Friday assorted links


5. I appreciate that there is not just a short summary of what each blog is about but an opinion about its quality. Not just a list. Intelligent economist indeed.

Surveying the titles all in one place, the cute terrible blog names kind of overwhelm.

Agree but some of the blogs in there don't seem to qualify... Robert Reich? He is not an economist, right???

6. Davis Warsh's weekly column (not a blog) is the best coverage of the discipline bar none.

Am I reading that incorrectly or did he fail to get a real publisher? This is remarkable - the Harvard-Russian scandal has had enormous real world consequences, not least for the Russians but also for US-Russian relations. The world really needed the end of the Soviet Union to be managed well. It wasn't.

And yet not a single mainstream publisher is interested in publishing a book on it? Remarkable. Truly one law for the weak and one for the strong. Don't mess with Harvard.

1. Autonomous cars sharing the road with non-autonomous cars is nonsense, and would guarantee carnage on a huge scale. What hucksters promoting autonomous cars won't tell you is that they will need a separate right-of-way (transit, in other words). They won't tell you because they don't want you to consider the enormous cost of the separate right-of-way, and hope that suckers will be so committed to autonomous cars that the same suckers will pay for the right-of-way. Elon Musk, the king of the hucksters, claims he wants to build underground roads (a/k/a "subways") for his autonomous cars. Yea, right, he is going to pay for subways the same way his suckers have paid for teh development of his not-very-good electric cars. People will believe almost anything, especially when the pitch is delivered by a con man (can you say "Trump").

It's not Musk's fault. It's the Musk-worshipping imbeciles'.

I'm a yuge Tesla short. When (If) electric cars become economical, TSLA will not be able to compete with Chrysler/Fiat,Ford, GM, Honda, Subaru, Toyota.

Plus, I'm an outlier. I look at financials. A corporation that loses $13 (?)a share; can't cash flow expenses; and is forced to resort to junk bond funding is not on my buy radar.

Where would TSLA be without $10,000 taxpayer largesse per car? SpaceX gets a third of its gross revenue from the American taxpayer. NYC paid billions for a few miles of new subway. How much will Musk's underground lines costs? Of course, that doesn't matter. He's a genius with unlimited money.

Re: autonomous cars: the programmers will have to add eight or ten million of lines of code to try cover the insane predicaments that occur in traffic.

Musk is a fraud.

So, "If you like your right of way, you can keep your right of way" ?

It does sound pretty hucksterish, if oddly familiar.

4) b) Because we don't have photographers (eye-rolling).

Q: Lets pretend the US dollar collapses. Would that be good or bad for Bitcoin? For example, it goes 20% down against the Yuan or Euro or whatever.
A: I feel it'd go up..... I believe Bitcoin would then turn into a very safe place to store your money outside the monetary system. But as mentioned above - increased volatility (in the USD price for Bitcoin).

Crypto logic: high volatility is a "safe place to store your money"

1. Survey by the AAA. The lobby for human driven cars.

I don't feel safe sharing the road with human driven cars. Mostly because they insist on doing everything except drive their cars. I should make a GoPro of all the stuff I see humans do in the driver's seat except drive. Having a robot drive would be an improvement: if the humans insist on not driving, something should.

If there were such a robot, or if such a robot were to become available in the next 20 years.

On the other hand, letting pile of crap electronics and shitty code drive now might be a bad idea.

Logic of US politicians: autonomous vehicle kills a person, we must ban autonomous vehicles to protect people (from the robots). Human driven vehicle kills a person, nothing to see here.

They turned off "emergency braking" in Arizona because it had too many false positives.

You have to have some computer science to understand what that really means, but I guess the bottom line is that the car was not an "artificially intelligent robot" that changed its own settings back, to save that woman.

It was just a dumb program, with no internal consciousness, following a flow chart.

My understanding is that the braking was turned off DUE to the fact that there was a human in the driver’s seat.

Which isn’t an error in code or autonomous vehicles.

It’s an error in corporate policy.

I see it as worse. The report I read said that emergency braking was turned off because of false positives, and *notification of the driver* was turned off for the same reason.

So we have something bad on two levels. The system does not have a trustworthy internal state of the world, and they are wholly depending on an active and alert driver to override it.


To your point, the false positives only meant the ride “was not as smooth to the human ‘backup driver’”

I don’t understand the reflexive view about AI and automation. It seems people that understand AI/programming more are much more positive about the rate of development. That should be telling in a way.

What is so scary about AI vehicles?

I am coming from a different angle. I apologise for this being long, but it explains where I am coming from:

Or where I am trying to come from.

Note also the other story in the news:

Neural networks are primed to find patterns. They will do that when there are patterns, and sometimes when there are not.

This story is actually similar to the crash because the sensor, in this case a microphone, could not fully capture the external environment, in this case a conversation, and *after* the mistaken pattern match the flowchart took over and sent the "message."

It seems people that understand AI/programming more are much more positive about the rate of development.

Not my experience at all. I've been programming for 4 decades and I am extremely skeptical of how quickly we can expect safe self-driving vehicles that work in a wide variety of roads and road conditions.

By the way, best wishes to Simone Giertz, of Shitty Robot fame. She wasn't kidding when she said she had a brain tumor.

Here page is fun and instructrive:

When it comes down to it, self-driving cars may be very hyped, oversold, shitty robots.

Let me try again. Politicians are too illogical to consider the proper metric(s) is/are deaths and injuries per vehicle mile driven. Risk of death by automobile will never be 0 but politicians never bothered to research if risk per passenger mile driven is greater for autonomous cars or human controlled cars. Non-random samples of size N < 5 is all politicians understand.

How should we count miles when these companies are counting on alert and active humans to cancel dangerous operations?

IMO every "cancel" is a full failure of "self-driving."

There are no self-driving cars

The SAE has developed some useful Autonomy Levels that are less ambiguous than the self-driving claim:

So what are the numbers? Per million miles driven? I don't think there is enough information, and it isn't as black and white as you want to portray it.

Anecdote. Or two. First is not me but a friend. He bought a pickup a few years ago, standard transmission. First snowfall going down a hill put it in low gear and feathers the brakes. The more intelligent machine decided it was time to accelerate. Perfectly logical, meeting all regulations but to dangerous to drive in conditions we see every winter. I have the same experience with abs brakes which are less effective and dangerous in hilly winter conditions.

I wouldn't trust them.

'I have the same experience with abs brakes which are less effective and dangerous in hilly winter conditions.'

Why, or perhaps better, how? ABS is pretty simple (for a car - for motorcycles, the entire framework of being in a curve is much more complex, and much more dangerous, which is why older motorcycle ABS systems were inactive when the motorcycle was at less than perfectly upright) - ABS works on wheel revolution, and when a tire is no longer spinning, then ABS releases the braking.

But to my knowledge. first you need to actually have enough braking to engage the ABS system at all. And not that it is important, as there are undoubtedly many ABS systems available, but Daimler (and BMW) have lots of employees that live in places with lots of hilly, curvy, snow covered roads, and I have never heard that their modern cars are somehow inferior when it comes to driving in the Black Forest in the winter in terms of braking due to ABS.

Politicians are too illogical to consider the proper metric(s) is/are deaths and injuries per vehicle mile driven.

Maybe in the far future, when self driven cars encounter the full range of safety hazards that humans encounter.

On the other hand, the fatality in Arizona was on a well-lighted, dry street at 35 mph, with a pedestrian slowly walking her bike across the road. That's indefensible. The fatality rate in that scenario should be zero. If you can't deal with someone slowly crossing the road, how can you ever hope to operate in a residential neighborhood?

Disabling the automatic brakes is another major red flag. Why were the automatic brakes disabled? Because the car can't decide on the appropriate and safe times to brake.

Imagine saying that to a cop after an accident: "Officer, I'm pretty good at keeping a steady speed, and I've gotten better at staying in my lane. I just can't quite get the hang of braking!"

2. In typical SSC fashion, Scott writes a very insightful essay that is also quite long. I worry that those who may benefit the most from reading it will just get tired and stop.

Tyler seemed to express similar points during his recent interview with Ezra Klein. Perhaps his brevity will be more persuasive?

The random digs at Ben Shapiro were a little unusual, but other than that it was vintage SSC.

Those of us who enjoy Scott's style how it is benefit most from reading it.

Yes. Indeed would like to see a SlateStarCodex post about the benefits of brevity.

I fear that Scott feels he isn' t being "rational" enough if he isn't also verbose.

I suspect the verbose style is part of Scott's strategy to avoid widespread recognition. If all of your writing is TLDR, then only the most tenacious visitors will return regularly.

7. Different game-theoretic takes on the North Korean summit cancellation (NYT).

Fire John Bolton, he is raising defense costs by a trillion over ten years. Domestic spending rises proportionately. We have given the Dim Kim Son control over our debt levels.

A president who appoints John Bolton secretary of state is not a president who's angling for peace with the world....

He's the National Security Advisor, for Christ's sake.

Read much?

Bombing Red China (North Korea's sponsor) and Japan with nuclear weapons would be virtually free. The Bombs have already been paid for.

I don't see much in #7 about game theory, but it seems pretty straightforward.

North Korea bluffed in an attempt to take denuclearization off the table at the talks and Trump called their bluff, so now they're back to planning a summit. The underlying reasons why North Korea wanted to talk in the first place (i.e. sanctions being actually enforced and a lousy economy) haven't changed.

I gotta say Trump is handling this NK thing really well (so far). Maybe because he understands a guy like Kim. Credit where it's due.

Trump is a stud. He knows people, he understands the hand he has in each deal, and he likes getting the best possible deal in each case.

All of these characteristics were lacking in previous administrations. Especially the 2008-2015 vintage.

Strangely, the South Koreans seem to disagree.

Maybe President Trump is unaware of that fact, as we still don't actually have a Trump appointed ambassador in South Korea.

'The White House formally nominated Adm. Harry Harris Jr. on Wednesday to be Washington's top envoy to South Korea.

The Trump administration announced its intent to nominate Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, as its ambassador to Seoul last week.

He had previously been tapped as its envoy to Australia. Trump formally withdrew that nomination on Wednesday.'

Pretty sure none of that matters much. SK is almost a vassal state. So far that cheeto-haired s***gibbon is playing Kim like a Strad. Still might go pear-shaped but for now it's pretty interesting.

North Korea still has nuclear weapons. Trump may be is playing a poor hand brilliantly, but when it comes to North Korea America is not winning.

But that is all they have. The North Korean economy continues to slide into the Stone Age. Trump has forced the Chinese to cut their economic ties. The North is desperate for talks because they know this cannot go on. All Trump has to do is wait and either the regime will collapse, or the last member of the Kim family will eat the last peasant and the regime will still collapse.

That's exactly my point, he's playing the poor hand his predecessors had better than they did (so far)

Forgot to mention, NK will never ever give up their existing nukes. The best we can hope for is to 'normalize' them as a country so they don't fear invasion and have no reason to strike first. That's what Trump seems to have figured out, Kim wants to sit at the adults table, he needs this meeting more than we do.

3. Do slowing and declining populations induce populism? (NYT)

Are elites crowding out extant populations with immigrants and 'refugees'?

Ethiopia as backdrop and inspiration to The Lord of the Rings?

Here is the book that proves it, conclusively:

The Real Middle-Earth: Discovering the Origin of 'The Lord of the Rings' by Michael Muhling.

5. "Listed in no particular order". Sure. Does Cowen read most of these blogs? I don't. Not for lack of interest but for lack of time. Maybe I spend too much time on the blogs I do read. I read a variety, but I have my favorites. Some economic bloggers actually write responses to comments. I won't identify them (because it may encourage too many comments on those blogs), but if they have time to respond, it would seem I have time to read more blogs (and all those half-read books). Am I smarter (better informed) as the result of the internet? Or do I waste more of my time because of the internet?

3. Population growth is influenced by how many children people feel they can afford, and what sort of upbringing they reckon they can give those children, so both slow population growth and populism could be a reaction to a general feeling that the future doesn't look as bright as the past.

3. China's population is projected to continue to grow in the first half of this century, and then in the second half, to decline by roughly 400 million (that's the mid-range projection), more that the population of the U.S. today. Populism on steroids?

The safety of autonomous vehicles is important but this aspect of them affects people that may never ride in one.

3. Articles like this on population density almost always weird out: "In an age when the internet has collapsed distance and artificial intelligence threatens to supplant human intelligence in one domain after another, the density of people in places turns out to matter more than ever."

Really? If the internet has truly collapsed distance, then what is the need to cram and jam the entirety of population growth into a few hundred megacities, stacking people into sometimes-awful pigeon coops at vast and absurd expense? Alternatively, if the cramming and jamming is actually necessary in any sense - if the fact that Clarksburg (or Podunk) is at a distance does actually matter - then what can the authors possibly mean by "collapsing distance"?

Thus the article is unintelligible. Is anything whatsoever going on, other than self-righteous virtue-signaling over whatever particular sort of "cosmopolitanism" the authors happen to hanker for?

A shorter piece on the Harvard-Russia axis:

3: Yes. Actually, this happened before as I'm sure Professor Auerswald knows. There were huge fertility declines in Germany in the 1920s.

3. Latin America is the region of the world that has been mostly systematically affected by populism and it's demographic growth was extreme: Brazil's populist dictator Vargas was ruling over a country whose population was growing at 2.5-3% a year.

For the last damn time, Gonder calls for (Foreign) aid! Where is it, already?

I laughed the first time. And this time.

Dude, enough.

Going on donkeyback, of course.

2. The IDW story reminds me of Fox News' War on Christmas. The aggrieved tell us they are persecuted and maybe they are. Maybe people are saying Happy Holidays, so what. The intention is to stir up the viewer to defend the position of the aggrieved. We must buy more Christmas stuff to show those liberal atheists that we are better than them. Funny enough, no one I know was attacking Christmas. Why did I need to defend it?

I have seen these controversial views of Harris, Murray, Peterson, and Shapiro before in my illiterate Southern grandfather. "Blacks are less intelligent or lazy by nature." "Women are subordinate to men." "Those *fill in a vulgar name for an ethic group* should go back where they came from." Boring.

The thing is when they say this crap and someone challenges them to a debate they scuttle away and pull the War on Christmas stunt. I listened to the Klein/Harris interchange, there was no substantive debate because Harris couldn't shed his aggrieved mantle. He employed psychological projection, emotional manipulation, and outright narcissism. This abusive behavior is very common. So why are so many lining up in their defense? Could it be because they are unwilling to defend themselves in hostile territory? And why is that?

>I have seen these controversial views of Harris, Murray, Peterson, and Shapiro before in my illiterate Southern grandfather. "Blacks are less intelligent or lazy by nature." "Women are subordinate to men." "Those *fill in a vulgar name for an ethic group* should go back where they came from." Boring.

Except for Murray, who quoted literature saying blacks were less intelligent, none of these authors said any of that.

3 Seems a little convenient. The last time there were was a global recession set off by a banking crisis we saw populism rise. We just had a global recession set off by a banking crisis. Much more parsimonious explanation.

3. Do slowing and declining populations induce populism? (NYT)

I would go with stagnant wages first. Anyway, the nations with slowest and declining populations are the East Asian Tigers and few of them have had huge populist movement.

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