Compare opinions of world leading experts and influencers.

Robin Hanson

Economics Professor

Robin Hanson is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He was a pioneer in prediction markets, and currently blogs on Overcoming Bias. He has an M.S. in Physics and an M.A. in the Conceptual Foundations of Science from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in social science from Caltech.

Robin Hanson's Opinions

Reviewers [of Penrose] knowledgeable about Godel's work ... have simply pointed out that an axiom system can infer that if its axioms are self-consistent, then its Godel sentence is true. An axiom system just can't determine its own self-consistency. But then neither can human mathematicians know whether the axioms they explicitly favor (much less the axioms they are formally equivalent to) are self-consistent. Cantor and Frege's proposed axioms of set theory turned out to be inconsistent...
01 Jan 1991    Source

Bryan Caplan and I recently discussed if brain emulations “feel.” In such discussions, many prefer to wait-and-see, saying folks with strong views are prematurely confident. Surely future researchers will have far more evidence, right? Actually, no; we already know pretty much everything relevant we are ever going to know about what really “feels”. ...
04 Dec 2009    Source

Mostly Disagree
No alien civilizations have substantially colonized our solar system or systems nearby. Thus among the billion trillion stars in our past universe, none has reached the level of technology and growth that we may soon reach. This one data point implies that a Great Filter stands between ordinary dead matter and advanced exploding lasting life. And the big question is: How far along this filter are we?
15 Sep 1998    Source

Mostly Disagree
Since the universe is thirteen billion years old while human civilization is only a few thousand years old, alien civilizations out there would most likely be millions and perhaps billions of years more advanced than us. Given such a lead, it is quite plausible they could make devices able to display all of the phenomena reported for UFOs. There is nothing in physics that suggests UFOs are not aliens. No, the main argument against UFOs as aliens is that this is an implausible social scenario.
20 Aug 2008    Source

Humanity seems to have a bright future, i.e., a non-trivial chance of expanding to fill the universe with lasting life. But the fact that space near us seems dead now tells us that any given piece of dead matter faces an astronomically low chance of begating such a future. There thus exists a great filter between death and expanding lasting life, and humanity faces the ominous question: how far along this filter are we?
15 Sep 1998    Source

Obviously we cannot now be sure that we are not living in a simulation. The more likely our descendants are to be rich, long-lasting, and interested in simulating us, the more simulations of people like us we should expect there to be on average, relative to real people like us. And so the more we expect our descendants to be rich like this, the more we should expect that we are in fact living in a simulation.
01 Sep 2001    Source

...is it good to create people that will eventually die? We usually say yes, if their lives are "worth living" overall. That is, if they get value out of being alive, and are not in a situation like severe torture, where they would rather be dead than alive. ...most farm animal's lives are worth living... they do not want to commit suicide. ... [Therefore] buying [meat] rather than asparagus, is good; you create farm animals whose lives are worth living.
10 Jul 2002    Source

...pause for a moment and ask: how sure can you be that your inborn ideals are really better than the ideals society wishes to imprint on you? Your inborn ideals were adaptive to a world that is long gone, and only then in conjunction with lots of hypocrisy; the ideals adults want to imprint on you instead seem better adapted to your current world. There is no solid rock on which you can stand; we all float in a sea of choice; choose your ideals, and your level of hypocrisy, and pay the price.
12 Jun 2010    Source

Mostly Agree
Me, I celebrate these new worthier elites. We aren’t obviously justified in taking their wealth, however convenient that might be, and they might manage to avoid such takings via international competition to attract them. The US seems a bit too arrogantly unaware that we compete on this and many other margins.
17 Feb 2011    Source

...much of the hoopla over creativity is a crock. Why? Because we are already up to our eyeballs in it. Make no mistake: Innovation matters. Nothing is more essential for long-term economic growth. But to get more innovation we may want less, not more, creativity. ... In truth, we don't need more suggestion boxes or more street mimes to fill people with a spirit of creativity. We instead need to better manage the flood of ideas we already have and to reward managers for actually executing them.
03 Jul 2006    Source

No, having as many people as possible voting is not a legitimate public interest. To maximize the chance that we elect the better candidate, we do not want people to vote if they are so ill-informed that by voting they will decrease this chance. And even if someone’s vote would increase this chance, if the increase is infinitesimal the fact that voting is costly can make us prefer he or she just stay home.
09 Oct 2008    Source

Mostly Agree
People care what others think about them. In fact they usually care _a lot_, more than they care to admit. Since caring less is considered admirable ... people often say and signal ... that they care less than others[.] It seems ... that while people do vary ... this variation is ... more about _which_ others they care about. "Conformists" tend to care about ... a usual mix of people weighted by a standard status. "Non-conformists", in contrast ... car[e] about non-standard status audiences.
29 Jun 2010    Source


Mostly Disagree
Regarding our best estimate of the employment effect of a small min wage rise, while many have recently said this is near zero, more say it is substantially negative, and I have asked around and found *no* economist who says that it is substantially positive. Thus, I conclude, any reasonable average of these estimates must be negative, and has been so for a while.
05 Dec 2006    Source

This seems to me a common situation – things said to be critiques of capitalism are often just critiques of humanity. Humans vie selfishly and self-deludedly for status. Some succeed, while others fail. The struggle, and the failures, aren’t pretty. Yes capitalism inherits this ugliness, but then so does any other system with humans.
06 May 2012    Source

If the world stays relatively boring, this will be the biggest US politics issue over the next twenty years. The key questions are: 1) Who will pay: raise taxes, limit treatments covered, tax docs, or cut off the richer & younger? 2) Who will be blamed: docs, the old, the young, the rich, the poor, Republicans, Democrats, corporations, immigrants, foreigners?
11 May 2007    Source

So we don’t have clear evidence that smoking kills; it could be that most or all of the death-smoking correlations are due to selection effects, and not smoking causing death. ... Apparently we need bigger trials if we are going to see clearly if smoking kills. Alas the era of the large risk trial seems to be over, at least for now; it seems it will be a long time before we really know.
14 Dec 2009    Source

My health econ students love to hear that our best data suggests moderate drinking is good for health. New better data continues that trend... The US FDA prohibits the alcohol industry from advertising these studies, showing the health benefits of alcohol, because the public might get the wrong impression. You do _not_ have free speech–hearing in the US regarding health.
02 Sep 2010    Source

Mostly Disagree
Democracy today suffers from enormous errors regarding estimates of policy consequences, i.e., of passing particular bills. Voters have serious illusions and misconceptions that sway their minds on election day, when they have little expertize and only mild motivations to attend to their task. Candidates have strong expertize and incentives to attend to their task, but that task is largely to pander to voter illusions.
01 Feb 2008    Source

Modern political science... fail[s] most in understanding how ordinary folks relate to political processes. [O]ur best hope there [is] strategies that evolved... among our ancestors. Our ancestors argued beliefs and negotiated actions in groups [up] to a hundred. [F]or... larg[e] groups, the main payoffs... was not via influencing... resulting group beliefs and actions, but from how their words and deeds influenced how others thought of them. This is all the more true for modern group sizes.
28 May 2009    Source

The world has emulated Western policies mainly because those nations were high status, not because their style of law or government was obviously more efficient. Chinese styles are likely similarly efficient, and if China becomes higher status, the world will emulate it instead.
20 Dec 2009    Source

Mostly Agree
...the economy that awaits our grandchildren [I expect] to follow a societal discontinuity more dramatic than those brought on by the agricultural and industrial revolutions. ... [The arrival of machine intelligence on a human level] could produce a singularity--an overwhelming departure from prior trends, with uneven and dizzyingly rapid change thereafter. A future shock to end future shocks.
01 Jun 2008    Source

A meta-analysis of SSRI anti-depressant medication, published in Feb '08, found almost no effect. ... And [it] doesn't take any account of leaky placebo effects, whereby drug side-effects convince people they have the real drug. Given their severe side-effects, I'm not sure I'd advise anti-depressants _even when_ other treatments have been ineffective.
12 Jun 2008    Source

Mostly Agree
Evolution judged that [having] misleading beliefs would tend to help us fool our colleagues, and so better survive and reproduce. It created subconscious mental processes to manage this process of deciding when our beliefs should be accurate or misleading. ... Many folks figure that if evolution planned for them to believe a lie, they might as well believe a lie; that probably helps them achieve their goals. But I want, first and foremost, to believe the truth.
15 Jun 2009    Source

Mostly Agree
We are naturally happy when times are good and sad when times are bad. Since we prefer to associate with folks having good times, we prefer associates who act happy. So we tend to be biased to act happier than our hidden info about our circumstances justifies. Of course when things go really bad we may switched to acting depressed, to realistically assess our prospects, and to perhaps induce more assistance.
21 Nov 2009    Source

Mostly Agree
Much of the value in investing, or entrepreneurship, comes from an option value that is impossible to quantify... I suspect every novice investor is somewhat overconfident, and too many people invest recklessly... But there is a method to the madness, because... [overconfidence] offsets the general underappreciation of the option-value of investing on one’s career, where you can provide a variety of auxiliary services in finance, and risk-taking is part of the application process.
03 Jul 2008    Source

Don’t worry [entrepreneurs], you are the exception; none of these rules [that successful entrepreneurs follow] apply to your business.
27 Jan 2010    Source

For me, [stories of evolutionary psychology, status seeking, and various versions of sociology] have been the biggest revelations of my life... I never thought very consciously to achieve status and make babies and try to get other people to submit to my dominance and things like that. That never entered my conscious thoughts but when I look back on my behavior I have to say these theories account reasonably well for my behavior and other people's behavior and that's really quite shocking.
06 Jul 2008    Source

It seems that our distant forager ancestors ... weren’t remotely monogamous. ... Polygamy is always allowed and usually socially preferred. Co-wives either live together or one lives with a husband while the rest live in entirely different bands. On average, about 35% of men have more than one wife, and 50% of women are in a polygamous marriage (vs. 3% and 7% in modern societies).
08 Jun 2010    Source

For a few $B/yr or less we take a tiny fraction of the SO2 humans already emit and put it way up in the stratosphere, e.g., via Naval guns, where it blocks sunlight. ... There are risks from changing economies as well as from changing stratospheres, and we understand the latter far better than the former. If we cared more about global warming than symbolic gestures for planetary purity, we’d likely accept the risks and start artificial volcanoes as soon as we thought warming was hurting us.
08 Jul 2008    Source

CO2 is clearly way up (~30%) over 150 years, and rising fast, mainly due to human emissions. CO2 is denser than its been for a half million years. ... The match between recent warming and CO2 rise details is surprisingly close, substantially raising confidence that CO2 is the main cause of recent warming. ... This adds support for mitigation. ... It was mostly skeptics bending my ear, and skeptical arguments are easier to find on the web. But for now, the other side has convinced me.
30 May 2009    Source

More likely than not, most folks who die today didn't have to die! ... Since most folks who die today have an intact brain until the rest of their body fails them, more likely than not most death victims today could live on as (one or more) future [brain emulations on a computer]. And if future folks learn to repair freezing damage plus whatever was killing victims, victims might live on as ordinary humans.
12 Dec 2008    Source

Mostly Agree
A thousand year lifespan would be fantastic, relative to our lifespan. I want it! But it is _nothing_ like immortality... Yes, keep trying to live if you love life, and rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do better; live longer. But why confuse everyone by talking as if you expect to achieve the literally _infinite_ success of “immortality”? It is fine to say “let’s extend lives as much as we can.” But must you really talk as if nothing less than _infinite_ success will do?
01 Aug 2010    Source

A carbon tax would make price blame clearer, so [Democrats] are going with tradable permits, which also lets them play more favorites with who gets permits. Permits also make it harder to notice if they actually cut carbon, vs. preserving business as usual.
16 Jun 2009    Source

Mostly Agree
...variations on the Efficient Markets Hypothesis [depend] on what info counts as “available.” Weak versions only count very widely and easily available info, while strong versions even count info available with difficulty to only a few. The strongest possible forms are silly, and no one ever believed them. Weak versions, which require info to be available to many deep-pocket market speculators, are much more plausible, and I don’t see recent history as offering much evidence against them.
20 Jul 2009    Source

I tried to put prediction markets (and similar mechanisms) in the context of other approaches by saying that other approaches often work very well when either the info people contribute is verifiable, or the conclusions people draw are uncontroversial. ... The big problems for most collective intelligence tools come when the topics are controversial, and the contributions involve a lot of judgment. ... Prediction markets were designed exactly these sort of hard problems...
04 Sep 2009    Source

Mostly Disagree
Senators are roughly our top hundred politicians, after all, ... who have been most selected for putting winning above other considerations. A similar critique applies to our top columnists and bloggers. The topics on which they write show a strong correlation with topics that their readers (or patrons) are likely to find engaging... Meanwhile, a vast cloud of good ideas remain neglected because they are less engaging, or even offensive, to readers (and patrons).
21 Aug 2009    Source

Among all the policy arguments I accept, [skepticism about] war seems among the most solid. And among all the things policy can get wrong, war seems among the worst. So for me, war policy tends to trump other considerations. ... I voted against Bush in '04, and I'll vote against Obama in '12, because they both started wars without meeting the high standards I hold for justifiably starting a war.
26 Mar 2011    Source

Mostly Agree
On average, contrarian views are less accurate than standard views. Honest contrarians should admit this, that neutral outsiders should assign most contrarian views a lower probability than standard views, though perhaps a high enough probability to warrant further investigation. Honest contrarians who expect reasonable outsiders to give their contrarian view more than normal credence should point to strong outside indicators that correlate enough with contrarians tending more to be right.
15 Nov 2009    Source

Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it. If 2+% of women were raped and we had a reliable cheap way to identify the guilty party, don’t you think we’d require that?
22 Nov 2009    Source

Mostly Agree
...there is an important sense in which most attempts to derive “ought” are built on “is.” ... most every attempt to derive an “ought” is based ultimately on “is” claims about the reliability of our intuitions about such more basic “ought” claims. If we can’t find a coherent way to integrate these “is” claims with the rest of our network of reasonable “is” claims, then we can’t argue coherently for such “ought” claims at all.
12 Dec 2009    Source

[A cross-cultural study] confirms that moralizing Gods function to encourage cooperation in large societies, and adds moralizing gods, and fairness to strangers, to the many innovations that came with farming, such as war, slavery, marriage as property, class hierarchies and large wealth inequalities.
21 Mar 2010    Source

[W]hat’s so great about truth? [Folks] commonly presume I've made a strong claim, such as that it is always better to believe and say the truth, no matter what the cost or topic. I make no such claim. ...A great many people give lip service to the truth [as] their highest allegiance. Far fewer folks, perhaps none, are actually this way. But since folks vary, there will be a furthest tail of this distribution, and those most-truth-seeking folks might appreciate relevant things to read.
12 Apr 2010    Source

Mostly Agree
Dear angsty teen... ...the world... is indeed strange, fake, and wrong, relative to your inborn intuitions. ... A few of you will hold the most strongly to your inborn ideals, paying great costs to move or change. Some such efforts will even succeed, moving your world closer to your inborn ideals. But know that your world is stable enough so that if you actually “fight the power,” you will on average lose. Most of what looks like young “rebels” winning is actually part of the established order.
12 Jun 2010    Source


[P]eople mainly want to know the meaning of _their_ life; they consider life in general mostly for hints on that. ...It seems what people want is a satisfying story about their place in the universe. Since characters are the most important elements of a story, the main “place” that matters... is their social place–who they relate to and how. ...People think their life has less meaning when enough aspects of it are determined by “impersonal” forces that refuse to take social sides.
07 Sep 2010    Source

We want a system where stuff is produced by the lowest cost suppliers and goes to the buyers who value it the most. If some supplier offers to sell stuff to folks at a lower price, well then we want folks to switch to buying from that supplier. ... This logic applies just as well to distant nations as it does to a convenience store down the street. Don't be fooled into treating [foreigners] differently because you were built to fear foreigners.
27 Sep 2010    Source

Mostly Disagree
It seems to me that religion will handily win [the contest with atheism] for a long time to come. The social support that can be mustered by a few... hoping for more uniform standards... seems quite weak compared to strong interests... in the usual complex religious processes. [M]ost of society will just shrug their shoulders and ignore [the issue]. Surely this fact is known to most atheists... [s]o [this] is probably mostly about other things, such as status contests [among] intellectuals.
31 Aug 2011    Source

Comparisons with Other Experts and Influencers

The similarity between Robin Hanson and each expert and influencer is calculated by looking at how the same questions were answered. These figures are used to calculate conforming, nonconforming, and projected opinions. The accuracy of the analysis depends on Robin Hanson's coverage, which grows with the number of their opinions entered into TakeOnIt.

Eliezer Yudkowsky
Artificial Intelligence Researcher
83% agreement / 6 opinions

Milton Friedman
Iconic Economist of 20th Century
81% agreement / 4 opinions

David Chalmers
Philosophy Professor
91% agreement / 3 opinions

Nick Bostrom
Director, Future of Humanity Institute
87% agreement / 2 opinions

Benjamin Franklin
Founding Father of United States
100% agreement / 2 opinions

Ben Best
CEO of Cryonics Institute
87% agreement / 2 opinions

Mostly Agree
Barack Obama
United States President
60% agreement / 7 opinions

Ayn Rand
Philosopher, Novelist
67% agreement / 7 opinions

Pickup Artist
62% agreement / 6 opinions

Hillary Clinton
US Secretary of State 2009-, Democrat
66% agreement / 3 opinions

Robert Todd Carroll
Philosophy Professor
66% agreement / 3 opinions

John McCain
U.S. Senator, Republican
66% agreement / 3 opinions

Paul Krugman
Nobel Laureate in Economics
56% agreement / 4 opinions

Daniel Dennett
Philosophy Professor
56% agreement / 4 opinions

George W. Bush
United States President 2001-2009
50% agreement / 3 opinions

Bryan Caplan
Economics Professor
50% agreement / 3 opinions

Douglas Hofstadter
Professor of Cognitive Science
58% agreement / 3 opinions

Christian Encyclopedia
50% agreement / 3 opinions

Mostly Disagree
Steven Pinker
Psychology Professor
25% agreement / 3 opinions

H. P. Lovecraft
37% agreement / 2 opinions

The Catholic Church
Largest Christian Church
19% agreement / 5 opinions

Conforming Opinions

Robin Hanson's conforming opinions are opinions that align with the group of experts and influencers Robin Hanson typically agrees with.

Coverage Answer Question
High Agree Is free trade generally beneficial for a country?
High Agree Is global warming caused primarily by humans?
High Mostly Disagree Should atheists directly challenge religious beliefs?
Medium Mostly Agree Is efficient market theory the best approximation of the truth for the average investor?
Medium Mostly Agree Is self-deception a fault?
Medium Mostly Disagree Are politicians generally good people?
Medium Agree Is hypocrisy acceptable?
Medium Mostly Agree Is a technological singularity likely?
Medium Mostly Agree Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable?
Medium Agree Is it ethical to eat meat?
Medium Agree Does religion encourage good behavior?
Medium Agree Are antidepressants overprescribed?
Low Agree Is cryonics worthwhile?
Low Agree Is Geoengineering a good strategy to combat global warming?
Low Agree Would the typical entrepreneur be better off as an employee?
Low Agree Is it plausible that we're living in a simulation?
Low Mostly Agree Is optimism rational?
Low Disagree Do Gödellian arguments refute a computational model of the mind?

Nonconforming Opinions

Robin Hanson's nonconforming opinions are opinions that contradict the group of experts and influencers Robin Hanson typically agrees with.

Coverage Group Answer Expert Answer Question
High Mostly Disagree Disagree Does Cap and Trade beat carbon tax for reducing emissions?
Medium Disagree Mostly Disagree Does minimum wage help the poor?
Medium Neutral Disagree Should the United States invade Iraq?
Medium Mostly Agree Neutral Is capitalism good?
Low Disagree Mostly Disagree Have aliens from outer space visited Earth?
Low Agree Mostly Agree Is scientific consensus relevant?
Low Disagree Mostly Disagree Is democracy the best form of government?
Low Mostly Disagree Neutral Does life have a meaning?
Low Disagree Neutral Can we handle the truth?

Projected Opinions

Robin Hanson's projected opinions are opinions Robin Hanson is expected to have if their opinions align with the experts and influencers that they typically agree with.

Coverage Answer Question
High Mostly Agree Does God exist?
Medium Neutral Does government spending help mitigate a recession?
Medium Mostly Agree Did complex life evolve through the process of natural selection?
Medium Mostly Agree Should the federal government ban gay marriage?
Medium Neutral Should abortion be legal?
Medium Mostly Disagree Is God just?
Medium Mostly Disagree Can science prove or disprove the existence of God?
Low Mostly Agree Should gay and straight couples have the same legal benefits?
Low Mostly Disagree Should the United States have Universal health care?
Low Neutral Should marijuana be legal?
Low Mostly Disagree Does money make you happy? (specifically: absolute spending power)
Low Mostly Agree Should psychoactive drugs be legal?
Low Agree Would a rise in global temperature catastrophically increase sea levels?
Low Mostly Disagree Is the war on drugs good policy?
Low Mostly Agree Are our enemies innately evil?
Low Mostly Disagree Is Yucca mountain the best place to store nuclear waste?
Low Mostly Disagree Is free will an illusion?
Low Agree Should the world embrace nuclear energy?
Low Neutral Should the US fence its border with Mexico?
Low Mostly Disagree Is the unconscious philosophical zombie possible?
Low Disagree Would the world be better off without the Catholic Church?
Low Mostly Disagree Is abortion morally acceptable?
Low Mostly Disagree Can the military presence in Afghanistan help create democracy?
Low Mostly Disagree Will Australia enter a recession before 2010?
Low Agree Are humans responsible for ozone depletion?
Low Mostly Agree Do the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks?
Low Neutral Is a National Broadband Network for Australia good value at $37 billion?
Low Neutral Is cryonic restoration technically feasible in the future?
Low Agree Should prostitution be legal?
Low Neutral Is the US Federal Reserve to blame for the 2008 financial crisis?
Low Mostly Disagree Is there a Law of Karma?
Low Mostly Agree Is the death penalty acceptable?