Things tagged bestof:

The hard road of free markets

John Cochrane lays down some wisdom:

The sad paradox of free markets is that free markets do not need people to understand them to work. But democracy does require voters to understand how things work.



How Trust Shapes Nations' Safety Rules

Veronique Greenwood in The Alantic:

When I moved to China nearly two years ago, one of the first things I bought was a bicycle. I live on a university campus, where everyone rides, and the bike was cheap: $17 for an ancient Five Rams cruiser, with a lively color scheme of teal and rust. I used to cycle to work when I lived in New York, dodging tourists and threading in between delivery trucks. But the moment I pulled out onto a street in China, it became clear that this was going to be a different experience.

Reminds me of an argument I got into with someone over the asinine Seattle bike helmet law. People think our (US) way is the only way to do things despite the fact that many people in the world do things the other way, and seems to go fine for them. Read this and absorb some of that. Stepping back, where we choose (have been taught) to place our trust is kinda my focus these days. Why do we want to place that trust in the government, despite the evidence of better systems to trust? No reason the FDA needs to be a government org, your doctor and insurance company could agree on a more able org. Same for food safety, occupational licensing, etc.



Politicians reject evidence that conflicts with their beliefs

Casper Dahlmann and Niels Bjørn Petersen in the WaPo:

We conducted a survey of 954 Danish local politicians. […] We then divided the politicians into two groups. One group got the data — but without any information as to whether the school was public or private. The schools were just labeled “School A” and “School B.” The other group got the exact same data, but instead of “School A” and “School B,” the schools’ titles were “Public School” and “Private School.”

If politicians are influenced by their ideologies, we would expect that they would be able to interpret the information about “School B” and “School A” correctly. However, the other group would be influenced by their ideological beliefs about private versus public provision of welfare services in ways that might lead them to make mistakes.

This is exactly what we found. Most politicians interpreting data from “School A” and “School B” were perfectly capable of interpreting the information correctly. However, when they were asked to interpret data about a “Public School” and a “Private School” they often misinterpreted it, to make the evidence fit their desired conclusion.



Economics of AI

On 13-14 September, 2017, we held our inaugural conference in Toronto to set the research agenda on The Economics of AI.

Paper presentations are good, but holy shit the comments are amazing.

Check the conference site for the papers and slides.



Meet the Engineer Preserving The Last Analog Motion Graphics Machine



Cognition Builders: Extreme Parenting For The One Percent

Kim Brooks in The Cut:

The company was called Cognition Builders, and Harris explained that they would send people to a family for a period of weeks to observe everyone’s behavior and to figure out how parents could get better control over their kids. The people they sent were called “family architects.” They’d move in with a family for months at a time, immersing themselves in their routines and rituals. The family architects were the foot soldiers in the Cognition Builders team, but the most critical part of the company’s strategy involved the installation of a series of Nest Cams with microphones all around the house, which enabled round-the-clock observation and interaction in real time. At the end of each day, the architects would send the parents extensive emails and texts summarizing what they’d seen, which they’d use to develop a system of rules for the family to implement at home. Over time, the role of the family architects would evolve from observing to enforcing the rules.

One line that stood out to me was a throwaway from the writer about being a combo of life-coaching with Amazon Echo. But, think for a minute what life is like when the AI’s can parent like this. Robo-nannies will change the world.



Minimum Wage and Restaurant Hygiene Violation: Evidence from Food Establishments in Seattle by Subir Chakrabarti, Srikant Devaraj, Pankaj Patel

No free lunch, hygiene edition:

We assess the effects of rise in minimum wages on hygiene violation scores in food service establishments. Using a difference-in-difference analysis on hygiene rating of food establishments in Seattle [where minimum wage increased annually between 2010 and 2013] as the treated group and from New York City [minimum wage was constant] as the control group, we find an increase in real minimum wage by $0.10 increased total hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent. Consistent with our theoretical model, an increase in minimum wage in Seattle has no influence in more severe (red) violations, and a significant increase in less severe (blue) violations. Our findings are consistent while using an alternate control group - Bellevue City, King County, located near Seattle.



Ben Sasse on the Space between Nebraska and Neverland

Tyler interviews Ben Sasse:

I do think that one of the things we misunderstand about our politics — maybe I’ve two things that I think we misunderstand about our politics.

One, most of our political problems are downstream from culture, and we keep acting like we’ll be able to fix our politics with politics, and I don’t really think we can because our politics are a mess because we don’t understand where we are in economic history: this transition from industrialization to whatever the digital economy looks like, and therefore shorter and shorter average duration of jobs, and therefore a transition from villages and urban ethnic neighborhoods where there was known, dense social networks to this new thing.

We’ll produce new forms of social capital, but it might take half a century or a century, and it’s going to be really painful and disruptive as we go through this time.



Farewell - ETAOIN SHRDLU

A film created by Carl Schlesinger and David Loeb Weiss documenting the last day of hot metal typesetting at The New York Times.

“It’s inevitable that we’re going to go into computers, all the knowledge I’ve acquired over these 26 years is all locked up in a little box called a computer, and I think most jobs are going to end up the same way. [Do you think computers are a good idea in general?] There’s no doubt about it, they are going to benefit everybody eventually.”
–Journeyman Printer, 1978



Winners of the 2017 World Press Photo Contest

World Press Photo 2017, a must read as always.


General News, First Prize, Singles—Offensive On Mosul: Iraqi Special Operations Forces search houses of Gogjali, an eastern district of Mosul, looking for Daesh members, equipment, and evidence on November 2, 2016. The Iraqi Special Operations Forces, also known as the Golden Division, is the Iraqi unit that leads the fight against the Islamic State with the support of the airstrikes of the Coalition Forces. They were the first forces to enter the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in November of 2016.

Laurent Van der Stockt / Getty Reportage for Le Monde

And the series on Iran is great.



Gurgaon: India's Private City


Powerful. And Mr. Parth Shah speaks my mind exactly: “One simple way to assess success is; do people want to go there? Are people going there willing to settle there, open their businesses [ … ] On all of those counts, Gurgaon has been fabulously successful.”



The Future of Cities

A scattershot short docu on youtube by Oscar Boyson, but a decent intro to lots of things I think about:



Under Trump, red states are finally going to be able to turn themselves into poor, unhealthy paradises

Ignore the dumb headline, and stay for this by Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post:

After all, if Republicans cut taxes — in particular, taxes on investment income — then the biggest winners are going to be the residents of Democratic states where incomes, and thus income taxes, are significantly higher. Governors and legislatures in those states — home to roughly half of all Americans — will now have the financial headroom to raise state income and business taxes by as much as the federal government cuts them — and use the additional revenue to replace all the federal services and benefits that Republicans have vowed to cut.

and think again about how you can move your government more local, and less federal, thanks to republicans.



Holiday Hole

The holidays are here, and everything in America is going really well. To celebrate Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity is digging a tremendous hole in the earth.



Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

Monte Reel in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.

Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.

The city wide panopticon that can solve crimes by rewinding time.



Mapping the Mercantilist World Economy

Eric Ross:

Our current globalized capitalist world economy was built on Mercantilist foundations, put in place in the first phase of global European expansion, the second phase being that of the formal European empires of the industrial age. In the case of the “New World” in the Americas, Europe’s Mercantilists were creating entirely new trade networks and hinterlands. In the Old World of Afro-Eurasia however, Europe was rearranging the existing, much older, world economy it had been part of since the Middle Ages (see Andre Gunder Frank’s Re-Orient and Jim Blaut’s The Colonizer’s Model of the World). I wanted to illustrate this first phase of global capitalism with thematic maps.


And he continutes through to the Britsh empire ca. 1750.



Brand New Subway

Jason Wright:

Brand New Subway is an entry into the “Power Broker” Game Design Competition. It’s an interactive transportation planning game that lets players alter the NYC subway system to their heart’s content.

Via Kottke.



Financial Cryptography 2016



A Message to Our Customers

Tim Cook at apple.com:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

About time a corporation stood up, the telecoms sure haven’t, so Apple took on the role, and now have the opportunity to make a needed stand.



The big sleep

Julia Medew in The Age:

The two scientists relished life. They skied, went bushwalking and climbed mountains, often taking their three young daughters with them. Their cultural and intellectual pursuits were many - classical music, opera, literature, wine, arguments over dinner with their many friends. They donated 10 per cent of their annual income to political and environmental movements. Family events were spent thoroughly debating the topics of the day.

As their capacity declined, the conversation about ending their own lives became more serious and their rejection of what Peter called “religious do-gooders” became more fierce.

“It was also a way into their favourite topics; philosophy, ethics, politics, the law …,” says their youngest daughter, Kate. “The idea that their end-of-life decisions could be interfered with by people with the superstitions of medieval inquisitors astounded them, and alarmed them.”

Via Next Draft