Hi Jia, I don't know much about policy diffusion, unfortunately. From the brief reading I have done, both seem to occur. Learning from other governments appears to be important; according to some researchers, exchange via membership in international organisations is a central causal factor. "Intentional" governments could make active engagement in these a higher priority.
It's not obvious to me that status effects will be that important. Influential positions in any government are pretty well-regarded, and it could be easier to climb the policy ladder in innovative governments (e.g. if they are smaller).
Thanks for this Tyler!
The references are great, I wasn't aware of them. Re the first, how exactly do you think low institutional path-dependence and institutional innovativeness interact? They seem like related but distinct concepts to me.
I agree that it would be great to see more research on those questions, though I wonder if a thorough review of the policy diffusion literature might be sufficient. I definitely would like a clearer characterization of governmental innovativeness; I felt kind of hand-wavey in this post.
When to use quantitative vs qualitative research
MacAskill mentions some considerations here, but the dividing line still feels fuzzy. Sample size is one consideration, but I suspect there are many others, such as the goal of the research (e.g. arguing for the possibility vs the plausibility of some phenomena).
This is relevant to many EA questions, especially those relating to longtermism or disruptive technologies. For instance, this post uses qualitative methods (in depth case studies) to argue that "an AI which is generally more intelligent than us could take over the world, even if it isn't superintelligent." I'm unsure whether three case studies actually constitutes much evidence; in a comment, the author suggests that a higher-n study ("quantitative") would be helpful.
Without a framework for thinking about this, I'm often unsure what I should be learning from qualitative studies, and I don't know when it makes sense to conduct them. (This seems related to the debate between cleometricians and counterfactual narrative historians; some discussion here, page 18)
I doubt that there is any one answer re the marginal value of such projects, because the value depends on what is being governed. For instance, I think a successful implementation of regulatory markets for AI safety would be very valuable, but regulatory markets for corporate law wouldn't be; yet the same basic framework is being implemented. For this reason, I'd be more interested in analysis of governance innovation for a particular cause area.