Some of my most important work has been directed toward measuring risk aversion. This is important for many reasons; giving good advice or setting good defaults for long-term asset allocation decisions is one of them. Dan Benjamin, Mark Fontana and I explain that in the first footnote in our new NBER Working Paper “Reconsidering Risk Aversion”: When financial advisors make their portfolio-allocation advice contingent on an individual’s risk attitudes, they typically measure the individual’s relative ranking in the population, e.g., using a qualitative scale. According to economic theory, however, what is needed is the numerical value of theRead More »
Articles by Miles Kimball
Money Talks is a column that explores what happens when business, the economy, and culture collide.On July 11, the American economy hit a key milestone in its recovery from the coronavirus: the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World reopened. The world’s most popular theme park had been shuttered since March 16, and the expectation was that Disney lovers from across the U.S., frustrated after months indoors, would flock to Orlando. And in the weeks leading up to the reopening, Disney had more than enough reservations to fill the park to its new, limited capacity. But as reopening day approached, the number of Covid-19 cases in Florida began to rise, and in response people started doing something Disney visitors almost never do: cancelling their reservations. In the three months that haveRead More »
The book Breath by James Nestor is a revelation. It is well worth this third blog post on the book. (The other two are flagged at the bottom of this post.) A fact James Nestor points to is the dramatic change in human skulls—and particularly upper and lower jaws—over the course of the last few centuries. There are plenty of human skulls around from a few hundred years ago as evidence; this fact is not in dispute. Since gene frequencies are unlikely to have changed substantially in such an evolutionarily short time, the leading theory is that softer food is the cause. The introduction of agriculture brought an earlier change in human skull form,Read More »
SectionsSkip to contentSkip to site indexIn five previous interviews in this series we’ve explored the Buddhist, Jain, Taoist, Jewish and Christian views on death and the afterlife. But what about those without any religious faith or belief in God? Why not, some readers have asked, interview an atheist? So we did.Today’s conversation is with Todd May, the author of 16 books of philosophy ranging from recent French thought to contemporary ethics. His books — including “A Significant Life,” “A Fragile Life” and, most recently, “A Decent Life: Morality for the Rest of Us” — investigate meaning, suffering and morality. His work has been featured in episodes of the television show “The Good Place,” where he served behind the scenes as a “philosophical consultant.” This interview was conductedRead More »
As a simplification, in economic theory one often writes utility as a function of market consumption and leisure. Following Gary Becker, one also might add in other arguments such as the quality of one’s relationships. (See for example Gary Becker’s book A Treatise on the Family.) But it is very easy to have an excellent situation in one’s outward circumstances, yet to totally spoil your enjoyment of that situation by unfavorably contrasting your actual situation with some imagined better situation and then directing mental barbs at one’s actual situation. I’ll bet there is often an edge—or a dangerously sharp point—to the thought “My life will be good when ….”Conversely, though it might be hard to understand, there are people whose outward circumstances look miserable who wring aRead More »
I want more peace.I want to stop the noise.I want to get rid of my anxiety.I want to be able to feel fully relaxed.Therapists hear these lines every day. And in a jacked-up world, one that’s wrestling with a global health crisis and all its brought with it, we’re hearing them more often.Anxiety is rife. That’s fair: there’s a lot to worry about. But how do we address it? How do we help people turn the worry dial down and find a comfortable way to live amidst the noise?If you ask people what they most want from life — beyond winning the lottery — they say a sense of peace. To feel okay with themselves, their people and their place in the world.It sounds like a simple ask — but it’s not, especially with uncertainty rattling all around us. Here’s how the truly peaceful do it.“Peace is theRead More »
Malcolm Gladwell has two big themes in his book Talking to Strangers. The first theme is that we are very bad at telling whether someone is lying or not. Many of us think we are good at it, but we are not, not even professionals whose job it is to tell when someone is lying. Scarily, some people just naturally look like they are lying even when they aren’t, while others naturally look like they are telling the truth when they are really lying. Unfortunately, but also possibly flattering myself, I suspect that I personally am in the category of people who look like they are lying even when they are telling the truth. (For example, I am not greatRead More »
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Deaths from heart disease are orders of magnitude more common than deaths from skin cancer. So it makes sense to do things that reduce heart disease risk even at the cost of some increase in skin cancer risk. Sun exposure seems to have exactly this tradeoff: a modest but important reduction in heart disease risk accompanied by a modest increase in skin cancer risk. But the modest increase in skin cancer risk corresponds to a much, much smaller number of deaths. Some experts claim that the reduction in heart disease risk from sun exposure can be fully replicated by drugs that reduce heart disease. But that seemsRead More »
What happens when a non-psychologist sets up a small and shoddy human psychological experiment in a university almost two decades ago—an experiment in which the eight subjects are repeatedly lied to, in which she brings in hand-picked collaborators to commit a deception scripted by critical racialist ideology, and all while she sits and watches the project careen out of control but does nothing to stop the debacle?
If you’re Robin DiAngelo, you scrape together the rubble of your failed experiment, write a sloppy dissertation rife with metaphysical jargon and riddled with spelling errors, and serve it up as the centerpiece for your Ph.D. that you variously describe as in the field of “education,” in “curriculum and instruction,” in “critical discourse analysis,” or in “whiteness
The Federalist Papers #19: The Weakness of the German Empire, Poland and Switzerland up to the 18th Century is Evidence for the Weakness of Confederations—Alexander Hamilton and James Madison13 days ago
I enjoy the Federalist Papers #19 for its detailed political science discussion of the German Empire, which played such a major—but not always powerful—part in European history. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison also discuss Poland and Switzerland as examples of confederacies. This one is fun for history buffs. I won’t try to summarize everything; I hope you’ll read it. However, I’ll lay out some of my favorite passages:The German Empire up to 1787:From such a parade of constitutional powers, in the representatives and head of this confederacy, the natural supposition would be, that it must form an exception to the general character whichRead More »
IMAGE CAPTION: Packard Fellowship recipient Ed Chuong, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, works in his lab with undergraduate student Isabella Horton. Credit: Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder
Why are some people more resilient to viruses than others?
The answer has eluded scientists for centuries and, in the age of COVID-19, has come to represent one of the holy grails of biomedical research.
Ed Chuong, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at CU Boulder, proposes an intriguing answer: Exposure to ancient parasites by our ancestors forever altered our genome, shaping the varied responses of our immune systems today.
“If you look closely at our genome, viruses have been shaping not only our lives but also our biology and evolution
(Illustration by Adam McCauley)
Raj Chetty, a professor of economics at Harvard University and the director of Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based research and policy group that analyzes big data, has spent much of his career so far analyzing intergenerational mobility—the extent to which people’s economic outcomes are shaped by their parents’. In a 2011 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Chetty led a group of researchers that examined the effects of kindergarten quality on long-term student outcomes. His team pored over data from Project STAR, a study of 12,000 Tennessee kindergarteners conducted in the 1980s. Among several measures they used to determine success was whether and where students attended college.
By the end of the project, the team had unearthed new
"If there is not equality of outcomes among people born to the same parents and raised under the same roof, why should equality of outcomes be expected—or assumed—when conditions are not nearly so comparable?"— Thomas Sowell (@ThomasSowell) May 22, 2018
link to the tweet aboveThe trouble with Thomas Sowell’s invocation of differences among siblings is that most discussions of equality of outcome are about groups to whom the law of averages should apply, rather than about individuals. Because the gene pools for different ancestry groups are so similar, an identical environment for a long enough time should result in equality of outcome. And for those whose ancestors came to the United States centuries ago in chains, the key difference in environment was racism. Of course, one of the most
In good theory utility is ordinal. Whenever I hear the word ‘cardinal’I think of blue unicornsand three fates called Nornsand insist on the word ‘pseudo-cardinal.’ Note: there are three prominent examples of pseudo-cardinality, all in cases where additive separability is convenient: the utility function for expected utility, the period utility function for an additively time-separable …Read More »
No, Trump can’t rewrite school curriculums himself, but a thousand mini-Trumps on the nation’s school boards canSchoolchildren pledging allegiance in the 1950s. Photo: Lambert/Getty ImagesIt feels strange, as mourners gather outside the Supreme Court, to be writing of anything but the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the looming prospect that Donald Trump will seal the court into a new era of right-wing absolutism unprecedented in our lifetimes. It’s hard not to think of the future, of all that will be lost. But the past, too, is under threat. The news cycle moves so fast now that you may have already forgotten Thursday’s outrage, Trump’s announcement of a “1776 Commission” to promote a “patriotic education” that defines love of country as unquestioning loyalty to (some of) its leaders.Read More »
I thought it might be of some interest to report what vitamins and supplements I take each day. I doubt what I am doing is fully optimal, but weighing in the costs of trouble and expense as well as expected benefits, it represents my attempt at optimizing for myself. I’ll leave out what I take for my own specific medical conditions: nonallergic rhinitis and nosebleeds. I’ll also focus on what I take on days I am not fasting. For what I do when fasting, see my post “Fasting Tips.”Here is the list:Psyllium husks (Metamucil equivalent). Here, to avoid having to consume sugar or a nonsugar sweetener with my psyllium husks, I am moving to taking it inRead More »
Tyler on open borders:
In my view the open borders advocates are doing the pro-immigration cause a disservice. The notion of fully open borders scares people, it should scare people, and it rubs against their risk-averse tendencies the wrong way.
This raises an interesting question: When is abolitionism justified – morally and strategically? In 1850, a pragmatic opponent of slavery could have easily said:
In my view the abolitionists are doing the anti-slavery cause a disservice. The notion of fully abolishing slavery scares people, it should scare people, and it rubs against their risk-averse tendencies the wrong way.
The obvious moral objection is that comparing slavery and immigration restrictions is absurd hyperbole. But it’s absurd hyperbole to call this
Link to the Wikipedia article “Meridian (Chinese Medicine)”
Certain aspects of traditional Chinese medicine have impressive empirical support. This is not surprising; there are surely some areas in which trial and error for thousands of years should be able to home in on effective procedures. (Personally, I have had acupuncture treatments. It was actually in the first year I started my blog. I was so excited by my blog that I wasn’t sleeping. I went to the acupuncturist to get help in calming down a bit. It seemed to help.)Although important chunks of Chinese medicine pass empirical muster as effective procedures, what doesn’t pass muster is theRead More »
Aside: "r" is the radial coordinate, the distance from the center. But spacetime is tricky, and inside the Schwarzschild radius the r coordinate points along time, not in a direction of space. r=0 isn’t the center of the black hole, it’s in the *future*. 9/Read More »
Taking Applications for a Full-Time Research Assistantship with the Well-Being Measurement Initiative—Miles Kimball, Dan Benjamin, Ori Heffetz and Kristen Cooper24 days ago
My top 4 projects in the world are to add deep negative interest rates to the monetary policy toolkit, to fight the rise of obesity and the associated chronic diseases, to enhance the scientific creativity, engagement and impact economists have, and to develop principles that put national well-being indexes on an equal footing with GDP. (On the last, see my “happiness” subblog.) Every one of these projects needs a team to help make their goal into a reality. This post is advertising an opportunity to be part of our team working out all the principles necessary to put national well-being indexes on an equal footing with GDP. The 4 professors areRead More »
Why was there such a big rise in obesity in the 20th century? I would point mainly to two things: the rise in sugar content (high in almost all processed foods) and a lengthening of the eating window in the day so that people now eat almost from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep at night. (See “Stop Counting Calories; It’s the Clock that Counts” on why this matters.)In the blog post “For, Then Against, High-Saturated-Fat Diets,” Slate Star Codex argues that it might be the polyunsaturated fat content of processed food (primarily vegetable oil) as much or more than the sugar content of processed food that led to the rise ofRead More »
The Federalist Papers #18: Alexander Hamilton and James Madison Point to the Weakness of Confederations of Cities in Ancient Greece to Argue for a Strong Federal Government27 days ago
Many of the intended audience for the Federalist Papers—had some bit of a classical education. So in the Federalist Papers #18, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison felt they could use Greek history to help make their point that a strong federal government was needed. Here is a nice statement of their argument, with its obvious application to the situation in 1787:Had Greece, says a judicious observer on her fate, been united by a stricter confederation, and persevered in her union, she would never have worn the chains of Macedon; and might have proved a barrier to the vast projects of Rome.Alexander Hamilton and James Madison’s conclusion to theRead More »
DOLPHINS and other sea-dwelling mammals can obtain water from their food and by producing it internally from the metabolic breakdown of food.
Although some marine mammals are known to drink seawater at least on occasion, it is not well established that they routinely do so. They have other options: sea-dwelling mammals can get water through their food, and they can produce it internally from the metabolic breakdown of food (water is one of the by-products of carbohydrate and fat metabolism).
The salt content of the blood and other body fluids of marine mammals is not very different from that of terrestrial mammals or any other vertebrates: it is about one third as salty as seawater. Because a vertebrate that drinks seawater is imbibing something three times saltier than its blood, itRead More »
Parking Reforms Could Be the Easiest Pollution and Economic Fix
Parking reforms may be the cheapest, fastest, and most straightforward way to increase economic efficiency, protect the environment, and promote social justice, argue the world’s top expert in city parking.
Published on September 23, 2020
In his 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup, a distinguished research professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA, laid out the threeRead More »
There is little question that Donald Trump (perhaps following the advice of others) has declared war on individuals who do a certain type of diversity training. The heart of the ‘Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping’ is this passage (where I have replaced small letters with bullets):1. The contractor shall not use any workplace training that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating, including the concepts thatone race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,Read More »
25/ What about the in person stuff. Well, there was basically no difference in any of the things we looked at with one exception (more on that soon). There was no difference in insulin or glucose, lipids, sleep, activity, resting or total energy expenditure, or fat massRead More »