Overcoming Bias

This is a blog on why we believe and do what we do, why we pretend otherwise, how we might do better, and what our descendants might do, if they don't all die.

Latest articles

We Colonize The Sun First

Space is romantic; most people are overly obsessed with space in their view of the future. Even so, these remain valid questions: When will off-Earth economy be larger than the on-Earth? Where in the solar system will that off-Earth economy be then? Here is a poll I just did on this last question: At time when off-Earth economy becomes larger...

Utopia’s Garden, World, and Wall

Imagine that you lived in the “human quarter” of a vast city full of diverse aliens, all on a planet far from Earth. These aliens are quite strange and hard to understand in many ways, and so cannot simply be trusted, though your city does manage to usually maintain basic overall peace and law. As your human quarter is too small to be self-sufficient,...

Board Games As Policy Arguments

When we want to convince others to support our policy positions, we often tell stories. We tell people about things that happened to us, to people we know, and to people we’ve heard of. Journalists tell stories about what happened to famous people recently, or to whole sets of people in “studies”. Popular books also include such policy-lesson stories....

Seeking Robust Credible Expertise Buyers

On Jan 19, 2000, I posted an email to the Extropians mailing list, giving the first public mention of the futarchy idea. (I also have a detailed PPT on the idea dated June 22, 2000, and the first pdf paper I posted is dated “July 2000.”) So the general idea is just over two decades old now. Coincidentally, some new prediction platforms have been announced...

Problem-Owners Tolerate Risk

In theory, both risk aversion and value of life year relative to income are mainly set by utility function concavity. However, as both also show puzzlingly large empirical variation, there is apparently a lot more going on than a simple context dependent utility function. But what? While pondering this question, I saw some nature videos of cute young...

The Value of Life

Many pandemic cost-benefit analyses estimate larger containment benefits than did I, mainly due to larger costs for each life lost. Surprised to see this, I’ve been reviewing the value of life literature. The key question: how much money (or resources) should you, or we, be willing to pay to gain more life? Here are five increasingly sophisticated views:...

The Commanding Heights of Culture

In war, each side strives to control the “commanding heights”. These are places, usually elevated, where it is easier to defend, harder to attack, and especially valuable for helping your other military units. Hilltops, walls, bridges, towns, harbors, etc. With control of commanding heights, you might win even if you don’t have as many troops, tanks,...

Toward A University Department of Generalists

The hard problem then is how to get specialists to credit you for advancing their field when they don’t see you as a high status one of them. (more) Many of my most beloved colleagues, and also I, are intellectual polymaths. That is, we have published in many different areas, and usefully integrated results from diverse areas. Academia tends to neglect...

On Our Own

When you are treated unjustly, so much that it bothers you a lot, on ave. what % of time would your complaining about it publicly be a net win for you, in terms of trouble, respect, & getting treated more justly? — Robin Hanson (@robinhanson) June 10, 2020 I didn’t expect this result, and it seems so terribly sad. Perhaps the saddest thing I...

No Recent Automation Revolution

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that for many years the media has been almost screaming that we entering a big automation revolution, with huge associated job losses, due to new AI tech, especially deep learning. The media has cited many “experts” making such claims, most every management consulting firm has felt compelled to issue...

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