Software and the supply side

Chris Mims in WSJ writes about the new software conglomerates (I wrote about them for Quartz recently here) and says: The large companies of yesteryear bet on things like economies of scale in manufacturing—everything gets cheaper to make, the more you make of it. Modern platform companies take advantage of something unique to the internet …

Trusting expertise

More on applied epistemology (which should just be called epistemology!) Here’s Holden Karnofsky of Open Philanthropy describing his process for “minimal-trust investigations”–basically trying to understand something yourself as close to from-the-ground-up as you can. Along the way he makes some very good points about social learning, i.e. how and when to trust others to reach …

The sites that dominated the economics blogosphere

Several years ago I posted the results of an analysis of top economics sites. I’ve redone that work a bit differently, this time with the data on Github. This time the analysis is purely of the curation done on economist Mark Thoma’s blog during the 2010s: the result is ~14,000 links that he recommended. Here’s …

Revisiting the housing bubble

Timothy Lee has a good post on the revisionist history of the mid-2000s housing bubble in the US. I find the basic premise interesting and pretty compelling: what looked like a housing bubble might have just been prices responding to a mismatch between supply and demand. Lee further says this analytical error—seeing a bubble where …

The social science side of science

Derek Thompson in a very good piece about Fast Grants: A third feature of American science isthe experimentation paradox: The scientific revolution, which still inspires today’s research, extolled the virtues of experiments. But our scientific institutions are weirdly averse to them. The research establishment created after World War II concentrated scientific funding at the federal …

Technical leadership

Brookings categorizes a couple dozen countries by AI proficiency. The US is highest on technical measures but fails to reach the “leader” quadrant because it scores poorly on “people” measures like number of STEM graduates. You can quibble with the methodology, but I see it as in line with something Paul Romer noted last year: …

Data and theory in economics

Noah Smith on the Nobel for the architects of the “credibility revolution” in economics: Anyone who expects the credibility revolution to replace theory is going to be disappointed. Science seeks not merely to catalogue things that happen, but to explain why — chemistry is more than a collection of reaction equations, biology is more than …

A definition of culture

From an NBER review of the economics of company culture. The authors describe the varied ways “culture” has been defined, not just with respect to companies, and then offer this list: A sensible list of elements in that package, though neither nearly exhaustive nor likely satisfactory to all, is as follows, adapted from a variety …

Fixing the internet

The other day I rewatched one of my favorite talks about the internet, a 2015 lecture on algorithmic decisions by Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School titled “Love the processor, hate the process.” Like all his talks, it’s funny, wide-ranging, and hard to summarize. But I think reflecting on it you can see him proposing …