Shared Links for Jun 7th

Shared Links for Apr 8th

  • The secret, social lives of bacteria – Cooperative behavior between bacteria, both inter and intra species, coordinated via chemical messages. Behavior like "should we make light?" and "should we kill the host now?". Scary, awesome, and a beautiful system to investigate with algorithmic game theory! (tagged: cooperation biology technology bacteria science )
  • Computational Legal Studies – More people using machines to understand politics. A whole new class of dual use technology. Propaganda or transparency? Manipulation or clarity? Unauthorized social networking. (tagged: transparency technology government law )
  • Public Private Investment Partnerships a la Enron – Giving banks the ability to both buy and sell into the toxic asset markets being set up under PPIP is a recipe for market gaming in the tradition of Enron, as outlined in this example. Great, a trillion dollar Enron! (tagged: finance bailout economics policy enron ppip banks )
  • The New Nostradamus – Bruce Bueno de Mesquita uses large game theory simulations to try and predict the outcomes of complex negotiations involving many parties, both economic and political. Sounds interesting. Also sounds a little bit like bullshit. But apparently the CIA did a prospective trial (no backtesting bias) and found that the models made accurate predictions something like 90% of the time, when the analysts providing the inputs to the model made wrong predictions. Not so surprising that computers are better at synthesizing massive logical datasets into an outcome. The hard part seems like it would be getting the right inputs, and also trusting that people behave rationally, and (perhaps) know what's good for them. (tagged: economics politics science math prediction gametheory technology )
  • Ice Shelf Instability Backgrounder – A good backgrounder from last summer on the Wilkins Ice Shelf (which has just collapsed), and shelf dynamics in general, with links to the relevant literature. None of this is quite as sudden and shocking as the media reports have made it out to be. (tagged: climate antarctica ice shelf )

The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod

The Evolution of Cooperation was, somewhat surprisingly, a story about math. Math that actually describes a lot of things in life. It’s the story of The Prisoner’s Dilemma.  What makes The Prisoner’s Dilemma interesting, is that the players in the game have conflicting incentives.  You can be rewarded either for cooperating, or for defecting.  Unlike most things we think of as “games”, it is not zero-sum: both players can win, and both players can lose.  Too often it seems like this possibility is forgotten.  The dilemma goes like this.

Two suspected accomplices are taken into custody for a crime and separately interrogated.  Each is pressured to rat out the other.  If neither of them squeals (they cooperate) then both of them get short jail terms.  If both of them rat, they both get fairly long terms.  If only one of them gives in, and the other remains silent, then the fink gets off, and the honorable thief goes away for a long long time.

Continue reading The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod

Shared Links for Mar 11th

  • The Missing $1,000,000 Tax Bracket – There's a fair amount of debate over what the "top marginal tax rate" should be, but it's infrequently noted that there's actually vastly more variation in the income threshold at which that rate becomes applicable. In inflation adjusted dollars, it's fluctuated between around $80,000 (Regan) and $80,000,000 (!) during the Depression. Ignoring this while debating the highest income tax rate is kind of absurd. (tagged: usa tax policy )
  • True Traffic Tales – Ah, bikes and cars living harmoniously together. (tagged: cartoon bicycle transportation )
  • Evangelical Climate Initiative – A Christian take on climate change, given its reality, what is the appropriate response for a conscientious person of faith? From my point of view as an atheist, it's not so important what other peoples' motivations are for taking action, as long as they take action. I'm curious how this has been received by the evangelical movement. (tagged: religion climate science christian green )
  • Sailfish Cooperating to Hunt Sardines – I had no idea sailfish were so colorful (and changeable), let alone this cooperative. Glad National Geographic still exists, even if our maps no longer have "Terra Incognita" on them (tagged: fish cooperation nature )
  • Communicating the Second Premise: Whether Obama or Bush, Values Drive Science Policy Decisions – A good look at the division between science facts/findings and science policy in the context of stem cell research and Bush's vs. Obama's take on it. Facts alone do not imply any "shoulds". We need values to tell us what's right or wrong. Sometimes those values are so obvious we don't even think about them, and sometimes they're not, especially when new and poorly understood technology is involved. (tagged: science policy obama bush stemcells biology )