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Rationalists from the UK -- what are your thoughts on Dominic Cummings?

by Davis_Kingsley1 min read21st Nov 20208 comments


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Dominic Cummings would I believe be considered at least rationalist-adjacent, and has recently been quite a prominent figure in the news. I'm curious to hear your thoughts both on the situation with him in general and also on how this has affected public perceptions of rationality/LessWrong in your area. Has this been positive? Negative? Not something people have much linked to the community?

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The received view of him is as just another heartless Conservative with an extra helping of tech fetishism and deceit. In reality he is an odd accelerationist just using the Tories (Ctrl+F "metastasising"). Despite him quoting Yudkowsky in that blog post, and it getting coverage in all the big papers, people don't really link him to LW or rationality, because those aren't legible, even in the country's chattering classes. We are fortunate that he is such a bad writer, so that no one reads his blog.

Here's a speculative rundown of things he probably got implemented (but we won't really know until 2050 declassification):

  • Doubling of the already large state R&D budget (by 2025). This will make the government half of all UK R&D spending. £800m ARPA like. £300m STEM funding already out.

  • Pushed the COVID science committee into an earlier lockdown. Lockdown sceptics / herd immunity types likely to gain influence now.

  • An uncapped immigration path for scientists

  • Tutoring in state schools

  • Data-driven reform of the civil service is incomplete and probably abortive. His remaining crew are "misfits", little influence. Associated data science, superforecasting and evidence-based policy with racists and edgelords. (One of those is on record as having a ridiculously negative view of LW.) Weirdo hiring scheme may mean Whitehall hiring even more staid in the short run.

  • Something something bullying, norms, deception, centralisation of power. Whipping the Treasury probably not a good precedent.

  • His hypocrisy probably weakened lockdown norms. This also wasted a huge amount of Boris Johnson's political capital during a public health crisis; I don't know how to evaluate that.

1TAG6dSay more!
1technicalities5dhttps://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OLB1DwAAQBAJ&q=sex cult&f=false [https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OLB1DwAAQBAJ&q=sex%20cult&f=false]
2habryka5d(That link just goes to the Google Books page for "The AI Does Not Hate You". Based on the query parameters there is something else you probably wanted to link to, but at least for me it isn't working.)
1technicalities5dHuh, works for me. Anyway I'd rather not repeat his nasty slander but "They're [just] a sex cult" is the gist.
1TAG5dAll very spicy, but it doesn't address the intellectual content of LW at all.
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This doesn't quite answer your question, but I wrote a post about his ideas here.

He has quite the negative reputation due to his association with Brexit (particularly certain claims made) and the lockdown industry, so hopefully rationalists don't get tarred with the same brush.