Robin Hanson - Long Legacies and Fights


This is one of the more interesting things that I have come across recently and highly recommend watching. Robin Hanson knows the right questions to ask, he starts with the question, “How do you reliably influence the Long Term Future?”

Some key points:

  • Its hard to have long lasting influence because a lot of the processes that we are influencing have some sort of equilibration tendency

  • If you open a new sandwich shop, maybe there will be too many sandwich shops and one of them will have to close and it will go back to equilibrium

  • The butterfly effect is a thing, but you cannot predict the butterfly effect, and we are looking for ways to reliably and predictably influence the longterm future.

  • Some things are plastic and some things are rigid. Plastic things are easy to change, but they change back quickly. Rigid things are difficult to change, but will retain those changes.

  • Can have a big influence on things that are plastic now and are rigid in the future.

  • People are much more interested in joining a fight rather than just making the world a better place.

  • Biological evolution is a contest to influence the future. It shouldn’t be easy to influence the future because you have to compete For animals it is physical survival and mating. Its the same for humans, but we do it at a higher level of abstraction with culture, religion, internet communities, memes

  • All throughout history, cultures could have invested money to grow and become dominant and have long term influence. Why didn’t they learn to spend all their money and time investing in the future? Its because many big projects go badly. We have trouble managing long term and large scale projects.

  • Its also possible that we evolved to discount the future because our offspring only have half of our genes

  • Evolutionary finance talks about competing investment funds that evolve over time, we have simulated this and its not the world we live in

  • Cultures are learning slowly and haphazardly over time on how to influence the future

  • We should expect in the long run that we will learn how to influence the longterm future

  • The date that matters is the date when the main actors take the long term view. From that point on, the future will not be neglected anymore.

  • The best way to help influence the future is to take a long view

I think that these ideas are useful when thinking about blockchain communities. By participating in a blockchain community, we want to influence the future. I think that its possible to argue that multiple different blockchain communities are taking a long term view but in different ways.

BTC is taking a long term view of the future by playing it safe. The protocol has hardened and there will be no hard forks so that everything is backwards compatible. The system has only been around for a decade and is still very young. Any changes introduce risk to it functioning properly which could jeopardize its goal of being a good store of value.

ETH is taking a long term view of the future by rearchitecting itself. After many years of research and development, to survive in the long term it needs to be redesigned. In its current form, it will not be able to scale up to the size it needs to be a world computer and be useful to people who want decentralized applications.

Its all just story telling anyways…


@tynes if you like Robin’s talk you’ll probably like the long now foundation. They take a similarly long term view and have great in-depth discussions about it on their podcast.