Pronouncements about the future come easy. Even when made with an air of authority, they’re usually just cheap talk, rarely revisited. Only the tiny fraction that have proven correct tend to be remembered, when their authors want to take credit.
But what if there were some cash at stake?
The Long Bets Foundation, a new project masterminded by Well founder Stewart Brand and Wired editor-at-large Kevin Kelly, hopes to raise the quality of our collective foresight by incorporating money and accountability into the process of debate.
The idea is simple. If someone makes a grandiose claim, any skeptic can challenge it – “Would you bet on that?” – and the Long Bets Foundation will keep tabs on the wager, whether it takes five years or five decades to come to pass. If proven right, a predictor can relish the victory; if wrong, the challenger gets the glory.
- Over a ten-year period, the S & P 500 will outperform hedge funds, when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs and expenses. – $1,000,000 – (Warren Buffet vs. Protege Partners, LLC)
- At least one human alive in the year 2000 will still be alive in 2150. – $2,000 (Peter Schwartz vs. Melody Haller)
- Large Hadron Collider will destroy Earth. – $1,000 (Joe Keane vs. Nick Damiano)
- By 2020, a professional sports team (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS) will integrate and have a woman as a team member/player. – $500 (Thomas Leavens vs. Martin Nisenholtz)
- By 2025, the states will have voted on at least one constitutional amendment to cede US federal power to a global government. – $800 (Thomas Quigley vs. Steven Midgley)
See more on the record bets.
By preserving the terms of the wager in public view, Long Bets promises to be more than a service for confident prognosticators. Over time, it hopes to foster better understanding of how predictions in aggregate work out in reality – what kinds of truths are easiest (or hardest) to forecast, and what kinds of people are right (or wrong) most reliably.
According to the Long Bets Foundation, all stakes are treated as charitable donations, tax deductible when the bet is made. Bettors designate nonprofits to receive the proceeds. Meanwhile, the foundation holds the funds in an investment account for the life of the bet, with half of the growth covering administrative costs. A competition designed to thrive in the public eye, Long Bets uses time as a teacher.
via Wired, May 2002