Assorted links IV

  1. Is Ornamenting Solar Panels a Crime?

    Munashichi, Future Economic View of Innocence, 2015.

    Certainly fiction-as-ideological vessel carries dangers. And earnest proposals, even without a strong ideological bent, are probably always somewhat at risk of functional exploitation; they may be reduced to a lowest common denominator and turned into dogma, nuance erased. And yet there is a fundamental difference between proposition and persuasion. This could also be framed as the difference between fiction that presents itself as a possible option versus the only solution.

  2. Does It Harm Philosophy as a Discipline to Discuss the Apparently Meager Practical Effects of Studying Ethics?

    Across 17 measures of (arguably) moral behavior, ranging from rates of charitable donation to staying in contact with one’s mother to vegetarianism to littering to responding to student emails to peer ratings of overall moral behavior, I have found not a single main measure on which ethicists appeared to act morally better than comparison groups of other professors[.]


    Rickless: [P]lease understand that the takeaway from this kind of research and speculation, as it will likely be processed by journalists and others who may well pick up and run with it, will be that philosophers are shits whose courses turn their students into shits. And this may lead to the defunding of philosophy, the removal of ethics courses from business school, and, to my mind, a host of other consequences that are almost certainly far worse than the ills that you are looking to prevent.

  3. Using Massive Online Choice Experiments to Measure Changes in Well-being

    GDP and derived metrics (e.g., productivity) have been central to understanding economic progress and well-being. In principle, the change in consumer surplus (compensating expenditure) provides a superior, and more direct, measure of the change in well-being, especially for digital goods, but in practice, it has been difficult to measure. We explore the potential of massive online choice experiments to measure consumers’ willingness to accept compensation for losing access to various digital goods and thereby estimate the consumer surplus generated from these goods. We test the robustness of the approach and benchmark it against established methods, including incentive compatible choice experiments that require participants to give up Facebook for a certain period in exchange for compensation. The proposed choice experiments show convergent validity and are massively scalable. Our results indicate that digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are missed by conventional measures of GDP and productivity. By periodically querying a large, representative sample of goods and services, including those which are not priced in existing markets, changes in consumer surplus and other new measures of well-being derived from these online choice experiments have the potential for providing cost-effective supplements to existing national income and product accounts.


    50% of the Facebook users in our sample would give up all access to Facebook for one month if we paid them about $50 or more.


    According to the median WTA estimates for 2017, Search Engines ($17,530 [for a year]) is the most valued category of digital goods followed by Email ($8,414 [for a year]) and digital Maps ($3,648 [for a year]).


    We estimate the median WTA to give up breakfast cereal [for a year] to be $44.27 in the US in 2017.

  4. The Educational Benefits of Obscurity: Pedagogical Esotericism

    [T]he primary aim of philosophic education must be less to instruct than to convert, less to elaborate a philosophical system than to produce that “turning around of the soul” that brings individuals to love and live for the truth. But precisely if the primary end of education is to foster the love of truth, this love cannot be presupposed in the means. The means must rather be based on a resourceful pedagogical rhetoric that, knowing how initially resistant or impervious we all are to philosophic truth, necessarily makes use of motives other than love of truth and of techniques other than “saying exactly what you mean.”

    I remain somewhat unconvinced, but this is the best case I’ve heard for obscurantism.

    Also see The Philosophy and Literature Bad Writing Contest.

  5. How is the world doing in its fight against vaccine preventable diseases?

    The WHO estimates that 2 to 3 million deaths are prevented every year through immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles.2 Nonetheless, the WHO also estimates that VPDs are still responsible for 1.5 million deaths each year.