Links from Last Week

Not Yet Gods - Nate writes very beautifully. Perhaps I am always surprised by this because I think of him as an intensely mathy person, and I often struggle to explain the beauty I find in words to mathy people. Conversely I struggle to see the beauty if formula and numbers and logic. I grasp it on a very existential, ephemeral, fractal pattern, golden ratio sort of *ooh ahh* sort of way. But the true beauty of the thing is probably lost on me. 

I digress.

I often fall prey to this feeling of broken coulds. I could've written that in a more timely manner. I could've been less anxious, less depressed. I could've not had that third beer, I could've gotten out of bed earlier, I could've gone to the gym instead of sleeping. I could also learn to hold by breath for 17 minutes and be the next David Blane. But that takes work. So, so, soo much work you guys! It takes training, and patience, and drive, and ambition, and kindness. To do this without breaking you have to be kind to your monkey. My monkey probably won't try holding her breath for that long (or really any amount of time) but she is trying to make herself, and the world a little better. And that takes training, and patience, and drive, and kindness too.

A Wonderfully Simple Heuristic to Recognize Charlatans - Really this is just good advice on thinking better by using subtractive epistemology. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Avoiding stupidity is often easier than seeking brilliance

History of Philanthropy Case Study: The Impact of Philanthropy on the Passage of the Affordable Care Act - The Open Philanthropy Project summarizes a 91 page write up by Benjamin Soskis in the attempt to explore effective policy change using the passage of ACA (colloquially known as Obamacare) as a case study. Concision: *shrug*

OK they say a lot more than that but basically the main point is that it is very difficult to detangle how much one intervention or one donation has in terms of impact when there are millions of dollars, thousands of donors, and lots of charities all doing multiple interventions. Personally I see this as part of the problem with a lot of traditional charity work. You aren't asked to measure, or if you are it is frequently not in a meaningful way. Saying 'we distributed 10,000 leaflets doesn't really say anything if you don't have a reasonably good idea what would have happened without those leaflets. Worse still is often the measurement is just "we printed 10,000 leaflets" without a nod to distribution, let alone impact.