David Brooks has an op-ed that describes an elite group of overachievers as “The Empirical Kids.” The origin of this label came from a paper written by one of the kids themselves that uses the descriptor “The Cynical Kids” instead. The writer notes that members of her group are deeply cynical of idealism and want to see empirical results before committing to a course of action. The problem with that is that getting the data to answer these questions can be time consuming and reduces them to a “stick with the evil you know” mentality.
Brooks actually applauds this view as he’s an empiricist, so he changed the moniker. I wonder about the truth of this however. Beyond a few websites, has this view actually taken hold in elite circles and is that a good thing? I can’t claim to be in the in-crowd of any elite group, but I don’t get the feeling that elites have run out of idealism. They certainly have a view to constant self improvement, but if they didn’t view that as leading to a larger goal, why would they try? And how many of these elites actually pay attention to statistics? I’d like to see some data on that. Haha.
The interesting thing is that Brooks believes that the elites are data savvy. Elites will know better how to interpret statistics and will be better able to craft policy from it when the data becomes available. The only other place that I can think of where the elites pay so much attention to statistics is Singapore, which is one of the best governed nations on earth. One can hope.