Robin Dale Hanson (born August 28, 1959) is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. He is known as an expert on idea futures and markets, and he was involved in the creation of the Foresight Institute's Foresight Exchange and DARPA's FutureMAP project. He invented market scoring rules like LMSR (Logarithmic Market Scoring Rule) used by prediction markets such as Consensus Point (where Hanson is Chief Scientist), and has conducted research on signalling.
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 for his thesis titled Four puzzles in information and politics: Product bans, informed voters, social insurance, and persistent disagreement. Before getting his Ph.D he researched artificial intelligence, Bayesian statistics and hypertext publishing at Lockheed, NASA, and elsewhere. In addition, he started the first internal corporate prediction market at Xanadu in 1990.
He is married to Peggy Jackson, a hospice social worker, and has two children. He is the son of a Southern Baptist preacher. Hanson has elected to have his brain cryonically preserved in the event of medical death.
Hanson is credited with originating the concept of the Policy Analysis Market (PAM), a DARPA project to implement a market for betting on future developments in the Middle East.
Hanson has expressed great disappointment in DARPA's cancellation of its FutureMAP project, and he attributes this to the controversy surrounding the related Total Information Awareness program. He supports a proposed system of government called 'futarchy', where policies would be determined by prediction markets. Until mid-2009, the blog Overcoming Bias was a group blog co-edited by Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky. After this, it was Hanson's personal blog until 2012, when he announced that Katja Grace and Robert Wiblin would be joining as editors and contributors.
Hanson has received publicity in many mainstream publications such as the New York Times. A 2003 article in Fortune examined Hanson's work, noting, among other things, that he is a proponent of cryonics, his ideas have found some acceptance among extropians on the Internet, and he was motivated to seek his doctorate so that his theories would gain a wider audience.
Tyler Cowen has described his book Discover Your Inner Economist as "an (attempted) rebuttal to Robin" and notes that he is a major intellectual figure in the work, which includes a fairly detailed discussion of Hanson's views:
Robin has strange ideas....
My other friend and colleague Bryan Caplan put it best: "When the typical economist tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is 'Eh, maybe.' Then I forget about it. When Robin Hanson tells me about his latest research, my standard reaction is 'No way! Impossible!' Then I think about it for years."
He is clearly not a man afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom. Instead, Hanson writes a blog called Overcoming Bias, in which he presses readers to consider which cultural taboos, ideological beliefs, or misaligned incentives might constrain them from making optimal decisions. Hanson... is an advocate of prediction markets- systems where you can place bets on a particular economic or policy outcome, like whether Israel will go to war with Iran, or how much global temperatures will rise because of climate change. His argument for these is pretty simple: they ensure that we have a financial stake in being accurate when we make forecasts, rather than just trying to look good to our peers."