Stuff I found interesting in September
1) The Scandinavian Prison Project:
The Scandinavian Prison Project seeks to empirically assess what happens when certain practices and principles from Scandinavian corrections are implemented in an American prison setting … we chose to use a lottery as opposed to the more common (and to some more intuitive) approach of only allowing the most motivated or best-behaved incarcerated people to move to the unit for two main reasons … using a lottery means that we can meaningfully compare the group of men housed at “Little Scandinavia” to those in the general population. Having two groups that are as similar as possible—with the exception of their conditions of confinement—is important when seeking to develop evidence on the direct impact of the unit on both in-prison and out-prison outcomes, including recidivism and other measures of community reintegration.
2) RCT (Found via MR) on restricting social media usage - headline is that there is no impact on well-being or academic success, suggesting previous correlational studies may suffer from omitted variable bias:
To address this research gap, we conduct a randomized controlled trial among students in which we track participants’ daily digital activities over the course of three quarters of an academic year. In the experiment, we randomly allocate half of the sample to a treatment condition in which social media usage (Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) is restricted to a maximum of 10 minutes per day. We find that participants in the treatment group substitute social media for instant messaging and do not decrease their total time spent on digital devices. Contrary to findings from previous correlational studies, we do not find any significant impact of social media usage as it was defined in our study on well-being and academic success. Our results also suggest that antitrust authorities should consider instant messaging and social media services as direct competitors before approving acquisitions.
3) This Kate Andrews piece on Trussonomics is worth reading.
4) Piece in the FT on intellectual humility [paywalled]:
What makes some people believe in conspiracy theories and false news reports more than others? Is it their political or religious perspective? Is it a lack of formal education? Or is it more about their age, gender or socio-economic background? A recently published study suggests that more important than any of these factors is another characteristic: the extent to which someone has — or does not have — intellectual humility.
5) This piece was interesting: ‘I Regret My $46k Website Redesign':
If you hear that someone spent $46k to redesign three pages of a website, you probably think they’re a rube with no experience in software or hiring. But I’ve done this before! I’m a software developer, and I’ve hired dozens of freelancers, including developers, artists, writers, and editors. I made mistakes on this project, but hopefully they’re more interesting than the ones you expect.
The debate in the comments about whether the redesign was worth it is also interesting.
6) The rise and rise of GiveDirectly.
7) Friend of the blog Eli Lifland with a critical review of WWOTF. Eli is on fire recently!
8) Tyler Cowen is interviewed by Brian Chau. It’s an interesting podcast - Chau comes across extremely badly IMO, I think partially because there seems to be some kind of lag in the podcast which makes it seem as though he struggles to come back to Cowen’s points (maybe that’s a generous interpretation). But also because he seems to know next to nothing about what’s being discussed, especially when Tyler makes the point that wokeness in India and Saudi is obviously a good thing. Chau also has an annoying habit of typing while the conversation is happening, giving the impression that he isn’t listening.
9) Some brief notes by Lilico in the Telegraph about Liz Truss’ new economics advisor, Matthew Sinclair. The fact he has an Italian wife is apparently reason to trust his judgement on matters related to Europe (lol).
10) I suspect most people here saw this clip when it aired a few years ago (or perhaps have seen it since then), but this discussion between Andrew Neil and Ben Shapiro is fun to watch:
11) Do we believe that this happened?
12) This podcast series from the Economist about Xi isn’t released at the time of writing, but it looks interesting so I’m sort of using this post as a bookmark for myself.
13) Sam Dumitriu wrote a piece about the case for a windfall tax a few months ago, which I guess is now relevant.
14) Apparently a David Shor party is cool enough to be featured in the NYT Style section. That seems odd to me, but I don’t regularly read the NYT style section, so perhaps it isn’t.
15) MacAskill in lunch with the FT, thought this was a bit of a weak one, and the comments show that FT readers can be surprisingly dumb.
16) I expect the book about Parfit recommended by Tyler Cowen here will be interesting, due for release in April next year.
17) Yglesias on UK Housing policy, seems like he forgot to add the link to the excellent WIP piece he references, which is here. Lots of people seem to feel extremely pessimistic about the UK and I can understand why, I wonder if there’s a great and persuasive piece arguing that we ought to be optimistic - anyone found one? Sam Bowman’s piece sort of does that, but argues that we could be a lot richer if we improved policy, but much of the worry here (at least much of my worry) is that we won’t improve policy.
18) Hanania interviews Tyler here. Still not sure what I think about Hanania (although I haven’t read his book, and hope to at some point) but the conversation is interesting, it got me thinking about why Indian-Americans do seem to have been much more successful in many ways than Chinese-Americans. Tyler’s points about wokeness often being underrated (which sort of are a repeat of the stuff in the other podcast linked) are worthwhile.
19) I had a piece in The Guardian about forecasting.
21) Dan Luu on the forecasting records of futurists:
22) The Socialist Case for Longtermism in Jacobin
23) Sam Freedman on EA.
24) Criticism of EA in Current Affairs. I do think this criticism is extremely weak (I guess I would think that), but I suppose it’s still worth reading.
25) Stephen Bush on black-box algorithms [paywalled].
26) Aella talking to Louise Perry about the sexual revolution was interesting.
27) More notes in the Telegraph on Rory Stewart taking over GiveDirectly:
Villagers say their lives transformed overnight when they received $1,000 on their mobile money accounts. They got local builders to get tin roofs, concrete floors, solar panels and lights so their children could read in the evening. Some young men went on training courses to become electricians or welders. Three middle-aged women – Kanze, Dama and Kadzo – pooled their cash together to lay water piping in the village for the first time.
“It’s the genius of the market. It’s very pure market economics,” says Stewart excitedly after coming back from seeing a new herd of goats. “Most people in extreme poverty have spent their entire lives thinking about what they would do if they got a bit of money and they can get it much cheaper than we can.”
28) Nice thread on Cas Mudde’s career (Cas is an enormously influential political science professor who has written a lot on populism):
Another fact about Cas that is not mentioned in the thread is that his older brother, Tim Mudde, was a pretty well-known far-right activist. It’s an interesting omission from the thread, as you might expect that his brother’s politics were part of the reason he became interested in the populist right.
29) We are in a bad place:
30) Piece in the New Yorker on the cancelled comedian Shane Gillis, really worth reading! Seems like the New Yorker gets a lot of hate but I’ve found loads of great stuff there recently.
31) Cowen on the mini-budget, I disagree with him but worth reading.
32) This ransomware game on the FT website was pretty fun.
33) I had not realised just how high marginal tax rates were for people claiming universal credit, they seem to be about 63% for many people. Prompted by a tweet from Nikhil Woodruff:
34) I got an email telling me I was a fantastic person because I donated £5 to Wikipedia in 2018. Decided to search around a bit to see if Wikipedia was at all funding constrained, and stumbled upon this EA Forum post from 2015.
35) This freestyle rapper is just phenomenally impressive:
36) NYT on the book about Anthony Bourdain’s death:
“I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job,” Mr. Bourdain wrote to Ms. Busia-Bourdain in one of their near-daily text exchanges. “I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty.”
37) Here is the first blog post I wrote back in July of last year, quite different to most stuff I write now. It’s on the case for Labour doing better than expected in the next election, written back when they seemed to be in dire straits. I think it holds up okay, although the covid stuff is pretty irrelevant now. It was probably pretty naive to think that Lab could do much to increase salience of economy relative to immigration, but that seems to have happened organically.
+1 recommendation to no. 16; I have spoken to Edmonds over Zoom about some of the content of the book and what he found when digging, and while obvs I can't mention anything specific until it comes out, I'm super excited for it.