Robin Hanson

Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Overcoming Bias
16 minutes, 7.7mb, recorded 2007-07-25
Topics: Open Source
Robin Hanson

We live in a world of polarized opinions. We consider ourselves to be largely rational, yet the basis of most of our biases come from knowledge we acquire from other people's findings and research. Often, we vehemently prepare defenses against opposing biases, disregarding our own. Robin Hanson, associate professor of Economics at the George Mason University, cites a handful of interesting examples of common biases and argues that we need to overcome them.

A bias is a systematic tendency to produce error of judgement. An error is a gap between the truth and our estimation of it. Whether it is project scheduling, voting for a government, a belief that life is just like the movies, or even our bias about sex as aesthetically depicted in pornography, we scarcely realize that our biases are irrational. Our inclinations secure a private advantage to us at a social cost. When an incorrect bias is fostered, the results can be damaging to the society at large -- from the selection of an incompetent government to projects going amiss.

The problem is vicious and deep-rooted. With a sense of urgency, Hanson suggests interesting approaches such as prediction markets to promote honesty and overcome the pernicious effects of bias.

Robin Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University. He is known as an expert on idea futures markets and was involved in the creation of the Foresight Exchange and DARPA's FutureMAP project. He is also known for inventing Market Scoring Rules like LMSR (Logarithmic Market Scoring Rule) used by prediction markets such as Inkling Markets and Washington Stock Exchange, and has conducted research on signalling. He is the lead editor for the Overcoming Bias blog of the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. Hanson has received publicity in many mainstream publications such as the New York Times.

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.


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