Links For April


[Remember, I haven’t independently verified each link. On average, commenters will end up spotting evidence that around two or three of the links in each links post are wrong or misleading. I correct these as I see them, and will highlight important corrections later, but I can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]

1: A link between childhood “screen time” and attention problems has - say it with me - failed to replicate. The paper is especially interesting for using a “multiverse analysis”:

We evaluated 848 models, including logistic regression as per the original paper, plus linear regression and twoforms of propensity score analysis. Only 166 models (19.6%) yielded a statistically significant relationship between early TV exposure and later attention problems, with most of these employing problematic analytic choices.

If I had the energy to look through 848 models and see which ones got significant findings and which ones didn’t, I bet I would become enlightened by the end of it.

2: Seen on architecture Twitter:

3: I’ve complained before about how everyone uses the same example - Brasilia - when they talk about how central planning can go bad. As a public service, I offer these people this article about a similar problem in South Korea’s planned city of Songdo.

4: Fantastic Anachronism on machine-intelligence-based vs. human-intelligence-based paths to the future. I think it’s true and important but I kind of despair about being able to do anything about it.

5: Speaking the incantation “lang:en” in a Twitter search bar will free you from the ego-self and give you direct access to cosmic consciousness - or at least free you from your timeline and give you direct access to every tweet being made at a given moment. Turns out the Internet is kind of terrible!

6: Claim: Baltimore suspended prosecutions of minor crimes to prevent people from being in jail during the pandemic, and major crimes dropped (even though they rose in many other cities over the same period). Now they’re experimenting with ignoring minor crimes indefinitely. See also the recent Agan, Doleac, and Harvey paper (or, even better, the Marginal Revolution post on it) exploiting random variation in misdemeanour prosecution to show that people prosecuted for misdemeanours are more likely to commit further criminal behavior in the future, as well as showing an effect in Boston similar to the one in Baltimore. Seems kind of like the opposite of (a certain interpretation of) broken window policing, so ought to be interesting to watch this debate develop.

7: Very large long-term study: working memory training definitely does not increase IQ. Sorry, people who spent years playing dual-n-back games.

8: A Canadian techie writes about why the Canadian tech scene doesn’t work. Read it even if (like me and most people) you don’t care about the Canadian tech scene - it gives unusual clarity about what a business ecosystem is and why one area’s might be better or worse than another. Weirdly reminiscent of development economics.

9: Seen on Tumblr, I cannot confirm or deny:

10: Noahpinion presents the case against global poverty decrease denialism. Also good on Noahpinion: China is very 20th century. China is at the techno-economic level that the West was in the mid-20th-century so maybe we should be less surprised that it’s growing at the rate the West did in the mid-20th-century, or has the same struggles with authoritarianism and genocide the West faced in the mid-20th-century.

11: Map of Reddit, one of the better such efforts. You can find r/slatestarcodex on the northern continent, in the land of Beliefs, about midway between r/DSA and r/SamHarris . Also, apparently if you divide Reddit into ~ a hundred natural clusters, one of them (middle of the east coast of the southern continent) will be “Texan porn”.

12: MMAcevedo, a Wikipedia article from the future. “Dystopian fiction” kind of an understatement. I agree with commenter Jerf:

I have thought that the most rational response to the development of brain scanning technology capable of doing this might be to cremate yourself. Immediately. Even if you are still alive.


14: I’ve written before about metabolic-set-point models of anorexia, and especially how a short period of deliberate starvation (for example, to lose weight) can lead to a longer period of involuntary low appetite. relative-energy on Tumblr writes about lab animal models of this process and how to cause anorexia in mice.

15: Lyman Stone: do biological changes (like declining testosterone) play a role in decreasing developed world fertility? Answer: probably not. Although testosterone levels declined in the mid-20th century, they stabilized a few decades ago, and the steepest dropoffs in fertility have been more recent.

16: Before Europeans applied the word “panther” to the big cat found in Asia / the Americas, it was a mythical animal akin to the chimera or pegasus (its name comes from pan+therion, “all animals”, and it was probably originally one of those “head of an X, body of a Y, tail of a Z” deals). Read more here, but mentioning this at all is an excuse to show you this picture of a mythical panther from the heraldry of Henry VI:

17: Best of recent Less Wrong: Is Reinforcement Learning Involved In Sensory Processing?, Politics Is Way Too Meta, A Whirlwind Tour Of Ethereum Finance, and reasons why the GPT-3 paper is disappointing.

18: Glenn Greenwald - Journalists Attack The Powerless, Then Self-Victimize To Bar Criticism Of Themselves. Probably the best of the most recent million or so anti-journalist essays, but most relevant to me was the discussion of the recent trend of journalists “exposing” private citizens:

CNN confronted an old woman on the front lawn of her Florida home for the crime of having used her little Facebook page to promote a pro-Trump event they claimed was engineered by Russians. The same network threatened to expose the identity of another private citizen who created an anti-CNN meme unless he begged and promised not to do it again. HuffPost doxed the real-life name of an anonymous critic of Islam (whose spouted views I find repellent) and triggered a boycott of her family’s business.

Just last week, The Daily Beast decided to expose the identity of a private citizen at Spring Break in Miami and detail his marital and legal problems because a video of him went viral due to his being dressed as the Joker and uttering “COVID truther” phrases. The same outlet congratulated itself for unearthing and exposing the real name of an African-American Facebook user whose crime was posting videos mocking Nancy Pelosi.

Related: Katja Grace’s piece on Oliver Sipple, the “milkshake duck” of the 1970s. Sipple was a quick-thinking veteran who fought and disarmed an assassin trying to kill President Gerald Ford. He briefly became a national hero, until Harvey Milk tipped off the media that he was part of SF’s gay community (Milk was hoping to prove that gay people could be heroes too, but Sipple didn’t want to be outed and Milk comes off really badly here). Sipple begged the media not to publish, but the papers decided he was a public figure and so fair game. His family disowned him, his health declined, and he ended up drinking himself to death.

19: DeepNostalgia is a technology for “animating your family photos” (though critics note it just makes plausible guesses and doesn’t necessarily look like the real person). Here’s a test example with famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass:

20: Maybe you knew that some people produced a low-budget film version of HP Lovecraft’s “Herbert West, Re-Animator”. Maybe you even knew there were crappy sequels called things like Beyond Re-Animator and Bride Of Re-Animator. But did you know they almost made a sequel called House Of Re-Animator where Herbert West re-animated the US President?

21: RIP Tusko the Elephant, who was given 300 mg of LSD (yes, milligrams, so “nearly three thousand times the human recreational dose”) on the grounds that elephants were really big and so maybe if you wanted to give an elephant LSD for some reason that would be the right dose. It wasn’t and he died. If you’ve ever wanted to know how much LSD it would take to kill an elephant, the answer is: somewhere less than 300 mg.

22: Best of recent r/slatestarcodex: Prose Is Bad

23: Pew feature on political mutual understanding - just 2% of Biden/Trump voters feel like Trump/Biden voters understand their point of view “very well”. What would they say if they had the chance to explain themselves? Pew collects several dozen people’s (very short) answers. Seem to be divided 50/50 between “we wish you understood how we’re all on the same team trying to build a better world” and “we wish you understood how much you suck”. Semi-related: QAnon-ers try to explain who they are and what they want people to understand about them.

24: The marshmallow test has - say it with me - failed to replicate (study, article). Possibly related - how do cultures of patience and risk-taking affect international differences in student achievement?

25: The good news - a commonly used medication, when taken together with opioid painkillers, makes them much more effective - so that even a low dose might be able to block pain effectively. The bad news - that medication is amphetamine. It’s probably still worth it.

26: Every so often, an economist comes up with a really great idea: why not let people sell shares of their future earnings to fund eg college tuition or other self-improvement programs? Then boring spoilsports shoot them down just because it’s kind of slavery. HumanIPO isn’t exactly the thing, because it just sells hours of people’s time instead of a percent of their earnings, but it’s got the same energy. You’re allowed to resell the time, and famous people’s time can go for a lot of money, so I guess maybe it could be worth it?

27: David Stauffer does a simple analysis of which economies gained vs. lost from 20th-century decolonization. On average ~1% improvement in economic growth after independence, with wide variation.

28: The Flynn Effect On Working Memory - “Overall, the results support co-occurrence theories that predict simultaneous secular gains in specialized abilities and declines in g.”

29: Did you know - the five-clawed dragon symbolized the Emperor of China, the four-clawed dragon the nobility, and the three-clawed dragon commoners. “Improper use of claw number…was considered treason, punishable by execution of the offender's entire clan.”

30: From Ryan Burge - “Do you believe most people can be trusted?”, by party, over time:

31: How did rent control go in Berlin? (answer: badly).

32: The rise, fall, and rise of the status pineapple. Pneapples used to be so desirable that they were worth £10,000+ (inflation-adjusted), King Charles II commissioned a picture of him being given a pineapple, and people would hire pineapple security guards.

33: The Periodic Table Of Ethics (not actually very good)


Twitter avatar for @JustinSandefurJustin Sandefur @JustinSandefur
Two pretty damning RD graphs for AEA's 'chart of the week' from new Sheetal Sekhri paper:… Getting into an elite college in India... 1. Doesn't improve your college exit-exam scores. 2. But does massively increase your salary. ImageImage

35: America’s Famous Buildings Redesigned As Gothic Structures. Here’s the Air Force Chapel: