Assorted links

by on June 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Proof of ZMP workers (at least one).

2. Inside China’s genome factory.

3. The internet and China, the site Five Books is back up and running.  And the credit squeeze in China.

4. Interfluidity on Snowden and love of country, and more from him here.

5. The Death Cafe.

6. Turkish economic growth over the last decade.

Brock June 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm

2. “[BGI]’s seen more as a mass producer of data than as an instigator of original research that can explain what the results mean.”

For now that’s probably true. But that’s true because you have to generate the data before you can study it. Since they are in possession of the data, I expect they will be leaders in generating insight from it in the future. Just as Google, Amazon, and Netflix use their data to generate insight in their fields of business.

Keith June 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

The model of big genome centers is outdated. Now that genome sequencing is common in even small labs, the real discoveries will happen with the new “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom” era.

ad*m June 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm

At BGI a scientist can safely study subjects that no scientist in the US who wants to have any kind of career would ever dare study. Genetics, race and IQ for example. Recent evolution of violence. That, not BGI’s high throughput capabilities are what makes them unique

The repression is strong on this one.

Brock June 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

2. “Nature cited BGI’s model in an editorial questioning whether scientists really need PhDs. Xu himself came to BGI after abandoning his PhD studies. He’s what’s known admiringly around the company as a “leaver”—impatient with school and eager for real-world experience.”

Another data point for the higher education bubble. Along with Google, the world’s most innovative companies seem to be abandoning the college degree as a signal of quality.

Jeff June 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Tyler, perhaps a post on WW’s latest on climate change? You haven’t poked the hornet’s nest much lately

Alexei Sadeski June 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

#6 is a bit of a crock.

The details vary by who’s numbers you believe, but Turkey is closer to some of the more developed nations in terms of GDP/capita@PPP than it is to countries like India and Indonesia.

Have a look for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

JWatts June 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I don’t know why you think #6 is a bit of a crock.

Bottom line: Turkey did well relative to advanced countries, and closed the income gap with them. But its performance benchmarked against the most relevant comparators, emerging and developing countries, was not distinguished.

That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Alexei Sadeski June 21, 2013 at 2:54 am

And my point is that he’s not benchmarking Turkey to the most relevant nations.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm

4. “Who gets to decide?” Can we have this debate again in a month once allegedly smart people catch up to speed?

Pete June 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm

#1: Don’t you think “zero” productivity is being a bit generous?

Silas Barta June 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I don’t even understand how you can explain that guy’s behavior by laziness — isn’t he still going to have to get the boxes that fell off the conveyer belt? Isn’t he just making it more tedious for himself by not moving the pallet closer?

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:13 pm

He’s disgruntled because his request for a trivial robot was denied.

RM June 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

We do not know what is the next task that awaited this guy. This may have well been a strategy to delay or avoid loading the heavier boxes on the other plane. I saw bravo!

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Maybe the boxes were filled with Yoo-hoo.

Cliff June 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

That’s what I thought at first, although it doesn’t look like he can move the pallet any closer. But if you watch all the way through, it actually does look a lot easier to lift the fallen boxes from right next to the conveyor than to carry them over from the pallet and place them down on the conveyor.

Claudia June 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm

4b. How much access the government (and I would argue firms, other people too) should have to our information is a pressing question. I am not sure I would frame it as fuel for bribery and blackmail … individuals, not just political ones, are subject to all forms of subtle manipulation and false accusations. I worry most about super-transparency shutting down any potential controversy (like the rise of PC-ness), not using the info against someone later. And again, I think this all has to be spun out to more than the government. People are willingly putting out all kinds of information about themselves out in the open, traded only on some convenience or trust or perceived safety. Big data uses of this information could be positive … like monitor economic conditions … but they could be pretty awful too … identifying and reeducating the outliers. A broad-based (not just top down) conversation … and some clear boundaries … is needed.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Thankfully Barak Obama brought it to our attention.

Claudia June 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I agree 100% with Interfluidity … this is NOT about character of (specific) people.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

He just said he didn’t want to discuss it. I’m cool with it. Someone a little more solid might have mentioned we needed a national discussion before getting caught.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm

He also lets him off the hook precisely because of his “soft blackmail” premise.

Claudia June 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I assume he did not want to discuss it because it does NOT matter. This is about institutions and technology that evolved over time … not about the exact person trying to steer them at any one point. Individuals matter, but they can also be a huge distraction of the important stuff. Do you really care who is to “blame”? Isn’t it more about the next steps?

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I would agree that Snowden and Manning are irrelevant. If you can’t keep a private or a contractor from spilling the family jewels that’s kind of on you.

The guy whose job it is to protect ALL our liberties, that’s kind of germaine, even if you want to treat it as a separate issue.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm

All people need to say is “you are right” and then we move on. It’s like when El Prez said “we need a bi-partisan discussion over immigration, and I welcome any Republicans who don’t see compromise as a dirty word.” What a great uniter!

Just repeat after me: “yeah, that’s kind of a d-word move.”

Then we can move on.

Saying we need a national discussion after you got caught and tried multiple different lies to deny is kind of a d-word move. Then we can move on to the subtle stuff.

The only reason not to talk about these characters is because it is totally pointless. Except I just have fun doing it. Partly because so many other people demand to hang onto their denial.

Claudia June 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I agree it’s pointless to focus on specific people, though they should be held accountable to the law. I disagree it’s a dick move to talk about our rules of engagement.

My example: I have worked with household survey data linked to SSA earnings records … human subject protocols make sure everyone agrees to be in the survey, agrees (many disagree) to give SSN and know it will be matched to certain SSA records, and that research plans independently reviewed. It is time-consuming, costly process, always seemed a bit pointless to me as I don’t care on bit about individual data points (they do, of course) and limits some of the cool data analyses I could do, but it protects the individuals…and creates enough trust for them to participate in the survey at all.

If our many types of (naturally occurring) data are being mined by many different parties, why are there not human subject like protections in place more broadly? Why does a company get to decide what people can voluntarily agree to give away? What if the company is more creative than the volunteer could ever imagine? I agree some big ‘let’s talk about how we feel’ conversation is as much of a time waste as your person grumping. To each his own.

Rahul June 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

@Claudia:

“Why does a company get to decide what people can voluntarily agree to give away?”

Isn’t that question, by definition, flawed? An internal contradiction? It’s asking why can X decide what Y can give away voluntarily. If it is indeed voluntary, X gets to decide nothing. It’s all Y’s choice.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

It’s a D-word move to pretend you want a national discussion after you didn’t bring it up and then lied several times to try to cover it up and then only say we need a “discussion” in order to salvage the situation after you can absolutely no longer mislead just as it is a D-word move to in the same sentence pretend you would like compromise while attacking the other side. I think he knows that his political strategy is to kneecap anybody who actually would attempt to compromise him. He has a record of hanging his friends out to dry.

Claudia June 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Rahul – “Isn’t that question, by definition, flawed? An internal contradiction?” Why yes, thank you. To further muddy the waters, I like to ask if someone doesn’t understand what compound interest is, what does it mean for them to agree to a complex mortgage product? Sure it’s their contract, but maybe regulators should set some boundaries on the contracts, to the benefit of all. To the point here, “volunteered” their information is necessary but not a sufficient condition for me.

Andrew’ – urban dictionary clearly failed me. I do not know what a d-word or a D-word move, but I think you assigning too much importance to human failings and not enough to institutional failings. Sure people lie, cheat, and disappoint, but those same people can lead, inspire, and work … context matters.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

As for the blackmail theory, I wouldn’t focus on that either. For me it’s plenty to just say “hey prez, you know that terrorism that almost never happens? Well handle that AND all the other equally important liberties.” But I see Interfluidities point. It’s more subtle and more insidious than straight up blackmail. The security apparatus tells you “your secrets are safe with us” or they don’t even show up. Then a bill comes before your desk. Their lobbyist says “we can’t stop the terrorist attacks without your support.” You know your election is coming up. Exactly how blackmailed do you have to feel? How many congressmen would you need? How many supreme court justices would it take to swing a vote or two? And which direction do you think this will take us on the surveillance/corruption axis?

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

How dramatic does it actually have to be? Look what East Germany could do with with some bailing wire.

Andrew' June 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm

To your point about big data, I would be way less concerned about firms who really just want to sell me stuff if the government had my back on the issue. If the government is involved or worse in cahoots with the firms, or even beholden to the firms then I’m also a lot more scared of the firms.

dirk June 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm

4. Just as fighting terrorism often leads to more terrorism (I’d argue it’s about 99% of the time), fighting corruption risks creating more corruption. Take Mexico. Because they know they are corrupt, they have ridiculous laws against things improperly classified as “corruption” with the result that many government employees know they are at risk for being charged with corruption merely for trying to do their jobs but making some bureaucratic procedural mistake. In that position, where everyone is viewed as corrupt until proven otherwise, why not engage in some real corruption that yields a good return? I.e., the risks of playing it safe are so high that playing it dangerous doesn’t make it much more dangerous and improves your overall risk/reward profile.

The best anti-corruption strategy is a world with fewer rules and fewer penalties. It’s hard to blackmail someone who has done nothing wrong.

Eli Dourado has the right idea here with suggestions to decrease the need for government surveillance in the first place: http://elidourado.com/blog/surveillance/

anon June 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm

specifically Eli says “Eliminate money laundering, insider trading, and any other financial crimes that require extensive monitoring of financial flows. End the war on drugs.”

I would not fight too hard on the second sentence, but the first seems too much. Insider trading is a lucrative trading strategy … information asymmetries can be valuable. Maybe legalizing insider trading would make all those info advantages worth less … or maybe it would destabilize or hamper the market. Why would I trade if I knew my counter-party might have an unfair informational advantage. Markets function with a lot of trust and rules and norms play a role in balance. There may be marginal adjustments to make, but there’s no reason to swing to the other extreme…particularly when the social norms are not pointing there.

Cliff June 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Insider trading rules do more harm than good. Read the literature.

Claudia June 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm

You’re right. I should just read.

dirk June 20, 2013 at 9:02 pm

ignore my dumb use of an adverb

Enrique June 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm

#4b … I was slightly amused (bemused?) about the call in 4b for “devising a sufficient surveillance architecture for our surveillance architecture … but who will watch the watchers?

asdf June 21, 2013 at 10:06 am

Having actually had to deal with a corrupt government superior who threatened to end my career if I exposed him, the idea of having a giant database with every record of my activity that could be used against me is disconcerting. One need only pull comments on this blog where I support HBD and next thing you know I’m getting Richwined. Luckily the person I exposed wasn’t connected or smart enough to do that, but if I was going after an even bigger fish…

You want to stop terrorism, stop letting in people from parts of the world full of terrorists. Whatever residual home grown terrorism there is I’ll take my one in one million chance I’m a victim in exchange for my privacy.

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