Someone at the Pentagon read Shockwave Rider over the weekend

Tim May timcmay at
Tue Jul 29 12:21:19 PDT 2003

On Tuesday, July 29, 2003, at 11:49  AM, Trei, Peter wrote:

>> Tim May[SMTP:timcmay at]
>> On Tuesday, July 29, 2003, at 09:26  AM, Bill Stewart wrote:
>>> Also, NYT Article was
>>> But it sounds like they've chickened out, because  various people
>>> freaked
>>> about the implications.  (And they only got as far as it being
>>> "an incentive to commit terrorism", without getting to
>>> "a funding method for terrorism" or to "Assassination Politics".)
>> Not to mention the obvious problems with letting government agents bid
>> on things like when various unwanted foreign leaders would be
>> assassinated.
> Over on Dave Farber's IP list, it's been pointed out that there
> is a pre-existing, live, real-money market in futures on these
> types of events. Go over to, and click on
> 'Current Events' under 'Trading Catagories' on the left. Drill down
> and you'll find things like 'WMDs will be found in Iraq on or before
> Sept 31', the value of which has dropped from 80 to 25 over the
> last few months.

Yes, a bunch of "ideas futures" markets have existed for nearly a 
decade. An acquaintance of mine, Robin Hanson, was actively promoting 
such things in the late 80s and may have been involved in some of the 
Extropians-type markets which arose a few years later (I recollect 
several efforts with varying degrees of success).

And several years ago some companies actually tried to built real 
markets around these kinds of predictions. Maybe one of them is the 
"contract company" (pun intended) on this latest DARPA fantasy.

The problem is not with the idea of using markets and bets and Bayesian 
logic to help do "price discovery" on things like when the Athlon-64 
will actually reach consumers, or when the new King of Jordan will be 
whacked, and so on. The problem is, rather, with _government_ 
establishing a monopoly on such things while putting suckers like Jim 
Bell in jail basically for espousing such ideas.

And, as I noted, there are significant problems with government 
employees in a betting pool (gee, aren't even office baseball pools 
technically illegal? Haven't they prosecuted some people for this? Yep, 
they have) where they also have control over the outcome. Jim Bell used 
this as a payoff mechanism for assassinations ("Alice bets $1000 that 
Paul Wolfowitz will be murdered with his family on August 10, 
2003")...the same logic applies to the government's dead pool.

--Tim May
"That government is best which governs not at all." --Henry David 

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