Hi everyone. I'm Eli Dourado, a senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University. I work on policies to advance hard technologies that generate economic growth. I have published in top newspapers, negotiated supersonic standards, derailed an international treaty, and spend too much of my time on Twitter. I got my PhD in economics from George Mason University.
Ask me anything! I will be on here from Monday, January 30 for a few days, and will endeavor to get to your questions each day during that time.
Use the comments below to add questions, and upvote any questions you'd particularly like me to answer.
There are two magic buttons, as follows, but you can only press one. Which would be better for progress and why?
In your post from 2019 on moving the needle of progress, you mention health (or better, wellness) as one of four key levers toward progress, and you highlight patient empowerment and using data from wearable devices as potentially big opportunity.
Do you have any thoughts on what is stopping this from happening? It seems that using data to empower people to live healthier is a win all around: better quality of life/more energy/less pain for the individual, lower medical cost for the insurance and employer, and higher worker productivity. Why aren’t we, for ... (read more)
So many of the regulatory/policy barriers to progress seem so daunting. Using the “Important, Tractable, Neglected” heuristic, what are the top opportunities to unblock progress? Put another way perhaps, if you were writing a priority list for an organization like the Institute for Progress or Balsa Research, what would you go after?
If you were to draft a set of cause areas for the progress studies movement, what would be high on the list?
Given that the supreme court frequently ruled against NEPA, why aren't there more cases involving NEPA in front of the supreme court to curb its excesses?
Hi Eli! You told me a little about this the last time we chatted in person, and I'd love to hear more: Could ould you elaborate a little more on your "theory of change"? That is, how do you see your day to day work resulting in the kind of improvements you want to see?
And for experienced working professionals looking to maybe make a more impactful career switch: any underrated or not well known career paths that you wished more people embarked on that could help? And any particular industry backgrounds/expertise that you wish were more involved in the policy conversations?
Do you have any views about wireless power beaming, both shorter-distance charging and longer-distance transmission? It seems to me that this is a potentially underrated technology, if it can unlock the potential of other technologies that currently face energy storage or transportation constraints (EVs, robotic exoskeletons, perpetual-flight drones & aerial platforms, remote wind/solar etc).
Policy barriers aside, speaking strictly from considerations of technology and economics, what is the ideal near-term future for energy? Nuclear, geothermal, solar? Maybe even solar-powered fuel synthesis like Terraform Industries is doing? Or what combination of the above?
What are your thoughts on the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year? I have read that it is protectionist in nature and could divert investment from Europe and other places.
Also, what do you think about the potential of small modular nuclear reactors?
What formative things between the ages of 14 and 24 made you who you are today?
Referencing your recent AI article (which is great!):
How much of the problem of digital technology being hard to implement productively because of social/legal/policy stuff:
... (read more)
- A path dependency issue: digital technology just has to exist substantively before the social/legal/policy environment is generated, improved and optimized to accommodate it?
- To the extent this path dependency exists, do you think we could be doing more to prime the social/legal/policy environment for new technologies preemptively? Is better anticipation of the social/legal/policy needs
For a center hosted by a university, what cut of funding does the university normally take?
Your latest article was something else! I would love to learn about your process of writing such essays from how you find the graphs to how you create the entire narrative. I'm especially interested in this section, "Are cargo airships startupable?" I enjoyed how you broke everything down using data, math, and other assumptions.
Unrelated: let me know if you'd be interested in a discussion/debate with a professor (in front of the entire class) with whom I'm taking a class about the future of energy. My professor thinks we should avoid growth, not use electricity and make it really expensive.
On cargo airships: has anyone analyzed designs that remain towed/tethered to surface routes/vessels?
For example, could an electric locomotive powered by ground lines tow far larger amounts of cargo via a tethered airship? Or, an oceangoing container ship tow more tonnage in its air-trailer than in its holds?
Alternatively, could such tethers-along-routes supply electricity to self-propelled airships, minimizing onboard fuel/generation weight?
Or, could airships receive beamed power from elsewhere? For example, tightly-planned routes might receive beame... (read more)
Hi Eli, I read your piece on the regulatory barriers to AI progress having material impacts on society. For me this pushes things in the direction of "we'll have more AI automation of AI R&D before big societal trends in job automation", which could imply faster AI progress generally if labs are focused more on their own AI -> research automation -> better AI feedback loop. I do think that an AI that could perform basically any jobs (not requiring hands) as well as a human for pennies on the dollar would radically transform society, but maybe we ... (read more)
What are some projects you have plan to work on in the near-term? In the long term?
What are some projects you wish someone else would work on?
How would you restructure the production of education and research? Universities are clearly pretty inefficient. How to improve them? Are there any politically feasible plans? Will AIs just obviate internal reform by creating an entirely new form of education and research?
Peter Thiel recently argued that a slowdown in progress is overdetermined, and due in part to a widespread fear of progress itself. Should we be focusing on the mass psychology needed to support progress? What might help?
What's your theory of political authority? Do citizens have a moral responsibility to obey government more than other organizations? What are the proper limits to government authority? How does this figure into your policy recommendations?
Why do you believe that deregulating housing will increase productivity (TFP)?
In theory, could you build a lobbying super-army against NEPA, housing regulation, etc. a la big oil?
Given that the US now sucks at building public transit, would deregulating housing be a disaster? It’s hard to fit on NYC trains as it is.
Is the price of solar truly going down, or does it just seem that way because the gov is paying for it via incentives and waivers?
If you could have your pick of any federal agency to run for four years, which one would you choose?
What is the relationship between public policy and the imagination?
I loved your idea that Congress should have incentive pay based on growth in John Fernald's Total Factor Productivity series. I would also argue that it's important for that incentive to be smooth and linear from 0% to 7%, and that the ideal amount is large -- at least $100,000 for each 1% (annually).
My big question: do you think there's a chance of getting this done?
Dear Mr. Dourado,
I've recently been watching many clips of the TV Show, The Last of Us. While Mycologists insist that there are no zombie fungi, the loose talk about a new pandemic and the failure to create a universal covid vaccine has taught many people (including me) a deep dread. For example, the declining nutritional value of food could be causing Colon Cancer in young people. Medical science's slow pace also fails to find treatments for scary diseases like ALS. How do you remain in a positive headspace when there's so much negative news?