[ExI] Donald Trump

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun May 8 18:21:44 UTC 2016

On 2016-05-08 18:27, Adrian Tymes wrote:
> On Sun, May 8, 2016 at 9:09 AM, William Flynn Wallace 
> <foozler83 at gmail.com <mailto:foozler83 at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     I ask everyone on this list this question:  given that you are far
>     smarter than the average person or even the average college
>     graduate, did you ever think that you could do a better job of
>     running your town, state, or country?  Of course you have.  Why?
>     Because you are great an engineering or economics or physics?  You
>     see - being among the elite pumps your ego -- it certainly has
>     pumped mine, and I AM one of those who think this way, but I know
>     that this is dangerous thinking and I am very ignorant of how to
>     run anything outside of a classroom.
> I know that I could learn how to run things better.  That is a 
> meta-skill that most people do not have, to a degree that many use the 
> lack of it as a social or comedic common.  (How many people say they 
> want to "rest their brain" or the like when merely encountering a 
> complex problem, with no serious attempt made to begin figuring out 
> how to solve it?)

That is a good answer. Putting people able to acquire relevant skills in 
charge is a good idea. But in general there is a big cost to on-the-job 
learning: you want to put people in charge who have the skills from the 
start. Which skills depends a fair bit on the job - many jobs running 
institutions require social skills that tend to require practical 
training over long time.

I like my friend Toby's answer. When asked whether the world would be a 
better place if we put a philosopher like him (well-meaning, very smart 
and knowledgeable) in charge he gave it some thought and said: "Either 
much better, or much worse. And there is no way of knowing before trying 

It is not just "putting people in charge". That assumes their job is 
decisionmaking, and that is pretty clearly wrong (hang out in a 
parliament for a while or read a PoliSci textbook). Decisions are a tiny 
part of the job, with much more of it being management, negotiation and 
(this is a biggie in democratic politics) representing the viewpoint of 
the voters. If I somehow magically (and unconstitutionally) ended up in 
the White House and had the right skillset I would still be a disaster 
since I do not represent the US people in any sensible way, and I would 
have absolutely zero legitimacy. Getting legitimacy, that is actually 
what the current US candidate circus is about. Unfortunately for 
everyone it is not going very well.

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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