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This is the award winning Foresight Exchange (formerly, "Idea Futures Market", as seen in Wired).

Imagine a betting pool or market on most disputed science questions, with the going odds available to the popular media, and treated socially as the current academic consensus. Imagine that academics are expected to "put up or shut up" and accompany claims with at least token bets, and that statistics are collected on how well people do. Imagine that funding agencies subsidize pools on questions of interest to them, and that research labs pay for much of their research with winnings from previous pools. And imagine that anyone could play, either to take a stand on an important issue, or to insure against technological risk.

This would be an "idea futures" market, which I offer as an alternative to existing academic social institutions. Somewhat like a corn futures market, where one can bet on the future price of corn, here one bets on the future settlement of a present scientific controversy...

From a background article (92k) by Robin Hanson.

That's the goal. In the meantime, let's test out the concept, develop consensuses, and have some fun.

As the name implies, an "idea futures" market is one in which the commodities are ideas - more specifically, claims about future events. The market value of an idea is expressed as a percentage between 0 and 100, representing the market's consensus as to the probability of the claim being true. Players may buy either "yes" or "no" coupons on a particular claim at the current market price or book an order at what they estimate is a fair price. Normally, at a specific date set as part of the claim, a designated judge will rule the claim either true or false, at which point either "yes" or "no" coupons are redeemed for .00, depending on the outcome. Besides potential monetary gain, an idea futures market offers the possibility of financing speculative ventures and the knowledge obtained from observing the market consensus on specific claims.

Benefits of Participating in FX

  • a "bogosity in" filter: the consensus on the likelihood of speculative technologies
  • a "bogosity generated" filter: a sanity check on your intuition about technological issues access to focused (or directed) discussion about future ideas -- not just rehashing an issue, but discussion on the likelihood of an idea, and what can be done to change that value (and make a killing on the market).
  • (if it was real money ...) hedging financial decisions on technological issues: back in the days of the Beta vs. VHS debate, if you decided to buy a Beta recorder, you could have simultaneously bought into the claim of "VHS will dominate the market". The profits on the VHS coupons could have paid for a new recorder, to replace your white elephant.
  • ego, machismo, bragging rights. "Look how smart I am. My portfolio has tripled in two months." The market could identify the next Marshall McLuhan (ob Canadian content), Herman Kahn, or Alvin Toffler. A group of people who have a proven track record on FX could sell their services as a think tank.

Overview of Features

The usual web/hypertext/forms/graphics stuff, PLUS

  • Graphs
  • Automatic email updates (e.g., password on registration, new claims, transaction confirmations, claim judgments)
  • Mailing lists to support discussion, complete with hypertext archiving
  • Personalized account forms
  • Interactive reporting

For the New User

You will need to understand some basic concepts:

For the Advanced User

These features and information are intended to provide the experienced FX player with added enjoyment. The novice player need not be concerned about them:

Awards and Press

Other Contributors

Foresight Exchange has also benefitted from the contributions of Duane Hewitt, Mark James, and Greg James, who have since moved away from Calgary (Duane to Amherst Mass., and the James's to Vancouver).

The Alberta Research Council provided the use of a server and bandwidth for the game from September 1994 to July 1996. Throughout the same period, Merak Projects based in Calgary, Alberta, provided the bandwidth for the mailing lists and various web pages to support the main server (under the administration of David McFadzean).

And of course we wish to acknowledge Robin Hanson's role in coming up with the idea upon which the market is based. See "Our Story" for more on how this came about.

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