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What Is Fantasy For?

We know that Levitt loves the Harry Potter series. The Golden Compass trilogy — not so much. But the bigger question is: why do any of us love fantasy, and what good does it do us?

Some good ideas have tumbled out of a lively discussion on the subject at Oxford’s Overcoming Bias blog, where Robin Hanson points out that fantasy helps us understand the world we live in, because it can “suppress irrelevant detail and emphasize important essences, like a math model.”

Eliezer Yudkowsky counters that fantasy is only useful when it helps us appreciate what we do in the “merely real” world.

So if fantasy is a complement to real life, what kind of returns might we see from our growing investment in online role playing games, fantasy books and films, and live-action role playing?

(Hat tip: Kyle Oliver)