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):
Conversations with Tyler
Reason Podcast
The Fifth Column - Analysis, Commentary, Sedition
Free Thoughts
The Fribrary Podcast
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
Against the Rules with Michael Lewis
Akimbo: A Podcast from Seth Godin
Animal Spirits Podcast
Building Tomorrow
Cato Daily Podcast
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
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


Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Beary Best

Partial list of the best bears:

My strange mind had thought of this some time ago, but it was Bearmageddon's appearance on The Remnant Podcast with Jonah Goldberg that inspired me to post it.

Not All That Glitters . . .

Related image

What does it take to be rich? 

Consider this thought experiment:

Imagine an island where the trade winds and the sea currents effectively prevent any ships from reaching it. On this island is a tiny mountain of gold about 10-feet high and 10-feet wide at its base. The value of this gold at today’s price of $1,500/troy ounce is about $6.89 billion.  But it is the 1800s, and this island is completely uninhabited and never discovered. Is this island rich?

Now suppose a big storm causes a ship to go off course and wreck into the island. There are 30 survivors of the shipwreck cast away on the island. The island has a minimal amount of resources to sustain these shipwrecked survivors. They live for a few years and then sadly perish having not been found. Before their deaths, are the shipwreck survivors rich?

Now suppose that modern air travel has revealed this island's existence. The shipwreck is discovered decades after its occurrence, and no one since the wreck has come upon the island. Although all of the survivors have a long died, the direct descendants of the survivors (some of them had children before having left on the final voyage) are tracked down and happen to be a limited number of people--about 1,000. It is determined that the shipwreck survivors were the first to stake claim on the island and are thus the rightful owners. By inheritance the 1,000 descendants are equal owners of the island and all its possessions. Are these descendants now rich?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

We're Doomed, I say. DOOOOOMED!

Is humanity doomed? We certainly don’t lack apocalyptic scenarios: nuclear war, a robot uprising, out-of-control climate change. Unlikely, far-fetched? Not according to scientists and mathematicians who, in recent decades, have found a surprising new source for anxiety about the long-term survival of the human race: probability theory. The so-called “doomsday argument” holds that there is a 50% chance that the end of human life will come within 760 years.
That is the opening paragraph from an essay by William Poundstone in the Wall Street Journal. He also was a recent guest on Michael Shermer's Science Salon podcast discussing the wide implications for this elegant theory.

Also from the essay:
Since it is equally likely that those of us living today are in the first or second half of all past and future human births, let’s say that we are in the second half—which would mean that there are no more than 100 billion births yet to come. There is a 50% chance that is true, which at the current global birthrate (about 131 million a year) translates to a 50% chance that we have at most 760 more years of births. A changing birthrate would modify that estimate, but the calculation is that simple.
A friend forwarded the original link to me and we had a bit of discussion on it basically agreeing that the math and process is compelling, but that it seems to be missing something to make it as much as it seems to be. Specifically, I find it very interesting, but it seems to me like a confusion between or muddling of two different concepts.

One (German tanks) is like a kid turning to a football game on TV randomly and guessing about how much longer in real time (not game time) the game will last. The other (humanity) is like being a kid on vacation who wakes up in a car wanting to know "are we halfway there yet." The second case is much harder to answer if we include a key condition that the destination distance is not known by the kid. Even if he knows he is 100 miles from his house in OKC, he doesn’t know if the destination is Branson or New York City or elsewhere. It is much easier to ascertain where he might be in the football game as opposed to the vacation. A score of 14-7 and a flash of the scoreboard showing "3rd Quarter" is much more revealing than a road sign that has a highway number inside a Missouri silhouette. While he can apply the analysis in both cases, his prediction revisions will be orders of magnitude different as time passes for the vacation as compared to the football game.

Another problem I have is that the time frame is inversely proportionate to the future population growth rate. If we slow birthrates down to just above replenishment (about 2.1 births/woman), then we extend the time between now and the next 100 billion people. Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich might agree, but Jean-Baptiste Say and Julian Simon (and I myself) would not.  So my complaint boils down to: that when applied to something like humanity and it’s future, this doomsday calculation is not telling us as much as it is purporting to.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Top 100 Movies - Required Viewing

This is my partially complete list of "classic", right-of-passage movies everyone should see. I had my kids in mind when crafting this list. I drew from a much larger list of movies I want them to experience wanting to cull it down to an elite must-see list. 

It is partially complete because while it is a top 100, I am open to changing what makes the list. But I do feel that 100 is a sufficient number such that to be added to the list a new entrant would need to bump a movie from the list. 

Do not confuse this with a “greatest 100 movies” as this is not a measure of cinematic excellence or advancement of the medium. It is closer to a kind of most culturally important list, which overlaps largely but not entirely with a most popular list. Case in point: no one would list Caddyshack as a movie that set a bar artistically. However, it’s influence on and depiction of the subculture of golf has been phenomenal. I would bet that virtually everyone who has played a round since the movie came out roughly 40 years ago has during a golf outing made or heard a reference (if not many) to that movie. 

Additionally, there are other criteria or factors that to some degree contribute to a movie’s inclusion on the list including: I enjoy the movie/it has some nostalgia value for me, it is a movie that speaks to an important truth/it teaches something about the time it is set in or its genre or its underlying story, and it has cultural importance. Being culturally important and being on the list means that you can’t just read a synopsis of the movie to fully understand the cultural importance. You have to see it to get it.

The list in alphabetical order (sorry about "The" titles):

2001: A Space Odyssey
A Christmas Story
A Few Good Men
A League of Their Own
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Apocalypse Now
Apollo 13
Back To The Future
Christmas Vacation
City Slickers
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Cool Hand Luke
Dead Poets Society
Die Hard
Dirty Dancing
Duck Soup
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
Forrest Gump
Good Will Hunting
Groundhog Day
Happy Gilmore
Home Alone
It's A Wonderful Life
Jurassic Park
Karate Kid
Lethal Weapon
Life Is Beautiful
Match Point
Men in Black
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Mr. Mom
Mrs. Doubtfire
Napoleon Dynamite
North By Northwest
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Office Space
Old Yeller
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Psycho (1960)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Rain Man
Raising Arizona
Remember the Titans
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Spies Like Us
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
The Bad News Bears
The Big Lebowski
The Blues Brothers
The Breakfast Club
The Dark Knight
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
The Godfather I
The Godfather II
The Goonies
The Jerk
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Matrix
The Princess Bride
The Royal Tenebaums
The Sandlot
The Shawshank Redemption
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs
The Sixth Sense
The Terminator
This Is Spinal Tap
Three Amigos!
Top Gun
Trading Places
War Games
Weird Science
When Harry Met Sally
Young Frankenstein
You've Got Mail

On Stowaways and Hostages

Consider the following hypothetical situations and associated questions. Some time in the 1800s . . .
  • A captain of a ship discovers a young boy (perhaps 9 years old) has stowed away on the ship once it is far out to sea. He will consume resources and be a distraction. Should dangerous events unfold such as bad weather, he will be an added liability. What duty of care does the captain have to the child? Can he force him to work on the ship—to what degree? Must he make him comfortable—to what degree? Can he put him in a lifeboat with small rations and send him adrift where he will likely suffer and quite possibly die before rescue? Can he ethically toss him overboard where he will certainly perish? What duty does the captain owe the boy?
  • Same thought experiment but now assume the boy was accidentally trapped on the ship while in port through no fault of anyone in particular. It was simply and definitively an innocent mistake. Consider the same questions. 
  • Same thought experiment but now assume the boy was accidentally trapped on the ship at port through the direct and certain fault of the captain. The captain was negligent by any reasonable measure. Consider the same questions. 
  • Same thought experiment but now assume the boy was deliberately kidnapped by the captain and brought aboard for the purpose of working for the captain. Once the captain tires of the boy or has no further use of him, consider the same questions as before. 
  • Same thought experiment but now assume the boy is the captain’s child, was deliberately and willingly brought aboard, and the child’s mother is deceased. Consider the same questions as before.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Rational Fan: Managing Hopes and Constantly Adjusting Expectations

(I love the mirror image below the bars hinting at the symmetrical negative to any observable outcome.)
Consider the analogy of graphic equalizer meters on a old 70s-80s-era stereo--the ones that would show the recent high-point marks. I think this is a good symbol of the high-water-mark thinking that commonly clouds the judgment of sports fans. Specifically, an irrational (typical?) fan mistakes the best performance for the expected performance. The rational fan thinks in realistic terms where future expectations are influenced by past achievements but not set by them and mean reversion is always expected (eventually).

This would include updating for new information (e.g., a recent trend of wins or losses) when projecting the long-term expectation of winning. (i.e., Is recent performance simply an aberration and regression to the historic mean should be expected? Alternatively, has a new plateau been reached and future expectations must be appropriately adjusted?)

Consider also the emotional impact of a team's performance on a fan. The rational fan must contend with and accept the great irony that the more one's team wins, the more the wins tend to run together and the losses stand out, and vice versa. This is simply the law of diminishing marginal utility (not to be confused with the law of diminishing returns).

Irrational fan foresight is almost always myopic as they only see one side of what could be and probably do so in a vacuum. When an irrational fan imagines a play executed, he imagines an outcome determined by his conviction of the play’s potential success or failure. His judgment is probably additionally clouded by the play's potential excitement. If he would like to see a particular play call, he envisions a successful, if not the perfectly successful, outcome. If he disagrees with a play, he conceives of only its failure. A coach doesn’t get that luxury. Coaches should rationally weight the probability of success and the degree of success with the probability of failure and the degree of failure—what could be and how likely it is. Fans are allowed to dream, coaches are required to calculate. For coaches, magnitude matters.

So on any given play fans are liable to be deeply unsatisfied while coaches see the outcome as satisfactory toward a larger goal. But as should be expected, this is subject to error and unintended consequences. The error can be that coaches have bad incentives leading them to take less risk than they should (another example). The error can also be that fans expect too much. Back to the equalizer analogy, setting expectations on the abnormal high point causes fans to demand an unreasonable level of success. Fans can also be subject to what I would term conventional-wisdom bias--the primary source driving coaches to be overly conservative.

Also, when is a fan a true fan? Consider a convert. As opposed to religion, there is no long process filled with sacrifice and commitment culminating in a grand ceremony to becoming a team's fan. But perhaps there is such a process for becoming a "true" fan. Hence, the concept of bandwagon fans as illegitimate. It is only those who have been there through the tough times who can claim righteousness. For my teams I certainly feel this way.

Perhaps another way to look at it is that to be a true fan you have to feel physical pain when your team loses. Alternatively, you're not a team's true fan until the opponent's pain is your pleasure.

One more nostalgic image: