Placebos, Amazon, Mars, Offices, Taleb

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Powerless Placebos

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 31st January 2018

Placebo effects have been grossly over-rated. Placebos may have some minor value in alleviating pain, and there are anecdotal cases of otherwise inexplicable remissions, but clinical studies tend to conflate the placebo effect with regression to the mean: Most sick people get better eventually. The outlier is acupuncture, which does seem to work: “Maybe there’s some deep psychological reason why having needles in your skin intuitively feels like the sort of thing that should alleviate pain” (1,080 words)

Amazon Health

Ben Thompson | Stratechery | 31st January 2018

How Amazon’s ambitions to expand into health care may play out in practice. “Having first built an interface for its employees, and then a standardized infrastructure for its health care suppliers, Amazon converts the latter into a marketplace where benefit managers, insurance administrators, distributors, and pharmacies compete to serve employees. Once that marketplace is functioning, Amazon offers that standard interface to every large employer in America” (1,900 words)

Life On Mars

Ted Anton | Nautilus | 1st February 2018

We may yet find microbial life on Mars — and those microbes may be our ancestors, if spores from Mars, carried on asteroids, seeded life on Earth, as some contend. The evidence is scant, scientists are still poring over the data from 1970s missions, looking for new clues and patterns, but it seems probable that conditions on Mars were never more hostile, and for a long time more propitious, than the conditions in which we imagine life to have emerged on Earth (3,100 words)

The Myth Of The Open Plan Office

Peter | The Drawing Board | 31st January 2018

Does anybody still believe that open-plan offices increase productivity? And, if not, why do so many big companies still favour them? “Every time I’m in a WeWork or similar trendy co-working office, they seem to be getting more and more subdivided: Members will almost always pay a premium for a tiny glass-walled interior closet compared to a seat in an open bullpen. The closer the decision making is to the actual occupants, the higher the premium becomes on privacy” (740 words)

Pareto, Taleb And The Tails Of Income Distributions

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 8th January 2018

On the importance of sampling in economic statistics, with particular reference to the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “If you surveyed Bill Gates this year but never before and never again (which is very likely since people with his wealth are extremely rare), this year’s US mean income and inequality will turn out extremely high. You would then have hundreds of research papers written about what special policy made US inequality shoot up, while the true reason was the sampling” (1,160 words)

Video of the day Mr Bean, Master Of Comedy

What to expect:

In praise of Rowan Atkinson, the most talented British comedian since Charlie Chaplin (8’56”)

Thought for the day

The problem with temptation is that you may not get another chance
Laurence Peter

Podcast of the day Human Behaviour | Masters Of Business

Barry Ritholz talks to Thomas D. Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell, about behavioural economics
(1h 11m)

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