Why Avoid Weird (Was POLI: Random democracy)

Robin Hanson (hanson@hss.caltech.edu)
Wed, 26 Feb 1997 10:23:09 -0800 (PST)

The Low Golden Willow writes:
>On Feb 25, 2:53pm, Robin Hanson wrote:
>} } } 2. Being the first to make a promise like this would flag you as
>} } } someone who thinks we won't trust you, and as someone with an ususual
>} } } fascination and trust in monetary incentives. Looks too weird.
>} Are you saying there is no way to imagine a wholly rational person
>} avoiding a person that seems weird?
>Not at all, but why should posting a bond for your good behavior seem
>weird to a wholly rational person?

All it takes for some behavior to seem too weird is for there to be
some population of people who you'd rather not deal with who exhibit
this behavior. The behavior itself can be most anything.

Take the example of physics "cranks". Physics profs regularly receive
unsolicited manuscripts from people without academic credential or
affiliations, which make claims that would be earth-shattering if
true, which don't much attempt to put their work in the context of
current research, and which non-standard notation and tools, and which
seem to have pretty sloppy reasoning.

Since the vast majority of such manuscripts turn out to be pure junk
on a closer analysis, most physics profs won't bother to read anything
that meets this pattern. They will even ignore stuff that matches a
small fraction of this pattern. Yes, they could be rejecting the next
Einstien, but they don't have time to read all this stuff carefully.

Similarly in politics, most people perceive that there is an army of
ideologues who "know" that adding monetary incentives always makes
anything better, and who are gung ho to, with very little thought or
analysis, reccommend adding them to most any context. Most people
(rationally) fear the consequences of appointing these ideologues as
politicians, and so rationally avoid a politician who behaved as
they expected these ideologues to behave, as long as they expected few
other types of politicians to also behave this way.

Robin D. Hanson hanson@hss.caltech.edu http://hss.caltech.edu/~hanson/