Robin Hanson's Intelligence Continues to Amaze Me
By Bryan Caplan
Well, it shouldn’t, explains Robin. Consider the foolish way that the world reacts to new fossils:
Fossil hunters have found a winning formula for getting media attention: pretend to believe behavior X appeared around the time of the earliest known fossil evidence for X, and then feign surprise when an earlier fossil overturns such estimates.
The public loves to hear a story of academics shocked, just shocked, by new findings. But there is an obvious bias: we hear lots of stories about data forcing estimates to be earlier, but hardly ever stories about data forcing estimates to be later.
Given continued new earliest fossil finds, it is quite unreasonable to estimate that the earliest behavior started about the time of the earliest known fossil. Either an academic ban on “speculation” creates a bias in academic estimates, or fossil hunters allow misleading media impressions, thereby gaining media attention.
In a similar vein, since we should expect a man of Robin’s intelligence to to produce a steady stream of original insight, the fact that he just unveiled yet another gem is no reason to be amazed. The rational reaction would rather be, “I expected nothing less of you.”