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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Jan 30, 2021



I am not defending technocracy.

Nobody ever defends technocracy. It's like "elitism" or "statism". There is no Statist Party. Nobody holds rallies demanding more statism. There is no Citizens for Statism Facebook page with thousands of likes and followers. Yet for some reason libertarians don't win every single national election. Strange, isn't it?

Maybe it’s one of those Russell conjugations - "I am firm, you are obstinate". I support rule of law, you're a statist. I want checks and balances on mob rule, you're an elitist. I like evidence-based policy, you're a technocrat.

I am not defending technocracy. But I do like evidence-based policy. So I read with interest Glen Weyl's Why I Am Not A Technocrat. It starts with a short summary of Seeing Like A State. It ties this into modern "evidence-based policy" and "mechanism design". It talks about how technocrats will always have their own insular culture and biases and paradigms, which prevent them from seeing the real world in its full complexity. Therefore, we should be careful about supposedly "objective" policies, and make sure they are always heavily informed by real people's real knowledge. Then it draws on vague rumors of the "rationalist community" and a shadowy figure named "Eliezer Yudkowsky" to create a completely fictional reimagination of us as a group of benighted people who don't understand any of these things, and just go around saying "hurr durr top-down systems are great, no way there could possibly be anything our models don't capture."