Encouraging an Honest Consensus

Authors
Robin Hanson
George Mason University
Abstract
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? If you are like most Extropy readers, such question matter to you. Now how do we, as a society, go about answering such questions? People who have an appropriate background, and who are interested enough in a particular question, can research that subject in depth themselves, and come to a considered opinion. And people who happen to know, respect, and trust such a person can simply take those opinions as their own, avoiding all the hard work. But what is everyone else to do, people whose actions often implicitly depend on such questions? In practice, people usually defer to larger social institutions on most questions, institutions which combine and evaluate contributions from many specialists, and which offer apparent institutional consensus estimates on many different questions.
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