Etc: Links for 6th December, 2019

Five articles about my favorite sportsperson

 

  1. “Dear Maya, It’s June 25, 2032 and it’s your 18th birthday. I don’t have anything profound to give you except for this thumb drive about an unusual man. Roger Federer didn’t fight for peace or solve world hunger, but he did what most could not. In an era of athletic conceit and inflated skill, he lived for roughly 20 years at the unique intersection of art, accomplishment and decency.”
    ..
    ..
    Rohit Brijnath.
    ..
    ..
  2. “Four years ago, trying to comprehend the phenomenon of Federer’s late career, which even then seemed like it had lasted an astonishingly long time, I wrote that the best athletes usually have a “still” phase. First they’re fast. Then they’re slow. In between, there’s a moment when they’re “still” fast — when you can see the end coming but can’t deny that, for now, they remain close to their best. Federer, I wrote, had spent longer in that “still” phase than any great tennis player I could think of.”
    ..
    ..
    Brian Philips, amazed at how long Federer has been awesome… written in 2015.
    ..
    ..
  3. A Wikipedia article about the greatest rivalry in sport.
    ..
    ..
  4. “I was broken after the final at Wimbledon then. I was equally gutted after the final today. There’s a difference in outlook though. Back then, I hated the opponent with every small bit of childish rebellion could gather. Today, I respect Djokovic. I acknowledge his presence as the superior player of the day. And I thank him for a being a part of a spectacle I will never forget my entire life.”
    ..
    ..
    For the tennis aficionados, care to take a guess what match is being spoken about? Sumedh Natu in top formSumedh Natu in top form.
    ..
    ..
  5. If you are as much a fan of reading and watching tennis as I am, you knew what the fifth link was going to be. If you aren’t, and are reading this for the first time, I envy you.

EC101: Links for 5th December, 2019

If you think of one’s opinion about RCT’s as a spectrum, I fall on the “I think it’s not a bad idea at all” part of it. How might I be wrong? Five articles that help me understand this.

  1. “Lately I find myself cringing at the question “what works in development?” I think it’s a mistake to think that way. That is why I now try hard not to talk in terms of “program evaluation”.“Does it work?” is how I approached at least two of the studies. One example: Would a few months of agricultural skills training coax a bunch of ex-combatants out of illegal gold mining, settle them in villages, and make it less likely they join the next mercenary movement that forms?

    But instead of asking, “does the program work?”, I should have asked, “How does the world work?” What we want is a reasonably accurate model of the world: why people or communities or institutions behave the way they do, and how they will respond to an incentive, or a constraint relieved. Randomized trials, designed right, can help move us to better models.”
    ..
    ..
    Chris Blattman on the issue. (Note that this was written in 2016)
    ..
    ..

  2. “In the early 2000s a group emerged arguing that important improvements to development and hence to human well-being could be achieved through the wide spread use of independent impact evaluations of development programs and projects using randomized control trial methods (RCT) of choosing randomly “treatment” and “control” individuals. I have been arguing, since about that time, that this argument for RCT in IIE gets one small thing right (that it is hard to recover methodologically sound estimates of project/program causal impact with non-experimental methods) but all the big things wrong.”
    ..
    ..
    You can’t write anything about RCT’s without writing about Lant Pritchett’s opinion about them.
    ..
    ..
  3. “Like other methods of investigation, they are often useful, and, like other methods, they have dangers and drawbacks. Methodological prejudice can only tie our hands. Context is always important, and we must adapt our methods to the problem at hand. It is not true that an RCT, when feasible, will always do better than an observational study. This should not be controversial, but my reading of the rhetoric in the literature suggests that the following statements might still make some uncomfortable, particularly the second: (a) RCTs are affected by the same problems of inference and estimation that economists have faced using other methods, and (b) no RCT can ever legitimately claim to have established causality.”
    ..
    ..
    Angus Deaton weighs in (and if you ask me, this is my favorite out of the five)
    ..
    ..
  4. “The economists, like the medical researchers, seem to have lost touch
    with their proper role. They are not ethically assigned to master our lives.
    The mastering assignment is what they assume when they focus on
    “policy,” understood as tricking or bribing or coercing people to do what’s
    best. It sounds fine, until you realize that it is what your mother did to you
    when you were 2 years old, and had properly stopped doing to you by the
    time you were 21. The field experimenters scorn adult liberty. And that is
    the other way many economists have lost touch. As noted by the
    economist William Easterly, another critic of the experimental work, and as
    argued at length by your reporter in numerous books, the real way to solve
    world poverty is liberty. Not dubious, fiddly, bossy little policies handed
    down from the elite. ”
    ..
    ..
    Dierdre McCloskey (as usual) doesn’t pull punches.
    ..
    ..
  5. A set of links about the topic from Oxfam.

RoW: Links for 3rd December, 2019

Five articles today, all from the NYT, about news from America that gives one a perspective of that (always, but especially right now) fascinating nation.

 

  1. “The Trump administration said on Monday that a new French tax that hit American technology companies discriminated against the United States, a declaration that could lead to retaliatory tariffs as high as 100 percent on French wines.”
    ..
    ..
    Click here for the story and you might also want to read this. I have not read the book myself, but it came up in a conversation just yesterday. I will read it soon enough. Also, I can never understand how Kindle books are more expensive compared to printed ones. Anybody has any ideas?
    ..
    ..
  2. “I looked at states that voted for Donald Trump versus states that voted for Clinton in 2016, and calculated average life expectancy weighted by their 2016 population. In 1990, today’s red and blue states had almost the same life expectancy. Since then, however, life expectancy in Clinton states has risen more or less in line with other advanced countries, compared with almost no gain in Trump country. At this point, blue-state residents can expect to live more than four years longer than their red-state counterparts.”
    ..
    ..
    Cause and effect, correlation and causation, statistics and economics, with a healthy glug of politics. Whats not to like (and dislike)?
    ..
    ..
  3. “Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.”
    ..
    ..
    I have subscribed to the NYT long enough to call this piece typical, and you should ask yourself if you think that to be a good thing or a bad thing.
    ..
    ..
  4. “These tensions culminated in King Philip’s War of 1675-76, in which the English killed thousands of Native people — including Ousamequin’s son, Pumetacom — and enslaved thousands more. Plymouth and Massachusetts celebrated their bloody victory with a day of thanksgiving.”
    ..
    ..
    Thanksgiving explained.
    ..
    ..
  5. “This year, we are rounding up the worst tech products we often see presented as holiday gifts and are recommending superior alternatives, many of which may go on sale on Black Friday. Consider this a guide to steering away from presents that end up in landfills and toward buying what may bring your loved ones joy.”
    ..
    ..
    A “worst of” shopping list. What does this say about shopping?

Tech: Links for 3rd December, 2019

  1. “Both Starship and Starlink are transformative technology being built before our very eyes, here, in our lifetimes. If I live long enough my grandchildren will be more flabbergasted that I’m older than Starlink than that I’m older than cell phones (museum pieces) or the public internet itself.”
    ..
    ..
    A fascinating write-up on Starlink: its economics, its pricing, its upsides, its downsides, and the underlying strategy. A very long read, and I’ll admit I didn’t get all of it – but rewarding nonetheless.
    ..
    ..
  2. “To finish this post, I’m going to revisit its starting point. Starship is still seen by many in the space media community as a slightly overgrown version of any other rocket, with reusability tacked on. This is an error of analogy. Starship fundamentally changes our relationship with space.Starship is a devastatingly powerful space access and logistical transport mechanism that will instantly crush the relevance of every other rocket ever built.””
    ..
    ..
    And so also for Starship.
    ..
    ..
  3. “…the venture capital pouring into astrology apps will create a fortune telling system that works, because humans are predictable. As people follow the advice, the apps’ predictive powers will increase, creating an ever-tighter electronic leash. But they’ll be hugely popular – because if you sprinkle magic on top, you can sell people anything.”
    ..
    ..
    Speaking of stars
    ..
    ..
  4. “But using models is inherently tricky. We can never be certain that our model behaves enough like the thing we are actually trying to understand to draw conclusions about it. Nor can we be sure that our model is similar enough in the ways that really matter. So it can be hard to know that the evidence we collect from the model is truly evidence about the thing we want to know about.”
    ..
    ..
    Evidence and proofs are very tricky to think about.
    ..
    ..
  5. “This requires more ingenuity than you might think—wires have never been perfectly transparent carriers of data; they have always degraded the information put into them. In general, this gets worse as the wire gets longer, and so as the early telegraph networks spanned greater distances, the people building them had to edge away from the seat-of-the-pants engineering practices that, applied in another field, gave us so many boiler explosions, and toward the more scientific approach that is the standard of practice today.”
    ..
    ..
    The very first link above includes a link to this gem of an essay by Neal Stephenson. Written in 1996, it still is a great read!

India: Links for 2nd December, 2019

What else?

  1. “The non-government part tends to form 87-92% of the economy. In the July-September period, it formed nearly 87% of the economy. If 87% of the economy is growing at 3.05%, the situation is much worse than it seems.”
    ..
    ..
    Vivek Kaul about the GDP data is worse than it looks.
    ..
    ..
  2. “At its core, Indian industry is cooling rapidly, with industries like coal, steel, cement and electricity having contracted in October. Eight core infrastructure industries have not grown in the first seven months of this year. Manufacturing, led by the automobile industry, has contracted, and mining stopped growing in the second quarter. Energy utilities and construction saw their growth rates almost halving from the same quarter a year ago. Another three months of declines will officially qualify as a manufacturing recession.”
    ..
    ..
    The R-word is being heard, louder and louder.
    ..
    ..
  3. “The good news is that GDP growth in the next quarter or the fourth quarter could well be a wee bit higher. The pop thesis is that given the lower base of the previous year, growth could be statistically higher—a bit like standing next to Leonardo DiCaprio, who is six feet tall, and then next to Tom Cruise, who is 5 feet 7. The bad news is that the slowdown is not going away anytime soon. ”
    ..
    ..
    Shankkar Aiyyar, in top form.
    ..
    ..
  4. ““Besides monetary easing by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the government needs to simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and introduce a new direct tax code to clear the tax jungle created by our ancient income-tax law and rules,” he says.”
    ..
    ..
    The “he” in this case being Arvind Virmani.
    ..
    ..
  5. This may be behind a paywall for you, in which case, my apologies. But the final link in this set is from TN Ninan over at Business Standard.

Video for 1st December, 2019

Tweets for 30th Nov, 2019