In my view, any assessment of Robin’s abrasive, tone-deaf, and sometimes even offensive intellectual style has to grapple with the fact that, over his career, Robin has originated not one but several hugely important ideas—and his ability to do so strikes me as clearly related to his style, not easily detachable from it. Most famously, Robin is one of the major developers of prediction markets, and also the inventor of futarchy—a proposed system of government that would harness prediction markets to get well-calibrated assessments of the effects of various policies. Robin also first articulated the concept of the Great Filter in the evolution of life in our universe. It’s Great Filter reasoning that tells us, for example, that if we ever discover fossil microbial life on Mars (or worse yet, simple plants and animals on extrasolar planets), then we should be terrified, because it would mean that several solutions to the Fermi paradox that don’t involve civilizations like ours killing themselves off would have been eliminated. Sure, once you say it, it sounds pretty obvious … but did you think of it?

Scott Aaronson, The Zeroth Commandment, Shtetl-Optimized, 6 May 2018

Added to diary 06 May 2018