Thursday assorted links

1. Are people more likely to be accurate in providing information about their sex lives than their intelligence?

2. A new metric of sympathy and affection: “do you listen to me at 1.7x or 1.3x?”

3. Gangnam Style is no longer the most played video.

4. Eels.

5. “The consensus in Iqaluit seems to be that everyone with a credit card has an Amazon Prime membership. That’s because people can often find groceries cheaper online than in local stores, despite government food subsidy programs.

“Amazon Prime has done more toward elevating the standard of living of my family than any territorial or federal program. Full stop. Period,” a local principal, who declined to speak further, said on Facebook.” Link here, however they fear a cut-off.

6. “Economists are 37x more likely to have an economist father than a random dad draw would predict. For med doctors it’s 24x. Plumbers 14x.”  From Susan Dynarski.


1. Do intelligent people have more or less sex than not intelligent people? There are lots of not intelligent people around, so I suspect not intelligent people have more sex (but it could be that, being not intelligent, they don't understand birth control). Of course, the frequency of sex and the production of children may not be correlated, as it takes but once to produce. As for honesty about sex and intelligence, that isn't quite a fair comparison. After all, one can objectively determine the frequency of sex but not intelligence: I know many (supposedly objective) intelligent people who are stupid.

Oft cited but very apt, Idiocracy the movie. Natural selection and the universe don't automatically select for intelligence, only those traits most likely to be passed on in the future. If stupid people outbreed smart people, you can't expect a miracle.

Well, I would suspect that test scores are correlated with income and educational attainment, and both are correlated with marriage. If married people have more sex than people who aren't married, than it would seem that more intelligent people should have sex more often than people of average intelligence.

Nobel Laureate and the developer of Schrodinger equation,

"""In 1934, Schrödinger lectured at Princeton University; he was offered a permanent position there, but did not accept it. Again, his wish to set up house with his wife and his mistress (the wife of an Austrian colleague and Schrödinger had fathered a daughter with her in 1934) may have created a problem."""

Intelligence is correlated with later loss of virginity and fewer sexual partners, but as for total sexual encounters, I have no idea.

2. As usual, this is about Cowen. I've commented before about Cowen, the well-known speed reader, being a speed talker: anybody who has listened to him being interviewed knows what I mean. The problem with "listen fast and talk fast" is that the former is impossible to gauge: how can anyone know if another listens fast, or listens at all. Cowen is the exceptional case: sure, he listens fast, but that's because he has already thought about whatever the speaker says.

A cynic might say that Cowen (or anybody else) doesn't listen fast but only talks fast because listening is disconnected to the talking: ask any question you wish, but the answer will be the same. How can that be? People are easily distracted (or manipulated).

#6 - sons following fathers into the same trade was interesting. "The son also rises" Gregory Clark theme.

And politicians are a whopping 356x more likely to have their kids enter the trade! Makes sense, it's the power of trademarks (common law marks, since they are not officially granted by the Trademark Office but they just exist). Familiarity bias, useful when people walked upright in caves and had to make quick decisions, "if it ain't broke...". Another reason we don't have better patent laws ("people already invent for almost free, so why bother?, which is our host's attitude as well as AlexT's"). And another reason we just might see the hot Ivanka Trump as the first female president...if her dad plays his cards right. Taking out North Korea's Kim would be a shoe-in for her, another would be if the economy continues to outperform and people give Trump credit for that (a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy).

Names and politics are interesting. I was once told that judges with Irish sounding names were more likely to win elections (I don't know if it's true, but it sounds good). Even having a name similar to a politician helps. In Michigan, we had a Senator named Donald Riegle and one year a guy named Regel or something like that won a local election by being on the same ballot.

I worked for a judge who was elected in a statewide election - they talked a lot about the importance of their name and their opponent's name and how it would appear to voters, especially in such a low-information judicial election.

That explains a lot.

Twain wrote something to the effect that there is no native, American criminal class except Congress.

I think that a lot of this effect is also due to knowledge hidden from the general population that politicians might pass to their children. How do you run a successful election campaign? How do you mentally deal with lots of people being very angry at you no matter what you do? How much impact can you expect to have? How do you get to know all the important party people who can you help you? These things are not something you can learn by taking a three year college degree in political studies.

The same goes for many other winner-takes-all professions: actors, businesspeople, professors (to a lesser extent), etc.; the success depends a lot on meta-skills that are very painful to learn by trial-and-error.

Do economists also with unusual frequency marry other economists?

Nepotism or inbreeding?

Maybe this explains why economists are generally wrong about everything.

Re: plumbers vs economists - evangelical vocations vs pragmatic careers?

It could be illustrative to compare economists to rabbis or ministers. (There is a Truth known to the father, and it falls to the son to further impart the revelation...).

Agreed, interesting but not super surprising. I quickly skimmed the document for obvious examples where there were lots of Fathers in a trade, but many fewer sons... Mining was the only one that seemed to be a huge downward swing (from my very quick glance), and that seems to be pretty obvious based on the trend of that labor market. It would be fun to find the jobs that people avoid though based on their fathers having done it.

I listen to podcasts while driving, so most are at 1.3x. Any faster and I have to choose between driving and listening! Conversations with Tyler is the only one I have to listen to slower at 1.0x or 1.1x, depending on the guest.

The only ones I listen to slower are shows for a foreign language I'm trying to learn. For those I listen at 0.8x or 0.9x. If I ever get around to speaking the language, I will sound like I'm drunk all the time.

That’s because people can often find groceries cheaper online than in local stores, despite government food subsidy programs.

I order a lot from Amazon and they have decent but not great prices on food IMO. I can buy stuff a lot cheaper at Winco or Aldi's and their prices about even with Stater Brothers. So I am not sure what this good prices are coming from other than the prices are compared to Kroger's. (And what does the government food subsidy have to do with anything.)

Someone didn't read the article.

The prices are at the edge of civilization. I don't think Aldi has made it out there yet.

"Someone didn’t read the article."

Yes, in a similar vein, I once was selling an item on Ebay and had a high bid from a person in Canada. I emailed him, thinking he had made a mistake and not wanting to cheat him. I pointed out that his bid was higher than he could buy it directly from an online store. He replied back, that those stores wouldn't ship to him at the given price.

So, location does matter.

5.) I've occasionally seen comments from Canadian friends lamenting how awful (and probably racist) prices are in the Far, Far Native North, with photos of, say, very expensive packages of steak. (And to be fair, other products ain't cheap there, especially fresh vegetables.)

Two problems with that, of course.

First being that when I checked the cut of meat and size, the prices ended up being barely more than they were in Vancouver; meat freezes well and thus transports and keeps better than, say, lettuce*.

Second being that when everything has to be flow in on a jet plane, there's no alternative to "more expensive".

When everyone else in Canada lives within 20 feet of the US border (I kid, but barely), they lack perspective on transport costs and infrastructure issues of living in, oh, Nunavut.

(* See the other perennial food bete noir, "why is a salad more expensive than a hamburger?!", which ought to be obvious to anyone who takes 30 seconds to think of possible reasons.)

5. This makes me have a little more pride in what I do as a programmer. It is real "tech", not like Facebook or video games. They are helping us expand the frontier. Go Amazon!

No, everybody in the article seems to agree that Amazon is making a mistake by doing this and will soon realize and correct.

What if they don't want to look bad for "cutting off Iqaluit"?

So social activists, journalists and busybodies in general are the real heroes here.

Okay, yeah, I concede you're probably right. The one way out would be if there was economy of scale that recently lowered the shipping price via Canada Post, which you could test easily by looking at prices, but I doubt it. Amazon is not a shipping company. Well, at least it was a nice headline.

Some of the communities up there impress me; there is one called Arctic Bay with an average temperature not far off from McMurdo Station. It's not as isolated, but it's still pretty lonely.

6 - America's caste system is laid bare to all see.

#2 I had that problem when I was doing Stanford's free online machine learning course. The one instructor was so boring I had to listen to him at 3x normal speed. He would go on these long digression about some extraneous mathematical point that had nothing to do with the material.

To me the lesson was to be concise, to fill each sentence with as much interesting new information as possible so that people would not want to skip past the "boring parts".

3x is impressive. I find it very difficult to understand the words at that speed, much less comprehend and process.

I'll add that 1.3-1.5 is generally a comfortable playback speed for most podcasts I listen too, although the lower end of the range if the topic requires more focus. For some podcasts going higher to 1.7x can be done, but it's specific to the speaker's pace and the content density. The good stuff generally requires me to slow it down to the 1.3x-1.5x range. I find 2x difficult to follow without effortful concentration.

I'm a fairly mathematically inclined person and I find that often the "extraneous mathematical point" that many people are bored to hear is the key to understanding the whole thing. Sure, if your approach is to just memorize a bunch of mechanical steps you have to carry out to replicate the results the lecturer uses as an example, you might not be interested. If, on the other hand, you want to be able to generalize and develop your own methods to adapt any situation you might encounter, full understanding is needed. The devil is often in the details, as they say.

In this case, that wasn't the issue. He would get into wierd things like explaining complex numbers to people who had never seen a complex number before. It was like "dude, I know that -1/i = i, just get on with it."

While I would prefer a story about seals, or even salmon, this eel thing will do.

A strong government is sometimes required to ensure greedy humans do not destroy an otherwise sustainable resource.

Would it make a difference if the eels were consumed (eaten) here rather than being shipped off to Asia where they are eaten. It's like the oil that is produced here only to be shipped off to far off places. It's one thing to produce cars here and ship them elsewhere but natural resources are a different matter. Of course, that's the hallmark of a colony: the colony provides the natural resources for the colonizer to turn into finished goods. As for eels, ick! Oysters, on the other hand, they are both delectable and produce nature's finest gem, the pearl.

It's a classic tragedy of the commons.
You assign rights to fishing grounds and the problem goes away. Seems like the baby eels breed in inland waters close to shore so this should be easy.

It is much easier when the "commons" doesn't move. Much harder when it does, and to different jurisdictions. It sounds like these eels are anadromous, and thus in the difficult category.

Eels breed in the Sargasso. They mature, sometimes for several years in the cricks, rivers, and small bays just so they can make it out to the Sargasso and do their mysterious thing. (Unlike salmon and herring who do it just the opposite.) It is a problem of the commons easily solved by simple banning or very strict controls. Eels are easier to manage since the management is on the shoreline not on the open ocean. Also, it beats me why truckers from Ohio can't be penalized for possession in Maine. Trucker caught with peanuts in NY regardless of their state of origin are liable and, when I was a kid in this business, it happened all the time. In respect of eels, its the truckers who should be the prime targets. They will lead back to the wholesalers. That's where the money is and where enforcement is most effective.

A simple ban is not effective. What you want is for people to have a stake in not overfishing. I.e. grant them rights to future eel catches in some way.

The commons doesn't move. The eels move, but you don't have the right to the eels, you have the right to look for them in a particular territory. So your statistical chance of catching a lot of eels will change over time, but that's not a problem. If you limit the rights to the territory, you limit the number of people who are legally allowed to search for eels, and you give those people an interesting in not overfishing their own territory, so there's a constant supply of eels.

6: I'm not sure if "dynastic bias" is a good term to use here. It's a good fit for politics, but we see that there is a correlation albeit a smaller one between parents and children in other occupations.

I read somewhere that female engineers have one thing in common: they had a parent who was an engineer (which pretty much means their father, although that's slowly changing). It's clearly not a sufficient condition for a woman to choose engineering, but allegedly it's very close to being a necessary condition.

#5 -- free enterprise makes people's lives better than government. Full stop.

Reading a biography of Ken Griffey, Jr. as a kid, I vaguely remember some crazy factoid about your likelihood of making it into Major League Baseball being 800x the general population, given that your dad played. Of course, I imagine that family connections are more crucial to 'making it' in more specialized occupations, either for genetic or cultural reasons.

Ken Griffey, Sr. was no slouch on the diamond, either, and, having been around the major leagues since infancy, Jr. not only knew how to play baseball, he knew everyone connected with its management. But, even more important, ball players pretty much get their choice of the best examples of womanhood. Their children are genetically superior.

I wonder if that 800x number indicates that there is relatively a lot of knowledge and high quality practice required in becoming a top level baseball player, as opposed to just genetics. That number just seems inconsistent with a mostly genetic explanation, as it seems that the genes would be a crapshoot from generation to generation.

Baseball, even more than the other 3 American sports, requires a hell of a lot of practice. Having a physically gifted father helps, and they're probably more likely to marry physically gifted women, but it's more helpful to have someone drilling you constantly

Um, phrasing? You mean people constantly training you, correct?

Sure, training, but it couldn't hurt to try being constantly drilled as well.


5) Step 1: sell at lower prices than any local retailer. Step 2: watch local businesses go bankrupt. Step 3: achieve monopoly. Step 4: raise prices to as high as you want.

I could believe that Amazon can sell at lower prices than anyone else even without any anti-competitive intent. The economies of scale are really strong. However, they can also eventually lead to monopolies.

Steven Dubner at Freakonomics says that the son of a major league baseball player is 800 times more likely to become a MLB player than a random member of the population. Some of this must be genetic, but most of it is, I would guess, environment including exposure to the game, parents' friends, parents' expectations, and insider connections. I'm guessing that the son of an MLB player has a higher-than-random chance (say X times) of reaching the top level in another sport, but nothing near 800 times. Because athletic ability is somewhat heritable, but specific ability in baseball is probably not, the difference between 800 and X gives us an idea of how much of the advantage is environmental, at least for baseball. That environmental advantage should be in the ballpark, so to speak, of the advantage that the daughter of an MLB player would have in reaching the top level of a sport. (For non-US readers, no woman player has reached the major leagues, at least not yet, so I'm assuming that girls have to choose a different sport if they want to reach the highest level).

#5: “Amazon Prime has done more toward elevating the standard of living of my family than any territorial or federal program"

Note that the article opens with a photo of a federal post office.
If Canadian taxpayers weren't subsidizing Amazon's deliveries, his family would never have been inside the redline.

I liked Gangnam Style better.

Comments for this post are closed