Worthwhile Reading and Viewing

Much political anger is based on attributing to opponents views that they don’t actually hold, according to this study, summarized and discussed on twitter here.

Paul Graham, who himself writes some interesting essays, says:

No one who writes essays would be surprised by this. When people attack an essay you’ve written, 95% of the time they do it by making up something you didn’t actually say, and then attacking that.

The skill of surgeons varies tremendously, with bottom quartile surgeons having over 4x as many complications as the best surgeons in the same hospital…so says this study.  And surgeons are keenly aware of who is good & who is bad – their rankings of others are very accurate.  Summarized and discussed on twitter here, where there is also a reference to the classic study  showing 10X range among programmers, and another study measuring the impact of managers on revenue performance in the game industry.

Some innovation stories from small US manufacturers, and a shop-floor driven tooling innovation at GE Aviation.

Speaking of tools, here’s a study suggesting that using mechanical tools improves language skills.

The limits of narrative, at Quillette.

Ryan Peterson, CEO of the digital freight forwarder Flexport, discovered an AI tool that lets you create art without being an artist, and has been having fun with it.

Worthwhile Reading and Viewing

A list of common cognitive biases

Formative experiences persist over long spans of time

The current status of artificial intelligence in medicine

Related: Limitations of neural networks   Also: Playing against AI can improve the abilities of human Go players.

The realities of energy storage.  I have observed that very few journalists comprehend the difference between a Kw and a Kwh–and why it matters.  (And this includes business and technology journalists.)

Paul Graham, at twitter:

Putin’s bungled invasion shows us that democracy’s greatest advantage, in the long term, is simply its “guarantee that leaders are regularly replaced.”  He was responding to this article.

Some people create or discover new things. Some enforce social norms. There is little overlap between the two.

Graham (who is one of the very few venture capitalists to have attended art school) also recommends this art history thread.

For Christmas

(A relevant seasonal excerpt from my World War II novel, My Dear Cousin, which was completed and released last year at about this time. Part of the narrative is in letters, between two cousins; Vennie is an Army nurse serving in North Africa and Europe, Peg the wife of a Far East POW, waiting out the war in Australia, wondering for years if her husband is still alive.) The details of this 1942 Christmas holiday celebration in a military hospital was taken from this book.

Letter from Vennie to Peg, dated 26 December 1942, Postmarked APO NY, headed Arzew, Algiers

My dear Cuz:

We had our Christmas here in Algeria at the hospital and it was more beautiful and moving than I can describe.

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Apparently, We Have Been Naughty

We have all been naughty, disobedient, ungrateful serfs – or so say the self-nominated Covidiocy experts, especially including those of nationwide media fame and of a political stripe known for their fanatical allegiance to the current ruling class. We’re supposed to get another tongue-lashing from the White House tonight, which has already promised a winter of severe illnesses and death for those holding out against getting vaccinated against the latest Covid variant. Are they going to cancel Christmas for those who won’t cooperate? Are we now all enrolled in the variant-of-the-month club, and expected to maintain a constant intravenous drip of boosters for the endless variants?

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Scott Atlas’ book, “A Plague Upon Our House.”

I read this book this week and found a good book review in “City Journal,” titled “Three Blind Mice.” Atlas began as an academic neuroradiologist and then transitioned to a 15 year career as a health policy researcher. I did something similar when I was forced to retire at age 55 with an old back injury. I spent a year at Dartmouth learning methodology and biostatistics. I don’t know enough about Atlas’ story to know if he did something similar. Quite a few academic physicians have done similar transitions, especially as they get older.

In Atlas’ case, once he was recognized by the Media, he was immediately denigrated as “a radiologist.” He was also labelled as “not an epidemiologist.” It did not matter that none of the other three MDs on the Task Force was an epidemiologist, either. Atlas was in contact with many epidemiologists who were feeding him data and statistics.

He found the “Three Blind Mice” of Birx, Fauci and Redfield were uninterested in data or the scientific publications he kept bringing to the meetings. Eventually, he gave up going to the meetings. He found Trump receptive and he agreed with Atlas’ program of protecting the high risk population, especially nursing home residents, plus others with pre-existing conditions, one of which has turned out to be obesity. He blames Trump and his team for being afraid to sack Birx who was the one telling all the Governors to lock down their states. As he says in conclusion, “It didn’t matter. They still lost the election.” They feared a firestorm in the press if she was demoted.

Atlas was in despair as they continued to emphasize testing the asymptomatic and neglect the nursing homes where almost 50% of the deaths occurred. The psychological and economic damage from the lockdowns may last for years. Masks are useless and he quotes many studies to prove it. The one study quoted by Birx all along was based on two beauty parlor employees. That was it.

In the end, he quit after the election although Trump wanted him to stay. He continued to communicate by email. He describes the insane abuse he took from the Media and may spend a little too much time on it in the book. Some professors at Stanford (not the epidemiologists) sent out an email letter attacking him for working with Trump.

He has one section about Florida Governor DeSantis who, he writes, was already familiar with the literature and who implemented most of Atlas’ policies on his own. I remember the Media attacking DeSantis when he set up treatment facilities at a large retirement community, accusing him of treating supporters first. He was following the science they ignored in their identity politics frenzy. Florida could have been as big a disaster as New York with their huge senior population. The fact that DeSantis followed the science and not the Media prevented that outcome.

Other books are beginning to come out now but this one seems authentic by an insider. Here is the book at Amazon. I read the Kindle version. The hardcover came out a few days later.