A few times a week, Hanson has lunch with a group of George Mason economists. One brisk Thursday, Tyler Cowen, John Nye, Bryan Caplan, Alex Tabarrok, and Hanson drive over to China Star, a Sichuan-style Chinese restaurant near the campus.
The atmosphere is collegial; they talk about bets they’re making with one another, what they’ve already won and lost (also painstakingly detailed online, as several of them are prominentbloggers), and tease Hanson for his grandiose visions of immortality. Cowen, author of An Economist Gets Lunch (Dutton, 2012), orders for the table, and over spicy dishes passed around they dig in.
"Robin is so fond of generalizations that he’ll often ignore varying details," Nye says. "It leads to good ideas, but it also leads to, in my view, crazy ones."
"That comes from physics," replies Hanson.
"There’s a reductionism that comes from physics," Cowen says. "Reductionism, monism, trying to recreate the problems of theology, moralizing, ‘meta,’ and hating hypocrisy — that’s Robin in 10 words. He’s a modern gnostic."
Later, after digressions into The Lord of the Rings, futarchy, and the relative innovativeness of the iPhone, Hanson wonders aloud why his ideas aren’t more widely circulated or accepted in academe. His colleagues don’t hesitate to offer theories.
"Robin’s work would be much more accepted if he just did one weird thing and everything else was normal," says Caplan. "If everything was normal but he did the future, that’d be OK. But he has seven or more weird things."
"I’m rolling more dice, so there’s more of a chance one of them will come out right," Hanson says.
"But," replies Nye, "there’s also more of a chance it’s crazy."