Links (20)

Collection of papers and articles that I’ve spotted since my previous links post that seem interesting.

Tech

Bio

  • David Gobel, from the Methuselah Foundation, believes that by 2030, technology will add more than 1 life of year expectancy per year, effectively achieving “Longevity Escape Velocity”, meaning that everyone alive by then will be able to stay alive indefinately.
  • How bureaucracy (and poorly designed institutional incentives) is stifling cancer research

Econ

  • David Autor and Anna Salomons argue that automation affects employment through many channels and that on net, it increases employment. However, it also depresses wages, and the authors argue that this is behind the decreasing labor share of GDP
    • On the other hand, Gene Epstein argues that a declining labour share is a statistical mirage
    • A few years ago, people were saying that there had been a decoupling between productivity and remuneration. Now we know that was wrong: it was a case of mismeasuring. (See here, in Spanish)
  • Work requirements for welfare reduce female crime (Which was already low anyway)
  • A bunch of US hospitals band together to launch a new non-profit generic drug manufacturer.
  • Are markups increasing and competition decling? (no)
  • US wage growth is slow, profits are high and investment is low, what is going on? Tyler Cowen proposes an explanation
  • Score one for the Talebians, protecting people from financial risk (via deposit guarantees) increases financial risk.
  • A few examples of traditions not understood by their practitioners that happen to work. This says: conservatives have been historically right about the goodness following ancient rules we don’t know the reasons for. However, now we know better. (Though the conservatives will complain: Why now?, and I’ll say, we have science)
  • How does moderation -or censorship – work at major corporations like Twitter or facebook?
  • Detecting changes in trend growth
  • Predicting trends in economic metrics is hard, yet another case

Philo

  • The Cambridge Handbook of Classical Liberal thought
  • A few months ago, I mentiond in a footnote that it would be interesting to look into the claim “Classical utilitarians had moralities more similar to ours than other philosophers. (i.e. Kant was a racist)”.
    • Well, I found at least one philosopher who, like the utilitarians, defended the rights of women, opposed slavery, promoted free trade, etc: Condorcet.  He was explicitly antiutilitarian too, and to top that off, he believed in individual rights, an idea that is more closely aligned with today’s common moral views than utilitarian thinking. Surely, Condorcet did not voice opinions on everything. Bentham was an early defender of gay rights, but he wasn’t outspoken about it, his only work dealing with the issue was published after he died. JS Mill, for example, did not write such a defence. Absence of evidence is no evidence of absence, so it could have been the case that many leading philosophers of the time had similar opinions, but they did not dare write them down.
    • On the other hand, we can also find examples of conservative utilitarians, and we just have to read Mill for that:
    • To the many writers on the side of orthodoxy, of the utilitarian school, mentioned by Dr. Whewell, might be added several, of at least equal note, whom he has omitted; as John Brown, the author of Essays on the Characteristics; Soame Jenyns, and his more celebrated reviewer, Dr. Johnson; all of whom, as explicitly as Bentham, laid down the doctrine that utility is the foundation of morals. This series of writers attained its culmination in Paley, whose treatise, proclaiming without evasion or circumlocution, not only expediency as the end, but (a very different doctrine) simple self-interest as the motive, of virtue, and deducing from these premises all the orthodox conclusions, became the text-book of moral philosophy in one of the two Universities of the Church of England. But a change ensued, and the utilitarian doctrine, which had been the favourite theory of the defenders of orthodoxy, began to be used by its assailants.

    • From casual examination, the views the authors attribute to the utilitarians as progressive seem to have been held by a substantial number, if not most, of the leading intellectuals of the day. The charge against slavery was initially led not by utilitarians but by Quakers, and the early animal rights society RSPCA (in England) doesn’t seem to have had an utilitarian origin. Ditto for women’s rights. It can be argued, however, that only utilitarians have all “the right opinions bundled together”. This is not true: I have given the example of Condorcet, though it is true that many intellectuals of that time, we would agree with some of their views but not the others. Wilberforce, the campaigner for the abolition of slavery and promoter of animal rights, also opposed pornography and other “vices”.
    • The peers I have in mind to compare with the utilitarians should have been born around 1750, and they should be atheist, but most of those who I can find (Godwin, Helvétius, d’Holbach) were also utilitarians or proto-utilitarians, with the exception, again, of Condorcet.
    • Perhaps it would be ore useful to look further into the past, at the Leveller movement

Psy

  • What does differing IQ by country mean in practice? A walkthrough via PISA questions
  • Depression and anxiety on the rise in the US, claim Haidt and Lukianoff
  • Yet another “intelligence-correlates-with-libertarianism” study, the twist here is that they analyse both the direct impact and the impact mediated by social class across two studies. In two studies, they find that the direct IQ->economic liberalism channel is ~3x stronger than the indirect IQ->education->social class->economic liberalism channel.
    • As usual, I insist on calling it economic liberalism, pace the standard use of the term in psychology.
  • Lifehacks to predict what social science studies won’t replicate
  • Even though some individuals are implicitly biased in favor of whites (vs blacks, according to the IAT), they can be explicitly biased against whites in actual decisionmaking

Phys

Other

  • Puzzling article from Tyler Cowen about how “real news” can be bad like “fake news”
    • If you doubt that truth itself is the problem, just ask yourself: How much would it demoralize you to read the truth about yourself, all day long? Even if most (but not all) of those reports were positive? Pretty demoralizing, I’d bet. That, in a nutshell, is the predicament of the West.

    • I would much welcome radical honesty!
  • Most reported school shootings never happened
  • What we know about art and the mind
  • Why China can build high speed rail so cheaply
    • Cheaper land expropriation, mass production, and prefabricated elements.
    • In tunnels, China has cut tunneling costs by 4-5x
  • Notpetya, the biggest cyberattack of the year
  • Spain, the elevated master race 🙂
    • Spain has 3x the elevators per 1,000 as the US, and leads the developed world in share of people living in apartment blocks, and homeowneship rate.
  • The data that can be behind a correlation. Looking at data matters!!

 

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