Thu Apr 12 12:25:11 EDT 2018

Jordan Peterson

Some links and lot of quotes about Jordan Peterson who seems to be everywhere.

My interest is in how cults develop and what causes one brain to believe one thing is true while another brain thinks it's false.

  • What's So Dangerous About Jordan Peterson?

    Not long ago, he was an obscure psychology professor. Now he leads a flock of die-hard disciples.
    (A good starting point if you don't know anything about him.)

    It can be tough to parse the Peterson phenomenon. For one thing, it seems as if there are multiple Petersons, each appealing to, or in some cases alienating, separate audiences. There is the pugnacious Peterson, a clench-jawed crusader against what he sees as an authoritarian movement masquerading as social-justice activism. That Peterson appears on TV, including on Fox & Friends, President Trump's preferred morning show, arguing that the left is primarily responsible for increased polarization. That Peterson contends that ideologically corrupt humanities and social-science programs should be starved of students and replaced by something like a Great Books curriculum.

    There's also the avuncular Peterson, the one who dispenses self-help lessons aimed at aimless young people, and to that end has written a new book of encouragement and admonition, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House Canada). The book isn't political, at least not overtly, and it grew out of his hobby of answering personal questions posted by strangers on the internet. That Peterson runs a website on "self-authoring" that promises to help those with a few spare hours and $14.95 discover their true selves.

    Then there's the actual Peterson, a guy who Ping-Pongs between exuberance and exhaustion, a grandfather who is loathed and loved by a public that, until very recently, had almost entirely ignored him. Now he has more than a half-million YouTube subscribers, nearly 300,000 Twitter followers, and several thousand die-hard disciples who send him money, to the tune of $60,000 per month.

    ... In the video that made Jordan Peterson famous, he can be seen sparring with a handful of transgender students about the use of pronouns. He is nattily attired in a white dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves and dark red suspenders. Several supporters, all of them male, stand behind Peterson, amplifying his points. A transgender student accuses Peterson of being their enemy for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns. "I don't believe using your pronouns will do you any good in the long run," he says. "I believe it's quite the contrary." When another student asks what gives him the authority to determine which pronouns he uses when referring to someone else, Peterson spins to face that person.

    "Why do I have the authority to determine what I say?" Peterson replies, his voice brimming with outrage, his fingers pressed to his own chest. "What kind of question is that?"

    ... To understand Peterson's worldview, you have to see the connection between his opposition to gender-neutral pronouns and his obsession with the Soviet Union. He believes that the insistence on the use of gender-neutral pronouns is rooted in postmodernism, which he sees as thinly disguised Marxism. The imposition of Marxism led to the state-sponsored slaughter of millions. For Peterson, then, the mandated use of gender-neutral pronouns isn't just a case of political correctness run amok. It's much more serious than that. When he refers to the "murderous ideology" of postmodernism, he means it literally.

  • Why Jordan Peterson Is A Charlatan In His Own Words.

    An introductory video (by someone calling himself Cult of Dusty) that explains why Jordan Peterson is just a modern day televangelist.

    In case your have doubts about other people's analysis of Peterson, check out this 21 minute video of snippets from his his own videos. Very good, although the clips are obviously selected to show his worse moments. If you encounter a true Jordan Peterson convert, this is the first link you should point them to.

  • There has been a lot of chatter concerning Jordan Peterson's appearances on the Sam Harris podcast Waking Up
    • The audio for the original 01/21/2017 interview What is True? is over two hours long and goes nowhere. Around the 1:42:00 minute mark there is this Peterson quote:
      "scientific truth is nested inside moral truth and moral truth is the final adjudicator"
      (and by "moral truth" he means survival in the Darwinian sense)
      Also there is some interesting back and forth starting at the 1:54:39 minute mark. Harris postulates a scenario where his wife is cheating on him and he kills himself and says:
      "you have to grant one thing; you cannot remove the one piece:"
      "because you killed yourself it's not true that she was having an affair"
      (and that is followed by a long silence from Peterson)
      For Sam Harris' analysis of the interview see his notes at, Speaking of "Truth" with Jordan B. Peterson

      But the place at which Peterson and I got stuck was a strange one. He seemed to be claiming that any belief system compatible with our survival must be true, and any that gets us killed must be false.
      ...
      Peterson's peculiar form of pragmatism, anchored to the lone value of survival, can't capture what we mean by "truth" (or even what most pragmatists mean by it).

      You can listen to the second conversation (because the first wasn't fruitful) between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson at Meaning and Chaos. They discuss science, religion, archetypes, mythology, and the perennial problem of finding meaning in life. Peterson's first book is Maps Of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.
    • What is your reaction to the debate between Sam Harris and Jordan B Peterson?

      An open discussion on Quora.com with some nice analysis.

      Some good comments trying to explain Peterson's position but I still cannot understand it. Here's one summary:

      Peterson proposes that scientific truth is "nested within a [Darwinian] moral framework", which implies that there may exist facts which are true, but are "not true enough" since they've proven adversarial to survival.

      Sam Harris opposes this dependency and insists that scientific truth is not concerned with morality in any way. Of course, the practice of scientific exploration should be bound by ethical considerations, but the discoveries of science exist outside of any moral context.

      Also on quora.com a discussion What are Dr. Jordan Peterson's religious beliefs?

      In the end, it is much more accurate to simply label him an agnostic. Granted, an agnostic that sees value in the utility of religion, due to a deep understanding of the mystical/quasi-gnostic/psychological ideas that religion has hidden in it. But still, roughly speaking, an agnostic at the end of the day.

      Peterson believes in an objective morality rooted in Jungian archetypes. He believes in modes of being played out through the course of human evolution. Modes of being that have contributed to successful societies win, those that don’t fail. We see these archetypes played out in movies today. He is also big on the dominance hierarchy.

    • What Sam Harris was missing re: Jordan Peterson and "What is true?"

      A defense of Jordan Peterson by Paul McKeever, leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario and advocate of laissez-faire capitalism. There are transcriptions of some relevant parts of the conversation.

      The essence of the explicit disagreement between Harris and Peterson concerned the issue of whether the truth or falsity of an idea depends upon the moral value (e.g., good or evil) of the idea. On Harris' view, an idea is true if it corresponds to the facts of reality, and the moral goodness or evil of the idea has no bearing on its truth or falsity: the good is a species of the true. On Peterson's view, an idea is true only if it is morally good: the true is a species of the good.
      ...
      On Peterson's stated theory of truth, an idea can be thought to be true (or false) at a "micro" or "proximal" level - e.g., at the level of a scientific experiment, or at some other level that does not take the morality of the idea into account - yet actually be false (or true) at a "macro" or "distal" level that includes a consideration of whether the idea is pro-survival or anti-survival (i.e., good or evil).

      McKeever finds fault with Sam Harris but I think it is Jordan Peterson who was unreasonable and couldn't defend his own viewpoint.

    • Sam Harris vs. Jordan Peterson: Key Philosophical & Personality Differences

      An examination by A.J. Drenth of some of the philosophical and psychological propensities of Harris and Peterson in trying to understand why they disagree. (May be paywalled.)

      If we think of Harris as a philosopher-scientist, Peterson is more like a philosopher-storyteller. A self-described existentialist and pragmatist, Peterson rarely uses formal logic and is far less structured and systematic in his approach than is Harris. Taken as a whole, I think we can safely locate Peterson on the opposite side of the philosophical aisle, namely, within what is commonly known as the continental school of philosophy
      ...
      Continentalists often criticize analytic philosophers for their relative inattention to epistemology (i.e., how we go about knowing things), their disregard for the historical-cultural context in which their work is nested, and their avoidance of topics that matter most to human beings (e.g., existential issues). Analytic philosophers, in turn, are inclined to see continentalists as vague, speculative, and lacking methodological rigor, as well as contributing little of real substance to the advancement of knowledge.
      ...
      On the whole, NTJ personality types, such as Harris, are more structured and systematic in their thought, often drawn to objective methods and more formal types of logic. They can thus be associated with science and analytic philosophy, even if only for the way they approach and think about philosophical problems.
      NTP types, like Peterson, are typically drawn to metaphysical thinking, meaning-centered philosophies (including religion), history, existentialism, and other forms of continental philosophy. Rather than seeing things through a mechanistic lens, many prefer philosophies that engender a sense of mystery toward life and humanity. While NTJs are well-described as knowledge-oriented, NTPs are generally more concerned with existential issues, things such as meaning and wisdom. They are also more comfortable allowing certain truths to remain implicit, as doing so preserves the sense of mystery and potentiality they value.

  • Jordan Peterson, the obscure Canadian psychologist turned right-wing celebrity, explained

    Who Peterson is, and the important truths he reveals about our current political moment.

    Long article but good summary by Zack Beauchamp in vox.com. Here are some selected quotes that I think highlight the important points.

    His reactionary politics and talents as a public speaker combine to be a perfect fit for YouTube and the right-wing media, where videos of conservatives "destroying" weak-minded liberals routinely go viral. Peterson's denunciations of identity politics and political correctness are standard-issue conservative, but his academic credentials make his pronouncements feel much more authoritative than your replacement-level Fox News commentator.
    ...
    Peterson is also particularly appealing to disaffected young men. He's become a lifestyle guru for men and boys who feel displaced by a world where white male privilege is under attack; his new best-selling book, 12 Rules for Life, is explicitly pitched as a self-help manual, and he speaks emotionally of the impact his work has had on anxious, lost young men.
    ...
    At base, he argues that that Soviet-style communism, and all the mass murder and suffering it created, is still a serious threat to Western civilization. But rather than working openly, it seeps into our politics under the guise of "postmodernism."
    ...
    But this work, respected as it may be, has little to do with Peterson's fame. His most influential research was published in the late '90s and early to mid-2000s; of his 20 most cited papers, only one came out after 2010. By contrast, his international celebrity - as measured by worldwide Google searches for "Jordan Peterson" - didn't start to rise until October 2016:
    What happened in the fall of 2016 is that Peterson inserted himself into a national Canadian debate over transgender rights - specifically by refusing to refer to a student by their chosen gender pronouns.

    ...
    "I shouldn't say this, but I'm going to, because it's just so goddamn funny I can't help but say it: I've figured out how to monetize social justice warriors," Peterson told the podcast host Joe Rogan. "If they let me speak, then I get to speak, and then I make more money on Patreon ... if they protest me, then that goes up on YouTube, and my Patreon account goes WAY up."
    ...
    Peterson's stellar academic credentials act as a sort of legitimizing device, a way of setting up his authority on politics and making his denunciations of "leftist ideologues" more credible and attractive to his fans. Combine his undeniable talents as a public speaker and debater with his ability to use YouTube to reach audiences around the world and you get a right-wing celebrity who has transcended Canada and become a global reactionary star.
    ...
    He argues that these philosophers, famous for their skepticism about objective reality and emphasis on the social construction of human society, were actually crypto-Marxists. The difference is that they change the language - instead of arguing that society is defined by class oppression, Peterson says, they argue that it's defined by identity oppression: racism, sexism, gender identity, and the like.
    ... Actual experts on postmodernism note that the thinkers Peterson likes to cite were often quite critical of Marxism.

    ...
    Perhaps more fundamentally, there is no evidence that 20th-century French thinkers have a dominant influence on any sector of the left in contemporary Western politics, let alone society as a whole.
    ...
    But Peterson has inextricably intertwined his self-help approach with a kind of reactionary politics that validates white, straight, and cisgender men at the expense of everyone else. He gives them a sense of purpose by, in part, tearing other people down - by insisting that the world can and should revolve around them and their problems.

  • Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism

    Epic takedown of Peterson in the guise of a book review by Pankaj Mishra in The New York Review of Books.

    It upset Peterson a lot (perhaps with some good reason?)

  • My question for Jordan Peterson.

    I don't want to pay $5 per month to ask Dr. Peterson a question, so here it is:

    You got very angry at what Pankaj Mishra said in The New York Review of Books and many transsexuals are very angry at you for some of your comments. Why do people get angry over words? The late great cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis use to say, why should other people behave the way you want them to rather than the way they want. Isn't it irrational to expect otherwise?


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Fri Mar 30 15:35:38 EDT 2018

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Why Does America Spend More on Health Care?

    The United States does not use more health care than high-income peers like Canada, Germany, France and Japan, said study co-author Liana Woskie, assistant director of the Harvard Global Health Institute's strategic initiative on quality.

    Nor does America have too many high-paid specialists. "At least compared to peers, we have a pretty similar mix of primary care to specialists," Woskie added.

    Instead, it looks as though the United States pays more because it faces higher price tags for drugs, tests, office visits and administration, Woskie said.

    Also related, Why Is U.S. Health Care So Expensive? Some of the Reasons You've Heard Turn Out to Be Myths

    There were two areas where the United States really was quite different: We pay substantially higher prices for medical services, including hospitalization, doctors' visits and prescription drugs. And our complex payment system causes us to spend far more on administrative costs. The United States also has a higher rate of poverty and more obesity than any of the other countries, possible contributors to lower life expectancy that may not be explained by differences in health care delivery systems.

  • Sorry, Adults, No New Neurons For Your Aging Brains

    The study of 59 samples from 29 brains of people of various ages found no immature neurons in anyone older than 13, scientists report online Wednesday in the journal Nature.
    ...
    The finding challenges decades of research suggesting that new neurons continue to appear in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and emotion. It also calls into question claims that both exercise and some anti-depressant drugs could boost the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.

    The original article in Nature: Questioning human neurogenesis

    Neurons are born in the brain's hippocampus throughout adulthood in mammals, contributing to the region's functions in memory and mood. But a study now questions whether this phenomenon really extends to humans.

    Also somewhat related: Muscle loss in old age linked to fewer nerve signals

    Researchers say they may have worked out why there is a natural loss of muscle in the legs as people age - and that it is due to a loss of nerves.

  • Environment dominates over host genetics in shaping human gut microbiota

    We show that, by contrast, there are significant similarities in the compositions of the microbiomes of genetically unrelated individuals who share a household, and that over 20% of the inter-person microbiome variability is associated with factors related to diet, drugs and anthropometric measurements. We further demonstrate that microbiome data significantly improve the prediction accuracy for many human traits, such as glucose and obesity measures, compared to models that use only host genetic and environmental data.

    Also related, Colossal family tree reveals environment's influence on lifespan

    Genetics explains only a small part of differences in how long a person lives, finds analysis that links 13 million people.

    The group concludes that heredity explains only about 16% of the difference in lifespans for these individuals. Most of the differences were down to other factors, such as where and how people lived.
    ...
    Erlich says that "good" genes might extend a person's life by an average of five years.

  • Longevity FAQ: A beginner's guide to longevity research

    Laura Deming's overview for beginners of what could increase healthy human lifespan.

  • Are consumer genetic tests misused by doctors and alternative health providers?

    Genetic testing can provide only limited information about an inherited condition. The test often can't determine if a person will show symptoms of a disorder, how severe the symptoms will be, or whether the disorder will progress over time. Another major limitation is the lack of treatment strategies for many genetic disorders once they are diagnosed.
    ...
    Inappropriate genetic testing by any health provider is a problem, but it's particularly worrisome in the case of naturopaths, as genetic tests are being used to sell patients the latest snake oil treatments and to promote the illusion that the practitioner is scientific and up-to-date.

  • Rethinking Science's Magic Number

    As meticulous as scientists are, inaccurate, false, or even misleading science claims are surprisingly common. A 2015 experiment reported over one-third of psychology experiments are faulty, while a similar test for cancer research indicates similar trends, though that one is still in progress. The problem isn't limited to those two fields, either.
    ...
    Behind nearly every piece of science news you read is a magic number: the p-value. To generate a p-value, scientists run statistical tests comparing data sets. Their starting assumption is that there's no difference between the things they're comparing-new drug vs. sugar pill, power pose vs. nothing-and when they find a result that deviates significantly enough from "no difference," they report it as a positive finding.
    ...
    One form of misconduct, called "p-hacking," occurs when scientists selectively embellish a few, randomly extreme data points, and conceal many insignificant ones. Their work passes the p-value threshold and makes the effects of their experiment seem more convincing than what occurs in reality.

  • Should We Chill Out about Global Warming?

    By John Horgan in his Scientific American Cross-check blog.

    Two "ecomodernists" (Steven Pinker and Will Boisvert) argue that continued progress in science and other realms will help us overcome environmental problems.

  • Alan Dershowitz's Audition to Be Trump's Lawyer Is Not Going Well

    Analysis and tear down of Dershowitz' opinion article,

    Trump is right: The special counsel should never have been appointed

  • How To Change Your Facebook Settings To Opt Out of Platform API Sharing
  • No, Fascism Can't Happen Here

    Tyler Cowen

    My argument is pretty simple: American fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy. It is simply too hard for the fascists, or for that matter other radical groups, to seize control of. No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and they cannot control what is sometimes called "the deep state." The net result is they simply can't control enough of the modern state to steer it in a fascist direction.


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Wed Feb 28 22:29:34 EST 2018

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • How democracies die, explained

    The problems in American democracy run far deeper than Trump.

    In most modern cases, "democracies erode slowly, in barely visible steps." They rot from the inside, poisoned by leaders who "subvert the very process that brought them to power." They are hollowed out, the trappings of democracy present long after the soul of the system is snuffed out.
    ...
    "How Democracies Die" is being read as a commentary on Donald Trump, but the analysis of Trump is the book's least interesting, and least important, contribution. Trump is a symptom, not the cause, of the problems bedeviling American democracy.
    ...
    Demagogues and authoritarians do not destroy democracies. It's established political parties, and the choices they make when faced with demagogues and authoritarians, that decide whether democracies survive.

    Related Ezra Klein Show podcast.
  • Why American doctors keep doing expensive procedures that don't work

    The proportion of medical procedures unsupported by evidence may be nearly half.

    In 2002, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study demonstrating that a common knee operation, performed on millions of Americans who have osteoarthritis - an operation in which the surgeon removes damaged cartilage or bone ("arthroscopic debridement") and then washes out any debris ("arthroscopic lavage") - worked no better at relieving pain or improving function than a sham procedure. Those operations can go for $5,000 a shot.
    Many orthopedic surgeons and medical societies disputed the study and pressed insurance companies to maintain coverage of the procedure. Subsequent research on a related procedure cast further doubt on the value of knee surgeries for many patients with arthritis or meniscal tears, yet the procedures remain in wide use.

    ...
    The knowledge gap is especially large for medical procedures, as opposed to drugs, since there is no FDA for surgery. Doctors learn about new procedures from colleagues, specialty society meetings, and information provided by medical device companies - a potentially arbitrary and unscientific process.

  • Missing data hinder replication of artificial intelligence studies

    The booming field of artificial intelligence (AI) is grappling with a replication crisis, much like the ones that have afflicted psychology, medicine, and other fields over the past decade. AI researchers have found it difficult to reproduce many key results, and that is leading to a new conscientiousness about research methods and publication protocols.
    ...
    The most basic problem is that researchers often don't share their source code. At the AAAI meeting, Odd Erik Gundersen, a computer scientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, reported the results of a survey of 400 algorithms presented in papers at two top AI conferences in the past few years. He found that only 6% of the presenters shared the algorithm's code. Only a third shared the data they tested their algorithms on, and just half shared "pseudocode"-a limited summary of an algorithm. (In many cases, code is also absent from AI papers published in journals, including Science and Nature.)

  • The Downsides to Deep Learning

    We've been promised a revolution in how and why nearly everything happens. But the limits of modern artificial intelligence are closer than we think.

    But there are many things that people can do quickly that smart machines cannot. Natural language is beyond deep learning; new situations baffle artificial intelligences, like cows brought up short at a cattle grid. None of these shortcomings is likely to be solved soon. Once you've seen you've seen it, you can't un-see it: deep learning, now the dominant technique in artificial intelligence, will not lead to an AI that abstractly reasons and generalizes about the world. By itself, it is unlikely to automate ordinary human activities.
    ...
    According to skeptics like Marcus, deep learning is greedy, brittle, opaque, and shallow. The systems are greedy because they demand huge sets of training data. Brittle because when a neural net is given a "transfer test"-confronted with scenarios that differ from the examples used in training-it cannot contextualize the situation and frequently breaks. They are opaque because, unlike traditional programs with their formal, debuggable code, the parameters of neural networks can only be interpreted in terms of their weights within a mathematical geography. Consequently, they are black boxes, whose outputs cannot be explained, raising doubts about their reliability and biases. Finally, they are shallow because they are programmed with little innate knowledge and possess no common sense about the world or human psychology.

  • Moralism and the Arts

    In other words, bad behavior, or even alleged bad behavior, can taint an artistic work, because the artist cannot be separated from his art. This is at least a more interesting proposition than the notion that art should be disqualified just because we don't like the way the artist behaved in private. But is it right?
    ...
    It is also true that art can transcend the private behavior of the artist. A writer, filmmaker, or painter who behaves badly toward wives or lovers can produce art that is deeply sympathetic to women. By the same token, perfectly behaved people can break all kinds of social taboos in their art. To judge the moral component of artistic expression, then, we must look not at the person who made it but at the work itself.

  • The Great Crime Decline

    Drawing the right lessons from the fall in urban violence. Book review.

    In the United States over the past three decades, while people argue about tax cuts and terrorism, the wave of social change that has most altered the shape of American life, as much as the new embankments of the Thames changed life then, has been what the N.Y.U. sociologist Patrick Sharkey calls "the great crime decline." The term, which seems to have originated with the influential Berkeley criminologist Franklin E. Zimring, refers to the still puzzling disappearance from our big-city streets of violent crime, so long the warping force of American life"driving white flight to the suburbs and fuelling the rise of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, not to mention the career of Martin Scorsese. ("Taxi Driver" is the great poem of New York around the height of high crime, with steam coming out of the hellish manholes and violence recumbent in the back seat.) No one saw it coming, and the still odder thing is that, once it came, no one seemed adequately equipped to praise it.

  • Princeton Web Transparency & Accountability Project

    Measure Threats; Create Change; Inform the Public

    We monitor websites and services to find out what user data companies collect, how they collect it, and what they do with it. With our measurement platform, we study privacy, security, and ethics of consumer data usage.   Book.


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Thu Feb 22 17:37:33 EST 2018

Economics

Some thoughts about economics and economists

  • The real Adam Smith

    He might be the poster boy for free-market economics, but that distorts what Adam Smith really thought.

    It is certainly true that there are similarities between what Smith called 'the system of natural liberty', and more recent calls for the state to make way for the free market. But if we dig below the surface, what emerges most strikingly are the differences between Smith's subtle, skeptical view of the role of markets in a free society, and more recent caricatures of him as a free-market fundamentalist avant-la-lettre. For while Smith might be publicly lauded by those who put their faith in private capitalist enterprise, and who decry the state as the chief threat to liberty and prosperity, the real Adam Smith painted a rather different picture. According to Smith, the most pressing dangers came not from the state acting alone, but the state when captured by merchant elites.
    ...
    The context of Smith's intervention in The Wealth of Nations was what he called 'the mercantile system'. By this Smith meant the network of monopolies that characterised the economic affairs of early modern Europe. Under such arrangements, private companies lobbied governments for the right to operate exclusive trade routes, or to be the only importers or exporters of goods, while closed guilds controlled the flow of products and employment within domestic markets.

    As a result, Smith argued, ordinary people were forced to accept inflated prices for shoddy goods, and their employment was at the mercy of cabals of bosses. Smith saw this as a monstrous affront to liberty, and a pernicious restriction on the capacity of each nation to increase its collective wealth. Yet the mercantile system benefited the merchant elites, who had worked hard to keep it in place. Smith pulled no punches in his assessment of the bosses as working against the interests of the public. As he put it in The Wealth of Nations: 'People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.'

  • The Paradox of Household Income (Part 2)

    Second part of Russ Roberts' The Numbers Game animated series discussing the challenges of accurately measuring and understanding the economy and economic policy.

    Changes in family structure make it difficult to measure economic progress for the middle class and to get an accurate picture of the effectiveness of the American economy. The rise in divorce and the decrease in marriage rates especially among less-educated Americans distorts the standard measures of economic progress. What’s really going on is more complicated than the standard story of economic stagnation.

  • Dani Rodrik on "Is economics more art or science?"

    Julia Galef, Rationally Speaking podcast.

    This episode features Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, talking about the epistemology of economics: Are there any general "laws" of economics that we can be really confident in? Do economists discard models if the data doesn't support them? And why do economists disagree with each other?

  • Why Economists Make Terrible Fortunetellers

    Realistically, this has less to do with the failings of economists than with the futility of the task itself. Sen et. al. suggest that all the rational data in the world is rendered useless by the irrationality of human behavior. They pinpoint "the inherent difficulty in anticipating the results of interactions of millions of human beings with different values, objectives, motivations, expectations, endowments, rights, means and circumstances, dealing with each other in a wide variety of institutional settings."


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Wed Jan 31 12:27:35 EST 2018

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • The Six Stages of a Failed Psychological Theory

    There's a good reason for this: psychology, as a discipline, is a house made of sand, based on analyzing inherently fickle human behavior, held together with poorly-defined concepts, and explored with often scant methodological rigor. Indeed, there's a strong case to be made that psychology is barely a science.

    • Stage 1: The Flashy Finding.
    • Stage 2: The Fawning Replications.
    • Stage 3: A Consensus Forms.
    • Stage 4: The Rebuttal.
    • Stage 5: Proper Replications Pour In.
    • Stage 6: The Theory Lives On as a Zombie.
    For an example see, LOL Something Matters.

  • Richard Rorty's prescient warnings for the American left

    This liberal philosopher predicted Trump's rise in 1998 - and he has another warning for the left.

    He sees the American left as split into two camps: the reformist left and the cultural left. The reformist left dominates from 1900 until it is supplanted by the cultural left in the mid-1960s. The division has more to do with tactics than it does principles, but those tactical differences, for Rorty at least, carried enormous consequences.
    ...
    Rorty admired the reformist left both because they were effective and because they understood that the key dividing line between the left the right in this country was about whether the state has a responsibility to ensure a moral and socially desirable distribution of wealth. The right rejected this proposition, the left embraced it.
    ...
    The focus of leftist politics changed in the 1960s. For Rorty, the left ceased to be political and instead became a cultural movement. The prevailing view was that it was no longer possible to promote equality and social justice within the system.

  • Why Did Catherine Deneuve and Other Prominent French Women Denounce #MeToo?

    Despite the impulse to view the statement by the actress Catherine Deneuve and others as some innately French point of view, this isn't a straightforward case of cultural difference.

    There are reasonable criticisms to be made of the reckoning, as it's come to be called, but Deneuve and Millet and their co-signers distort them. Bothering women in an unwanted way isn't an expression of artistic temperament, without which the world would lose its magic. It's often a by-product of a man's (possibly very good) work making him think that he is invincible and owed. The hundred women's admiration for a certain kind of man inhibits their empathy for his victims. Their stance is all the sadder in that it reveals a diminution of the same human quality that kindles the sexual energy they're so keen not to see snuffed out. The failure to grasp that a woman-another woman with a different history, different values, a different set of likes and dislikes, attractions and repulsions-could grieve a trespass upon her body is really a failure of the imagination.

  • Proof that Americans are lying about their sexual desires

    What Google searches for porn tell us about ourselves.

    Among other things, Stephens-Davidowitz's data suggests that there are more gay men in the closet than we think; that many men prefer overweight women to skinny women but are afraid to act on it; that married women are disproportionately worried their husband is gay; that a lot of straight women watch lesbian porn; and that porn featuring violence against women is more popular among women than men.

  • Radio artist Joe Frank dies at 79

    Joe Frank, known for his unique and innovative radio monologues and stories, died Monday (01/15/2018). He was 79. Joe Frank – Tributes List.


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Thu Jan 25 19:03:45 EST 2018

Sugar (and salt)

Some links related to dietary consumption of sugar and salt.

  • Sugar, explained

    Sugar is the dietary villain of our day. But the science is complicated.

    1. We're so hooked on sweetness, it's now in three-quarters of our packaged food
    2. There's no argument about sugar's link to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease
    3. But researchers don't agree about whether we can blame sugar alone for the rise in obesity
    4. There are at least 60 euphemisms for added sugar
    5. There's one big reason researchers think cutting sugar from your diet is the best way to lose weight. And it's contentious.
    6. Fructose is metabolized differently than other sugars, but it's not clear whether that matters for obesity
    7. The sugar industry has shaped science
    8. A big backlash against sugar is underway
    9. You'll soon be able to tell how much sugar is hidden in your food
    10. Artificial sweeteners may trigger the body's responses to real sugar
    11. To cut back, make sure your breakfast isn't dessert and stop drinking sugary drinks
  • Sugar Industry Long Downplayed Potential Harms

    The sugar industry funded animal research in the 1960s that looked into the effects of sugar consumption on cardiovascular health - and then buried the data when it suggested that sugar could be harmful, according to newly released historical documents.

    Details at, Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents.

  • Higher brain glucose levels may mean more severe Alzheimer's

    NIH study shows connections between glucose metabolism, Alzheimer's pathology, symptoms

    For the first time, scientists have found a connection between abnormalities in how the brain breaks down glucose and the severity of the signature amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain, as well as the onset of eventual outward symptoms, of Alzheimer's disease.

  • Clearing Up the Confusion About Salt

    So why, you may wonder, is there any controversy? Shabby science, resulting in claims that is it unsafe to reduce sodium intake below 1,500 milligrams a day, is one reason, according to Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

    "Very few people consume so little sodium, and most of those who do are sick to begin with, so they eat less and consume less sodium," she explained. "It's a phony issue."

    But when a study is published that runs counter to prevailing beliefs, it tends to get undue media coverage. "The media like 'man bites dog' stories, and studies with surprising results make headlines," Ms. Liebman said.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Fri Dec 29 21:52:36 EST 2017

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Jim Simons, the Numbers King

    Algorithms made him a Wall Street billionaire. His new research center helps scientists mine data for the common good.

    One thing that Simons did not predict is that Mercer would become one of the most divisive figures in American politics. During the 2016 election cycle, Mercer, a far-right conservative, spent more than twenty million dollars, eventually throwing his weight behind the candidacy of Donald Trump. He is likely the single biggest donor to the alt-right, supplying millions of dollars to Breitbart, the incendiary Web site run by Steve Bannon. Simons described Mercer's current politics as a transformation that has surprised him. "I've talked to him a few times, but he is just very different from me, and I can't change him," Simons said. He added, "I like him."

    Comment: Since the Simons Foundation sponsors research for brains disorders like autism and Alzheimer's, I wish they would try to figure out what are the differences in the brains of Jim Simons and Robert Mercer that can explain their friendship, productive working relationship, and very different political leanings and how they choose to spend their vast wealth.

  • The Numbers Game

    Russ Roberts' animated series discussing the challenges of accurately measuring and understanding the economy and economic policy.

    We often hear that the middle class is stagnating and making no economic progress over the last four decades. Those making this claim use statistics to back up this pessimistic conclusion. Yet it is easy to find other statistics that lead to a different conclusion and that show that the middle class's standard of living has in fact been growing. This series explores how different assumptions can easily change our perception of how the economy treats the middle class. The bottom line is that data questions like these are often more complicated than they appear to be.

  • Trump won because of racial resentment

    Another study produces the same findings we've seen over and over again.

    Even when controlling for partisanship, ideology, region and a host of other factors, white millennials fit Michael Tesler's analysis, explored here. As he put it, economic anxiety isn't driving racial resentment; rather, racial resentment is driving economic anxiety. We found, as he has in a larger population, that racial resentment is the biggest predictor of white vulnerability among white millennials. Economic variables like education, income and employment made a negligible difference.
    ...
    To this end, the research also shows it's possible to reach out to Trump voters - even those who are racist today - in an empathetic way without condoning their prejudice. The evidence suggests, in fact, that the best way to weaken people's racial or other biases is through frank, empathetic dialogue. (Much more on that in my in-depth piece on the research) Given that, the strongest approach to really combating racism and racial resentment may be empathy.

    Research says there are ways to reduce racial bias. Calling people racist isn't one of them.

  • Is 'White Resentment' a Scapegoat for Democrats' Decline?

    Let's set aside the fact that many of the white voters who proved most decisive for Trump's election actually voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. It turns out that Trump did not mobilize or energize whites towards the ballot box either: their participation rate was roughly equivalent to 2012 (and lower than in 2008). In fact, whites actually made up a smaller share of the electorate than they did in previous cycles, while Hispanics, Asians and racial "others" comprised larger shares than they had in 2012 or 2008.

    This wouldn't, in itself, be devastating for the "white supremacy" hypothesis had Trump won some kind of unprecedented share of the whites who did turn out to vote. He did not. Trump didn't even exceed Romney's 2012 numbers with whites overall. However, he did outperform his predecessor with blacks and Hispanics.

    These are very inconvenient truths: If Trump was the white supremacy candidate, why was such a pivotal component of his base drawn from those who previously voted for Obama (often twice)? Why didn't far greater numbers of whites turn out for Trump than Romney? Why did fewer whites vote for the Republican in this cycle than they did in the last? Conversely, why did Trump win a larger share of blacks than any Republican since 2004? Why did he outperform Romney among Asians and Hispanics as well?

  • The real reason American health care is so expensive

    Hint: single-payer won't automatically fix it.

    Americans don't consume more health care than the Germans or the Japanese. We actually go to the doctor less often.

    The real reason American health care is so expensive compared to other countries is that the prices are higher. We pay more for everything from angioplasties to C-sections, from hip replacements to opioids.

    For example, Emergency rooms are monopolies. Patients pay the price.

    We found that the price of these fees rose 89 percent between 2009 and 2015 -- rising twice as fast as the price of outpatient health care, and four times as fast as overall health care spending.

    Overall spending on emergency room fees rose by more than $3 billion between 2009 and 2015, despite the fact the HCCI database shows a slight (2 percent) decline in the number of emergency room fees billed in the same time period.

    For another example see: Why American doctors keep doing expensive procedures that don’t work

    The proportion of medical procedures unsupported by evidence may be nearly half.

    The stunning news about stents came in a landmark study published in November, in The Lancet. It found that patients who got stents to treat nonemergency chest pain improved no more in their treadmill stress tests (which measure how long exercise can be tolerated) than did patients who received a “sham” procedure that mimicked the real operation but actually involved no insertion of a stent.

    In 2002, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study demonstrating that a common knee operation, performed on millions of Americans who have osteoarthritis — an operation in which the surgeon removes damaged cartilage or bone (“arthroscopic debridement”) and then washes out any debris (“arthroscopic lavage”) — worked no better at relieving pain or improving function than a sham procedure. Those operations can go for $5,000 a shot.

  • How the baby boomers - not millennials - screwed America

    The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it.

    That's the argument Bruce Gibney makes in his book A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. The boomers, according to Gibney, have committed generational plunder," pillaging the nation's economy, repeatedly cutting their own taxes, financing two wars with deficits, ignoring climate change, presiding over the death of America's manufacturing core, and leaving future generations to clean up the mess they created.

  • The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

    The labor market doesn't pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you signal by mastering them. This is not a fringe idea. Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, and Joseph Stiglitz-all Nobel laureates in economics-made seminal contributions to the theory of educational signaling. Every college student who does the least work required to get good grades silently endorses the theory. But signaling plays almost no role in public discourse or policy making. As a society, we continue to push ever larger numbers of students into ever higher levels of education. The main effect is not better jobs or greater skill levels, but a credentialist arms race.

  • How Email Open Tracking Quietly Took Over the Web

    Tracking clients embed a line of code in the body of an email-usually in a 1x1 pixel image, so tiny it's invisible, but also in elements like hyperlinks and custom fonts. When a recipient opens the email, the tracking client recognizes that pixel has been downloaded, as well as where and on what device. Newsletter services, marketers, and advertisers have used the technique for years, to collect data about their open rates; major tech companies like Facebook and Twitter followed suit in their ongoing quest to profile and predict our behavior online.

    But lately, a surprising-and growing-number of tracked emails are being sent not from corporations, but acquaintances. "We have been in touch with users that were tracked by their spouses, business partners, competitors," says Florian Seroussi, the founder of OMC. "It's the wild, wild west out there."

    Comment: Stop sending (and reading) unnecessary HTML email.

  • Superhuman AI for heads-up no-limit poker: Libratus beats top professionals

    We present Libratus, an AI that, in a 120,000-hand competition, defeated four top human specialist professionals in heads-up no-limit Texas hold'em, the leading benchmark and long-standing challenge problem in imperfect-information game solving. Our game-theoretic approach features application-independent techniques: an algorithm for computing a blueprint for the overall strategy, an algorithm that fleshes out the details of the strategy for subgames that are reached during play, and a self-improver algorithm that fixes potential weaknesses that opponents have identified in the blueprint strategy.

  • DeepMind's AI became a superhuman chess player in a few hours

    In the paper, DeepMind describes how a descendant of the AI program that first conquered the board game Go has taught itself to play a number of other games at a superhuman level. After eight hours of self-play, the program bested the AI that first beat the human world Go champion; and after four hours of training, it beat the current world champion chess-playing program, Stockfish. Then for a victory lap, it trained for just two hours and polished off one of the world's best shogi-playing programs named Elmo (shogi being a Japanese version of chess that's played on a bigger board).

    One of the key advances here is that the new AI program, named AlphaZero, wasn't specifically designed to play any of these games. In each case, it was given some basic rules (like how knights move in chess, and so on) but was programmed with no other strategies or tactics. It simply got better by playing itself over and over again at an accelerated pace - a method of training AI known as "reinforcement learning."

  • Thoughts on "Net Neutrality"

    by Maria Schneider, composer/bandleader

    What's worse, Google is really just the pot calling the kettle black. Google is desperate to have Verizon declared as a "common carrier" so that Verizon is legally required to provide this open set of highways to all, at NO COST to Google. Google does so by scaring us ordinary folks, saying Verizon could somehow set up fast lanes, or other prioritizations, if they aren't called "common carriers." But the irony of this - and the hidden truth - is that Google does just that by building what are called "content delivery networks" or CDNs, that enable them to deliver content, at lightning speeds in collaboration with the ISPs. Talk about "fast lanes" - that is like Google having its own private HOV lanes on the open highway system for its own Ferraris. How ironic it is that by 2011, Google was carrying 6.4% of ALL worldwide internet traffic on and through its own CDNs. That's just astounding. Google is actually acting more like an ISP than the ISPs. Google is the behemoth data lord that owns us all. But somehow, we're willing to vilify the cable company instead, and give Google a free pass. It's like punishing the shipbuilders who build the pirate ships, while idolizing the pirates themselves. It's ludicrous.
    ...
    Let's not forget what this is all about. Google isn't here for the altruistic ideal of helping ordinary people. Google's number one goal with "net neutrality" is to guarantee robust "pipes" are in place, so that we, the billions of YouTube and Google search users, can send all of our "user data" back to Google. It's fair to say that they need the ISP pipes maybe more than we do. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, are only rich and powerful because we, collectively and stupidly, have agreed to send them (via the ISPs) all of our valuable data (our constant GPS locations, our buying and listening habits, our everyday needs and whims, our opinions, our political leanings, our personal information, medical information, our search history) - all of it and more, for free. Each of us has become a data-transmitting drone for Google and the like. And all of that data travels through Verizon's (or the ISPs') pipes.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Dec 14 18:40:30 EST 2017

Tax Cuts / Inequality

Some links related to the effectiveness of tax cuts and income inequality.

  • Taxes and growth - a cautionary graph

    The basic point: There have been huge changes in taxes throughout US history with virtually no observable shift in growth rates.

    Details at, Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth.

  • Not Much Evidence That a Corporate Tax Cut Boosts Wages

    First, corporations have reported record profits. The lack of investment is not due to the lack of funds.
    ...
    Second, businesses have been saying to whoever will listen that it does not plan to invest a windfall from lower taxes.
    ...
    There may be other reasons that some may support the corporate tax cuts, but spurring investment and wage growth are not compelling or convincing arguments. The kind of investment that may be more necessary, and can boost wages and productivity is public investment, but the tax reform proposals will leave little room for an infrastructure initiative.

  • Watch CEOs admit they won't actually invest more if tax reform passes

    John Bussey, an associate editor with the Journal, asks the CEOs in the room, "If the tax reform bill goes through, do you plan to increase investment - your companies' investment - capital investment," and requests a show of hands. Only a few hands go up, leaving Cohn to ask sheepishly, "Why aren't the other hands up?"

    Out of 42 top economists, only 1 believes the GOP tax bills would help the economy The first question was straightforward. Would they agree that if the US passed a tax bill "similar to those currently moving through the House and Senate," GDP would be "substantially higher a decade from now"? Of the 42 economists polled, only one thought the Republican bill would boost the economy. The plurality said it wouldn't, and the remainder were uncertain or didn't answer.

  • The theory behind Trump's tax cuts is exactly what gave us the failed Bush economy

    An influx of foreign hot money isn't what we need.

    The theory was that by making it more lucrative to invest in American businesses, they would boost business investment in the United States -- making our country home to more factories and offices, driving job creation, and pushing up wages.

    What happened instead was a weak, highly inegalitarian period of economic growth that was associated with the drift of America's manufacturing base overseas and an unsustainable debt-financed boom in house building.

  • It's not just the 1%. The upper middle class is oppressing everyone else, too

    The top 20% have set things up to guarantee virtually all of those spoils go to their descendants. Where does that leave the rest of us?

    The author, economics professor and Brookings Institution fellow Richard Reeves, notes that while the US has always had a class system, the upper middle class -- which he defines as those earning $120,000 a year or more -- is not only widening the gap between itself and everyone else, but also hoarding opportunities in a way that makes it difficult for any outsiders to climb up to it. (The 1% is getting richer even more quickly, of course, but there aren't enough of them to hoard opportunities on a mass scale.)
    ...
    Rampant inequality is not the fault of a class of people doing exactly what anyone would do in their position, but a political and economic system that incentivizes and enables them to do so. (Don't hate the player, hate the game.) It follows that the solution is not individual and moralistic, but collective and political.

  • Myths of the 1 Percent: What Puts People at the Top

    Dispelling misconceptions about what's driving income inequality in the U.S.

    Almost all of the growth in top American earners has come from just three economic sectors: professional services, finance and insurance, and health care, groups that tend to benefit from regulatory barriers that shelter them from competition.

    The groups that have contributed the most people to the 1 percent since 1980 are: physicians; executives, managers, sales supervisors, and analysts working in the financial sectors; and professional and legal service industry executives, managers, lawyers, consultants and sales representatives.

    Without changes in these largely domestic services industries -- finance, health care, the law -- the United States would look like Canada or Germany in terms of its top income shares.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Nov 30 13:52:53 EST 2017

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Change My View (CMV)

    Reddit moderated sub-community with strict rules, where participants discuss various topics for the purpose of understanding opposing viewpoints.

    A discussion on the You Are Not So Smart podcast explains what kind of arguments are most likely to change people's minds, and what kinds of minds are most likely to be changed.

  • Why incompetent people often think they're actually the best

    There's a psychological phenomenon behind it: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    "When psychologists Dunning and [Justin] Kruger first described the effect in 1999, they argued that people lacking knowledge and skill in particular areas suffer a double curse. First, they make mistakes and reach poor decisions. But second, those same knowledge gaps also prevent them from catching their errors. In other words, poor performers lack the very expertise needed to recognize how badly they're doing."

    Also see, what the Dunning-Kruger effect is and isn't:

    So the bias is definitively not that incompetent people think they're better than competent people. Rather, it's that incompetent people think they're much better than they actually are. But they typically still don't think they're quite as good as people who, you know, actually are good.

  • Why we pretend to know things, explained by a cognitive scientist

    New research explains why we pretend to know more than we do.

    We are not great reasoners. Most people don't like to think at all, or like to think as little as possible. And by most, I mean roughly 70 percent of the population. Even the rest seem to devote a lot of their resources to justifying beliefs that they want to hold, as opposed to forming credible beliefs based only on fact.
    ...
    But some people do try to rise above the crowd: to verify claims independently, to give fair hearing to others' claims, and to follow the data where it actually leads. In fact, many people are trained to do that: scientists, judges, forensic investigators, physicians, etc. That doesn't mean they always do (and they don't always), just that they're supposed to try.

  • 'Break up Google and Facebook if you ever want innovation again'

    Antitrust was necessary "not because they're too big, but because there's no market solution" to Google and Facebook. The barriers to entry are now so high nobody is going bust open the ad duopoly. This is the point made by Oracle in its European complaint. Effective behavioural advertising requires hods of data, and nobody can gather sufficient data enough to compete against Google's "superprofiles", or Facebook's Graph in behavioural advertising.

  • Why Beauty Is Not Universal

    When it comes to judging visual beauty, there are no hard-and-fast biological rules.
    ...
        cross-cultural studies revealed something surprising: perception of the (Müller-Lyer) illusion varies widely-and Westerners are outliers. When scientists measured how different the segments appeared to different groups of people, they found that Westerners saw the greatest distortion. The Zulu, Fang, and Ijaw people of Africa observed half as much. The San foragers of the Kalahari didn't perceive the illusion at all: they recognized right away that a and b were the same length. People raised in Western countries literally don't see things the same way as the foragers of the Kalahari. Your experience of the world changes what you take to be true, and vision is no exception.

  • Never Do That Again

    by Morgan Housel

    Some things are timeless. Bubbles will always occur. A handful of companies will dominate industries. Things won't be fair. Patience will be rewarded, stubbornness will be penalized, and we'll never be able to tell which is which.

    But I'm not optimistic on learning specific lessons from individual events. We are not the NTSB. There's a limited amount we can learn from one event that makes us better prepared to handle the next event.

    I think it's rare that we can say, "Always do this." Or even, "Never do that again." Unless it's flagrantly obvious or reckless, "I have an evidence-based strategy but I am perpetually open to amending those views as our ever-evolving world adapts, and I know I'll occasionally be wrong even when I technically should have been right" should be your position on almost every business, investing, and economic topic.

  • Have You Ever Seen Donald Trump Laugh?

    One possible reason why Trump won't laugh: The less honest you are with yourself, the less likely you are to laugh.
    ...
    Another cost to distorting the truth is that you're less likely to even get why something is funny, much less laugh at it.

  • Scientists Have Mathematical Proof That It's Impossible to Stop Ageing

    "If you get rid of those poorly functioning, sluggish cells, then that allows cancer cells to proliferate," says lead researcher Paul Nelson.

    "And if you get rid of, or slow down, those cancer cells, then that allows sluggish cells to accumulate."

  • Startup will train crows to pick up cigarette butts in return for peanuts

    Thanks to their understanding of causality, crows can conceptualize, create, and use tools. They play, learn from each other, and can manipulate humans into helping them out. Some types of crows can even count.

  • The long goodbye to C

    Eric Raymond on computer languages

    I was thinking a couple of days ago about the new wave of systems languages now challenging C for its place at the top of the systems-programming heap -- Go and Rust, in particular.
    ...
    So Go is designed for the C-like jobs Python can't handle.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Nov 16 14:14:45 EST 2017

Health Matters

Some links about the health care system and being healthy.

  • The problem is the prices (for health care)

    Opaque and sky high bills are breaking Americans -- and our health care system.

    The health care prices in the United States are, in a word, outlandish. On average, an MRI in the United States costs $1,119. That same scan costs $503 in Switzerland and $215 in Australia.
    ...
    High prices are hurting American families. Most Americans who get insurance at work now have a deductible over $1,000. High prices are why medical debt remains a leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, and nowhere else.
    ...
    We rarely know what our bill will be when we enter a doctor's office, or even when we leave. The prices aren't listed on the wall or a website as they would be in most other places where consumers spend money.
    ...
    The real culprit in the United States is not that we go to the doctor too much. The culprit is that whenever we do go to the doctor, we pay an extraordinary amount.
    ...
    Our health care legislation in the United States focuses on the question of who pays for health care. In order to have real progress, however, we're going to tackle a new question: How much do we pay? Until we do, we're likely to continue living in a world of $25,000 MRIs and $629 Band-Aids that families struggle to pay for.

    To help improve things see, Hospitals keep ER fees secret. Share your bill to help change that.

  • Depression: How effective are antidepressants?

    The various antidepressants have been compared in many studies. Overall, the commonly used tricyclic antidepressants SSRIs and SSNRIs performed equally well. Studies of adults with moderate or severe depression showed:

    • Without antidepressants: About 20 to 40 out of 100 people who took a placebo noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks.
    • With antidepressants: About 40 to 60 out of 100 people who took an antidepressant noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks.
    In other words, antidepressants improved symptoms in about 20 more people out of 100.

  • Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study

    The American Journal of Psychiatry

    Regular leisure-time exercise of any intensity provides protection against future depression but not anxiety. Relatively modest changes in population levels of exercise may have important public mental health benefits and prevent a substantial number of new cases of depression.

  • Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis

    British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM)

    Physical exercise improved cognitive function in the over 50s, regardless of the cognitive status of participants. To improve cognitive function, this meta-analysis provides clinicians with evidence to recommend that patients obtain both aerobic and resistance exercise of at least moderate intensity on as many days of the week as feasible, in line with current exercise guidelines.


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