Robin Hanson

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Robin Hanson in 2006

Robin Dale Hanson (born August 28, 1959[1]) is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University[2] and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University.[3] He is known as an expert 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.


Hanson received a B.S. in physics from the University of California, Irvine in 1981, an M.S. in physics and an M.A. in Conceptual Foundations of Science from the University of Chicago in 1984, and a Ph.D. 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 Ph.D 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]


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."[11]

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."[12]

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, where policies would be determined by prediction markets.

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

Hanson has written a book, The Age of Em: Work, love and life when robots rule the Earth,[13][14] concerning his views on brain emulation and its eventual impact on society.[15]

His most recent book, The Elephant in the Brain, was released in January 2018.[16] Coauthored by Kevin Simler, The Elephant in the Brain looks at uncovering mental blind spots in society and for individuals.[17][18]


  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". ProQuest. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  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. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Silver, Nate (2012). The Signal and the Noise. New York, NY: The Penguin Press. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-1594204111.
  13. ^ Hanson, Robin (1 June 2016). The Age of Em: Work, love and life when robots rule the Earth. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198754626.
  14. ^ "The Age of Em, a book". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Robin Hanson on "The Age of Em"". Future Thinkers. 5 July 2016.
  16. ^ Hanson, Robin (c. Feb 2017). "The Elephant in the Brain". Overcoming Bias. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ "Biography". Robin D. Hanson. George Mason University.
  18. ^ Hammond, Samuel (28 January 2018). "The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden motives in everyday life – a review". Quillette. Retrieved 27 August 2018.

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