reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 16


  1. Populism – Kevin Kwok
    Why is populism growing?

    So in combination we have
    1) a re-centralization of financial capital and personal capital,
    2) reasons to believe that even if economics were net doing well there are certain countries (US) and demographics (white male) we might suspect are doing relatively worse than they were historically,
    3) social capital becoming stronger and more distributed, and
    4) people no longer believing in their personal growth–which is the source of all alignment.

  2. Empty Realm – Evan James (Jacobite)
    An in-depth discussion on the NPC meme and what it signifies.

    NPCs are characters with scripted dialogues and no original thinking. In modern parlance, the word has a pejorative connotation and describes people who are products of mass culture.

    How much of it is true and why are people offended when being referred to as NPCs?

  3. The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes – Christopher Allen
    The Dunbar number is often associated with the number 150 being thrown around. That is a disservice to the ideas and implications of Dunbar’s theory.

    Dunbar is an anthropologist at the University College of London, who wrote a paper on Co-Evolution Of Neocortex Size, Group Size And Language In Humans where he hypothesizes:
    “… there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships, that this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”
    However, ideal group size varies depending upon the mission/purpose of the group (survival or leisure). Group satisfaction, trust and thus efficiency are functions of the Dunbar number and have multiple discontinuities.

  4. Analyzing Experiment Outcomes: Beyond Average Treatment Effects – Matthias Lux (Engineering @ Uber)
    At Uber, we test most new features and products with the help of experiments in order to understand and quantify their impact on our marketplace. The analysis of experimental results traditionally focuses on calculating average treatment effects (ATEs).
    Since averages reduce an entire distribution to a single number, however, any heterogeneity in treatment effects will go unnoticed. Instead, we have found that calculating quantile treatment effects (QTEs) allows us to effectively and efficiently characterize the full distribution of treatment effects and thus capture the inherent heterogeneity in treatment effects when thousands of riders and drivers interact within Uber’s marketplace.
  5. Bold Takes — Conversation with Sar Haribhakti
    For those who have never met or spoken to Sar Haribhakti, he has a vibrant personality and a very unique background. This interview covers a wide diversity of topics, ranging from Sar’s upbringing to how he thinks about startup studios to much much more.

    PS – Sar is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. You should probably be following him if you’re reading this list. His twitter is @sarthakgh

  6. – Francis Pedraza
    An exploration of the idea – What if you could take an equity stake in an individual?

    Super long read but worth the time. 

  7. World’s First Ceramic Knife Shave – Tom Blodgett
    I was chasing down a rabbit hole on whether razors can be made from ceramics given their hardness and long shelf life and came across this blogpost.

    This guy knows his shit – the video is him using a ceramic knife to shave. :O

    The idea is probably worth exploring commercially. 

  8. Institutional Memory and Reverse Smuggling – Quanticle
    Institutional memory comes in two forms: people and documentation. People remember how things work and why. Sometimes they write it down and store that information somewhere. Institutional amnesia works similarly. The people leave and the documents disappear, rot, or just become forgotten (as it were).

    This is a lovely article on institutional archaeology (figuring out why stuff works because the institution is so old that reasons and instructions are forgotten, only processes remain). 

  9. Thoughts on India’s Prospects – Prashant Abhishek 
    Prashant is the co-founder of AltCampus – a code bootcamp that is free until you get a job.

    I like his optimism and bullish view on India’s future. 

  10. Kinky Labor Supply and the Attention Tax
    Over the past few decades, labor force participation has sharply dropped for men ages 20-34.
    Theories about the root cause range from indolence, to a lack of skills and training, to offshoring, to (perhaps most interestingly) the increasing attractiveness and availability of leisure and media entertainment.
    In this essay, we propose that the drop in labor participation rate of young men is a result of a combination of factors:
    (i) a decrease in cost of access to media entertainment leisure,
    (ii) increases in both the availability and
    (iii) quality media entertainment leisure, and
    (iv) a decrease in the marginal signalling utility of (conspicuous) consumption goods for all but the highest earners. 

    Super long but worth the read. Ties in nicely with the NPC article and the one shared last week on Sex robots. 



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