Random thought: there seems to be "hidden curriculum" stuff in many lines of work. Academia, of course, but also: how to schmooze your way into a tech internship/offer, how to get onto good projects, be visible, and get promoted quickly in tech,
What specific combination of extracurriculars gets you into Harvard without buying the fencing coach a house or winning the IMO, etc
My parents think this is a fairly "hidden curriculum-heavy" era. Perhaps they are biased by their experience, growing up in post-cultural-revolution China. Exams were newly re-established, basically meritocratic and without many loopholes. Maybe most eras look like our era
My observation is that there are a lot of commonalities behind "hidden curricula" in different areas. Off top of head:

- The nominal rules that govern the system are generally very different from the actual rules
- Nobody will say the actual rules in a publicly attributable way
- Nice seniors are generally fairly happy to tell you the actual rules in private, over a beer, etc.
- People at your level generally tend to be confused about what the rules are: what is commonly believed often differs significantly from what is true
Some examples: in hindsight, around 70-80% of the "resume hacking" that we did in high school to get into Harvard was unsubstantiated rumors. Similar for internship-finding in college, and writing papers in grad school. There was a hack, we just didn't know what it was
I'm not sufficiently familiar with other fields to know what goes on there but from hearsay there seem to be many commonalities
Personally, I think I was originally awful at navigating these kinds of systems, but now I think I'm fairly good. I attribute this to mainly two things: college apps and working in tech
I sort of played college apps the "straight and narrow" way, just working hard in school, and got killed - 1 acceptance out of 15 apps over 2 years. Got into UChicago, but think I could have done better had I known the "game", and was pretty aware of it. Lesson learned.
Then after I did pretty well in college, I got a job at Facebook, and didn't think I did very well. Partly because I was a bit of an arrogant prick, but also because I didn't spend enough time "learning the rules" so to speak
But I think I learned from these experiences some general principles, like the few I started the thread with, and these seem surprisingly generally applicable
First thing I do now, when I'm in a new-ish setting, is try to scope out the "hidden curriculum", which was not my natural first reaction in these kinds of settings
Anyways, the main point of the thread is, I think these ideas/skills are basically teachable, but I haven't seen any good source try to distill/teach it. Closest thing I've seen might be @vgr's work, e.g. Gervais principle and such, which I really appreciate
It seems like there would be value in some kind of pop nonfiction book aimed at teaching kids these things. I actually read "how to win friends and influence people" as a kid for example, and liked it. And these skills seem general enough that a broad-interest thing is possible
I am personally kind of biased as I think I "survived" despite being pretty bad at it to begin with, so of course I want to see more people naturally bad at this stuff acquire these skills. But more objectively, is it efficient for the world to select for these kinds of skills?
The trite/obvious/nice-to-hear answer is "no" but there is a world in which these kinds of skills are sufficiently correlated with general ability that it's efficient to select for these. not like standardized tests are great (IMO) at selecting for any real abilities
Out of other observations for now. But my basic thought is that some part of this seems like a solvable problem, though I am not sure how to solve it (other than writing countless tweet threads about academia's hidden curriculum...)
And another reason I dislike "hidden curricula" is that the obvious hack is to have "insider parents" or buddies, and this serves as IMO a fairly big barrier to mobility. From personal experience, having academic parents is basically playing on easy mode

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More from @AnthonyLeeZhang

9 Feb
Cool paper Image
Couple other NBER's I'm reading this week ImageImageImage
Read 4 tweets
30 Jan
Train headed towards 5 people, you can redirect it to one person by pulling a switch. Do you pull it?

The bureaucrat: I am not getting anywhere close to that switch. If I don't touch that switch it's someone else's problem. Touch the switch and it becomes my problem
I don't think this is necc the bureaucrats' fault, though. It's mostly incentives.

IMO the difference between a bureaucrat and, say, a CEO or product manager is that the bureaucrat doesn't have any/enough exposure to the upside from his actions
When you think of the FTC/DOJ/SEC/FDA/etc can you think of one single example where they are cast in a good light? Where an innovative policy worked out really well, magazine profiles/interviews of the ppl that built it out?
Read 16 tweets
26 Jan
I am still following r/wsb relatively closely, as this is a pretty incredible cultural phenomenon. WSB seems to view itself not only as a money machine, but also as a kind of righteous rebellion against the corrupt finance establishment (31.7k likes is huge)
All manner of guesswork/conspiracy about institutional collusion starting to get posted. The brokers are in on it, etc., not just the obvious explanation of jacking up margins in response to increased vol (I believe this is more likely?)
See for example this ongoing 3-part essay: quality of the narrative is really something

Read 18 tweets
25 Jan
OK so: what is a gamma squeeze?

Suppose gamestop GME is trading at $20. You buy a bunch of call options with strike $30 from your market maker (MM)

You have a long call position on GME, so you profit if GME goes up
MM has a short call position, so MM loses money if GME goes up
MM, however, doesn't actually want to take bets on GME. MM's trick is that MM takes a position in the underlying stock which hedges the call option. MM thus buys a bunch of GME stock. If GME goes up, MM loses money on her option position, but gains on her stock position
Any security based on GME is, in a very short span of time, simply a bet on whether GME will go up or down. Hence, you can hedge any security just by taking a position in GME. This is called "delta hedging"

(there is some subtlety here which I'll gloss over for now)
Read 16 tweets
23 Jan
Some more thoughts on "do research you enjoy" vs "follow this advice to write 3 AERs":

I had a strong negative reaction to advice to simply "do research you enjoy" in grad school and I think I've finally figured out my main issue with this advice
Think about many enjoyable human activities: music, sports, videogames. These are done primarily for fun, but the nature of these is that for many people, they are just more fun when you are good at them than when you are not
Some component of this is subjective, but many people have more fun playing moonlight sonata than mary had a little lamb. Many people like landing 50 straight free throws, 70% headshot rate in counterstrike, etc., this materially changes the experience of the hobby
Read 19 tweets
18 Jan
While I don't completely agree with the sentiment, I think the median person - even perhaps the median econ grad student - would be more impactful, richer, and happier in industry than in academia
Nontrivial fraction of students never work a full-time job before grad school. Ofc not everyone has the luxury to do so, especially with grad admissions becoming more and more competitive, but I did and found it really useful for discovering my preferences
Knowing really what the industry option looks like helps a lot in keeping sane during grad school, and just helps you think clearly about your personal tradeoffs
Read 12 tweets

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