Thursday, September 12, 2019

September 12th Links

  • Financial markets are good teachers of this sort of thing. Having spent decades around markets, I learned that once I had a pretty good idea why a few things happened, that coincided neatly with my discovery that I had no idea why those things happened. This has been true across debt markets, equity markets, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and so on. (I have had a similar experience in healthcare, where my main discovery as I go ever-deeper is how little we know, how often what we think we know is wrong, how often medical reversals happen, and how often better tests lead to more incidentaloma-induced unnecessary treatments, not better solutions.) [Kedrosky]
  • All 34 cases in New York State admitted using cannabis products. The suspected substance, Vitamin E acetate, was found in cannabis products but not in the nicotine-based products they tested. []
  • Airline safety has always been one of the more accurate ways of determining a country's level of socioeconomic development, since it captures the diffusion of both technology and human capital/IQ within a country, and is unaffected by random commodity bubbles or SJW talking points. Much better than GNP, etc. [Sailer]
  • Is there a framework to think about what kind of duopolies will compete with each other and what will co-exist? Or is it just led by management behaviour? A lot of it comes down to the unit economics of the business. Boeing and Airbus need to absorb a lot of fixed costs. Building an aircraft factory, investing and designing a new aircraft, requires a lot of very high fixed costs, and so they need to absorb that. And so, each incremental plane sold is very important to both companies. So they need to take market share from each other. Whereas for Visa and Mastercard, their fixed cost for the payment networks, those costs were sunk decades ago. Their network is there. It exists. So there's no incentive to compete on price, because they don't have the same economics of cost absorption. [Pat Dorsey]
  • It is hard, at this late date, to be moved by Scientists' threadbare theological squabbles and internecine court battles, by the minutiae of their predicaments. The church deserves to die, and it is dying. It just can't happen soon enough. [The Guardian]
  • During the 382 days of the fast, the patient's weight decreased from 456 to 180 lb. Five years after undertaking the fast, Mr A.B.'s weight remains around 196 lb. [...] The amount of weight lost by Mr A.B. was 276 lb, with an average rate of loss of 0.72 lb/day, comparing favourably with the rates of weight loss in other long-term fasts (> 200 days) which have ranged from 0.41 lb/day (Thomson, Runcie & Miller, 1966) to 0.67 lb/day (Runcie & Thomson, 1970). [NLM]
  • No luck for anti-natalists... the super-strong drug-like effects of having children will presumably continue to motivate most humans to reproduce no matter how strong the ethical case against doing so may be. Coming soon: a drug that makes you feel like "you just had 10,000 children". [Qualia]
  • The More Dakka story is common in medicine. You do an intervention; the disease doesn't get better, or gets only marginally better; the research literature concludes it doesn't work; nobody tries doing MORE of that intervention, but when somebody just raises the dose high enough, it does work. [Qualia]
  • Habits can only be thought of rationally when looked at from a perspective of years or decades. The benefit of a habit isn't the magnitude of each individual action you take, but the cumulative impact it will have on your life in the long term. It's through that lens that you must evaluate which habits to pick up, which to drop, and which are worth fighting for when the going gets tough. [Less Wrong]
  • Modern art is unique in that no other asset class allows something nearly worthless to arbitrarily become worth millions in a thinly traded market. A lot of the social pressure to accept this stuff as art is about keeping the scam going. [CBS]
  • I think that our single best psychopharmacological bet for tackling depression, anxiety, and above all chronic pain worldwide in the next decade is to: 1) Identify great, non-toxic, partial mu-opioid agonists with extremely high therapeutic index (e.g. tianepetine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, etc.), and 2) Prescribe them in conjunction with anti-tolerance drugs (such as proglumide, agmatine, black seed oil, small dose ibogaine, etc.). I think that whomever manages to patent a mixture of partial opioid agonist + anti-tolerance drug that works in the long term will be a multi-billionaire within a couple of years while actually reducing/preventing massive amounts of untold suffering. [Qualia]
  • Leftists often talk about "food deserts" in Western cities, where the poor supposedly lack options to buy affordable and nutritious food. If they want to see a real food desert, they should come to Havana. I went to a grocery store across the street from the exclusive MeliĆ” Cohiba Hotel, where the lucky few with access to hard currency shop to supplement their meager state rations. The store was in what passes for a mall in Havana—a cluttered concrete box, shabby compared even with malls I've visited in Iraq. It carried rice, beans, frozen chicken, milk, bottled water, booze, a small bit of cheese, minuscule amounts of rancid-looking meat, some low-end cookies and chips from Brazil—and that's it. No produce, cereal, no cans of soup, no pasta. A 7–11 has a far better selection, and this is a place for Cuba's "rich" to shop. I heard, but cannot confirm, that potatoes would not be available anywhere in Cuba for another four months. [City Journal]
  • The Chinaman is a being of another kind, who is endowed with a remarkable aptitude for a high material civilization. He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race, though it has stunted the developed the of each member of it, by the rigid enforcement of an effete system of classical education which treats originality as a social crime. All the bad parts of his character, as his lying and servility, spring from timidity due to an education that has cowed him, and no treatment is better calculated to remedy that evil than location in a free settlement. The natural capacity of the Chinaman shows itself by the success with which, notwithstanding his timidity, he competes with strangers, wherever he may reside. The Chinese emigrants possess an extraordinary instinct for political and social organization; they contrive to establish for themselves a police and internal government, and they give no trouble to their rulers so long as they are left to manage those matters by themselves. They are good-tempered, frugal, industrious, saving, commercially inclined, and extraordinarily prolific. They thrive in all countries, the natives of the Southern provinces being perfectly able to labor and multiply in the hottest climates. Of all known varieties or mankind there is none so appropriate as the Chinaman to become the future occupant of the enormous regions which lie between the tropics, whose extent is far more vast than it appears, from the cramped manner in which those latitudes are pictured in the ordinary maps of the world. [Galton]

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