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Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society

Book Description

How do we know which social and economic policies work, which should be continued, and which should be changed? Jim Manzi argues that throughout history, various methods have been attempted—except for controlled experimentation. Experiments provide the feedback loop that allows us, in certain limited ways, to identify error in our beliefs as a first step to correcting them. Over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, scientists invented a methodology for executing controlled experiments to evaluate certain kinds of proposed social interventions. This technique goes by many names in different contexts (randomized control trials, randomized field experiments, clinical trials, etc.). Over the past ten to twenty years this has been increasingly deployed in a wide variety of contexts, but it remains the red-haired step child of modern social science. This is starting to change, and this change should be encouraged and accelerated, even though the staggering complexity of human society creates severe limits to what social science could be realistically expected to achieve. Randomized trials have shown, for example, that work requirements for welfare recipients have succeeded like nothing else in encouraging employment, that charter school vouchers have been successful in increasing educational attainment for underprivileged children, and that community policing has worked to reduce crime, but also that programs like Head Start and Job Corps, which might be politically attractive, fail to attain their intended objectives. Business leaders can also use experiments to test decisions in a controlled, low-risk environment before investing precious resources in large-scale changes – the philosophy behind Manzi’s own successful software company. In a powerful and masterfully-argued book, Manzi shows us how the methods of science can be applied to social and economic policy in order to ensure progress and prosperity.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Dedication
  3. Introduction
  4. PART I - Science
    1. CHAPTER 1 - Induction and the Problem of Induction
      1. The Origins of the Scientific Method
      2. The Problem of Induction
    2. CHAPTER 2 - Falsification and Paradigms
      1. Experiments and Falsification
      2. Falsification and Paradigms
      3. An Integrated View of Inductive Science
    3. CHAPTER 3 - Implicit and Explicit Knowledge
      1. Evolution and Implicit Knowledge
      2. The Evolution of Evolution
      3. Science as Social Tool
    4. CHAPTER 4 - Science as a Social Enterprise
      1. The Morality and Morale of Scientists
      2. Scientific Progress as an Emergent Phenomenon
      3. Analogies with Other Emergent Social Phenomena
    5. CHAPTER 5 - Science Without Experiments
      1. Historical Science
      2. Astronomical Science
    6. CHAPTER 6 - Some Observations Concerning Probability
      1. Risk Versus Uncertainty
      2. The Reference Class Problem
    7. CHAPTER 7 - The Invention and Application of the Randomized Trial
      1. The Evolution of Randomized Field Trials
      2. Controversy and Resistance
    8. CHAPTER 8 - Limitations of Randomized Trials
      1. The Problem of Generalization
      2. Does Smoking Cause Lung Cancer?
  5. PART II - Social Science
    1. CHAPTER 9 - Nonexperimental Social Science
      1. A Physicist, a Historian, and an Economist
      2. The Development of Nonexperimental Quantitative Social Science
      3. Have Republican Presidents Caused Income Inequality?
      4. Did Legalized Abortion Cause a Reduction in Crime?
    2. CHAPTER 10 - Business Strategy as Applied Social Science
      1. Strategic Competition Versus Natural Competition
      2. Macro-Strategy Versus Micro-Strategy
      3. Will QwikMart Sell More If We Rename It FastMart?
    3. CHAPTER 11 - The Experimental Revolution in Business
      1. The Rise of the Experimentalists
      2. The Need for Iterative Experimentation
      3. Integrating Experimental and Nonexperimental Methods
      4. Experiments and Strategy
      5. A Culture of Useful Experimentation
    4. CHAPTER 12 - Experimental Social Science
      1. The Development of Experimental Social Science
      2. Crime
      3. Welfare
      4. Education
      5. Economics
      6. Political Science
      7. Summary of Experimental Results
  6. PART III - Political Action
    1. CHAPTER 13 - Liberty as Means
      1. The Paradox of Liberty
      2. Three Limits to Liberty
      3. The Nature and Importance of Social Cohesion
    2. CHAPTER 14 - Innovation and Cohesion
      1. The Invention of Software as a Service
      2. Evolutionary Economics
      3. The Fundamental Tension: Innovation Versus Cohesion
    3. CHAPTER 15 - Sustainable Innovation
      1. Decentralize and Experiment
      2. Build Human Capital
      3. Unbundle the Welfare State
      4. A Final Note
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. NOTES
  9. INDEX
  10. Copyright Page