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 Malcolm 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…)


A number of times I’ve linked to this EconLog post linking a talk from Robin Hanson, on the importance of overcoming bias before you take up a cause. However, it appears the video is no longer there. It can however be found here.

An essay by Yvain that I enjoyed and sometimes link to appears to have fallen victim to url-rot. An archived version is here., but rather than requiring people use the Internet Archive (which is sometimes overtaxed), I’ll just copy it below.



Marginal Revolution led me to this piece by Charles Blahous. The name sounded familiar, so I looked him up on Wikipedia. Most of it was uninteresting except for the bit where he got his phd in computational quantum chemistry, then became a legislative aide to a Wyoming Senator. What? Who goes from the first to the second? Entitlement programs seem so boring, a big demographic wave is coming (or arriving as we speak) and everyone can see it. You can talk a lot about it, but it’s mostly going to be ignored because there are so many political stakeholders and veto points. Karl Smith would even argue that can-kicking is the rational thing to do, and in fact the best we can do if you want to get depressingly existential. After working to get a phd in the hard sciences, who would find that more interesting and a good use of their time?

Taken from here. Note that whether torture can work is not the same question as whether we should do it. (more…)