Bryan Caplan  

Robin Hanson's Intelligence Continues to Amaze Me

Another Puzzle from the Tower ... Mmm... Immigration Doughnuts...

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 moral:

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."

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Robin Hanson writes:

I'm happy to report that I know of no one smarter than Bryan, and I thought that *before* he said he thought I was so smart. :)

Mike writes:

"Two Headed Lizard Spied in a Fossil"

... from my inbox this morning ...

Here is the money line:

"The 120-million-year-old specimen is thought to be the oldest example of a developmental anomaly known as axial bifurcation."

Here is the link in case I messed up the post:

Carl Shulman writes:

Tut-tut! Continuing disagreement over the identity of the smartest person in the room, clearly a dire case of indexical humorous bias...

Xellos writes:

"NOVA: ... you've often been referred in the press as the world's smartest man. Is that true and does it bother you?

VEIDT: No, that isn't true, but it's very flattering and I don't mind a bit... No, no, I don't mind being the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one."

-- Watchmen

Barkley Rosser writes:

Hmmm. This bit of Bryan and Robin patting each other on the brain is beginning to suggest that maybe GMU has too many blogs; they are continually puffing each other up. Personally, I think Tyler Cowen is smarter than either of you two guys, not that either of you is likely to be mistaken for a moron.

This is beginning to resemble the ingrown toenail that the Chicago econ department is, the latest manifestation being the ongoing campaign by a bunch of people there who coauthor with Kevin Murphy to get him the Nobel Prize. Gag.

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