You Betcha: Speculation, space, and markets for alien life


10 Responses to “You Betcha: Speculation, space, and markets for alien life”

  1. jjsaul says:

    I’d love to see the extraterrestrial life predictions… surely someone has surveyed experts? Perhaps anonymously in order to prevent fear of ridicule for optimism.

    Would 1975 count as a win if we find that the Viking lander experiments really weren’t undermined by peroxides bound into the regolith scapolite or whatever it was?

  2. MikeBrown says:

    After writing this post this morning I realized I missed an important point. A future-temperature market would also allow hedging. What if I plan for a 5 degrees C warmer world but all of my seawalls are overrun because the true warming was 10 degrees? I could, of course, plan for 5 degrees but hedge by buying a bunch of shares for 10+ degrees. If the wold warms too much my city still drowns, but perhaps I’ll have enough money to rebuild it. On Pluto, maybe.

  3. querent says:


    just kidding. anyone else find it odd that the near illiterate use a semicolon?

    but i digress. this is brilliant! i’m a math-kinda-guy, and i usually balk at any mention of finance (throw the money changers out of the temple!), but this is, as I said, brilliant.

    thanks for the cool idea. :)

  4. MikeBrown says:

    jjsaul — The problem with surveying experts is that that have nothing at stake. make them BET on the answer and results will start to get much much more interesting….

  5. Anonymous says:

    Event: End of World fails to materialize
    Expires: 01/01/2013
    Pro Futures: 1002 Value: 1
    Con Futures: 130 Value: 8

  6. jjsaul says:

    There’s also the supervillian scenerio of causing the catastrophe that’s the subject of the wager… or subnormalvillian bolstering a bet on warming by making campaign donations to Inhofe.

    Dealing with question of what constitutes a “win” in a field with such complex questions and competing sociological pressures would be so difficult that a derivatives market would be interesting. Like betting on when a particular outspoken skeptic throws in the towel, like Penrose acknowledging the achievement of strong AI.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Google intrade prediction markets. It’s what you’re looking for.

    I think I got that site from this blog, strangely.

  8. Brainspore says:

    Interesting idea, but the key difference between predicting computer prices and predicting alien life is that most of the factors influencing the likelihood of alien life are not known by ANY human.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Markets like Intrade do not function in the manner you described. Shares on the 0 to 100 scale represent the percentage likelihood predicted by the buyer that X will occur and simultaneously the percentage likelihood predicted by the seller that x will not occur. If a seller thinks something is 75% likely of occuring, they issue a share sale at 25 cents. The buyer pays 25 cents for a share whose value is tied to it’s 25% believed likelihood. Both shares add to 100, representing that in this specific market there is a guarantee that will either occur or not occur.

  10. Joseph Hertzlinger says:

    Robin Hanson has been recommending idea futures for years.

    There have also been comments from other side of the global-warming controversy about the absence of a market reaction to global-warming predictions.

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