Where do I disagree with Robin Hanson?

A few days Robin wrote in the comments:

As you well know, I am sensitive to the fact that on facts people disagree too easily, and so I try to disagree reluctantly if at all. But this doesn’t apply to disagreements about styles or personal values. So I accept that we have different styles and place a differing value on overcoming bias. But if there are factual disagreements central to the position of mine you see yourself rebutting, then I would love to see those stated as clearly as possible. I won’t limit your word budget.

For background here is Robin’s home page

Of a randomly chosen three hundred persons, I am probably closer to Robin’s views than anyone else in the group.  It is also common at lunch that he and I gang up together on Bryan and Alex (can you guess on which issues?).  And I’m already on record as citing Robin as one of the most important thinkers of our day; keep that in mind throughout this discussion.  But we have many differences.  Here’s a non-exclusive list of my disagreements with Robin:

1. I see the chance of people becoming uploads — even within centuries — as less than one percent.  Apart from the technical issues (ever get a flat tire?), I think it is easier to graft greater intelligence and computational abilities onto already-existing biological beings.

2. I don’t think that futarchy — using betting markets to shape government policy — can succeed on anything but a very partial basis.  I stress the expressive function of democracy, and its ability to maintain public morale and cohesion, rather than the computational abilities of the system to find and implement the best policies.  I would bet against the future of futarchy, or its likelihood of succeeding were it in place.  Robin says "vote on values, bet on beliefs," but I don’t think values and beliefs can be so easily separated.

3. Robin is much more attached to the fact-value dichotomy than I am, and he is also more attached to seeing facts and theories, or facts and frameworks, as logically separable.  Robin therefore believes all meaningful claims can be stated very precisely in terms of basic facts.  This is his logical atomism.  Reread the comment from Robin at the top.  He suggests that our most important differences are simply those of "style," as though he might like frilly hats and I might carry a purse.

4. I see "overcoming laziness" or "overcoming fear" or even "overcoming inadequate love of Sichuan chili peppers" as often a more important problem than "overcoming bias."  Bias is one fault of many, and I believe Robin’s dislike of bias is indeed biased, more aesthetic than pragmatic.  Robin seems to admit this (above), but he is mentally downgrading this as a mere difference in tastes.  In reality the difference reflects our very distinct analytical engines; mine is more pluralistic.

5. Robin wrote: "If your head is cryogenically frozen today, you will be alive in 2100."  [In fairness to Robin he only seems to assign this sentence a truth probability of 5/14, under one reading of his presentation.]  I assign this a "p" of under one in ten thousand, basically for the reasons that a stupid person would give.

6. Robin thinks we could privatize all law; I don’t.  I believe some public goods require government provision and I think libertarian anarchy would devolve into either chaos or oppressive mafias.

7. Robin believes in the "many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics."  I don’t reject the possibility but I’ll accept the estimate of the professional community of the relevant experts and not raise my "p" or betting odds any higher than that.

Robin frequently and correctly asks disagreeing others to boil down disagreements to their fundamentals.  I would describe this difference as possible:

"Robin is very fond on powerful theories which invoke a very small number of basic elements and give those elements great force.  He likes to focus on one very central mechanism in seeking an explanation or developing policy advice.  Modern physics and Darwin hold too strong a sway in his underlying mental models.  He is also very fond of hypotheses involving the idea of a great transformation sometime in the future, and these transformations are often driven by the mechanism he has in mind.  I tend to see good social science explanations or proposals as intrinsically messy and complex and involving many different perspectives, not all of which can be reduced to a single common framework.  I know that many of my claims sound vague to Robin’s logical atomism, but I believe that, given our current state of knowledge, Robin is seeking a false precision and he is sometimes missing out on an important multiplicity of perspectives.  Many of his views should be more cautious."

8. I believe Robin does not agree that is the main difference between us.

Addendum: Here is Robin’s response.


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