All of patio11's Comments + Replies

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 tha

... (read more)
1Matthew Benjamin1yJust finished this book by Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist who was head of the UK Vaccine Task Force which invested and got companies to build their supply chains in the country, then was crucified by the media for her efforts. Similar themes to you - gov naivety, lack of technical knowledge, obsession with process over outcome, the optics over the details. I recommend it []
1Matthew Benjamin1yThank you! "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" This sounds very Stripe-y to me!
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.

0MoreOfAQuestionThanAComment1yOk, sorry. I worry.
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 n... (read more)

4jtcbrule1yIn the not-to-distant past, I would have reflexively dismissed this sort of speech as "political BS", yes. :sweat_smile: I suspect I was far from alone, among engineer-types, though. I'm somewhat reminded of how would-be technical founders are cautioned that, while it is indeed bad to let the sales team run the company, sales is a very real skill that that deserves respect. Thank you for your response and, of course, for the work you did running VaccinateCA.
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.

1spiffytech1yApologies, I didn't communicate what I meant very well (I read the whole piece, I promise!). But thinking it over, I'm not sure there's a useful conversation to be had around the question as I meant it.
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.)

Patrick McKenzie AMA

See the VaccinateCA piece, but there are many institutions which were not optimizing for "The US should attempt to maximize the number of lives saved during the pandemic" and we should be scandalized by that.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I think there is perhaps a 20% chance that my next major adventure is another software company but feel like I've "got the merit badge" for doing a solo operation there and would likely not do it again.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

"Keep up a high velocity of shipping good product" seems like a vacuous answer to this question but it's a really important answer to this question.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I am slightly constrained with respect to talking about the economics of credit card processing in particular, but can I make the observation "A lot of people want financial services to be almost free in sticker cost (at least for people they care about), and all of society wants financial services to be very useful, and almost nothing which is useful in society rounds to free."

And if I can make an analogy to software, many people wanted software to be basically free and we decided to make it basically free to consumers in return for locking them into fant... (read more)

1mlipman131yOk, thank you for the answer. Huge fan of your work and looking forward to seeing what you get up to next
Patrick McKenzie AMA

I don't particularly think OSS is a necessary component of that model, but we've seen similar things with some level of efficacy in both the UK and Japan, which suggests to me that a very similar thing would achieve some level of impact in the US. The US Digital Service and similar have a portfolio approach; it will be interesting to see if they move in the direction of producing self-serve tools. (I do not perceive that as being a large portion of their portfolio as of today but am not an expert w/r/t their portfolio.)

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I do not perceive this as being particularly rare?

But the problem is systemic, the specific issues are individually generally low-salience or they would have long-since been fixed, and a lot of the things necessary for true change run up against entrenched concentrated interests like e.g. government employee unions, the contracting apparatus, etc.

Our polity does not consider "EINS will be issued within an hour because obviously we are a high-functioning society seriously what the actual #*(#(%#" to be a reason to vote for a candidate at the margin and so our political system does not prioritize making that happen by default.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I use exclusively water soluble resins. 

There exists a type of resin called Ekimate in Japan which is much less smelly/irritating than most resin formulations, costs ~3X as much, and which represents itself as being pourable down the drain in a matter which suggests to me that lawyers/etc have reviewed the claim and think it is within appropriate bounds for marketing material made by chemical manufacturing companies. I do not pour it down the drain. If I had a high tolerance for running wonderful small businesses with inventory, I would try to get the... (read more)

Patrick McKenzie AMA

Ooh good questions.

"Staff" level operators in some state governments: up, in a way which was surprising to me.

American governors: down markedly, both with regards to specific identifiable examples but also as an institution.

Public health as a field: they don't make numbers low enough to quantify my regard for it as a result of the pandemic.

FDA: Down markedly and continued going down with every additional decision.

CDC: Somewhere between FDA and public health as a field.

Pharmacies: down markedly.

Pharmacists: up markedly; I previously regarded this field as a... (read more)

1MoreOfAQuestionThanAComment1yWhat are plausible explanations for early "vaccination rollout" authorities' communications having been so aggressively wrongheaded, to hinder the use of about-to-expire doses?
Patrick McKenzie AMA

I am extremely skeptical of desert narratives and feel they frequently blind us to actions which are in our locus of control and +EV in terms of impacts which are relevant to our moral calculi, like (as a not entirely random example) starting a crash effort to fix the government's manifest failure to act effectively during a pandemic with the goal of saving lives.

I am also extremely skeptical of desert narratives generally, but the above seems like a sufficient reason to reprogram oneself to not weight them highly.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

I do not perceive we are within 10 years of that happening (defined as "instant ~free money movement between banked people in US, JP, Australia, UK, Canada, and all present members of EU") and my estimate is increasing over time rather than decreasing, which is counterintuitive.

The reason here is that the first companies to do it would necessarily be tech companies with global reach, and not the traditionally-understood financial sector. There are many governments which, for reasons which sound excellent to them, would prefer a) clipping the wings of large... (read more)

Patrick McKenzie AMA

It is difficult for me to comment on issues of grave concern to the Japanese polity and I feel your first question is adequately answered (including in English) by appropriate Google searches, so I'd encourage you to make those Google searches. Your suggestion with regards to policy is materially outside of the present Overton window and almost all of my models for the Overton window in 10 years.

Suggestions which are much more inside the Overton window include gradually making Japan more hospitable to immigrants, which a) has already happened to a degree far underappreciated ex-Japan b) is more palatable to power than people model it as and c) would still have many kilometers to go to address long-term demographic trends.

Patrick McKenzie AMA

Clearly yes; more people do it today than at any time in history.

1spiffytech1yWould you do it that way again?
Patrick McKenzie AMA

I wouldn't love the sort of culture this creates with regards to increasing perception of career risk from team constantly and making it almost impossible to construct longer-term plans or vision, as a general statement, but have some non-zero level of regard for the notion of "Sometimes one needs to radically change cultures in a hurry and the transition period for them may not resemble the new steady state."

Either way, I think that if pulled off correctly the Twitter transition will be one of the most important experiments done in the history of scaled m... (read more)

Patrick McKenzie AMA

From seeing parts of the official effort that vastly outperformed the median entry in the official effort, some ideas:

Continued experimentation with approaches like the U.S. Digital Service which attempt to create pockets of high-functioning competence and make them available at-need to people in the rest of the system who desire to consume e.g. engineering competence but cannot avail themselves of it locally due to institutional constraints. Stop trying to boil the ocean; start embracing boiling a pot of drinking water and then creating a factory to do th... (read more)

1MoreOfAQuestionThanAComment1yAre there interests that would have wanted the U.S. pandemic response to be low-efficacy, or is that not a productive line of thinking?
1MoreOfAQuestionThanAComment1yWhat sort of oversight can prevent a headless (or "committee") venture from being launched, and what explains the existence of the other kind of oversight, that lets it happen?
2Matthew Benjamin1yI feel like this answers my question quite well!
Patrick McKenzie AMA

"Open Tokyo engineering offices and give them material responsibility for products that ship globally" might be one of them. There are many, many reasons that companies don't do that, and the biggest one is that it is hard and exposes the company to an internal language barrier, but all are solvable issues. (Also the market price of engineering in Tokyo is far less than the market price of engineering in many countries that U.S. startups happily put engineering offices.)