Ship in a klein bottle 😬⛵️#cinema4d #python #mathart #kleinbottle pic.twitter.com/nd9Qdauzdd— J. Miguel Medina (@Morphinart) January 28, 2022
Comments, observations and thoughts from two bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is an associate professor. Mark is a professional statistician and former math teacher.
Monday, January 31, 2022
For the math nerds in the audience (or in our case, "the audience")
Friday, January 28, 2022
"The claimed functionality and the actual functionality are both bad." -- Everything you always wanted to know about NFTs but were afraid to ask
The amount of research that went into this crypto criticism video essay is impressive. I can barely research these weird subcultures without feeling like I'm taking crazy pills. This deserves some Youtube-version of a Pulitzer for level of public service.https://t.co/pDTx2MYjue— Stephen Diehl (@smdiehl) January 24, 2022
The final chapter to this video is the coup de grâce— Stephen Diehl (@smdiehl) January 28, 2022
against the NFT cryptocult and weaves the entirety of the argument together. It's a masterpiece of form and argument.https://t.co/dgD8zgjjaZ
Here's one of many sharp quotes from Olson:
"The one market crypto currency has successfully disrupted is the market of fraud. ... A big population of people have willingly self-identified that they have substantial disposable income, poor judgement, low social literacy, a high tolerance for nonsensical risk and are highly persuadable."
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Peloton lifestyle porn
Love putting my Peloton bike in the most striking area of my ultra-modern $3 million house— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
I put my Peloton bike in the center of the panoramic living room window in my New York penthouse pic.twitter.com/ol0B3Kavif— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
I took my Peloton bike to Europe and used it on the balcony of our $2,000/night Airbnb and honestly I felt like I was flying over London, you should try it pic.twitter.com/sVjdO78MRV— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
Probably the worst thing about putting a Peloton bike in my spotless huge kitchen is when my dumb kid interrupts the workout. Where is Consuela? She has one job! pic.twitter.com/KYL5l1zTst— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
The picture windows at our chalet provide breathtaking views from the Peloton bike. In the living room set behind it, all you can see is the Peloton bike. pic.twitter.com/JwSPtsao8L— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
You might ask why the windows in front of these Pelotons are so small. Unfortunately space on the yacht is limited and the gym is near the waterline. We manage. pic.twitter.com/Hqa1kVgWDj— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
My husband says it’s a fire hazard to have the Peloton bike blocking the doors from the living room to the veranda. He doesn’t understand that the Peloton bike will be the first thing I save. pic.twitter.com/yltVAQsi14— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
Ironic that “Peloton” means a group of cyclists when my favorite way to cycle is alone in the guest house living room at our Brentwood mansion. pic.twitter.com/RfQGe58cL7— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Death of a unicorn
"Unicorn" is a term used in the venture capital industry to describe a privately held startup company with a value of over $1 billion. The term was first popularized by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital fund based in Palo Alto, California.
Fast forward 18 months or so, and Peloton Cycle closed a $325 million financing round, with the likes of Wellington Management, Fidelity Investments, Kleiner Perkins, and Comcast NBCUniversal pouring money into the company. JPMorgan was sole placement agent for the offering. Wintroub worked on the deal with another cycling enthusiast, Eric Stein, who is head of North American investment banking at JPMorgan.
The Series E financing round valued the company at around $1.25 billion, making it a unicorn.
The company is vertically integrated, making its own hardware, producing a tablet computer and the bike it sits on, and software, with 75 software engineers in New York City. It produces 12 hours of live television content a day, and sells through its own retail stores. It also delivers its own bikes in some cities.
"Peloton is a cultural phenomenon and has redefined what it means to build a connected experience disrupting multiple industries simultaneously: in home fitness, boutique class fitness and connected media devices," said Jon Callaghan, cofounder of True Ventures, another investor in the firm.
Peloton is temporarily halting production of its connected fitness products as consumer demand wanes and the company looks to control costs, according to internal documents obtained by CNBC.
Peloton plans to pause Bike production for two months, from February to March, the documents show. It already halted production of its more expensive Bike+ in December and will do so until June. It won’t manufacture its Tread treadmill machine for six weeks, beginning next month. And it doesn’t anticipate producing any Tread+ machines in fiscal 2022, according to the documents. Peloton had previously halted Tread+ production after a safety recall last year.
The company said in a confidential presentation dated Jan. 10 that demand for its connected fitness equipment has faced a “significant reduction” around the world due to shoppers’ price sensitivity and amplified competitor activity.
Peloton has essentially guessed wrong about how many people would be buying its products, after so much demand was pulled forward during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s now left with thousands of cycles and treadmills sitting in warehouses or on cargo ships, and it needs to reset its inventory levels.
The planned production halt comes as close to $40 billion has been shaved off of Peloton’s market cap over the past year. Its market value hit a high of nearly $50 billion last January.
Peloton shares closed Thursday down 23.9% at $24.22, bringing the stock’s market value to $7.9 billion. During trading, shares hit a 52-week low of $23.25. The drop also brought the stock below $29, where it was priced ahead of Peloton’s initial public offering.
The personal lesson I'm taking away from this is not to put off posting about high flying companies with stupid business plans. I'd meant to do a deep dive into Peloton back when it was everybody's darling, but all I actually produced were a few tangential references, snarky tweets and quotes from other, harder working writers.
And a CEO with a history of making... let's call them questionable claims.https://t.co/C0A2vXxWEp— Mark Palko (@MarkPalko1) December 6, 2019
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Disappointed by the omission of MoviePass, but...
Several weeks ago, I met up with a friend in New York who suggested we grab a bite at a Scottish bar in the West Village. He had booked the table through something called Seated, a restaurant app that pays users who make reservations on the platform. We ordered two cocktails each, along with some food. And in exchange for the hard labor of drinking whiskey, the app awarded us $30 in credits redeemable at a variety of retailers.
I am never offended by freebies. But this arrangement seemed almost obscenely generous. To throw cash at people every time they walk into a restaurant does not sound like a business. It sounds like a plot to lose money as fast as possible—or to provide New Yorkers, who are constantly dining out, with a kind of minimum basic income.
“How does this thing make any sense?” I asked my friend.
“I don’t know if it makes sense, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last,” he said, pausing to scroll through redemption options. “So, do you want your half in Amazon credits or Starbucks?”
I don’t know if it makes sense, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Is there a better epitaph for this age of consumer technology?
Starting about a decade ago, a fleet of well-known start-ups promised to change the way we work, work out, eat, shop, cook, commute, and sleep. These lifestyle-adjustment companies were so influential that wannabe entrepreneurs saw them as a template, flooding Silicon Valley with “Uber for X” pitches.
But as their promises soared, their profits didn’t. It’s easy to spend all day riding unicorns whose most magical property is their ability to combine high valuations with persistently negative earnings—something I’ve pointed out before. If you wake up on a Casper mattress, work out with a Peloton before breakfast, Uber to your desk at a WeWork, order DoorDash for lunch, take a Lyft home, and get dinner through Postmates, you’ve interacted with seven companies that will collectively lose nearly $14 billion this year. If you use Lime scooters to bop around the city, download Wag to walk your dog, and sign up for Blue Apron to make a meal, that’s three more brands that have never record a dime in earnings, or have seen their valuations fall by more than 50 percent.
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Proofs of a Conspiracy -- Four kinds of evidence
The first two or three of these may border on obvious, but I do have a couple of fresh data points for the last one.
"See, I told you so..."
No matter how unreliable the source or how tenuous the connection, any piece of evidence confirming any part of the theory is embraced.
"Which is exactly what they'd say..."
Evidence contradicting the theory is taken as proof of a conspiracy to cover up the truth and is therefore also seen as confirmation.
"You expect us to believe..."
Even if the evidence doesn't directly relate to the theory, it can still be considered confirmatory if it's odd enough or difficult to explain. Though not a conspiracy theory, we often see something similar with proponents of alien visitor theories. For example, some researchers argued that the interstellar object Oumuamua was some kind of alien craft not because it behaved like one but because it had properties that would be unusual for a comet or asteroid.
"But the real history teaches us..."
Around 2000 (I remember because of where I was living at the time), while surfing I came across a Lyndon Larouche follower explaining history on a cable access channel. He explained that what he was about to reveal was not the history you get in classes or from books or from historians, but what really happened. I stopped to see what he had to say and my curiosity was more than satisfied when he started talking about troops Russia sent to help the Union in the Civil War.
I'd come across Lincoln's Cossacks before. They were a popular urban myth during the war -- the black helicopters of the day -- and somehow this obscure piece of 18th Century folklore had not only survived but had been reworked into a key piece of the popular modern mythology of Larouche.
I'd run across this something similar before. A few years earlier, I'd picked up a copy of a book called Proofs of a Conspiracy for a dime at a library sale. I'd always had a morbid curiosity about fringe groups and this was something of a two-fer, 20th century conspiracy theorists finding historical validation by reprinting a book of 18th century conspiracy theories.
This need for historical validation extends out to all sorts of groups on the fringe who want to be taken seriously. I'll try to dig into some examples in a future post.
Monday, January 24, 2022
Nuclear power and climate change
Throughout the morning, the Council’s high-level open debate on climate and security heard from a range of influential voices, including naturalist David Attenborough, who called climate change “the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced”. In video remarks telecast at the outset, he warned that concentrations of carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere have not been equalled for millions of years.“If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security,” he said: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature and ocean food chains. The poorest — those with the least security — are certain to suffer. “Our duty right now is surely to do all we can to help those in the most immediate danger.”While the world will never return to the stable climate that gave birth to civilization, he said that, if Governments attending the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November recognize climate change as a global security threat, “we may yet act proportionately — and in time”.
Now it is a press release and there might be hyperbole. But, if true, it highlights a classic example of not being able to balance risks. Nuclear power is not risk free but it can clearly be expanded. France gets 70% of its electric power from Nuclear. The United States gets 20%. With the advent of electric cars, it might even be possible for France to use this capacity to further reduce dependance on carbon emitting technology.
Now nuclear accidents are bad. But the Chernobyl exclusion zone has actually turned into a refugee for animal life showing a fair degree of resilience. And, let us be clear, nuclear safety has progressed in the last 50 years and the USSR was not known for industrial safety in any context.
So why is there a challenge getting new reactor designs approved? I am a nature lover and see this viewpoint from the linked article as abhorrent:
Personally, I am very worried about climate change and air pollution and fired up about energy abundance, but I’m not much of a nature lover. So at the end of the day, if we need to cover huge swathes of open space with solar panels, wind turbines, and transmission lines, I’m all for it. But realistically, not everyone feels that way, and the margin does matter. We should cut down some woodlands in New England for the sake of clean energy, but probably not all of it. It would be really nice to get a decent chunk of electricity from microreactors that have small footprints and could fit into the built landscape or be situated in natural settings with minimal disruption.
But Mr Yglesias is correct that some compromise is needed. We can only reduce power use so quickly and there are serious justice issues with telling developing countries to stop improving standards of living. Nor is the typical American going to want to see a huge drop in living standards.
Now, let us be clear, the original article suggests that carbon emissions are the biggest threat to security that humans have ever faced. In this context, is it not worth at least strongly considering safe nuclear power plants that are properly regulated and developed? And if this is wrong then it should be clarified as to which part is: 1) is nuclear more dangerous than we expect and, if so, how? or 2) is climate change a smaller threat than we think?
None of this means we should end renewable development and research. But it is quite clearly the case that a modern economy could get the majority of its electricity from nuclear. Some countries do manage this from renewables. Bit if you look at the leaders (countries like Canada, Norway, and Brazil) you see a huge proportion of this comes from hydropower, which rather relies on geography to make work.
I am not sure that I am right about this, but it is definitely worth pondering.
Friday, January 21, 2022
Belated Thursday Tweets
This one is peak something...
Influenced by anti-vaccine websites, legendary Czech folksinger deliberately infects herself with #COVID19, blathers propaganda, dies of you'll never guess what. https://t.co/LQkRdWWkKi— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) January 19, 2022
Unbelievable.— Josh Mankiewicz (@JoshMankiewicz) January 20, 2022
The email, obtained by WFTV, read in part: “I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it.”
Now he’s suspended. https://t.co/b6NY14LyfN
Crypto and Crypto-adjacent
He who controls the spice does not control the distribution rights https://t.co/9VsxQY9ZaK— max seddon (@maxseddon) January 17, 2022
SCOOP: Steve Bannon is selling an anti-Biden cryptocurrency to his MAGA fans, but experts say beware of its code. Please read, like, and RT. https://t.co/r3IgGLFPri— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 19, 2022
Yeah, it's almost like an individualistic anti-state project with leanings towards the gold standard is going ideologically appeal heavily towards one side of the isle. And also the sky is blue. 🤦https://t.co/wGUyqRolQz— Stephen Diehl (@smdiehl) January 21, 2022
I don't think a highly manipulated market on an asset class with no fundamentals or intrinsic value, and controlled by a cartel is a great place for the public to park their money.— Stephen Diehl (@smdiehl) January 17, 2022
In retrospect, all Lizzy Holmes and Theranos needed to do was call it beta— Anadarko (@AnadarkoCapital) January 17, 2022
At least Trump never used wired earbuds
think the press *might* want to start leaning into the idea that Trump’s mounting legal troubles have major 2024 implications? https://t.co/RVBwWlCKaP— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) January 20, 2022
So much wrong here. @maggieNYT accepts this on face value, even tho Trump aides are nuts and liars. And, um, that's not a normal reason to run. If she believes this, future stories should say: "Trump's decision to run was made for him when it was a choice between that and prison" https://t.co/qkl2ygBBGA— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) January 19, 2022
Going to be cool when Clarence Thomas doesn't recuse on a 1/6 case. https://t.co/8YTFMDCo3d— Schooley (@Rschooley) January 18, 2022
In Harris County percentage-wise we’re rejecting 7 times more mail ballot apps than before, because of new TX voter suppression laws that create a maze of technicalities. Example: if you register to vote with your DL number but request a mail ballot with your SSN, you’re rejected— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) January 17, 2022
Should individuals who signed and transmitted fraudulent Electoral College ballots be prosecuted? Hard to find a reason why not. https://t.co/k3c3GJxpuW— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) January 17, 2022
That was nearly two hours of POTUS.— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) January 19, 2022
He answered each question cogently and to the best of his ability.
He called on more than 20 different reporters.
He never once attacked us.
He never once avoided a question.
He never once tried to belittle us.
He stayed on point.
"The unicorn is a mythical beast..."
BREAKING: Peloton is temporarily halting production of its connected fitness products as consumer demand wanes and the company looks to control costs, according to internal documents obtained by CNBC. (via @laurenthomas) https://t.co/6HDmOnmfYv— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) January 20, 2022
he meant buy after hours today https://t.co/TlWhFV8DRb— luis carruthers (@orthereaboot) January 20, 2022
Tucker all-in for Putin. https://t.co/UdlS4DSE8e— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 19, 2022
leading Fox host advancing Putin's objective of dividing US from its allies, just as Trump did https://t.co/KjWGn2bRyP— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) January 21, 2022
We’re only days away from THEY’RE BEHIND YOU RIGHT NOW!!! RUN!!!!! https://t.co/zI1p2okJfq— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) January 18, 2022
Necessary and Sufficientish
We can’t discuss the wave of disinformation jeopardizing American democracy without talking about the mothership: Fox. I don’t call it news, even if they do, because it’s not news. #RollTheTape #DemocracyInPeril pic.twitter.com/9yafVMwqfJ— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) January 19, 2022
Who could have seen this coming?
Tennessee passed a law designed to allow adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples on the basis of "written religious or moral convictions or policies."— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) January 20, 2022
Now a publicly funded adoption agency is declining to work with Jews too.https://t.co/X9rrvehr84
Nuanced take from Marshall
this is the whole point. There are real arguments for rules that allow the minority to slow things down. the problem is that there is now no burden on the minority at all. so in a time of disciplined parties of course 60 vote rule applies to everything. https://t.co/Oinxnnk521— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 19, 2022
Still early, but will be hard to beat. https://t.co/QpyrCYynsS— Russ Mitchell (@russ1mitchell) January 21, 2022
"Tim, we'll get back to the report."
being a millennial means getting hit by a car while doing your job but immediately apologizing and forgiving the driver pic.twitter.com/68v5x9D9lm— Brunch Covidian (@OscarGambler) January 20, 2022
Thursday, January 20, 2022
"the more beautiful it turns, grows so much the weaker"
We generally shy away from the Tulipomania section of Extraordinary Popular Delusions. Of the three discussions of bubbles by Charles MacKay, it is the shortest and generally the least interesting but it does contain some very nice writing. It also seems especially relevant in an age of NFTs, which have a definite tulip mania vibe.
The tulip,—so named, it is said, from a Turkish word, signifying a turban,—was introduced into western Europe about the middle of the sixteenth century. Conrad Gesner, who claims the merit of having brought it into repute,—little dreaming of the commotion it was shortly afterwards to make in the world,—says that he first saw it in the year 1559, in a garden at Augsburg, belonging to the learned Counsellor Herwart, a man very famous in his day for his collection of rare exotics. The bulbs were sent to this gentleman by a friend at Constantinople, where the flower had long been a favourite. In the course of ten or eleven years after this period, tulips were much sought after by the wealthy, especially in Holland and Germany. Rich people at Amsterdam sent for the bulbs direct to Constantinople, and paid the most extravagant prices for them. The first roots planted in England were brought from Vienna in 1600. Until the year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation, until it was deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a collection of them. Many learned men, including Pompeius de Angelis and the celebrated Lipsius of Leyden, the author of the treatise “De Constantia,” were passionately fond of tulips. The rage for possessing them soon caught the middle classes of society, and merchants and shopkeepers, even of moderate means, began to vie with each other in the rarity of these flowers and the preposterous prices they paid for them. A trader at Harlaem was known to pay one-half of his fortune for a single root, not with the design of selling it again at a profit, but to keep in his own conservatory for the admiration of his acquaintance.
One would suppose that there must have been some great virtue in this flower to have made it so valuable in the eyes of so prudent a people as the Dutch; but it has neither the beauty nor the perfume of the rose—hardly the beauty of the “sweet, sweet-pea;” neither is it as enduring as either. Cowley, it is true, is loud in its praise. He says—
“The tulip next appeared, all over gay,
But wanton, full of pride, and full of play;
The world can’t shew a dye but here has place;
Nay, by new mixtures, she can change her face;
Purple and gold are both beneath her care,
The richest needlework she loves to wear;
Her only study is to please the eye,
And to outshine the rest in finery.”
This, though not very poetical, is the description of a poet. Beckmann, in his History of Inventions, paints it with more fidelity, and in prose more pleasing than Cowley’s poetry. He says, “There are few plants which acquire, through accident, weakness, or disease, so many variegations as the tulip. When uncultivated, and in its natural state, it is almost of one colour, has large leaves, and an extraordinarily long stem. When it has been weakened by cultivation, it becomes more agreeable in the eyes of the florist. The petals are then paler, smaller, and more diversified in hue; and the leaves acquire a softer green colour. Thus this masterpiece of culture, the more beautiful it turns, grows so much the weaker, so that, with the greatest skill and most careful attention, it can scarcely be transplanted, or even kept alive.”
Many persons grow insensibly attached to that which gives them a great deal of trouble, as a mother often loves her sick and ever-ailing child better than her more healthy offspring. Upon the same principle we must account for the unmerited encomia lavished upon these fragile blossoms.
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Even with Alejandro Jodorowsky's never filmed Dune, truth can be stranger than fiction, especially when crypto and NFTs are involved
Yet a fascination with the project’s mind-bendingly ambitious vision remained, so much so that a documentary was made about it in 2014, and a rare book on the unmade film — containing the script, concept art and other pre-production materials — has become a collector’s items among Dune-heads.So in-demand in fact, that every now and then one of the estimated 20 surfaces for sale gets purchased for big bucks. And so it was in late November, when Christies sold one of the copies for €2.66m — almost 100 times its estimate.Which brings us neatly to this announcement from Spice DAO on Sunday:
We won the auction for €2.66M. Now our mission is to:— Spice DAO (🏜,🏜) (@TheSpiceDAO) January 15, 2022
1. Make the book public (to the extent permitted by law)
2. Produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service
3. Support derivative projects from the community pic.twitter.com/g4QnF6YZBpIf you don’t know what a DAO, or decentralised anonymous organisation, is, let us explain. In effect, it’s a governance structure where each member of the organisation — a membership often granted by simply buying a cryptocurrency tied to it (in this case, named SPICE) — becomes a decision maker in the organisation’s governance. The governance rules are set in smart contracts drafted beforehand by the original organisers, but after that, every decision of the entity is decided by the tokenholders. Presented as an antidote to the centralised governance of modern tech companies, it’s like being a shareholder in a crowd-funded project, but without being able to defer any decision-making to a chief executive or management team. (And that, arguably, is the least of the model’s problems. Do read Izzy or Stephen Diehl for more.)Yet the problem with Spice DAO isn’t so much a philosophical one but a legal one.We don’t know why we have to state this, but by buying a copy of something doesn’t give you exclusive rights to monetise its content. It’s literally the bedrock of intellectual property law and therefore, large swaths of capitalism.So, have SpiceDAO resolved this? The copyrights of the book’s script and illustrations, according to BuzzFeed, are owned by Jodorowsky himself, and artists Jean Giraud and HR Giger. Both of whom died over the past decade. So without their estate’s sign-off, SpiceDAO is Spice dead in the water.
Turns out the IP situation is even worse than Powell suggests. About that animated series...
It will come as a surprise, I'm sure, to nobody but the DAO members to learn that the rights arrangement between the Herbert estate and Legendary is reported to broadly cover "film and TV projects for a global audience."https://t.co/Ba7Bkqsc7G— Mike Dunford (@questauthority) January 17, 2022
And there's more.
They want to scan the book, then sell NFTs.— scott melton (@essdubem) January 17, 2022
Then burn the book.
Of course, there are still 19 other copies out, not to mention this...
Anyway, if y'all wanna read a free and publicly accessible copy of the book, here's one that's been online since 2011 https://t.co/EQk8gUnDu4— Alex (Boba Fett Era) | He/Him (@TheNinjaWhippet) January 16, 2022
You know what the sad part is? This almost certainly isn't the dumbest blockchain based business idea we'll see in 2022. It may not even be the dumbest of the year so far.
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Tax cuts are getting old as a policy idea
Monday, January 17, 2022
More from Stephen Diehl -- Decentralized Woo Hoo
I really should have started reading this guy earlier. His blog and twitter feed just jumped to the top of my crypto/Web3 reading list.
In science communication there’s a term that’s often bandied about to describe a type of ineffective communication style that flirts with quackery and pseudoscience, it’s known as quantum woo. The term refers to a class of rhetoric that works backwards from some large human phenomenon, which is shrouded in scientific ambiguity and deep questions, and then proceeds to derive an explanation for said phenomenon by working from quantum mechanics.
It extrapolates the micro “weirdness” of quantum mechanics up to the macro level of human experience through a series of non-sequitur claims involving the misreading of complex ideas and/or misinterpretation of technical terms. These arguments are often used to justify claims for things like crystal healing, panpsychism, heaven or other human mystical or pseudoscientific beliefs. Or similarly they suggest misguided equivalences, like that that quantum mechanics and consciousness are both weird and therefore equivelent without a reference to a mechanism. The Dirac equation has nothing to say about the phenomenon of mind except to describe the chemistry that gives rise to it.
Much of this confusion is nothing but word games arising out of imprecise language. Quantum mechanics uses the word observable to refer to a technical concept, however the word has a colloquial meaning that carries emotional and anthropocentric baggage. Used interchangeably the word mistakenly connotes a person or a mind is involved with this process when in fact the scientific usage has no such requirement. This ambiguity itself has led to an amazing amount of quantum woo purely from the misinterpretation and interchange of words.
The essence of the fallacy is based on either an intentional attempt to construct a post-hoc rationalisation for a crackpot idea through a specious relation to the rigour of physics; or it is an unintentional category error that attempts to use reasoning applicable for one strata of discourse and apply it to a different level, where such models cannot make predictions. In technology we have an almost identical phenomenon surrounding the word decentralized.
In a vast amount of the legal, regulatory, ethical, and policy discussions around crypto assets we encounter questions about the intrinsic value of these investments. Yet if we value these assets in terms of traditional valuation models we find they should be worth absolutely nothing. But crypto assets come with an attached narrative economics that tries to rationalize their existence by appeals to either libertarian politics or technology. If we venture down the technology arguments, at this point the discussion of intrinsic value of crypto assets reduces down to a rhetorical word salad of decentralized woo making all manner of appeals to alleged ideals of decentralization and networks, yet like with quantum woo, without a reference to a mechanism.
Friday, January 14, 2022
Necessary and Sufficientish Factors
For certain topics, there are factors that absolutely have to be included in any serious conversation and often good enough for a rough mental model. You can flip this around to form a test for seriousness: the writer who leaves the necessary out of big think pieces is not serious and is probably best ignored.
When discussing the Press coverage of Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, misogyny may not be a sufficient explanation, but it is definitely necessary.
When discussing Western wildfires, more than a century of a disastrous war-on-fire policy that left our forests basically a huge collection of tinder bundles is both necessary and sufficientish (though a more complete discussion should include climate change as well).
When discussing the increased frequency of droughts, heat waves and hurricanes, on the other hand, climate change is both necessary and sufficientish.
When discussing the rise of MAGA and QAnon, decades of Conservative Movement propaganda and disinformation is necessary and sufficientish.
Obviously, these are complex issues with multiple complex causal relationships behind them, but any theory that claims to explain one of them and yet leaves out the primary cause, is profoundly and irredeemably silly, and we have way too much silliness in our discourse already.
Always start with whatever is doing the heavy lifting.
Thursday, January 13, 2022
Here’s a major corporation shipping a product that has a “break the law” setting built in. https://t.co/HAblLexbIf— Christof Spieler (@christofspieler) January 9, 2022
Point of Clarification: In automobile driving, there is actually no such thing as a "rolling stop." That is, in fact, a colloquial term that contradicts itself. However, there is something called "running a stop sign." It's illegal.— Machine Planet (@Paul91701736) January 11, 2022
That is all. #GigaFraud $tslaQ $TSLA
Um... is this a job application for $ARKK? #Pump #Tesla $TSLA $TSLAQ pic.twitter.com/NPLNbfWvVi— Claire Musk (@ClaireMusk) January 9, 2022
[Me to the cameras, as police haul me away] Oh, like YOUR freezers aren't also filled with the dismembered body parts of missing drifters https://t.co/8X5JKVllE3— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 9, 2022
Mike Lindell says he has 'enough evidence' to put '300 million' Americans in jail for election fraud https://t.co/lx5lpOLvLI— Raw Story (@RawStory) January 12, 2022
Soo... that actual argument from Republicans today is that Gorsuch didn't say "hundreds of thousands" of flu deaths (which is wrong) but said "hundreds, thousands" of flu deaths (WHICH IS ALSO WRONG).— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) January 10, 2022
To believe that Gorsuch said or meant to say "hundreds thousands" instead of "hundreds of thousands" then you have to believe his argument was "The flu kills vastly fewer people than Covid and we don't require flu shots so we shouldn't require vaccines against the deadlier thing"— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) January 10, 2022
Interestingly, urine therapy was hugely popular in the USSR in the years preceding the country's breakup and the collapse of the regime.— Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63) January 11, 2022
Just an idle observation. https://t.co/DgKwP09slr
Everyone at Fox owns this from Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on down. Boosters are saving literally thousands of lives *right now*. How many people will die during this pandemic because of misinformation on Fox? https://t.co/iGxP9qRPmJ— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) January 8, 2022
Before Covid, no one ever had their blood pressure or blood sugar tested; was screened for STIs; did genetic testing; took a TB test; had a physical, mammogram, pap smear, prostate exam, colonoscopy, eye exam, or any other routine screening; or had a # of common blood tests done. https://t.co/husi2s3KNp— Beth Martin (@cliothemuse) January 8, 2022
A national map of land values in the US. 👀 Any surprises? pic.twitter.com/xt7pl4nDRH— 𝙈. 𝙉𝙤𝙡𝙖𝙣 𝙂𝙧𝙖𝙮 (@mnolangray) January 12, 2022
looking at the 1950 Census of Agriculture and came across this cartogram "with the area of each state proportional to the value of farm products sold."https://t.co/799Kv8nUxv (page 15) pic.twitter.com/thWHQl9Pwu— Jill Hubley (@Jill_hubley) January 11, 2022
This 1881 map is an amazing work that shows the travel time from London to... everywhere. Not only is it one of the first isochronic maps (marking distances that could be traveled in the same time) but it drew on steamship tables, post office records, and private voyage records. pic.twitter.com/zv5rO8QGZ4— Ethan Mollick (@emollick) January 8, 2022
This is what happens when you don’t ban positivism and pornography. pic.twitter.com/ibHzdeNqfT— David Weigel (@daveweigel) January 9, 2022
This is fucking wild. Norton "Antivirus" now sneakily installs cryptomining software on your computer, and then SKIMS A COMMISSION. https://t.co/6s2otyCd78— Cory Doctorow MOSTLY AFK UNTIL MID-FEB-ISH (@doctorow) January 4, 2022
Just want to put a marker on this. We now have primetime nfl broadcast ads featuring movie stars valorizing as the next frontier of human exploration passive investments in a wholly artificial class of assets—where your return depends on attracting more investors to the scheme. pic.twitter.com/abNLmPexxd— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) January 3, 2022
Since I get asked a lot whether I would sell out to the Crypto industry, like Matt Damon, I always give the same answer: “Mom, I’m not an actor. Why would I get asked to be in an ad?”— Scott Shapiro (@scottjshapiro) January 11, 2022
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Back on the crypto beat: Turns out that private money is a bad idea
Stephen Diehl has perhaps the best concise but comprehensive overview of why cryptocurrencies are such a bad idea by pretty much every possible measure. Much of it will be familiar to anyone who has been following the story closely, it does have some interesting points that most commentators have missed, particularly regarding some historic precedents.
Even playing devil’s advocate and assuming cryptocurrency could function as money—which they can’t—we come up against the hard limitation that every time private money has been tried in history it creates a form of corporate feudalism coupled to a toxic environment that encourages fraud and discourages commerce. The lessons of history are quite clear on this issue because the United States flirted with such a system back in the Free Banking Era from 1837 to 1863. In this time period there were hundreds of private entities that went about issuing their own private bank notes allegedly created one-for-one with state bonds.
The problem with these so-called wildcat banks is that their reserves were not always verifiably backed and were thus subject to runs on the bank in which customers could not access their funds. The second issue is that unlike public money which is universally accepted at par, the wildcat bank notes had a massive secondary exchange market where notes from different banks would not trade at par. A dollar note from Wyoming bank could be worth $0.60 to a note from a Nebraska bank and these values would fluctuate depending on market conditions. As a merchant this would make business rather complicated as you would be forced to purchase goods in one set of notes, accept notes from customers and give change in a different set of notes. This was great for bankers who had access to non-public information and could arbitrage these notes for their own profits, but for the average person it was a terribly predatory and exploitative system. Private bank notes are a needlessly complicated, risky and inefficient way to run an economy and this was remedied by the National Bank Act of 1863. It was a truly terrible idea.
History tends to rhyme with itself, and today we are flirting with the same bad ideas of the past. Except now instead of wildcat banks we have wildcat tech platforms with the same aspirations. They don’t want to interface with public money, they want to become issuers of private money themselves. A fully vertically integrated form of company scrip that they issue to their investors, employees and customers to create not just a walled garden, but a walled garden where every path has a toll booth that takes only their coin. The elephant in the room that no venture investor in these projects wants to talk about is that creating private money, just like in the wildcat banking era, is a license to print money by creating markets for these coins/notes with massive position and information asymmetries baked into the design. These kinds of private money regimes are just as exploitative today as they were in the 1800s, and the so-called “web3” notion of embedding this form of institutionalized corruption as a first class structure into the internet is a terrible idea that ignores the lessons of history.
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Health care and central planning
When I got here, I wondered, has it always been this bad? The answer is no.Specialist physicians in 2020 reported a median wait time of 22.6 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment— compared with 9.3 weeks in 1993.
I think that this does highlight one concern about "Medicare for all" -- that if the entire health care sector is planned by the government then you become vulnerable to all of the failings of central planning. I known it is hotly disputed these days, but the central planning of the USSR was not an advantage in its great power competition with the United States. It just wasn't.
The consequences of it in Canada on the ability of health care to weather an external shock (like covid-19) are clear. Look at this, which leaves people unable to do basic tasks like driving if wait times get too long:
Manitoba has seen the largest decrease in Canada in cataract and lens surgeries during the pandemic.
We estimate the backlog is 4,945 and growing for cataract surgery.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) is advising residents of Winnipeg that community health services – home care services, in particular, could be delayed, rescheduled or cancelled due to staff shortages.
Prairie Mountain Health, which services a wide swath of western and southwestern Manitoba, currently has eight rural emergency departments closed, leaving some communities with no open hospital and long drives to access urgent care.
Let's say you do a job that requires 14 highly skilled people. Suddenly, you only have 7 people and 3 of them are untrained. Your working conditions remain like that for months. And you keep getting told you’re fine and that you can, in fact, actually increase what you’re doing.
Or this (from a working MD):
I understand drive to reassure - but IMO hospitals need to stop promising "we've got you." Our politicians have pushed our systems to the edge of the cliff and we don't know what is going to happen as a result. That's the truth. A lot is about to go into freefall.
The common theme is that a centrally planned system lacks resilience if the politicians in charge (because administrators ultimately report to politicians) decide to let the system crumble. Now think carefully if you want the typical politician making tough decisions about long term health care needs and about how to staff/run the system. Now, it is true that hospitals are currently mostly not run by the government but the group in charge of finance easily evaded that obstacle:
Planning in the hospital sector is subject to many of the same challenges as the medical sector, as most hospitals are privately owned nonprofit organizations. Allocation of resources within each institution tends to be at its own discretion. This is tempered at the provincial level, however, by splitting the planning process into operational and capital planning. Thus, while day-to-day operations are largely institutionally based with some input from the ministry, the decision to build and update facilities or purchase new equipment is subject to more extensive central control. Therefore, even though the institutional sector accounts for the preponderance of provincial health care budgets, provinces have had more planning and financial control than in any other sector
This is a European report on Canada. Not that they also report on Canada's restrictions on training medical personnel in order to constrain costs.
I am not saying that socialized medicine is a mistake, it isn't. But I think that there is a very important piece that we need to make sure that the institutions are well planned and robust to political administration types. Good government is key and planning this out in advance may evade some of the surprising challenges Canadian healthcare is suddenly facing.