Monday assorted links


"The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ' ... We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again'.


My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."

#6 So no actual use cases then?

Carry on.

I dunno, that crucial university degree revocation verification function...sounds like it's got potential.

Sounds like the author of this twitter thread has no penis. I guess he belongs here after all.

Having fun, are we, you little ball of weirdness?
your psyche must be so so contorted,
boringly contorted, but still contorted
Good luck, get back on your meds
or off the wrong meds

4. It is really depressing when supposedly highly qualified people cannot even write a report that doesn’t conflate espionage, technology transfer via voluntary contracts, and actual IP theft.

Scott wrote "You might argue that my handbag example trivializes the problem, and that the real problem is patent infringement, which slows innovation. I agree."

So, its very depressing when someone fails to understand patents are intended to slow innovation by limiting adoption of inventions.

Innovation is the production of new better things. Some methods can be patented, but most can not. Ie, division of labor is the primary path to innovation, generally by dividing the labor in a better way. For example, Japan switched from dividing the labor statically among a pipeline of workers to creating groups of workers who divided the work of assembly dynamically among themselves so the group formed a team who were all rewarded by getting an engine running, rather than working for weeks with zero feedback, mostly "you screwed up and made 50 engines not run two weeks ago".

Patents are issued for things like the head of screws which are supposed to speed assembly of products. But if you adopt 15 different screw heads and require 15 tools, you will slow assembly. The US and British governments squashed innovation by agreeing to screw standards preventing the use of patents to drive screw design. Instead, government forced industry to innovate without use of patents, resulting in great increases in productivity in factories and in the field where products are maintained.

Elon Musk gets patents to open source them to thwart patent troll rent seekers who exist only to hold innovation hostage to obtain a ransom paymment to enable innovation.

Jeff Bezos operates in an industry where capital and division of labor are the key, and using capital and division of labor to innovate is not patentable. Jeff Bezos motivates himself and others by fear of bankruptcy from others innovating faster, with no possible way to block them from innovating because the methods are ancient arts: capital and division of labor.

The Gucci bag is not innovation by patent. Its a brand name on an ancient art of making things by labor with high standards of quality. When Gucci outsources the labor to China, demanding Chinese workers meet Gucci brand standards, Gucci as a brand is almost reduced to zero value. Gucci no longer owns the workforce that defines Gucci quality. That Gucci hires and trains Chinese workers in Italy makes no difference unless Gucci puts golden handccuffs on these Chinese workers. Ie, makes leaving Gucci to start their own firm less profitable than staying as Gucci labor.

And nothing about Gucci product design is new; its appeal is its the best in classic design and production. Specific products get a design patent as an equivalent to copyright, which are simply an expression of old classic ideas. But copyright has turned to nearly pure rent seeking to harm innovation. Ie, whether Gone with the Wind or Disney classics, innovation has been slowed or halted by changes since circa 1980, changes claimed to increase innovation. But pretty universally the book, music, and movie industry have been harmed, not helped, though rents are much higher, but on declining volumes.

@Mulp - you're so off-base you're not even wrong, lol. You're against patents, trademarks and copyrights, a trifecta of errors. According to you, marking your goods with your own mark, to distinguish high-quality goods from your competitors, which even drug dealers so with their wares, is harmful, anti-competitive behavior. Bingo!

Bonus trivia: Scott Sumner cites some half-baked reader commentator named "Dallas Weaver", who among other errors does not understand what an improvement patent is all about, but his name reminds me of this guy:
Weaver Warren Adams (April 28, 1901 – January 6, 1963) was an American chess master, author, and opening theoretician. His greatest competitive achievement was winning the U.S. Open Championship in 1948. Grandmaster Arnold Denker related of Weaver that he was "a master who inherited a chicken farm and who was – so to speak – a White man clear through. He wrote a book, White to Play and Win, lived in a White house on White Street, chewed antacid pills that left the inside of his mouth perpetually White, and raised only white chickens that laid white eggs. Predictably, Adams' business was soon no more than a shell."[30] Harry Golombek wrote in 1977 that Adams, whom he described as "author of White to Play and Win and a sodium bicarbonate addict", was on Golombek's "reserves" list for "the ten most interesting personages" from the past 100 years.[31] Adams was homosexual, as discussed in his autobiographical article reprinted in Chess Pride. "

1. Data on the growing on-line popularity of chess.

GnuChess was updated, naturally. I can no longer play an even game using the default difficulty level. But I notice the designers occasionally throw themselves a bad move, letting me in; like an inducement not to give up.

A male porn star named Sex Avery whose claim to fame is that his dick makes an “AWOOOGA!” noise when it gets hard.

Ooohhhhh. "My next business partner!" Don't tell my wife. Tee hee!

@ #1 - on Leonard Barden and online chess popularity, I'm pretty sure this is being driven by India. The Chessbase site even has a special Indian edition. Good to see Times chess columnist Leonard Barden profiled; for a while about 5 years ago he was destitute and threatened with eviction from his flat, I hope that was resolved favorably.

Pretty cool how the links form a common theme today. The Nagel paper seems highly consequential and important.

#4 China which does not respect any notion of IP coincidentally also does not respect what Dr. Sumner has concluded to be dubious IP, who would have thought??

#3 Coincidentally? Interesting WSJ piece today on how the Harvard endowment is buying up California farmland and water rights.

6. Buterin tweetstorm on the non-financial applications of block chains.

Yes he is trivially correct.

Consider Swift, the current system. It is finite block chain, it is just not Merkle tree and uses a trusted set of miners (traditional banks).

Your drivers license has a built in consensus algorithm, subject to counterfeit police. It has no block chain, and is cistributed. But you geta police visit when you fake it. Distributed access to a central data bases uses a finite block chain without signatures.

In other words, block chain, literally, means structured queue waiting for service. The ethereum block chain is just a bunch of people waiting for a voluntary turn at spending ETH.

Everything in the computer world is block chain in that it is a linear arrangement of nested blocks of bytes. Add a checksum and you get block chain, computers been doing this for 40 years.

If 'computers been doing this for 40 years' then what the heck is all the fuss about?

My dick is ridiculously small

My question exactly. As near as I can tell the crypto market is grasping at straws because crypto coins have hit a speed bump.

On the other matter, yes my dick is slightly on the small side.

Distributed ledger. The records of transactions is distributed and verified in multiple places. That is what mining is, algorithmically verifying the ledger.

What it's use in the real world? I don't know. The conditions that would warrant it's wide use would also imply a collapse of the networks that it requires.


It feels like only a year or two ago it was very difficult to find a quality chess app you could use to play against online rivals or friends. For me, at least, this is important as I find it difficult to play against machines because they make their moves very quickly and it is hard for me to repress the urge to try and keep (relative) pace with them. Playing against a live person is much more enjoyable. As the chess apps have gotten better I also feel more comfortable recommending them to friends.

As an aside, or China and IP, I read a couple days ago that there is evidence that Chinese government hackers targeted US corporate IP.

I frankly thought that the Chinese were too smart for that, that if such intrusions were made it would be by shady independents, hired by companies, with plausible deniability all around.

We should probably demand repatriations (and stop putting tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium as some kind of disconnected "response").

(It is entirely possible that over the last 5 or 10 years the "rules" of the cyberwar have been set by "players" and they just haven't told us That too is a dangerous disconnect.)

Re: #5, the author writes: "My realism about the normative is simply the view that normative propositions, to the effect that something is a reason for action or belief, are among the types of things that can be true just in themselves, without having to be analyzed in terms of any other type of truth. Nothing else makes it true that there is a reason to perform an action that will alleviate pain; it’s just true. Not everything can be analyzed in terms of something else: Whatever one’s philosophical world view, there have to be some types of truth that are just true in themselves – mental facts, physical facts, mathematical facts, social facts, whatever. Most of the great disputes in philosophy are over where, in this search for ultimate grounds, the buck stops. I believe normative reasons are one of those irreducible stopping points. While the existence of a reason will often require explanation, the explanation will always depend on other reasons. The question “What are reasons?” seems to require an answer only if you believe that the stopping points are limited to some other kinds of truth, such as physical or psychological or historical."

This seems wrong in relation to normative truths, though. They seem to be driven in large part by the social-evolutionary needs of a given society. If the social system needs for moral proposition X to be true or false in order to thrive and survive in competition with other social systems around it, the X will tend to be seen as true or false. It is not the proposition itself and its current truth value that are the underlying reasons that do not depend on other reasons, any more than the current configuration of a cardinal or an otter or a great white are underlying immutable reasons. They are manifestations of a true underlying reason, which is a system of selection with inheritance under resource pressures and competition.

It seems like you are just saying that "you believe that the stopping points are limited to some other kinds of truth, such as physical or psychological or historical." Is it all three if you stop at evolutionary psychology?

I think that's basically right, I'm claiming that "moral truths" tend to have other reasons underlying them.

I don't know that I'd put it all on evolutionary psych, some of it clearly has to do with social systems co-opting or utilizing our evolutionary heritage for system purposes.

(For example, consider the moral calculations of a young draftee on the Western front in, say, 1916. There are ev-psych based reasons for the kid to follow orders and go over the top, but it looks to me like they have been co-opted by a social system that is relatively disconnected from any measure of the kid's evolutionary fitness.)

3. This is another post about inequality, inequality in the distribution of water: some have too much, others don't have enough. And guess what: like wealth inequality, water inequality produces instability, financial, economic, and social. What's the solution to water inequality? What's the solution to wealth inequality? Of course, at this blog, wealth inequality is a feature not a bug. What say you about water inequality?

Wealth is immediately transferable anywhere in the world. Theoretically.

Water, wet water specifically, weighs 62.4 lbs per cubic foot.

Read my other book (free download): Living with Water Scarcity

#3..."FYI, I am not providing kindle or PDF versions of the book because I want to encourage people to sit with a physical thing and think at their leisure about interesting ideas. "

This isn't encouraging, but demanding. Charging more for a digital book is encouraging.

I see it as encouraging, as there are many other reading options. My book is not required, so I cannot make demands. :)

6. Terrible. People now know, after reading the thread, that ETH is a massive scam. Bitcoin only remains. Oh well.

#4 seems like a giant things unseen fallacy. Stealing IP does not just mean that the owners of current IP suffer a loss of value, it means that people are deterred from investing in IP generation because they expect it to be expropriated.

Take, for instance pharmaceutical R&D. Since 2009 it has barely grown above inflation rates. This during a "flight to safety". Nor has the stock price followed suit, every major pharma corporation has been lagging the DJIA for quite some time. Their profits, last I checked, were below te majority of industries in the economy (e.g. trucking has a higher profit margin).

Why is that it? It isn't because the products fail; estimates are that in two decades preceding the slow down, pharma brought us an average 1.2 years of increased lifespan (i.e. 3/4ths of ALL life expectancy gain over the period in question). Somehow, as Europe and all the other free riders began more aggressively fleecing pharma we saw fewer of the long shot drugs make it as far in the pipeline.

Where exactly does this harm show up on a balance sheet? Pharma says no, not going to sequester a billion dollars for a decade because the the risk weighted returns are too low. Pharma just invests the cash into something like real estate and nobody loses money. Heck they turn a profit on their billion that is pretty nice.

Yet we are all poorer for it as we miss out on new products that could extend the healthspan or have other useful effects.

Or take the case of trademarks. Firms invest in quality control in order to increase the value of the brand. Customers buy the brand for status that rests on a fundamental basis of quality. If the marketplace is going to be overrun with knockoffs of variable quality that the consumer cannot tell apart at the point of purchase, what is the value of investing in quality as a brand?

The whole point of trade marks was to allow consumers (e.g. you or me) to easily tell if a handbag or whatever was something of quality without having to be experts on gauging zipper reliability and stitching strength. Negating trademarks means that equilibrium for a product will be much closer to the cheapest knock-offs and this will harm all consumers - those who want quality face higher search costs and those who want lower price will have fewer producers catering to their market.

Even if we are just looking at status signalling, IP theft can easily create bigger problems than the dollar amounts in bookkeeping. Suppose China destroys the high fashion, watch, and basically every other status good market with nigh unto impossible to detect knock offs. How long do you think those things will be used to signal status? I expect not long. Would we expect status signalling to stop?

Of course not. Rather than signalling via thousand dollar handbags, the obnoxiously wealthy will turn to other options. Maybe things that cannot be knocked off, like say educational prestige and housing location. Bidding up fundamental inputs into productivity would be far worse for society. After all handbags are not zero sum; the poor can keep buying the cheap ones. Education and real estate are pretty zero sum, if the rich bid up Harvard, UVA, UC Berkley, and all the way on down the people who suffer will be the marginal poor kids who get priced out or end up with larger educational debt.

The costs of theft are not just the value of the goods stolen. They are the bars on the windows. They are the unwillingness of strangers to provide CPR in rough neighborhoods for fear of getting mugged. And most of all they are the new ventures that don't get started at all.

Frankly, I am reminded of Detroit. The total amount of property damaged in the riots of the 60s was something like $50 million. The long run damage from the urban flight is orders of magnitude higher. The property tax rolls, for instance, lost 75% of their value in the long run.

So no, China's IP theft isn't some most negligible concern. The cost of crime can, and does, exceed the annual revenue of the business being predated upon. Going from a world that respects most IP to one that mostly doesn't respect IP is going to equilibrate to lot less IP generation and a lot more IP protection expenses.

But hey, what are a few million lives between friends?

4. In 2015, estimated worldwide seizures of counterfeit goods totaled $425 billion, meaning that as much as $85 billion of counterfeit U.S. goods (20% of worldwide seizures) entered the world market (including the U.S. market).

If these $425 billion of counterfeit goods were seized, what happened to them? Were they incinerated or buried or sold to salvage yards or donated to Goodwill or what? Furthermore, who ate the value of these seized goods, which, in order to be effective counterfeits, would demand similar costs of production to the genuine articles. Of the quantity of counterfeit US goods entering world and US markets what percentage is manufactured in the US or by US entities in foreign locations?

#6: 10. Blockchains are NOT about cutting computational costs (at least relative to centralized servers). Blockchains are about incurring a sacrifice in the form of INCREASED computational costs to achieve a *decrease* in *social costs*.

11. Computers have become 1 trillion times cheaper, per unit computation, in the last 70 years. Human labor has gotten 2-10x more expensive. So incurring high technical costs to achieve reductions in social costs is at least sometimes a very good bargain.

Yes, every business wants to reduce social costs, transaction costs, labor costs or staff time. Whatever you name it.

It might have started with the supermarket. Instead of a teller looking for a strawberry jam in the back of the store and handling it to you over the counter, someone came up with the idea of giving the clients access to the back of the store. Home depot, Costco and others push this idea further, you're literally shopping around in the warehouse. This saves a lot of labor.

Computers are developed to be cheap 20 years ago and the client now does banking, ticket sales, reservations, the degree verification example and many things more. The great trick of decreasing labor costs is putting the client to work to minimize your business staff. Very few people cares if this goal is achieved with an SQL database a blockchain.

For me, the discussion if blockchains are more efficient than a SQL database is interesting. But, I don't get why this discussion is all over the news. This is as interesting as discussing insurance, accounting, or law.

If blockchains succeed, they will integrate seamlessly into the business model of "the client does the work" and no one will care anymore. Indeed if we still discuss blockchains, it's because that seamless integration has not been achieved.

"Blockchain study finds 0.00% success rate and vendors don't call back when asked for evidence."

2: the observations by the psychologist seem pretty accurate. The disciplinary area that I don't understand is the humanities, where going to a conference and reading a paper seems to mean literally that: the speaker reads straight from the paper. And the audience is supposed to sit there and listen and ask questions afterward.

The give and take of an econ seminar seems like a better use of people's time and a better way for research to be critiqued.

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