2020 February Links

This post is my list of links for February 2020. My intellectual trade deficit every month is usually massive - I import a lot more information than I output. Link posts largely, though nowhere near entirely, track my intellectual imports.

Link posts give me a log to look back on. Moreover, the act of writing these links posts is a practice that helps embed the information into my head.

In a lot of ways writing these link posts throughout the month is one of my favorite things about keeping this blog.

Now the links:

1. How to change your own preferences (but you have to prefer to do it)

2. 59% of African Americans say racial discrimination is the main reason blacks can't get ahead these days.

69% of African Americans say when it comes to a person's ability to get ahead in our country these days being white helps a lot/a little.

84% of African Americans say racial discrimination is a major obstacle for black people.

But only 52% of African Americans say being black has hurt their ability to get ahead. When you consider 17% said it helped their ability to get ahead, and that some fraction (half?) of that 52% thinks it only hurt a little, this answer feels somewhat at odds with the previous questions.

I think what's going on here is that the first three were sociological questions, the last question was a personal question. Members of groups don't have any special insight into sociological truths about that group. Being an American doesn't give me any special insight into how Americans are doing. Whereas with personal questions one actually does have special insight. This insight can be misinterpreted, but it's data nonetheless.

We know this happens with surveys on healthcare. People respond positively about their own health care but say that the American health care system is bad. We know this happens with happiness, most people think they're more happy than average. I think the same thing is going on here.

3. This person does not existEric Weinstein has mentioned this technology before on his podcast.

4. I discovered a comedian named Kyle Eschen on the Slatestarcodex subredditHe has started a humorous and informative Youtube series on humansHe went on Penn and Teller's show and got high praise from themAnd he has a 4M view TED talk on cognitive blind spots. I will be keeping a close eye on him. I wonder if he has been on any of my favorite podcasts?

5. Media trades: the site that lets you read material from the other side if they'll read material from your side, freeing you both from your echo chambers.

6. Related: more evidence echo chambers aren't a problem.

7. Men get turned on by the scent of turned on women

8. These researchers gave people a survey evaluating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. After the survey was finished, the researchers covertly manipulated the answers making them more moderate, and then asked participants to justify their answers. 94% of participants accepted the more moderate answers as their own and rationalized for them!

9. Everything's Awesome Nobody's Happy: 90% of Americans report being satisfied with their personal life. Now if they could just stop thinking so much about politics...

10. If I wanted to show an anti-GMO person how safe genetically modified foods are, I would start here. I also recommend Genetic Literacy Project who is doing a great job.

11. In 1942, some 68% of white Americans surveyed thought that blacks and whites should go to separate schools. By 1995, only 4% held that view. And the % of the population who would oppose a relative marrying a black person has nosedived. Also, the share of poverty share of black men has fallen significantly.


12. Your brain is not an onion with a tiny reptile inside.
"A widespread misconception in much of psychology holds that (1) as vertebrate animals evolved, "newer" brain structures were added over existing "older" brain structures and (2) these newer, more complex structures endowed animals with newer and more complex psychological functions, behavioral flexibility, and language. This belief, though widely shared in our introductory textbooks, has long been discredited among neurobiologists and stands in contrast to the clear and unanimous agreement on these issues among those studying nervous system evolution."
Even the prefrontal cortex is not a uniquely human brain structure.

13. Highways account for 18% of car accident mortality.
Intersections and junctions account for 20% of car accident mortality
Rural roads with 2 lanes account for 38% of car accident mortality!

More from Marginal Revolution and Pater Attia

14. Campaign Finance is overrated:

A) In a very large study, 53 randomized advertising experiments showed 0 to "quite modest" even accounting for large variation across advertisements and contexts. In 2016, 47.5% of campaign spending was on advertising.

B) From 49 field experiments, the summary:
"We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact tenfold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero."
The study only found advertising effects in two rare circumstances:
"First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately—although this early persuasion decays."
C) From 2006 study of political campaigns:
"The prevailing scholarly consensus on campaigns is that they have minimal effects. Minimal effects mean in essense minimal persuasion.
D) This study on the 2000 campaign in Minnesota did find that priming effects played a role in the election. 

E) Correlations between campaign finance and election outcomes have been found, but that doesn't mean spending cause one to win. People who are good at raising money are also good at getting votes, but what about self-financed campaigns? They have no statistical effect on election results.

15. The Big Five Vs. The Big Four (Sci-Hub)

16. Twin/adoption research on reading achievement and reading ability shows 70% genetic effects and "negligible" shared environmental effects.

17. An old one of Steven Pinker on Jews Genes and Intelligence

18.  For 3 months 1,100 Americans were tracked on how they felt about the impeachment process
"The impeachment process might not have shifted anyone’s view about Trump, but it did drive Americans further into their partisan camps — and in the process, unraveled their already frayed sense of trust in the political system."
Also,
"30 percent of Democrats thought in the last wave of our survey that impeachment was likely to help Trump win reelection — up from 12 percent just three weeks earlier."
19.  Here are how the election betting odds over time. Keep in mind that the formal impeachment was announced on September 24, 2019

20. Tim Harford on persuasion and storytelling with Tyler Cowen

21. Things Jordan Peterson's Rehab Taught Me, written by somebody who lost his wife to cancer.

22. Coleman Hughes talks with Katherine Franke about reparations. The best and worst part of Coleman Hughes is that he's a good listener.

23. Latest in WTF: If Materialism is True, The United States is Probably Alive
"If we set aside our morphological prejudices against spatially distributed group entities, we can see that the United States has all the types of properties that materialists tend to regard as characteristic of conscious being."
Here is the blog version of the argument

24. The New Yorker favorably reviews Bryan Caplan's Open Boarders book

25. Coronavirus:
"Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.) 
Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”
26. Thing of the Week: Eric Weinstein talks to Agnes Callard for two hours. It is glorious. I first heard Agnes Callard when she was with Tyler Cowen in a talk about Philosophy vs. Economics.

27. Did you know that physicians make twice as much in the United States as anywhere else?

28. Are the left and right in the United States morally equivalent? Probably not, but they're Moral Approximates.

29. Study shows firms in California lost about $60 billion after being forced to hire more women on their board of directors. This suggests shareholders like money more than sexism, and that this gender disparity is the result of any combination of phenomenon within the vast plethora of possibilities that occurred between in the womb to the moment the board of directors was chosen - which maybe the law should have considered.

30. From Data Is Beautiful:


A negative reading of this graph says video games and computers curbed ambition in forms both negative and positive.


32. I think I already linked to this but I'm going to again - 50 years of twin studies, 14 million twins, and the measurement of 17,000 traits confirms the three laws of behavioral genetics:

1) All human behavioral traits are heritable.
2) The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes.
3) A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.
33. Also, the fourth law of behavioral genetics, which I think is well verified.

4) “A typical human behavioral trait is associated with very many genetic variants, each of which accounts for a very small percentage of the behavioral variability.”

I do not, however, agree with the fifth law of behavioral genetics:

5) Behavior genetic Laws 1-4 should be ignored because they are based on many false assumptionsconceptsand models, on negative gene finding attempts, and on decades of unsubstantiated gene discovery claims.

34. 23% preferred to be a single billionaire while 60% preferred to be a married middle-class person. I wonder how single people answer compared to married people.

35. A close runner up for thing of the week: the famous study showing a 30-million word gap between the children of low and high-income families failed replication.

The original study is the basis for all kinds of parenting advice and intervention, including ones that promote reading to your children. This doesn't sound all that bad. I like to read to my children. But the idea that reading to your children will influence their prospects 18 years down the line always struck me as superstitious.

The original study was criticized for only measuring the language of one parent (even though they sometimes referred generically to "parents"), ignoring words children were exposed to in ambient environments (despite substantial evidence that overheard language is sufficient for language acquisition) and having a modest sample size of 42.
I'm not surprised. Everybody believes that reading to children is very important, but when faced with criticism almost everyone gives no justification or stupid justification. It becomes rather clear that this belief is based on superstition. So when researchers who undoubtedly come from this superstitious background go out and end up justifying the same belief for smart reasons, I remain skeptical. The usual heuristic that smart researchers ought to be trusted becomes invalid in light of evidence that they're rationalizing for the superstition that they always had in the first place.

36. White liberals might be the first group ever to show outgroup bias. If ingroup bias is bad then outgroup bias must be good, right?




I think this data is susceptible to becoming a political weapon, rather than being recognized as the unique psychological phenomenon that it is. Where is there evidence of this kind bias in any other time or place, ever?

37. Also from Pew, most Democrats still believe in colorblindness/sex blindness


38. Don't stereotype Trump's conservative base. I'm always interested in higher resolution data of political parties because they seem to see each other with such low resolutions.


39. John Mcwhorter thinks we should stop using the words "liberalism" and "socialism".

40. Ezra Klein talks to Malcolm Gladwell on Why We're Polarized. I like both of these people and the conversation is great. Gladwell's take on Jordan Peterson is compelling, and Klein trying to be diplomatic in response is fun listening.

Klein says something that I think might be right, but I don't think he realizes how disastrous it is if it's true.
"What I would say about Peterson, about Rogan, about them, about the Intellectual Dark Web world, and what is broadly true for American politics in general - is one thing I'm seeing that I think is important - I think we are seeing the primary axis of political conflict change. As you know, Peterson, Rogan, Sam Harris, a bunch of these guys - these guys don't care about single-payer healthcare, they're fine with it. So a lot of the things that would traditionally code the left-right divide in America - they're left. And there is a correlation there for them and Bernie Sanders and so on. What they are very polarized on is the social justice divide. The thing that unites them is a distaste for political correctness, social justice warriors, a feeling that you can't say the things you want to say... I think we're in an era of a reallignment about what is the core axis of political conflict."
Based on all the public opinion surveys I've come across, Ezra Klein is handing 2/3 of the left to the right. If the political axis gets redefined as left=woke right=not woke, the left will undoubtedly lose elections.

41. Too much Democracy can lead to poor decisions.

Whether I want more/less Democracy depends on what it's getting replaced with.

42.
"The report tracks mobility and graduation rates of 2.5 million public school students across fourteen years of school district data in six states: Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The big question: “Do initially low-achieving students gain in the schools districts’ performance distribution compared to initially high-achieving students during the K–12 career?” Do they gain in the statewide comparisons?"
Answer? No.

43. As they say in academia: publish or perish. This apparently leads some to hire companies to produce scientific papers on demand. We now have the technology to scan multiple papers quickly for evidence of computer-generated falsified papers. These people found 400 seemingly fraudulent papers.

44. Extreme protest actions are counter-productive to their cause. Across a variety of movements like anti-Trump, animal rights, and pro-life, the use of extreme protest actions like vandalism and blocking highways made observers less likely to identify with the cause.

45. Subjects were given consent forms with the phrase, “some researchers wear yellow pants”. Only 25% noticed.

46. Read: Our World in Data - Safest Sources of Energy

47. I suspect both are true in some sense.
"The rich really do pay less taxes than you... The overall tax rate on the richest 400 households last year was only 23 percent"

"Data from OECD show that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system in the world, with the top 10% of earners paying 45% of all income taxes"
48. The Translations from Wokish website is about more than making fun of woke people.

Finally,

My favorite post this month is Missing Half the Story. Without knowing it, we frame issues and conversations around our causes and neglect an entire half the story that's entirely worthy of inquiry. We talk about the costs of global warming not the benefits, and we're interested in why women get paid less than men, not why women and men get paid differently.


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