Fatal car wrecks are correlated with stock-market fluctuations

Writing in The Journal of Health Economics, three economists claim (Sci Hub mirror) that "a one standard deviation reduction in daily stock market returns is associated with a 0.6% increase in fatal car accidents that happen after the stock market opening" and that this is robust across "a battery of falsification tests." Read the rest

The 1970s called and they want their proto-McMansions back!

The latest installment of the always-delightful McMansion Hell (previously) departs from the usual format of mercilessly skewering the tasteless custom homes of the contemporary super-rich and instead delves into their historic precedent, the 1970s-vintage "proto-McMansion," AKA the "Styled Ranch." Read the rest

You will be helped! Research using real-world situations fails to replicate the "bystander effect"

For decades, the "bystander effect" (previously) has been a bedrock of received psychological wisdom: "individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present; the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help." Read the rest

For the first time, you can search the database of money that publicly funded researchers in Illinois received from pharma companies

Researchers in Illinois who receive federal funding are required to file paperwork disclosing potential conflicts of interest, but these handwritten forms just moulder in the NIH's filing cabinets...until now. Read the rest

More than 800 Russian academic articles retracted after "bombshell" report reveals plagiarism and other misconduct

After Antiplagiat, a private plagiarism detection company, accused Russia's scientific and scholarly journals of being rife with plagiarism, self-plagiarism, duplication and other misconduct, the Russian Academy of Sciences chartered a committee to investigate the problem: their report confirmed the accusations, finding more instances of plagiarism/self-plagiarism, as well as instances in which the same paper was published in different journals under different authors' names. Read the rest

How to read long, difficult books

Berkeley economics prof (and former Clinton deputy Treasury secretary) J Bradford DeLong (previously) has written a guide for reading "long, difficult books," in response to Andy Matuschak's "rant" Why Books Don't Work. Read the rest

Machine learning is innately conservative and wants you to either act like everyone else, or never change

Next month, I'm giving a keynote talk at The Future of the Future: The Ethics and Implications of AI, an event at UC Irvine that features Bruce Sterling, Rose Eveleth, David Kaye, and many others! Read the rest

Doctors who take pharma industry freebies prescribe more of their benefactors' drugs

Doctors who accept pharma industry gifts (which can range from free coffees to lavish dinners to six-figure speaking fees) claim that they're not influenced by these bribes/gifts, which is possibly why doctors are taking more pharma bribes than ever. Read the rest

Bernie Sanders got the GAO to study the life chances of millennials, and the report concludes that debt is "crushing their dreams"

Bernie Sanders commissioned the Government Accountability Office to study the consequences of the high degree of indebtedness borne by Millennials; the GAO's report concludes that Millennials dreams are being "crushed" by debts -- primarily student loans -- which have limited their abilities to seek good employment, good housing, and to save for retirement. Read the rest

Facebook promised to provide academics data to study disinformation, but their foot-dragging has endangered the whole project

Social Science One is an academic consortium that was created to conduct "independent scientific research into potentially consequential phenomena such as online disinformation, polarization, and echo chambers" after the Big Tech platforms made changes to their policies that made this kind of research effectively impossible without cooperation from the platforms themselves. Read the rest

Model stealing, rewarding hacking and poisoning attacks: a taxonomy of machine learning's failure modes

A team of researchers from Microsoft and Harvard's Berkman Center have published a taxonomy of "Failure Modes in Machine Learning," broken down into "Intentionally-Motivated Failures" and "Unintended Failures." Read the rest

"Harbinger households": neighborhoods that consistently buy products that get discontinued, buy real-estate that underperforms, and donate to losing political candidates

In The Surprising Breadth of Harbingers of Failure (Sci-Hub mirror), a trio of economists and business-school profs build on a 2015 Journal of Marketing Research paper that claimed that some households' purchasing preferences are a reliable indicator of which products will fail -- that is, if households in a certain ZIP code like a product, it will probably not succeed. The original paper calls these "harbinger households." Read the rest

The Oligarch Game: use coin-tosses to demonstrate "winner take all" and its power to warp perceptions

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle created The Game of Oligarchy, which "shows that the 'free market' leads inexorably to one person getting all the money and everyone else going broke. And fast." Read the rest

Tiny alterations in training data can introduce "backdoors" into machine learning models

In TrojDRL: Trojan Attacks on Deep Reinforcement Learning Agents, a group of Boston University researchers demonstrate an attack on machine learning systems trained with "reinforcement learning" in which ML systems derive solutions to complex problems by iteratively trying multiple solutions. Read the rest

Ecommerce sites' mobile templates hide information that shoppers use to save money

In Do Consumers Make Less Accurate Decisions When They Use Mobiles?, a study by researchers at Ben Gurion University accepted for presentation at next month's International Conference on Information Systems in Munich, the researchers seek to discover why consumers spend more money on ecommerce sites when using mobile devices than when they use laptops and other, larger screens. Read the rest

How to recognize AI snake oil

Princeton computer scientist Arvind Narayanan (previously) has posted slides and notes from a recent MIT talk on "How to recognize AI snake oil" in which he divides AI applications into three (nonexhaustive) categories and rates how difficult they are, and thus whether you should believe vendors who claim that their machine learning models can perform as advertised. Read the rest

China is still harvesting organs from prisoners and covering it up

Last June, an independent tribunal concluded that the Chinese state was nonconsensually harvesting organs from prisoners despite promises that the practice had ended in 2014. Read the rest

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