At some point within the past couple years I noticed that one blog that had Not Even Wrong on its blogroll was the blog of Dominic Cummings, who was often getting credited with masterminding the political campaign that got the British to vote (narrowly) for Brexit in 2016. Cummings has had further success recently as Chief Special Adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with a blow-out election victory three weeks ago putting him securely in control of the British state.
Today on his blog Cummings has, invoking Grothendieck, posted a job advertisement: ‘Two hands are a lot’ — we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…. He’s looking for mathematicians, physicists and others to join him to change British society, working
in the intersection of:
- the selection, education and training of people for high performance
- the frontiers of the science of prediction
- data science, AI and cognitive technologies (e.g Seeing Rooms, ‘authoring tools designed for arguing from evidence’, Tetlock/IARPA prediction tournaments that could easily be extended to consider ‘clusters’ of issues around themes like Brexit to improve policy and project management)
- communication (e.g Cialdini)
- decision-making institutions at the apex of government.
For some other descriptions of who Cummings would like to hire, on the economics side there’s:
The ideal candidate might, for example, have a degree in maths and economics, worked at the LHC in one summer, worked with a quant fund another summer, and written software for a YC startup in a third summer!
We’ve found one of these but want at least one more.
He also wants “Super-talented weirdos”, with examples given from William Gibson novels, such as “that Chinese-Cuban free runner from a crime family hired by the KGB.”
The remarkable things to me about this long document are what it doesn’t contain. In particular I see nothing at all about any specific policy goals. Usually a new government would recruit people by appealing to their desire to make the world a better place in some specific way, but there’s nothing about that here. The goal is to control the government and what the British population believes, but to what end?
In addition, a more conventional hiring process would be asking for candidates of high ethical values, with some devotion to telling the truth. Cummings seems to be asking for exactly the opposite: best if your background is “from a crime family hired by the KGB.”
Best of wishes to my British readers, now joining the US and other nations in a new dystopic post-truth era. It’s massively depressing to me to see how this has worked out here, I hope you do better. Maybe you should be sending in your applications to Cummings and hoping to sign up for a role in the new power structure. If so, tell him “Not Even Wrong” sent you…
Update: For more on Cummings, there’s a good Financial Times article.