- CATEGORY / science
- Two GIFs about peer review, and an embarrassing story …
1) 2) It is common to have your papers rejected from journals. I forwarded a recent rejection to my advisor along with the first GIF. Shortly after, I got the second GIF from the journal editor, with a smiley. It turns out that I’d hit Reply instead of Forward. At least he had a sense […]
- Natural selection, statistical mechanics, and the idea of germs were all inspired by social science
It’s only natural to want to hold your scientific field as the most important, or noble, or challenging field. That’s probably why I always present the sciences of human society as the ones that are hardest to do. It’s not so crazy: it is inherently harder to learn about social systems than biological, engineered, or […]
- How would science be different if humans were different?
How would science be different if humans were different — if we had different physiological limits? Obviously, if our senses were finer, we wouldn’t need the same amount of manufactured instrumentation to reach the same conclusions. But there are deeper implications. If our senses were packed denser, and if we could faithfully process and perceive […]
- The unexpected importance of publishing unreplicable research
There was a recent attempt to replicate 100 results out of psychology. It succeeded in replicating less than half. Is Psychology in crisis? No. Why would I say that? Because unreplicable research is only half of the problem, and we’re ignoring the other half. As with most pass/fail decisions by humans, a decision to publish […]
- Paper on Go experts in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
I just published a paper with Sascha Baghestanian on expert Go players. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics It turns out that having a higher professional Go ranking correlates negatively with cooperation — but being better at logic puzzles correlates positively. This challenges the common wisdom that interactive decisions (game theory) and individual decisions (decision […]
- My talk at Computational Social Science 2015 (IC2S22015 in Helsinki)
This was for a more general audience, so it should be fairly understandable.
- Prediction: Tomorrow’s games and new media will be public health hazards.
Every psychology undergraduate learns the same scientific parable of addiction. A rat with a line to its veins is put in a box, a “Skinner Box,” with a rat-friendly lever that releases small amounts of cocaine. The rat quickly learns to associate the lever with a rush, and starts to press it, over and over, […]
- The intriguing weaknesses of deep learning and deep neural networks
Deep learning (and neural networks generally) have impressed me a lot for what they can do, but much more so for what they can’t. They seem to be vulnerable to three of the very same strange, deep design limits that seem to constrain the human mind-brain system. The intractability of introspection. The fact that we […]
- Toothbrushes are up to 95% less effective after 3 months and hugging your children regularly can raise their risk of anxiety, alcoholism, or depression by up to 95%
It sounds impossible, but this statistic is true: Hugging your child regularly can raise his or her risk of anxiety, alcoholism, or depression by up to 95%. I don’t even need a citation. Does it mean parents should stop hugging their children? No. You’d think that it couldn’t possibly be right, but the truth is […]
- Xeno’s paradox
There is probably some very deep psychology behind the age-old tradition of blaming problems on foreigners. These days I’m a foreigner, in Switzerland, and so I get to see how things are and how I affect them. I’ve found that I can trigger a change in norms even by going out of my way to […]
- How we create culture from noise
I don’t like to act too knowledgable about society, but I’m ready to conjecture law: “Peoples will interpret patterns into the phenomena that affect their lives, even phenomena without patterns. Culture amplifies pareidolia.” It’s interesting when those patterns are random, as in weather and gambling. “Random” is a pretty good model for weather outside the […]
- The empirics of identity: Over what timescale does self-concept develop?
There is little more slippery than who we think we are. It is mixed up with what we do, what we want to do, who we like to think we are, who others think we are, who we think others want us to think we are, and dozens of other equally slippery concepts. But we […]
- What polished bronze can teach us about crowdsourcing
Crowds can take tasks that would be too costly for any individual, and perform them effortless for years — even centuries. You can’t tell the crowd what it wants to do or how it wants to do it. More polished parts A couple more Also common: noses, hands, and feet.
- Na na na na na na na, Na na na na na nah…
That’s a screenshot from work. I also work with the less versatile NaN.
- The market distribution of the ball, a thought experiment.
The market is a magical thing. Among other things, it has been entrusted with much of the production and distribution the world’s limited resources. But markets-as-social-institutions are hard to understand because they are tied up with so many other ideas: capitalism, freedom, inequality, rationality, the idea of the corporation, and consumer society. It is only […]
- Hayek’s “discovery” is the precognition of economics
I’m exaggerating, but I’m still suspcious. I think Vernon Smith does have some interesting, unconventional work in that direction. There are also null results.
- My dissertation
In August I earned a doctorate in cognitive science and informatics. My dissertation focused on the role of higher-level reasoning in stable behavior. In experimental economics, researchers treat human “what you think I think you think I think” reasoning as an implementation of a theoretical mechanism that should cause groups of humans to behave consistently […]
- Breaking the economist’s monopoly on the Tragedy of the Commons.
Summary After taking attention away from economic rationality as a cause of overexploitation of common property, I introduce another more psychological mechanism, better suited to the mundane commons of everyday life. Mundane commons are important because they are one of the few instances of true self-governance in Western society, and thus one of the few […]
- The birthplace of Western civilization was killed during the birth of Western civilization.
Deforestation from Classical Period (~1000BCE and on) mettallurgy in the Holy Land dramatically amplified the effects of an otherwise small regional trend towards a warmer and drier climate. Before 10,000 years ago, we were in a different geological and human era and you can’t say too much about civilization. But starting at 10,000 until 2,000 […]
- Enfascination 2013
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Thus spoke Martin Luther King Jr. in a great endorsement for humility, curiosity, and discovery. On Thinko de Mayo, from 1PM, you will have five minutes to help us see how dangerous we are. You may share anything at all during your […]
- The fall of cybernetics in anthropology, with citations
I’m reading an ethnobotanical ethnography of the Huastec or “Teenek” Mayans. Its a big fat impressive monograph published by Janis B. Alcorn in 1984. Here is a passage suggesting that cybernetics had come and gone from anthropology by 1980. The criticism focused on the restriction of early cybernetics modeling to closed systems. The attack is […]
- Never too smart to be very wrong
A lot of my life choices and habits of thought have been devoted to never letting myself get permanently attached something that’s wrong. That would be my hell, and I think that there’s always a risk of it. Somehow there is no being humble enough. As an exercise for myself, and as an illustration of […]
- Ouroboros and the failures of complex systems
This is a little intense, it should be enough to just watch enough of the initial seconds to satisfy yourself that Ouroboros exists. I’d post a photo, but the photo I saw seemed photoshopped. That’s how I found the video. A complex system has failed to integrate the proper information into its decision. I’d guess […]
- Undrugs: Sugar pill may work even when you know it’s sugar pill
You’re sick? Here’s a sugar pill. We know that it can’t work. Take it anyway. You’ll feel better. Introduced starting at 9:54. I think the interview is boring before then; he rambles. My crush on the placebo effect started at Berkeley in Prof. Presti’s molecular neurobiology course. He introduced us to a very carefully controlled […]
- Rock-Paper-Scissors ms. on Smithsonian, NBC, and Science Daily blogs.
This is my first (inter)national press, I’m a little embarrassed to feel excited about it. Its also a pleasant surprise, I wouldn’t have expected it to have general appeal. Links: The paper, Cyclic dynamics driven by iterated reasoning An NBCnews.com blog A Smithsonian Magazine blog ScienceDaily The Daily Globe and Mail a bunch of IU […]
- Enfascination 2012 number 2 at the Complex Systems Summer School in Santa Fe, NM
I spent the summer of 2012 with fascinating people. Seeing only their talent as scientists, I thought I knew how fascinating they were. But this short-notice series of short talks revealed their depth. There is no record of the proceedings, only the program: SFI CSSS Enfascination, for we must stop at nothing to start at […]
- Enfascination 2012 audio
Some things take time, but it only takes an instant to realize that you have no idea what’s going on. This epiphany-every time it happens-is punctuated by the sound of 500 stars around the universe literally exploding, dissolving their planets and neighbors in flaming atoms, in silence. It happens every instant, forever. As right as […]
- Come Fall 2013, I’m working for Disney Research in Zurich
They don’t currently do social science, but they’ve gotten a taste of what it can do and where it can go. They’ve hired me to help launch an interdisciplinary behavioral research agenda — economics, sociology, psychology — lab experiments, web experiments, simulations, and big data. I don’t know what to expect, but I believe its […]
- Seeing the Earth, in the sky, from Earth
Uncountably many photons have come from the sun, bounced off of me, and shot back into space. One day one of them is going to come back. Photons turn as they pass heavy things. A photon retreating from me is being turned, slowly, over billions of empty years, all the way around. A black hole […]
- “In the days of the frost seek a minor sun”
From unsympathetic eyes, no science is more arrogant than astronomy. Astronomers think that we can know the universe and replace the dreams and the meaning in the skies with a cold place that is constantly dying. But I think that there is no more humble science than astronomy. No science has had so much romance […]
- In PLOS ONE: Cyclic dynamics driven by iterated reasoning
This paper, published with my advisor Rob Goldstone, reports a major result of my dissertation, that people can flock not only physically, but also in their depth of iterated reasoning through each other’s motives. It is interesting because of the many economists who hoped that type of reasoning would prevent flocking. Ha! * Here is […]
- What big titty b****** taught me about institution design
In institutional economics, there are four main kinds of resource, classified by whether they are limited (yes or no) and whether you can keep others from using them (yes or no). Now everyone who uses these categories knows that they are fuzzy, and full of exceptions. They can vary in degree, by context, and in […]
- Postdoc ergo propter doc
People imagine that experts know lots of things. I mean, it’s true, but that’s like saying the ocean is full of sand. The ocean, as full of sand as it is, is more full of questions. I think we all miss the point of expertise a little, but experts are the farthest off. I’m on […]
- Percentile listings for ten Go and Chess Federations and their systems
I spent way too long trying to find percentile ranks for FIDE ELO scores (international professional chess players). Percentiles exists for USCF (USA-ranked Chess players; http://archive.uschess.org/ratings/ratedist.php) but not FIDE, which is different, and worth knowing, and worth being able to map. So I just did it myself. In the process I got percentile equivalences for […]
- Fun 3-minute video of my research
- Enfascination 2012
Some things take time, but it only takes an instant to realize that you have no idea what’s going on. This epiphany—every time it happens—is punctuated by the sound of 500 stars around the universe literally exploding, dissolving their planets and neighbors in flaming atoms, in silence. It happens every instant, forever. As right as […]
- Difficulties replicating Kashtan & Alon (2005)
I love the paper, its about the evolution of neural structure. Do brains have parts? Do bodies have parts? If you think so, you’re very forward thinking, because science has no idea how that could possibly have evolved. Kashtan and Alon published a mechanism for the evolution of structure. They proposed that if environments have […]
- Incubation ranges for different food-borne illnesses
Neat: incubation ranges for many food-borne llnesses. No, I didn’t get sick, I just got curious because of Kate’s research on Tweet What You Eat.
- Grad school can make you smarter?
I really didn’t think I would come out of graduate school as a smarter person. I knew that I would know more about stuff, but I assumed, if anything, I would come out constrained by some understanding of how epiphany “should” happen. But I had a funny experience playing Minesweeper yesterday. It was a lapse: […]
- What it means to know things about early Christianity
I’ve been reading a lot about the history of early Christianity, and a lot of the theories and ideas that define it. A lot of the scholarship is totally wild, and a lot is pretty sound; some is both, but its all confusing, because these things get mixed together indiscriminately. It motivated me to create […]
- Political use of the rhetoric of complex systems
I’m excited about the field called “complex systems” because it reflects of best of science’s inherent humility: everything affects everything, and we oughtn’t pretend that we know what we’re doing. I think of that as a responsible perspective, and I think it protects science from being abused (or being an abuser) in the sociopolitical sphere. […]
- A list of human universals
This is a list of some of the things that pretty much all cultures have in common. It is drawn from Steven Pinker’s Language Instinct (pp. 413-415), citing anthropologist Donald Brown: Value placed on articulateness. Gossip. Lying. Misleading. Verbal humor. Humorous insults. Poetic and rhetorical speech forms. Narrative and storytelling. Metaphor. Poetry with repetition of […]
- The free market: Burning man’s less successful social experiment
Burning Man is a big classic successful event sort of thing out in a Nevada desert. It has been getting more and more popular, but there is only room for 40,000 people. So what’s the best way to distribute 40,000 tickets among 80,000 people fairly and efficiently? They’ve always done it one way, but as […]