Live from Inside Your Brain: Peter Cooper: Cafe Wall Optical Illusion: "The most mind-boggling optical illusion I've seen in a while. Those horizontal bars really are parallel:"
There has long been discussion of whether Larry Kudlow believes what he says. (1) Is he one of the professional Republican commentators like Stephen Moore, James Glassman, and Kevin Hassett who knows that what he says is wrong, but says it because it is just a game—that feeding one's readers and viewers something that is not bullshit is simply not a goal, and telling the truth will serve when it does not conflict with one's goals? Or (2) is he just not aware of the world outside him, in the sense in which people are usually oriented toward reality?
Should-Read: Ed Kilgore: What the Christian Right Sowed, Trump Reaped: "Gerson is especially insightful [in saying]: Conservative Evangelicals didn’t back Trump despite his unsavory personality...
Should-Read: The number I have in my head is: 15% of sexually-active women die in childbed in the Agrarian Age. But what was that risk before?: Susan Pfeiffer et al.: Discernment of mortality risk associated with childbirth in archaeologically derived forager skeletons: "An obstetric dilemma may have been a persistent characteristic of human evolution...
Should-Read: Janelle Shane: Do neural nets dream of electric sheep?: "Neural network[s]... used for everything from language translation to finance modeling. One of their specialties is image recognition...
Where did Trump's 6% growth number from last fall come from? I really think we can blame the once-smart and now amazingly witless John Cochrane for this one: it's the only place I can find that somebody talking to Trump might have read that claims 6%/year growth:
John Cochrane (2016): The Grumpy Economist: WSJ growth oped—full version: "Following the fitted line in the chart, Frontier generates $163,000 of income per capita, 209% better than the U.S., or 6% additional annual growth for 20 years..."
Robert Schroeder (2017): Trump tells lawmakers tax plan could lead to 6% growth: "President Donald Trump... told a group of lawmakers that the tax framework he’s unveiling Wednesday could lead the U.S. economy to grow more than 6% a year.... That’s more than double what even Trump’s advisers had hoped for..."
The highly estimable Tim Taylor wrote:
Tim Taylor: Some Thoughts About Economic Exposition in Math and Words: "[Paul Romer's] notion that math is 'both more precise and more opaque' than words is an insight worth keeping..."
And he recommends Alfred Marshall's workflow checklist:
This is sage advice.
And to underscore the importance of this advice, I think it is time to hoist the best example I have seen in a while of people with no knowledge of the economics and no control over their models using—simple—math to be idiots: Per Krusell and Tony Smith trying and failing to criticize Thomas Piketty:
Live from the Grove of Cognitive Philosophy Academe: Horsing around by reading the very wise and clever Scott Aaronson: The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine, instead of doing work this morning, has led me to be thunderstruck by an excellent insight of his: Newcomb's Problem is, in its essentials, the same as the problem of Self-Locating Belief, and the solution by Adam Elga: Defeating Dr. Evil with Self-Locating Belief makes as much sense as a solution of one as the other. (I think it makes enormous sense as a solution to both, but YMMV.) As Scott puts it:
Live from Spooky Action at a Distance: Question: Don't decoherent branches of an Everettian wave function recohere every time somebody runs a quantum eraser? In what sense is testing the existence of decohered states "hopelessly impractical"? Sean Carroll: Beyond Falsifiability: Normal Science in a Multiverse: "(3) There exist tests that are possible to do within the laws of physics, but are hopelessly impractical...
Noise Trading, Bubbles, and Excess Stock Market Volatility: Hoisted from the Archives from 2013: Noah Smith has a very nice post this morning:Noah Smith: Risk premia or behavioral craziness?:
John Cochrane is quite critical of Robert Shiller.... He... thinks that Shiller is trying to make finance less quantitative and more literary (I somehow doubt this, given that Shiller is first and foremost an econometrician, and not that literary of a guy).
No Longer Fresh Over at Project Syndicate: Why Low Inflation in the Global North Should Be No Surprise: Late last summer the thoughtful and very sharp Nouriel Roubini used his space here at Project Syndicate to attribute the stubborn and, by many, unexpected persistence of low inflation in the Global North to "positive" (so-called, even though a number of them are on balance unwelcome) shocks to aggregate supply: Nouriel Roubini: The Mystery of the Missing Inflation:
The recent growth acceleration in the advanced economies would be expected to bring with it a pickup in inflation.... Yet core inflation has fallen.... Developed economies have been experiencing positive supply shocks.... The Fed has justified its decision to start normalizing rates... by arguing that the inflation-weakening supply-side shocks are temporary.... Central banks aren’t willing to give up on their formal 2% inflation target, [but] they are willing to prolong the timeline for achieving it...
What else should I add to this?
Programming Dos and Don'ts: A Running List...
Should-Read: Ima gonna archive this to jeer at in the future! Yes. BitCoin is a bubble. It is a mania of irrational crowds. It is not a financial market that is serving as a rational social calculating mechanism. It is not a market in which prices are being set by rational von Neumann optimizing agents. It is not even a market with short-selling constraints in which rational speculators are exploiting a non-rational herd: John Cochrane: The Grumpy Economist: Bitcoin and Bubbles: "So, what's up with Bitcoin? Is it a 'bubble?' A mania of irrational crowds?...
Live from Pseudoscience Land: I must say, I do wish I could read this. I know that it is obvious that the Moon is in the Eleventh House, and that Jupiter and Saturn are aligned in the First House opposite the sun. But the rest?: Johann Kepler 1608): von Wallenstein Horoscope: "Cast for Albrecht von Wallenstein when he was 25 by the astronomer Johannes Kepler...
Being a long time historical materialist of some flavor or another, I am by orientation hostile to arguments like Mokyr's that it was ideas and culture that ultimately mattered. I find myself very suspicious of arguments that give a unique value to cultures, especially when they are my own. I tend to appeal instead to principles of representativeness—that I should not assume that I or anything of mine is special without very good reason—of non-cherrypicking—do not accentuate the positive while neglecting the negative—and of visibility—that of requiring concrete causal mechanisms, rather than waving one's hands, saying "it was in the air" and "there are lots of other ways it matters besides those that have been mentioned here".
That does not mean that I am right.
January 30, 2018 at 06:42 PM in Books, Economics: Growth, Economics: History, Economics: Information, History, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy, Politics, Science: Cognitive, Streams: (Tuesday) Hoisted from Archives, Streams: Cycle, Streams: Economics, Streams: Equitable Growth, Streams: Highlighted | Permalink | Comments (15)
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Should-Read: Adam Smith (1776): Publicly Funded Education: "In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour...
Should-Read: Speech and language make us all into an anthology intelligence. Writing makes us into an (unfortunately only one way) time-traveling intelligence. Geniuses add the other way: Walter Jon Williams: Ursula K. LeGuin: 1929-2018: "I occasionally found myself in the same room with her, but she was always surrounded by a swarm of admirers, and I never felt right about barging through her adherents just to introduce myself...
Should-Read: I have to think about this. Yes, distributions have lower tails. but it still seems to me that the absence of clearly visible life out there is powerful evidence that there is a "Great Filter": that one of the parameters (or more than one of the parameters) in the Drake Equation is near zero. Sandberg et al. seem to me to be arguing not so much that the absence of visible life out there is likely even if none of the parameters are near zero, but that our uncertainty is so great that it is not surprising that the universe we live in has one or more parameters near zero even though the average value of each parameter across all universes we might live in is larger: Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord: Dissolving the Fermi Paradox: "The Fermi question is not a paradox...
Some people wish me ill. They keep emailing me things from John Cochrane. I wish they wouldn't. Or I wish I would develop some self-control. This is not making me happy:
First, let me set forth an intelligent, rational, measured assessment of BitCoin, made by somebody who was never a tenured finance economist at the University of Chicago:
Glenn Loury 2.0: @justabloodygame on Twitter: "Seriously, I read stories about people mortgaging their homes to buy Bitcoin and I want to rip my hair out..."
We can then compare this with the irrational word salad of John Cochrane. To the extent that there is an argument, it goes like this:
Should-Read: The very sharp Matthew Yglesias is extremely frightened about the future of America. I am not so frightened of Trump—I think that even if Republicans holding on to both houses of Congress we will get checks and balances working either through Amendment 25 or through the Justice Department and the New York Attorney General. The thing that scares me more is the next Trump, the competent Trump, the fascist playing on ethno-cultural resentments and fueled by plutocracy. As Karl Marx wrote in his appallingly sexist way of what he saw as a similar episode with the rise of Napoleon III back in 1850: "It is not enough to say, as the French do, that their nation was taken unawares. Nations and women are not forgiven the unguarded hour in which the first adventurer who came along could violate them..." The very sharp Charlie Stross proposes that advertising-supported internet and cable have hacked our brains in the pursuit of, as Zeynep Tufekci puts it, "a dystopia to get people to click on ads", and that we are hosed. I find myself searching for analogous hackings by print post-Gutenberg, by pamphlet and folio in the Enlightenment, by the first mass media in the age of adult male suffrage, and by radio in the age of Nuremberg rallies and fireside chats—and how the public sphere developed defense mechanisms. But I do not have any answers here: Matthew Yglesias: 2018 is the year that will decide if Trumpocracy replaces American democracy: "Loyalty to Donald Trump is the new principle of Republican Party politics...
Live from the Primate Research Lab: Truth!: A.Benítez-Burraco: @abenitezburraco on Twitter: "Chimps and bonobos help others achieve their goals by giving them needed objects, opening locked door and releasing rewards. Interestingly, while chimps help mainly in response to signals of need, bonobos also help proactively https://t.co/AoMFrFGYzl."
Marcy Wheeler: @emptywheel on Twitter: "Also, both chimps and bonobos have been known to shred copies of Ayn Rand to create bed litter for their friends..."
Comment of the Day: But, alas, I think Robert Waldmann has the completely wrong. Draw the graph, Robert! What areas on what graphs does Greg's calculation correspond to? Please tell me!: Robert Waldmann: DeLong & Krugman vs Mankiw and Mulligan III: "Just click the links...
...I finally understand that Brad too is asking a very similarly odd question. The only difference is that Brad considers a tax on capital (tau)k not on capital income (t)f'(k)k. This makes the difference...
No, I do not think that it does.
2017-12-08 16:02:15 PST Market Capitalization: 278 billion dollars.
Greg Mankiw: Paul Krugman... Sigh: "Paul says I have never admitted to making a math error. Well, I would if I thought I made such an error. I make them all the time. But in this case I am not convinced. Neither is University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan, who thinks Paul made a math error. I spoke with several other economists (some of whom share Paul's politics) and they don't see Paul's point either..."
It's probably no use, given my lack of success here with:
Must-Read: Adam Elga: Defeating Dr. Evil with Self-Locating Belief: "Safe in an impregnable battlestation on the moon, Dr. Evil had planned to launch a bomb that would destroy the Earth...
With no high-quality smackdowns of DeLong on offer, let us turn to Robert Lucas's extremely bizarre reaction to the Volcker Disinflation...
Should-Read: This piece by the interesting Geoffrey Pulham seems to start out non-optimally.
There is a difference between (1) true "AI" on the one hand and (2) successful voice/text interface to database search on the other. At the moment (2) is easy. And we should implement (2)—which requires that humans do a little bit of adjusting in order not to use "not", for figuring out within which superset of results any particular "not" is asking for the complement is genuinely hard, and does require true or nearly-true "AI".
Thus to solve Pulham's problem, all you have to do is ask two queries: (i) "Which UK papers are part of the Murdoch empire?"; (ii) "What are the major UK papers?"; take the complement of (i) within (ii) and you immediately get a completely serviceable and useful answer to your question.
That you need to do two rather than one query is because Google has not set itself up to produce short lists as possible answers to (ii) and (i), and then subtract (i) from (ii), and that the reason that it has not done that is a hard AI problem rather than the brute-force-and-massive-ignorance word-frequency-plus-internet-attention that is Google shtick.
But what amazes me is that Google can get so close—not that "true AI" is really hard.
And maybe that is Pelham's real point:
Geoffrey Pulham (2013): Why Are We Still Waiting for Natural Language Processing?: "Try typing this, or any question with roughly the same meaning, into the Google search box... http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/05/09/natural-language-processing/
Noah Smith: Noahpinion: Handwaving on health care: "There's a particular style of argument that some conservative economists use to dismiss calls for government intervention in markets:
- Step 1: Either assert or assume that free markets work best in general.
- Step 2: List the reasons why this particular market might be unusual.
- Step 3: Dismiss each reason with a combination of skeptical harumphing, handwaving, anecdotes, and/or informal evidence.
- Step 4: Conclude that this market should be free from government intervention.
In a recent rebuttal to a Greg Mankiw column on health care policy, John Cochrane displays this argumentation style in near-perfect form.
Ah. A correspondent informs me that he has John Cochrane's response to my claims that:
Could somebody at Hoover please do an intervention?
And if Hoover won't, could somebody at Stanford please do an intervention on Hoover?
Comment of the Day: Marc C.: Monday Smackdown: The Elementary Arithmetic of a Value-Added Tax (VAT): "Asked Cochrane if he would respond. [Cochrane wrote]:
No. The response is obvious and elementary. It's easy to calculate the VAT rate under various assumptions. Brad's insults, slanders, ad hominem attacks, and outright lies do not merit responses.
It would be nice if I could start off October with another real DeLong smackdown: an incisive critique of a place where my argument has been wrong, or at least pathetically incomplete and one-sided.
But it is not to be: the environment is just too target-rich.
Somebody who wishes me ill sends me a link to Paul Gigot and Gerry Baker's execrable Wall Street Journal, and provokes me into clicking it. It is John Cochrane from Stanford's Hoover Institution: claiming a hypothetical tax rate is 20%, when five minutes' thought gets 42.9% as the true number:
John Cochrane: Tax Consumption Through a VAT, and Voilà https://www.wsj.com/articles/tax-consumption-through-a-vat-and-voila-1504550331: "If the administration and Congress drop the income tax, it won’t be difficult to achieve 3% growth...
Must-Watch: Joshua Gans: Danny Kahneman on AI versus Humans: "At our AI conference last week, Nobel Laureate Danny Kahneman was commenting on a paper by Colin Camerer: https://digitopoly.org/2017/09/22/kahneman-on-ai-versus-humans/
Comment of the Day: JEC: "Any Community... Flourishes only When Our Members Feel Welcome and Safe...": "I see a couple of persistent misconceptions in this discussion... http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/09/any-community-flourishes-only-when-our-members-feel-welcome-and-safe.html?cid=6a00e551f08003883401b7c922959a970b#comment-6a00e551f08003883401b7c922959a970b
Consider the 256 GB memory iPhone X: Implemented in vacuum tubes in 1957, the transistors in an iPhoneX alone would have:
Hoisted from Ten Years Ago: After World War I: Weber: Marxism, liberalism, and what we will here call "nationalism"—just to be polite... http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/09/lecture-notes-f.html
We read Norman Angell: We did not read Max Weber: nationalism as social-darwinist doctrine:
Should-Read: Eve Fairbanks: Can Your Best Friends Be Books?: "I, too, had book friends as a child, and at a time when making real friends could feel like too much to bear... http://lithub.com/can-your-best-friends-be-books/
If I were you, if I were trying to understand Washington, DC today, I would hold tight to four points:
About a month and a half ago I decided that there was really no place in any of my classes for my "what you really ought to know about doing economics" lecture http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/07/how-to-think-like-an-economist-if-that-is-you-wish-to.html: it would be either incomprehensible (because students would not understand it) or unnecessary (because students would already know it).
The Economics Department is responding to the current Berkeley budget crisis by enforcing a work speedup on our GSI section leaders
This is an opportunity and a challenge
Cosma Shalizi reminds me of the internet "data scientists are (good and empirically oriented) statisticians" discussion of 2011-12.
Let me say three things:
You should never use Excel to handle your data.
I don't know whether it is depressing or exhilarating to recognize that, for me as for Cosma, how often my reaction these days is: "I already wrote something incisive and very much worth reading about that—now to find it in my weblog archives..."
Increasingly, data management, analysis, and presentation are things that many more people need for their jobs than statistics departments can reasonably expect to funnel through their major programs. It's like in the middle ages: the number of people who needed to have a good, clear, legible-penmanship chancery hand vastly exceeded the number of professional calligraphers and illustrators. Data management, analysis, and presentation skills are, increasingly, the legible-penmanship chancery hand of the twenty-first century.
Weekend Reading: Paul Romer (2016): The Trouble with Macroeconomics https://paulromer.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/WP-Trouble.pdf: "Abstract: For more than three decades, macroeconomics has gone backwards. The treatment of identification now is no more credible than in the early 1970s but escapes challenge because it is so much more opaque. Macroeconomic theorists dismiss mere facts by feigning an obtuse ignorance about such simple assertions as 'tight monetary policy can cause a recession'. Their models attribute fluctuations in aggregate variables to imaginary causal forces that are not influenced by the action that any person takes. A parallel with string theory from physics hints at a general failure mode of science that is triggered when respect for highly regarded leaders evolves into a deference to authority that displaces objective fact from its position as the ultimate determinant of scientific truth.
Live from the Orange-Haired Baboon Cage: I'm sorry for inflicting these on you. But you really do need to get a flavor of these transcripts if you are to understand the world we now live in, and pieces like this are the quickest way to get that:
Jonathan Chait: Australia’s PM Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot: "Trump in his private negotiations is every bit as mentally limited as he appears to be in public... http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/australias-pm-slowly-realizes-trump-is-a-complete-idiot.html
Should-Read: Cosma Shalizi (2006): Accents, Heritability, Measured IQ, the Flynn Effect, and Intelligence: ">Q: Would you put on your right-thinking left-liberal educated-in-Berkeley-and-Madison hat for a moment?... http://delong.typepad.com/egregious_moderation/2007/07/cosma-shalizi-a.html
The puzzle about just how and why the brain eater ate Clive Crook's brain—how it was that, starting about a decade ago, one of the most interesting (and intelligent) of the Tories simply lost his grip on reality—remains, to me at least, a mystery.
Here I am hoisting from one of the first full-blown signs of it in 2007.
A little background: By 2008 the brain-eating was overwhelming. For example we had Clive Crook on the "huge success" of the nomination of Sarah Palin—meaning, that is, that she was highly qualified to be Vice President and would attract lots of new votes to the McCain-Palin ticket:
Clive Crook (2008): Democrats must learn some respect: "The problem in my view is less Mr Obama and more the attitudes of the claque of official and unofficial supporters that surrounds him... https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/09/democrats-must-learn-some-respect/8803/
July 21, 2017 at 07:38 AM in Economics: Growth, Economics: History, Economics: Inequality, History, Moral Responsibility, Obama Administration, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy, Politics, Science: Cognitive, Streams: (Tuesday) Hoisted from Archives, Streams: Cycle, Streams: Economics, Streams: Equitable Growth, Streams: Highlighted | Permalink | Comments (1)
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Note: I will collect stuff relevant to this assignment desk here: http://www.bradford-delong.com/stream-the-road-to-xanaduthe-invisible-college.html
Assignment Desk: http://www.bradford-delong.com/assignment-desk.html
I am looking for somebody to write something to tell me what I should think—these days about website (re)design, and the assorted and related topics that I think of as "The Road to Xanadu" and "The Invisible College".
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any organization with a website that has not been redesigned in two years will find itself thinking about starting yet another website redesign process. Hence my throat clearing for http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/07/what-you-need-to-read-today-reading-reihan-salams-why-i-signed-up-for-obamacare-hoisted-from-my-archives.html yesterday and my hoisting of http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/07/should-read-well-its-been-two-more-years-ezra-klein-2015-i-have-sat-down-a-couple-of-times-to-write-up-what.html today...
Is it me? Or is it him?
I find an interesting link on Making Light http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016593.html, follow it, immediately find that the introduction annoys me—gets my back up—and then I notice that it is by John McWhorter. Other people like McWhorter a lot: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016593.html#4335396.
But I read:
John McWhorter: English is not normal https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-english-so-weirdly-different-from-other-languages: "Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon...
...does that really mean ‘So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings’ glory in days of yore’? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish...
And my immediate response is: the cards have been dealt from the bottom of the deck here.
So I took Sidney Coleman's wonderful 1994 lecture: Quantum Mechanics in Your Face!. And I grabbed the automatic Youtube subtitles from it, cleaned them up somewhat, and attached them to the video. But...
(Progress on this assignment, if any, will be tracked here...)
The first thing you need to know is that ZeroHedge http://zerohedge.com is a grift: the idea is to tell gullible people that the elites are hiding the truth from them and that only ZeroHedge dares tell the TRUTH!!—the first words I see on ZeroHedge right now are "Worst Crash In Our Lifetime Coming This Year Or Next". And if you scare your gullible readers enough, you can keep their eyeballs glued to the screen and sell them to advertisers—many of whom will be selling their own grifts to an audience already selected for being easy to grift: Gold. Physical gold. Kept in Singapore. For a small fee, of course. Also ammunition.
Looking Forward to Four Years During Which Most if Not All of America's Potential for Human Progress Is Likely to Be Wasted
With each passing day Donald Trump looks more and more like Silvio Berlusconi: bunga-bunga governance, with a number of unlikely and unforeseen disasters and a major drag on the country--except in states where his policies are neutralized.
Nevertheless, remember: WE ARE WITH HER!
The purpose of this weblog is to be the best possible portal into what I am thinking, what I am reading, what I think about what I am reading, and what other smart people think about what I am reading...
"Bring expertise, bring a willingness to learn, bring good humor, bring a desire to improve the world—and also bring a low tolerance for lies and bullshit..." — Brad DeLong
"I have never subscribed to the notion that someone can unilaterally impose an obligation of confidentiality onto me simply by sending me an unsolicited letter—or an email..." — Patrick Nielsen Hayden
"I can safely say that I have learned more than I ever would have imagined doing this.... I also have a much better sense of how the public views what we do. Every economist should have to sell ideas to the public once in awhile and listen to what they say. There's a lot to learn..." — Mark Thoma
"Tone, engagement, cooperation, taking an interest in what others are saying, how the other commenters are reacting, the overall health of the conversation, and whether you're being a bore..." — Teresa Nielsen Hayden
"With the arrival of Web logging... my invisible college is paradise squared, for an academic at least. Plus, web logging is an excellent procrastination tool.... Plus, every legitimate economist who has worked in government has left swearing to do everything possible to raise the level of debate and to communicate with a mass audience.... Web logging is a promising way to do that..." — Brad DeLong
"Blogs are an outlet for unexpurgated, unreviewed, and occasionally unprofessional musings.... At Chicago, I found that some of my colleagues overestimated the time and effort I put into my blog—which led them to overestimate lost opportunities for scholarship. Other colleagues maintained that they never read blogs—and yet, without fail, they come into my office once every two weeks to talk about a post of mine..." — Daniel Drezner
"I now know it is a rising, not a setting, sun" --Benjamin Franklin, 1787
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