[Epistemic status: I haven’t independently verified each link. On average, commenters will end up spotting evidence that around two or three of the links in each links post are wrong or misleading. I correct these as I see them, but can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]
Lebanon’s Hope For Peace Monument is a bunch of tanks in a tall building. It’s pretty striking.
You know those crazy stories of people who are born without brains, or with only tiny shreds of brains, who somehow manage to be just as smart as anyone else? Gwern is on the case and he thinks it’s fake.
This week in “you cannot control for confounders and you will make yourself very confused if you try” – is receiving a single suspension in school really so stigmatizing that it causes you to be significantly more likely to go to prison as an adult?
Moore’s Law vs. actual transistor count over time: the video. If (as they say) Moore’s Law is really slowing down, it sure doesn’t show up in these data.
longbets.org is a site recording long-term (several year) public bets about the future between different people. Lots of famous people like Steven Pinker and Eric Schmidt have entries, though it seems to accept bets by regular people too. Betting against Warren Buffett looks like just as bad an idea as you would think.
Well, Boris Johnson Talking About Pink-Eyed Terminators at the UN Sure Was Weird, says this article written by someone who apparently hasn’t been following Dominic Cummings very closely.
California recently passed a law saying that all corporate boards need to be gender-balanced. A recent study finds that affected firms underperformed expectations as investors reacted negatively to them having to hire female board members less qualified than the male candidates they replaced. The paper says that “a back of the envelope calculation provides a total loss in value in excess of $60 billion”, which would mean this single bill wiped out an amount of value equal to the total GDP of North Dakota, or to the yearly price tag of Bernie Sanders’ free-college-for-all plan. Can this possibly be true? Norway passed a similar law a few decades earlier, and early studies found similarly dismal results, although a more recent study is challenging their methods. I don’t know enough econometrics to resolve their dispute, but I am updating in favor of good corporate governance being potentially a really big deal.
Mark Twain’s last universally accepted work was his autobiography, concluded just before his death in 1910. But in 1917, two spiritualist mediums claimed that Twain’s ghost had dictated them a novel via Ouija Board. The book, called Jap Herron, got generally poor reviews: the New York Times wrote that “if this is the best that ‘Mark Twain’ can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary.” It is more famous for the ensuing legal case. The Twain estate sued the publishers and trapped them in a double-bind: if the book was a fraud, they needed to cease publication; if real, they needed to pay royalties to Twain’s heirs!
“Death rates increasing among rural whites” has turned into “death rates increasing among all ethnic groups in all environments”.
I previously linked an article showing that (contra the usual narrative) most successful entrepreneurs were middle-aged or older. For a counterpoint, here’s an article demonstrating that (in accordance with the narrative) most very successful tech entrepreneurs are pretty young.
Best of new LW: Wei Dai – What determines the balance between intelligence signaling and virtue signaling? This is a much more interesting question than just accusing people of signaling things.
Did you know: cooking hamburgers any way other than well-done is illegal in Canada, and Canadians seek out a tiny US enclave where they can find the forbidden medium-rare burger. Related to my post Self-Serving Bias.
This month in sociology: politics as a balance between cultural capital vs. economic capital. Be sure to check out the very interesting linked graph.
The most powerful fire engine in the world looks like something out of Star Wars. It is limited to putting out oil well fires, because if it was used in urban areas “it would probably cause more damage to the building than a fire would”.
I’d previously heard bad things about Narendra Modi, but assumed it was the usual panic about any right-wing foreign leader. This article changed my mind. I now think that he didn’t just fail at preventing deadly anti-Muslim riots in his home state but actively helped organize them, that he organizes the intimidation and sometimes murder of journalists who investigate him and judges who rule against him, and that he’s created a climate of intimidation that makes Indians afraid to share negative information about him. And his chosen counter-narrative – that at least he makes the trains run on time – is probably false – the superb economic growth statistics that have marked his administration seem to have been faked. I think in general “this guy has a reign of terror and people are afraid to speak out against him, but at least all the official numbers show things are going well” should sound suspicious. Overall Modi and Erdogan scare me the most of any world leaders, because they show a path by which a democracy can slowly become dictatorial without a clear line where everyone unites and stops it.
Fred Newman invented a form of Marxist psychotherapy combining Vygotsky and Wittgenstein, leveraged it into a cult, and ended up taking over the New York branch of Ross Perot’s Independence Party. “According to Newman, who was not a psychologist, this ‘therapy’ helped people to ‘overthrow’ what he labeled the ‘bourgeois ego.'” Also might have been sort of responsible for pushing Bloomberg over the edge to become Mayor of New York. Also, his second-in-command was a black communist who endorsed Pat Buchanan for President.
Clinical Psychiatry News: new study finds a combination of dextromethorphan and bupropion causes “a strikingly rapid and clinically meaningful reduction in depressive symptoms”.
Germany guarantees unemployed citizens around $330 per month indefinitely. The policy looks a little like basic income. I like basic income, but the way this got done was kind of sad. German law says that citizens can get unemployment benefits indefinitely, but only as long as they are trying hard to get a job. A man on benefits wanted to turn down jobs that were offered to him if they weren’t in his preferred field, and sued the state saying he should be allowed to do that. The Supreme Court agreed and said it was unconstitutional for Germany to require that people on unemployment be looking for jobs. I guess I always hoped UBI would come from a widespread utopian desire to free people from the drudgery of work, and not from judicial activism without broad-based support, but I guess I’ll see where this goes.
Mark Ledwich published a recent study showing that YouTube’s algorithm is not radicalizing people (though many commenters noted that it’s been improved since 2017, and maybe it was radicalizing people then). Now he’s published a very strong polemic arguing the same, and lambasting what he considers the echo chamber that ever made people believe otherwise. I find this a really interesting ethics-of-scientific-communication case, because although it’s a great article, he seems to be so intensely passionate about this issue that I have trouble believing he is the best person to conduct studies about it. But surely it’s wrong to say scientists should never write passionate polemics arguing for what they believe – I wouldn’t want to keep climatologists out of the debate around global warming, for example. I’m not really sure what to think about this.
I’ve been following the debate about whether the media is undercovering Bernie Sanders for a while. Town Hall Index, a really interesting “statistical news dashboard”, has a lot of neat stuff. But one of them is a tracker of how many media mentions each candidate is getting; at least if we believe them, Bernie is covered the correct amount compared to his polls (and before his polls went up, he was actually significantly over-covered).
My Semester With The Snowflakes – a 52 year old retired Navy SEAL gets accepted to an undergraduate humanities program at Yale. What happens next will surprise you! (it’s that everything goes well and there is mutual respect on all sides)
Dril vs. GPT-2 dril bot: the dril Turing Test.
Best of new LW: Nostalgebraist – Human Psycholinguists: A Critical Appraisal. Discussion of Gary Marcus’ views on language and AI and how they’ve evolved over the years.
The Center For Applied Rationality’s Participant Handbook of rationality training techniques is now freely available for the first time.
Aragon is a court system on the blockchain. I know, I know, everything on the blockchain is a scam. But this actually has a certain elegance to it – it works as a Keynesian beauty contest. “Jurors are not asked to rule impartially on disputes but instead are asked to rule the way they expect other jurors to rule. I think the idea is that the correct verdict (or what a reasonable person would interpret as the correct verdict, which in a well-functioning legal system should be the same) forms a Schelling point that everyone is supposed to converge upon. I assume somebody has thought about all the ways this could possibly go wrong and is trying to prevent them? In any case, it’s interesting purely as a statement of legal philosophy and mechanism design.
Speaking of things we definitely didn’t ask for blockchain versions of, this dating site promises to use blockchain to “revolutionize sexual consent”. Not only is the consent part even worse than it sounds, but they may have chosen literally the worst possible name for a dating site, so bad that I have no idea how it could even happen.
More confirmation that we are definitely making progress in the war on cancer.
Give GPT-2 a list of all the popular conspiracy theories, then ask it to invent new conspiracy theories. What could go wrong?
Bui et al (2011) in Psychiatry Research: Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?
A few years ago there was a story about UC Berkeley having to stop offering free publicly available course lecture videos after deaf people sued them for not including closed captioning. Now the situation has become critical: deaf man sues PornHub for offering videos without closed captioning. Who even wants to know what people are saying in pornography anyway‽
YouGov poll – would you rather be happily married with an average income, or single but a billionaire? 23% chose the billionaire, 60% the happy marriage. If we take these results seriously, how does that change what we focus on in terms of policy and society?
When I was young, my dentist told me to read The China Study to learn about healthy eating. I never got around to it, which turns out to be a good thing. Red Pen Reviews (Stephan Guyenet’s scientific nutrition site) demolishes it. Enlightening both on diet and as a great example of how to identify and pick apart bad science.
In 1866, Congress asked the Mint to print currency notes honoring William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame). But the text of the legislation just said it should feature “Clark”. Treasury official Spencer Clark spotted the opportunity of a lifetime and began printing currency with his own picture on it. Read the article for other highlights of Clark’s career, which include accusations that he turned the Treasury into a “house for orgies and bacchanals”.
From the “drama in communities that you personally are not in” department: The Problem With Witches Manifesting Rain
I’ve been reading about the ROS Theory Of Obesity recently (site is kind of poorly arranged, you will have to piece together the right order to read it yourself). It’s semi-amateur scientific speculation and you shouldn’t take it too seriously, but I’m curious what any nutrition experts here think.
If you don’t like Google search results’ new look, you can download a script to revert it back.
Jason Collins: Ergodicity Economics: A Primer. More interesting than it sounds, though I realize that doesn’t say much.
How accurately have all climate models since 1970 predicted the evolution of climate since that time? (answer: pretty accurately)
NPR: Let’s Stop Talking About The 30 Million Word Gap. Remember the research showing that poor people (or black people) hear fewer words from their parents as children, and that’s why they fall behind in school? It failed replication. This is also an interesting study in narrative construction. When everyone believed in the word gap, it was framed as an argument for progressive ideas – “maybe you think poor/black people’s problems are their own fault, but actually the odds were stacked against them because of a childhood word gap, so we should be more willing to admit blame for poverty and fund social services” (example). Now that the word gap’s been proven false, its falsehood is an argument supporting progressive ideas- “maybe you think we don’t need to examine structural inequality because the only problem is a word gap, but that’s been debunked and is just racist victim-blaming, so we should be more willing to admit blame for poverty and fund social services.” (example). The science did a 180, but the political implications stayed exactly the same. And this beats the alternative – without this sleight-of-hand, the scientific consensus wouldn’t have been allowed to switch sides anywhere that ordinary people might hear about it.
High-context but good: In this house, we believe: this place is not a place of honor…”
The White House is apparently considering ordering that all taxpayer-funded research must be open-access (ie not paywalled). If you’re a scientist or science-adjacent, there’s a petition you can sign here.
Related: prediction aggregation site Metaculus is launching the Li Wenliang Prize for whoever does the best job predicting the course of the coronavirus epidemic in their amateur forecasting tournament.
According to Rowling-approved Harry Potter canon, Hermione was Minister of Magic as of 2019. According to same, every time a new Muggle UK Prime Minister is elected, the Minister of Magic has to give them a briefing. Writing prompt: describe the meeting between Hermione Granger and Boris Johnson.