BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-23 Tu

Things that went whizzing by, but that I really want to remember...


There comes a point at which the dishonesty—perhaps "dishonesty" is not the right word—there comes a point at which the gaming of the system with a sociopathic disregard for the rights and expectations of your principal counterparties becomes so great that the only rational response is to say: this structure needs to be burned to the ground and a new structure in which the architects of the old have no place needs to be directed to fulfill the functions. I think Uber has reached that point:

John BullSchrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis: ‘ULL, the lawyers argued, didn’t employ any drivers. It was simply a brand umbrella… drew the judges’ attention to the careful wording within them that confirmed this…. Operators were granted access to UBV’s app. Not ULL’s app. On this they were clear. UBV’s app. Through that app, passengers could contact those operators directly, negotiate a ride and agree a fare. Neither ULL or UBV were involved in the ride itself, Uber’s lawyers were keen to stress…. If there was a contractual arrangement, then it was solely made between passenger and operator…. Uber’s lawyers argued that Aslam and Farrar (and the other 30,000 Uber drivers they indirectly represented) had misunderstood the relationship they had with Uber…. The drivers weren’t like caddies at all…. They were like pole dancers….

When it came, the tribunal’s ruling was unanimous…. “This is,” the tribunal judges explained in their ruling, “we think, an excellent illustration of the phenomenon of which Elias J warned in the Kalwak case, of ‘armies of lawyers’ contriving documents in their clients’ interests which simply misrepresent the true rights and obligations on both sides”…

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Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Sofiane SmileFlashing Lights <>:

Five Paragraphs:

1) I do not understand Renaissance’s Medallion Fund. I do not know anybody who understands Renaissance’s Medallion Fund. If anybody has figured out how to come close to replicating whatever renaissance is medallion fund has done, they are not talking and are not on my radar screen. The fact that I have no clue as to what is going on here leaves me massively dissatisfied. I do not think I understand Bridgewater. But I do think I have a vague idea as to how they do what they do and why it might work as well as it does. I have no such insight into Renaissance Medallion:

Bradford CornellMedallion Fund: The Ultimate Counterexample?: ’Over the period from the start of trading in 1988 to 2018, $100 invested in Medallion would have grown to $398.7 million, representing a compound return of 63.3%. Returns of this magnitude over such an extended period far outstrip anything reported in the academic literature. Furthermore, during the entire 31-year period, Medallion never had a negative return despite the crash and the financial crisis. Despite this remarkable performance, the fund’s market beta and factor loadings were all negative, so that Medallion’s performance cannot be interpreted as a premium for risk bearing. To date, there is no adequate rational market explanation for this performance…

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2) At its origin, civilization as we have known it seems to have been quite a cruel and a brutal thing. Our technologies were, for a long long time, much more effective as technologies of extraction and domination then as technologies to boost productivity. Actually, perhaps that is wrong: our technologies were fine at boosting productivity but Malthus’s Devil ensure that the benefits flowed to increasing human numbers rather than raising human prosperity. That's for a long, long time domination and extraction was nearly the only road to individual prosperity:

Patrick WymanUruk & the Emergence of Civilization: ‘The “Uruk Phenomenon.” This was a multifaceted expansion outward from southern Mesopotamia… some combination of colonization movement, proto-imperial takeover, ideological ferment, and mercantile enterprise…. The most ubiquitous item of Uruk culture is actually a humble, misshapen… beveled-rim bowl… mass-produced by the thousands… but in crude molds. The most likely explanation is that they were used to dole out grain rations… molds to bake that grain into daily bread… speaks powerfully to the nature of Uruk society… a deeply unequal and centralized way of organizing the world, with superiors and inferiors…. Those at the bottom were dependent on their betters, who controlled their labor and doled out their food supply, perhaps in those ugly little bowls…. In the early written texts, the most common non-numerical sign is the symbol for “female slave of foreign origin.” “Captive male” isn’t far behind… LINK: 


3) Liars gonna lie. But there may be a way to use their desire to retain a shred of their self-respect in order to uncover somewhat of the truth. Note, however, that this does not work with the Trumps and with their ilk at all:

Zeynep TufekciCritical Thinking isn’t Just a Process: ‘Friends who had grown up in authoritarian or poor countries had a much easier time adjusting…. When Trump got sick with COVID… one detail stood out: he had been given dexamethasone…. The doctors… “Q: Was Trump’s oxygen level ever below 90?” “CONLEY: We don’t have any recordings here of that” “Q: But was it ever below 90, here or at the White House?” CONLEY: No, it was below 94 percent. It wasn’t down in the low 80s or anything…. They don’t have recording below 90s “here” so via Kremlinology, a sadly appropriate method now, we can probably infer that it was probably mid-to-high 80s Friday night which sparked giving him oxygen and transport to Walter Reed….

Metaepistemology may be a fancy term, but it’s actually a mundane skill…. Most deliberate misinformation from authorities—especially in places that are mid-range in terms of institutional trust and strict licensing—comes from omission…. I concluded that the most likely explanation was… that, indeed, the President had faced severe illness. Yesterday, we finally got actual reporting… “Trump… was found to have lung infiltrates… a sign of an acute case of the disease…. Trump’s blood oxygen level alone was cause for extreme concern, dipping into the 80s…” There is often talk of teaching people “critical thinking”… not just formulas to be taught but knowledge and experience to be acquired and tested and re-examined…. It may be a privilege to live in a society that does not always need official statements to be interrogated as such. But if the past few years have shown anything, that privilege is not something to be taken for granted…

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4) At this point, I think you have to presume that Facebook is guilty when charged by insiders:

Hannah MurphyFacebook Reported Revenue It ‘Should Have Never Made’, Manager Claimed: ‘Lawsuit cites product executive’s qualms over figures provided to advertisers. Facebook says that the ‘allegations are without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves’. A Facebook employee warned that the company reported revenues it “should have never made” by overstating how many users advertisers could reach, according to internal emails revealed in a newly unsealed court filing. The world’s largest social media company has since 2018 been fighting a class-action lawsuit claiming that its executives knew its “potential reach metric”, used to inform advertisers of their potential audience size, was inflated but failed to correct it. According to sections of a filing in the lawsuit that were unredacted on Wednesday, a Facebook product manager in charge of potential reach proposed changing the definition of the metric in mid–2018 to render it more accurate. However, internal emails show that his suggestion was rebuffed by Facebook executives overseeing metrics on the grounds that the “revenue impact” for the company would be “significant”, the filing said. The product manager responded by saying “it’s revenue we should have never made given the fact it’s based on wrong data”, the complaint said…


5) Only 23,000 years? That does not seem to me very long—especially when you consider that co-movement implies only a form of weak symbiosis and perhaps semi-domestication, not full domestication:

Angela R. Perri & al.Dog Domestication & the Dual Dispersal of People & Dogs into the Americas: ‘Over the last 10,000 y, the genetic signatures of ancient dog remains have been linked with known human dispersals in regions such as the Arctic and the remote Pacific. It is suspected, however, that this relationship has a much deeper antiquity…. By comparing population genetic results of humans and dogs from Siberia, Beringia, and North America, we show that there is a close correlation in the movement and divergences of their respective lineages…. It suggests that dogs were domesticated in Siberia by ∼23,000 y ago, possibly while both people and wolves were isolated during the harsh climate of the Last Glacial Maximum. Dogs then accompanied the first people into the Americas and traveled with them as humans rapidly dispersed into the continent beginning ∼15,000 y ago…

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Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Hoisted from the Archives

2010Is This an April Fool’s Joke?: Charles Lane of the Washington Post:

Some in the antislavery movement were as extreme, in their way, as the Southern “fire-eaters.”… In 1851, a Boston crowd broke into a federal courthouse to free “Shadrach,” a black man being held there by U.S. marshals enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law…. I am not suggesting a moral equivalency between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces. But I am suggesting an attitudinal equivalency…

First of all, Shadrach Minkins has a name—which does not deserve to be put into scare quotes. He was a human being. Charles—excuse me, ’Charles’—sees an ‘attitudinal equivalency’ between abolitionists who ‘arrested Minkins from his court officers, carried him off and temporarily hid him in a Beacon Hill attic… Boston black leaders Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others helped Minkins escape from Massachusetts, and he eventually found his way to Canada on the Underground Railroad…’ and Jefferson Davis and his ilk who raised armies that killed 400,000 Americans.

I am sorry: those who kill tens of thousands have a different ‘attitude’ than those who set people free without killing anybody.

Worst Washington Post writer alive.


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