Robin Dale Hanson (born August 28, 1959[1]) is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University[2] and a former research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University.[3] He is known for his work on idea futures and markets, and he was involved in the creation of the Foresight Institute's Foresight Exchange and DARPA's FutureMAP project. He invented market scoring rules like LMSR (Logarithmic Market Scoring Rule)[4] used by prediction markets such as Consensus Point (where Hanson is Chief Scientist[5]), and has conducted research on signalling. He also proposed the Great Filter hypothesis.

Robin Hanson
Hanson in 2011
Robin Dale Hanson

(1959-08-28) August 28, 1959 (age 64)
Alma mater
Organization(s)George Mason University
Future of Humanity Institute
Known forFutureMAP, LMSR, Foresight Institute
Notable workThe Elephant in the Brain
The Age of Em

Background edit

Hanson received a BS in physics from the University of California, Irvine in 1981, an MS in physics and an MA in Conceptual Foundations of Science from the University of Chicago in 1984, and a PhD in social science from Caltech in 1997 for his thesis titled Four puzzles in information and politics: Product bans, informed voters, social insurance, and persistent disagreement.[6] Before getting his PhD he researched artificial intelligence, Bayesian statistics and hypertext publishing at Lockheed, NASA, and elsewhere. In addition, he started the first internal corporate prediction market at Xanadu in 1990.[7]

He is married to Peggy Jackson, a hospice social worker,[8] and has two children.[9] He is the son of a Southern Baptist preacher.[10] Hanson has elected to have his brain cryonically preserved in the event of medical death.[8] He was involved early on in the creation of the Rationalist community through online weblogs.[11]

Views edit

Robin Hanson discussing alternative economic-legal systems at the 2019 Institute of Cryptoanarchy Conference

Tyler Cowen's book Discover Your Inner Economist includes a fairly detailed discussion of Hanson's views:

Robin has strange ideas ... My other friend and colleague Bryan Caplan put it best: "When the typical economist tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is 'Eh, maybe.' Then I forget about it. When Robin Hanson tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is 'No way! Impossible!' Then I think about it for years."[12]

Nate Silver, in his book The Signal and the Noise (2012), writes:

He is clearly not a man afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom. Instead, Hanson writes a blog called Overcoming Bias, in which he presses readers to consider which cultural taboos, ideological beliefs, or misaligned incentives might constrain them from making optimal decisions. Hanson ... is an advocate of prediction markets – systems where you can place bets on a particular economic or policy outcome, like whether Israel will go to war with Iran, or how much global temperatures will rise because of climate change. His argument for these is pretty simple: They ensure that we have a financial stake in being accurate when we make forecasts, rather than just trying to look good to our peers.[13]

Hanson is credited with originating the concept of the Policy Analysis Market (PAM),[9] a DARPA project to implement a market for betting on future developments in the Middle East. Hanson has expressed great disappointment in DARPA's cancellation of its related FutureMAP project, and he attributes this to the controversy surrounding the related Total Information Awareness program. He also created and supports a proposed system of government called futarchy, in which policies would be determined by prediction markets.

In a controversial 2018 blog post on the incel movement, Hanson appeared to agree with the incel movement's likening of the distribution of job opportunities to "access to sex". He wrote that he found it puzzling that similar concern had not been shown for incels as for low-income individuals. Some journalists, such as Alexandra Scaggs in the Financial Times, criticized Hanson for discussing sex as if it was a commodity.[14]

Hanson has been criticized for his writings relating to sexual relationships and women. "If you’ve ever heard of George Mason University economist Robin Hanson, there’s a good chance it was because he wrote something creepy", Slate columnist Jordan Weissman wrote in 2018.[15] In an article on bias against women in economics, Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith cited a blog post by Hanson comparing cuckoldry to "gentle silent rape",[16] lamenting that there was no retraction and no outcry from fellow economists.[17] In The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino described Hanson's blog post as a "flippantly dehumanizing thought experiment".[18]

Robin Hanson discussing prediction markets at the 2023 Manifold conference.

A 2003 article in Fortune examined Hanson's work, noting, among other things, that he is a proponent of cryonics and that his ideas have found some acceptance among extropians on the Internet.[19] He has since written extensively on the topic. Hanson also coined the term Great Filter, referring to whatever prevents "dead matter" from becoming an expanding and observable intelligent civilization. He was motivated to seek his doctorate so that his theories would reach a wider audience.[10]

Books edit

Hanson has written two books.

The Age of Em (2016)[20][21] concerns his views on brain emulation and its eventual impact on society.[22]

The Elephant in the Brain (2018), coauthored with Kevin Simler, looks at mental blind spots of society and individuals.[23][24]

References edit

  1. ^ Hanson, Robin (August 28, 2009). "Today I'm 50." Overcoming Bias.
  2. ^ George Mason University, Department of Economics. "Full Time Faculty."
  3. ^ Robin Hanson: My best idea was prediction markets. Archived July 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Logarithmic Market Scoring Rule
  5. ^ Consensus Point. "About Us."
  6. ^ "Four puzzles in information and politics: Product bans, informed voters, social insurance, and persistent disagreement". Retrieved April 13, 2014 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ Hanson, Robin. "Robin Hanson's Bio". Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Howley, Kerry (July 7, 2010). "Until Cryonics Do Us Part". The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Andrew Orlowski, Meet the ‘transhumanists’ behind the Pentagon terror casino, The Register, August 5, 2003 (accessed September 17, 2012)
  10. ^ a b Kahn, Jeremy (September 15, 2003). "The Man Who Would Have Us Bet On Terrorism – Not to Mention Discard Democracy and Cryogenically Freeze Our Heads – May Have a Point (About The Betting, We Mean)". Fortune. p. 179.
  11. ^ Metz, Cade (February 13, 2021). "Silicon Valley's Safe Space". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2021. Robin Hanson, a professor of economics at George Mason University who helped create the blogs that spawned the Rationalist movement.
  12. ^ Cowen, Tyler (2007). Discover Your Inner Economist: Use incentives to fall in love, survive your next meeting, and motivate your dentist. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0-525-95025-7.
  13. ^ Silver, Nate (2012). The Signal and the Noise. New York, NY: The Penguin Press. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-1594204111.
  14. ^ "Sex redistribution' and the means of reproduction". Financial Times. May 8, 2018. Archived from the original on December 10, 2022.
  15. ^ Weissman, Jordan. "Is Robin Hanson America's Creepiest Economist?". Slate.
  16. ^ Hanson, Robin. "Gentle Silent Rape".
  17. ^ Smith, Noah. "Economics Is a Dismal Science for Women". Bloomberg Opinion.
  18. ^ "The Rage of the Incels".
  19. ^ "Overcoming Bias : Search Results : cryonics". Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  20. ^ Hanson, Robin (1 June 2016). The Age of Em: Work, love and life when robots rule the Earth. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198754626.
  21. ^ "The Age of Em, a book". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  22. ^ "Robin Hanson on "The Age of Em"". Future Thinkers. 5 July 2016.
  23. ^ Hanson, Robin (February 2017). "The Elephant in the Brain". Overcoming Bias.
  24. ^ "Biography". Robin D. Hanson. George Mason University.

External links edit