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Robin Hanson: The Future Seems Shiny

Robin Hanson:

Our minds have two very different modes (and a range between). We model important things nearby in more detail than less important things far away. The more nearby aspects we notice in a thing, the more other nearby aspects and relevant detail we assume it has. On the other hand, the more far aspects we see in something, the more other far aspects we assume it has, and the more we reason about it via broad categories and relations.

Since the future is far in time, thinking about it tends to invoke a far mode of thought, which introduces other far mode defaults into our image of the future. And thinking about the far future makes us think especially far. Of course many other considerations influence any particular imagined future, but it can help to understand the assumptions your mind is primed to make about the far future, regardless of whether those assumptions are true.

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  1. Thanks for the link, Michael. I always enjoy reading Mr. Hanson’s ideas, although I do not frequent his blog. Unfortunately, this post contains relatively little evidence for its speculations. While it is possible we may see the future in “bluish colors,” he has offered no proof other than his personal observations from browsing a narrow subset of futuristic google images. So on and so forth throughout the entire article.

    This is a problem because he writes as if he had conclusively proven his ideas. I would prefer if he did not use conclusory statements when he has no idea if he’s right.

  2. You have to understand that writers just write like that because putting in qualifications everywhere is absurd and completely detracts from the flow of the writing. It’s just a hypothesis, like anything else.

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