I’ve talked a little about the hierarchy of the sciences and what kinds of evidence are convincing. Greg is an actual scientist who has worked in both “hard” and “soft” fields. I’ve copied the following from here:
Obviously not. Jefferson said ‘error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.’ Milton said ‘who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter? ‘ – but I’ve seen it put to the worse time and time again.

Jefferson and Milton were both wrong. Or, more exactly, they were in the ball park when talking about certain kinds of people working certain sorts of problems, but not in general. The truth game works best if your errors can be rapidly and unambiguously detected, as in mathematics. People who like to bullshit don’t even go into math: they’ll never get away with it.

Helps if the topics don’t inherently invoke lots of emotion: ultimately easier to think straight about electrons than than people, even though we’re pre-adapted to understanding people. And to be fair, electron behavior is simpler. One equation to rule them all. Also having strong practical applications is good at sorting out the bullshit: you can argue that there’s really a place for cavalry in modern warfare, but it’s hard to continue to do so after the machine guns have spoken, especially if you’re dead. And, for various reasons, certain cultures, in certain times and places, have been more inclined in this direction that the general run of humanity.

So, why isn’t sociology science? There is no logical reason why it couldn’t be – but it’s not. Reasons? several. Experiments are harder than in chemistry:bullshitters aren’t immediately flushed. And the topics rouse emotions. So most of the people who enter the field aren’t inclined to play the science game, and they don’t. Which is the problem with social psychology: the sort of people who go into it aren’t budding Hari Seldons, and there is no way to change them. (or is there? Brain surgery? electroshock?) Naxalt? Sure, but there aren’t enough. The field as a whole is unsound.

How could you fix the unscientific sciences? You would have to control entry, screen admission, so that only people who liked – needed!- to play the game could enter. Not just brains – people with the sort of personalities you find in astronomers or physicists – maybe even exaggerated versions of such personalities, since the temptations to go off the rails are so much greater in the social sciences. That for starters.

Steve Sailer made an argument against the “#OscarSoWhite” view by claiming that, the past few years aside (law of small numbers and all that), the share of nominations blacks received is roughly in proportion to their share of the population, particularly if one’s denominator includes more English speaking countries (since they provide many actors for Hollywood films, and as a bonus I don’t have to type out “African-American”). He provided no data for his assertion, and I figured that would be simple enough to check out. He phrased vaguely in terms of a “generation”, but I’m going to keep things simple with just this century. Per wikipedia, they have received 10 nominations for best actor, 4 for best actress, 6 for supporting actor, and 9 for supporting actress, for a total of 29. With 16 years and 5 slots for each of 4 categories, there are a total of 320 nominations. Thus their share is about 9.1%, weighted more toward men than women, and with male nominees more likely to be leads than women.

Wikipedia puts their share of the U.S population at 12.61% of about 322 million, while in the UK it’s 3.0% of roughly 63 million, it’s an uncommon enough reported ancestry in Australia (population of about 24 million, where I am not counting aboriginals) not to have data and the same goes for New Zealand’s 4-5 million, and in Canada 2.5% of about 33 million. I’m not going to bother counting the Republic of Ireland. Totaling some more precise population figures, I get about 447.98 million in total population while the black population is about 43.4 million and a share of about 9.7%. An additional 2.4 nominations would be necessary to make it proportional, so perhaps two years of 0 in a row is reasonable grounds for irritation.

A bigger gap is for U.S born hispanic americans though, who have not received any this century. Adding in those born in Mexico (3) and Puerto Rico (2) (excluding those whose parents were non-natives like Lupita Nyongo or Joaquin Phoenix) gives us a total of 5. I wasn’t initially going to include the extra two in the consolidated list of latin american nominees, as Argentina & Columbia provide far fewer immigrants, but I didn’t apply that standard anywhere else, so the total is 7. For asians I’ll exclude Ben Kingsley and Hailee Steinfeld as they’re sufficiently white-passing that their nominations this century were for white characters, and any Middle Easterners (who are still caucasians as far as government statistics are concerned), leaving just the japanese actors Ken Watanabe and Rinko Kikuchi at 1 nomination each. Both have grown as a share of the U.S population (currently at 17.4% and 4.75%, respectively), but even discounting for that seem distinctly underrepresented.

For those curious, wikipedia’s list of lists does not include Jewish nominees, which perhaps shouldn’t be surprising as it doesn’t categorize by religion.

I have often cited this post on politics always being divided into two sides (the government and opposition, in parliamentary terms). For an example of that paradigm’s use beyond marginal internet cranks, the POLVIEWS index of left vs right begins with Federalists and their opposition. I was reminded of that while reading this comment on a discussion of Apocalypse Now that got very off-topic. Some of it goes as follows: (more…)

From “The Trial of Ruby McCollum”:
“In a way, but in a limited way, these men [who “poured out all the resentment of the centuries”] had a point. But by the measuring stick of history their contention has no standing for the reason that force is lacking to back it up. From the cave man to the instant minute, to the victor has gone the spoils, and the primest spoils are women. We will know that the blessed millennium has arrived when this is no longer so.”

An amusing read from the perspective of the present, which is in fact a new millenium and significantly different for some of the social issues which concerned Hurston, if not quite measuring up as “the blessed millennium”.

Last year I got into a discussion at agnostic’s about the extent to which Ed Gein inspired Robert Bloch’s Norman Bates of Psycho fame. I referenced Bloch writing “The Shambles of Ed Gein” about the real case, but had been unable to find it online. I’ve finally read it and placed a transcription here. It was surprising to read that Bloch didn’t subscribe to any daily newspaper at the time, and thus got his info from word-of-mouth which just focused on murder & cannibalism rather than the more distinctive traits common to Ed Gein & Norman Bates. There wasn’t even an element of cannibalism in the movie, and the most distinctive thing about the real case to Bloch (murders happening in a small town community where everyone knows everyone’s business) isn’t given much focus in it either. As I haven’t read the book, I can’t say to what extent that differs (though I’ve hear the depiction of Norman is closer to middle-aged Ed than fairly young Anthony Perkins). So I’ll concede a bit to “Robert the Wise” on some of those similarities in character being mere coincidences, but as there are no first-hand accounts of Bloch saying Calvin Beck was an inspiration I am not willing to wholly concede.

Robin Hanson is writing a book on the mind with Kevin Simler (my hat-tip goes to Robert Koslover). Simler’s name wasn’t immediately familiar with me, but he has a blog titled Melting Asphalt. It contains exactly the sort of material you’d expect to find from someone writing such a book with Robin. Reading over his old posts (he helpfully has his personal favorites along with the most popular ones listed on the sidebar), it appears he’s also written at Less Wrong & Ribbonfarm. I had already come across the essay Ads Don’t Work That Way, but the one I’d most like to point others to is Music in Human Evolution. It attempts to tie together music/dance, “confrontational scavenging” and burial/cannibalism among the earliest hominids to leave the trees for the savanna. Sounds strange, but comes across as quite plausible.

Via Scott Alexander (aka yvain), Jai Dyhani discusses what he calls “The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics“, something I’ve been fuzzily groping at and griping about for years. It most obviously seem strange beginning with a consequentialist view of the act/omission bias, but I’m not aware of any explicit moral theory under which it makes sense. Since, as I said, Jai puts it better than I could, I’ll just give his summary here:

“The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more. Even if you don’t make the problem worse, even if you make it slightly better, the ethical burden of the problem falls on you as soon as you observe it.”

An obvious example of how that could be politically relevant is EITC vs the minimum wage. But for me I’ll always remember when I got in a huge argument with a family member over employment law. My main issue was a sort of reciprocity, since I don’t see the relevant symmetry being broken where others do. But I also knew in my gut that I’d never hired anyone and while it would be easy to lay judgment on employers, I was no less guilty of not hiring people.

I’d been planning on watching Solaris for a long time, but having it appear in both this list of free movies and Akira Kurosawa’s 100 favorites was an extra kick in the pants. I preferred to download a file rather than deal with the hiccups of streaming, but the subtitle file I found didn’t mesh well with it. It started way too late, and even after writing a script to do a base correction the discrepancy grew over time. What I’ve got now still has a growing discrepancy (although in the opposite direction), but it’s less than a minute off by the final line, which I suppose isn’t too bad for a movie over two hours long. At any rate, I figured I’d put what I wrote here. (more…)

It is one of life’s great pleasures to say “I told you so”, which is why there’s such a happy anticipation of being able to feel contempt. There’s a mild buzz from the everyday occurrence of having your worldview confirmed, which happens to everyone regardless of what their view happens to be, but these are larger things. Hope needs to be invested in order to be dashed (or the reverse, but I’m not sure how that should be described). I’m experiencing something to that effect with this Foreign Affairs article on Libya by Alan Kuperman. I suppose the downside is that I’ve ensconced myself into enough of a bubble that I wasn’t really engaged with anyone who supported the intervention. The Republican party has been cartoonishly hawkish and the American people stubbornly foolish in their inevitably dashed expectations*, but even they didn’t support it. I must admit that even I didn’t expect it to result in the fall of the Mali government or that something on the scale of ISIS would emerge to take advantage of the fragility of regional states (I should also acknowledge I was against invading Iraq on general isolationist principle rather than because I thought it would make the situation that much worse). Since Eric Posner frequently annoys me I was hoping I’d find an article from him supporting it, but unfortunately he distinguishes between his view of what’s “legal” (anything the executive does, because Congress won’t act forcefully enough to stop it) and what’s prudent. And since my home city just had an election, let’s pour out a 40 for a political opposition that declined to make hay out of Obama ruining one of the few foreign policy successes of the Bush administration, and instead shouted “Benghazi” a lot.
*I was hoping to find that blog post on all wars declining in popularity over time, which should not be the case for ideal Bayesians, but I can’t. (more…)

Years ago I highlighted Modeled Behavior’s theorizing on “Citizen X”, the ideal taxpayer who consumed minimal benefits. Now James Thompson highlights some empirical work on the distribution of tax payers and consumers. Those familiar with the work of Malcoml Gladwell should not be surprised to know that 20% of the population cost a disproportionate share of public resources. Hat-tip to Steve Sailer.

In another follow-up to some of my old posts, Greg Cochran says S.L.A Marshall’s work on reluctance to engage in combat is full of shit. He doesn’t provide a very specific rebuttal, but I’ve come across others saying Marshall’s work is not to be relied on. Randall Collins is one of the researchers who has cited Marshall, in work I myself have promoted.

I frequently get spammers who want to exchange links, so that was naturally my first assumption when I was emailed by Samuel Bowling from SingleHop in response to my most recent post (yeah, it’s several months old, I haven’t had anything worth blogging in that time), wanting to know if I would link to this namesake of the post you are currently reading. SingleHop is a provider of hosted infrastructure, so they presumably have both an interest and some knowledge about the topic. Reading their post, it actually does sound somewhat neutral rather than an example of advocacy, though my guess would be that they are in favor of neutrality regulations of some sort. When I asked Sam for further thoughts on my previous post he said that he agreed fostering competition between ISPs was particularly important (and that he enjoyed Tim Lee’s article). That was enough to satisfy me that he was a real person interested in what I’d had to say, so enjoy whatever readership boost results from my only sporadically active blog!

Lots of folks on the internet have been upset about a SCOTUS ruling against the FCC’s net neutrality regulations. I accidentally got on Lawrence Lessig’s rootstrikers mailing list when I tried to make a critical comment on a Citizen’s United blog post, so I’ve been getting lots of messages on that. I have always been unclear on why I should care one way or another, since the sweeping apocalyptic changes being predicted seem to have little basis in empirical evidence. After all, the regulations only date to late 2010, and it’s not like the internet was radically different before. ISPs violating neutrality seemed to be the exception, and generally reversed after a customer backlash. However, Timothy B. Lee has an interesting article on how the economics of the internet have been changing, making net neutrality rules (or something analogous to them for the new environment) relevant even if they weren’t before. Eli Dourado has a response here, claiming Lee is misunderstanding the nature of transit and the Comcast/Cogent/Netflix deal, but that might just further Lee’s point that we need to think in terms broader than “net neutrality” in the original Tim Wu sense (which may not even be strictly desirable for different use-cases).  To me the bigger question is why the European ISP market so much more competitive than ours. If we could achieve that, the consumers could have neutrality if they really wanted it.

On another note, the neutrality issue frequently gets framed as a threat to screw over small companies in favor of big established players. But the logic of price discriminating monopolies (which are actually more efficient than ones unable to discriminate) leads to those with a greater willingness to pay having to pay more. They are actually likely to subsidize those less willing to pay.

Just learned of his passing via Mankiw (via Eli Dourado’s twitter feed). He’s most closely associated with “economic imperialism”, which might be summed up as applying economics to subject matter normally investigated by sociology. Plenty of pop “economics of everyday life” has followed afterward, with his clearest acolyte being Steven “Freakonomics” Levitt. I cited (or re-cited, since Albert O. Hirschman’s citation is what alerted me) a classic Becker paper on the economics of irrational agents here.

I commented on Gurri’s thread I was discussing earlier to chide Morgan Warstler. In case you don’t know him, he’s a libertarian-leaning Republican (though a detractor of neoreactionary tendencies) who frequently comments at blogs like The Money Illusion and bangs on about some hobby-horses. I’m often irritated by his confident proclamations which don’t seem to have any strong basis in subject familiarity, much less domain expertise (this unwarranted confidence also irritates me in neoreactionaries). Inspired by Bryan Caplan, a while back I made a 10:1 bet (in his favor) that Rick Perry would not get the nomination. For years afterward I would mock him at every opportunity about that bet and whether he was going to pay up, assuming he slunk away because he didn’t want to admit he got things wrong (although he started off his own blog doing just that). But it appears I did not give him enough credit. So credit where it’s due: plenty of internet blowhards will never agree to bet at all. And afterwards they may try to weasel out or minimize the results (even Bob Murphy seems guilty of the latter that to some extent, which I suppose shouldn’t be surprising given the Austrian attitude toward empiricism). But not Morgan. I’ll probably still be annoyed by some of his confident pronouncements, but a man willing to put some money where his mouth is and admit when he’s wrong should feel free to annoy me.

I haven’t been a very regular reader of Gurri & the Umlaut, but from what I have read it would be hard to think of a blogger better suited to write this. I vaguely recall seeing myself listed on the periphery of neoreaction, which is fair enough if Robin Hanson & Razib Khan are as well. I am of the right in part because I’m so far toward the latter end of Jacob Levy’s rationalism vs pluralism axis that he would not consider me included in the big liberal* tent (although I certainly have rationalist impulses). So it’s to be expected that I agree with Gurri’s critique of these neoreactionaries as being rationalist constructionists.
*As in “classical liberal”. (more…)


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