"Tim Harford"

Cautionary Tales: a new podcast that tells the intriguing stories of historical "mishaps, fiascos and disasters"

Economist, author, podcaster and radio presenter Tim Harford (previously) has a fantastic new podcast: Cautionary Tales, which Tim describes as "Eight stories of mishaps, fiascos and disasters - served with a twist of nerdy social science." Read the rest

A good day for kid RPGs!

I woke up this morning to two exciting announcements about crowdfunders for kid-oriented RPGs, which is outstanding news indeed: the first is a set of adventures for Martin Lloyd's superb Amazing Tales, a (four and up) kid-and-adult RPG that's endlessly fun and incredibly easy to get started with; the second is Destiny Dez, from Scott Wayne Indiana, last seen around here with his pacifist RPG Lotus Dimension, now back with an RPG for 3-8 year olds, in which "kids come up with their own plans to navigate situations before rolling a 20 sided die to decide their fate and move on in the story." Read the rest

"Slow multitasking" is the good kind of multitasking

There's plenty of research that provides evidence to support the idea that multitasking is a fool's bargain: instead of getting two things done at once, you go slower on both, and do worse. But there's more than one kind of multitasking: texting while driving is a terrible idea, but what about juggling multiple projects at once? Read the rest

Universal basic income vs jobs guarantees: which one will make us happier?

Two competing (or, possibly, complementary?) proposals for resolving income inequality and the hole that four decades of demand-side Reaganomics has dug us into are Universal Basic Income and a federal jobs guarantee (the former being a kind of "venture capital for everyone" that provides enough money to live without having to work for an employer; and the latter being a guarantee of a good, meaningful job of social value in sectors like infrastructure, education and caring professions). Read the rest

Facebook is worth much less to its users than search and email, but it keeps a larger share of the value

Economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Felix Eggers and Avinash Gannamaneni have published an NBER paper (Sci-Hub mirror) detailing an experiment where they offered Americans varying sums to give up Facebook, and then used a less-rigorous means to estimate much much Americans valued other kinds of online services: maps, webmail, search, etc. Read the rest

Referendums and low-engagement voters produce catastrophic outcomes (but what about corruption?)

The idea of representative democracy is that we pay lawmakers to give serious attention to the nuances of policy questions and cast votes on our behalf in accord with their understanding of our preferences, applied to those nuanced understandings. Read the rest

Amazing Tales: a storytelling game with dice for kids and grownups

Tim Harford (previously) turned me on to Martin Lloyd's Amazing Tales, a storytelling RPG designed to be played between a grownup games-master and one or more kids. Read the rest

A critical statistics education that fits on a postcard

Economist and maths communicator Tim Harford (previously) presents a riff on Harold Pollack's aphorism that "The best financial advice for most people would fit on an index card," and comes up with a complete set of rules for statistical literacy that fits on a postcard. Read the rest

AlphaGo Zero shows that corporate R&D has starved basic research in favor of safe bets and tinkering at the margins

An NBER paper from 2015 tracks the decline in corporate spending on basic science in R&D, which has become a practical, application-focused line-item in corporate budgets, creating a safe, predictable, and slow cycle of innovation. Read the rest

Tim Harford's bite-sized "Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy"

Tim Harford (previously) is an economist with a gift for explaining complex subjects in simple, accessible terms: his latest book, Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy, uses 50 short essays about technologies as varied as Ikea's Billy Bookcase, the plow, and AI to illustrate the ways that the human race has transformed itself, its relations, and the planet.

Britain's preferred car-loans are incomprehensible financialized garbage: what could go wrong?

Thinking of buying a car in the UK? Good news! You can get a personal contract purchase (PCP) and it will cost you less to buy a new Merc than it would to buy a used Ford Focus. Read the rest

London! I'll see you tonight on the Walkaway tour! (then Liverpool, Birmingham, and Hay...) (!)

Last night's kick-off event for the UK Walkaway tour was brilliant, thanks to the magic combination of the excellent Tim Harford, the excellent people of Oxford, and the excellent booksellers at Blackwells. Read the rest

Oxford, I'll see you tonight on the Walkaway tour (then London, Liverpool, Birmingham...) (!)

I'm in the UK for the British Walkaway tour, which kicks off tonight at 7PM in Oxford where I'll be in conversation with Tim Harford at Blackwells. Read the rest

Burbank: I'm coming to you today on the Walkaway tour! (then Oxford, London, Liverpool...) (!)

I took great advantage of my 36 hour hiatus from the Walkaway tour, but I'm back at it today, with a 2PM appearance at Burbank's Dark Delicacies, before I go straight to the airport to fly to the UK for my British tour. Read the rest

Vancouver, I'll see you at tonight's Walkaway tour stop (then Burbank, Oxford, London...) (!)

Many thanks to the good folks who came out to Bellingham's Village Books for last night's Walkaway event; tonight, I'll be appearing in Vancouver before flying home to Burbank for an event at my local Dark Delicacies on Saturday and then going straight to the airport for the start of my UK tour. Read the rest

See you tonight for the Walkaway tour stop in Bellingham! (then Vancouver, Burbank, Oxford...) (!)

Thanks to everyone (especially Neal Stephenson) who came out to last night's Walkaway event in Seattle: if you're in the area and couldn't make it, you get another chance tonight when I'll be at Bellingham's Village Books at 7PM. Read the rest

See you tonight at Powell's, Portland! (then Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver...) (!)

Yesterday's Walkaway event at San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy was terrific (there was birthday cake) and now I'm flying to Portland for an event at Powell's City of Books tonight with Andy "Waxy" Baio before heading to Seattle for an event with Neal Stephenson at the Neptune Theater, then a stop in Bellingham's Village Books. Read the rest

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:)