What poll to ask the UK public?
Twitter debate on artificial wombs. What would you ask the UK public? Are you an art lover? Want to come to Tate Liverpool? What should I ask the CEO of UK climate change committee?
Twitter has a debate on artificial wombs
What would you ask the UK public in a poll?
Are you an art lover? Want to come to Tate Liverpool?
What should I ask the CEO of the UK climate change committee?
How inflation hits poor harder
Why a party has made the UK public so cross
Save Date on Thinking Bigly: How We Die
I won a charity auction. I can ask the UK public 3 questions on any topic.
What would you ask? (They need to be good poll questions as this is run by a professional pollster).
I am tempted to ask a question around climate and, or, investments but I wonder if that’s too boring and there are already polls on that. For instance: do you think the government is doing enough / not enough / about right on climate policy? Or, if a standard investment returned 6% amd a sustainable investment returned 5% would you invest in the sustainable one?
Some on my Twitter suggested the sauce to go on chips, but it turns out that is already asked.
So what would you ask?
I’ve also won a small group trip to see the Liverpool Tate Gallery and be shown around by the Director, Helen Legg. If you are a keen Arts person and would like to join me, let me know. I have not set any logistics on the trip yet but we can go in up to a group of 6. Let me know, if this is your thing. It will be a unique experience. Helen is lovely and very knowledgeable.
Twitter can spark the most unusual debates. IMO, Twitter really doesn’t reflect the real world opinion (cf. polls above) but this week the idea of whether “artificial wombs” would be a good innovation sparked a tweet storm. Bloggers, Noah Smith and Tyler Cowen wrote on it and people left/right/female/not-female weighed in.
Grimes made a point about the potential “value propisition”.
I do think ideas like this need wider discussion. We already are in that place with gene editing, or by behavioral choice in genetic testing (see Down Syndrome in Iceland, or deafness, both in decline due to technology innovations). The push back on vaccines echoes debates on genetic modification, robotic modification, drug-enhancement; hormone induced sex-changes, which are all happening now. The public debates seem behind where the technology actually is, and where it’s headed.
I am podcasting with Chris Stark the CEO of the UK Climate Change Committee soon. Do you have any burning questions to ask him? Let me know.
Jack Monroe, famous for cooking on a budget, a campaigner on poverty issues (and autistic) had a noteworthworthy thread on how inflation impacts the poor more, via examining low cost food products.
jack monroe @BootstrapCookWoke up this morning to the radio talking about the cost of living rising a further 5%. It infuriates me the index that they use for this calculation, which grossly underestimates the real cost of inflation as it happens to people with the least. Allow me to briefly explain.
This time last year, the cheapest pasta in my local supermarket (one of the Big Four), was 29p for 500g. Today it’s 70p. That’s a 141% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households. … the cheapest rice at the same supermarket was 45p for a kilogram bag. Today it’s £1 for 500g. That’s a 344% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households. Baked beans: were 22p, now 32p. A 45% price increase year on year….
Chris Giles did suggest the data broadly did not support Jack’s claims, when looked at the aggregate, but I am less sure. I find Jack’s list compelling particularly when combined with accessibility to good prices for the poorest.
There is evidence that prices for products online have not suffered the same inflation. And poor people do not have online access. So the “listed prices” are not available to them.
My observation specifically on food is that this is correct, the food prices are really impacting poor people more.
For most people reading this letter, inflation is not really a big deal so I think it might be surprising to think this will be important and perhaps a big factor in how elections are decided.
Tyler Cowen writes (Dec 2021):
“...With inflation now rising faster than at any time in the last four decades, economists are debating which group suffers more from inflation, the poor or the rich. This kind of economy-wide question is not easy to answer, especially when rates of inflation have been so low in recent times and hard data are scarce. Nor is it obvious how exactly to compare the losses to the poor to the losses to wealthier groups. Nonetheless, the arguments suggest that the poor are likely to take a beating…”
And I tend to think that it does impact the poor more in a complex fashion. Worth pondering.
Non-British observers have commented to me how the latest UK PM’s challenges (around whether he did attend or did know about a party held during pandemic lockdown) as more slight versus other previous problems.
I thought I’d explain why this might be so with my interpretation of a particular British culture. I will suggest why certain behavioural thinkers predicted public behaviour so poorly, why we/Brits like to queue and “bulldog spirit”.
While there have been protests against restrictions and masks, at least in the first part of the pandemic (and even more recently overall), the UK general public accepted these restrictions.
There was “behaviour science advice” submitted in Feb 2020 that behavioural measures may not be accepted.
Chris Whitty said in March 2020:
It is not just a matter of what you do but when you do it. Anything we do, we
have got to be able to sustain. Once we have started these things we have to
continue them through the peak and that is for a period of time, and there
is a risk that, if we go too early, people will understandably get fatigued and
it will be difficult to sustain this over time.
But, by Nov 2020 he reflected:
‘Across the board, my reflection is that the great majority of people—and
this is reflected in all the polling and a variety of other things—both intend
to stick to the rules and do stick to the rules to a remarkable degree. To go
back to Patrick’s point, were that not the case, we would be in a massively
worse place than we are at the moment. My expectation is that R would have
shot right up if people had not massively reduced the number of people they
have contact with, had not stuck to all the things we need to do in individual
actions they can take—such as hands, face and space—and businesses had
not done a huge amount to try to make them Covid secure. Without that,
we would be in a very difficult place compared with where we are now.”
And the UK Govt COVID lessons report summarised:
“In advance, it may not have been unreasonable to assume that the public would have a limited tolerance of such draconian restrictions. But that assumption turned out to be wrong. In the event, compliance with social distancing measures was at a level and for a duration beyond what was anticipated. If a belief that people would not comply delayed a full lockdown, and caused an initially limited set of non-pharmaceutical interventions to be adopted, this was a poor guide to policy.”
Dominic Cummings labelled this idea “false group think”
One of the critical things that was completely wrong in the whole official
thinking in SAGE and in the Department of Health in February/March was,
first of all, the British public would not accept a lockdown and, secondly, the
British public would not accept what was thought of as an east Asian-style
track and trace-type system and the infringements of liberty around that.
But, in my view, what this misses is an understanding of a large part of British culture around:
British love of NHS
We are in this together
I sense growing up the in the UK, you still hear a lot about how successful the British were in the World Wars. One story we tell ourselves, that is still embedded in the national psyche, in the British culture is the idea of “Dunkirk Spirit”
The Macmillan Dictionary defines “Dunkirk Spirit” as “an attitude of being very strong in a difficult situation and refusing to accept defeat.”
The Cambridge Dictionary gives the definition as “willingness by a group of people who are in a bad situation to all help each other.”
And both definitions miss how embedded in the culture this is.
There also was an extraordinary collapsing of inequality during the 1940s, in part due to the collapse in wealth from the rich, but there also was an unprecedented mixing of rich/poor and upper/lower class both in the army and civic life and this understanding that the Brits were all in this together.
While you can argue this is superb story telling and propaganda. The stories we tell ourselves to define our behaviour is a big element in what makes up a countries culture.
Putting that narrative together and combining it with a call that these measures would save the NHS led to the behavioural patterns we saw.
The major sin that the UK PM may now have committed across the landscape of British culture is that he was not part of the Dunkirk spirit and explicitly ran counter to this.
This is outrageous even to many who would be supportive of the PM and goes across left/right divides.
Now, of course, there are exceptions and the idea of spirit in the face of adversity can be seen as universal human story, but if you want to understand why this particular incident has played so badly to the UK public, I would argue it’s the affront to that perceived part of British culture.
Brief observation. Hal Barron, considered an biopharmaceutical R&D leader, is moving into longevity research (via a Jeff Bezos start-up). I posted on his R&D culture thoughts in 2018. (I would judge the jury is very much still out on how much he acheived (or not) for GSK’s R&D; he was very celebrated for his work at Genentech previously)
To me, this notes how longevity research has gone from fairly niche to a mainstream area of (albeit still early in most parts) R&D.
(IMO) We are probably going to see the first success (or not) in, some area such as: dogs (See loyal dogs.)
Although there is some evidence that those on calorie restricted or certain types of diet/life style are already doing well in terms of life span (eg Okinawa, Sardinia). This from Laura Deming:
I find the studies of these old Okinawans intriguing (perhaps they are calorie restricted; The Okinawans have traditionally kept eating a low-calorie, low glycemic load diet, practicing calorie control in a cultural habit known as hara hachi bu - only eating until they are 80% full). Although it seems the >100 years old population in Japan has peaked.
There is another pocket of super old in Sardinia, Italy. The Sardinian pocket is known for male 100+. (And a researcher postulates that laughter and walking help the Sardinian men ""Sardinian men are famous for gathering in the streets for a laugh every afternoon, something proven to relieve stress - the term "sardonic" originates in Sardinia.") A photo story on Sardinia.
Save the date: 11 March, I’m re-doing the next iteration of Thinking Bigly: How We Die
Do come along. I’m unsure how many more times I will perform the work but I’m very glad I’ve done it.
I think the complexities (and that no one has come back to me) for live-streaming at CPT will mean, I won't be able to.
Links this week:
London’s King’s Head Theatre looking for trustees:
Insights on Ukraine
Machine learning / Graphics break through.
Using lottery as a funding method (once a minimum bar has been passed maybe). I think it’s worth a go.
Sam Dumitriu @Sam_DumitriuWhat a startup's rejected grant proposal tells us about the way the UK government funds innovation. (Thread) https://t.co/0RstnAWmOj
We are often rose tinted when looking back:
Medium/long-term eg 20 years…. we will likely need a road charging system. Make better economic sense.
State of climate:
Evidence from the work from home camp: