Monday, April 8, 2019

April 8th Links

  • If, on a certain evening about sixty-­six million years ago, you had stood somewhere in North America and looked up at the sky, you would have soon made out what appeared to be a star. If you watched for an hour or two, the star would have seemed to grow in brightness, although it barely moved. That's because it was not a star but an asteroid, and it was headed directly for Earth at about forty-five thousand miles an hour. Sixty hours later, the asteroid hit. The air in front was compressed and violently heated, and it blasted a hole through the atmosphere, generating a supersonic shock wave. The asteroid struck a shallow sea where the Yucatán peninsula is today. In that moment, the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began. [New Yorker]
  • The genome sequencing showed that there were four distinctive versions of the fungus, with differences so profound that they suggested that these strains had diverged thousands of years ago and emerged as resistant pathogens from harmless environmental strains in four different places at the same time. [NY Times]
  • While liberals go crazy about catastrophic global warming, which is fake science, the real catastrophe for mankind will be dysgenic fertility. (1) Global IQ is falling because people with higher IQs have fewer children. How long before our average intelligence becomes too low to maintain our technology, and everything falls apart? (2) Beta-male genes are being culled. I think this is an even bigger problem than declining IQ, because it's happening more quickly. When society moves from system of monogamous marriage to single motherhood, what happens is that a disproportionate number of children are fathered by alpha-males. Despite the worship of alphaness in some parts of the non-establishment right, civilization is built by beta males and not by alpha males. Beta males create value, alpha males are value transferors. [LotB]
  • Excerpts from a Harvard study on financial reporting for the Internet era. They interviewed several CFOs of leading technology companies and senior analysts of investment banks who follow tech stocks. "The CEOs principal aim is not necessarily to judiciously allocate financial capital but to allocate precious scientific and human resources to the most promising projects and pull back and redeploy those resources in a timely manner when the prospects of specific projects dim. An idea with uncertain prospects but with at least some conceivable chance of reaching a billion dollars in revenue is considered far more valuable than a project with net present value of few hundred million dollars but no chance of massive upside. CFOs admit that they cannot justify their market cap based on traditional metrics. They conjecture that their market values might be a sum of best-case scenario payoffs. One CFO said that her valuation should be considered on a per idea basis instead of a per earnings multiple." [jsmian]
  • I am looking for ways to hack this: the discipline and social validation of having a schedule, without actually having to work at nine. I have been considering getting an office just to have mental separation between work and non work. (They give them away in this town if you work in tech. I could pay the rent with the savings in my iced cocoa budget.) [Kalzumeus]
  • This is the first of three major tactics for improving productivity: outsource anything that your personal presence does not add value to. Equivalently, outsource anything where the replacement price is less than your desired pseudo-wage. [Kalzumeus]
  • Today in new ways to tricking a Tesla into trying to kill you: someone finally got around to applying the 'perturbation' concept to the machine learning in Tesla's 'Autopilot' assisted cruise control. Background: since machine learning does not necessarily use the same cues that humans use to spot things in data (in images/ voice etc), sometimes you can add something to the data that people either do not notice or cannot see at all (noise, seemingly irrelevant details), but that a ML system (especially a simple one) sees as very significant - this is 'perturbation'. As proof of concept, people have added imperceptible background noise to a picture of a dog, that results in an ML system now thinking it's a tree or a car. So, now someone worked out how to make a series of very small stickers you can put on a road, that people can barely see but that Autopilot will interpret as a change in lane - and cause it to swerve into oncoming traffic. Paging William Gibson. [Benedict Evans]
  • In general, gamblers (like the retail investors who buy worthless stocks), prefer bets that offer the greatest maximum return even though they have very poor (negative) expected returns. "[T]he rich are stupid because they contain a disproportionate number of lucky morons who did not realize they were taking as much risk as there were," see "Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets". Philosophically, "the idea that financial courage [to take risk] produces a strictly increasing and linear expected payoff to risk bearing is contrary to the payoffs to every virtue, which all require moderation and trade-offs with competing virtues" He points out that "a theory that implies a ubiquitous linear payoff to an action like exposure to volatility, regardless of context or quantity, would be unprecedented" [CBS]
  • "Lexington has some interesting characteristics"? I had to LOL at that. I mean, what kind of return are you expecting from real estate in Lexington that would justify paying a corporate board, CEO, CFO, auditors, exchange fees, etc etc? Micro cap companies are for high risk, high return investments. Biotech, gold mines, roll ups. Not for rentals in Lexington. That the CEO doesn't understand that suggests to me that the whole thing should be sold and cash returned ASAP or else insiders will continue to drain even more money. By that argument, every city on a coastline has "limited supply" because it can't grow into the ocean. And what medium sized city doesn't have a hospital or university? It's hilarious that management is STILL trying to sell investors on the glorious investment potential of crapshacks in Lexington, Kentucky. I'm sorry for ranting about this, I just find the whole thing so ridiculous. [CoBF]
  • I spend quite a lot of time in Paris at the moment and usually I go by public transport, but sometimes I drive. The result is that when I see a parking space in the city, wherever it is, I think it a terrible pity I have not my car with me to take advantage of it. I regret it as a terrible missed opportunity; and this is so even if it is a street far from where I am actually staying. 'Suppose,' I think to myself, 'I were driving in this area and trying to park. Never in a hundred years would I find a space, and there is one going begging.' The thought depresses me, as if I had failed to make the most of my opportunities in life; I suppose my philosophy has become 'Gather ye parking spaces while ye may.' So I am not really a fan of cars, I prefer public transport. I find it more relaxing as it relieves me from parking anxiety (not yet a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, but surely destined one day to become one), besides which the human comedy on buses and trains is much to be preferred to the fruitless and frequently infuriated solipsism of driving. On a train, one can even sometimes read. [Dalrymple]
  • "The scientists, economists, and environmentalists that are saying this stuff, they don't realize what a wealthy area this is." She said that she lived here and wasn't leaving, and that the people selling Miami were confident, and all working on the same goal as a community to maintain this place, with the pumps and the zoning and raising the streets. There were just too many millionaires and billionaires here for a disaster on a great scale to be allowed to take place. [Popula]
  • Tesla pointed out Wednesday evening that, despite the inevitable hit to profits, "we ended the quarter with sufficient cash on hand." That's one of those phrases meant to reassure but somehow by their very utterance don't quite hit the mark, like: "So-and-so has the total support of the president." [Bloomberg]
  • Our delivery was scheduled for 3/31 but as the car was being prepped for delivery it was discovered that the VIN plate on the dash did not match the VIN of the door sill. After a week of waiting, the guidance is that they do not know how long it would take to fix because they've never encountered this before, and are suggesting we take a new VIN assignment. I'm just wondering how this works though? All of our paperwork was sent two weeks ago tomorrow. The loan is finalized. The checks are cashed. I left a message with my loan officer but I'm very curious as to how others have dealt with this while I wait. I'm hoping it's not as big an issue as I'm thinking it will be. [TMC]
  • The existence of hemochromatosis, a genetic condition increasing iron absorption, has fascinating implications for our thinking about evolutionary diet and psychology. It originated only ~65 generations ago and was highly selected for, undoubtedly because it reduced anemia risk in women with an iron-poor agricultural diet. Today it's very disadvantageous for men and can eventually have severe negative effects on health as excess iron accumulates. What strikes me as very important here is that hemochromatosis is a clear-cut case of de-adaptation: it makes us less fit in the red-meat rich paleo environment, though more fit in the early agricultural environment. We should assume that there are many weaker, unidentified genes that do the same--both physical and psychological. This is an important limitation to understanding contemporary humans through the paleo lens. Evolutionarily, we've taken half of a step away from that period. [Twitter]
  • War before Civilization is a great little book written in 1990's about prehistoric warfare, although there is no attempt to tie it to Darwin or Malthus or any evolutionary explanation. There is a lot of empirical data, and it is framed as a debate between Hobbes and Rosseau, the author is an archaeologist. [West Hunter]
  • About eight or nine years ago my best friend's oldest son asked me if I had ever been to an Italian restaurant in Manhattan called Pó. I was astounded. Taylor is a smart kid, but he was barely in junior high school, in the Mississippi Delta no less, a place where Italian red sauce is invariably referred to as "spaghetti gravy." He had never been to New York, no one in his family could be called a "foodie" — how on earth had he heard of a tiny West Village restaurant whose specialties included grappa-cured salmon and linguini with clams and pancetta? [NY Times]

No comments: