quanticle's Comments

One systemic failure in particular

I agree with Dagon's criticism elsewhere in the thread. However, I would add another criticism. You're confusing the surface purpose of HR with its actual purpose.

The surface purpose of HR is to efficiently match people with jobs. The actual purpose of HR is to ensure that the company can efficiently navigate the byzantine thicket of laws and regulations concerning hiring, employment and firing without getting sued, ensuring that benefits for current employees are well managed, and finally when an employee is involuntarily let go (either fired or laid off) that the letting go is once again done in a manner that will minimize the company's exposure to legal liability.

Every so often, you hear of various start-ups (usually in Silicon Valley, but sometimes elsewhere) getting pilloried for making absolutely basic mistakes when hiring. Things like asking candidates their age, or questions clearly correlated with age. Asking (female) candidates about their plans for a family. Etc. Basic errors that a large corporation with a functioning HR department wouldn't even dream of making. That is the true purpose of HR. It's ensuring that your interviewers aren't doing clearly illegal things. It's giving the appearance of fairness (even if actual fairness is difficult to achieve).

And that's all prior to hiring. After hiring, HR becomes even more important. Do you know all the tax forms that have to be filled out when you hire a new employee? What about if that employee is remote? What about if that employee is remote but moves from a state with no income tax to a state with income tax (as I did, once). What forms do you need to give the employee to allow him or her to file his or her taxes when you've issued them with stock options or RSUs? What about health insurance. Are you qualified to choose between health insurance plans for a company of 50 employees? 500 employees? 5000 employees? What about 401(k)s? A well qualified HR department knows the answers to all that and a lot more besides.

Finally, let's say you have to let some people go (as so many companies are having to do, during these economically troubled times). Do you know how to administer severance packages? Can you get COBRA forms to everyone efficiently? If it's an individual being fired for cause, rather than a mass layoff, have you collected data to show that the individual was underperforming and was not fired because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. etc?

HR is infrastructure. The fact that you don't notice what it's doing is a feature. That means it's working well. People notice HR when it fails. When the company gets sued for discrimination. When they don't get the right tax forms in a timely manner. When there's a benefits snafu that leads them to have to wait an extra month before their health insurance kicks in. Matching people with jobs is the tiniest part of what HR does on a day-to-day basis, so I would expect them to be not very good at it.

The Oil Crisis of 1973

I gather the Fed was raising interest rates, but not enough to slow an economy with that level of rising inflation.

The Fed, at the time, was not raising interest rates because it was thought that the political cost of a recession caused by raising interest rates would be too high. Nixon favored keeping interest rates low. Ford was basically a caretaker government. Carter appointed Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve, in 1979. Volcker immediately raised the Fed funds rate to 20% to curb inflation. In the process, however, he triggered a short but deep recession which contributed to Carter being a one-term President, thus proving the point.

What are objects that have made your life better?

I think the advice would be best phrased as, " laptop charger," where is the number of locations you use your laptop regularly. For me, one at home, one at work and one in my bag is sufficient.

PS: why do you pack two in your travel luggage? Just in case one gets lost/left behind in a hotel room?

What are objects that have made your life better?

The corollary to that advice is that most comfortable doesn't necessarily mean most expensive.

What is your internet search methodology ?

Gwern has written extensively on how to use Google efficiently. Some highlights:

  • Use site: to search a particular site. For example, if I'm looking for the Ars Technica review of the Google Pixel 3A, I'll type: site:arstechnica.com Google Pixel 3A. Or, if you want get a link "Meditations on Moloch" quickly, site:slatestarcodex.com Meditations on Moloch
  • Don't be too specific -- people are bad at remembering specific words, so limit quoted phrases to two or three words
  • Learn the jargon of the field you're searching and use those phrases. For example, if the field uses "logistic regression" as a common approach, add that phrase to your search

In addition, I wouldn't bother trying to search sci-hub directly from Google. Instead, find the actual journal article you're looking for, copy its DOI number, and paste that into sci-hub.

What are objects that have made your life better?

Is the Coleto just the multi-pen version of the Hi-Tec C? If I don't need a bunch of colors (I can't remember the last time I used anything other than black ink), a standard Hi-Tec C would work just as well, right?

What are objects that have made your life better?

A really nice set of screwdrivers.

People underestimate the deterrent effect that small obstacles have. Having a nice set of screwdrivers means that random things that come loose can be tightened easily. Things like door handles, the panels around electrical switches, that rattling armrest on your chair, etc, etc. They make assembling furniture oh so much more efficient, since the tools that ship with furniture kits are the absolute cheapest pieces of junk that manufacturers can get away with. A proper set of precision bits makes certain "impossible" projects easy. For example, when the RAM in my laptop died, I was able to open it up, and replace just the bad RAM, instead of having to throw away the entire machine and get a new one.

I have both the "Mahi" 48-bit 1/4" driver kit and the "Mako" precision 4-mm driver kit from iFixIt. If I had to choose one, I'd take the Mahi, since the precision bits are useless in a non-electronics context.

The Oil Crisis of 1973

My best guess is that something was going wrong in the US and world economy well before 1971, but the market was not being allowed to adjust.

The problem that made the Bretton Woods system unsustainable was the fiscal expansion caused by the US having to pay for the Vietnam War and the Great Society programs. From the linked article:

The Federal Reserve shifted its stance in the mid-1960s away from monetary orthodoxy in response to the growing influence of Keynesian economics in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, with its emphasis on the primary objective of full employment and the belief that the Fed could manage the Phillips Curve trade-off between inflation and unemployment (Meltzer 2010).

Increasing US monetary growth led to rising inflation, which spread to the rest of the world through growing US balance of payments deficits. This led to growing balance of payments surpluses in Germany and other countries. The German monetary authorities (and other surplus countries) attempted to sterilise the inflows but were eventually unsuccessful, leading to growing inflationary pressure (Darby et al. 1983).

After the devaluation of sterling in November 1967, pressure mounted against the dollar via the London gold market. In the face of this pressure, the Gold Pool was disbanded on 17 March 1968 and a two-tier arrangement put in its place. In the following three years, the US put considerable pressure on other monetary authorities to refrain from converting their dollars into gold.

The decision to suspend gold convertibility by President Richard Nixon on 15 August 1971 was triggered by French and British intentions to convert dollars into gold in early August. The US decision to suspend gold convertibility ended a key aspect of the Bretton Woods system. The remaining part of the System, the adjustable peg disappeared by March 1973.

"God Rewards Fools"

I'm not sure I agree. I don't think that one of the problems with the rationality community today is that it has insufficient holidays. I think the problem with the rationality community today is that it has insufficient accomplishments that can justify holidays.

If one looks at the actual mythology of holidays in major religions, they're not invented, they're earned. Christmas was earned by the 3 magi making the journey from the East to visit the infant Jesus. Easter was earned by the son of God redeeming his earthly body for the sins of mankind. Passover was earned by Moses choosing to confront Pharaoh and telling him to release the Israelites. Diwali was earned by Rama making the journey to Sri Lanka, defeating Ravana, and securing his bride, Laxmi.

Secular holidays, too, have to be earned. Memorial Day was earned by the sacrifices of the Civil War. July 4th was earned by winning a war of independence against Great Britain. Labor Day was earned by the struggle that working classes endured to gain the right to bargain collectively. Thanksgiving was earned by the starvation and cold that the Puritan Pilgrims suffered in their first winter in the New World.

To put it another way, holidays are justified as commemorations and celebrations. So, before we ask ourselves what holidays we ought to create, we ought to ask ourselves, what have we done, as a community, that is worth creating a holiday around?

Negative Feedback and Simulacra

There are places where you can ask a stranger a question and they straight up won’t answer you, or won’t give you a true answer.

Indeed. The expectation that one can walk up to a complete stranger, ask a relatively innocuous question, and get a true answer is a rather WEIRD phenomenon. One of the asides that Graeber relates in Debt: The First 5000 Years is the story of an anthropologist who visits a tribe in Africa. He asks the directions to a nearby pond, and is deliberately deceived. Months later, when he has a greater level of rapport with the members of the tribe, he asks why they deceived him on the answer to a relatively innocuous fact-based question. Their answer is that, as a stranger, they did not know why he needed to go to the pond, or what he was going to do there. Their only knowledge was that 1) the anthropologist was a stranger and 2) the location of the pond was valuable information to him. As a result, their default position was to withhold the information (by lying, in this case). The tribe-members then assured him that they would of course give him reliable directions now, because he was known to the tribe and thus was not judged to be a threat.

I agree with shminux that there is no such thing as "pure" level-1 communication. Even when someone is relaying a true fact without any other connotations (i.e. a response to, "Do you have the time," or "Where's the bathroom?") they're relaying that they trust you enough to approach them and ask the question, and they're comfortable enough with you to give you a true answer. That's not nothing! In many parts of the world and through large parts of history, one had to undertake elaborate ceremonies in order to establish that level of baseline trust. The fact that said trust exists as a baseline among strangers is testimony to how civilized a modern industrialized society is.

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