An abstract stakeholder’s dialog. Vladimir, or V, is the expert. Estragon is E.
[V] You have cancer.
[E] Is it curable?
[V] Yes, I guess.
[V] There’s A or B.
[E] What would you suggest.
[V] If you do A [inaudible], if you do B [inaudible].
[E] Sure, but what would you do.
[V] I honestly can’t tell, I’m just a broker.
[E] Well, if you can’t tell and you’re the expert, who can.
[V] You can ask Gwyneth.
[E] I’d rather not.
[V] Well, there’s this study, with some non-suboptimal paths.
[E] I can’t read charts – what do they tell you.
[V] Depends what you want to optimize.
[E] Not dying would help.
[V] Look, I’m in the truth-telling business.
[E] I thought you were a doc.
[E] Well, isn’t there an oath or something.
[V] Sure, but I really can’t tell – it would compromise my scientific reputation.
[E] Thanks for setting your priorities straight, doc.
[V] No problem.
[E] Alright, doc – do you care if I survive.
[E] Good. How.
[V] Do A or B.
[E] You mean I should do A or B, not C.
[V] Or nothing.
[E] You suggest I do something.
[E] At least there’s that.
[V] You can’t say I fell into advocacy.
[E] How about doing A or B.
[V] When I say “do A or B,” I’m not advocating for anything.
[E] You’re still helping me not die.
[V] That’s my job – to dispense the best evidence.
[E] Wait. How is helping me not die an observation.
[V] I see. What I mean is that my job is evidence-based.
[E] Advocacy too is.
[V] You’re right – I should be more objective.
[E] What do you mean.
[V] I forgot about D, which is only palliative.
[E] Not sure I understand.
[V] A or B will cause suffering, D will alleviate suffering.
[E] Oh, I don’t want to suffer.
[V] You may die faster.
[E] I don’t want to die either.
[V] It’s suffering or death I’m afraid.
[E] There’s still suffering and death.
[V] I would advocate against that.
This stakeholder dialog is meant to convey the idea that experts constrain decisions. These constraints should orient policy making. A broker who’d only describe what’s on the table at very least advocates against what’s beyond it.
Truly brokering preferences does not stop at listing policies – we want to order them in ways to optimize resource allocation along policy paths. Solutions are seldom unique, in which cases many experts and many teams may provide more robust ideas. To compare policy analysis to building a travel site of policies is like comparing pure scientific research to stamp collection.
My point can be reduced to the following Moorean sentence, the paradigmatic example being “it is raining but I don’t believe it is raining”:
[MB] Solutions A or B are most efficient but I’m not advocating for solution A or B.
This looks odd to me. I prefer to think that brokers can be honest and still own their analysis. One does not simply present one’s results and not advocate for them. Scientific advocacy is never arbitrary to the point of being comparable to the advocacy coming from the Contrarian Matrix. In any event, forbiding experts from advocating in their own areas of expertise would be silly.
I recently tried to talk about Moorean sentences. It did not go unpunished. So instead of compacting my point in a single sentence, I made it more explicit by using what I would call an abstract stakeholder dialog. (Patent pending.) The V&E scenario above omits important parameters. Doing something about AGW is a collective decision – V could have cancer too. Both should decide on the cure, e.g. for insurance purposes. The impact of the decision should be made under partial ignorance as we do not know exactly who will die.
We covered all this innumerous times. While disagreement about details remains possible, I suspect that our ClimateBall episodes furiously recurse because they hit something like dialogical fixed points. Making these points explicit might be more efficient than artificial examples like Moorean sentences. We may need a mix of illustrations and explanations.
We could go on an on with abstract stakeholder dialogs between Vladimir and Estragon and retrace all of ClimateBall. Other characters could be added. Waiting for Godot also casts Pozzo, Lucky, Boy, Godot. One day bots might recreate abstract dialogues for us:
The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of ClimateBall.