Wednesday assorted links

1. New jobs at ARIA, the exciting new UK science research agency.

2. Magnus drops out of the WCC cycle.

3. This study claims that fewer collaboration hours is what makes Microsoft employees happy.

4. Ross Douthat praises driving (NYT).

5. An evil Russian perspective on the war in Ukraine (NYT).

6. “Scotty Pippen Jr and Shareef O’Neal are two such shadow-dodgers, and they just so happened to end up on the same NBA Summer League roster this month.

7. “It turns out posting anonymously on anonymous review site Glassdoor may be a thing of the past.

An American judge has just ruled in favour of kiwi toy company Zuru (valued at well over a billion dollars) — meaning it will be handed the details of former Zuru employees who posted anonymous reviews on the Glassdoor site.”  Link here.

Those new Chinese service sector pandemic jobs

Xie Yuke has attended over 40 weddings in the past two years and is now making a living from it.

The 22-year-old has flown more than 140,000 kilometers and traveled around China working as a professional bridesmaid.

It’s a fast-growing industry in China and is “expected to grow by 25% to 30% a year,” Cao Zhonghua, an expert at the Chinese Traditional Culture Promotion Council, told state broadcaster CCTV Wednesday.

COVID-19 travel restrictions have made it hard to find friends able to travel to weddings, while some couples complain they can’t find friends that are up to the standard.

A bridesmaid needs to be unmarried, Xie told Sixth Tone on Monday, and it’s important not to be taller than the bride. For aspiring professionals, 155 cm-173 cm is a good height, she said.

Here is the full story, via Britta.

Is scientific writing becoming stupider and more emotional?

Yikes awful absolutely, demeaningly, absurdly so:

Writing in a clear and simple language is critical for scientific communications. Previous studies argued that the use of adjectives and adverbs cluttered writing and made scientific text less readable. The present study aims to investigate if the articles in life sciences have become more cluttered and less readable across the past 50 years in terms of the use of adjectives and adverbs. The data that were used in the study were a large dataset of 775,456 scientific texts published between 1969 and 2019 in 123 scientific journals. Results showed that an increasing number of adjectives and adverbs were used and the readability of scientific texts have decreased in the examined years. More importantly, the use of emotion adjectives and adverbs also demonstrated an upward trend while that of nonemotion adjectives and adverbs did not increase. To our knowledge, this is probably the first large scale diachronic study on the use of adjectives and adverbs in scientific writing. Possible explanations to these findings were discussed.

That is a new paper from Ju Wen and Lei Lei, via Michelle Dawson.

How good is the food in Cali?

The guidebooks say that Cali has worse food than Bogotá or Medellin.  Two people I know, both from Cali, wrote to tell me that Cali has worse food.  It is true that Cali does not have the fine dining culture of the two larger cities.  And yet…  When I visited the food market in Bogotá, about half of the stalls were serving Mexican food.  The rest seemed decent but uninspired.  The two meals I had in the food stalls in the Alameda market in Cali were perhaps the two best (and cheapest) meals of the whole trip, and original too, at least to me.

n = 2 does not suffice for inference.  And yet…

Making the other side better

So many political strategies are centered around “beating” the other side(s), and claiming victory over their defeat.  For evolutionary reasons, it is easy to see why these attitudes might have won out.  Yet in general those approaches are a sign of a narrow vision.  Beating the other side is a possible strategy, but it should hardly be the only strategy you attempt, even if we forget about the “you might be the one who is wrong!” worry.

Quite simply, a lot of the time you never beat the other side, though over time the terms of the debate do shift ground.

An alternative strategy is to try to make the other side better, even if you do not agree with the other side.  You might try to make the other side saner and more open, and I do not mean by telling them how wrong they are.  You do this, believe it or not, by supporting them in some ways, or at least supporting the best parts of the other side.

It is remarkable how few people pursue this strategy.  I do know two prominent people, both on the Left, who do this and I think they do it fairly effectively.  It is sad that I am reluctant to name them, for fear of getting them into trouble with their compatriots.

If the ongoing equilibrium is “the terms of the debate will be shifted,” why should “improving the other side” be any less important than “improving your own side”?  On average it should be symmetric, no?

Yet the unpopularity of this strategy once again suggests that politics isn’t about policy, in this matter it is more often about internal norms of group solidarity and intra-group status.

Learning to see that, and to internalize that knowledge emotionally, is often a better strategy — if only for your sanity — than trying to defeat the other side all the time.

“Republicans start more firms than Democrats.”

Republicans start more firms than Democrats. In a sample of 40 million party-identified Americans between 2005 and 2017, we find that 6% of Republicans and 4% of Democrats become entrepreneurs. This partisan entrepreneurship gap is time-varying: Republicans increase their relative entrepreneurship during Republican administrations and decrease it during Democratic administrations, amounting to a partisan reallocation of 170,000 new firms over our 13-year sample. We find sharp changes in partisan entrepreneurship around the elections of President Obama and President Trump, and the strongest effects among the most politically active partisans: those that donate and vote.

Here is the full NBER paper by Joseph Engelberg, Jorge Guzman, Runjing Lu, and William Mullins.

Monday assorted links

1. An alternative to the Baumol cost-disease hypothesis (but is it really, isn’t worker allocation across sectors endogenous to, among other things, Baumol-like factors?)

2. Are bees sentient?

3. Please stop saying that hot drinks cool you down.

4. “…mass shootings are more likely after anniversaries of the most deadly historical mass shootings. Taken together, these results lend support to a behavioral contagion mechanism following the public salience of mass shootings.”  Link here.

5. What motivates leaders to invest in nation-building?

6. Arkansas and the abortion mandatory waiting period.

7. The economics of stablecoin crashes.

Sell Drone Space Like Spectrum!

Photo Credit: MaxPixel

Drone airspace resembles spectrum in the 1980s, an appreciating asset that could be bought, subleased, traded, and borrowed against – if it were only permitted.

Much like legacy spectrum policy, there is immense technocratic inertia towards rationing airspace use to a few lucky drone companies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun drafting long-distance drone rules for services like home delivery, business-to-business delivery, and surveying. In the next decade, drone services companies will deploy mass-market parcel delivery and medical deliveries in urban and suburban areas to make deliveries and logistics faster, cheaper, and greener.

…Federal officials recognize that the current centralized system of air traffic management won’t work for drones: at peak times today, US air traffic controllers actively manage only about 5,400 en route aircraft.

Red flags abound, however. FAA’s current plans for drone traffic management, while vague and preliminary, are clear about what happens once local congestion occurs: the agency will step in to ration airspace and routes how it sees fit. Further, the agency says it will closely oversee the development of airspace management technologies. This is a recipe for technology lock-in and intractable regulatory battles.

US aviation history offers the alarming precedent of expert planning for a new industry. In 1930 President Hoover’s Postmaster General, who regulated airmail routes, and a handpicked group of business executives teamed up to “rationalize” the nascent airline marketplace. In private meetings, they eliminated the established practice of competitive bidding for air routes, divided routes amongst themselves, and reduced the number of startup airlines from around forty to three.

“Universal” and “interoperable” air traffic management are popular concepts in the drone industry, but these principles have destroyed innovation and efficiency in traditional airspace management. The costly US air traffic management system still relies on voice communications and manual writing and passing of paper slips. Large, legacy users and vendors dominate upgrade efforts, and “update by consensus” means the injection of innumerable veto points. Drone traffic management will be “clean sheet,” but interoperable systems are incredibly difficult to build and, once built, to upgrade with new technology and processes. More than 16,000 FAA employees worked on the over-budget, pared-down, years-delayed air traffic management upgrades for traditional aviation.

…To avoid anticompetitive “route-squatting” and sclerotic bureaucratic control of a new industry, aviation regulators should announce a national policy of “airspace markets” – government sales of high-demand drone routes, resembling present-day government spectrum auctions.

Brent Skorup has the details, from a prize winning paper at CSPI.

Our regulatory state is failing us, monkeypox edition

Roy Gulick wants to give his monkeypox patients the best possible care. But he and his doctors simply don’t have enough hours in the day to complete dozens of pages of paperwork every time they need to pry medicine out of the Strategic National Stockpile.

And that’s just what has been required for a single patient. His team has treated more than a dozen.

“It’s been a very daunting task,” said Gulick, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine. “There’s a ton of paperwork, there’s a ton of assessments that are required, there’s a tremendous amount that one has to do to be able to administer this drug to someone.”

Physicians’ struggles to prescribe Tpoxx, an antiviral approved to treat smallpox, which is from the same family of viruses as monkeypox, are among a slew of obstacles related to testing, treatment and vaccination that experts say is contributing to a plodding national response that they fear is not keeping up with the virus’s spread. Some worry that the window is closing to prevent the virus from becoming permanently entrenched in this country, with more than 1,400 confirmed infections across 42 states — and hundreds or thousands of additional infections suspected, predominantly in the gay and bisexual community.

Here is more from The Washington Post.

Research ideas from Alice Evans

What Don’t We Know About Patriarchy?

Are you scrambling for research ideas? Below I outline some important questions, which existing research cannot answer

1.    Do joint families curtail men’s alcohol abuse and wife-beating?

2.    Do male-majority workplaces suppress female employment?

3.    Can gender quotas in male-majority workplaces reduce sexism?

4.    Why is the American Southeast so patriarchal?

5.    Does rule of law reduce brutish masculinity?

6.    Did Christianity curb Norse polygamy?

7.    Why are there so few female leaders in West Africa?

8.    When does religious diversity tighten patriarchal controls?

9.    Why is female employment so high among British Indians, but not British Pakistani or Bangladeshis?

And here is Alice Evans on Twitter.

A Radical Proposal for Funding Science

The process of competing for science funding is so onerous that much of the value is dissipated in seeking funding. Risk aversion by committee means that breakthrough science is often funded surreptiously, on the margin of funded science. These problems are serious and make alternative funding procedures worth thinking about even if radical.

To avoid rent dissipation and risk aversion, our state funding of science should be simplified and decentralized into Researcher Guided Funding. Researcher Guided Funding would take the ~$120 billion spent by the federal government on science each year and distribute it equally to the ~250,000 full-time research and teaching faculty in STEM fields at high research activity universitieswho already get 90% of this money. This amounts to about $500,000 for each researcher every year. You could increase the amount allocated to some researchers while still avoiding dissipating resources on applications by allocating larger grants in a lottery that only some of them win each year. 60% of this money can be spent pursuing any project they want, with no requirements for peer consensus or approval. With no strings attached, Katalin Karikó and Charles Townes could use these funds to pursue their world-changing ideas despite doubt and disapproval from their colleagues. The other 40% would have to be spent funding projects of their peers. This allows important projects to gain a lot of extra funding if a group of researchers are excited about it. With over 5,000 authors on the paper chronicling the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in the Hadron Supercollider, this group of physicists could muster $2.5 billion dollars a year in funding without consulting any outside sources. This system would avoid the negative effects of long and expensive review processes, because the state hands out the money with very few strings, and risk aversion among funders, because the researchers individually get to decide what to fund and pursue.

There are issues to be sure (see the paper) but experimentation in science funding is called for:

Government funding of science is a logical and well-intentioned attempt to increase the production of a positive externality. However, the institutional forms in which we have chosen to distribute these funds have created parasitic drag on the progress of science. There are many exciting proposals for new ways to fund science, but picking any one of these without rigorous experimentation would be foolish and ironic. The best proposal for science funding reform is to apply science to the problem. Rapid and large-scale experimentation is needed to continuously update and improve our science funding methods.

That is from a prize-winning essay from the CSPI by Maxwell Tabarrok.

See also Tyler’s important post, Science as a source of social alpha.

Colombia tax facts of the day

According to the OECD, only 5 per cent of Colombians pay income tax. Revenue from personal income tax is worth just 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product compared to an OECD average of 8.1 per cent.

Taxes on businesses, on the other hand, are relatively high. The outgoing rightwing government of Iván Duque initially cut the corporate tax rate from 33 to 31 per cent. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, followed by prolonged street protests against his rule, he was forced to raise it to 35 per cent, its highest level in 15 years and above the Latin American average.

Here is more from the FT.  Note that the president-elect, Petro, actually is planning on cutting taxes on business, though he is proposing a wealth tax on individuals as well.