Attention conservation notice: You have better things to do with an hour of your precious, finite life than staring at a screen while an academic tries to give a hand-wavy summary and advertisement for technical work on abstruse problem you don't care about.
I will be talking on Random-Feature Matching to the One World Approximate Bayesian Computation Seminar at 8:30 am Eastern time (=1:30 pm UK time) on Thursday, 23 June. If you are interested in simulation-based inference but have not (oddly) read my paper, or if you just want to marvel at how bad someone can be at giving a Zoom talk, two years on, please join. (Details on getting access to the Zoom session can be had by following that last link.)
Let me take this opportunity to thank the organizer both for the invitation, and for not insisting on the usual seminar time of 9:30 am UK time.
Posted at June 21, 2022 14:11 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: Advertisement for a course you won't take, at a university you don't attend, in which very human and passionately contentious topics deliberately have all the life sucked from them, leaving only the husk of abstractions and the dry bones of methodology.
36-313, Statistics of Inequality and Discrimination
Time and place: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:25 -- 2:45 pm, in Wean Hall (WEH) 6403 (tentatively)
Description: Many social questions about inequality, injustice and unfairness are, in part, questions about evidence, data, and statistics. This class lays out the statistical methods which let us answer questions like Does this employer discriminate against members of that group?, Is this standardized test biased against that group?, Is this decision-making algorithm biased, and what does that even mean? and Did this policy which was supposed to reduce this inequality actually help? We will also look at inequality within groups, and at different ideas about how to explain inequalities between groups. The class will interweave discussion of concrete social issues with the relevant statistical concepts.
Prerequisites: 36-202 ("Methods for Statistics and Data Science") (and so also 36-200, "Reasoning with Data"), or similar with permission of the instructor
Last year was the first time I got to teach it, and it was a mixed experience. The students who stuck with it were, gratifyingly, uniformly very happy with it (and I am pretty sure they learned a lot!). But it also had the biggest "melt" of any class I've taught, with fully half of those who initially signed up for it eventually dropping it. The most consistent reason why --- at least, the one they felt comfortable telling me! --- was that they were expecting something with a lot more arguing about politics, and a lot less math and data analysis. I have taken this feedback to heart, and decided to do even more math and data analysis.
There will be no exams.
My usual policy is to drop a certain number of homeworks, and a certain number of lecture/reading questions, no questions asked. The number of automatic drops isn't something I'll commit to here and now (similarly, I won't make any promises here about the relative weight of homework vs. lecture-related questions).
Posted at June 21, 2022 13:45 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no qualifications to opine on the archaeology of the Southwest, the pre-history of diversity training, or trends in American economic inequality.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Inequality; The Dismal Science; Writing for Antiquity; Commit a Social Science; The Progressive Forces; Teaching: Statistics of Inequality and Discrimination; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; Tales of Our Ancestors; Physics; The Great Transformation; Biology
Posted at May 31, 2022 23:59 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: Rationalizing my gut-level dislike of a social medium as Objectively Correct. First drafted in mid-2017, left to rest in my drafts folder because, while sincere, it feels a bit mean. Posted now because I found myself re-writing the next-to-last paragraph.
If, as Leibniz has prophesied, libraries one day become cities, there will still be dark and dismal streets and alleyways as there are now. --- LichtenbergI mentioned, some years ago, that in response to reader requests I have a Twitter account. I use this only for announcing new posts here. Messages sent to it will go unread; attempts to communicate through it will be fruitless.
I have, nonetheless, put some time over the years into observing Twitter; I wish I had it back again. There are, so far I can see, only four good uses for Twitter:
For everything else, well, if someone had deliberately tried to combine the worst features of comments sections and Usenet, they could hardly have done better --- except by first imposing silly length restrictions, followed by kludged-on threads that make Usenet seem a model of clear organization, plus of course an interface that channels people towards the outrage (or main character) of the moment.
I don't know whether it makes people unhappy and angry, or whether only unhappy, angry people persist in using it, but I am not joking when I say that we would all be better off if it disappeared immediately.
--- One of my long-held semi-crank notions is this: all online communication, being through writing, reproduces the social dynamics of literary communities, especially print-literary communities. This law holds independent of the educational level or even intellectual seriousness of the participants. Thus flame-wars, sock-puppets, selective quotation, trawling through the archive for discreditable episodes, "the lurkers support me in e-mail", creating isolated fora to incubate increasingly weird ideas, recycling from supposedly-authoritative source texts long after they're debunked (if they were ever bunked in the first place), spastic attention cascades in which "all fandom was plunged into war", etc., escape from the pages of the little magazines (such as the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society), to become part of everyone's life. Twitter has raised this to a new level of awfulness, by making it very hard to actually contribute anything of value, or, having done so, for others to find it and build on it, while still preserving the affordances for weirdness, meanness, and spasm-proneness.
That is my opinion; and it is further my opinion that you people should get off my lawn.
Update, 28 May 2022, further to the theme, in no particular order:
*: Some comments on Frost's review, without having read the book being reviewed. (1) I am, unsurprisingly, extremely sympathetic to the position that hashtag activism is basically futile. (If the authors really neglect Tufekci's empirical and theoretical work as much as Frost says they do, it's pretty damning.) (2) Not examining right-wing hashtag activism seems like an obvious analytical flaw. (Even if your primary interest is in left-wing movements, the comparisons are essential.) (3) It's true that Twitter isn't accountable to its users, or to the people-as-represented-by-government, but Frost for her part never makes clear which of the flaws she identifies would be remedied by such accountability. (4) Doing something about the opioid epidemic by tinkering with drug policy seems a hell of a lot more practical to me that doing something about it by overthrowing American capitalism, or even reversing the trends in inequality over the last half-century. (I would like to see those trends reversed.) ^
Posted at May 28, 2022 12:56 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no qualifications to opine on U.S. politics, or the lives and works of 20th century Marxist intellectuals.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; The Progressive Forces; Writing for Antiquity; Commit a Social Science; The Beloved Republic
Posted at April 30, 2022 23:59 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: Links to forbiddingly-technical scientific papers and lecture notes, about obscure corners of academia you don't care about, and whose only connecting logic is having come to the attention of someone with all the discernment and taste of a magpie (who's been taught elementary probability theory).Or whatever the heck it is I study these days. (I did promise that this series would be intermittent.) In no particular order.
I incorporate computational constraints into decision theory in order to capture how cognitive limitations affect behavior. I impose an axiom of computational tractability that only rules out behaviors that are thought to be fundamentally hard. I use this framework to better understand common behavioral heuristics: if choices are tractable and consistent with the expected utility axioms, then they are observationally equivalent to forms of choice bracketing. Then I show that a computationally-constrained decisionmaker can be objectively better off if she is willing to use heuristics that would not appear rational to an outside observer.
Posted at April 25, 2022 10:41 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: A link-dump piece, where some of the links were first opened in 2015.
Tabs I have closed recently, which are of a positive and/or constructive and/or cheerful nature:
Posted at April 25, 2022 10:40 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no credentials to opine on the sociology of education, political and moral philosophy, medieval Islamic science, or even, strictly speaking, pure mathematics.
I don't think that the people questioning the evidence are bad people, but they are reluctant to let go of the dominant narrative about schools. It would be one thing if the reason was because they had issues with whether the ECLS-K item-response theory scales of reading can be considered truly interval, or if they questioned whether nonschool investments in children are constant across seasons, or if they thought that the approach scholars use to model the overlap days between test dates and the beginnings and ends of school years was insufficient. ... But while many have resisted the empirical patterns in chapters 1--4 and remain committed to The Assumption, the quality of evidence doesn't seem to be the obstacle. [p. 97]
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; Philosophy; Commit a Social Science; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Islam and Islamic Civilization; Afghanistan and Central Asia; Writing for Antiquity; Mathematics; Teaching: Statistics of Inequality and Discrimination
Posted at March 31, 2022 23:59 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no qualifications to opine on the history of Central Asia, the philosophy of science, the anthropology of New Guinea and/or cultural creativity, archaeology, Antarctic exploration, or the philosophy of Spinoza.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Writing for Antiquity; Philosophy Enigmas of Chance; Afghanistan and Central Asia; The Great Transformation; Minds, Brains, and Neurons; Commit a Social Science; Psychoceramics
Posted at February 28, 2022 23:59 | permanent link
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no qualifications to opine on the history and geopolitical context of Antarctic exploration, the social structure of medieval China, or philosophy of any kind.
Posted at January 31, 2022 23:59 | permanent link