Nicely phrased insight

From Razib Khan

In contrast, struggling writers in New York City have less of a visceral feel for the reality that their existence as someone who graduated from a selective university and has some family resources to “jump-start” their career by doing things like put down a deposit on an apartment in an expensive area is not typical (writers from deprived backgrounds may not talk about it, especially with their colleagues who talk about their parents’ summer homes). Very atypical in fact. Intuition derives somewhat from experience. Without the experience the intuition is just off.

I guess the natural instinct is think of intuition as some sort of sense that is consistent across people – it’s interesting to think that intuition is inherently personal (and thus varied).

Long intricate arguments about economics are excellent preparation for the technical life

After the last SSC Meetup Nathan and I spent several hours debating the velocity of money and economic growth. Lots of theory and discussion.

Today I was debuggy this weird database process without source code or much visibility into what was actually happening, and very limited feedback.

They felt very similar, my initial thought was that all of time debating politics in my teens and twenties wasn’t wasted.

The 11th SSC Atlanta Meetup – the longest talk

We had the 11th SSC Atlanta meetup – and I think it was fair to say that it was one of our best. This will probably be a series of blog posts. Notable facts

  1. This was our longest ever meetup – clocking in at slightly over four hours
  2. We had two new people, both in the math field, which is quite weird and cool (not software! Diversity!)
  3. We had the most actual disagreement of any meetup so far (also yay!) – it was all quite civil – a surprising amount of it against Nathan – who was quite up to the task.
  4. No discussion of generational differences (rate for us)
  5. No discussion of guns at all (quite rare for us)
  6. Almost all topics were speculation on the future
  7. We beat the topic of UBI into the ground – it is a good proxy for views on human nature IMHO


  1. UBI – some talk of Andrew Yang, but mostly UBI
  2. Percentages of intolerance
  3. Global Warming/Climate Change
  4. Technological unemployment (not enough!)
  5. Transmitting DC power (more interesting than it might sound)
  6. Klamath county Oregon
  7. Occasionalism
  8. The velocity of money – and deeper meanings it might have

More posts to come out of this meeting – it was quite stimulating. And the only time I’ve written a blog post on the same day as the meetup.

Andrew Yang – and Yangvective

From an email exchange with a friend – here is how I categorized him

Yang reads as a hacker news comments section come to life – Well written, well intentioned writing by someone who is an expert in some other field…

He’s pleasantly free of identity politics, but seems to have no problems making decisions for other people in great detail. He is living proof of Bryan Caplan’s definition of a progressive of someone who has a hatred of anything that isn’t planned. He does not draw the anger of conservatives to any degree.

Random thoughts on scientism and economics

I enjoy the Econtalk podcast, and one of the concepts I’ve taken away from it is the notion of scientism – defined as the notion that whatever science is available about a topic explains the topic.

Some things are inherently difficult to study, like economics or medicine (complex systems) compared to traditional scientific topics like chemistry or metallurgy. It is harder to design studies to measure the impact of a minimum wage increase than it is to measure the impact of 55% humidity increase on exposed copper.

Seemingly our understanding increases in it’s certainty with the more complex the system.

At what point are you safer using a priori logic to make decisions than evidence? How many studies do you need to model complex behavior?

Two from Williamson

From this article

Partly that is a matter of pure economics, but partly it is also a result of the fact that policy decisions are dominated by the people who are most comfortable with a more entrepreneurial and less predictable model of work. That is a big part of what has populists of the Left and Right riled up at the moment, even though many of them cannot quite articulate their complaint. The critics have a point, but what they do not have is an alternative

The great songwriter Steve Earle, who involves himself in a lot of silly left-wing political activism, says that he is a “romantic,” that he is interested in “the way the world should be, not the way the world is.” That is a lovely and poetical sentiment, and, like most poetical sentiments, it offers a good reminder of why it is better that we are not governed by poets.

The ninth Atlanta SSC Meetup – If by Whiskey You Get One Miracle

On Saturday, June 22nd we had the ninth SSC Atlanta meetup. Six people attended (up a bit) and the topics included

  1. The Nile river and the development of the calendar (revising my opinion of the ancient Egyptians a bit upward)
  2. Social Media – it’s purposes and anti-purposes. I’m currently thinking that the main purpose of Facebook is to keep people off reddit so it can still be interesting – that was my conclusion, not the groups
  3. Open Source hiveminds
  4. Neural networks
  5. Failing faster

The quotes of the meeting were “Give me one miracle and I’ll explain the rest” and the “If By Whiskey” speech (as an example of speechcraft) – which is below in it’s entirety

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.