nhaliday + s:***   35

Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter
https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/greg-cochran-part-2
https://medium.com/@houstoneuler/annotating-part-2-of-the-greg-cochran-interview-with-james-miller-678ba33f74fc

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/gcochran99/status/1160589827651203073
https://archive.is/Yzjyv
Bad day for Lehman Bros.
--
Good day for everyone else, then.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/09/varying-rainfall-make-people-collectivists.html
This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?

(lol)

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/chinese-wheat-eaters-vs-rice-eaters-speculative.html
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1508726/why-chinas-wheat-growing-north-produces-individualists-and-its-rice
in-depth reflection on agricultural ecologies, Europe vs China, and internal Chinese differences/ethnic identity/relations with barbarians/nomads, etc.: https://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/08/wealth-of-communities.php

Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/08/in-defense-of-the-wittvogel-thesis.html

Emerging evidence of cultural differences linked to rice versus wheat agriculture: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X1930082X
- Historical rice farming linked to interdependent culture.
- Differences tested in China and Japan, as well as in worldwide comparison.
- There is evidence for differences among urbanites with no direct experience farming.
- Rice farming is also linked to holistic thought, fewer patents for inventions.
- Rice cultures are not ‘pro-social’ but rather tight ties, strong division of close versus distant ties.

The agricultural roots of Chinese innovation performance: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014292119300893
We provide robust evidence that counties with a legacy of rice cultivation generate fewer patent applications than other counties, and a legacy of wheat production tends to be associated with more patent applications. The results for rice are robust to, e.g., controlling for temperature, precipitation, irrigation, disease burden, religiosity, and corruption, as well as accounting for migration patterns.

Steve Hsu on this stuff:
Genetic variation in Han Chinese population: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/07/genetic-variation-in-han-chinese.html
Largest component of genetic variation is a N-S cline (phenotypic N-S gradient discussed here). Variance accounted for by second (E-W) PC vector is much smaller and the Han population is fairly homogeneous in genetic terms: ...while we revealed East-to-West structure among the Han Chinese, the signal is relatively weak and very little structure is discernible beyond the second PC (p.24).

Neandertal ancestry does not vary significantly across provinces, consistent with admixture prior to the dispersal of modern Han Chinese.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2014/01/china-1793.html
My fellow officers informed me, that while the negotiation was going on, the ships were constantly crowded with all kinds of refreshments, and that when they were first boarded by the Chinese they received every attention from them that could be shown; and that the presents received by the different officers belonging to the embassy, were of immense value. That the natives of this part of China were of different complexions and manners from those in and near Canton; their colour being nearly white; and in their manners were much more free and candid; and that they were of a larger stature, and more athletic than the southern Chinese—they were much more sociable, and not so particular respecting their women being seen by the men. And were even fond of receiving the officers into their houses, when on shore, provided it could be done without the knowledge of the mandarins.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2014/06/large-scale-psychological-differences.html
The study below discusses a psychological/cognitive/personality gradient between N and S China, possibly driven by a history of wheat vs rice cultivation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_and_southern_China
http://shanghaiist.com/2015/07/01/average-heights-men-women.php
https://www.quora.com/Why-are-Northern-Chinese-people-generally-taller-than-Southern-Chinese

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/01/the-great-genetic-map-of-china/
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Annotating Greg Cochran’s interview with James Miller
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/
opinion of Scott and Hanson: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90238
Greg's methodist: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90256
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/interview-2/#comment-90299
You have to consider the relative strengths of Japan and the USA. USA was ~10x stronger, industrially, which is what mattered. Technically superior (radar, Manhattan project). Almost entirely self-sufficient in natural resources. Japan was sure to lose, and too crazy to quit, which meant that they would lose after being smashed flat.
--
There’s a fairly common way of looking at things in which the bad guys are not at fault because they’re bad guys, born that way, and thus can’t help it. Well, we can’t help it either, so the hell with them. I don’t think we had to respect Japan’s innate need to fuck everybody in China to death.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/ramble-on/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/topics/
https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/greg-cochran-part-1
2nd part: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9ab84243b967

some additional things:
- political correctness, the Cathedral and the left (personnel continuity but not ideology/value) at start
- joke: KT impact = asteroid mining, every mass extinction = intelligent life destroying itself
- Alawites: not really Muslim, women liberated because "they don't have souls", ended up running shit in Syria because they were only ones that wanted to help the British during colonial era
- solution to Syria: "put the Alawites in NYC"
- Zimbabwe was OK for a while, if South Africa goes sour, just "put the Boers in NYC" (Miller: left would probably say they are "culturally incompatible", lol)
- story about Lincoln and his great-great-great-grandfather
- skepticism of free speech
- free speech, authoritarianism, and defending against the Mongols
- Scott crazy (not in a terrible way), LW crazy (genetics), ex.: polyamory
- TFP or microbio are better investments than stereotypical EA stuff
- just ban AI worldwide (bully other countries to enforce)
- bit of a back-and-forth about macroeconomics
- not sure climate change will be huge issue. world's been much warmer before and still had a lot of mammals, etc.
- he quite likes Pseudoerasmus
- shits on modern conservatism/Bret Stephens a bit

- mentions Japan having industrial base a tenth the size of the US's and no chance of winning WW2 around 11m mark
- describes himself as "fairly religious" around 20m mark
- 27m30s: Eisenhower was smart, read Carlyle, classical history, etc.

but was Nixon smarter?: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2019/03/18/open-thread-03-18-2019/
The Scandals of Meritocracy. Virtue vs. competence. Would you rather have a boss who is evil but competent, or good but incompetent? The reality is you have to balance the two. Richard Nixon was probably smarter that Dwight Eisenhower in raw g, but Eisenhower was probably a better person.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Interview Greg Cochran by Future Strategist
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/interview/

- IQ enhancement (somewhat apprehensive, wonder why?)
- ~20 years to CRISPR enhancement (very ballpark)
- cloning as an alternative strategy
- environmental effects on IQ, what matters (iodine, getting hit in the head), what doesn't (schools, etc.), and toss-ups (childhood/embryonic near-starvation, disease besides direct CNS-affecting ones [!])
- malnutrition did cause more schizophrenia in Netherlands (WW2) and China (Great Leap Forward) though
- story about New Mexico schools and his children (mostly grad students in physics now)
- clever sillies, weird geniuses, and clueless elites
- life-extension and accidents, half-life ~ a few hundred years for a typical American
- Pinker on Harvard faculty adoptions (always Chinese girls)
- parabiosis, organ harvesting
- Chicago economics talk
- Catholic Church, cousin marriage, and the rise of the West
- Gregory Clark and Farewell to Alms
- retinoblastoma cancer, mutational load, and how to deal w/ it ("something will turn up")
- Tularemia and Stalingrad (ex-Soviet scientist literally mentioned his father doing it)
- germ warfare, nuclear weapons, and testing each
- poison gas, Haber, nerve gas, terrorists, Japan, Syria, and Turkey
- nukes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incirlik_Air_Base
- IQ of ancient Greeks
- history of China and the Mongols, cloning Genghis Khan
- Alexander the Great vs. Napoleon, Russian army being late for meetup w/ Austrians
- the reason why to go into Iraq: to find and clone Genghis Khan!
- efficacy of torture
- monogamy, polygamy, and infidelity, the Aboriginal system (reverse aging wives)
- education and twin studies
- errors: passing white, female infanticide, interdisciplinary social science/economic imperialism, the slavery and salt story
- Jewish optimism about environmental interventions, Rabbi didn't want people to know, Israelis don't want people to know about group differences between Ashkenazim and other groups in Israel
- NASA spewing crap on extraterrestrial life (eg, thermodynamic gradient too weak for life in oceans of ice moons)
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march 2017 by nhaliday
soft question - Thinking and Explaining - MathOverflow
- good question from Bill Thurston
- great answers by Terry Tao, fedja, Minhyong Kim, gowers, etc.

Terry Tao:
- symmetry as blurring/vibrating/wobbling, scale invariance
- anthropomorphization, adversarial perspective for estimates/inequalities/quantifiers, spending/economy

fedja walks through his though-process from another answer

Minhyong Kim: anthropology of mathematical philosophizing

Per Vognsen: normality as isotropy
comment: conjugate subgroup gHg^-1 ~ "H but somewhere else in G"

gowers: hidden things in basic mathematics/arithmetic
comment by Ryan Budney: x sin(x) via x -> (x, sin(x)), (x, y) -> xy
I kinda get what he's talking about but needed to use Mathematica to get the initial visualization down.
To remind myself later:
- xy can be easily visualized by juxtaposing the two parabolae x^2 and -x^2 diagonally
- x sin(x) can be visualized along that surface by moving your finger along the line (x, 0) but adding some oscillations in y direction according to sin(x)
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Chip Away At Hard Problems
One of the most common ways that wannabe academics fail is by failing to sufficiently focus on a few topics of interest to academia. Many of them become amateur intellectuals, people who think and write more as a hobby, and less to gain professional rewards via institutions like academia, media, and business. Such amateurs are often just as smart and hard-working as professionals, and they can more directly address the topics that interest them. Professionals, in contrast, must specialize more, have less freedom to pick topics, and must try harder to impress others, which encourages the use of more difficult robust/rigorous methods.

You might think their added freedom would result in amateurs contributing more to intellectual progress, but in fact they contribute less. Yes, amateurs can and do make more initial progress when new topics arise suddenly far from topics where established expert institutions have specialized. But then over time amateurs blow their lead by focusing less and relying on easier more direct methods. They rely more on informal conversation as analysis method, they prefer personal connections over open competitions in choosing people, and they rely more on a perceived consensus among a smaller group of fellow enthusiasts. As a result, their contributions just don’t appeal as widely or as long.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
gt.geometric topology - Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking - MathOverflow
Terry Tao:
I can't help you much with high-dimensional topology - it's not my field, and I've not picked up the various tricks topologists use to get a grip on the subject - but when dealing with the geometry of high-dimensional (or infinite-dimensional) vector spaces such as R^n, there are plenty of ways to conceptualise these spaces that do not require visualising more than three dimensions directly.

For instance, one can view a high-dimensional vector space as a state space for a system with many degrees of freedom. A megapixel image, for instance, is a point in a million-dimensional vector space; by varying the image, one can explore the space, and various subsets of this space correspond to various classes of images.

One can similarly interpret sound waves, a box of gases, an ecosystem, a voting population, a stream of digital data, trials of random variables, the results of a statistical survey, a probabilistic strategy in a two-player game, and many other concrete objects as states in a high-dimensional vector space, and various basic concepts such as convexity, distance, linearity, change of variables, orthogonality, or inner product can have very natural meanings in some of these models (though not in all).

It can take a bit of both theory and practice to merge one's intuition for these things with one's spatial intuition for vectors and vector spaces, but it can be done eventually (much as after one has enough exposure to measure theory, one can start merging one's intuition regarding cardinality, mass, length, volume, probability, cost, charge, and any number of other "real-life" measures).

For instance, the fact that most of the mass of a unit ball in high dimensions lurks near the boundary of the ball can be interpreted as a manifestation of the law of large numbers, using the interpretation of a high-dimensional vector space as the state space for a large number of trials of a random variable.

More generally, many facts about low-dimensional projections or slices of high-dimensional objects can be viewed from a probabilistic, statistical, or signal processing perspective.

Scott Aaronson:
Here are some of the crutches I've relied on. (Admittedly, my crutches are probably much more useful for theoretical computer science, combinatorics, and probability than they are for geometry, topology, or physics. On a related note, I personally have a much easier time thinking about R^n than about, say, R^4 or R^5!)

1. If you're trying to visualize some 4D phenomenon P, first think of a related 3D phenomenon P', and then imagine yourself as a 2D being who's trying to visualize P'. The advantage is that, unlike with the 4D vs. 3D case, you yourself can easily switch between the 3D and 2D perspectives, and can therefore get a sense of exactly what information is being lost when you drop a dimension. (You could call this the "Flatland trick," after the most famous literary work to rely on it.)
2. As someone else mentioned, discretize! Instead of thinking about R^n, think about the Boolean hypercube {0,1}^n, which is finite and usually easier to get intuition about. (When working on problems, I often find myself drawing {0,1}^4 on a sheet of paper by drawing two copies of {0,1}^3 and then connecting the corresponding vertices.)
3. Instead of thinking about a subset S⊆R^n, think about its characteristic function f:R^n→{0,1}. I don't know why that trivial perspective switch makes such a big difference, but it does ... maybe because it shifts your attention to the process of computing f, and makes you forget about the hopeless task of visualizing S!
4. One of the central facts about R^n is that, while it has "room" for only n orthogonal vectors, it has room for exp⁡(n) almost-orthogonal vectors. Internalize that one fact, and so many other properties of R^n (for example, that the n-sphere resembles a "ball with spikes sticking out," as someone mentioned before) will suddenly seem non-mysterious. In turn, one way to internalize the fact that R^n has so many almost-orthogonal vectors is to internalize Shannon's theorem that there exist good error-correcting codes.
5. To get a feel for some high-dimensional object, ask questions about the behavior of a process that takes place on that object. For example: if I drop a ball here, which local minimum will it settle into? How long does this random walk on {0,1}^n take to mix?

Gil Kalai:
This is a slightly different point, but Vitali Milman, who works in high-dimensional convexity, likes to draw high-dimensional convex bodies in a non-convex way. This is to convey the point that if you take the convex hull of a few points on the unit sphere of R^n, then for large n very little of the measure of the convex body is anywhere near the corners, so in a certain sense the body is a bit like a small sphere with long thin "spikes".
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Genetically Capitalist? The Malthusian Era, Institutions and the Formation of Modern Preferences.
The highly capitalistic nature of English society by 1800 – individualism, low time preference rates, long work hours, high levels of human capital – may thus stem from the nature of the Darwinian struggle in a very stable agrarian society in the long run up to the Industrial Revolution. The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.

...

key figure:
Figure 8 Surviving Children by Testator’s Assets in £

...

on foragers and farmers:
When we consider forager societies the evidence on rates of return becomes much more indirect, because there is no explicit capital market, or lending may be subject to substantial default risks given the lack of fixed assets with which to secure loans. Anthropologists, however, have devised other ways to measure people’s rate of time preference rates. They can, for example, look at the relative rewards of activities whose benefits occur at different times in the future: digging up wild tubers or fishing with an immediate reward, as opposed to trapping with a reward delayed by days, as opposed to clearing and planting with a reward months in the future, as opposed to animal rearing with a reward years in the future.

A recent study of Mikea forager-farmers in Madagascar found, for example, that the typical Mikea household planted less than half as much land as was needed to feed themselves. Yet the returns from shifting cultivation of maize were enormous. A typical yielded was a minimum of 74,000 kcal. per hour of work. Foraging for tubers, in comparison, yielded an average return of 1,800 kcal. per hour. Despite this the Mikea rely on foraging for a large share of their food, consequently spending most time foraging. This implies extraordinarily high time preference rates.39 James Woodburn claimed that Hadza of Tanzania showed a similar disinterest in distant benefits, “In harvesting berries, entire branches are often cut from the trees to ease the present problems of picking without regard to future loss of yield.”40 Even the near future mattered little. The Pirahã of Brazil are even more indifferent to future benefits. A brief overview of their culture included the summary,
"Most important in understanding Pirahã material culture is their lack of concern with the non-immediate or the abstraction of present action for future benefit, e. g. ‘saving for a rainy day.’" (Everett, 2005, Appendix 5).

...

The real rate of return, r, can be thought of as composed of three elements: a rate of pure time preference, ρ, a default risk premium, d, and a premium that reflects the growth of overall expected incomes year to year, θgy. Thus
r ≈ ρ + d + θgy.

People as economic agents display a basic set of preferences – between consumption now and future consumption, between consumption of leisure or goods – that modern economics has taken as primitives. Time preference is simply the idea that, everything else being equal, people prefer to consume now rather than later. The rate of time preference measures how strong that preference is.

The existence of time preference in consumption cannot be derived from consideration of rational action. Indeed it has been considered by some economists to represent a systematic deviation of human psychology from rational action, where there should be no absolute time preference. Economists have thought of time preference rates as being hard-wired into peoples’ psyches, and as having stemmed from some very early evolutionary process.41

...

on china:
Figure 17 Male total fertility rate for the Qing Imperial
Lineage

In China and Japan also, while richer groups had more
reproductive success in the pre-industrial era, that advantage was
more muted than in England. Figure 17, for example, shows the
total fertility rate for the Qing imperial lineage in China in 1644-1840. This is the number of births per man living to age 45. The royal lineage, which had access to imperial subsidies and allowances that made them wealthy, was more successful reproductively than the average Chinese man. But in most decades the advantage was modest – not anything like as dramatic as in preindustrial England.

But these advantages cumulated in China over millennia perhaps explain why it is no real surprise that China, despite nearly a generation of extreme forms of Communism between 1949 and 1978, emerged unchanged as a society individualist and capitalist to its core. The effects of the thousands of years of operation of a society under the selective pressures of the Malthusian regime could not be uprooted by utopian dreamers.

Review by Allen: http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/Farewell%20to%20Alms/Allen_JEL_Review.pdf
The empirical support for these claims is examined, and all are questionable.

Review by Bowles: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1126/science.1149498

The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin: http://gredos.usal.es/jspui/bitstream/10366/72715/1/The_Domestication_of_Man_The_Social_Impl.pdf

hmm: https://growthecon.com/blog/Constraints/
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Advice to a new graduate student
first 3 points (tough/connected advisor, big picture, benchmarking) are key:

1. There is often a tradeoff between the advisor from whom you will learn the most vs the one who will help your career the most. Letters of recommendation are the most important factor in obtaining a postdoc/faculty job, and some professors are 10x as influential as others. However, the influential prof might be a jerk and not good at training students. The kind mentor with deep knowledge or the approachable junior faculty member might not be a mover and shaker.

2. Most grad students fail to grasp the big picture in their field and get too caught up in their narrowly defined dissertation project.

3. Benchmark yourself against senior scholars at a similar stage in their (earlier) careers. What should you have accomplished / mastered as a grad student or postdoc in order to keep pace with your benchmark?

4. Take the opportunity to interact with visitors and speakers. Don't assume that because you are a student they'll be uninterested in intellectual exchange with you. Even established scholars are pleased to be asked interesting questions by intelligent grad students. If you get to the stage where the local professors think you are really good, i.e., they sort of think of you as a peer intellect or colleague, you might get invited along to dinner with the speaker!

5. Understand the trends and bandwagons in your field. Most people cannot survive on the job market without chasing trends at least a little bit. But always save some brainpower for thinking about the big questions that most interest you.

6. Work your ass off. If you outwork the other guy by 10%, the compound effect over time could accumulate into a qualitative difference in capability or depth of knowledge.

7. Don't be afraid to seek out professors with questions. Occasionally you will get a gem of an explanation. Most things, even the most conceptually challenging, can be explained in a very clear and concise way after enough thought. A real expert in the field will have accumulated many such explanations, which are priceless.
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november 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

fedja:
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
Answer to What is it like to understand advanced mathematics? - Quora
thinking like a mathematician

some of the points:
- small # of tricks (echoes Rota)
- web of concepts and modularization (zooming out) allow quick reasoning
- comfort w/ ambiguity and lack of understanding, study high-dimensional objects via projections
- above is essential for research (and often what distinguishes research mathematicians from people who were good at math, or majored in math)
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may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : props

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