Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Dominic Cummings

Dominic Cummings is a stupid person's clever person.

That's it. That's the tweet.

The long version is, he's a stupid person's clever person because he has read some popular science and juvenile edgy libertarian blogs and can regurgitate great soundbites that impress people who have no clue what he is talking about, nor how science or technology works. 

Unfortunately, such people are in positions of power, meaning that they listen to him and think he's really great. Your average senior civil servant is also probably quite clever, but a history or PPE degree doesn't equip them to deal with him. I know he's a history graduate himself, and that makes his interests unusual. But there's no evidence that he understands enough about what he speaks (and blogs, at length) to really make use of it. His wish for more technical ability in government is quite possibly correct, but weirdos and misfits aren't the best choices here. These people would need the ability to interface with politicians and the real world beyond the wild imagination of their (typically wrong or impractical) theories. There are very many talented scientist with great technical skills, creativity, originality of thought and social skills to inform, explain, and persuade. I think that most of them would run a mile from the prospect of working in a policy unit in Whitehall. Though there are of course channels for scientific advice to inform on policy.

Actually, I really can't be bothered writing any more about this. Tedious, tedious, tedious. But I wanted to get it out there. If Cummings is the answer, then someone asked the wrong question.

I know I haven't backed up any of this with references. So sue me.

4 comments:

William M. Connolley said...

> I know I haven't backed up any of this with references

I haven't seen him saying / writing anything recently. Were you thinking of anything in particular?

James Annan said...

In a word...no. I was prompted to write this by listening to a Guardian Long Read podcast, but the thoughts had been in my mind for a while. I have no idea what role if any he played in the covid debacle in particular, stories seem to put him on both sides...

William M. Connolley said...

I don't think you can trust the Graun on the subject of DC.

James Annan said...

I try not to trust anyone on anything too much, some are better than others though. It wasn't particularly the content of the long read, just its assault on my ears while out jogging, that prompted the post :-)