Idea Futures Publications

Relevant Fiction
Similar Proposals
by Robin Hanson
by Others
Media Coverage

Relevant Fiction

Verne, J. (1873) Around the World in Eighty Days, Chapter 5
"Everybody knows that England is the world of betting men, who are of a higher class than mere gamblers"

Brunner, J. (1975) The Shockwave Rider, Harper & Row, NY.

Stiegler, M. (1999) EarthWeb, Baen Books.

Someone Out There really hated humans. ... Only by integrating thousands of detailed revelations, coming from thousands of different fields of knowledge, can we find salvation.

Similar Proposals

The special Wired issue "The Future of the Future" has as article starting on p.92 on "A Day in the Life, 19 Oct. 2020". This article shows pictures of four hand-held news readers, filled with news of the day. At the bottom of each reader is an invitation to bet on some news-like claim.

Anderson, I. (1995) "Place your bets on a bright idea", New Scientist, 30 Sept., p.6.

Knipschild, P., (1993) "Searching for alternatives: loser pays", Lancet, 341, May 1, pp. 1135-1136.

Sobey, P., Maddess, T. (1991) "You can bet on it", New Scientist, Aug. 10, p.56.

Zeckhauser, R., Viscusi, W. (1990) "Risk Within Reason", Science, 248, May 4, pp.559-564.

Leamer, E. (1986) "Bid-Ask Spreads For Subjective Probabilities", Bayesian Inference and Decision Techniques, ed. P. Goel, A. Zellner, Elsevier Sci. Publ., pp.217-232

Hofstee, W. (1984) "Methodological Decision Rules As Research Policies: A Betting Reconstruction of Empirical Research", Acta Psychologica, 56, pp.93-109. (see also his "Do not take the betting model literally", Kwantitatieve Methoden, 3, 1981, pp.70-72.)

by Others

(1999) Ken Kittlitz Experiences with the Foresight Exchange, Extropy Online, July.

(1997) Tom Bell Idea Futures: Making the Marketplace of Ideas Work, Working Paper, September.

(1997) Russ Ray Idea Futures: Gambling on Science, The Futurist 31:1, Jan., pp. 25-28.

(1995) Duane Hewitt Idea Futures on the Web, Extropy No.16, pp.35-37. See also Robin's Comments.

(1995) Robin Hanson, Mark James, Sean Morgan, "The Story of Idea Futures", in Prix Ars Electronica 95, International Compendium of the Computer Arts, Ed. H. Leopoldseder, C. Schopf, Osterreichischer Rundfunk, Linz, Austria pp.54-59.

Idea Futures began as a glimmer in the eye of Robin Hanson, but it took Sean Morgan, Mark James, and a diverse group of "techies" (scientists, engineers, programmers, etc.) in Calgary to make it the reality it has become.
(1995) Ken Kittlitz, Duane Hewitt, David McFadzean, Mark James, and Sean Morgan, "A WWW Implementation of Idea Futures", Extro 2 conference, June 1995.

(1994) Steve Fuller, "The Sphere of Critical Thinking in a Post-Epistemic World", Informal Logic, Winter, pp. 39-54.

by Robin Hanson

(2000) Shall We Vote On Values, But Bet on Beliefs?, working paper, July.

A key question to ask about any social institution is how well it generates, aggregates, and distributes information. Speculative markets seem to do well at this, while familiar democratic institutions, relying in part on academic institutions, seem to fail in many ways. This suggests we consider "futarchy," a form of government where betting markets become our primary common source on matters of fact. Democracy would say what we want, while speculators would say how to get it. That is, elected representatives would formally define and manage an after-the-fact measurement of national welfare, while market speculators would say which policies they expect would raise national welfare. If we are willing to recommend policies that macro data suggest are causally related to GDP, it seems we should be willing to consider futarchy. Using an engineering-style approach, this paper considers twenty six design issues with futarchy, and then presents a relatively specific proposal in response. (Summary here.)

(1999) Decision Markets. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 14(3):16-19, May/June.

The so-called Information Revolution has greatly improved our ability to find out what others have said. However, it has done much less to improve our ability to find out what other people know. Decision markets might allow us to more accurately estimate the consequences of important decisions, by helping us to better share relevant information.

(1995) "Idea Futures", Wired, September, p.125 (also local copy with comments) (a short quote appears in WSJ, 30Aug95, A14.)

A short (500 word) introduction to the idea.

(1995) "Could Gambling Save Science? Encouraging an Honest Consensus", Social Epistemology, 9:1, Jan., pp.3-33. (version in Gambling and Commercial Gaming: Essays in Business, Economics, Philosophy, and Science, Ed. William Eadington and Judy Cornelius, pp. 399-440, 1992, Institute for Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, U. Nevada, Reno. (this is proceedings of Eighth International Conference on Risk and Gambling, London, 8/90))

The pace of scientific progress may be hindered by the tendency of our academic institutions to reward being popular, rather than being right. A market-based alternative, where scientists more formally "stake their reputation", is presented here. It offers clear incentives to be careful and honest while contributing to a visible, self-consistent consensus on controversial (or routine) scientific questions. In addition, it allows funders to choose questions to be researched without choosing people or methods. The bulk of this paper is spent examining potential problems with the proposed approach. After this examination, the idea still seems plausible and worth further study.

(1995) "Reply to Comments on Could Gambling Save Science?", Social Epistemology, 9:1, Jan., pp.45-48.

In the same issue that the above article appeared, three professors responded with open peer review. Here, I reply.

(1995) "Comparing Peer Review to Information Prizes -- A Possible Economics Experiment", Social Epistemology, 9:1, Jan. pp.49-55.

The methods of experimental economics may help the science studies community to better understand how our scientific institutions influence our rate of scientific progress. To make vivid the possibilities, this paper suggests a specific experiment, comparing a simple version of journal peer review to "information prizes", a simple market mechanism. The task of these institutions: to induce a random group of laboratory subjects to infer "who done it" in a murder mystery, and to communicate this to a interested patron. While such an experiment would hardly settle controversy, it might be a good first step.

(1993) "Information Prizes - Patronizing Basic Research, Finding Consensus", presented at Western Economics Association meeting, Lake Tahoe, June.

Peer review seems a "piggyback" approach to funding accountability, risking various failure modes if relied on too heavily. But federal funding and the nature of basic research make if difficult to rely more on accountability by monitoring. Thus we should consider relying more on accountability by contract, and in particular on prizes. Ordinary prizes must either focus on specific accomplishments of forseeable value, or allow judges substantial flexibility, which can hide bias. Information prizes, however, can allow research patrons to focus on questions they would like answered, while still minimizing judging flexibility. In addition, such prizes can directly support the generation of policy-relevant consensus.

(1993) "Comment on Scientific Status of Econometrics", Social Epistemology, 7:3, pp.255,256.

I respond with open peer review to a paper which models incentives to publish corrections to econometrics papers.

(1992) "Idea Futures", Extropy, 8, POBox 77243, Los Angeles, CA 90007. (Also ps version.) (This is shortening of 3/17/89 version.)

(1991) "Even Adversarial Agents Should Appear to Agree", in Proceedings IJCAI-91 Workshop On Reasoning In Adversarial Domains

(1990) "Market-Based Foresight - A Proposal", Foresight Update, 10 pp.1,3,4, POBox 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306. See criticism .

(1990) "More Market-Based Foresight", Foresight Update, 11, p.11, POBox 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306

I reply to three letters which responded to the above article.


(1994) William Hill's Bizarre Bets, Graham Sharpe, Virgin Books, London.
A survey of bets made by the Bookmaker William Hill, many of them on science questions.

Misc. Mentions

(1997) Derrick de Kerckhove, Connected Intelligence: The Arrival of the Web Society, ISBN 1-895897-87-4, about a paragraph on p.155

(1997) D. Mike Sendall, The future of the World-Wide web and its impact on our institutions

Media Coverage Mainly On

There has been a huge media coverage of the Policy Analysis Market. Here is the press that mentions Robin Hanson.

Hal Varian, A Market Approach to Politics, New York Times, Business section, C2, May 8, 2003.

Jim Giles, Wanna bet? Nature 420:354-355, 28 November, 2002.

Eli Lehrer, Financial Futurist?, The American Enterprise, July/August 2002, p. 49.

Barnaby J. Feder, To Learn What People Want, Trade 'Idea Stocks', New York Times, Business, Your Money, Page 4, February 10, 2002.

Pamela Licalzi O'Connell, Stock Market of Dark Prophecies, New York Times, October 11, 2001.

The following articles are primarily coverage of the web game.

Jo-Ann Johnston, "The Brain Exchange", Utne Reader, May-June 1997, p. 21-23.

Daniel Akst, The Futures Look Bright for Internet Market Sites, L.A. Times, June 3 1996, D3

Mr. Sumit Paul-Choudhury, "Idea futures invade Net", RISK, Vol. 8, No. 11, Nov. 1995, pp.11,12.

Yardena Arar, "On-line users bullish about futures market of punditry", L.A. Daily News, July 26, 1995, LAL12.

Letter to Computer Paper

Calgary Sun - CF1 - July 19, 1995

Alberta Report, July 10, 95

Mark Lowey, Calgarian shares in international computer award, Calgary Herald, June 5, 1995. Alberta Research Council in the News

h3>Web coverage: NetSurfer, Point Communications Review, Idea Futures WWW site Alberta Research Council in the News, Oct. 4 1995.

Media Coverage Just Mentions

(2002) Kevin Kelley, A Brief History of Betting on the Future, Wired, May.

(1995) Jim McClellan, The Tommorow People, UK Observer, March 26

(1996) Jeff Ubois interviews Vernor Vinge, Internet World, February, pp.82-90.

(1995) Lewis Phelps, "Nanotechnology on the Web", Foresight Update 22, pp.1,6.


These are all by Robin Hanson unless otherwise noted.

(1995) Dutch Electronic Art Festival '95, Rotterdam, Nov. 21-26 (Robin asked Sean to speak in his stead.)

(1995) Idea Futures - A Better Consensus for Public Debate, Tokyo, at Digital Convergence 95, September.

(1995) Golden Nica Prize Winners Talk (televized), Linz, Austria, Prix Ars Electronica 95, June.

(1993-90) Lots of talks not entered here yet.

(1990) Could Gambling Save Science?, London, Eighth International Conference on Risk and Gambling, August.

Press Releases

Mailing List Discussions

Cryonet posts

Robin Hanson January 8, 1997