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Professor Robin D. Hanson

Robin D. Hanson, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Health and Political Economics at George Mason University and Research Associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. He has pioneered prediction markets, also known as information markets or idea futures, since 1988. He was the first to write in detail about people creating and subsidizing markets in order to gain better estimates on those topics.

It is hard to know and predict the future, but in his book, The Age of Em, Robin applies decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, and he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems. Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or ems. Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human. In his book The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life When Robots Rule the Earth, Robin asks “Does humanity have a future as uploaded minds?” He re-imagines humanity’s role as our tech becomes smarter.

Robin was a principal architect and consultant of the first internal corporate markets, at Xanadu in 1992. He was involved in the creation of the first web markets, the Foresight Exchange since 1994, and of DARPA’s Policy Analysis Market, from 2001 to 2003, part of DARPA’s FutureMAP project.

Robin has developed new technologies for conditional, combinatorial, and intermediated trading, and has studied insider trading and manipulation. He invented market scoring rules like LMSR (Logarithmic Market Scoring Rule) used by prediction markets such as Consensus Point where he has been Chief Scientist since 2008.

In his book The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Robin talks about a theory of human behavior where signaling has a big role. Overall, the book looks at uncovering mental blind spots in society and for individuals. He conducted research on Information Aggregation and wrote extensively on his blog Overcoming Bias, where he mostly talks about it in a way of everyday human behavior and not necessarily only in Economics. This blog receives over 50,000 visitors per month, with more than 8 million visitors since 2006.

Listen to Hanson on Signaling and Signaling and Self-Deception.

Robin has been known since the 1980s for having a diverse research interest with 112 publications and papers as varied as spatial product competition, health incentive contracts, group insurance, product bans, evolutionary psychology and bioethics of health care, voter information incentives, incentives to fake expertise, Bayesian classification, agreeing to disagree, self-deception in disagreement, probability elicitation, wiretaps, image reconstruction, the history of science prizes (OB), reversible computation, the origin of life, the survival of humanity, long term economic growth, growth given machine intelligence, and interstellar colonization.

Robin likes to think about all aspects of the future, but he is most interested in uploading, nanotech, hypertext publishing, cosmology and the foundations of physics, limits of computation, and the origin of life.

When thinking about the Origin of Life, Robin coined the term Great Filter, which in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents non-living matter from achieving widespread space colonization. The idea was first proposed in his online essay titled The Great Filter – Are We Almost Past It?

Robin earned his Ph.D. in Social Science at Caltech with a focus on Institution Design in 1997 with a thesis titled Four puzzles in information and politics: Product bans, informed voters, social insurance, and persistent disagreement. In 1984, he earned his Master’s Degree of Science in Physics and a Master’s Degree of Arts in Conceptual Foundation of Science from The University of Chicago. Robin earned his Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Physics in 1981 from the University of California – Irvine.

Before getting his Ph.D, he researched artificial intelligence, Bayesian statistics, and hypertext publishing at Lockheed, NASA, and independently. He worked at Lockheed A.I. Center between 1984 and 1989 and at NASA Ames’ Bayesian Model-Based Learning Group between 1989 and 1993. Robin was part of the group that worked on the first major project, led by Peter Cheeseman, Autoclass, an automatic classification system. This is a system for performing unsupervised classification of data, where the number and description of the natural classes of the data are not known.

Robin’s best idea at the time was his Idea Futures, a radical alternative to existing academic institutions. His idea didn’t get far, so he decided to pursue a doctorate to earn some credentials.

While Robin was working on his Doctorate, he was Research Assistant on institution design and experiments for FCC and NASA between 1993 and 1995. He became Teaching Assistant in 1995, on economics principles and political science principles.

After earning his Ph.D. in 1997, Robin was Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley until 1999. He became Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University that year and has been there since. He has been teaching undergraduates and graduates on Microeconomics, Health Economics, Law & Economics, Environment Economics, Urban Economics, and Industrial Organization.

Robin has 4754 citations, 112 academic publications, more than 1000 media mentions, 370 invited talks, and eight million visits to his blog OvercomingBias.com. He is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Prediction Market since 2007.

Robin expects he is buying himself more than a 5% chance of living for thousands of years. He is an Alcor Cryonics customer.

Watch Work, Love & Life when AI Takes Over | Robin Hanson | Talks at Google and What would happen if we uploaded our brains to computers?

Listen to Why we have to lie to ourselves about why we do what we do, according to Prof Robin Hanson. Listen to Evolutionary Psychology Explained w/ Professor Robin Hanson.

Read The Father of Futarchy Has an Idea to Reshape DAO Governance Read Robin Hanson: My best idea was prediction markets. Read Idea Futures published in 1995 in Wired.

Watch Nature of Altruism and Forecasting and predictions at Effective Altruism Global.

Visit his Homepage, LinkedIn profile, Google Scholar page, Wikipedia page, Overcoming Bias blog, and his Academic Profile. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.