Tuesday, January 30, 2007
In today's New York Times' science section, John Tierney -- in his "Findings" column, available here -- reports on an interesting website of which I was not aware: Long Bets. I'm a big fan of prediction markets, for reasons I mentioned in several posts last year and that Justin Wolfers and Eric Zitzewitz explained marvelously clearly in "Prediction Markets," 18 J. Econ. Persp. 107 (2004). So, I'm very intrigued by the examples at Long Bets.
Long Bets, founded by Stewart Brand (of The Whole Earth Catalog and other ventures) with financial backing from Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, allows readers to make predictions and to take wagers on those predictions. The featured wager on the Long Bets homepage is this: "In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site." The stakes are $2,000.
Tierney reports on some other fascinating wagers on Long Bets. Dr, Martin Rees, the distinguished scientist and Astronomer Royal, has bet that "[b]y 2020 bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event." Tierney has taken the bet for $200 with the proceeds (if he wins) to go to the International Red Cross. He has also taken on another of Rees' predictions (this one made in Rees' book Our Final Hour (2003)) that there is a 50 percent chance that the human race will survive to 2100. How will he collect? Tierney writes, "I even think one of us might survive to see the payoff, although my
techno-optimism has its limits. I hope some version of me will be
around in 2100, but I wouldn’t bet on it."