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Patrick McKenzie AMA

I upvoted this but would also like to explicitly endorse it, as it saves me from redundantly typing a worse version of the same answer.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I think that there is a nuanced discourse to be made about tech and power, but a comment field is likely not the place to do it.

I will note that tech has no small amount of power, that traditional power centers are not uniformly thrilled about that, and that tech's response to that has not been to stop doing the things that make tech powerful, like e.g. building things people find useful, getting them to use those things, and exercising responsible discretion as to decisions made about how those things should interface with broader society.

So why is it that tech-optimists put their efforts into the private space, rather than in public office? Why do you? Is it because you've been so disappointed in the status quo? Do you think any efforts would be futile? Are you suspicious of states?

Speaking only for myself, for most of my life, I did not want power and (mostly) do not want power. There was a brief period during which the prevailing allocation of power between duly constituted authorities and myself was actively killing people, and during that period my duty was clear. My most preferred world vis the public sector for the rest of my life is I occasionally send them paperwork and money and they process that paperwork efficiently. There are other potential future worlds; I predict I would enjoy them much less.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

This would depend markedly on who I was talking to and what I needed out of them. Certain audiences counsel being much more explicit about e.g. one's level of ambition and where one believes oneself to be on a spectrum of ability/drive/horsepower/etc.

Then there is the comms strategy bit of it, where "I have many weird hobbies, like sometimes running the U.S.'s shadow vaccine location data information provider" is both a self-deprecating joke and also a brief and loaded statement about recent realized results suggestive of my efficacy in doing hard things.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I'm trying to devote approximately an hour a day as forecast, but the specific timing is a bit tough this week.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

The amount of work given to these questions in industry is far, far higher a) than people model it as and b) that I can conveniently fit in a comment.

To the second question, the answer is Yes. Sometimes this question is answered by plans informed by written principles drawn up well in advance of need and enforced through systems implemented by people, where the actual decisioning substrate might be professionals or might be a computer system. Sometimes it is ad hoc decisionmaking in the moment.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I was a Japanese salaryman during my formative years. This is the way salarymen talk, and sometimes it is diagnosed by people who do not understand it as e.g. duplicity or unwillingness to say what we mean, when it is more often just a culturally-inflected execution on saying something which is absolutely unambiguous to its target audience but not socially ruinous.

No Japanese salaryman needs you to spell out the identity of a large automobile manufacturer near Nagoya; literal children know what that must mean. But salarymen understand, and are frequently not merely participants in but active proponents of, a values system in which one must not make trouble for firms with which one was previously affiliated. 

Do I engage salaryman mode intentionally sometimes for tactical reasons? Absolutely. For example:

For example, while running VaccinateCA, I could easily intuit your opinion on public Health as a field, but I don't recall you every saying anything explicitly negative during that time.

Yes, you recall correctly. I would be negatively surprised if there was a single public statement I made anywhere between Day 0 and Day 200 which could be quoted in a news article as a criticism of e.g. the government. Being quoted in the news article as being critical of the government was, I perceived, likely to cost lives at the margin. I bent my professional energies and skill to not accidentally letting that quote slip, and other people were helping achieve the same (from us as an organization and from me specifically).

Patrick McKenzie AMA

Extreme risk-aversion, poor incentives to be right, a true values function which does not actually reflect the one we expect them to have, and extreme undercompetence in areas that we expect competence.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I have the perception that this is a pretty major undercurrent of the oral history.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

sigh DNS issues, I swear. (It is designed to redirect to, which seems to be the best thing for patients and therefore what we should do.)

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