Wednesday assorted links


#3. I thought everybody foresaw the lack of progress when the project was announced.
#4. Looks like women aren't discriminated against on the seminar circuit at this set of universities.
#5. I am profoundly unimpressed by Mazzucato.

#5 Thank goodness TC steps in around paragraph 27 to restore some sense of order

From the article:

"In spite of his defense of corporate America, Cowen agrees with some of what Mazzucato has to say. “Government does and should have a big role in supporting innovation,” he noted. “That said, I think she emphasizes the role of the government, say in the internet, much more than my own account would.” He highlights a popular concern: there are many examples of governments that are too dysfunctional to be up to the task of sensibly directing business ventures. “She is not skeptical enough about the public sector in many settings,” he added."

Well done, Tyler. So understated, but at least stated.

Here in California we have exhibit A, the "Train to Nowhere".

Astute readers will note the voters chose the train. The legislature has figured out the best strategy for them is to let the voters decide critical issues, like the punishing regressive gasoline tax. So much for a republican form of government.

5). Article was incredibly painful.

“If value is in the eye of the beholder, if it just depends on how much someone wants something you do, then who are you to say what’s valuable?” she said. “It’s the price itself that determines value.” Mazzucato says we should question this assumption, and instead ask what truly adds value, and what is really productive, to society.

Sentences from "one of the world's most influential economists"! I need a good rigid John Cochrane blog post and after that a cold shower.

Article TL;DR: There is no such thing as money because there is no such thing as value. Therefore, let some group of other people tell you what money and value are, and ignore what I just said.

Analysis: Huh?

5) What a dumb article

"Government does and should have a big role in supporting innovation"

No it doesn't Tyler. Not a positive one. Japan went all in on Nuclear and a bunch of other white elephants in the '80s/'90s while poo-pooing electronics and everything else that actually succeeded. Public research is a bust all over.

#2 For someone who runs a blog called "Overcomingbias" I don't understand why this continues to be a surprise.

Human beings 10,000 years ago, today, and likely into the future under the current 'human condition' have not yet invented systems that change and direct behavior in others that are not ultimately coercive.

I imagine a 'Homo-Futurus' someday that may be gifted with the power of telepathy and ability to transmit both data and emotion to another homo-futurus in real time that might avoid the messiness, but that's not now. The law, modern communication, economics, the air your breath and the water you drink occurs and is brought forth by agreements that - the dereliction of which - are fundamentally enforceable on another human being with something 'unpleasant'...this includes violence. That violence can be macro or micro, but it is.

I am optimistic. The only 2 nukes dropped in anger in human history occurred during its bloodiest war. And that is despite and intervening 50 years and even presently where at it's height there were as many as 70,000 such warheads in stockpile and now about 20,000 worldwide. All of that AND no detonations (in anger) that we know of since that time. Terror also has a terminal velocity.

Funny, I know a lot of people whose minds have been changed non-coercively by amazing real-time idea and emotion transmission technology. I can't remember how it worked, but it involved a lot of short squiggly lines patterned onto stackable layers of processed tree carcass.

2. God, these people ought to get out a bit more. I would suggest working on a large commercial construction project over it's duration, preferably somewhere mid level.

2. I swear I try to take these people seriously.

But, when they write stuff like, " death rates have fallen." I "lose" it.


From the article:

"The central premise of Mazzucato’s work is about the role of the state in innovation. She is an ardent believer that governments should do more than play a passive role in fixing market failures, and be allowed to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit to steer the direction of innovation and economic growth."


"She believes “missions” can address society’s greatest challenges, including climate change, income inequality, and the effects of ageing in wealthier countries. It’s not just policymakers who have to commit to these missions, but also companies, non-profits, and NGOs."

That's some scary, top down sh*t.

So governments, bureaucrats, unaccountable NGOs and what other "experts" , backed by the "awesome coercive power of the state" (Gov. Jerry Brown) , are going to replace markets?

"Where will we find these angels?"

Scary stuff.

These idiots never understand the concept that government is not always well run nor benevolent.


Big Brother Is Listening.

"Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? …I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us." - Milton Friedman

#5...Nor does it follow that government is never useful or effective. Such a view is called anarchism. Burke and Adam Smith both believed that government served useful functions. This see-saw debate about government is not useful. If having a stable capitalist society means needing some government, then it should be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Mazzucato's approach is on the right track. In fact, since I know there will be government, I don't waste my time listening to utopian cry babies. It's utopian to believe there will be no government or just three functions, involving the police and army and courts, all of whom are government provided and not guaranteed to be any fairer than any other government functionaries.

The no government people are people responsible for the current situation by not supporting government spending and borrowing in 2008. If we get socialism, they should take a bow.

There was a stimulus bill in February 2008 for over $150 billion.

A year later there was an additional bill for about $830 billion.

That’s about a trillion dollars. Give or take.

I’m not speaking for EdR, but the number of actual anarchists I have met in life outside of the Bay Area is 1. And he was a Spaniard.

Mazzucato wants governments to have large (majority?) stakes in both public and private companies. For example, since the internet was invented by Al Gore (kidding), the US government should, according to her, have a majority stake in every internet company (in existence, not just US!) to include Amazon, Pornhub, and now literally every media outlet.

Maybe you think that won’t be an issue. Maybe you think that aligns incentives perfectly. Maybe you haven’t read any of her work because you’re not an economist.

Maybe you’re conflating a suspicion towards government owning all public and private companies as ANARCHY because you’re ideologically in favor of governments owning most companies.

Either way, yikes.

I follow Henry Simons and Michael Oakeshott. I didn't say I agreed with her proposals. I said she is correct that we need to be able to speak about government pragmatically and not simply say it's a lot of money or in the hands of bureaucrats, etc. Here's Edmund Burke...

Mere parsimony is not economy. Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy.
Economy is a distributive virtue, and consists not in saving but selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment.

A Letter to a Noble Lord (1796)

And Hayek, another source of my ideas...

"MR. MERRIAM: What about the TVA? MR. HAYEK: There is a great deal of the TVA to which no economist in repute, and certainly not the laissez-faire people, will object. Flood control and building of dams are recognized functions of the government. I am under the impression that a good deal else has been tacked on to this scheme which need not have been done by public enterprise. But the principle of flood control and the like's being provided by the government is an entirely legitimate and a necessary function of the government. MR. MERRIAM: Even if it involved a development of hydroelectric power, as the TVA does? MR. HAYEK: That depends upon the circumstances. If the hydroelectric power really could not have been provided by private enterprise, I have no objection. MR. MERRIAM: That is not a matter of logic but of practical adjustment. MR. HAYEK: The whole question of whether you can or cannot create competitive conditions is a question of fact."

I hope this clears up some confusion in my earlier post.

Well, though I’m more of a small govt guy rather than a no govt guy, I will say there’s a big difference between the state running basic physical plant and infrastructure stuff, to actually running 1/3 to 2/3rds of Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, Walmart, etc

I agree.

2. and 3. Okay, the brain simulation project failed, but so will the autonomous car project. From the linked article: "The HBP (Human Brain Project) . . . effectively rebranded itself as a software project that curates existing data about the brain". My (Hanson's?) prediction: The Autonomous Car Project will effectively rebrand itself as a software project that curates existing data about the autonomous car. With all the negativity about so-called tech coming from Peter Thiel and now Hanson, are the optimistic (unrealistic) days of tech coming to an end? If they are, will the economy collapse?

The Human Brain Project was an European Union project. It failed like the web search project and the GPS project. Is there an European Union self-driving cars project?

4. Anything with 'diversity' in the title is a jobs program for lawyers and aspirant educrats.

#2, not his central point but:

"Added to these are some worrisome long term trends. Global warming continues. Fertility has been falling for centuries"

Why is falling Fertility so worrisome?

....survival of the species?

Also, don't those two trends counterract? Less people can only help reduce carbon emissions relative to more people.

Right, because any trend will always continue to infinity or to zero, right?

Population growth isnt going to continue forever, but there is no reason to believe that population decline will either.

Population doesnt need to decline. We just need improvements in technology to outpace population growth operating under the current technology as a baseline.

As a simple example, if we magically invented an emissions free energy source and produced better batteries, electric cars could replace the existing fleet and save a lot of pollution. That same technology would replace coal burning plants. It would also require no acceleration in other emission sources from population.

A tall order in the short run, but Malthus was proven wrong because he underestimated technological growth rates and overestimated population growth rates.

Hanson says "Economic growth also seems to have slowed, thought not stopped, world-wide." But it hasn't slowed at all in the past 40 years and the post war higher growth was partly due to rebuilding. Here is growth and the important measurement, per capita growth, for recent decades (World Bank):

1960s...5.3%.... 3.2%
1970s...4.5%.... 2.6%
1980s...2.9%.... 1.1%
1990s...2.6%.... 1.2%
2000s...2.8%.... 1.6%
2010s...2.3%.... 1.2% (up through 2018)

Hanson also states: "Rates of innovation per innovator have been falling greatly for perhaps a century."

This is irrelevant.

"And since the end of the world wars, inequality and political polarization has been increasing."

Inequality between countries has been decreasing. The Gini coefficient fell from 69 in 2003 to 65 in 2013 and that is a bit lower today as China and India are still growing fast. (see: Our World In Data, "Global Economic Inequality" by Max Roser

(I don't think political polarization between countries has been increasing much if at all.)

" The main way that inequality threatens to destroy us is that we are tempted to fight over it. Instead, let us try more to see ourselves as an “us” contrasted with a “them”, an us that needs to stick together, in part via chilling and compromising, especially regarding divisive topics like inequality."

Amen. We need a smaller, yet more effective government, a more stable form of capitalism, and a stronger sense of social cohesion. Sadly, there's not a chance in hell of that happening. We prefer to wait for the situation to get life threatening before acting. In 2008, more spending and less taxes would have alleviated much of what has occurred politically in recent years. Instead, we're spending in ways now that various people claimed would lead to ruin in 2008 under dire circumstances when we really needed it. I'm personally bothered less about the taxes and spending now since I agree with much of it, than the failure to admit that some people got it all wrong in 2008 and making some still significant changes like narrow banking of some sort. Still, i'm inclined to think we'll muddle through as per usual with the unnecessary suffering of some of our citizens being the price paid. Ghastly.

#4: A person belonging to an underrepresented minority (URM) is defined as:

"a person is a URM if they are Black, Hispanic, or Native American, and were born in the United States."

Why the restriction on being born in the United States? I can see the argument for discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. I can also see a point for discrimination based on under-privileged upbringing in the US.

But the intersectionality in this definition seems counterproductive. Couldn't a Black, male speaker from Africa who grew up poor also add diversity? Or a member of an indigenous tribe from Latin America? That person is lumped together with a presenter who is a nephew of a Nobel laureate who grew up in Boston. Not sure the definition is helpful. These are the questions I would have liked to ask Kwame Appiah when you interviewed him...

Would a conservative presenter qualify as a URM?

Well, in California they should be called that, instead they are called "extinct". That may be wishful thinking, but probably not.

"....survival of the species?"

why is that so important ?

nobody alive today or in future generations will survive long

planet Earth survived billions of years without humans or any other

just what is so critically important about overall survival of human species ?

Hanson has no metaphysical anchor point for his worries.

I bet you're fun at parties.

What is so critically important about your survival until tomorrow?

You won't survive long thereafter. The Earth won't miss you.

What is your personal moral distinction between caring for your children and eating them?

Nihilism has even less of a metaphysical anchor point

#1 We should name "Needle Beach" after this guy. I wonder if someone like him would change his mind if he stubbed his toe on a heroin needle on the beach, or maybe one tossed in his yard by an addict.

To think we used to worry - some of us - about broken glass at the beach.

Strange comment about a guy whose basic stance about drugs was that it was a shame that prohibition (of alcohol), couldn’t work in the US, and who sounds like he was a fan of what Singapore has achieved.

2. Illegal immigrants

#3. Don't even have to look. Of course not. When you don't know what to look for you have little chance of finding it.

1. Gabriel Rossman's tribute to Mark Kleiman in National Review (the first link) is a model of concise summary. A very satisfying presentation of ideas.

Alternate view: Mark Kleinman, very overrated

5. Lol pretty sure that economist simply reframed socialism with new jargon. At the end of the day, nationalizing industry doesnt work and nationalizing entrepreneurialism is an even worse idea. At least the old socialists had enough sense to wait for the private sector to deliver the new industries before they nationalized them. Think about how rich Europe is as a function of US generated private sector wealth-staggering to contemplate really.

Also nice job of having this article below the article about the one billion euro failed human brain project and the Robin Hanson post about Average IQ falling....

I highly recommend Mariana Mazzucato's appearance on the EconTalk podcast, not so much for the ideas, as for the phenomenon of her presentation. She plasters every square inch of air with the sound of her voice, as mild-mannered Russ Robert's struggles to interject so much as a complete sentence. It's ultimately a bullying technique, and if a man did it, we'd think he was a jerk.

I managed to get through that podcast, taking a break three or four times.

"See that little stream--we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it--a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation."

"Why, they've only just quit over in Turkey," said Abe. "And in Morocco--"

"That's different. This western-front business couldn't be done again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn't. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren't any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancée, and little cafés in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and weddings at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather's whiskers."

3. But Henry Markram had a TED talk. A TED Talk! It is inconceivable that a TED talk would oversell an idea, presenting profound speculation as being a scientific inevitability.

But did he give an O talk?

5. "Young Americans increasingly say they prefer some type of socialism to capitalism."

Yeah, they're really in love with those socialist countries like Denmark.

"She wants to foster a debate about value theory"

Hey, how about instead of trying to revive old, dead, failed theories, we instead try to think of actual improvements and make actual progress?

2. The fact is, democrats are forcing us to choose war. Why not just build a wall?

4. There's a statistic out there for every feminist waiting to be discovered.

1. Can you use bi-partisan and democrat in the same sentence?

#3 Several inaccuracies in the article about the Human Brain Project.

1) The project started on October 2013. So, it's around 57% of expected completion time.

2) The European Commission did not awarded 1 billion Euro. That is the total budget of which the EU would contribute 500 million Euro. The other 500 million come other sources, among them Swiss SNF/FNS. And this is the maximum expected budget, a price cap. THe project is divided in phases, each one gets reviewed and funded individually.

3) The HBP is based in Lausanne in Switzerland. On Feb 9th 2014 (4 months after the project start) there was a referendum in der Schweiz where voters requested new laws reduce immigration from the EU. The first reaction of the EU commission was to reduce funding to research done in Switzerland.

4) By March 2014, the secured funding from the EU was 56 million Euro through 2016. 56/688 ~ 8% of funding.

5) "With the current grants, either complete or still underway, the total max EU Contribution to the Flagship currently stands at 256 M€"

6) Henry Markram, the guy who takes prominence over the project in the article, is not leading the project. He's a subproject leader:

So, the article: a) focus too much attention on a not so relevant individual, b) is oblivious to the project timeline: expected end of project on 2023, c) oblivious to real funding amounts.....then rants about results.

Fact checking in the Atlantic is not a priority =/

3. Did the Human Brain Project go anywhere?
"On July 22, 2009, the neuroscientist Henry Markram walked onstage at the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford, England, and told the audience that he was going to simulate the human brain, in all its staggering complexity, in a computer. "
If he said that than is is a doofus of a neuroscientist.

He neglected the chemical processes, the hormone precursors in the center of the brain. The brain is mostly about managing emotions via hormones. How does he simulate that? He has no clue how to, and likely was making crap up. It is not all neuroms, there are a bunch of cell growth problems associated with learning which he likely did not understand. He has to get the neural transmitter uptake problem solved, and scientists are still not sure about that, yet it is critical.

2. "Global warming continues"

How would Hanson know? What a sweetly naive profession of faith for a self-described intellectual. His fellow self-described intellectuals have been all too buy pulling sun beams from cucumbers:

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