The government’s current way of getting expert advice misses out on crucial insights

When preparing for existential crises any government faces a dilemma of how much resources to dedicate to a problem of relatively low probability but high severity. These preparations must be weighed against its day-to-day responsibilities. This trade-off, already difficult to calculate, is made more difficult by the fact that it takes place within a liberal democracy where the public, understandably, does not want to see public money wasted on preparing for crises that seem like remote possibilities. How can the government decide which risks justify large investments to prepare against?

It must rely on advice from experts. This is because the way it will respond depends upon technological development, the cost of commodities in global supply chains, and geopolitical factors. Many of the experts in the relevant fields are in tenured positions in academia or work for Silicon Valley technology firms. Similarly, when it does hire the talent it is criticised for wasting money on consultants.

Even if budgets were orders of magnitude higher than they are now the government would struggle to compete with the wages these experts get in their day jobs.

Furthermore, the government needs real-time feedback on its preparations for big problems, such as pandemic preparedness. Internal reports written at the pace of the slowest department involved simply isn’t good enough when a crisis could strike at any time.

The government needs a mechanism that can give it real-time feedback from a wide range of experts on its readiness for existential risk from experts in a variety of fields. It also needs something that can be rapidly scaled up during a crisis to evaluate its response.




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