A recurring experience I have had, in for-profit and otherwise scenarios, over a... | by Patrick McKenzie

Patrick McKenzie


about 1 month ago

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A recurring experience I have had, in for-profit and otherwise scenarios, over and over again: There should not be any places where you can trivially buy huge improvements in the world for stupidly small amounts of money. There are. These inefficiencies persist.

Sometimes it’s because the right constellation of the right people to agree on a stupidly small amount of money is impossible to corral and then the inefficiency gets resolved when someone with unitary control just decides to do the thing because doing it is obvious.

I have a number of things motivating this with seven and eight figures in mind and impact on a state-wide or societal level, but this pattern reached as far down as “We waste how many hours of engineers’ time for want of equipment upgrades that cost tens or hundreds of dollars?”

And every company that requires five people to agree every time an engineer purchases a mouse implicitly thinks that, systemically, mouse-money is both important enough to carefully track but cannot ever meaningfully increase productivity.

“Can you give me a seven figure example?” I ran the US’s shadow vaccine location information infrastructure for about 7 months last year at total cost of $1.2M. Consider what it says about societal decisionmaking that we a) didn’t plan to buy this and b) needed me to fundraise.

(The two examples I am thinking of that I can’t talk about are perhaps even more dramatic than that.)

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