Showing posts with label thinking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thinking. Show all posts

Sunday, March 7, 2021

My Friends Are All Wrong For Different Reasons

I have always prided myself on the diversity of friends I have been blessed with. This goes along with an ability to be a welcomed part of many different social groups. (At least I think I have been a welcomed part . . .)

To take one example, senior year of high school my first class was Leadership with all the cool kids--the ones who were popular enough to be class officers, etc. The bulk of the day was honors classes with the smart kids--"nerds" was strictly a putdown back then. The last class was gym with all the others--misfits who in many cases lived in fringe realms and in some cases it was amazing they hadn't dropped out of school already. I don't know of anyone in my class of 600+ who could actually approach my level of diverse and deep integration. 

At my best I am a social chameleon. At my worst I'm a jingle you can't get out of your head.

Among other things, this quality has given me a chance to learn from lots of different people as well as compare key difference among groups. Painting with a broad brush, here is one thing I notice.

My friends on the right tend to naively believe the rhetoric of the politicians they admire. They think the things they hear are sincerely believed and will be sincerely pursued. 

My friends on the left have the opposite problem. They tend to naively believe that the rhetoric espoused by the politicians they admire should be ignored—that the true pursuits will be reasonable, noble, and unarguably worthwhile. 

Both can be willfully blind to the most grotesque, pandering, and ridiculous rhetoric. 

I admit this is an overgeneralization to make a point, but it is still a generalization based in truth. While there are many exceptions to this rule, in the cases where it holds I don't find the friends usually to be in contempt. They are almost always unintentionally wrong rather than willfully guilty. Political cognitive dissonance is a very real and rationally held phenomenon

My ultimate takeaways:
  • Looking inward first, I should be on guard for both of these problems in my own thinking and behavior. 
  • To change minds on the right where I agree with a friend on the policy desire, I should emphasize how politicians and political solutions fail to pursue our common cause.
  • To change minds on the left where I agree with a friend on the policy desire, I should emphasize how politicians and political solutions work against our common cause.
Changing minds on the right or left where I disagree with a friend on the policy desire is much more daunting. It probably starts by inquiring as to why they want what they want in the first place. From here it is very often the case that we have the same desired ultimate outcome. It is just that we disagree about how to achieve it. Without first finding common ground, a discussion inevitably becomes an emotional argument rather than a fruitful search using logical arguments.* 

For example, trying to change a paternalist's mind on the drug war cannot constructively start until he understands that you are not advocating unconditional, rampant drug use. He will imagine chaos on the streets and label you extremely dangerous. He has been conditioned to believe that opposition to drugs because they are bad = support for the drug war. 

Likewise, you cannot begin to alter the position of a supporter of the minimum wage until you firmly establish the common ground that you both want the best for low-wage workers.



*People have always misunderstood my love of argument thinking that I love to be in arguments. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

It Depends . . .

One-dimensional thinking vs deeper-level thinking (AKA, solve for the equilibrium).

Considering this:One-dimensional thinking concludes:Deeper-level thinking concludes:
To arrive at a destinations sooner one should drive…FasterSlower
A risk-averse investor should consider taking on…Less market riskMore market risk
A successful salesperson…Knows how to get what she wantsKnows how to satisfy peoples’ needs
To increase revenues...Increase pricesLower prices or offer coupons
To reduce the damages of a dangerous vice...Prohibit itNormalize it
To better preserve competitive balance in sports leagues...Restrict player compensationLiberalize player compensation
To reduce the risk of gun violence there should be...More gun restrictionLess gun restriction
To change minds...Speak moreListen more
To increase the income of low-skilled workers...Enforce high minimum wages lawsLower or eliminate minimum wage laws
A satisfied restaurant customer...Cleans his plateLeaves some food uneaten
Basketball teams who shoot poorly (have a low percentage of shots that go in) should...Be highly selective with their shotsShoot the ball a lot more
To help the children who toil in child-labor manufacturing we should...Ban and boycott their productsBuy and enjoy their products

Sometimes the obvious is right, and fast thinking serves us well; sometimes the less obvious is right, and slow thinking serves us better.



Monday, January 25, 2021

Good Minds Resist Generalizing

Categorization is a natural and helpful way to navigate the world. Yet taken to an extreme it leads to very poor conclusions. Figuring out when the process is benign and helpful versus when it is harmful and nonsensical is high art--there such a fine line between essential black-and-white thinking and destructive stereotyping. 

That is one of my takeaways from listening to Kevin Dutton on The Michael Shermer Show this morning on my drive to work. I might summarize the argument as a distinction between a wise-thinking skeptic and a poor-reasoning lizard brain. 

The lizard brain wants quick, straightforward answers that cleanly divide the world into two dichotomies. It wants jointly exhaustive (all things of this type are found in this model) and mutually exclusive (all things are each in exactly one or the other of the categories). That is not how the world works of course. 

Wise-thinking skeptics adjust their conclusions and update their priors. They allow more latitude for exceptions when the stakes are higher as well as when the evidence is less clear. Consider this graphically:


The lizard brain operates along the red line increasingly generalizing for ever-more important the subject. The wise skeptic is the inverse resisting generalization increasingly as importance rises as shown in the blue line. Notice how the skeptic is not linear as well. For him magnitude matters.

I promise to try to keep this in mind as I go about thinking. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Being Relieved and Reassured When I am Wrong

Considering the realm of points of view where thoughtful minds can disagree, we simply cannot have very much confidence that all of our views are correct and justifiable. In fact unfortunately it is likely that we are right only half of the time, an epistemic coin flip. Therefore, it should be reassuring when we discover areas within this realm where we are incorrect because then we can have more confidence in our other points of view being true. 

Similarly I take comfort when I find error or at least disagreement with the intellectuals I follow and admire. This lets me know I am thinking critically, which holds even if they are right and I am wrong. 

To make sure I am not just stubborn and cherry-picking my points of agreement, I always seek to change my mind (2020 edition coming soon). And by the same token, we must be careful not to use this as a cognitive bias giving confirmation and validation to views we should now doubt. 

If there are correlations and other entanglements between points of view, doubt cast upon one of these casts doubt upon all of them. Being wrong about one part of a system probably means one must be less confident in one's views about the other parts of the same system and perhaps wrong about the system itself. The Bayesian updating is a sticky wicket. 


P.S. One recent example for me was listening to an episode of The Libertarian Angle podcast.  The host Jacob Hornberger is someone for who I very much align in my view of the world. He ran in 2020 to be the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate. If he would have won, I would have gladly voted for him. In fact I would have ideologically preferred him as the actual candidate over Jo Jorgensen (Jorgensen was probably the better candidate for general electoral appeal). Yet he has strong beliefs with high confidence that the JFK assassination was a regime change conspiracy done through the CIA and the rest of the national security state. The case he makes causes me to adjust my views slightly but only slightly. I can believe there was unacted-upon desire to thwart Kennedy's foreign policy changes (Kennedy was making concrete movement away from war and hostility). I just don't believe this materially came together in a conspiracy of action. 

Listening to Hornberger gave me a bit of a challenge to my priors about the Kennedy assassination as he is very much more informed about it than am I. At the same time I didn't change my mind and adopt his view. If we do finally someday get a release of the classified records from the assassination (Trump surprisingly agreed to extend the classified status in 2018 until 2021), I might discover I was completely wrong. Either way I'm relieved and reassured because it shows I am not simply outsourcing all of my views to my intellectual heros, and if I am wrong about this, I can have more confidence in the areas where Hornberger and I are in agreement. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

It Takes a Cynic

I have long been accused of being cynical, and while I will cop to it, I have always maintained that to the degree I am it is a good thing. 

Think of it as the combination of Hanlon’s Razor and Occam’s Razor: the most obvious, self-centered explanation should be considered the most likely until reasonably ruled out. 

This point of view has its dangerous downside. Namely, one can fall into an ugly attitude or a jaded viewpoint that never sees things with an open mind. I strive to avoid this helped a lot by my natural optimism. 

When done appropriately, cynicism has great benefits. Frankly, it cuts through the crap. And it starts one out from a position of epistemic strength as it protects against the fraud of social desirability bias.

In fact I would go so far as to say any analyst worth his salt takes a cynical approach. Let your mind's eye have a cocked eyebrow--it will help keep you from being duped. 

What first got me thinking about this recently was listening to Steve Levitt's story in a recent episode of Freakanomics about advising a firm years ago regarding their advertising budget. The key part was this: 
LEVITT: They said, “Are you crazy?” It was almost if they found out they didn’t work, it was far worse for these people than it was not finding out it didn’t work. Because then they had to explain why for the last 15 years they had been wasting $200 million a year. So, they were happy to just live in a world in which as long as there were ads in every market, every Sunday, life was good.
Or when he says it more plainly in episode 2
LEVITT: If you think about it, no chief marketing officer is ever going to say, “Hey, I don’t know, maybe ads don’t work. Let’s just not do them and see what happens.” So, don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that advertising doesn’t work. I’m implying that we don’t have a very good idea about how well it works.
Add to that this interesting monologue from Dave Chappelle in which he is arguing, unsuccessfully in my opinion, that we should not watch his former show on any streaming network. The part related to this post is his description of the Three-Card Monty scam and that as a analogy for how the [media] industry works. And also, this point: "Never come between a man and his meal." 

If you want to know what underlying motivation is driving a given set of actions, ask yourself first who is standing to gain (or avoid loss).

My cynical demeanor is probably why The Elephant in The Brain resonates so strongly with me. Seeing that X is not about X is a red-pill superpower. 

It is also why I see recent examples from sports like the gyrations in college football's season cancelled/starting/stopping in 2020 and Duke choosing not to play its remaining non-conference games in 2020-21 basketball season for what they are--selfish ploys by powerful vested interests.

Being cynical has its challenges, but it also has its benefits that are underrated. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Justifiable Points of View

One thing I find quite frustrating and disappointing is how often people hold and cling to views that they can hardly justify. Consider:



I find that most people hold views in the bottom half of the grid with a disturbing fraction in the lower left (unwilling/strong). While they typically don't dispute the characterization of a view being strongly held, they adamantly defy the accusation they are unwilling to think hard about it. 

There are several biases at work here I'm sure. First, I think people are averse to saying their beliefs are weakly held. To many this is tantamount to admitting that they shouldn't be taken seriously. Second, admitting that one is unwilling to think hard sounds like admitting dumbness--rarely, though occasionally, a winning attribute.

Although I characterize the upper right position (willing/weak) as "completely justified", this does not imply that this is the optimal position. Rather I think people should strive for the upper left (willing/strong) but this striving should always be working to push them back towards the right as new information and arguments are revealed. 

Further, we simply don't have the opportunity to actually think hard about most things. Many are out of reach for our limited comprehension as well as our limited resources--namely time. Interestingly, this is one of the first places a lower left person will look for a defense. To wit: "While it would be great to sit around and reconsider what I have come to understand as true, who has time for that?" The second refuge is to dispute that thinking hard is necessary. To wit: "Those theoretical points are interesting, but here is what everyone knows to be true...". Both of these are simply argument from dismissiveness. "Pay no attention to the great arguments and evidence behind the curtain!"

Thinking like this is one reason I cannot take you seriously.

Consider also how this plays into the religion of voting. The moral duty to vote is a weakly justified concept

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Who You Gonna Call? An Economist

If you had questions about the conditions of the local restaurant market, you wouldn't ask a chef or a restaurant manager.
If you had questions about the OPEC oil cartel or how it's actions affect the U.S. fracking industry, you wouldn't ask a petroleum engineer.
If you had questions about the affect charter schools have on education outcomes, you wouldn't ask a teacher.
If you had questions about the pricing and payment of medical services, you wouldn't ask a doctor.
If you had questions about fractional reserve banking, you wouldn't ask a banker.

Well, you might ask these people, and they might have brilliant, insightful answers. But if they did, it would be because they were using the tools and skills of economics. You might be better off just asking an economist--especially one with expertise in the specific area of interest.

Drs. Fauci and Birx are very important experts in immunology. Their understanding of infectious disease and their roles in the current crisis are keys to us conquering SARS-COV-2. But asking them when we should open society back up and revive the economy from the self-induced coma is likely asking them to speak outside their depth. I am not saying they are incapable of performing the necessary trade-off analysis, but if they are, it is because they will be employing economics not epidemiology.

Just as we did not prepare properly for a pandemic, just as we did not heed the warning signs as this one approached, just as we did not do the relevant cost-benefit analysis as decisions were hastily made and virally accelerated, I fear we are not willing to reasonably and scientifically consider, plan, and execute the return to normal life.

Reversing the lockdowns and shelter-in-place commandments should require us to consider the following at a deep level:

Benefit of reduced infection going forward minus Cost of change in way of life

What would we like to know includes:
  1. R0 - the rate of infection now and going forward (both the average and the distribution of typical people and super-spreaders); Robin Hanson's analysis shows the need for an even deeper level of thought. 
  2. How did R0 changed over time both as a result of human action and public policy as well as naturally?
  3. How many people were infected and when?
  4. How did the various policies impact viral transmission, viral impact (did putting asymptomatic infected people, mostly kids, in intense contact with at-risk people, mostly elderly, cause dangerously strong infections--dose makes the poison?), other health results, etc.?
  5. How did the various policies impact our way of life? Just how damaging were the policies and how damaging was the virus?
  6. What would we do different? How many lives on net did the actions taken save? How much was overall well being benefited by the actions taken? 
  7. How would we do it differently in the future?
At this point we don't really know enough to depict the overall tradeoffs and how the equation above would plot in the graph below.


The x-axis runs from maximum virus eradication (all resources thrown at fighting the virus, which is well beyond even the extreme measures we have taken so far) to not changing our lives one bit other than perhaps dealing with infections as they arise including hospitalizations and death. The y-axis is overall societal well being. In the middle is the point of well being that is equal to a world where there was no SARS-COV-2.

Is the trade-off function like one of the solid-line parabolas? Don't get too hung up on the lines I've drawn other than to notice that one is at times above the other. And of course choices we make could allow us to jump from one trade-off frontier to another. But notice the other two stylized functions. Perhaps the virus is so dominant that any effort short of total effort to counter it was a net loser for societal well being (as depicted in the red-dashed line). This is possible but highly unlikely. Yet this in the extreme is the position implied by many in the populace as well as some in power. Alternatively, the virus could be an unfortunate circumstance but not one that at any level deserves us changing our way of life (as depicted in the green-dashed line). This is also possible but highly unlikely. Yet this in the extreme is the position implied by those who might be labeled virus deniers.

We would expect, however, that some type of parabolic function if not one with multiple peaks would properly depict the real world tradeoffs. The devil is in the details, and which function and how we might transform the function to improve our lot is the many-trillion-dollar question. I would like to see it asked more strongly and widely, and I would especially like to see it asked of economists. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stupid Questions Can Yield Brilliant Results

Consider:

  • Are some populations less susceptible to (severe) infection?
  • Is there a genetic, cultural, experienced condition that could be used to thwart the virus? What about dietary practices?
  • Does a person’s specific pH level factor into infection and symptom risk?
  • Should we expect latitude or altitude to help especially in regard to humidity and average temperature?
  • How would a plumber fix a leak behind a wall without ripping down the wall?
  • What counterintuitive action might aid treatment and recovery? Forced activity? Forced suppression?
  • Is quasi-herd immunity the next line of defense—i.e., identifying those with antibodies or simply recovered people and having them be the non-social distancing economic/logistical conduits for a while.

THIS IS JUST A PARTIAL LIST! We need everyone adding to it and (responsibly) acting on it in the real world.

Imagine going back in time to 50, 100, 500 years ago and asking dumb questions:

  • Are we sure we should drain the ill person’s blood to release the bad humors? (no)
  • Maybe a severe sunburn will cure this fever? (no)
  • Perhaps a small, very small, creature is causing this? (yes)
  • Maybe interaction with lots of people including those in outlying areas is a problem? (no)
  • Should we wash our hands between patients? (yes)

In the midst of COVID-19, we need lots of experimentation. We need to harness and leverage creativity and experimentation. The private sector working in a free market is unmatched in this capacity. Frankly, a catastrophe-risk, global threat is no time to rely on government. In the current context this includes everything from suppressing and replacing the FDA to “radical” ideas like not nationalizing supply chains.

For every challenge to a medical practice, prescription, and diagnosis we have to ask a critical question: Is this bloodletting or is this hand washing?

From truly dumb questions we can derive amazing successes.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

52 Things I Learned in 2019

I would like to think that I learned more than 52 things last year. Nevertheless, here are 52 notable ones.

1. "The British Empire At Its Territorial Peak Covered Nearly The Same Area As The Moon".

2. Manhattan reached its peak population about 100 years ago.

3. The Millennial Generation exhibits preferences for consumption that are very similar to previous generations. This includes a demand for cars, work preferences, and where to live (suburbs versus the high-density urban core).

4. Army ants "commit" suicide.

5. A quantum physics experiment suggests that objective reality doesn't exist. (categorize my "learning" this as superficial at best)

6. The average state prisoner's time served in prison is surprisingly low.

7. The asteroid that about sixty-six million years ago struck the Yucat√°n peninsula killed over 99.9999% of all living things and unleashed the energy of about 1,000,000,000 Hiroshima bombs.

8. "The vast majority of roads in Sweden and Finland are operated by the private sector and maintained by local communities".

9. Speaking of socialist paradises, Sweden sharply rejected socialism decades ago in favor of capitalism.

10. All perching bird species, about 60% of all birds, may have come from Australia.

11. "Books don't work".

12. Pork Bellies Futures stopped being traded in 2011. Better tell The Dukes.

13. Girl's comparative advantage in reading can explain the math gender gap. I learned a lot from Alex Tabarrok this past year.

14. Adding to the number of whales in the oceans could significantly help reduce CO2.

15. Speaking of whales, the Soviet Union illegally killed over 180,000 whales simply to say they did it.

16. It is overall faster, safer, and more efficient for people to stand rather than walk up the escalator.

17. A great use case for blockchain is insurance markets.

18. Total energy use in the United States is essentially flat for the last decade. And this amazing trend is true of many other resources despite the economy bring much larger today.

19. Mathematicians actually have a system to rate how "crackpot" a theory is.

20. I knew it is false that we only use about 10% of our brain, but I did not know a lot of these neuromyths including that it is false that Individual learners show preferences for the mode in which they receive information (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic).

21. There are perhaps "600 new academic philosophy articles and books written per week in the English-speaking world, or over 30,000 a year".

22. Breathalyzers should not be trusted.

23. Rod Stewart is into model trains.

24. Injuries should be moved (not rested), allowed inflammation (don't ice)--RICE is a myth. More here.

25. You CAN yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater. This has never been a First Amendment exception in the law.

26. Converting "dog years" to "human years" is not dog age in years times seven, but there is a way to do the conversion.

27. Pasta should be made starting in cold water--not dropping it into boiling water like so many recipe boxes say.

28. The Eiffel Tower, the tallest building in the world for more than 40 years, was built in 2 years and 2 months at a 2019 cost of only about $40 million. There are more amazing speeds of things being brought to life at the link.

29. About 30,000 people each day escape poverty.

30. Turkeys (birds) are named after the country.

31. The main benefit of circumcision is a potentially significant reduction in the risk of penile cancer.

32. The magnitude of personality differences between males and females is large and significant.

33. Sydney, Australia has more foreign-born residents than all of mainland China.

34. Germany owns no nuclear weapons itself, but it does have U.S. nukes that it can use at a moment's notice.

35. The Pilgrims' first encounter with a Native American was him asking if they had any beer.

36. The cost of a standard Thanksgiving dinner was virtually unchanged from 2018 to 2019 rising just one penny.

37. Blind people can hear at an extraordinarily high speed.

38. U.S. life expectancy peaked in 2014, and the death rate of middle-aged Americans has risen for three straight years.

39. Andrew Garrido learned to play the piano without a piano and is now at one of the world’s leading conservatoires.

40. The finest chocolate should be eaten by letting it melt in your mouth never chewing.

41. The placebo effect works even when you tell people they are using a placebo.

42. The nuclear ban in Japan following Fukushima killed more people due to higher electricity prices than the nuclear accident itself.

43. It is a myth that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime.

44. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" is about a single woman who loves baseball and is bucking societal norms. As such, it should be celebrated for its pro-feminist message.

45. It is NOT true that failing to take an entire prescribed antibiotic course risks antibiotic-resistance in bacteria.

46. Brazil has more than 60,000 murders per year--more than a good share of the rest of the world combined.

47. The average age for founding entrepreneurs at companies that go on to hire at least one employee is 41.9.

48. World War I was not the deadliest war up to that point--the Taiping Rebellion some 50-years before it was much worse.

49. In 2003 a group of young artists built a secret apartment inside a mall in Providence, RI and lived in it for days at a time for years.

50. Most modern practices and rules of dentistry have very weak to no scientific basis.

51. Hundreds of American cities are (thankfully) abandoning recycling efforts.

52. And finally:
I'm already well into learning things in 2020. I hope you are too!

Monday, August 12, 2019

What I'm Listening To (Podcast Rundown) circa August 2019

This is an update to my prior list of podcasts I am currently listening to. No comments this time, but after listing my favorites, I will group them into those I listen to every episode and those I listen to occasionally (alphabetical after the favorites). Just because one is listed under "occasional" doesn't mean you should dismiss it--there are gold in some of those occasions.

Thinking about the list today I notice that there have been many that have come and gone--some were just tried on for size and others were one-time staples. I think this has been healthy turnover.

Every Episode (favorites):
EconTalk
Conversations with Tyler
Reason Podcast
The Fifth Column - Analysis, Commentary, Sedition
Free Thoughts
The Fribrary Podcast
Libertarian
The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe

Every Episode (others):
30 Animals That Made Us Smarter
50 Things That Made the Modern Economy
99% Invisible
a16z
Against the Rules with Michael Lewis
Akimbo: A Podcast from Seth Godin
Animal Spirits Podcast
Building Tomorrow
Capitalisn't
Cato Daily Podcast
Conviction
Crimetown
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum
Darknet Diaries
Economics Detective Radio
Every Little Thing
Freakonomics Radio
Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
It's Not What It Seems with Doug Vigliotti
Kibbe on Liberty
Macro Musings with David Beckworth
Made You Think
Make No Law: The First Amendment Podcast
Mercatus Policy Download
MinuteEarth
More or Less: Behind the Stats
Oklahoma Sooners Postgame
Oklahoma Sooners Unofficial 40
Pessimists Archive Podcast
Rationally Speaking
Reason Video
Revisionist History
Science Salon
Science Vs
So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast
The Anthropocene Reviewed
The Curious Investor
The Emergent Order Podcast
The Long View
The Political Orphanage
The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg
The Subgame Perfect Podcast
Words & Numbers

Occasional:

Saturday, January 19, 2019

'Oh, you left out a bunch of stuff' - 2018 New Year's Resolution fulfillment post

What better time to wake up from my no-blogging slumber than with the annual fulfillment of my perpetual New Year's resolution?

I used to strongly believe that “real-world” experience as a substitute for learning through formal study was over rated. There are two significant ways I have changed my mind. I now believe:

  1. Most learning done in school is learning in name alone. For the vast majority of people very little is truly understood and retained much less applied in life.
  2. Because of biases, failure to update/challenge conventional wisdom, poor feedback loops, and long cycles for knowledge updating, there is a chasm between the received wisdom and truth--what we could/should know but basically do not.

Bryan Caplan’s work as summarized in his book brought me around. This one has some irony. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that an esoteric, theoretical academic would be the one to set me free since my bias was built upon a disdain and rejection of those who (I still believe) unduly criticize and dismiss book/school learning and “theory”. I still highly value idealistic university education (at least in theory). I just now understand that experience in the world has much, much more value and applicability than I used to give it credit.

And it is not just that getting one's hands dirty learning by doing should be on equal footing. For most (see point #1 above) it is by far the primary way one should gain knowledge and wisdom and skills.

This change in view was for me a long time developing. As I remember it, the first major salvo came from Charles Murray when I read this piece. Caplan just pushed me from agnostic to full-blown evangelist.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My 12 Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson started this. Many have been following. I like Tyler Cowen's, Megan McArdle's, and Arnold Kling's among others.

Here is my contribution to the cause:

  1. Try more things--reach out for more variety along all relevant dimensions.
  2. Quit more things.
  3. Read more (quantity, quality, and variety). 
  4. Practice ‘Hell Yeah!’ Or ‘No’.
  5. Listen with intention. 
  6. Smile more. 
  7. Choose honesty, demand the same, and respect when you get it. 
  8. Pursue what is being rewarded but always to the satisfaction of high ethical standards. 
  9. Trust your gut instincts. 
  10. Ask your spouse, children, immediate boss, and parents for permission. For everyone else, ask forgiveness. 
  11. Change your mind. Distance yourself from those who won’t. 
  12. Forgive and move on. 


Saturday, February 25, 2017

R.I.P. Rosling and Arrow

This month saw the passing of two giants. Not many people in history truly change minds. These two men did.

Kenneth Arrow: Among his many contributions, he proved that majority-voting will always lead to suboptimal results. There are many fine tributes linked here.

Hans Rosling: Among his many contributions, he showed time and again that what we believe about poverty and development is simply and tragically wrong. Tim Harford has a great More or Less podcast tribute. The NYT obit is good too.

May their ideas, influence, and spirits live on.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What I'm Listening To (Podcast Rundown)

Between my daily commute and my work travels, I get a lot of windshield time. That is all made a lot easier now that the world has podcasts. Here is my current subscription list in somewhat my listening preference order. Of course, length, topicality, and my personal mood make that order a moving target--so don't read too much into it.

Podcast Comments
EconTalk If you asked me for the most consistently rewarding podcast, this is where I would point you.
Freakonomics If you were brand new to podcasts, this is where I would have you start.
MRUniversity Bite-sized, very well crafted economics lessons. All are self recommending. Money Skills, Econ Duel, and Everyday Economics are perhaps my top recommendations for newcomers. Macro and Micro are excellent introductory courses. 
Cato Daily Podcast If you asked for the best briefing on political topics, this is the one I'd recommend.
Reason Video Podcast Reason has their stuff together. From humorous, short parodies and commentaries to long-form interviews, this videocast is well worth it. Trigger warning, they often cover topics that will leave you mystified if not down right enraged.
Conversations with Tyler He has a wonderful gift for getting deeply into a deep, impactful thinker's mind. 
The Alton Browncast Would we expect anything less than gold from the most entertaining chef in history? Terrifically it is generally not about food; although, it is often loaded with food. 
Free Thoughts If you wanted to seriously learn about libertarian thought, this would be the best podcast source. Even-toned, intelligent, and accessible.
The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe If you remember the best part of AM radio, you'll be instantly hooked on this one. If you can't, don't worry. You'll still be hooked.
The Libertarian Podcast A well-reasoned, deeply educated, libertarian take on the issues of the day. I find myself in strong agreement 95% of the time. I listen to podcasts now at 2x speed. This one is usually the most difficult in that regard even though I know the topic well. Epstein talks and thinks FAST!
So you can probably pick one of these next three (Ferriss, Altucher, Manliness) finding the one whose style best fits your taste and get most of the same content since the guests tend to overlap so much. However, I find each rewarding in its own right.
The Tim Ferriss Show I like how he has a life-hacking approach to, well, life and how he turns each guest into a teacher revealing the tools they have used for success.
The James Altucher Show His style lends itself to an approachable format. The constant interruptions are a feature in that they provoke a more meaningful conversation.
The Art of Manliness A pretty good way to check up on and improve upon your personal level of grit.
Macro Musings Macro is the most controversial part of economics. It is perhaps not surprisingly also one of the most difficult to understand. David Beckworth does a splendid job illuminating the sources of controversy and reducing the confusion of the subject.
Penn's Sunday School Entertaining first and foremost. I find his support for liberty and libertarianism a strong virtue despite my quibbles here and there with his delivery or details (in his defense he ALWAYS includes the disclaimer that he is "wrong, wrong, wrong!"). The atheism, which is arguably the point of the podcast, can be a good challenge to my own religious beliefs as well as a healthy way to learn from a convicted, intelligent advocate from the other side. 
99% Invisible Weekly they manage to make interesting the details about stuff all around us that we completely ignore.
Reply All This one almost never fails to bring me new information. I have found quite a few of these episodes very surprisingly interesting--even after my expectations were elevated. The only negative is when it makes me feel old. I am basically always in the "No" category of "Yes, Yes, No".
Myths and Legends Recommended by a Fribrarian. This one surprised me with how addictive it is. I swear I'm not this big of a nerd.
TEDTalks (hd) I would guess I make it all the way through about one third of these with one third skipped altogether just based on the topic and description. The ones I do select make the subscription well worth it.
Revisionist History Counter-conventional wisdom from a wise counter conventional. 
50 Things That Made the Modern Economy Tim Harford--so say no more. Dense vignettes about . . .  well, read the title.
Cato Event Podcast Heavy on the wonk factor, but I like to go deep. 
More or Less: Behind the Stats Tim Harford, again. While the circumstances of specific cases in their numbers analyses are compelling, it is the ubiquitous principals at work where the real learning lies.
MinuteEarth Almost always pretty interesting (and if not, it is only 1-3 minutes long), these, like their now podcast dormant forefather MinutePhysics (you can still get it on YouTube (hey, I need to do a post about what I'm watching on YouTube)), are how primary school science should be taught.
Economic Rockstar This one gives me exposure to economists I wouldn't normally be exposed to (getting me outside my bubble).
Surprisingly Awesome They take the mundane and show how it is actually not so bad and sometimes even quite amazing.
StartUp Podcast Like the Serial podcast, there was significant drop off between season 1 and season 2, but I still found season 2 rewarding. Season 3 was a step up, and it has gotten better in season 4.
Tell Me Something I Don't Know Since this one is directly about a common theme in most of my podcasts, it seems obvious that I would follow it. However, it is new. And while results so far have been rewarding, time will tell if it has staying power.
Science Vs Overall, a good concept and good execution. The limits it runs into are symptomatic of the very premise--you can't let "what does the science say" run your life. It is not so simple. Science doesn't allow for normative claims.
The Moment with Brian Koppelman These interviews are an interesting twist on the traditional 'talk to a famous or important person'. He is good at evoking the interviewees' source of their personal success.
StarTalk Radio Another Fribrarian recommendation. Two things about this one make it a draw for me: 1) they cover an area of interest for which I am a only superficially well informed, and 2) they think about problems differently than do I which serves to expand my thought processes. The negative is when they venture into areas they do not know well; namely economics. They can be astonishingly poor at economic reasoning.
Heavyweight This one has been hit and miss. The storytelling is compelling, but the content isn't always so. 
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History From a friend's recommendation. Haven't started it yet, but it looks promising. Episodes are looooonnnnggg.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Highly Linkable - Philosophy Edition

Rounding out our series of link posts to get us caught up we have this. Enjoy!

Begin with Bryan Caplan making a claim against animal rights. The brilliant Mike Huemer then replied. Caplan counters. Then Huemer. Then Caplan. Then . . . you get the picture. By the time I got to this one, I was surprisingly receptive to Huemer's position. But I think Caplan edges the stronger case. I learned something. Perhaps you will too.

And now two from Scott Sumner (Who incidentally was the keynote speaker at CFA Society Oklahoma's annual dinner held last week. He did a fine job as is no surprise.)

In the first you may be surprised at what "primitive culture" he is aiming his argument.

In the second we see how the possibility of surprising information makes all knowledge subjective where a probability spectrum rather than two realms (certainty and uncertainty) delineates what we know.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

...writing post title...quit check of email and facebook...back to post - 2016 Resolution Fulfillment

For the longest time I have held myself out as a master multitasker. Part of this was probably because being able to do more than one thing well at one time simply has to be superior to being only a unitasker. I share Alton Brown's loathing of unitaskers in the kitchen. [bonus points if you know the one unitasker he allows in the kitchen]

But I have had a volte–face: I now believe that multitasking is a bug rather than a feature. (I still share Alton's view regarding kitchen gear.)

My wandering mind is not the juggling Jedi I hold it out to be. Rather it is a bungling, distracted toddler that needs to concentrate for best results. As with all things of this nature it is a matter of degree along a spectrum rather than an absolute dichotomy. And to that end I have moved decisively from the position that multitasking is desirable (i.e., good performance at multiple tasks done in concert is possible) to the position that unitasking is desirable.

How well something can be done is directly proportional to how singularly it can be focused upon. Adding complexity is not an efficient way to use up slack resources (spare brain power, excess stress aptitude, extra time, etc.). It is simply a way to make the success in the original task less likely.

And of course there are TED Talks on the subject. The Instant Gratification Monkey will make you laugh as it indirectly touches on my position. This one really gets to the multitasking points about the 6 minute mark--so feel free to shop on Amazon while it plays in the background until that point.

Highly Linkable - Science! Edition

This is a special episode of highly linkable. Following my hiatus, a backlog of links has developed. I am breaking them down into a few groups to keep it organized. As always, extra credit if you follow and complete all links in a particular post. This one is focusing on Science--both the science version as well as the Science! version. Hence, there is a mixture of politics, public policy, and economics in all of these. Enjoy!

Starting with the small stuff, Juan Enriquez suggests Wise Reprogramming of Life and asks What Will Humans Look Like in 100 Years.

Now that the simple ones are out of the way, let's get just a bit controversial by diving into Climate Change first with Megan McArdle telling Global-Warming Alarmists, You're Doing It Wrong and second with Hooper & Henderson pointing out a A Fatal Flaw with Climate Models.

We've discussed in the past the predicted continued rise in crop yields. Read this to see how robots will help aid the process. (Beware: economic ignorance alert at the end. Next time someone says "there are no stupid questions", direct them to the one that concludes this article).

This EconTalk interview, "But What If We're Wrong", with Chuck Klosterman is quite rewarding. Of course I would like it. I have a perpetual New Year's Resolution on just that concept.

Matt Ridley supplies a great addition to the growing wisdom that dieting is not about reducing fat. Notice the echos to Chuck Klosterman in the article.

Sticking with weight-loss for a moment, check out this piece from Vox on "The science is in: Exercise isn’t the best way to lose weight".

But maybe Vox is wrong. Scott Alexander challenges them on another topic, EpiPens.

I could have inserted these two short posts from Arnold Kling anywhere here. The first is his thoughts on Earth Day. The second is a quick econ lesson on organic farming.

And that all brings us to discuss science versus anti-science including just how false that comparison really is. First Reason asks if Republicans or Democrats are more anti-science. Second John Tierney discusses The Real War on Science.