The Largest Randomized Controlled Trial in History

The list of authors alone is inspiring.

Chinese researchers released what appears to be the largest experiment in history, with over a thousand researchers involved. The authors list alone is dumbfounding. The study is on the diffusion of modern scientific agricultural techniques in China. There is so much to ponder here that I can barely get started, but a few things:

(1) This shows an inspiring, awesomely grand application of the most rigorous social science tool and should expand the horizons of what's possible.

(2) This shows the growing power of China in combination with social science. I don't quite understand how this worked, but it seems like the type of thing that has got to be far more difficult in a democracy. That makes it somewhat disturbing, but it also raises the question of what interesting findings will come out of China.

(3) This study might worry those concerned about animal agriculture. It's not directly connected, but such efficiency when applied to raising animals could become even worse torture for the ones being raised.

(4) Beyond agricultural techniques, the study should offer lessons in how evidence and science can spread in a population, and how efficiently. There's very little experimental evidence on this. I would know, since that's my job. This study doesn't show that any one technique works, but at least it shows that a combination does.


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