need more stuff?

December 11, 2003

Among the news items I

Daniel Radosh

Among the news items I missed while Gina and I were busy spawning is the the return of the terror futures market, this time minus the terror. Back in July I found myself in the unusual position of defending the Pentagon against knee-jerk condemnation of what I thought was a pretty imaginative, potentially valuable plan (and a relatively harmless one, compared with how intelligence agencies usually work). So I'm glad to see that the Policy Analysis Market is back in business, and that they've found a way to explain it to people that doesn't rely on the gambling metaphor, which is what freaked everyone out:

A good analogy for what will be launched in March 2004 is an opinion survey based on a long questionnaire. This is the sort of thing that most everyone has been asked to fill out from time to time, whether at work or for some commercial marketing effort. In the case of the Policy Analysis Market, however, you need only fill out the parts of the survey that you find interesting.

In the standard survey format, all the respondents are asked to answer all the questions, even though each may feel he or she only has good information about a subset of the questions. The result is a bunch of noisy information.

In the case of the Policy Analysis Market, survey respondents, who will be called traders, will have an incentive to focus on the subset of questions about which they feel they have the best information. The Policy Analysis Market will be a demonstration of a new type of market-based information gathering and refining tool. If the demonstration is successful, then an improvement will have been made in the way distributed information on matters of public importance is gathered and measured.

It'll be interesting to see exactly what scenarios traders will be gambling offering their opinions on, but violent acts have been taken off the table. That was probably essential PR, but I wish it hadn't been necessary. There are two types of arguments against including acts of terror in the market. The argument from morality I found to be pompous grandstanding (Hillary's specialty) that had more to do with seemliness than genuine moral concern (as if fighting terror is otherwise a tea party). The arguments that the market would actually spark real world violence in any number of ways I found unpersuasive.

Maybe if PAM gets some results, they can phase in the hardcore stuff.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2