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Robin Hanson [75]Robin D. Hanson [1]
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Profile: Robin Hanson (George Mason University)
  1.  34
    Robin Hanson (2013). Shall We Vote on Values, But Bet on Beliefs? Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (2):151-178.
    Policy disputes arise at all scales of governance: in clubs, non-profits, firms, nations, and alliances of nations. Both the means and ends of policy are disputed. While many, perhaps most, policy disputes arise from conflicting ends, important disputes also arise from differing beliefs on how to achieve shared ends. In fact, according to many experts in economics and development, governments often choose policies that are “inefficient” in the sense that most everyone could expect to gain from other feasible policies. Many (...)
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  2. Robin Hanson, If Uploads Come First.
    What if we someday learn how to model small brain units, and so can "upload" ourselves into new computer brains? What if this happens before we learn how to make human-level artificial intelligences? The result could be a sharp transition to an upload-dominated world, with many dramatic consequences. In particular, fast and cheap replication may once again make Darwinian evolution of human values a powerful force in human history. With evolved values, most uploads would value life even when life is (...)
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  3. Robin Hanson (2003). When Worlds Collide: Quantum Probability From Observer Selection? [REVIEW] Foundations of Physics 33 (7):1129-1150.
    In Everett's many worlds interpretation, quantum measurements are considered to be decoherence events. If so, then inexact decoherence may allow large worlds to mangle the memory of observers in small worlds, creating a cutoff in observable world size. Smaller world are mangled and so not observed. If this cutoff is much closer to the median measure size than to the median world size, the distribution of outcomes seen in unmangled worlds follows the Born rule. Thus deviations from exact decoherence can (...)
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  4. Robin Hanson (2001). How to Live in a Simulation. Journal of Evolution and Technology 7 (1).
  5.  10
    Robin Hanson (2007). The Hanson-Hughes Debate on “The Crack of a Future Dawn.”. Journal of Evolution and Technology 16 (1):99-126.
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  6.  72
    Robin Hanson (2006). Uncommon Priors Require Origin Disputes. Theory and Decision 61 (4):319-328.
    In standard belief models, priors are always common knowledge. This prevents such models from representing agents’ probabilistic beliefs about the origins of their priors. By embedding standard models in a larger standard model, however, pre-priors can describe such beliefs. When an agent’s prior and pre-prior are mutually consistent, he must believe that his prior would only have been different in situations where relevant event chances were different, but that variations in other agents’ priors are otherwise completely unrelated to which events (...)
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  7. Robin Hanson, Burning the Cosmic Commons: Evolutionary Strategies for Interstellar Colonization.
    Attempts to model interstellar colonization may seem hopelessly compromised by uncertainties regarding the technologies and preferences of advanced civilizations. If light speed limits travel speeds, however, then a selection effect may eventually determine frontier behavior. Making weak assumptions about colonization technology, we use this selection effect to predict colonists’ behavior, including which oases they colonize, how long they stay there, how many seeds they then launch, how fast and far those seeds fly, and how behavior changes with increasing congestion. This (...)
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  8.  60
    Robin Hanson, The Great Filter - Are We Almost Past It?
    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?
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  9.  24
    Robin Hanson, Information Aggregation and Manipulation in an Experimental Market.
    Prediction markets are increasingly being considered as methods for gathering, summarizing and aggregating diffuse information by governments and businesses alike. Critics worry that these markets are susceptible to price manipulation by agents who wish to distort decision making. We study the effect of manipulators on an experimental market, and find that manipulators are unable to distort price accuracy. Subjects without manipulation incentives compensate for the bias in offers from manipulators by setting a different threshold at which they are willing to (...)
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  10.  44
    Tyler Cowen & Robin Hanson (forthcoming). Are Disagreements Honest. Journal of Economic Methodology.
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  11.  21
    Robin D. Hanson, Decision Markets.
    Engineers’ love of technology often gets in the way of their being useful. Consider Post-it Notes or, better yet, plain paper notepads. These probably seemed like trivial ideas, but they turned out to be terribly useful. Why? Because the marvel that is the human brain has a horrible short-term memory, which means that dumb-as-dirt memory aids can make people substantially smarter.
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  12. Robin Hanson, Why Meat is Moral, and Veggies Are Immoral.
    You are in a grocery store, and thinking of buying some meat. You think you know what buying and eating this meat would mean for your taste buds, your nutrition, and your pocketbook, and let's assume that on those grounds it looks like a good deal. But now you want to think about the..
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  13. Robin Hanson, Economic Growth Given Machine Intelligence.
    A simple exogenous growth model gives conservative estimates of the economic implications of machine intelligence. Machines complement human labor when they become more productive at the jobs they perform, but machines also substitute for human labor by taking over human jobs. At first, expensive hardware and software does only the few jobs where computers have the strongest advantage over humans. Eventually, computers do most jobs. At first, complementary effects dominate, and human wages rise with computer productivity. But eventually substitution can (...)
     
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  14.  27
    Robin Hanson (2002). Why Health is Not Special: Errors in Evolved Bioethics Intuitions. Social Philosophy and Policy 19 (2):153-179.
    There is a widespread feeling that health is special; the rules that are usually used in other policy areas are not applied in health policy. Health economists, for example, tend to be reluctant to offer economists’ usual prescription of competition and consumer choice, even though they have largely failed to justify this reluctance by showing that health economics involves special features such as public goods, externalities, adverse selection, poor consumer information, or unusually severe consequences. Similarly, while some philosophers argue for (...)
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  15.  26
    Robin Hanson, Long-Term Growth As A Sequence of Exponential Modes.
    A world product time series covering two million years is well fit by either a sum of four exponentials, or a constant elasticity of substitution (CES) combination of three exponential growth modes: “hunting,” “farming,” and “industry.” The CES parameters suggest that farming substituted for hunting, while industry complemented farming, making the industrial revolution a smoother transition. Each mode grew world product by a factor of a few hundred, and grew a hundred times faster than its predecessor. This weakly suggests that (...)
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  16.  55
    Robin Hanson (2003). For Bayesian Wannabes, Are Disagreements Not About Information? Theory and Decision 54 (2):105-123.
    Consider two agents who want to be Bayesians with a common prior, but who cannot due to computational limitations. If these agents agree that their estimates are consistent with certain easy-to-compute consistency constraints, then they can agree to disagree about any random variable only if they also agree to disagree, to a similar degree and in a stronger sense, about an average error. Yet average error is a state-independent random variable, and one agent's estimate of it is also agreed to (...)
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  17.  4
    Robin Hanson, Could Gambling Save Science.
    The pace of scientific progress may be hindered by the tendency of our academic institutions to reward being popular, rather than being right. A market-based alternative, where scientists more formally "stake their reputation", is presented here. It offers clear incentives to be careful and honest while contributing to a visible, self-consistent consensus on controversial (or routine) scientific questions. In addition, it allows funders to choose questions to be researched without choosing people or methods. The bulk of this paper is spent (...)
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  18.  61
    Robin Hanson (1998). Consensus By Identifying Extremists. Theory and Decision 44 (3):293-301.
    Given a finite state space and common priors, common knowledge of the identity of an agent with the minimal (or maximal) expectation of a random variable implies ‘consensus’, i.e., common knowledge of common expectations. This ‘extremist’ statistic induces consensus when repeatedly announced, and yet, with n agents, requires at most log2 n bits to broadcast.
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  19.  85
    Robin Hanson, Drift–Diffusion in Mangled Worlds Quantum Mechanics.
    In Everett’s many-worlds interpretation, where quantum measurements are seen as decoherence events, inexact decoherence may let large worlds mangle the memories of observers in small worlds, creating a cutoff in observable world measure. I solve a growth–drift–diffusion–absorption model of such a mangled worlds scenario, and show that it reproduces the Born probability rule closely, though not exactly. Thus, inexact decoherence may allow the Born rule to be derived in a many-worlds approach via world counting, using a finite number of worlds (...)
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  20.  3
    Robin Hanson (1995). Could Gambling Save Science? Encouraging an Honest Consensus. Social Epistemology 9 (1):3 – 33.
    Abstract The pace of scientific progress may be hindered by the tendency of our academic institutions to reward being popular rather than being right. A market?based alternative, where scientists can more formally ?stake their reputation?, is presented here. It offers clear incentives to be careful and honest while contributing to a visible, self?consistent consensus on controversial (or routine) scientific questions. In addition, it allows patrons to choose questions to be researched without choosing people or methods. The bulk of this paper (...)
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  21.  17
    Robin Hanson, Causes of Confidence in Conflict.
    In a simple model of conflict, two agents fight over a fixed prize, and how hard they fight depends on what they believe about their abilities. To this model I add “preagents,” representing parents, leaders, or natural selection, who choose each agent’s confidence in his ability. Depending on the reason for such confidence, I find five different patterns in how confidence varies with ability. Agents who estimate their ability with error have under-confidence when ability is high and over-confidence when ability (...)
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  22.  20
    Robin Hanson, Correction to McKelvey and Page, “Public and Private Information: An Experimental Study of Information Pooling”.
    In their article, McKelvey and Page note that In previous experimental work, ... [researchers] investigated how individuals use public information to augment their original private information, and whether in doing so, a rational expectations equilibrium is attained. ... [But either] the inference processes are complicated because of the enormous number of potential interactions among the individuals, and the optimal inference processes are not analyzed. ... [or] the inference process is analyzed but the working assumption is not altogether satisfactory.
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  23.  66
    Robin Hanson, Fear of Death and Muddled Thinking – It Is So Much Worse Than You Think.
    Humans clearly have trouble thinking about death. This trouble is often used to explain behavior like delay in writing wills or buying life insurance, or interest in odd medical and religious beliefs. But the problem is far worse than most people imagine. Fear of death makes us spend fifteen percent of our income on medicine, from which we get little or no health benefit, while we neglect things like exercise, which offer large health benefits.
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  24.  61
    Robin Hanson, Logarithmic Market Scoring Rules for Modular Combinatorial Information Aggregation.
    In practice, scoring rules elicit good probability estimates from individuals, while betting markets elicit good consensus estimates from groups. Market scoring rules combine these features, eliciting estimates from individuals or groups, with groups costing no more than individuals. Regarding a bet on one event given another event, only logarithmic versions preserve the probability of the given event. Logarithmic versions also preserve the conditional probabilities of other events, and so preserve conditional independence relations. Given logarithmic rules that elicit relative probabilities of (...)
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  25.  52
    Robin Hanson, Is a Singularity Just Around the Corner?
    Economic growth is determined by the supply and demand of investment capital; technology determines the demand for capital, while human nature determines the supply. The supply curve has two distinct parts, giving the world economy two distinct modes. In the familiar slow growth mode, rates of return are limited by human discount rates. In the fast growth mode, investment is limited by the world's wealth. Historical trends suggest that we may transition to the fast mode in roughly another century and (...)
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  26.  41
    Robin Hanson, Was Cypher Right?: Why We Stay In Our Matrix.
    The Matrix is a story of AIs who keep humans as slaves, by keeping them in a dream world, and of rebels who fight to teach people this truth and destroy this dream world. But we humans are today slaves to alien hyper-rational entities who care little about us, and who distract us with a dream world. We do not want to know this truth, and if anything fight to preserve our dream world. Go figure.
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  27.  41
    Robin Hanson (2009). Enhancing Our Truth Orientation. In Julian Savulescu & Nick Bostrom (eds.), Human Enhancement. OUP Oxford 357--372.
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  28.  41
    Robin Hanson, Making Sense of Medical Paternalism.
    Why do we regulate the substances we can ingest, the advisors we can hear, and the products we can buy far more than similarly-important non-health choices? I review many possible arguments for such paternalistic policies, as well many possible holes in such arguments. I argue we should either be clearer about what justifies our paternalism, or we should back off and be less paternalistic.
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  29. David Porter & Robin Hanson, Can Manipulators Mislead Market Observers?
    We study experimental markets where privately informed traders exchange simple assets, and where uninformed third parties are asked to forecast the values of these assets, guided only by market prices. Although prices only partially aggregate information, they significantly improve the forecasts of third parties. In a second treatment, a portion of traders are given preferences over the forecasts made by observers. Although we find evidence that these traders attempt to manipulate prices in order to influence the beliefs of observers, we (...)
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  30.  17
    Robin Hanson, Encouraging an Honest Consensus.
    Are you fascinated by some basic questions about science, technology, and our future? Questions like: Is cryonics technically feasible? When will nanoassemblers be feasible and how quickly will resulting changes come? Does a larger population help or hinder the world environment and economy? Will uploading be possible, and if so when? When can I live in space? Where will I be able to live free from tyranny? When will A.I.s be bucking for my job? Is there intelligent life beyond earth? (...)
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  31.  17
    Robin Hanson, The Determinants of the Quantity of Health Insurance: Evidence From Self-Insured and Not Self-Insured Employer-Based Health Plans.
    This paper presents an empirical analysis of the determinants of quantity of health insurance in the context of employer-based health insurance using the micro-level data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey (NMES). It extends the previous research by including additional factors in the analysis, which significantly affect health insurance offers by employers. This paper emphasizes two determinants of employers’ insurance offer decisions that are particularly relevant: union membership and selfinsured versus not self-insured health plans. The conducted empirical analysis reported (...)
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  32. Robin Hanson, Location Discrimination in Circular City, Torus Town, and Beyond.
    Salop’s “Circular City” model of spatial competition is generalized to higher dimensions, and to “transportation” costs which are a power of distance. Assuming free entry, mill pricing is compared to location-based price discrimination. For dimensions above one, there is some too little entry below some cutoff power, and too much entry above it. This cutoff cost-power rises with dimension, and is larger under price discrimination. Mill pricing induces more entry for powers of four or less, and less entry for powers (...)
     
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  33.  31
    Robin Hanson, Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism.
    Human behavior regarding medicine seems strange; assumptions and models that seem workable in other areas seem less so in medicine. Perhaps we need to rethink the basics. Toward this end, I have collected many puzzling stylized facts about behavior regarding medicine, and have sought a small number of simple assumptions which might together account for as many puzzles as possible.
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  34.  26
    Robin Hanson, When Do Extraordinary Claims Give Extraordinary Evidence?
    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But on uninteresting topics, surprising claims usually are surprising evidence; we rarely make claims without suffi- cient evidence. On interesting topics, however, we can have interests in exaggerating or downplaying our evidence, and our actions often deviate from our interests. In a simple model of noisy humans reporting on extraordinary evidence, we find that extraordinary claims from low noise people are extraordinary evidence, but such claims from high noise people are not; their claims are more (...)
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  35.  21
    Robin Hanson, Foul Play in Information Markets.
    People have long noticed that speculative markets, though created for other purposes, also do a great job of aggregating relevant information. In fact, it is hard to find information not embodied by such market prices. This is, in part, because anyone who finds such neglected information can profit by trading on it, thereby reducing the neglect.1 So far, speculative markets have done well in every known head-to-head field comparison with other forecasting institutions. Orange juice futures improved on National Weather Service (...)
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  36.  14
    Robin Hanson, Shared Secrets Come Cheap.
    Imagine two people share a secret which would hurt them each $1000 worth if it got out. You offer to pay them each $1 to (verifiably) tell you their secret. If this is a one-shot simultaneous game, there are two pure-strategy equilibria: one where they both tell and another where neither of them tell. But since the no-tell equilibria makes them both better off, your chances aren’t good.
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  37. Robin Hanson, Super-Resolved Surface Reconstruction From Multiple Images.
    This paper describes a Bayesian method for constructing a super-resolved surface model by combining information from a set of images of the given surface. We develop the theory and algorithms in detail for the 2-D reconstruction problem, appropriate for the case where all images are taken from roughly the same direction and under similar lighting conditions. We show the results of this 2-D reconstruction on Viking Martian data. These results show dramatic improvements in both spatial and gray-scale resolution. The Bayesian (...)
     
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  38.  27
    Robin Hanson, Book Orders for Market Scoring Rules.
    This explains how to smoothly integrate booked orders with a combinatorial market maker, all for the general case of bets on E[x|A] for arbitrary random variables x and sets A.
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  39. Robin Hanson, Has Penrose Disproved A.I.?
    Being read is not the same as being believed. Most reviewers have praised the book as original, well-written, thought-provoking, etc., and then gone on to take issue with one or more of Penrose's main theses. Penrose seems unfamiliar with the existing literature in cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and AI. The handful of reviewers who agree with Penrose don't seem to have paid much attention to his specific arguments - they always thought AI was bogus. See, for example, the 37 (...)
     
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  40. Robin Hanson, On Voter Incentives To Become Informed.
    Before an election, two candidates choose policies which are lotteries over electionday distributive positions. I find conditions under which there exist mixed-strategy probabilistic-voting equilibria which are independent, treating voter groups independently.
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  41.  26
    Robin Hanson, An Experimental Test of Combinatorial Information Markets.
    While a simple information market lets one trade on the probability of each value of a single variable, a full combinatorial information market lets one trade on any combination of values of a set of variables, including any conditional or joint probability. In laboratory experiments, we compare the accuracy of simple markets, two kinds of combinatorial markets, a call market and a market maker, isolated individuals who report to a scoring rule, and two ways to combine those individual reports into (...)
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  42.  18
    Robin Hanson, Combinatorial Information Market Design.
    Department of Economics, George Mason University, MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030, USA E-mail: rhanson@gmu.edu (http://hanson.gmu.edu).
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  43.  24
    Robin Hanson, Catastrophe, Social Collapse, and Human Extinction.
    Humans have slowly built more productive societies by slowly acquiring various kinds of capital, and by carefully matching them to each other. Because disruptions can disturb this careful matching, and discourage social coordination, large disruptions can cause a “social collapse,” i.e., a reduction in productivity out of proportion to the disruption. For many types of disasters, severity seems to follow a power law distribution. For some of types, such as wars and earthquakes, most of the expected harm is predicted to (...)
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  44.  18
    Robin Hanson, Warning Labels as Cheap-Talk: Why Regulators Ban Drugs.
    One explanation for drug bans is that regulators know more than consumers about product quality. But why not just communicate the information in their ban, perhaps via a “would have banned” label?Because product labeling is cheap-talk, any small market failure tempts regulators to lie about quality, inducing consumers who suspect such lies to not believe everything they are told. In fact, when regulators expect market failures to result in under-consumption of a drug, and so would not ban it for informed (...)
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  45.  21
    Robin Hanson, Adverse Selection In Group Insurance: The Virtues of Failing to Represent Voters.
    Compared with non-union workers, union workers take more of their compensation in the form of insurance. This may be because unions choose democratically, and democratic choice mitigates adverse selection in group insurance. Relative to individually-purchased insurance, we show that group insurance chosen by an ideal profit-maximizing employer can be worse for every employee, while group insurance chosen democratically can be much better. The reason is that democracy can fail to represent the preferences of almost half the group.
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  46.  20
    Robin Hanson, The Next Really Big Enormous Thing.
    A postcard summary of life, the universe and everything might go as follows. The universe appeared and started expanding. Life appeared somewhere and then on Earth began making larger and smarter animals. Humans appeared and became smarter and more numerous, by inventing language, farming, industry, and computers.
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  47.  22
    Robin Hanson, On Market Maker Functions.
    Since market scoring rules have become popular as a form of market maker, it seems worth reviewing just what such mechanisms are intended to do. The main function performed by most market makers is to serve as an intermediary between people who prefer to trade at different times. Traders who have the same favorite times to trade can show up together to an ordinary continuous double auction, and then make and accept offers to trade. But when traders have different favorite (...)
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  48.  22
    Robin Hanson, A Manipulator Can Aid Prediction Market Accuracy.
    Prediction markets are low volume speculative markets whose prices offer informative forecasts on particular policy topics. Observers worry that traders may attempt to mislead decision makers by manipulating prices. We adapt a Kyle-style market microstructure model to this case, adding a manipulator with an additional quadratic preference regarding the price. In this model, when other traders are uncertain about the manipulator’s target price, the mean target price has no effect on prices, and increases in the variance of the target price (...)
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  49.  22
    Robin Hanson, The Economics of Brain Emulations.
    Technologists think about specific future technologies, which they may foresee in some detail. Unfortunately, such technologists then mostly use amateur intuitions about the social world to predict the broader social implications of these technologies. This makes it hard for technologists to identify the technologies which will have the largest social impact.
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  50.  21
    Robin Hanson, Must Early Life Be Easy? The Rhythm of Major Evolutionary Transitions.
    If we are not to conclude that most planets like Earth have evolved life as intelligent as we are, we must presume Earth is not random. This selection effect, however, also implies that the origin of life need not be as easy as the early appearance of life on Earth suggests. If a series of major evolutionary transitions were required to produce intelligent life, selection implies that a subset of these were “critical steps,” with durations that are similarly distributed. The (...)
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