Thursday assorted links

by on July 14, 2016 at 12:20 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

*A Book About Love*, by Jonah Lehrer

by on July 14, 2016 at 10:12 am in Books | Permalink

Here is my deliberately short review: It is a good book.

Here is David Brooks’s NYT review, he notes “The book is interesting on nearly every page.”

I am well aware of Lehrer’s previous failings, but today I am evaluating only this book.  Paul Celan went so far as to try to kill his wife, but still he is one of my favorite poets of the twentieth century.  I also can walk through a museum without much worrying about my knowledge of artistic biographies — for the living and the dead — and no one seems to think that is weird or an uncalled for way to look at the art.

I have read the Jennifer Senior NYT “take down” review, but I don’t think she scores many points.  While many criticisms of “pop psychology” books about love can be made, and with considerable validity, in those regards Lehrer’s book is well above average for the genre.

A Timbro study by Alexander Fritz Englund showed that E.U. membership for the 28 countries resulted in a statistically significant increase in economic freedom in all of the sub-categories in The Economic Freedom of the World index. The biggest improvement comes in the year of membership, but it increases afterwards as well.

That is from Reason, here is the Swedish-language study.

For some time now I have had mixed feelings about the move to electronic medical records, here is another reason why:

On the dark web, medical records draw a far higher price than credit cards. Hackers are well aware that it’s simple enough to cancel a credit card, but to change a social security number is no easy feat. Banks have taken some major steps to crack down on identity theft. But hospitals, which have only transitioned en masse from paper-based to digital systems in the past decade, have far fewer security protections in place.

…These records can sell for as much as (the bitcoin equivalent) of $60 apiece, whereas social security numbers are a mere $15. Stolen credit cards sell for just $1 to $3. During the tour, we spotted one hacker who claimed to have a treasure trove of just shy of 1 million full health records up for grabs.

As IBM’s Kuhn explained in a follow-up interview, these medical records can be leveraged for a wide variety of nefarious purposes. In some cases, it’s about stealing a person’s identity and billing them for a surgery or a prescription, and in others it’s about opening a new line of credit. Security researcher Avi Rubin told Fast Company in an recent interview that he suspects hacked medical records are often routinely used for blackmail and extortion.

Such hacking is indeed a trend:

More than 113 million medical records were hacked in 2015 alone, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services. A newly released report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a cybersecurity think tank, found that some 47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months.

That is from Christina Farr.

Who else would be up to speed on this but Kevin Lewis?  He sends me this article:

Why do states claim limited, moderate, or expansive jurisdiction over the waters adjacent to their coasts? I argue that because of the unique role of the maritime hegemon in shaping the law of the sea to conform to its interests, the primary variable determining a state’s positions on coastal state jurisdiction is the nature of its relationship to the maritime hegemon — allied, adversarial, or neutral. Other variables that exert important influence on the state’s claim include its perceptions of threat from regional maritime powers and its own capability to project power to other states’ coasts. This theory not only enables deductive prediction of states’ maritime jurisdictional claims, but also provides insights into the process of hegemonic order-building in international relations. After developing this theory, I test it with initial plausibility probes, including an analysis of the contemporary maritime claims of the United States as the maritime hegemon, as well as two controlled comparisons of the current maritime claims of Japan and China, ally and adversary of the United States, and Chile and Peru, states with neutral relationships to the maritime hegemon. The theory’s explanatory variables accurately correlate with the outcomes in these studies, with the United States claiming limited jurisdiction over the activities of foreign militaries in its exclusive economic zone, Japan and Chile claiming limited jurisdiction (with caveats), China claiming moderate jurisdiction, and Peru claiming expansive jurisdiction.

That is by Rachel Esplin Odell.

Wednesday assorted links

by on July 13, 2016 at 11:37 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Better dating through Powerpoint?

2. Why Vietnam does so well on PISA for its income level.  And Jerome A. Cohen’s quick take on the South China Sea ruling.  And no massive protests in China so far.

3. Profile of Jill Lepore.

4. Could Brexit take six years or longer?  And: “Beneath the surface, he saw an angry, lost society in which the centuries-old pillars of Britishness — empire, church, navy, class — were crumbling.” (NYT)

5. Just how bad is that fMRI mess with the false positives and the software error?

6. First blood bank for birds.

7. William H. McNeill has passed away, author of The Rise of the West (NYT).

Kidney Gift Vouchers

by on July 13, 2016 at 9:20 am in Economics, Medicine | Permalink

I am not expecting a market in kidneys anytime soon but ever more sophisticated barter is slowly improving kidney allocation. Most recently, UCLA has started a program where a kidney donation may be swapped for a kidney gift certificate good for a kidney transplant at a time of the recipient’s choosing.

The program allows for living donors to donate a kidney in advance of when a friend or family member might require a kidney transplant.

…“It’s the brainchild of a grandfather who wanted to donate a kidney to his grandson nearing dialysis dependency, but the grandfather felt he would be too old to donate in a few years when his grandson would likely need a transplant.”

Nine other transplant centers across the U.S. have agreed to offer the gift certificate program, under the umbrella of the National Kidney Registry’s advanced donation program. Veale anticipates that more living donors will come forward to donate kidneys, which could trigger chains of transplants. Then, when a patient redeems his or her gift certificate, the last donor in the chain could donate a kidney to that recipient.

Improving allocation is important but the real constraint today is supply. This program may help with that on the margin, however, because altruistic donors could donate and keep a gift certificate as insurance in case any of their family members one day needed an transplant. More fundamentally, however, increasing supply will require some form of compensation or incentive such as no-give, no-take.

Also in The Sun on Sunday, May argued that outside of the EU, “we’ll be able to do lots of common-sense things, like cut back on red tape and let local councils buy British.” She went further in her speech launching her leadership campaign saying, “A proper industrial strategy wouldn’t automatically stop the sale of British firms to foreign ones, but it should be capable of stepping in to defend a sector that is as important as pharmaceuticals is to Britain.”

Here is more.  I would say that puts her one for three.  I’ve also heard talk of May embracing a “worker codetermination” model for the UK, similar to that used in Germany.  It works less well for services, and besides Gorton and Schmid estimated it cost German firms about 26% of shareholder value (pdf)).

So that puts her at one for four, and it seems she was the best of the plausible candidates.  The perceptive Janan Ganesh put it this way:

But if Tory history pits the spirit of freedom against the claims of social order, the one periodically dominating the other before giving way, she might herald the latter’s resurgence.

As he clutched his second Wimbledon trophy on Sunday, Andy Murray saluted David Cameron, the outgoing prime minister, as the doer of an “impossible job”. Ms May has only won the right to choose whose hearts to break. Free-marketeers, gird yourselves.

I am not surprised that Brexit is working out badly, but I am surprised how quickly it is becoming obvious that Brexit will not mean more individual liberty for the Brits.  Here is Richard Tuck making the left-wing case for Brexit.

A Chinese man was recently in the news for not only winning millions of yuan in a lottery, but also for the bizarre costume he wore while collecting his prize. The man, believed to be about 40 years old, was so worried about revealing his identity that he actually turned up dressed as the popular Disney character Baymax!

Speaking to reporters, the man revealed that he had won 170 million yuan (approximately $27 million) even though he rarely buys lottery tickets.  As for the strange costume, the man revealed that his wife forced him into wearing it, fearing that old friends and long-lost relatives might suddenly show up expecting a small share of the prize. But no costume can actually help him evade the mandatory 20 percent tax on lottery winnings, which means he will have to cough up about 34 million yuan to give back to the state.

As it turns out, this man isn’t the first lottery winner to adopt the eccentric practice of accepting winnings in disguise. Lots of Chinese winners tend to be very cautious about protecting their identity, to dodge thieves and relatives. So they turn up wearing superhero masks or costumes. In fact the tradition dates back to about 25 years or so.


That is from Sumitra, via Michael P. Gibson and Dan Wang.  There are other good photos at the link.

Tuesday assorted links

by on July 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “We find that immigrants initially located in places with larger co-ethnic networks are more likely to be employed at first, but have a lower probability of investing in human capital. In the long run they are more likely to be mis-matched in their job and to earn a lower wage.”  NBER link here.

2. Good Judgment Open, for superforecasters.

3. Beijing menu posts menu prices as math equations.

4. The humans behind the chatbots.

5. Don’t take these numbers too literally, but some good Irish gdp revisions.  I wonder what Scott Sumner thinks of that 32.4% ngdp growth.  Krugman offers some explanatory links.  Here is a lengthy discussion of why it is difficult to interpret Irish national accounts (pdf).

6. Haagen-Dazs to close some branches in second- and third-tier Chinese cities.

Analysts said the Philippines’ temptation to cut a side deal with China could undercut US efforts to put pressure on Beijing to back off its more maximalist claim to 85 per cent of the South China Sea — the nine-dash line” — by using the tribunal’s decision to mobilise international public opinion.

According to Richard Heydarian, a political analyst at De La Salle University in Manila, the new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, “will surely look at ways to leverage the arbitration . . . to extract concessions from China”.

…Zhu Feng, director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing the University, said Beijing’s efforts to cut deals with neighbours on maritime claims is a longstanding policy which even has a name: roughly translated it is called “shelve disputes in favour of joint development”.

He pointed to a number of diplomatic successes — a compromise with Vietnam on maritime claims in Beibu Bay in 2000 and a joint marine seismic work agreement signed with Vietnam and the Philippines in 2005.

…A number of areas of co-operation have been floated in the Chinese media: joint development of oil and gas resources, shared access to the fishing waters and collaboration in research for restoration of coral reefs in the region.

That is from Charles Clover at the FT.

“The definition of an anchor has changed,” said Stephen Lebovitz, the chief executive of mall owner CBL & Associates Properties Inc. “Cheesecake Factory does as much business as Sears used to do.”

That is from Suzanne Kapner at the WSJ, on the decline of traditional anchor stores.  Yet not all of the new service sector jobs will be there forever:

“Right now we’re doing a couple hundred videos a day,” he said. “We think we need to be doing 2,000 videos a day.”

Mr. Ferro’s comments added to mounting confusion over his embattled company’s sudden rebranding. How could a newspaper publisher create nearly three-quarters of a million videos a year?

But as jarring as Tronc’s goals may sound, the company’s plan is far from novel. In pursuit of more lucrative video advertising and success on dominant social platforms like Facebook, a growing number of publishers have turned to technology that promises to streamline video production, sometimes to the point of near-full automation.

That is John Herrman from the NYT.  File under Marginal Revolution Robot University.  And if you are wondering how it works, here is a snippet:

The two services’ automation features work in similar ways. They analyze, and may summarize, text, be it a script or a traditional news article, and then automatically find photographs and video clips to go with it. The services typically get the videos and images from sources like The Associated Press and Getty Images.

Additionally, the tools offer the option to quickly put large animated captions over the videos, in a format that has become popular on Facebook, where videos begin playing automatically and are often watched with the sound off. Each can also supply, through a third party, on-demand human narration; Wibbitz offers computerized voice-overs as well.

What does this say about the media sector more generally?

From Sunita Sah (NYT):

Disclosure can also cause perverse effects even when biases are unavoidable. For example, surgeons are more likely to recommend surgery than non-surgeons. Radiation-oncologists recommend radiation more than other physicians. This is known as specialty bias. Perhaps in an attempt to be transparent, some doctors spontaneously disclose their specialty bias. That is, surgeons may inform their patients that as surgeons, they are biased toward recommending surgery.

My latest research, published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that patients with localized prostate cancer (a condition that has multiple effective treatment options) who heard their surgeon disclose his or her specialty bias were nearly three times more likely to have surgery than those patients who did not hear their surgeon reveal such a bias. Rather than discounting the surgeon’s recommendation, patients reported increased trust in physicians who disclosed their specialty bias.

Remarkably, I found that surgeons who disclosed their bias also behaved differently. They were more biased, not less. These surgeons gave stronger recommendations to have surgery, perhaps in an attempt to overcome any potential discounting they feared their patient would make on the recommendation as a result of the disclosure.

Surgeons also gave stronger recommendations to have surgery if they discussed the opportunity for the patient to meet with a radiation oncologist. This aligns with my previous research from randomized experiments, which showed that primary advisers gave more biased advice and felt it was more ethical to do so when they knew that their advisee might seek a second opinion.

The piece is…self-recommending!

This is how to make me feel like Bryan Caplan:

Back-to-school angst isn’t just for kids. To keep senior citizens up with the times, several Nordic countries are currently debating a proposal to send them back to school.

“To prepare ourselves for the future we need to think out of the box,” writes Nordic Council rapporteur Poul Nielson in Proposal 7 of a new report (pdf) about the future of work in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Aaland. His proposal outlines a plan for mandatory adult education and continuing education in the region, in order to stay competitive in the global market.

A startling point in Nielson’s proposal is the word “mandatory.” He hopes to make continuous education compulsory for all, and to build it into the regular career cycle of Nordic workers.

That is by Anne Quito, via Daniel Pink.

London is the richest city in Europe.  Real output per person is central London is nearly four times the average in the European Union, and nearly twice that Europe’s other large, rich metropolitan areas, such as Amsterdam and Paris.  Strikingly, London is more than twice as rich as the next richest region within Britain.  However one slices it, the city is an extraordinary economic outlier.

That is from the forthcoming Work, Power and Status in the Twenty-First Century, by the always worth reading Ryan Avent.