Assorted links

by on July 3, 2013 at 12:40 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Ross Douthat on Andrew Sullivan.

2. What are the weirdest languages in the world?

3. Cengage files for bankruptcy protection.

4. Which English language curse word does Merkel use in public without hesitation or blow back?

5. Where are the missing 90-year-olds?

6. Digital manufacturing is more important than 3-D printing.

7. Robin Hanson disagrees with me and advocates betting on beliefs.  On my side of the debate I claim a long history of successful science, corporate innovation, journalism, and also commentary of many kinds, mostly not based on personal small bets, sometimes banning them, and relying on various other forms of personal stakes in ideas, and passing various market tests repeatedly.  I don’t see comparable evidence on the other side of this debate, which I interpret as a preference for witnessing comeuppance for its own sake (read Robin’s framing or Alex’s repeated use of the mood-affiliated word “bullshit” to describe both scientific communication and reporting).  The quest for comeuppance is a misallocation of personal resources.

dirk July 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

7. My money is on the EMH.

Michael Stack July 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I think maybe there is disagreement over how the word “portfolio” is being used. I interpret Professor Cowen’s use of the word to mean just about anything anyone does (choice of career, place you live, etc), whereas Hanson, Caplan and Tabarrok interpret it more narrowly to mean simply your financial investments.

anon July 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm

5. Where are the missing 90-year-olds?

That explains all the missing helium.

Rich Berger July 4, 2013 at 8:35 am

NHS in action!

Yancey Ward July 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Igpay atinlay?

crs July 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

#7 This whole debate about the recovery of beliefs seems to skip an important step: why should people care about others’ beliefs? I like to share my personal beliefs, and so I have been given explicit boundaries, like “so-and-so do not care what you think about X.” This is useful information … I can accept that my beliefs are not worth most people’s time or consideration.

But if you accept the first step, it seems to me that form should follow function. Whether you use prediction markets (bets) or portfolios or surveys has to matter a lot on what you need the belief for. If it’s just for bragging rights then betting is the least costly … and the biggest waste of time.

MC July 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm

“The quest for comeuppance is a misallocation of personal resources.”

I prefer to let the market decide.

Linda Seebach July 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

The linguistics blog Language Log has comments on the “weird language” paper:
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=5006#more-5006

Rahul July 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I think the analysis is fatally flawed due to his initial data-pruning. He removes rare features almost by design. That biases him against the weirdest languages.

Tyler July 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hey Rahul,

Features only get removed for one of two reasons: 1) there just aren’t very many language data points, 2) because it is collinear with another feature that has more language data points.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t biases–for example, WALS doesn’t report features that only seem to occur in a single language. To get listed in WALS there has to be some basic level of variation. There would be a great project to find out all of the features that seem to be unique to individual languages (but then you would still need to go through a bunch of other languages and really make sure they didn’t have the feature). That’s a much bigger task and may not ultimately tell you as much about languages as the WALS approach does.

Rahul July 4, 2013 at 2:13 am

Exactly. If a feature its truly weird it’s conceivable very few or even only one language has it.

But in your methodology (if I interpret it correctly) those features will get automatically pruned (as per reason #1).

Tyler July 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

Nope–those kind of features simply aren’t present in WALS to begin with. The items removed are really just features that don’t have enough information in them. Keep in mind that a truly rare feature *could* still be assessed for hundreds of languages–it’s just that 99% of them would have the same value. The method doesn’t discriminate based on rareness. It does discriminate based on “this feature isn’t as thoroughly documented as most WALS features”. There are all sorts of limitations with this data and methodology but pruning the very features that would be most interesting is not one of them.

jseliger July 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The quest for comeuppance is a misallocation of personal resources

Is it really? Or is it a way of improving incentives acting on groups in relation to individuals and vice-versa?

tja July 3, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Regarding Merkel’s Anglicism: I noticed the word used frequently during the Danish series Borgen, along with “spin-doctor” being used constantly for the official positions Americans would refer to as “press secretary” or “media liaison.” Much of the fun in watching foreign-language media is in seeing which American neologisms are picked up by the Germans, Danes, etc. Rarely what I would expect.

prognostication July 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm

It’s also been my experience in several countries in Northern Europe that people use “Sh*t!” as an interjection in social situations where it would be inappropriate in the US or UK. Curious whether anyone knows if it more socially appropriate to say scheiße in German than it is to say “sh*t” in English.

Adrian Ratnapala July 3, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Yes, I think it is more acceptable. At least that’s what I’ve been told. In truth I’ve observed little difference, because it’s almost acceptable in English too. Also, Germans often say “Mist” when I would say “sh–”.

I find Germans pretty good at dropping English phrases correctly. But most of my friends speak better than average English anyway. But advertising Denglish has a special quality to it – an extra dimension of meaninglessness that trancends mere bullshit.

Paul July 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

3. Given the way they totally screwed up Aplia I’m not surprised.

anon July 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm

The Cengage bankruptcy includes this:

The filing also suggests that Cengage has exposed its bestselling authors to credit risk. The hit list includes six very high grossing individual textbook authors, all male, owed a total of $4.1 million in royalties (aspiring self-published authors take note!).
N.Gregory Mankiw $1,618,249
Jackson J. Spielvogel $626,676
Carl S. Warren $489,509
Eugene F. Brigham $473,918
David Nunan $472,856
John C. Kotz $428,352
N.Gregory Mankiw $1,618,249

http://thefutureofpublishing.com/2013/07/inside-the-cengage-bankruptcy/

That’s going to leave a mark!

Ari T July 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Regarding #7:

“On my side of the debate I claim a long history of successful science, corporate innovation, journalism, and also commentary of many kinds, mostly not based on personal small bets, sometimes banning them, and relying on various other forms of personal stakes in ideas, and passing various market tests repeatedly.”
Most importantly; I think this is true only when there are *not* huge personal costs to the truth. In a company of 100, if 50 are rent-seekers, it’ll be difficult to argue to get the 50 other should be fired unless there’s market incentive. Now apply the same thing to bigger institutions where there are no market incentives and you’ll quickly see a problem. I’m not saying this necessarily as a defense of bets but people certainly have information they do not share for signaling reasons. There’s all kinds of knowledge I do not share for signaling reasons.

Yes in science, professional disciplines etc. it is certainly possible to make a lot of progress without bets. In these cases, everyone is usually motivated to find the truth. Academia can also have huge systematic biases in regards to mapping to real world, even if the internal academic debate is (relatively) free of biases. Applies to other domains as well. The spontaneous nature of knowledge applies here as well. Innovation comes from the borders, and usually at first nobody is going to agree with any of that.

I’ve had huge amount of disagreements elsewhere where I have “expert” status, and the overconfidence of people who know almost nothing about the subject is quite astounding. I’m not sure if betting would easily fix that, but I know those people were talking out of their league (which came apparent later on). Too many people, especially in Internet, have big mouth but no responsibility, and then the opinions of the experts can easily drown in the sea of nonsense.

p.s. It would be interesting to have a blogging heads episode about this! Or econlog episode, with you Robin, Bryan and Alex.

Oreg July 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm

#4, “shitstorm”: The word was actually introduced into German political discourse by the then-leader of the Pirate party, Sebastian Nerz, referring to a common phenomenon in the party’s internal debates. It probably originates from Internet slang.

Willitts July 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

1. I’d wager that the cast of Big Bang Theory had a greater impact as public intellectuals on gay marriage than Andrew Sullivan.

BTW, who is Andrew Sullivan?

anon July 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Andrew Sullivan a 26 year old singer/songwriter from Fort Worth, Texas.
http://andrewsullivan.bandcamp.com/

Andrew Sullivan is a photographer in Australia.
http://www.andrew-sullivan.com/

Tyler is into obscurity – like secret Chinese menus.

Jack PQ July 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

(4.) Many French-speakers in Quebec use the f-word casually, as a synonym for ”messed up”, and adapt it as a verb and adjective. However, it is not an accepted neologism, just a strange example of slang

So Much For Subtlety July 3, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Which is interesting because French proper has adopted an Arabic word, meaning to marry, as a slang word meaning to f**k.

Charlie July 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Tyler,

Why don’t Alex, Bryan and Robin bet more? Do they have tremendous agreement in beliefs? If so, seems like your lunches must be much more boring than described. Is it the difficult nature of formulating bets? Or is their revealed preference for bets different than their stated preference for bets?

I think they should constantly have a large number of bets with each other at any given time. Even if only 10% of disagreements are bet-able, 100 disagreements a piece would yield 20 bets for each.

Stephen R. Diamond July 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm

It would be a retrograde step for intellectual life if proponents of public ideas had to start “really believing” what they argue for. Sophisticated intellectuals express their “opinions,” not their “beliefs,” which should play no role in deliberation. (For distinction between opinion (inside view) and belief (outside view), see “Is epistemic equality a fiction” — http://tinyurl.com/6kamrjs )

Rich Berger July 4, 2013 at 8:33 am

Sniff, sniff.

Stephen R. Diamond July 4, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Sniff, sniff is for when someone wants to hold back progress. My interest is in avoiding _reversion_ to personalistic standards from prehistory when “intellectual” battles were always personal.

Jonas July 4, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Betting isn’t about the money. It’s about the rigor. Most people argue in sloppy terms, requiring them to bet makes them be more precise about exactly what their position is so it can be evaluated.

So it makes it clear that they’re wrong (if they are), so they can’t deny it by mischaracterizing exactly what they originally claimed. At least without social cost of weaseling out of the bet.

Academics tend to be more rigorous already. And they’re already betting with their reputation because they publish their beliefs with their supporting evidence. So they don’t necessarily need to bet in order to submit themselves to recorded public judgment.

Pundits and “polemical” experts on the other hand…

Stephen R. Diamond July 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm

>Most people argue in sloppy terms, requiring them to bet makes them be more precise about exactly what their position is so it can be evaluated

If they mischaracterize successfully, it’s because the nature of the subject matter allows it. You all are looking for shortcuts to avoid the hard work of genuine debate. The result is you would debilitate public discussion by eliminating the *necessary* ambiguities in economic and political prognosis. Every prognosis is conditional and it isn’t usually possible to completely specify the conditionality in advance; usually the more important that it is, the greater the dependence on conditions.

There’s no substitute for understanding and criticizing the underlying *analysis*. If you want an environment where it’s made easy to tell exactly who was right and who was wrong, you are looking for something other than an _intellectual_ environment.

Jonas July 5, 2013 at 1:52 am

That’s only true if the other side acts in good faith. People tend to disappear when their b.s. is called out. The money is there like a guarantee bond that they’ll stay and complete the discussion. It’s not necessarily about the substance, but you’re paying for manners. it’s sad that’s what you have to do these days.

Discussion would improve if everyone had to deposit small x% of their wealth to have others listen. Just so we know they’re being serious, and not asymmetrically gaming our attention. The internet (cable/talk radio before that) has made discourse too cheap.

It’s just like high frequency trading and not charging for making bids that you withdraw right away. You encourage a lot of b.s. ghost bidding.

Jonas July 5, 2013 at 2:56 am

If you view the purpose of public debate is for the collective citizenry to work out the best verbal techniques to disarm the trolls, then betting doesn’t serve that purpose at all, because it short cuts it.

And I can agree that is part of the purpose of public debate, so everyone can learn the right arguments and see them work. But the supply of trolling and b-sing has reached levels that most people have tuned out. So betting is a good secondary way of arguing to chop it down. I won’t say that it should supplant regular public debates, but what’s the argument to disregard it completely?

Stephen R. Diamond July 5, 2013 at 3:39 am

> I won’t say that it should supplant regular public debates, but what’s the argument to disregard it completely?

That it supplies the wrong incentives for intellectual production:
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2013/07/bets-argue.html#comment-951161496

Jonas July 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

That’s controlling the entire market for public discussion based on your hypothesis. I’d rather prefer to let in some other alternatives and see if they improve the overall blend rather than prejudge it.

Stephen R. Diamond July 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

> which I interpret as a preference for witnessing comeuppance for its own sake (read Robin’s framing or Alex’s repeated use of the mood-affiliated word “bullshit” to describe both scientific communication and reporting).

What I see on Robin’s part is an appetite to legitimatize ad hominem argument. As he properly complains, nobody seems to take seriously his real argument: bets are arguments because they demonstrate the proponent’s confidence. If you follow the discussion on OB, you’ll see, very surprisingly, that Robin’s completely serious in this equation (or “analogy” as he calls it).

And he’s succeeding when you’re forced to reply to the claim that not betting shows you’re afraid of the truth with “I claim a long history of successful science, corporate innovation, journalism, and also commentary of many kinds.”

Resist Robin’s effort to replace a focus on the message with one on the messenger!

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