Re: The Problem with Futurism

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 25 Sep 1998 10:12:09 -0700

Daniel Ust writes:
>>So when talking about the future, people mainly craving media attention
>>tend to say more extreme things, and academics tend to only state
>>estimates based on evidence they can point to. ... I want to help build
>>communities of discourse where any futuristic topic is fair game, but
>>which also have high standards of care and rigor in arguments presented.
>This happened before in history and continues to happen now. The basic
>thing we are looking at here is how the mainstream views people and
>groups who think differently. ... And what usually happens, if enough
>people jump on board with the alleged kook(s) is a movement starts. ...
>As it grows, it may become more respected by the wider mainstream ...
>we might, by studying previous cultural changes (such as the rise of
>Fabianism in England or of the New Left in America) discover what methods
>work best to get our ideas out there ...

Actually, the attitude you describe is partly what I'm trying to avoid in my ideal community of discourse. "Yeah, we look wierd, but they persecuted Galileo didn't they? And abolisionists eventually won, right?" Yeah, but most "kooks" really are, movements and religions grow for lots of reasons besides the accuracy of their factual claims, and most of them are not fondly remembered by history.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614