Monday assorted links

1. How emoji are born.

2. The fast book outliner.

3. Baffling bathrooms, I very much relate to this.

4. “the surprising positive genetic correlation between intelligence and autism…

5. “The project is intellectual, involving a change in beliefs, but it is not only intellectual — and its intellectual character is inseparable from its affective and motivational character.” Agnes Callard in the NYT.

6. Eli on Ethereum vs. Bitcoin.

7. India clings to cash? (NYT).


4. Surprising to who? Though it could just be diagnosis. Someone with an iq of 115 and no social skills will be diagnosed as autistic, while the lack of social skills in the 70 iq person will be explained as a consequence of their low intelligence, no extra diagnosis neccesary.

Surprising to the left, which continues to insist that intelligence has absolutely nothing to do with genetics.

Don't forget that IQ is meaningless, so the study was working with falsehoods to begin with.

And those on the right are tedious dragging out IQ as if it explains and justifies inequality but ultimately is really about a childish desire to shock. Basically the equivalent of 17 year old girls wearing very revealing clothes in places that usually demand more formality.

But here's something that occurred to me that's a bit perplexing....maybe the high IQ people are the suckers in this game?

Few studies of inequality have been done by looking at tax records that go back centuries. Headline story is typically the families that were among the richest centuries ago in some old city are still among the richest in modern times. Ahhh says the alt-right chap, that's those high IQ genes in generation after generation leading those lucky people in the elite families to keep winning the social game even though in age after age the rules are changed (monarchy, revolution, tyranny, democracy, capitalism, market socialism, austerity, etc. etc.)

Except, well there's something about this Darwinism that doesn't work. Why are the poor families still around? If a particular trait is intensely selected for, then that trait ceases to belong to just a few elites and becomes a trait that almost the entire population has. But if some families remain in the top generation after generation there's actually two ways of looking it. One is that they outsmart everyone in every different system thru history, another might be they are the suckers who are positioned to be the warriors, decision makers, symbolic 'chiefs' by generation after generation of slackers who simply want to do their jobs and go home at the end of the day. Bart Simpsons are actually the smart ones and while the Lisa Simpsons get all the titles over time it is either a bad deal for the Lisa's or at best a somewhat breakeven deal.

In a relative sense, human history is not long. In the past, high-status people were much more reproductively successful. Recently, that stopped being true and IQ has started dropping. It seems in the future, orthodox jews and Amish will occupy the Earth. And/or Africans

Kind of a problem with this idea of 'high status', it makes no sense from a genetic POV.

Stronger, sure, resistant to famine, sure, immune to bird-flu virus, sure. "High status" means that everyone else has to consider you high status. So who has the gene here? The guy who everyone else says is high status or is it everyone else who decides that someone is high status?

And how did high status people reproduce more? You do realize you cannot have a population of only high status people, right?

The obvious implication is that high-status people are generally high-IQ.

> The guy who everyone else says is high status or is it everyone else who decides that someone is high status?

Come on, this is "gender is a social construct ergo it doesn't exist"-tier bullshit. High status is a thing even if it is socially-determined.

Anyway, lets forget the nobles for a second. There was always a population of burghers that live in cities. These city-dwellers seem generally more intelligent, they worked in the crafts instead of farming. Were they more reproductively successful? Cities were generally shitty places to live, less space for 8 children compared to a farm, crime, disease. This selects for people who have the smarts to avoid crime and resilience to survive plagues, but you have a cap on how fast your smart burgher population will grow that depends on the size/count of your cities. So they aren't going to be outnumbering the peasants any time soon. This is a just-so story that relies on a ton of assumptions, given some legitimacy only by the existence of smart jews with big noses that give them disease resistance. The point is, analysis of why IQ was or was not selected for shouldn't be done with just-so stories.

Re: In the past, high-status people were much more reproductively successful.

Asserted without evidence. And in fact a close reading of, say, medieval history shows an astonishing number of noble families that came to an end doe to lack of heirs. Ditto Roman patrician clans, who often had to adopt heirs in order to continue their line.

Except, well there’s something about this Darwinism that doesn’t work. Why are the poor families still around

They'd been continually getting winnowed down, of course.

The advantages of high IQ seem to be much more pronounced only recently. The inbred blue bloods of the feudal aristocracy were pretty mediocre. E.g., the British aristocracy should have co-opted the bright and ambitious American colonists, but George III and Lord North were dimwits.

If you read the history of just about any royal line you find a mixture of highly and intelligent and capable monarchs as well as dolts and outright madmen. Louis XVI vs. Louis XVI. The medieval English Edwards. Catherine the Great vs. Nicholas II. Suleiman the Magnificent vs. Selim the Sot.

> Basically the equivalent of 17 year old girls wearing very revealing clothes in places that usually demand more formality.

Sometimes, the 17 year old girl has to do something that stands out if everyone in the palace insists that the Emperor's new clothes are fascinating, even if it breaks with the demanded formality.

It's surprising because it makes no sense for a mutation load driven phenotype like intelligence, which is pervasively genetically correlated with everything good from height to brain volume to lower BMI to better heart health, to have a single exception and that exception be social skills requiring intelligence, and further, the supposed disorder more typically connected to profound damage and ill health. (Real autism doesn't look like Big Bang Theory.) The anomaly, however, is probably driven by diagnostic heterogeneity and the 'symptoms scale' inadvertently tapping into a measure of higher intelligence, systematizing, along with the intended social skills problems:

Surprising to "whom".

I'm deeply skeptical of the result because most of the people diagnosed autistic today were previously diagnosed mentally retarded. The thought is clearly incomplete or controls for something.

See, e.g. "Of the 75 children with ASD, 55% had an intellectual disability (IQ<70) but only 16% had moderate to severe intellectual disability (IQIQ>85) but only 3% were of above average intelligence (IQ>115)."

This is not computed using full-blown autistic diagnoses. As those are primarily caused by idiosyncratic single rare mutations, it would be largely meaningless to compute a genetic correlation with intelligence. The genetic correlation here is between measures of intelligence (like the short multiple-choice reasoning test in the UKBB) and an autism symptom questionnaire, both administered in the generally healthy ordinary people included in the UK Biobank. Thus, the question of whether an autistic kid would be diagnosed a century ago as retarded is irrelevant: neither group is included in this data.

6. "Bitcoin losing its lead makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is that Bitcoin still has a lead at all and that it still has so many proponents. In terms of actual utility, Bitcoin is inferior in almost every way to several other cryptocurrencies, most dramatically Ethereum."

Considering that niether has any utility, this makes sense to me.

Trustlessness has high utility in my book. It cuts out lots of rent seeking middlemen.

@#6 - seems Eli Dourado made a good case for Ethereum, with this statement, which has been repeated in the comments of MR too: "Bitcoin security is paid for with mining rewards, which consist of block subsidies and transaction fees. Because Bitcoin has a hard cap of 21 million coins, the block subsidy will go down over time and eventually reach zero. This means that to maintain a given level of security, transactions are necessary and there is a need for fees to be non-trivial. Yet if fees are high, transactions will move to other blockchains. The limit to the mining reward is determined by transaction demand—price × quantity—and therefore blockchain security is also limited by transaction demand. The commitment to have a fixed supply of coins potentially implicates a security parameter of the network, meaning bitcoins might not actually be a great store of value on a network where transactions are discouraged by high fees." Catch-22, makes sense.

Having said that, there's no guarantee that Ethereum might not be overtaken by another 'open source' cryptocoin. To use the "Netscape" analogy made by Eli: Ethereum may indeed be like Netscape back in the days post-ARPAnet, but today who uses Netscape/Mozilla (except me)? The world has moved to Chrome and if Google gets into cryptocoins, then Ethereum will die. But I will look into investing in Ethereum, it might blow up in value due to hype.

"But I will look into investing in Ethereum, it might blow up in value due to hype.": this would have been a smart thing to say about a year ago.

Just tossing the idea out there.....

Have a set of pre-defined computational problems that are:
a. Socially useful
b. Can be arranged in rough order of complexity.

Thinking of things like folding proteins or whatnot. Miners work on coming up with answers, answers are registered in a public ledger...verifiers work on confirming the answers that have been posted to confirm someone didn't just feed fake data.

Here's the flip side, this is connected with a central bank. Those uploading answers or verifying answers will have their bank accounts as part of their profile. When the central bank creates money, it will be transferred to answers and verifies in order of hardest to easiest.

Since the answers are public, they can be picked up and used by anyone before the central bank has to create money. I don't know if we have enough of the types of questions that are both useful and can be formulated into packets of 'problems' but you would at least actually have the financial system burning electricity to do something of lasting value. Granted this also wouldn't really be a cryptocurrency but hey it might be interesting for anyone who wants to run with it.


How much of the poor design was the result of building codes and excessive regs?

The good Dr. Heywood Floyd was on a space station to Moon shuttle when he was vexed by the toilet sign, so no building codes involved, I imagine. More likely "airline" regulation.

3. This is the norm in most items that are designed by people who won't be using whatever they're designing. You see the same nonsense, for example, in homes designed and built in the US. The builder has an incentive to feature elements that makes sales easier, not the elements that make living in the house easier. Therefore a home with 3 poorly designed bathrooms will sell better than a home with 2 well-designed bathrooms. A kitchen with no flow, ugly granite countertops, cheap stainless steel appliances, and an obscenely oversized restaurant stove with no flow, will sell better than a well-designed kitchen that cost just as much, but with quality components that don't lend themselves to real estate sales blurbs.

In the hotel in question, they can brag about "heated towel racks" and "marble spa bathtub with rainwater shower head" and be sure customers will be excited. No need to make any of that functional, because few are making their choices based on functionality. The only thing exceptional about this article is how unexceptional it is.

"3. This is the norm in most items that are designed by people who won’t be using whatever they’re designing."

Sounds like traffic engineers. If they hire one that actually had a drivers license, traffic would flow much better.

The house comments I'm not sure about. 3 vs 2 bathrooms maybe. The kitchen you don't like seems to be the most usable though. I don't need the oversized stove, but the double oven is awesome.

I've only thought casually about traffic engineering, but it seems like a harder problem than people give credit for. How do you design to allow consecutive green lights in four directions? It seems to me that it can't be done.

By that standard, traffic engineering is a pretty much impossible profession. Any free-flowing road will, if it's actually productive, become congested:

It's not clear that free-flowing traffic is a good thing anyway. Should we knock down a bunch of towers in Manhattan so that we could widen Broadway?

I have a relative who is a residential developer. He does well because he actually works with an architect who has taste, and who thinks of the entire home (and yard and neighborhood) as a unit. Most builders seek to maximize square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and a couple of ridiculously excessive walk-in closets. Plus the stuff I mentioned in kitchens. That's what brings in the $$. No thought to how the house flows, privacy, functionality, ease of repair, what the views from the windows will be like, where the family will spend time, etc. There is an emphasis on "bling" items, regardless of whether they make living better or more comfortable. Corners are cut in everything that isn't visible (insulation, plumbing, wiring).

This is why I've never bought a new home - generally shoddy construction, and no way to tell what you're getting. Buy a home that's a few decades old and you'll easily get a good idea of whether or not the foundation was laid properly, if there is moisture intrusion, and scores of other issues.

Very true. However, what exactly is "no flow" in a bathroom? Here in the Philippines, it's when you build a house and the bathroom does not have the waste outlet pipes angled towards the septic tank, and your toilet does not flush. It happens remarkably often. I just built a luxury house here, and though the builders got the bathroom to flow right, the gutter pipes on certain sides are not sloped correctly and don't drain away from the house as warranted. You would think something like sloping a drainage pipe is easy to do, but it's not. BTW they build fairly good houses here, if you insist they use good material. For example for interior walls, they use cinderblock (hollow block) not drywall, and the house is more sound-proof. Roofs are "American style" angled truss often, steel sheet that imitates tar paper shingle (for typhoons), as is mine, but also flat concrete (which ends up after a few years leaking, but many Filipinos don't think that far ahead). No building permits needed except after the fact. Ground wires are often optional (no ground) but I installed one, though major appliances sold in southeast Asia often lack a ground wire anyway.

When we were recently in China, we were told that the majority of toilets being installed in new apartments were Western style, rather than the traditional squat style. In the sparkling new airport facilities, my wife noted that the ratio of squat to Western toilets in women's restrooms was about 10 to one (Western usually labeled "handicapped"). Young Chinese women lined up to use the Western stall. When we asked about the discrepancy, we were told that the facilities were designed and specified by older men.

What's 'flow'?

Flow in a kitchen generally refers to the way the refrigerator, sink, and cooktop (the kitchen triangle) relate to each other, as well as how the cabinets are set up.

Since in modern homes the kitchen tends to be the place where friends and family gather, it can also refer to a kitchen that is conducive to both family casual dining and entertaining.

5. One reason, maybe the primary reason, I read this blog is because it teaches me to believe, to believe something different from what I already believe. When I read the title to the linked essay early this morning, I almost didn't read it because I believed it presented something about beliefs I didn't care to learn this morning. I read it anyway, and was surprised that my belief (about the essay) was not only wrong, but the essay taught me that I could teach myself to believe something different from what I already believe. It just takes a nudge here or there. Of course, that's what Cowen provides his readers: nudges. That it's aspirational (everyone needs aspirations) to teach oneself to believe something different from what one already believes made me a believer. After all, isn't one better off to believe in lots of new things than to believe in only a few old things? I believe so.


Some new beliefs are nothing more than revisions in our cognitive framework. The cases of Phil, Breakfast club, Pascal's wager etc. are ones in which the change in belief corresponds to a change in desire, feeling, and self-assessment--in short, when it is a change in value.

#6 - standard mistakes that a technical guy makes when looking at finance or economics. Technical details don't matter. Mind-share matters.

As a matter of fact, it seems quite often that the more useful something is, the more it's value is tied to - and thus limited by - its use. Most gold isn't actually used for anything that can't be replaced by yellow-brown paint, yet it is valuable. Yet somehow we care about it. And don't me started on diamonds.

(Forgot to add): The promise of Ethereum (and Iota, Neo, Cardano, and others) is building applications on top of them. Which means they will be eventually measured in people's minds by the value of the applications. Which so far is unknown. Furthermore, when any of those applications break significantly, confidence in the underlying 'currency' drops. So far, Ethereum has worked around those problems. But that will never happen with Bitcoin or any of the other vanilla cryptocurrencies. Which will make them a safer store of value in people's minds. Which, as I have now pointed out repeatedly, is all that matters.

"bitcoin is better than ethereum because it can't do anything except 'store value'"


Silver has far more utility than Gold. I'll trade you a pound of silver for a pound of gold.
Copper is even more useful. A pound of copper for two pounds of gold.

A != B does not imply that !B = A

Quoth Dourado:

>But winner-take-all-ness between dominating and dominated coins used for the same application is a sure thing unless you want to bite the bullet and say that the >value of all coins should fall to the marginal cost of creating them, i.e., zero.

He should have started his essay explaining why you need to "bite the bullet" to say this.

How is the marginal cost of minting a coin zero?

You're totally ignoring the absolutely valid argument that ETH, from a technical perspective, can be just as good as (if not better) at storing value than BTC.

You're arguing that when someone releases buggy code, confidence in the underlying technology is undermined. As someone good at releasing buggy code, I'll have you know that none of my actions have caused Microsoft any issues.

Also, from the article, BTC can't work as a store of value if people aren't using it to make transactions to supply the transactions fees for maintaining the network. There has to be underlying utility to BTC, which right now is the network effects and the ability to transfer value between untrusting parties in an uncensorable way.

What I am saying is that the technical perspective is less important than the mental perspective. Bitcoin's technical sophistication is sufficient for it to be used as a store of value as it is. The utility of BTC that you point out facilitates it's being used as a store of value. It has no second level of utility in the way that Ethereum does. And that makes for a cleaner mental model of it as a store of value.
As far as bugs, I was only referring to public disaster level bugs.

For some reason, the link to The Diamond Invention 'cyber book' edition by Edward Jay Epstein (which is to his name plus dot com - not a pirate site one would hope, especially considering how he thanks June Eng for designing the cyber book) is not postable. Maybe wikipedia provides a hint - 'Edward Jay Epstein (born 1935) is an American investigative journalist and a former political science professor at Harvard, UCLA, and MIT.'

4. The link isn't correct. (Or maybe I only think that because I'm not very bright?)

6. Boom is an odd choice to name a company building a supersonic aircraft. I know, boom is the sound when approaching supersonic speed, but it's also slang for explosion. Eli has some strange beliefs, not only belief in cryptocurrencies but also belief in Boom. I suppose what the two have in common is a smaller world. I'm not sure smaller is better, since familiarity breeds contempt.

I agree this is an odd name, particularly given the fact that they're promoting the concept of quiet supersonic aircraft that do not cause a large shockwave.

#3. I'm baffled as to why people like rainshower type showerheads. Personally I like high-pressure showers, a gentle rain is not really what I'm looking for, but maybe I'm missing something about the experience. Is this some sort of way of trying to make low-flow environmentally friendly showers more pleasurable? Are hotels installing these to save money on water, like the way they encourage customers to re-use towels? Is the supposed popularity of rainshower heads some sort of corporate propaganda campaign to nudge people into thinking low-flow showers are better?

The idea is that water falling from a disk exposes your entire body, whereas a traditional nozzle is only coming from one side. I'm not a huge fan - I find that steam or other heating provides similar comfort without constantly washing hair into your eyes.

Rain is not low flow.

With a smaller mobile showerhead, I have to slightly move it around to keep myself evenly watered. This means holding it for the duration of the shower. Hanging it up and dancing around is another option, though even less preferable. With a bigger showerhead, hands are free and no dancing is necessary.

2. A wonderfully simple productivity hack. Maybe it can work for studying or reviewing journal articles?


And, thanks, Tyler, for the link!

On the ethereum post, thwe argument for ethereum over ripple was very weak. What ripple has neither bitcoin nor ethereum does is that has real exchamge use by serious players. It is used by major banks for interbank transactions. This is way more serious than anything either bitcoin or ethereum or any other crypto does, and is almost certainly the main reason it has gone from sixth in market cap to second since the futures markets opened for bitcoin, which seems to have stabilized the btc market (and ended its upward run).

Ripple also only transacts on verified nodes, thereby making it far more centralized than either BTC or ETH.

Perhaps banks like that, as it preserves their rent seeking, but if ETH is successful, who will need banks?

The trade-off basically seems to be centralization for performance. Ripple/Stellar fees are basically zero and transactions settle extremely quickly. The Ethereum network can barely handle a shitty virtual cat game and fees are already ridiculous (though not to bitcoin levels).

Now, the ETH devs claim they have fixes for this (PoS, etc.) but these are all purely theoretical at this point.

Agree with you that Cryptokitties clogged up the Ethereum network, however, it is early days. As you rightly note, there are proposals in the works for addressing this, so I'm willing to give the Eth Org time to work it out. The potential use cases for a decentralized world computer are compelling enough to wait it out.

On the fees: can I transfer money for zero fees with Ripple? Not to my knowledge. On the other hand, during the Cryptokitties fiasco, I was still able to transfer large amounts of value within minutes for under five bucks. Hardly "ridiculous."

Is Ripple actually being used in production by banks for interbank transactions?

Ripple bank transactions don't use Ripple coins though, the coins are totally superfluous.

3. SMBC had something about this as well:

It is quite humorous watching liberals go ape shit over the Cliven Bundy dismissal. The cries that the judge must have been appointed by a republican, the prosecution threw the case for Bundy, it doesn't matter what evidence was withheld we saw a picture on TV - guilty as charged. It is like liberals don't care about due process. Where have I heard this before? That is right, liberal's views on college sexual assault. Who needs to try these cases in the DoJ when we can do it in the KKK (Kampus Kangaroo Kourts) where the accused have no rights.

The BLM engaged in an appalling abuse of power. They even had a “kill list” that recorded the ranchers who committed suicide while under investigation.

I don’t say this lightly but if people ever wonder how the Germans talked themselves into murdering innocent people, look into the eyes of those BLM agents who corrupted the judicial process to emprison American ranchers and celebrated the deaths of others.

To many government employees are flirting with fascism. They need to start going to jail.

Yet as some compassionate liberal succinctly stated over at WaPo...

1/8/2018 7:00 PM PST

They should have Waco'd him and his family of inbreds years ago.

I find the argument for Ethereum he calls "Robustness of scripting language" to be pretty hilarious. It has an instruction set that would be consider comedic to anyone with experience in computer language design. Turing completeness is, at the same time, a disadvantage, as contracts are extremely hard to verify, and has already led to dramatic losses and downright thievery. This makes their smart contracts, more than smart, kind of dumb.

It just points out to how crazy the idea of complex, arbitrary executable contracts where there is no judicial recourse, even for the bugs. If you allow someone to modify them to fix them, then you get into situations where the person changing them can steal money. If instead we make them impossible to edit, a heist that steals, say 5% of the money supply, becomes pretty possible. Just imagine if something like that was even theoretically possible with dollars. And it's not just contract bugs: Imagine a bug in the underlying vm, or in a compiler. Something the size of the couple of processor vulnerabilities that sadly aren't hitting the mainstream news, but with no easy mitigation, as the machine runs by itself.

If you really, really had to allow the creation of arbitrary smart contracts with no space for judicial review afterwards, at the very least you'd pick languages with very strong type systems, and with tooling to build proofs. It'd make contracts hard to write, but it'd make them reliable. Ethereum went in the opposite direction.

Racism.... in Sweden? Proggers would tell you impossible. I tend to agree with Zlatan...

Burnished to a gloss that even DeLong would approve of - though to fit the modern age of twittering, it seems possible that short is one of the necessary criteria here.

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