In praise of Robin Hanson

My fondest memory of Robin Hanson is when we interviewed him for a job and, during his on-campus visit, I gave him some papers I had been working on.  Later he emailed me back, before getting the offer I might add, and told me the papers weren't very good and what was wrong with them. 

Ten years later, as his colleague, I disagree with Robin on many topics, including futarchy, whether we will become computer uploads, and meta-ethics (oh, if Robin would only advocate the ethical theory he so consistently lives by!..instead of his contorted contractarian version of preference utilitarianism, which he sometimes calls "dealism.").  Despite our disagreements, Robin and I are oddly in frequent common agreement on practical "life topics."  Most of all, I view Robin as a reductionist thinker to a greater degree than I am comfortable with for myself; relative to Robin, I'm more attached to the mumbo-jumbo of the mess and the piling on of multiple perspectives to the point of squishiness.

Those of us who speak regularly with Robin know how brightly his star blazes.  He's a truly original and important thinker in a way that few are, plus on analytic back and forth he is blindingly fast and accurate.  But you can't expect him to be a "I'm going to agree with him all around" kind of guy; he isn't.  If you are one of his detractors, or even just a common sense skeptic, you can always find many of his beliefs to be outright absurd,  The real question, however, is how much you can learn from him and on that he is an A+.

Addendum: Robin responds.


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