The Theory Of Deadly Initials proposed that people whose initials spelled out negative words, like D.I.E. or B.A.D., died earlier because of the associated stress. People believed this for years before someone figured out it was all based on bad statistics.
Jamie Brew has become Internet-famous for his predictive text generator that makes hilarious mishmash out of sources like the political debates (“I am in this campaign for the sake of the four largest people in the history of the world, people who should have a lot of healthcare”). But how come he is able to do this so much better than anybody else armed with a Markov chain and a source text? Some kind of shiny new machine learning algorithm? Rationalist Tumblr user @nostalgebraist investigates and bursts all our dreams by finding that nope, it’s mostly done by good old human judgment.
This seems unbelievable to me, so I challenge readers to tell me how to reconcile my perceptions with the data: of all candidates (including Trump), Hillary Clinton has received the most negative media coverage.
You know those Neuro drinks that are on sale everywhere and promise to lift your mood or help you relax or whatever? They’re now paying $500,000 for misleading advertising. Sounds like a pretty fair decision to this psychiatrist.
BMJ: a large study from 1973 found that replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil did not decrease death from coronary disease, but the results sat in a file drawer for forty years. And the New York Times’ popular presentation of same.
Although shared environment has kind of gotten the short end of the stick in recent behavioral genetics studies, it still shows up sometimes in early childhood and in studies done on the most deprived populations. But what percent of that is prenatal versus postnatal environment? Abstract, table of results. Most interesting finding: adopted adults’ IQ is so unrelated to the IQ of their adoptive mother that in some studies the correlation shows up as nonsignificantly negative.
There’s been some past discussion here about Success Academy, a chain of charter schools that has achieved impressive results. Freddie deBoer argues this will never scale because their business model is hiring a tiny number of elite teachers who have just graduated from top colleges for really cheap, luring them with promises of social impact and getting to live in desirable areas. This might work – have the best teachers teach poorer students and those poor students will do well – but it doesn’t scale beyond the tiny number of elite teachers willing to work in those conditions. I find this idea plausible but far from proven – first of all because the schools themselves say it’s their (easily scalable) discipline policies that lead to their success, and because the research on the importance of teacher quality seems mixed.
A while back I posited a utopian online future of automated machine learning filters that prevent you from ever having to see trolls. Now Hugh Hancock makes the case for pessimism by positing a dystopian online future of automated machine learning trolls.
I can’t improve on this title: Reflections On Reasons for Reduced Rates of Replicability.
A while ago I got a bit paranoid about some kind of deliberate conspiracy to prevent working class people from getting jobs painlessly, and how the government used bureaucracy to smite any opportunity that arose outside this system. This probably isn’t going to help my paranoia: San Francisco to require Uber and Lyft drivers to obtain business licenses.
Related: Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft, Volvo, etc, form lobbying group for self-driving cars. I’d forgotten that people could also lobby in favor of things I want!
Scientific American: Scott Aaronson Answers Every Ridiculously Big Question I Throw At Him. I disagree with John Horgan about a lot, sometimes vehemently, but man can he do a good science interview.
Marginal Revolution: Regulatory Arbitrage, Rent-Seeking, and the Deal Of The Year. Why did the Real Estate Board of New York give its Ingenious Deal Of The Year Award to somebody who literally destroyed value with a wrecking ball for no economic reason? And what does it say about our society that they were right to do so? An interesting companion piece to some of what I talked about in my review of Art of the Deal.
Correlation of -0.68 between “rule of law” in a country as defined by the World Justice Project, versus road accident deaths per capita in that country. Is this something boring, like better governments making better road systems, or everything about countries always being correlated by development anyway? Or some more fundamental connection between people following the rules while driving and following the rules while governing. I’d say “paging Garett Jones” except that I think I got this link from his Twitter.
Vox: Inequality As Waste. Discusses increasingly costly signaling in terms of houses, weddings, and parties as a multipolar trap in which everybody has to keep up with a small group of increasingly super-rich Joneses.
Study: “About 40% of studies fail to fully report all experimental conditions and about 70% of studies do not report all outcome variables included int he questionnaire. Reported effect sizes are about twice as large as unreported effect sizes and three times more likely to be statistically significant.
Vox’s profile of Mencius Moldbug is a thing that exists. Nick Land praises it as “almost saintly in its attempt to get the phenomenon right”. Ross Douthat responds in the NYT calling reaction potentially “something genuinely new…a vision as strange and motley as reality itself.”
Also in the NYT, this time by Amanda Hess: “Those who try to signal their wokeness by saying ‘woke’ have revealed themselves to be very unwoke indeed.” I am deeply grateful to have a bubble that mostly insulates me from the sort of people for whom this is a problem.
I had a fun time presenting Plomin’s paper Top Ten Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics to a room full of psychoanalysts last month, then fielding their increasingly angry and horrified questions. But this group might be more in need of the (partial) antidote, Turkheimer’s Weak Genetic Explanations 20 Years Later, which I endorse as the most pessimistic about genetic explanations it is possible to be while still being 100% intellectually honest.
In the context of recent papers finding the global warming “hiatus” is real after all, David Friedman notes that he has been predicting this for years, and further predicts (if I understand correctly) that the warming trend should return with a vengeance around 2030.
The percent of Americans who identify as environmentalist has gone down from 78% in 1991 to 42% today! I find this really surprising, and indeed, Gallup notes that how Americans actually feel about environmentalist issues has changed much less or not at all. So what’s going on here? One possibility: global warming has so eclipsed all other environmental concerns that the mainstream environmentalist movement has entirely folded into the anti-global-warming movement, which doesn’t have a catchy name or identitarian label. But I wonder if there’s something deeper going on here – something like environmentalism so permeating the culture that normal people stop identifying with it and the term becomes more relegated to an extremist fringe. How might that relate to other political movements?
Speaking of how people self-identify: did you know the average self-identified vegetarian eats one serving of meat per day? Or that 60% of self-identified vegetarians say they’ve eaten meat in the past 24 hours? Related: Rational Conspiracy on cost-effectiveness of vegetarianism.
Rational Conspiracy: whatever you do, don’t subscribe to the Boston Globe.
New n = 9,000 blinded resume study finds no preference for white over black or Hispanic applicants, contradicting previous research. Before you get too excited, I think there’s a lot of previous research this contradicts, so more studies are needed. Also, they signaled black race by using the last names “Washington” or “Jefferson”, instead of previous studies that had used first names like “Jamal” or “DeShawn”. While people convincingly argued that Jamal and DeShawn might be less popular among employers than the average black person, I worry that “Washington” and “Jefferson”, while indeed disproportionately black names, may not be black enough to effectively signal blackness. On the other hand, the Hispanics were “Hernandez” and “Garcia”, you’d think that would have worked.
Related: “implicit racist attitudes” as measured by Implicit Association Tests do not actually predict whether someone will racially discriminate or not, are of questionable meaningfulness.
r/SubRedditSimulator is a subreddit made entirely of bots; each bot generates posts and comments based off of predictive text from a different subreddit. 8th post is by the r/CrazyIdeas bot: “Open a pizzeria that only serves food made by two different parasites fighting for control in our solar system by detonating calculated explosions near the soda fountain…”
Popehat attorney Marc Randazza files a legal brief about Klingon, partly in Klingon, supporting a very Klingon conception of copyright law.
President Obama makes a Red Wedding joke at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner, threatens to have security bar the doors and take out all the Republicans in the room. Funny in context, but I appreciated Pax Dickinson’s commentary – our history of drone strikes on Pakistan is pretty grim, and jokes about killing everybody at a wedding are less funny when the person making them has actually done that before.
Weasel shuts down Large Hadron Collider in the most blatant act of animal aggression against the particle physics community since a bird dropped a baguette into CERN machinery and a conspiracy of raccoons took down Fermilab.
Aptly-named Impossible Foods says it will have a high-tech vegetarian burger as good as the real thing available at select restaurants this July. No word on when it’ll be available direct to consumers.
Did you know: light bulb manufacturers maintained an honest-to-goodness conspiracy to prevent the introduction of longer-lasting bulbs. I would say this should increase our concern about this sort of thing happening today, except the conspiracy lasted barely ten years before other companies managed to undercut them, so maybe it should decrease our concern.
The price of solar power has decreased 50% in 16 months. Maybe. There’s a lot of complicated stuff about subsidized versus unsubsidized power and I’m not sure it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. But there’s some very impressive claim about solar power that’s true. Sometimes it seems like technologies only have two possible modes – stagnant for decades, or doubling every eighteen months.
David Chapman always has posts that are structurally brilliant and revelatory until I sit back and think about them later and realize I don’t know what half the terms in them mean and I am just assuming they are brilliant and revelatory because they are put together in a way which is a superstimulus for formally correct thought. His latest, A Bridge To Meta-Rationality Vs. Civilizational Collapse, is a typically engaging and impressive example of the genre. I really wish I knew more about post-modernism, or that somebody who does would write an engaging and meaningful introduction.
In 1737, William Penn’s children made a (shady, possibly forged or forced) treaty with the Lenape Indians that granted white settlers all territory within thirty-six hours’ walk from the Lehigh River. Then they hired the fastest power-walkers and best surveyors in the colony to cover as much ground as humanly possible within thirty-six hours. The history of the Walking Purchase.
Scott Aaronson and a student find that the 7918th Busy Beaver number is unknowable. This is a fun read even for someone like me who only understands the tiniest fraction of what’s going on. I think it is about a function which proceeds from being finite, knowable, and known to being Godelian and unknowable in an orderly fashion in a finite number of steps (apparently, less than 7918). If I’m understanding this right, my brain hurts.
The French company behind the TGV supertrain has invested 80 million euros in the Hyperloop.
Tow truck owner refuses to tow Bernie Sanders supporter. This is the world you people have built for us.
Oddly prescient Onion from 2012: Shrieking White Hot Sphere Of Pure Rage Early GOP Front-Runner For 2016. Between this and the Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity article I’m starting to think the Onion employs Nostradamus.
A roundup of everybody who said Trump could never win the nomination so we can laugh at them for being wrong. There’s actually an important rationality lesson here, which is that a person who said Trump had only a 20% chance of winning the nomination (like Nate Silver) may in fact be perfectly virtuous – things with only a twenty percent chance of happening do happen one in every five times. By extension, even a person who said there was only a 0.000001% chance of Trump winning the nomination may be virtuous, although it’s pretty unlikely. I am less contemptuous of anybody who provided a number, and more contemptuous of the sort of people who said “Anyone who thinks Trump might win the nomination is an idiot and shouldn’t be taken seriously”. SSC’s own (rather late) prediction was 60% chance he would be the nominee – an earlier pseudo-prediction was non-numerical and very carefully hedged.
French study shows diversity causes social anomie, but I get kind of suspicious when “social anomie” is treated as a quantified study endpoint. Related: contra usual conventional wisdom, study suggests that ethnic diversity does not decrease support for redistribution, except maybe in special cases involving recent immigrants.
What do actual epigenetics professors and researchers think of the pop epigenetics that always gets cited in the media as the hot new explanation for social phenomena? Jerry Coyne collects some biting responses.
Egypt Independent – “Salah Abdel Sadeq, head of the State Information Service, has blamed the spread of violence and extremism in the Arab world on Tom & Jerry cartoons and video games.” The fun thing about this is that every time another culture blames their problems on the way things are portrayed in the media, it sounds hilarious, but whenever our culture does it people find it totally plausible. Related: Mexican Congresswoman Declares War On Memes
The Open Philanthropy Project has declared that AI risk will be one of their major priorities this year, an important development given both their levels of funding/talent/connections, and their reputation as a gold standard for analysis of what charitable opportunities are important. Especially interesting given that the OPP leader who wrote the report, Holden, was previously one of MIRI’s strongest critics – he notes that “my views on this cause have evolved considerably over time”, though it’s also important to note a lot of his criticisms were MIRI-specific rather than related to the entire field.
Has the more charismatic candidate really won every one of the last thirteen presidential elections?
The theologians say that Hell is the absence of God, marked not by divine abandonment of human souls but by humans who deliberately refuse the salvific power of the Divine. On the one hand, I feel like this is an uncharitable portrayal of nonbelievers, many of whom are not opposed to God but only intellectually unconvinced of His existence. On the other, Haifa Man Seeks Restraining Order Against God
Yet another study showing permanent increase in Openness (and the ominous-sounding “brain entropy”) after LSD use (h/t Emil Kierkegaard)
What does it look like to walk along the ridge of the Matterhorn? (warning: it looks like something that will trigger people who are scared of heights). A less dizzying perspective. Relevant Reddit commentary.
You know that chart showing how US GDP keeps going up steadily, but after 1973, wages stop going up along with it? Somebody broke it down and figured out why. Some of it is The 1 Percent, but a lot isn’t.
New York bar told it is discriminatory to deny service to pregnant women.
Percent Neanderthal genes in Europeans has been declining over the past 40,000 years in a way consistent with natural selection acting against them.
Ten percent of federal judgeships are currently vacant – study finds that this leads to a thousand fewer incarcerations each year as prosecutors triage which cases they want to bring to trial. Suggested trollish by technically correct spin: Congressional Republicans have done more for the fight against mass incarceration than almost anyone else.
A counterpoint to a recent post on Chinese happiness: Pew asks a very subtly different question and sees vast improvement in all emerging markets including China.
America has 35% fewer police officers per capita than the world average, even though its prison system is much larger. Alex Tabarrok wonders if this suggests a strategy of shifting criminal justice resources from prisons to police, in the hopes that criminals use a rational P(caught)*punishment strategy to determine whether or not to commit a crime and so if we increase catch rate we can shorten sentences.
Artir with a very long and data-intensive argument that there is no technological stagnation. Strongest possible rebuttal I can imagine after this data overflow (unless you can prove the post is cherry-picking indicators, which it doesn’t look like) is that for some reason stagnation is uniquely limited to things that can’t be graphed – progress in how much energy can be stored in a single battery is going as fast as ever, but there are fewer completely new ideas like airplanes. But that might be too close to a god of the gaps argument – people can graph a lot of things.
An argument against denser zoning in San Francisco good enough to get featured on Marginal Revolution???
Why are there billboards across Utah advertising the 9th President of the US, William Henry Harrison?
Is there an evolutionary reason why humans continue to live after they stop being able to reproduce? We still don’t know, but of note, A Simple Offspring-To-Mother Size Ratio Predicts Post-Reproductive Lifespan, suggesting that long life might be a spandrel of the health needed to survive the stress of childbirth.
Is Social Darwinism A Myth? (1, 2). Despite the ubiquitous demands not to be like those nasty social Darwinists who must have dominated 19th century thought or something, there’s very little evidence that people of that era used the term ‘social Darwinism’ or used Darwinian theory to justify their social policies. The whole thing may have been mostly invented by one guy in the 1940s as an attempt to tarnish economists he didn’t like.
Venezuela has come up with a sure-fire solution to its hyperinflation problems which is 100% in keeping with socialist principles.
Can anybody explain whether this image (apparently derived from here?) contradicts or even reverses the narrative that Democrats have stayed pretty normal but Republicans have become much more extreme?
Did iTunes delete all the music on this guy’s hard drive? vs. Apple doesn’t delete all the music on your hard drive unless you do something wrong, which given Apple’s confusing policies and dictatorial business model you inevitably will.
The great thing about ketamine is that it relieves depression near-instantly and much more reliably than ordinary antidepressants. The bad thing about it is that it’s ketamine – a potentially dangerous hallucinogenic drug – and similar but safer compounds don’t seem to have the same effects. Now scientists have found (at least in mice) that it is not ketamine itself but a metabolite of ketamine that treats depression, and the metabolite is relatively safe. Also, the metabolite affects AMPA receptors, not NMDA receptors, which means previous research was looking in the wrong place and now we can look in the right one. Exciting progress!
Thing of Things: Contra Piaget, very young infants probably have object permanence.
The first few paragraphs of this article are standard intra-Christian exhortation boilerplate, but if you can make it through them, the rest is a fascinating and terrifying ethnography of a creepy new charismatic movement.