events, and so are biased toward events with risky men; it is harder to tell a good story about the attraction of a resource-rich man. So stories naturally encourage short term mating. Shouldn’t this make long-term mates wary of strong mate attraction to dramatic stories?

Woman want three things: someone to fight for them (the Warrior), someone to provide for them (the Tycoon) and someone to excite their emotions or entertain them (the Wizard).

In this context,

Dad= Tycoon
Cad= Wizard

To repeat:

Dom (Cocky)+ Dad (Generous) + Cad (Exciting/Funny) = Laid

There is an old distinction between "proximate" and "ultimate" causes. Evolution is an ultimate cause, physiology (and psychology, here) is a proximate cause. The flower bends to follow the sun because it gathers more light that way, but the immediate mechanism of the bending involves hormones called auxins. I see a lot of speculation about, say, sexual cognitive dimorphism whose ultimate cause is evolutionary, but not so much speculation about the proximate cause - the "how" of the difference, rather than the "why". And here I think a visit to an older mode of explanation like Marsden's - one which is psychological rather than genetic - can sensitize us to the fact that the proximate causes of a behavioral tendency need not be a straightforward matter of being hardwired differently.

This leads to my second point, which is just that we should remember that human beings actually possess consciousness. This means not only that the proximate cause of a behavior may deeply involve subjectivity, self-awareness, and an existential situation. It also means that all of these propositions about what people do are susceptible to change once they have been spelled out and become part of the culture. It is rather like the stock market: once everyone knows (or believes) something, then that information provides no advantage, creating an incentive for novelty.

Finally, the consequences of new beliefs about the how and the why of human nature and human behavior. Right or wrong, theories already begin to have consequences once they are taken up and incorporated into subjectivity. We really need a new Foucault to take on this topic.

The Economics of Social Status: http://www.meltingasphalt.com/the-economics-of-social-status/
Prestige vs. dominance. Joseph Henrich (of WEIRD fame) distinguishes two types of status. Prestige is the kind of status we get from being an impressive human specimen (think Meryl Streep), and it's governed by our 'approach' instincts. Dominance, on the other hand, is … [more]
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : We Need The Very Rich
Why look at years-to-payback instead of return on investment? A new NBER paper on private vs. public firms makes the answer clear. Unless project gains can be very clearly proven to analysts, or perhaps so small and numerous to allow averaging over them, public firms are basically incapable of taking a loss on earnings this quarter in order to make gains several years later, no matter how big those gains. CEOs are strongly tempted to instead please analysts by grabbing higher short-term quarterly earnings. So we need the very rich to make long-term investments.
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Blue or Green on Regulation? - Less Wrong
The FDA prevents 5,000 casualties per year but causes at least 20,000-120,000 casualties by delaying approval of beneficial medications. The second number is calculated only by looking at delays in the introduction of medications eventually approved - not medications never approved, or medications for which approval was never sought. FDA fatalities are comparable to the annual number of fatal car accidents, but the noneffects of medications not approved don't make the evening news. A bureaucrat's chief incentive is not to approve anything that will ever harm anyone in a way that makes it into the newspaper; no other cost-benefit calculus is involved as an actual career incentive. The bureaucracy as a whole may have an incentive to approve at least some new products - if the FDA never approved a new medication, Congress would become suspicious - but any individual bureaucrat has an unlimited incentive to say no. Regulators have no career motive to do any sort of cost-benefit calculation - except of course for the easy career-benefit calculation. A product with a failure mode spectacular enough to make the newspapers will be banned regardless of what other good it might do; one-reason decisionmaking. As with the FAA banning toenail clippers on planes, "safety precautions" are primarily an ostentatious display of costly efforts so that, when a catastrophe does occur, the agency will be seen to have tried its hardest.
policy  government  drugs  medicine  rationality  arbitrage  regulation  lesswrong  healthcare  FDA  unintended-consequences  ratty  pharma  cost-benefit  incentives 
august 2016 by nhaliday
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty - The Atlantic
The case for colonialism: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436597.2017.1369037

The Case for Contrarianism: http://quillette.com/2017/10/10/the-case-for-contrarianism/
Another semester, another academic publishing scandal, complete with calls for penitence and punishment. This time the catalyst is “The Case for Colonialism,” a “Viewpoint” editorial in Third World Quarterly. In this essay, Bruce Gilley argued that “it is high time to question [the anti-colonial] orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts.” Gilley’s article has since been withdrawn due to “serious and credible threats of personal violence” made against the journal’s editor. This obviously troubling development should make us wonder: just what evil would this article have brought about if not withdrawn? The Streisand effect is in full display here. The article – detailed, abstruse, and not always beautifully written – has no doubt been far more widely read than it would have been without the controversy.


What’s worth emulating about a prediction market is that it turns the expression of unpopular beliefs into a low-risk, high-reward enterprise. In the real, social world, it is often very costly to dissent from a dominant view: friendships can be lost and careers ruined. But it is not costly at all to assent to a dominant view; on the contrary, conforming in this way is helpful and often necessary both socially and professionally.

Now, consider the situation of someone who believes, for instance, that the dominant view is just as likely to be false as it is true. Normal incentives push such a person to go along with the dominant view, and they may feel perfectly comfortable about it. But the incentives of a prediction market would push a person in the opposite manner. They would push a person, who believes the dominant view is actually a 50/50 proposition, to invest in the belief which has a higher reward – that is, the less popular viewpoint. The distribution of this market ends up more rational over time simply because the dominant view is not artificially inflated by people playing it safe.

Author of article on “the case for colonialism” withdraws it after death threats and social-media mobbing; academics are mostly silent: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/author-of-article-on-the-case-for-colonialism-withdraws-it-after-death-threats-and-social-media-mobbing-colleagues-are-mostly-silent/
“Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper: http://retractionwatch.com/2017/10/09/credible-threats-personal-violence-editor-prompt-withdrawal-colonialism-paper/
How the hate mob tried to silence me: http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/7027/full
- Bruce Gilley

This is where the "Case for Colonialism" paper goes wrong. Western states today couldn't recolonize an anthill. It's Singapore's job
I wouldn't put today's Western states in charge of anything important
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july 2016 by nhaliday
A Brief History of Trial by Combat
Priests may have manipulated the results because they wanted ordeals to be punishments for people who were unprovably guilty. Or it could have been a merciful punishment, especially in the case of unjust laws. When fifty men who had hunted King William Rufus’s deer all passed a trial by ordeal, he reportedly yelled, “What is this? God a just judge? Perish the man who after this believes so.”

Leeson’s theory, however, is that priests successfully used ordeals to determine who was guilty. Among a devout population, only innocent people would ask to prove their innocence through an ordeal, which explains why priests usually “interpreted” the results in a way that found people innocent.

If every ordeal ended with a miracle, of course, people would turn skeptical. And atheists presented a problem. The key, Leeson suggests, would be for priests to (consciously or unconsciously) condemn the right number of people. If too many people choose a trial by ordeal, that’s a sign that the flock has grown skeptical; the priest should condemn more people to re-instill the fear of God and deter unbelievers. One analysis of European ordeals found that 63% of suspects were found innocent. Perhaps that’s the right ratio.

Why the trial by ordeal was actually an effective test of guilt: https://aeon.co/ideas/why-the-trial-by-ordeal-was-actually-an-effective-test-of-guilt
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july 2016 by nhaliday
Our fictional pundit predicted more correct primary results than Nate Silver did - The Washington Post
Wisconsinites are mostly a simple people. They eat their three lunches, kiss their often enormous children on their often featureless faces, and go to church so they can pray for the 2 Broke Girls.
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may 2016 by nhaliday

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