They basically all repeated a number of the same points.
1. AI will be amazing, and will utterly decimate jobs in the future, though it was never clear whether they understood AI technologies or even the economics of automation.
2. Everyone should be trying to become an entrepreneur. Disruption is a panacea.
3. Technology is the future. But, they use about 1,000,000 different definitions of technology and give little heed to social ramifcations of some of the technologies.
4. Everyone in the future will work on a contract basis and this is amazing. They gave little thought to many of the long term benefits usually associated with careers.
5. "Nudging" will be THE tool of governments in the future, with little thought to the ramifications to democracy and liberal values.
There was such a small bandwidth of opinion and argument it was hilarious. They were basically all repeating boiler plate stuff you read in a lot of these "thought leader" books.
Ditto for political people like cabinet members and CEO types. In public, their outward messaging needs to be tightly controlled. Behind the scenes for smart ones, their personal thoughts or agendas are often very different.
A couple years ago I was considering a move to Santa Monica and while my obvious employment would have been some form of software development further from the beach, I thought it might be cool to find my way into RAND in some capacity.
Do they have part-time researchers there, or maybe researchers-in-residence for sabbatical-length periods?
Ps. I had an office overlooking the Santa Monica mountains and got to spend time deeply immersing into interesting problems. Now at current tech co I'm packed into an open office plan elbows to elbows and don't immerse much past any problem that can't be solved in a week or too. I sometimes hear Gob saying in my head, "I've made a huge mistake..."
I don't think we've really tried hard enough.
That said, there certainly are such places. I believe a large number of people at the Center for American Progress had very different career plans for 2017 than what has actually played out for them.
There is a very wide variety to think tanks. Some do a lot of serious work. Some are zombies that do nothing but cash donor checks and write letters to the editor. I'm grateful to be at one of the better ones.
The "missing" info is where the conflict lay!
The author of the position piece made a number of very reasonable criticisms. He said that, for instance, while the treaty text bans "explosive" tests, and this is understood in some quarters to mean zero yield, it doesn't say that explicitly. He made two other sensible points that were at about the same order of magnitude maybe one more and one or two very hawkish points.
While I am not a diplomat or other professional in the field, I thought, hey some of these make a lot of sense, maybe they should workshop the treaty and fix these few points. I'm sure most countries would go along with a few amendments even if they've already signed it if they can get the US to say yes.
Instead he wholesale rejected the treaty and recommended that we signal total withdrawal and declare that we will no longer voluntarily comply with its terms. So essentially, he took a few reasonable points and then used them to support an extreme position.
I laughed and said aloud, "That's the Heritage Foundation that I know!"
Stand up and shout loudly. You'll be taken seriously by some, given money or resources by others, talked about, and blogged about. Now, use that energy flowing your direction to create books, talks, and materials.
(Looking for an agent)
I'm a bit skeptical that you're so much smarter and more insightful than all of these successful people you're meeting at parties in DC.
Now consider that a doctor thinks the same about medical dramas, cops and lawyers think that way about crime shows, even pastry chefs probably think that about pastry chefs on TV.
Yet the people who star in and who produce these shows are wildly successful and rich. Politics is the same.
- Incentives in government (and most of the professionals here work for the government in some way, shape, or form) are extraordinarily misaligned. Public servant pay is often crap, so people are easy to buy with stuff like expensive dinners. Public servants thus get obsessed with amassing more power - self-promotion becomes the driving force behind their decisions with little regard as to how their power actually plays out.
- Relatedly, public servants become slaves to the existing power structures, both in practice and in their thoughts. It is very, very difficult for them to think outside of the box... even when they have leadership positions that you would typically look to for this.
- Everyone here majored in political science or economics in college.
- Everyone here worships the New York Times and Washington Post.
It's like being surrounded by zombies sometimes.
Professionally, you can be a big value-add by being willing to be the person who shakes people up with new ideas and having the drive to sustain it.
Especially in the current climate. Donald has really rattled their worldviews by seizing control of the throne.
One caveat, though: these people were all CEOs or senior consultants or occupying high level cabinet positions in federal and provincial governments (some were actually premiers). These people, if not "thought leaders" are certainly modelling themselves in that image and, perhaps worse, unlike "thought leaders" they are the people at the steering wheel of many important things -- they are leaders. One would hope they would be less suceptible to fads, but alas.
That's because these "elite" circles favor political skills, extroverted people with low conviction.
Peter Thiel points out that most original thinkers are introverted with high conviction, like Mark or Larry. That seems to be the formula for success in technology.
This is more or less validated by the OCEAN/5 factor model -- low agreeableness and low extroversion might be proxy for not being influenced by the convention.
This one particularly annoys me. Anytime you hear it you can be almost certain the person saying it has no actual experience in innovation/wealth/job creation. I prefer Andy Grove's take on it:
"Without scaling, we don't just lose jobs—we lose our hold on new technologies. Losing the ability to scale will ultimately damage our capacity to innovate."
As an example of the kind of person who spreads such ideas: a few years ago I knew a recent university graduate who was very friendly, enthusiastic and reasonably intelligent. He was interested in entrepreneurship, but non-technical, and focused mainly on networking and building connections.
One conversation I had with him concerned online advertising. He was convinved Facebook would never make money and that no-one clicked on ads online. I know a lot of people believe this, but I pointed out Google makes $20 billion revenue/year or whatever, and there's whole industries devoted to optimising PPC ads. "Nah that is just people who click by accident. Believe me it's completely nonsensical." Thinking him to be an non-serious person I didn't stay in touch but kept him on Facebook.
Next I see he's doing a masters degree in internet innovation in Oxford. Then he's at Harvard for a while. Now I see he's back in Oxford starting an academic career. A while ago I saw him post an article on the awesome power of "nudges" to his FB feed. I know not everyone in academia is like this, but academia doesn't awe me any more now that I know the bar is not that high.
The people who run a business, or are building something or are otherwise working, will say that. People who say they're in 'business' or are an 'entrepreneur' are the ones who haven't figured out exactly what they're up to.
Well, now you know what a think tank is for! :)
The real world has yet to offer up a counterexample to my childish whimsy.