Bryan Caplan  

Contrarian Like a Conformist

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Robin Hanson is guest blogging this week at Marginal Revolution. In his first post, he explains how he chose his big post-tenure research project: He took the unconventional step of asking other people what they thought, and averaging their responses:

Having just got tenure here at GMU economics, I tried to seek the wisdom of a larger crowd on my first big post-tenure project. I wrote up a paragraph on each of ten options, and emailed the set to lots of friends, family, and associates, asking for advice. 56 wrote back, and I coded each response as assigning a number from zero to one for each option. Four different ways of weighting the responses gave the same answer: writing a book on disagreement was just a bit better than writing a book on idea futures. And so that is what I will do.

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The author at Anger Management in a related article titled DAILY ROUND UP writes:
    It's a slow news day. I'll try to make up for it with some heavy posting. -This is an appalling display of second-handedness. Having just got tenure here at GMU economics, I tried to seek the wisdom of a larger crowd on my first big post-tenure project... [Tracked on August 10, 2005 9:14 AM]
COMMENTS (4 to date)
Chris. F. Masse writes:

Hello Brian Caplan,

You titled your post: "Contrarian like a conformist".

Number one, this is an accusation. Please, develop.

Number two, the idea futures markets concept (Robin Hanson's dada) has never been about being contrarian ---it's about being more accurate than the other institutions, when it comes to the future and predicting it.

Number three, let's pressure professor Robin Hanson so he discloses his data.

Number four, the pertinent question to ask to him is: Where the hell is the market mechanism there, Doc?

Best regards,

Chris. F. Masse

jaimito writes:

He chose the surest way to take the wrong decision.

Delegate thinking.

Why should other people invest time and effort to consider his situation and perspectives and so on. Who knows better than himself?

Abdicating responsability for oneself.

Better ask Mama, at least with her you know she wants you the best as she understands it.

He also forgot to consult the planets.

James writes:

I'm not sure I'd ever want to follow Hanson's example here. All advice is bad advice. The folks who give it don't bear any of the risk involved in taking it and their knowledge of the advisee's preferences is, at best, limited.

Robin Hanson writes:

I didn't ask random people off the street; I asked my friends and family, who I have a relationship with. These people care enough about me to give some thought to their answer. Of course I know relevant things that they do not, but they also know relevant things that I do not know.

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