Cass Sunstein, Tyler Cowen winners in April
Yascha Mounk scores first point in May Fantasy Intellectual Teams
The April edition of Fantasy Intellectual Teams was won in a close race by “Tim the Enchanter,” whose team included Cass Sunstein, Tyler Cowen, John McWhorter, Julia Galef, Emily Oster and several others who scored points. Ten teams competed in this inaugural version of the game.
Second place went to “The Null Hypothesis",” a team whose top players were Scott Alexander, Ben Thompson, and Zvi Mowshowitz. In third was “Sam-I-Am,” which had many players scoring, with the strongest performances by Robin Hanson and Glenn Loury.
For April, the leaders in the Steelmanning category (making the strongest case for a view that the intellectual then opposes) were Sunstein, Hanson, Thompson, and McWhorter. The leaders in the Thinking in Bets (putting odds on a proposition) category were Alexander, Mowshowitz, Oster, and Cowen. A third category, Memes, was led by Jordan Peterson, Daniel Kahneman, Cowen, and Deirdre McCloskey. The Memes category is being dropped for the May version,
For May, in addition to Steelmanning and Thinking in Bets, new categories have been added: Devil’s Advocate (asking a provocative question, typically in a podcast interview), Caveat (admitting to a weakness in one’s position), Debate (participating in a fair debate), Kickoff (leading to a discussion by others), Open (showing a willingness to change one’s mind), and Research (evaluating research on a topic).
Over the opening weekend, two points were scored. Yascha Mounk asked a Devil’s Advocate question when he interviewed James Scott. Mounk asked Scott about whether modern welfare states, such as Denmark, were proof against Scott’s anarchism. And Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein earned a Steelman point. Their proposition is that it is right to tell young people about the low benefits and uncertain risks of taking vaccines for COVID. They dealt with the strongest arguments against that view, notably the need to emphasize the positive externality of getting the vaccine.
In May there are three leagues. Mounk and Heying-Weinstein were each picked in a league where 12 owners drafted five players each. Separately, in a Media Stars League, Mounk was placed on the “Tenured Dilettantes” team of academics and Heying-Weinstein were placed on the “Increase Playback Speed” team of podcasters. The third league is for intellectuals affiliated with think tanks.
Mounk’s Substack is called “Persuasion.” The goal of the Fantasy Intellectual Teams project is to encourage intellectuals to use the rhetoric of persuasion. Let’s get them out of the Twitter sewer of put-downs, insults, and straw-manning.