Alexey blogs at https://guzey.com/, and is the founder of https://newscience.org/.
Will Jarvis 0:04
Hey folks, I’m William Jarvis, along with my dad, Dr. David Jarvis. I host the podcast narratives. narratives is a project exploring the ways in which the world is better than it has been the ways it is worse in the past or making a better, more definite future. I hope you enjoy it.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. You can get on our mailing list, find show notes, transcripts, as well as videos at Nerdist podcast.com. Thanks. Alexi. How are you doing today? I’m doing great. Thank you. Excellent. Could you give me just a really brief bio yet, you know? And then what are the high level things you’re interested in just for the audience for people who haven’t met you yet?
Alexey Guzey 0:59
Yeah. I’m an independent researcher. And I’m most interested in the structures of science. And in the way basic science works, the way academia works, and in like, figure figuring that out, and then figuring out how to improve on the existing processes and figuring out how to make the workings of basic science and the workings of academia better.
Will Jarvis 1:35
Excellent, excellent. So my first question, you know, you wrote a piece I really enjoyed. It’s called how life sciences actually work. And this weekend, I was actually with one of my friends, we had a wedding, he was a groomsman. I was the officiant. And he’s a researcher at the NIH. And so we’re actually we’re talking about some of the points. And one of the most interesting things to me, you know, you said, there’s this kind of this, this fake news idea, I think he called it that r&d is kind of slowing down. Like, you know, maybe we’re not getting as much out of science, especially life science that we used to. But when I look at, like r&d for pharma, it’s like been trending down. I think the last time I looked at this was like, 2018, and it was fast approaching the cost of capital. So it was it was evening out. That, you know, pharma companies are getting less and less on their r&d money back, which is kind of a sign to me like, well, what’s going on? And that’s in pharma. So that’s like a particular thing in the life sciences. So maybe that’s specific cases different. What do you think about that?
Alexey Guzey 2:38
Yeah, I didn’t think I can actually answer this question. About farm. I’m not. I’m not very familiar with farmer. Unfortunately, data like this is like, basically, the question is about the translational side of science,
Will Jarvis 2:58
where all the translational side definitely.
Alexey Guzey 3:00
And like, and EMS like specifically focusing on stages prior to that, and my understanding is that in the stages, prior to that, like in basic science, there is indeed, much more progress than there has ever been for translational science. Yeah, I’m not actually familiar with the paper. I think, like I heard about financings like that, my guess would be that. Like, if it was, like, if it was the case that the cost of capital for, like, companies that are engaged in translational research was rising very rapidly, wouldn’t see, like, the patterns in funding of biotech startups that we see. And like, what we see is like, just incredible, incredible amounts of basic funding, like we were than ever before. And it’s my impression is that like, more than ever before, by technology startups get started. And for big pharma companies specifically, like, I think it might be the case that, like, it’s very individual to them, or it’s like individual to companies that are engaged in this like incremental research where they’re like trying to continue to create like new therapists, but like incrementally in areas where all of the work hanging fruit has already been picked. And if you try to do that, and taken into account also like increase in cost of figuration, which I think are real. And if we limit ourselves to these kinds of developments, then it seems likely that like, this is what happens. But yeah, I would very much doubt that this, that it’s actually the case that like, see, new therapists are becoming like, less profitable or something. God overall.
Will Jarvis 5:36
Makes sense. Definitely. You mentioned low hanging fruit there. Do you think in some sense, it’s gotten harder? in basic research was there you know, you focused on to, you know, solve problems and find out new things. Do you think it’s gotten harder? You think it’s about the same? Which is thought on that? That’s a very broad question. Right. So it’s like,
Alexey Guzey 5:58
yeah, I think that, yeah. Well, I mean, again, and I’m not trying to get, like, an easy answer here. There are several different perspectives from which I could approach this. First of all, I think it is. It is the case that, like, science is becoming more expensive. Like in the past, you could just like, sit around and think about things and discover things like, go out and like, look at animals and like, make discoveries, or disect animals to make discoveries to something, or, yeah, or, or, or microscopy was, like, you were just like, it just a dude who did objects Earth, or who did glasses or something, like decided to, like stack a few lenses. And then you get by me get a microscope, and you see things nobody has ever seen before. And today, like you can really do this, like all over they’re like really obvious things where you just sit around or like and discover things have been discovered. And now we do need like a lot of training. And we do need expensive equipment. And we do often need more time to discover things. So on the one hand, like set asides has, like definitely become more expensive. On the other hand, the picture of signs that I have in my head, is that it’s sort of like, like, the discoveries sort of form, like a graph. And they, like one discovery leads to another discovery of the several discoveries. And sometimes, like, actually, there are several paths to the same discovery. And, like, we observe cells, and like we can like before, like even seeing cells, we can’t even, like ask any questions really about how they work. But once a web server that I’m using this, like, really cheap equipment, with we, like, get access to a lot of questions that we can ask about them. And then as my, my intuition is that, my understanding is that, as we know, more and more this space of potential problems, that that becomes wider and wider. And in a sense, like, finding this actually becomes easier. And a, and like, in terms of like the impact or like return on ideas. This is also I think that we should like it natural continuation of this question, like maybe it’s baked in, into, like the outside return on capital, return on unit of effort or something. And here, like, the way I think about this is that like, in the past, you could just like start washing your hands, and you would get infant mortality for like, 40% very sorry. 20%. Yeah. And on the one hand, like this is true, and like you’re just like, randomly discover an antibiotic also very cheaply just by noticing that. Like bacteria, somewhere Grant in like, isolating a compound that makes them not grow. But another one can we do get this like really big returns on what seems like simple, simple discoveries. At the same time, it seems to me that like, if we look at, if we think about some sort of like, global understanding of how things work,
such discoveries do naturally improve that understand that as much they sort of have an impact, without me mentioning that we have like this sense of, on the scale from understanding how biology, like how everything works on a on a scale from zero to 100, like washing hands, like moves us like maybe a little bit, because we realize that like something must be going on, while having to begin. But at the same time, we might observe less impact solving something like inventing a drug that like, completely solves very rare genetic disease, like it is the impact on like, overall, life expectancy will be really small, but at the same time, we might again, sort of like, much better understanding for like biology really works by gets into the disease, and like gets into finding out how exactly genes break and how exactly like to deliver the therapy and how exactly like, affect this specific mechanism like this specific like that amyx that are going on, in the disease. And if we view the progress of science as occurring, or, like, if we like think that the important thing is to get to like 100 100, out of 100 understanding, or to build and build nine nanotech or molecular machines, or something like washing machines in this current antibiotics doesn’t really help with any of that. But while doing this things that might not immediately seem like very useful or profitable for biotech companies, because they don’t really affect health do actually count and the actual contributes to us gets in there. So yeah, my guess would be that it is like, is it the case that like, this really impactful chip discoveries have been difficult to come by, but at the same time, it has been easier to like, move along to this like path to complete understanding. And as we move along, like it, we actually get more and more like opportunities to ask more questions and to attack them better, and that we’re moving. Like, along that line, much quicker than we’ve been moving in the past, even though the women moving along with their, like, just increasing life expectancy is slower.
Will Jarvis 13:27
That makes sense. So maybe it’s something where, you know, we’re solving these more complex problems, you know, maybe it’s a rare genetic disease. And we get more understanding out of that, but there’s less like, utility from going from just you know, okay, we’re start washing your hands, you know, cut infant mortality, this huge amount. Yeah, listen to immediate utility. Gotcha, that makes sense.
Alexey Guzey 13:50
Because like, if we do solve a bunch of like these diseases, then at some point, it will, like, just, we’ll just like, stop having like a class of diseases. And at some point, we’re getting mentioned that we’re, if we solve enough of these diseases, we’re really just going to reach a point where people just go into four, leave. Like, because this is a sort of, like, multiply su age, like, if we solve a bunch of diseases that contribute that much, I think that we’re actually going to see increasing and increasing the impact of that. But it’s, but just solving one this is like, if you just even solve like over the cancers, you’re still going to die at approximately the same age because they’re just going through the effort disease, or Alzheimer’s or something. But if we solve it, like we’re going to see more impacts as we solve each of these, this is a concern. And so we make progress on all of this.
Will Jarvis 14:59
That makes a lot of sense. So I want to back up a meta level. And you may have already covered this before, and I may have just missed it. So we can skip it if need be. But you know, what made you choose science and and working on basic research and studying that and how to make it better? You know, what’s the motivation there? And yeah, like, how’d you get there?
Alexey Guzey 15:24
Yeah, I think the answer is that I’ve just been always really interested in science. And I’ve always been interested in the technological progress. And in figuring out how, how do we get to the future, as quickly as we can. And this? Yeah, and at some point, I realized that I do want to basically, deal with basic science in my life, because this is the thing that’s most interesting to me. And this is the thing that seems really important if we want to get to the future. And definitely, at the same time, I realize that I myself, like I just constitutionally did not really want to be a scientist, I think that, like, I’m personally more interested in talking to people and solving people’s problems, and thinking about the meta level of things, rather than actually like sifting and discovering things. And this is, this is why essentially, I decided that like, the best that I could do then is try to solve people problems in sets and try to figure out how, how science works, how the mind works, what are the sorts of constraints that people solve? The? What are the types of constraints that scientists face? In the course of the research? And how can I help? And how can I try to make like, their work better? And can I enable them to work better?
Will Jarvis 17:13
That makes sense? Have you read scientific freedom by Don braven? By the chance?
Alexey Guzey 17:20
I’m aware of the book, and I started reading that, but I think at some point, I get a little bit bored, and they start to do something else. And they never get it.
Will Jarvis 17:31
Gotcha, gotcha. No, that’s, that’s a great filter. You know, you should should move on. Whenever you get bored with the puck. That’s my, my thesis. Yeah. So we had Don on the show, do you know the broad thesis so he ran a very visual research program at BP. And he had this idea, we’re just going to give people money, I’m gonna select them personally, essentially, no strings attached, you can renew it every three years, up to nine years. And they got quite a few impressive results out of it. Do you think that solves some of the coordination problems and people problems, incentive problems you’ve seen? And then the second question, which we can get to a little bit is, what are those biggest coordination problems? People problems instead of problems that you see in science?
Alexey Guzey 18:13
Great. things the way Brendan organized his program is it’s difficult to call it good or bad, per se, I think it’s very high variance way of organizing, right? Like, it depends a lot on who the person is, who grants the money’s
Will Jarvis 18:43
Alexey Guzey 18:44
And if his tastes or even Bourbons taste was good, if the person’s the person who awards this grants tastes is good, then I think there’s very good potential for such a program to fund the things that counterfactual would not have been funded. And that ended up being very interesting and very impactful. At the same time. If their test is not the taste is not very good, then it’s very easy to just like you have a bunch of money and have no impact at all. And I’m unfortunately not very familiar with the impact of with any of you have an additional familiar with any of the grants that venture research ended up making, from what I hear over like, like, there’s a lot of conversation around the book, and from what I hear, they did end up being really successful, which makes me think that like he did, indeed managed to find some very interesting things to fund and like the the intuition of instead of of creating a committee and averaging out the votes and funding whether we get the highest average rating, instead just getting one person who hopefully has good taste in what the fund and lessen them to fund scientists and assuming that scientists also have good tastes and ideas, and just let them pursue them. Intuitively, the this way of finding things appeals me, to me a lot.
Will Jarvis 20:29
Definitely, yeah, it’s, uh, you know, Don, you know, he’s one in a million, I don’t know how well it replicates, I’ll send you his emails, well, I’d highly recommend to reach out to him. He’s, he’s 85. He’s still sharp as a whip. He’s a really nice guy. But uh, yeah, it’s quite interesting to me. How do you think the current funding mechanisms are bad? do they work? Okay. You know, is that an area where you can really think we can make progress? You know, that’s Don’s big thing, right is like, you know, there’s just not enough, you know, small amounts of money running around where, you know, Alexi, you can go and just research, whatever you’re passionate about fall out wherever it leads you. That’s really difficult to get nowadays, it’s, it seems from Don’s book, do you think that is his big problem? Do you think? And do you think the current funding structure is is fairly insidious or not?
Alexey Guzey 21:29
I think that the problems he describes are definitely real. It’s, I think there’s like, again, very, very large variance in how much they’re actually manifested. between different institutions and different labs. There are places like, most famous, they think, like George Church’s slab, where George church at this point is so well funded. And everyone knows that like, whatever is going on in his lab, like, like, you probably shouldn’t mess with it, because like, the output is just insane. And he essentially has the ability to work, or his students and his postdocs have the ability to work on whatever seems most interesting, and just like, get, like money out of like the common pool of funding for the lab and just like, go into whatever seems most impactful at any point in time. And there are labs that can do that, with labs that have like a bunch of grants, or have both NIH funding and funding from HHS, NIH, for example, where it is indeed possible to do this short term experiments without much friction, and follow up on them seamlessly, and then like, collect some data for them, and then apply for the initial grant, like, post post hoc like explaining what you’re like, like, blend into the in. It’s, it’s critical, in scare quotes. But the at the same time, I do think this is a very real problem for a lot from most of the labs, for most of the labs, like you do have a grant from the government, which you have to deliver to. And if it no longer seems that like the stated purpose of the grant makes the most sense. Like you can even serve, scientists have the ability to like, again, divert their funding a little bit or to like work on things that seem to make the most sense, rather than the things that they are that are stated in the grant application. But disability is limited. And, like the, and the cycles of getting you grants for new things are indeed very small. And I would guess that it isn’t true that often. People are often limited by this and science, isn’t it slowed down? Quite a lot by the fact that the funding is not more flexible. And my overall impression is that, like, we do get a ton of progress. We do get a lot of basic discoveries in the life sciences. But like the reason for that is not really that the system works that well. The reason for that is that we’re spending dozens of billions of dollars a year The NHS funding is, I think $40 billion a year at this point. And there are a ton of other organizations that fund Life Sciences. And when you put that amount of money in the system, where you have 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of people research and things like the number increasing over overtime, then like you’re bound to, like when the people are really smart in bounds to get something, even if the system works really poorly. And it’s, like very difficult to create credible counterfactual estimates of like, just how much progress we would see if, like, we implemented like bread, more Bourbons proposals, my guess is that we would indeed see more progress, and we could indeed do much better. But I think it’s such estimates would be pretty speculative, really difficult to come up with.
Will Jarvis 26:01
Yeah, that definitely makes sense. That’s really interesting that you said, you know, maybe one of the reasons we haven’t suffered so much is we’ve just thrown more and more money at the problem. So if you just shove more and more money, I say this a lot about AI, in terms of us defense spending, if the pot is growing, and the amount we spend is growing every year, and you know, you can get new programs in it, you can be innovative, but if it’s shrinking, you can’t because it’s captured by all the big defense contractors, you know, the Lockheed and Booz Allen’s will come in and take it in small companies can’t get in. And I wonder if something similar happens with science, where as long as that funding pool is growing, you can split things off and do new and interesting things. But if it’s stagnant or stable, you can or shrinking?
Alexey Guzey 26:49
You can. Yeah, I mean, that sounds about right, where if funding stagnates, then, like people who, or companies or labs that fight for financing, like they fight much more viciously. And the the companies, or like the entities that are more established, probably do get the upper hand more often, in this zero sum games, the new entrants and it’s it’s easier to be a new entrant that when the amount of funding is increasing, and like, therefore, it entities feel like they’re playing a positive sum game, or they don’t immediately have the ability to just like, they’re not already allocated the way or they have not been previously allocated, the funding that is now available. But yeah, again, it’s very difficult to make. It’s very difficult to make any sort of quantitative estimates regarding that. I think one of the problems with like increasing funding is that on one hand, it does allow new entrants on the other hand, it can only it can also just like continue masking the increase in amount of isometric programs. Like, maybe there’s like old government contractors, if you like, if the funding stagnates, then they’re forced to do things with the same, like, they can’t just like continue hiring people who do not contribute and continue just like increase in bureaucracy, like, on and on. But if the funding is always increasing, that there is like, and even they get 5% more funding barrier than they can continue just like balloon, the, their budgets by that amount and not really face the pressure of like, of having to optimize and think this is like, actually, my describe what happened to the NIH, to some extent, over the last few decades, like the funding, the NIH budget, actually, if I remember correctly, like literally doubled over a few years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Like because there was really big push to increase science funding and it and there is an argument which I am not sure how much exactly by it, but there is an argument that this resulted like when the nh should have just been reformed and thought through like, and science funding should have been Through first principles, the like this doubling of funding of NIH like masked a lot of the systematic problems and enabled people to just like start start spending more and start hiring more people. And therefore, like, even though the amount of systematic problems was increasing, like the amount of science was increasing even faster, because the funding was increasing so much faster, and because of this, we ended up again creating more science, but in even more sort of suboptimal and troubled environments. And I think there is something to say about like stagnating funding or generally difficult times when you were sort of sort of forced to optimize and a have this sort of the is global intuition that like systems without much of external competition, just tend to like, grow as efficient as they can possibly grow over time. And like, in times of peace, the officer corpsing like balloons and gets taken over by like career bureaucrats, who are just like really good at progressing at progressing in bureaucracies. But like the moment the worst starts, like, Oh, they all get like, essentially, well, not kicked out, but like, it very quickly becomes clear, who is actually compensated, who is not, and people who are actually competent, do get the power pretty quickly. And this system does get optimized quickly. And
in the presence of like, the same, the same happens in like, system when there is an open market, an open competition, but the nh for example, like faces, no threats to its existence, and no external competition. And and with ever, yeah. And I would guess that it is becoming more and more inefficient, and more and more bureaucratic overtime, simply because like, this is what naturally happens to government bureaucracies. Right?
Will Jarvis 32:33
Yeah, the NIH can’t die. And so it’s, you know, there’s no, there’s no competitive pressure. You know, what? So what pass forward? Do you see Rite Aid? Do you see anything? I, we had this big existential threat in this big existential health threat. And it didn’t seem to get many the bureaucracies, at least in the here, here in the us off their tails and doing things. You know, there’s a case where the CDC was letting COVID, you know, positive people directly into Atlanta airport, early on, as the busiest airport in the world is spreading. It’s just on and on and on and go through case by case by case where there’s complete failure. You know, what, what do you see as a path forward? Is there a path forward?
Alexey Guzey 33:21
Right, so the Yeah, it is, you’re making a very good point, which is that the the, what we observe is that even in times, like, the existing progressives have grown, so inefficient, and, like, become so so bureaucratized, that even in times of, like, really big, like public health crisis, they can’t really grow out, and they can’t, like out of their shell, and they can’t really start acting decisively. They’re, like, just too impenetrable to that. And maybe it’s the case that like, or, well, no, what we, what we would see if COVID had like 10% mortality, rather than 0.1 to 1%. Maybe the situation would have been different. Well, and then you can maybe not. But yeah, the best for the path forward that I see is that instead of trying to improve the existing bureaucracies, and trying to make them more efficient, like we probably can, but to some extent, but even like, even They hate they, even the head of the NIH, I’m not sure how much leverage they actually have, and how much they like they could try to make things better. But like the amount of just like political capital that one need to, to really change how such a big bureaucracy works might just not be accessible for quite a long time. And yeah, well, under, we can really have a super well developed intuition about that, I think, like, we can’t really sing like, someone who like really dislikes, how the nh works, try to like, go in and actually change it, it might be the case that, like, if we get such a person to do it, they will actually succeed. But I don’t think there have been any major changes in how the NIH, for example, operates in like, many decades. And the, the strategy that I eventually decided makes the most more makes the most sense, is actually to try to build to just build new systems that would exist in parallel to the existing funding structures. So in the same way that like, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which is one of the biggest private funders of basic life sciences, like they did not go and try to improve how the NIH gives grants, they were like, okay, there seems to be not enough specific type of the NIH funding, so we’re just going to create a program that would that would do such funding. And that would give, like, for example, full unrestricted funding to people who will no, I really, really good to allow them to just continue working on things that are really interesting, without, without any ties, or, and without having to tell us what exactly they’re working on every step of the process. And I think that this idea,
yeah, and like there are a ton of philanthropic organizations to do this, right. But my impression is that they’re all they’re like, most of them are actually like, fairly conservative. And because they’re, they still depend on the like, the existence systems and the existing universities and the nh two, essentially prefilter people, like, if you’re only funding, like s, h, EMI does a covered Hughes Medical Institute, if you only give these big grants to people who are really good, like you’re filtering out over the people who did not become really good in the existing system, who did not have the ability to get the NIH funding to get where they are. And this way, you’re naturally very constrained in who you end up finding. And the same is true, I think, for even more true for almost all of other philanthropic organizations. So they do end up more conservative than one would naively think, I think, when they when I was just starting out to think about this is like, Well, you know, they they she’s so conservative, then there must be like other funders, like there must be like billionaires who realize that their nature so conservative, and created foundations to like, trade, try, try to do try to fund projects and people in a different way. And this is the case, but do end up like still be less conservative, but still pretty conservative, and have these filters imposed by by the system. And at the same time, it seems to me that they’re basically not ambitious enough, like the HDMI. Again, it does have these really interesting programs, but they don’t think they’re thinking in terms of systems that much. And they are they have they even have an independent research institute, ah, my genelia and which was, which they spent like a few billion dollars on by this point, I think, I’m not sure about the exact numbers. But it does seem that like they created the structure with quite different culture and quite different way doing science. But because my impression, they haven’t really been thinking about this more, the higher, more systematic level, they like it ended up being more, much more conservative and much more observed in the existing academic system. And instead of effects in the academic system, it ended up being affected by academic system quite a lot. And my thinking is that we should, the thing that I want to try to do is actually build up these new systems of this doing science, and not just give, like, more unrestricted funding to people in academia, but try to actually enable people to work on basic science outside of academia. And outside of the pressures of academia and not thinking like, because even if you like, just start one independent Institute, and you allow people to work on something really interesting, the incident, the process that’s going to go through, like, the back of their mind is okay, I can work on something really interesting. But then I will probably have to seek a job in academia in a few years anyway. So like, they can’t really just work on whatever, I still have to moderate myself and work on things that well might be, I might not have been able to work in the kids in a PR set, but will that will still be interested in academia, and that will result in this top tier papers that will allow me to get a job once like this independent research institute thing runs out, or NC when they decided to kick me out. Especially if you hire out of academia, because people like, see their future tied with academia. And it seems to me that nobody has really been able to solve this problem. And like, I really want to try to the academic like really, really want to try to build out a system, where people over the long term would actually not be concerned with trying to impress, like people who do basic science
would stop trying to impress the consumer, and would stop trying to, like only do the things that they expect to be able to be published in top search journals, which is really, really hard. But which I think is more promising in the long term than just doing this, like ad hoc problems that don’t result in systematic change.
Will Jarvis 42:57
That’s why I think you’re on the money, that exit is probably probably the correct strategy. Where do you find people who fit that mold? You know, is it young people? Do you just go look for young people that can are impressionable, they haven’t gotten polluted, so to speak, by current academia? I mean, what does that look like? Have you thought about that at
Alexey Guzey 43:16
all? Yeah. Well, is it the case that it’s like, easier to get young people to think otherwise? Right? Because Yeah, they can spend was 20 years of their life just like trying to impress the nh. And so my current thinking is that so like, I’m still very early in my process, I haven’t like, like to do such systematic change, you need like, you do need to be able to make long term commitments to people, and to actually, like, demonstrate to them that they can stop thinking is possible. And I’m, at this point still, like, you’re basically in the very early stages. I’m like, I think about doing this in the long term, hopefully, like over the coming years and decades. Try to do that. But at this point, I want to start like with very small programs that will end up in people hopefully, working on things that they counterfactually wouldn’t have worked on, but with people probably seen some substantial part of them going back to academia or trying to make a career in academia. And However, if we want to have someone who work on basic science, and like, I would say the McKinsey man, my current best guess is that or I’m trying to just like, essentially look for people who first of all, like, want to do basic science like really like basic science and want to become a scientist, but at the same time, like are so we’re dissatisfied with the way academia currently works that they don’t want to go into exist in academia. And so if I managed to provide them with resources and with funding and with support, to continue to do basic science, they’re not going to try to prosecute me simply because they like, really don’t want to even go into that system that like that. And that without my funding, they would just go into by itself, become software engineer, so something. And if, for example, I’m thinking that, for example, if I can start one a year long Fellowship Program, for example, then instead of, then the people I would try to target, especially are the people who want to drop out of academia, and who have really interested in this and who want to become sciences. But they, instead of using the year long fellowship, to just like, rack up a bunch of publications of projects that will help them to become a professor, they would actually work on things that are most interesting. Because otherwise, yeah, they just, like, drop out completely.
Will Jarvis 46:38
That makes sense. I really want
Alexey Guzey 46:40
and then yeah, and then like, you can start with like a making longer term commitments to people and to help people think, again, think less about trying to impress academia for a bit more traditional. And then like, so the scale of these programs increases. And as time commitments increase, I think it’s going to become well provided a message of course, to increase them. It should become easier to enable people to like, think think about these things in a different way.
Will Jarvis 47:24
That makes sense. I love that. I love that. If we got a few more minutes, I want to hit with a few overrated or underrated. This is pretty quick. You know, this is? I’m assuming listen to tout. Yeah, perfect. So just give me a sentence why and yeah, overrated or underrated or correctly read Alexi in the body? And that’s completely out of left field overrated or underrated.
Alexey Guzey 47:55
I think he’s correctly rated. I will, yes. Like I’m originally from Russia. And Russian politics is very interesting. And is and the valley, I think. I’m not sure how much I would want him to like, become the president in a competitive democracy. But at the same time, it does seem that he is working really hard to bring Russia closer to a competitive democracy. And in this regard, he is doing really important job. And because of this, I think that everyone recognizes that basically. Yeah, and because of this, I think that there are other people in Russia, who Yeah, I don’t really have a point. There are a lot of people in Russia. But he, I think he his level of recognition is approximately the level of recognition that I would expect him to have as a person who, like he is important for like this, like systemic change, but at the same time, yeah. It’s less clear of like her competitive IQ, if I can say that would be for me. head right straight up. Russia had a competitive system already.
Will Jarvis 49:49
Makes sense. Basic Income overrated, underrated.
Alexey Guzey 49:58
A suspect that basic in income is overrated. Yeah, he haven’t thought about this in a long time. But I think my probably primary intuition for why that is, is that contributing to the society and like having a job. Or like basically, the not even having a job, but contributing to the society, it contributes it to something larger than yourself is something that’s really, really, really important for wellbeing, and really important for happiness. And basic income, if implemented, might allow people to, well, the purpose of basic income is to allow people to like, not work in the jobs they hate, and to like, do whatever they love, and stuff. And my guess would be that, if implemented, what might happen is that a lot of people will just, like, be not being forced to contribute to society by like, having to have a job and like, do something that the society like someone pays you to do, it will be very easy to just like, stop doing anything to do nothing at all that contributes to society, just like third playing video games all day long. And at some level, like this is, on some level, this is good, like, because, like, if we think about like, well being, and then one aspect of well being is like, just enjoying your day, how you spend your time, day to day, hour by hour, and like playing video games, hour by hour is more enjoyable than holding the job. At the same time, in the grander scheme of things. I suspect it might lead to people just like having much less meaning in their life, even if day to day playing video games is more enjoyable. And if we do that, it does seem to me that we’re sort of, in a know, like, meaning crisis already. And that basic income, it might allow people to like pursue their passions, and have more meaning in their life, but my guess would be but yeah, but I think it’s very encircled with the Olympic Toby. And I think the advocates of basic income. Basically Don’t think about this question enough. And there are probably people who end up like being the loudest advocates of basic income, they’re sort of like really, really unrepresentative. And they often fail to think of the larger ethics of essentially the policies that they will advocate the advocate for.
Will Jarvis 53:18
I think that makes a ton of sense. I’ve got one more here. Effective altruism overrated, underrated.
Alexey Guzey 53:29
Yeah, I again, the simple answer here, I think it’s it’s probably overrated within like some very narrow slice. The Internet. It’s probably underrated, like globally, overall. Overall, yeah. It anything that’s like, thinking about the impact is important. And like thinking about like this, at least thinking about the charity that you’ve like, donate to actually doing something good, is important. That’s important. Yes. And it’s a spectively. It is probably the case that globally, people just don’t think about this enough. And like, end up doing things that just do not contribute stones that like make their donation feel meaningful, but not doing much. And it would be much better if people donated to charities where the donation feels both meaningful and actually improves the well being of people. At the same time, I think some of Well, yeah, the sentiment is sort of difficult to make statements about effective filter is because at this point, it’s like, you chose this common framework, but like thinking about maximizing our broad once impact, but like it has become I’m really diverse in like the problems that affective I was interested in. And like a lot of them. I yeah, I actually interviewed Ben akun. About NAS him actually little bit about this. And one thing that I agree with him on is that basically, like some people in the effective altruism community think that like, the long term is really important. It’s really important to think about, like, the making sure that humanity survives, like the next million years. Some people think that it’s really important to, like, solve poverty in Africa right now. Some people think that, like, we should care about the dangers on the scale of several decades, some people think that it’s really important to make sure that animals don’t suffer needlessly. And it’s, and while these people often share, like, some common moral frameworks, like effective altruism community really likes consequentialism, and utilitarianism, which I do not like. And but they end up working on things that are not really related to each other. And because of this, yeah, I think it’s difficult. Yeah, I personally think more about the long term, and greater. And like, for for parts of effective altruism, but also thinking about the long term, I think that the good job, and because like, actually, when I was younger, it’s like actually making the decision at some point that I thought that I should work on poverty in Africa. And I should become a development economist, and try to try to figure out how can we do better and how to solve this problems? And I decided that I’m more interested in the long term, but then I’m not sure if I ended up like, technically the question.
Will Jarvis 57:12
No, that’s great.
Alexey Guzey 57:15
Yeah, basically, I think some of the intellectual frameworks that effective altruists use are underrated. Some of them are overrated. Globally, the world would probably be better if more people thought about, like, thought harder about how to make good how to do good, essentially.
Will Jarvis 57:37
Awesome. That’s really well, but
Alexey Guzey 57:38
at the same time, at the same time, like one of the pros with like, I think they were the effective altruists, think about doing good is they in turn, they don’t think about they don’t think about generating meaning enough. And like, while, like traditional charities really
Will Jarvis 57:58
like about the meeting? Yeah, the effective altruism, officers just swing wildly to the other side. And people end up thinking really hard about the impact. And while doing that they’re really, really depressed because they completely forget about the other things that end up like being viscerally meaningful to that, which I think happens quite often. And I think they’re like, sort of becoming better at this. But yeah, we’ll, we’ll see. I love that. That’s a thought that I’ve had for a while but haven’t been able to put into words, something about, you know, you just go work at a hedge fund, make half a mil a year, and then, you know, shuttle it to against malaria. And you’re good, you know, and I just don’t think that’s exactly a recipe for happiness. But it could work, but it does. It’s very consequentialist, right? I really like that. Alexi, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people find you? Where would you like people to visit you on your blog on Twitter? Where?
Alexey Guzey 59:00
Yeah, well, I have my site. My personal site goes a.com. I have Twitter. At Aleksey with a I have the site of my new nonprofit that I’m starting at New science.org. And you can well probably the easiest way to find me is to like Google me or to get into the show notes.
Will Jarvis 59:30
For the week on there.
Alexey Guzey 59:31
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mostly use Twitter. It’s like my social media of choice.
Will Jarvis 59:37
Awesome. Well, thanks, Alexi. Yeah, thanks for having me. Well, that’s our show for today. I’m Bill Jarvis, and I’m Will’s dad. Join us next week for more narratives.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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