Sunday assorted links

by on August 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Claims about cars.

2. MIE: solid gold underwear for Chinese Valentine’s Day.

3. What will TV look like in five years’ time?  Or should that be “what the web will look like in five years’ time?”

4. Top ten conservative novels?  A strange list, even as such lists go.  And again an excessively English selection from The Guardian.

5. Claims about ISIS.  And claims about Agnes Martin.


While Anastasia Garvey, an actress and model, doesn’t have office pressure, she says she is constantly on edge wondering if she’ll get a certain job. She has developed a regimen of ways to disconnect: meditation, acupuncture, cupping therapy, monthly trips to a reservation-only spa and most recently cryotherapy — as in spending some time being blasted by air cooled to minus 260 degrees.

It only lasts three minutes, plus time to warm up again on a stationary bike, but it costs $90 a session, she said. She goes three times a week.

“The first time I did it I couldn’t remember my name,” she said. “You’re in a freezer. You’re so cold you can’t think of anything.”

There are many interesting ideas and bits in this NYT Paul Sullivan piece: “As for the seeming contradiction of the Buddhist boxer…”

Nathan Smith has a very thoughtful speculative essay on that topic. Here is one interesting bit of many:

I would tentatively envision the US experience under open borders as resembling the British and Roman cases, inasmuch as the protocols and ideals of the US polity, as well as its merely ethnic characteristics, would persist in attenuated form, but governing a much larger population would necessitate improvisational and sometimes authoritarian expedients that would cumulatively transform the polity into something quite different, even as it claimed descent from the historic constitutional polity of the United States as we know it. The illusion of continuity would deceive the subjects of the new polity, native-born and immigrant, to a considerable extent, though on the other hand there would be a good deal of lamentation and triumphalism, and only after several generations would historians be able to look back and assess the bewildering transformation in a sober, balanced way.

Certain American ideals would die of their own increasing impracticality, e.g., “equality of opportunity,” the social safety net, one person, one vote, or non-discrimination in employment. Americans might continue to feel that these ideals were right long after they had ceased to be practiced, as the Romans seemed to feel that Rome ought to be governed by its Senate long after real governance had passed to the emperors. I don’t see how public schools could adapt to a far larger and more diverse student body.

In sum:

I think the most wild-eyed predictions of the open borders optimists will come true, and to spare, but I think a lot of the forebodings of the grimmest open border pessimists will also prove more than justified.

The article is interesting throughout, do read the whole thing.

Saturday assorted links

by on August 22, 2015 at 5:19 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How Ezra Klein reads on the internet.  This is probably good advice for many people, but it is too complicated for me to even read, much less follow.  Maybe with an app I could understand it, though I can’t understand most apps either.

2. Model this.

3. What would Michael Polanyi say? (bicycle video and Boettke bait, all in one link)

4. Upscale goodwill shops (the culture that is Los Angeles).

5. “Intellectual ability may be an endophenotypic marker for bipolar disorder.” (pdf)

6. Freeways no longer define Los Angeles.

7. More on Alice Goffman.

8. Claims about Putin.  And is a slow putsch against Putin underway?

Friday assorted links

by on August 21, 2015 at 12:16 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. iTunes version of my podcast with Erik Torenberg (which many of you have liked, thank you).  With other podcasts too, including Ben Casnocha.

2. Dismaland markets in everything.

3. Troubling signs of minimum wage damage in Los Angeles.

4. The right to be forgotten the right to be forgotten.  Or did I get the punctuation wrong?  And claims about Bitcoin, none of which I understand.

5. Irish critics respond to the Guardian one hundred best novels list.

6. What makes Canadian English unique?

7. How much of those Chinese reserves can be used anyway?

8. The Economist: “test drives are less important than ever…

9. Warner Brothers to adapt Dante’s Inferno.

Bowen and Casadevall have a new PNAS paper on this question:

The general public funds the vast majority of biomedical research and is also the major intended beneficiary of biomedical breakthroughs. We show that increasing research investments, resulting in an increasing knowledge base, have not yielded comparative gains in certain health outcomes over the last five decades. We demonstrate that monitoring scientific inputs, outputs, and outcomes can be used to estimate the productivity of the biomedical research enterprise and may be useful in assessing future reforms and policy changes. A wide variety of negative pressures on the scientific enterprise may be contributing to a relative slowing of biomedical therapeutic innovation. Slowed biomedical research outcomes have the potential to undermine confidence in science, with widespread implications for research funding and public health.

Carolyn Johnson summarizes the results of the paper:

Casadevall and graduate student Anthony Bowen used a pretty straightforward technique to try and answer the question. They compared the NIH budget, adjusted for inflation, with the number of new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the increases in life expectancy in the U.S. population over the same time period.

Those crude health measures didn’t keep pace with the research investment. Funding increased four-fold since 1965, but the number of drugs only doubled. Life expectancy increased steadily, by two months per year.

Johnson also covers some useful responses from the critics.  The result also may say more about the NIH than about progress per se.  And here is a more optimistic take from Allison Schraeger.

Thursday assorted links

by on August 20, 2015 at 1:52 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. China markets in everything, gift edition.

2. “I do not normally buy foals, let alone embryos.

3. The plurality of obesity epidemics.

4. Mexico hands out ten million flat screen TVs.  Finland will experiment with a guaranteed annual income.

5. Susan Woodward on Armen Alchian.

6. An actual “rock star” professor, or at least he tries.

7. The slowdown in Israeli economic growth.  And what’s up with BelgiumMacedonia is mobilizing its army against immigrants.  “Separately, Slovakia announced yesterday that it will only accept Christian refugees to the country.

Wednesday assorted links

by on August 19, 2015 at 11:49 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. New Jersey tries “pay what you want,” it is Montclair though.

2. How many nuclear bombs have been exploded on earth?

3. The implied author.

4. Claims about torture (speculative).

5. Is Nairobi becoming a tech hub?

6. Notes on Ashley Madison.

Observers seem to focus on the target event and not its complement.  Bagchi and Ince have a new paper on this question:

Consumers routinely rely on forecasters to make predictions about uncertain events (e.g., sporting contests, stock fluctuations). The authors demonstrate that when forecasts are higher versus lower (e.g., a 70% vs. 30% chance of team A winning a game) consumers infer that the forecaster is more confident in her prediction, has conducted more in-depth analyses, and is more trustworthy. The prediction is also judged as more accurate. This occurs because forecasts are evaluated based on how well they predict the target event occurring (team A winning). Higher forecasts indicate greater likelihood of the target event occurring, and signal a confident analyst, while lower forecasts indicate lower likelihood and lower confidence in the target event occurring. But because, with lower forecasts, consumers still focus on the target event (and not its complement), lower confidence in the target event occurring is erroneously interpreted as the forecaster being less confident in her overall prediction (instead of more confident in the complementary event occurring—team A losing). The authors identify boundary conditions, generalize to other prediction formats, and demonstrate consequences.

Of course this also has relevance for the evolutionary processes governing pundits.

Here is a related press release (pdf).  For the pointer I thank Charles Klingman.

A few points on the Amazon story everyone is talking about:

1. First, if the story is somewhat true but exaggerated (a plausible scenario for something anecdotally based), the story may help Amazon with its current (but not prospective) employees.   A lot of people suddenly are feeling better treated than the perceived average, and that may boost their morale and productivity.  Yet they still feel the surrounding pressures to succeed.  As a countervailing force, Amazon is now less of a high status place to work and that may lower productivity and also it may hurt recruiting.

2. Given the existence of a tax wedge, Amazon employees are perhaps treated better than they would be in an optimum.  There is in general an inefficient substitution into non-pecuniary means of reimbursing workers because workplace income is taxed but workplace perks are not.  So arguably Amazon is treating its workers too well.  Think of this as another form of corporate tax arbitrage.

3. There is no right to an upper middle class lifestyle.  And for a large number of people, getting one is not easy.

Tuesday assorted links

by on August 18, 2015 at 11:48 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Interview with Campbell Harvey.

2. Common knowledge and Aumann’s agreement theorem.

3. “I don’t know much about tiger logistics, but we were told to be this huge blue tarp monster with the weedwhacker and try to be scary and make loud noises. That just made him angry. You could say he got tiger rage, so we retreated.

4. Research advice from David Weil.  Follow it.

5. Tesla.  And human leather (is it a fake site?)  What is the Bitcoin civil war aboutTim Lee on the same.

6. By how many has Obamacare reduced the number of the uninsured?

From the 4th quarter of 2013 to the 2nd quarter of 2015 the Japanese economy grew by a grand total of 0.1%.  And the unemployment rate continued to fall, from 3.7% to 3.4%.  That’s right, over the past 6 quarters the Japanese economy has been growing at above trend.  But that blistering pace can’t go on forever.  The unemployment rate is down to 3.4%, and unless I’m mistaken there is a theoretical “zero lower bound” on unemployment that is even more certain than interest rates. The Japanese economy is like a Galapagos tortoise that has just sprinted 20 meters, and needs a long rest.

That is from Scott Sumner, there is more at the link.

Monday assorted links

by on August 17, 2015 at 1:22 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A new study of health insurer consolidation.

2. TSA pre-crime.

3. Using drones to capture whale snot (warning: link sets off a video, so that is a sign the article is interesting, given that I linked to it anyway).

4. “…the average salary of a doctor in China is 72,000 yuan a year (US$11,600)…

5. Actual unemployment rates for China.  And photo-essay on China’s deserted amusement parks.

6. Did the dissolution of the monasteries matter?

The German economy is only about five percent bigger today than in 2008.  And they are usually considered one of the winners.

In Finland gdp has shrunk in eight out of the last twelve quarters.

Output in France, Italy, Netherlands, and Austria is just barely growing.

And that is with a lot of QE (more than a trillion), a weaker euro, and a favorable oil price shock.

Overall the eurozone economies are one percent smaller than they were in 2008.

Sunday assorted links

by on August 16, 2015 at 11:25 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The Quay twins are leading a marginal revolution.  “In a sense we are obsessive, and anything that we do, read, or any music that we listen to, we always look to each other and say, can that be — we use the word cinematized — can it be “cinematized”? And there’s nothing more that we like than to coax new material out of something that almost doesn’t have a potential. We could never do adaptations of famous pieces. We need the marginal. Whenever we’re reading a book, if it’s a research book, we always find that it’s the footnotes that open up new chapters of imagination.”

2. Uber plus randomized Yelp, you could toss in randomized Tinder too.  What else?

3. Scott Sumner makes the bull case for China.

4. William MacAskill’s doctoral dissertation (pdf), and MacAskill on “the infectiousness of nihilism.”  In addition to his work on effective altruism, MacAskill is in the running to become one of the world’s most interesting moral philosophers.

5. The superb Matt Rognlie on the minimum wage and the likelihood of perfect offset, very good points.

6. The decline of the iPad?

7. “…man overwhelmed by his reptile collection…