253 Comments

Pet peeve: a market on X being at 25% does *not* mean "25% of traders think" X.

Expand full comment
author

Sorry, you're right, fixed.

Expand full comment

I'd be happier thinking about whether our heroes at FTX will be charged with a crime if someone could point to the specific law they were supposed to have broken. I'm not claiming that there isn't one, but you can't charge people without a specific crime. Is moving folks crypto assets to your crypto hedge fund actually against a law? These things are mostly just numbers in a distributed database. If Nintendo nixes my in-game fancy hat that I paid money for I don't think a crime has been committed. So why here?

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

Embezzlement, securities fraud, investment fraud, mail fraud, false statements, money laundering, wire fraud, theft.... just for starters

Expand full comment

SBF told people that their deposits were intact when they weren't, to avoid them withdrawing their money. That's fraud AIUI; he was lying to people about the product he was providing to entice them to continue to consume it, at their expense.

That's the most obvious one.

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

While "you can't steal cryptocurrency because it's just numbers in a distributed database" is I guess a theory that exists, there isn't really any point in arguing it, because in addition to holding customer deposits denominated in cryptocurrency, FTX also held deposits denominated in "United States dollars" and almost certainly also "euros" and "yen" (can't check because the site's gone).

Edit: The alleged FTX balance sheet reported by the Financial Times shows a USD liability over $5 billion, with cryptocurrency liabilities broken out separately.

Expand full comment

Theft. I'm pretty sure that's against the law, I'll have to check.

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

"Commit fraud": It is hard not to. There are no healthy people, only under-examined. There are no honest tax-payers, dito. Tax fraud seems inevitable. Sure for lil' me - more likely to anyone handling so many different money streams as Scott. How many tax paid on SBF's subscription-fee? How to deduct the grants? How to be sure the tax-advisor is no cheat? Endless opportunities. - That said, there is no blogger I trust more to be intellectually in the category of "about as honest as a homo sapiens can possibly be". Would make me cry, if wrong. Would not care about other scandals, even if he was ever found out to have ever dated a 17 year old. rofl

Expand full comment

From my understanding of the law, there's a crucial difference between "no healthy people" and "no honest tax-payers": you can easily have a serious disease without being aware of it. You cannot, by definition, commit fraud without being aware of it, because fraud requires intentional deception, not merely the normal combination of incompetence, ignorance and negligence.

Expand full comment

Oh, and you can have a non serious defect, too. Millions of kidney stones unnoticed. I do not expect to get arrested. Sums too tiny, and indeed: a "combination of incompetence, ignorance and negligence" sums me up well. But am I aware of tiny corners I may have cut? Yep. And is negligence an excuse? When diligence is due - Anyways, blurry lines. Fraudsters from 1 to 100. If all must be a straight zero, heaven is a lonely place. Bagpipes in! "Aamaaaziiing Grace ..."(Barrack Obama) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S58k3ZXRJJc&t=203s

Expand full comment

>WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP GOING ON PODCASTS?

Probably a silly question. My serious answer: because working live gives a thrill that writing just can't quite match. And since I very rarely get to play on ships these days, podcasts are the next best thing. I think it's basically because you're matching your wit and memory, modulo whatever prep you did, with the situation, and coming out on top is great. That may not be your cup of tea, but it very much is mine.

Expand full comment

Wow big props to the 3 people who beat Rachel on predicting whether or not she was in a relationship.

Expand full comment

Well, one was symmetrically inside-trading (against bots that did not believe Rachel at first), and the other two, one being a bot, were trading back when Rachel was trading under assumption her relationship status is not how the market will resolve!

Expand full comment

I don't follow the last bit. Austin was insider trading after the fact alongside Rachel, but the other big trades were made before she entered the market.

Expand full comment

Oh, indeed, she hadn't traded in the market in the early part.

Expand full comment

Thanks!

To break it down, those three traders consisted of:

-me

-a bot I programmed

-Austin himself

I have never met Austin, but I "went off vibes," which I assume is standard practice among top superforecasters.

The bot tries to detect bad trades and then trade in the opposite direction. A brand-new account suddenly bid the price down to almost zero, which is usually a pretty promising sign.

Expand full comment

I know this is a bit of a longshot, since you wouldn't want to publicize a bot that is still profitable, but I'm curious if the code is available anywhere.

Expand full comment

You're in luck--I'm a new graduate looking for a job, so any code I write gets put up on the Github. The link is here:

https://github.com/mwhea/Manifold_Trading_Bots

If you have any questions or suggestions, I'm Michael W. on the Manifold Discord.

Expand full comment

Trump to Lose is leftover from their own 2020 prediction market? I don't pretend to understand despite having read it twice. https://www.coindesk.com/markets/2022/11/15/analysis-ftxs-trumplose-token-isnt-proof-of-an-ftx-democrat-ukraine-conspiracy/

Expand full comment

> I like the “scandal” framing better than the “fraud” framing - I don’t make many specific claims or handle other people’s money, so I don’t know what it would mean for me to commit fraud.

Yeah, this is not ideal, and we've been talking about alternatives. (e.g. on Eliezer's market here: https://manifold.markets/IsaacKing/will-eliezer-yudkowsky-be-found-to#fZcDA1goloKOsldcEtt2)

Once we're able to decide on something that's relatively robust and unambiguous, I plan to create markets every EA/rationalist public figure that all use the same criteria so they're directly comparable.

Expand full comment
founding

The TRUMPLOSE item was presumably the perpetual futures contract tradable on FTX itself.

Expand full comment

But then what's it doing on the assets side of the balance sheet? The TRUMPLOSE contract pays $1 from FTX to whoever holds it if Trump loses. Shouldn't it be a liability, not an asset?

Expand full comment

afaiu FTX bought TRUMPLOSE on their own market; presumably others bought TRUMPWIN

Expand full comment
founding

FTX was famous for trading on their own exchange. I assume Sam or someone else at the company intentionally took a directional position on it.

This would never happen at a properly run exchange, but this was FTX.

Expand full comment

It's widely agreed that whatever that leaked spreadsheet was, it wasn't a "balance sheet" as you or I would understand it.

Expand full comment

Unverified rumor: I read somewhere that it was an over the counter bet with some other high net worth crypto person.

Expand full comment

And that person still hasn't paid up?

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

For 2024. I can't remember where I saw this unfortunately, might have been Bloomberg or just some twitter rando.

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

"...and by the way amazing job by “mr22” who started [the 'SBF convicted of a felony before 2026' market] on October 5"

Hold up, what happened here? Maybe an FTX insider? Or just a crazy hunch?

Expand full comment

There were others that were early too, here's one: https://manifold.markets/NathanpmYoung/will-ftx-go-bankrupt-before-2024

Nothing about this strikes me as particularly suspicious, people have been creating markets on all sorts of things on Manifold. It's only natural that they'd include EA's biggest funder.

Expand full comment

Oh, I have to confess, I wrote this question before I had finished reading the rest of the FTX content in the blog post. Now it seems a lot less surprising that there'd be a market on it earlier than last week.

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

On scandal markets: what about activist short sellers?

In the context of the public stock market, there are activist short sellers, who research public companies, find information that suggests they're going to underperform, take short positions, then publish their research.

It seems like scandal markets would have a similar kind of trader. In this context, the way you find out that somebody is about to have a scandal is that you hire a private detective to follow them around and take pictures. If you discover they're cheating on their wife, you buy the Scandal Yes position on the prediction market. Then, you publish your information, and wait for the market to update on it.

Expand full comment

That'd be neat if it occurred, but right now market volumes are much too low for it to be worth it.

Expand full comment

It means we'd have lots of scandals that otherwise wouldn't have come out, though. That seems bad.

Expand full comment

I was briefly about to say "But surely it's good if the bad stuff people have done comes to light?" Then I remembered things like privacy, and the way scandals don't need the burden of proof in court. I'm sure someone could drum up a scandal against me if they were dedicated enough and dug out some things I'd read 15 years ago. Markets like this would benefit not so much those with access to extra data, as those with a large reach on social media who're good at manipulating people's emotions.

Expand full comment

Bad? Isn't this exactly what we wish had happened with SBF? If someone had found out what was happening early, it could have been fixed without a bank run and a complete collapse.

Expand full comment

See AlexTFish's comment. I expect some actual serious wrongdoing would be uncovered this way, but a much greater amount of unimportant things that would nonetheless cause scandals, or things that look bad when stripped of context.

Expand full comment

They're right underneath a market though, which I'd hope would provide some grounding. If someone is making strong claims but the market isn't moving, they can safely be ignored.

Expand full comment

Does this have to be some kind of scandal prediction market or could you have just shorted FFT? Don't send a prediction market to do a market market's job.

Expand full comment

Surely the main problem with "scandal markets", at least for people you care about, is that it gives everyone an incentive to dig up and publically re-litigate every bad, dubious or mildly sketchy thing that could possibly be pinned on the person?

For instance, the Eleizer Yudkowsky fraud market has already prompted a bunch of discussions about long-past supposed sketchy events that I didn't know about before, and which will now forever colour my picture of him, regardless of whether he actually did anything untoward or not.

Expand full comment

Yeah I don't really like the idea of scandal markets intuitively, I can't really explain it but it feels very popularlarity competition-esque to me.

Expand full comment

This is why they need to be tied to a real-world outcome.

Some people have floated the idea of "permanent" markets that never resolve and just fluctuate according to trader's whims but since they're completely disconnected from reality, that is indeed just a popularity contest.

But as long as they do resolve at some point in a meaningful way, people are incentivized to predict correctly.

Expand full comment

It's not the predictions I'm concerned about, it's the comments. If I want to make a correct prediction in the Eleizer scandal market (which is as yet non-existent, there's only a fraud market as far as I can see) then I'm going to need to go digging through a lot of weird blog posts in which a lot of dirty laundry is aired, and then surface it all in one place.

In the current climate there's probably a bunch of prestige-paper journalists trawling around right now, wondering whether it's a good time to write a hit piece on those Effective Altruism types. (Effective Altruism has money, power, and a value system that is not one hundred percent congruent with that of the New York Times editorial board, so it needs to be taken down a few pegs.) There's no point in doing all their homework for them.

Expand full comment

Having a single Schelling point for discussion of someone's reputation seems like a positive to me. It'll all be easily accessible to one place, and the very same place has an ever-updating indicator of how important that information actually is. (The market probability.) This will help keep the thread from turning into wild speculation and attacks, since anyone who's making strong accusations but isn't betting the market up is clearly blowing smoke and will be dismissed.

> There's no point in doing all their homework for them.

This is the same type of "PR over transparency" reasoning that led to the SBF disaster in the first place. Let's not make the same mistakes again.

(I'm about to make proper scandal markets for all EA/rationalist public figures BTW, I just need to figure out what the best resolution criteria are. Fraud is no good, as is asking about any crime, but I want to avoid anything too subjective.)

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, I think the Eliezer issue shifts me towards slightly negative on this. It's hard to be a public figure without a bunch of false rumors (or takeable-way-out-of-context true rumors) swirling around you and it seems pretty bad to put all of them in one place on a nice silver platter for journalists who want to destroy you.

Expand full comment

Think about the "Elon Musk is the heir of an apartheid emerald miner" factoid: long-since debunked, but still constantly repeated by his enemies.

Expand full comment

The thing I hear constantly repeated is along the lines of "Elon Musk's family was wealthy and his father owned an emerald mine", which so far as I can tell is ... not far off? (It seems like what he owned was _half_ of an emerald mine, and I don't know how that's importantly different from all of a smaller emerald mine.)

"The heir of an apartheid emerald miner" is different in a few ways, but I don't think they correspond to things that I have actually heard claimed. (1) Maybe "the heir of" implies that the person has already died, and the heir received their property; so far as I know Errol Musk is still alive. I don't think people writing about Musk commonly claim otherwise. (2) Maybe "apartheid" implies that Errol Musk (half-)owned the mine during the era of apartheid; well, as it happens, he did. (3) Maybe "apartheid" implies that the mine was physically located in South Africa and/or that its profits were dependent on some sort of exploitation of black people by white people; I don't know whether either of those things is so, but I don't _think_ people writing about Musk commonly make either of those claims. (4) Maybe "miner" implies that Errol Musk did the actual digging, but I'm pretty sure literally no one believes or claims that.

Expand full comment

And yet the debunkings of those rumors would be in the same place, so this could be a net *positive* on that front.

Expand full comment

Are scandals ever debunked, though? Think of the story attributed to Lyndon B. Johnson:

https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/i_know_its_not_true_but_lets_make_the_sonafabitch_deny_it_a_loaded_politica

"This is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in politics. Every hack in the business has used it in times of trouble, and it has even been elevated to the level of political mythology in a story about one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas. The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.

“Christ, we can’t get away with calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.

“I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

No matter how much "X denies that they drank the blood of babies" debunking goes on, the *rumour* will still be floating around about "Did you hear that X is *supposed* to drink baby's blood?"

Expand full comment

Isn't this same type of "PR over transparency" reasoning that may have led to the SBF disaster in the first place? I'd rather prominent EA figures have all relevant information about them visible to others in EA and journalists than not visible to anyone at all.

Expand full comment

*sarcasm mode*

How about we just say that all profits from scandal markets get distributed among the victims? We shouldn't put profit over people, but anyone supporting an abuser is an enabler and deserves to be financially ruined. Money obviously can't make up for whatever the abuser will turn out to have done, but giving it to anyone else would be akin to participation in the abuse.

Expand full comment

Yes, there's absolutely no way that could go wrong or be abused. Good idea.

</sarcasm_mode>

Expand full comment

What's the real-world outcome for a scandal market?

A scandal is when everyone stops associating with you. How do they know if they should stop associating with you? When the prediction market predicts at least a 30% probability of scandal.

Expand full comment

That is indeed a point against tying the market to a social penalty like ostracization . Tying them to being convicted of a crime would fix that, but has its own problems.

Expand full comment

Anna Rita gets how this works.

To expand on this: as long as weird nerds and prediction markets are ignored by whatever the prediction market is based on, the market can be accurate. (But useless, because it is ignored.)

As soon as the real-world decisions are based on the prediction market, the market becomes degenerate in exactly the same way as a "predict where this market will close at the end of 2022" market.

> The resolution criteria could make things unfair in one direction or another. If it’s “convicted by a court”, very few sexual assault cases ever make it to court, probably that would be a low probability even if the person involved was a known assaulter. But if it’s “so-and-so thinks it happens”, it depends a lot who so-and-so is. There’s even risk of a hyperstitional cascade, where traders believe if the prediction market is high than so-and-so will believe it, so the prediction market ironically produces its own outcome.

In the middle, you can have "ostracism from the community of weird nerds with prediction markets" depend on a prediction market about a jury conviction. But notice that this *strictly* depends on normal people not caring about weird nerds with prediction markets. The very second that weird nerds and prediction markets become socially relevant, the prediction market directly causes its own outcome.

The way the system currently works is that some guy has bad vibes and people feel the feds ought to do something, so he gets convicted of a crime, and that crime can be completely untethered to the reasons for the bad vibes. This is, more or less by definition, a system that people are broadly happy with, in the same way that people are "happy" with Congress: nobody wants to change their piece of it.

If prediction markets become relevant, explicitly and specifically for the purpose of using the prediction market to ostracize people as Bad Monkeys, then the market creates its own outcome.

Try --- I know this is hard, but try to imagine a world where weird nerds and prediction markets weren't ignored by normal people. Try to imagine a world where "95% chance Austin Chen will be charged with a felony before 2030" was something that normal people cared about. In that world, if the prediction market says 95%, then Austin Chen WILL be charged with a felony before the next District Attorney election cycle. The specific felony could be anything; Austin Chen is a public figure, you can always come up with something.

To be more pointed, imagine a world where weird nerds and prediction markets weren't ignored by normal people, and imagine a prediction market on "Will Scott Alexander be convicted of sexual assault before 2030?" And imagine that that market sits at 73%. And imagine that Scott Alexander is *not* convicted of sexual assault before 2030. And imagine the headlines that will be printed after that, about Scott Alexander getting away with sexual assault after THE PREDICTION MARKET WAS AT 73%! (I kid, of course. The headlines wouldn't report what the prediction market had been immediately before the outcome was reported, the headlines would report whatever was the highest number the market had ever reached.) And imagine what would happen to the prosecutor who failed to convict, the judge who failed to grant timely justice --- God forbid, the defense witnesses who testified in favor of someone with a market at 73%. The defense *attorney*.

And then go back and try, again, to imagine that Scott Alexander is not convicted of sexual assault before 2030.

Put yourself in the shoes of the prosecutor, the judge, the defense attorney --- God forbid, the defense witnesses.

It won't happen. It is un-possible. In a world where the market sits at 73%, and that fact matters to people who matter...then 73% is in fact way too low.

...and now imagine being a trader, in that situation, looking at that market. You can run through this entire chain of logic and realize that 73% is way too low. So you buy. And the market goes up. Which makes nonconviction even more politically impossible. Which makes the market go up.

The problem with "predict where this market will close at the end of 2022" markets is that they pay out the same completely regardless of what happens in reality. They are, thus, simply and literally popularity contests. It doesn't cost anything, on net, to move the market, because moving the market pays out the same amount that moving the market costs.

As long as scandal markets are *ignored*, they're accurate but pointless. If scandal markets are not ignored, then they aren't predicting anything except the outcome of the scandal market itself.

Expand full comment

(Fun fact: when people decied that LIBOR is a «true» market rate for some loans and started using its snapshots for other loans … yep, it got manipulated at the snapshot deadlines even though it meant some suboptimal inter-bank loans were taken. You need to be grounded in reality much stronger than any use of the market outcome can break, not merely «somewhat»… even being a high-liquidity financial market is not enough!)

Expand full comment

That's very interesting. You're talking about https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/libor-scandal.asp?

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/libor.asp

According to the Federal Reserve and regulators in the UK, LIBOR will be phased out by June 30, 2023 [due to the mentioned manipulation], and will be replaced by the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) [which is...better...somehow?].

> SOFR is different than LIBOR in that it's based on actual observed transactions in the U.S. Treasury market while LIBOR used estimations of borrowing rates.

Fascinatingly, prior to April 2018, it looks like LIBOR was based on, functionally, *nothing at all* --- the banks weren't required to actually lend or borrow at the rates they quoted.

Then it was transaction-based, but the transactions that went into it were not open offers, they were just reported loans between banks --- meaning two banks could trivially collude to set the "interest rate" to whatever they wanted.

I suppose it's similar in a "metric is accurate until it becomes relevant" kind of way, but it seems pretty different. As I understand it, the problem with LIBOR is that it was never based on open offers, so it was essentially on the honor system. A bet on a prediction market *is* an open offer. The problem with scandal markets, as with any kind of "bet on where this market will close" prediction market, is that any bet has equal expected value regardless of the state of the reality it is theoretically-but-not-actually based on, because the market is influencing reality rather than the other way around.

Expand full comment

I'd really have to see this play out. This is definitely *one* possibility, but I feel there are others.

Expand full comment

That's interesting; how do we make a prediction like a stock, which never cashes out? It needs to pay dividends! But what would those be?

Expand full comment

Okay, here's a first draft idea: There's an ongoing poll, as to whether the individual is *currently* undergoing a scandal. If it reaches a certain threshold, the bet (which of course is separate from the poll) pays out to those that bet "yes." Until then, it pays out a trickle to those who bet "no." Once that poll threshold is reached, the market for that bet closes and you have to start another one.

Thoughts? The biggest problem I see is that this would be easily manipulable until participation was high enough.

Expand full comment

Why would there need to be dividends?

Expand full comment

Why else would people bet that a scandal *wouldn't* happen, if there's no close date?

Expand full comment

I have an idea for a stock. The assets of the company are exactly the cash that has been used to buy stock. Whenever 50.01% (or a "certain threshold") of stockholders vote "akalon", the company is cashed out and those 50.01% of stockholders receive 100% of the cash.

Do you see the problem with this plan?

Does it make any difference at all, whatsoever, whether "akalon" is the word for "scandal" in some language?

Does it make any difference at all, whatsoever, whether the company slowly bleeds off assets to each stockholder who didn't vote "akalon"? (Hint: how long is this company going to continue to exist?)

As for polling people for nonbinding answers...as it happens, I just learned from ryhime that prior to April of 2018, a bunch of financial transactions determined who got more money and who got less money based on a magic number called LIBOR. And prior to April of 2018, LIBOR was determined by asking a bunch of banks "Plz tell us about your financial transactions, p.s. plz be honest." How do you suppose that worked out?

Expand full comment

As I said, “Once that poll threshold is reached, the market for that bet closes and you have to start another one.”

Expand full comment

Yeah, it's mainly interesting if there's an objective outcome you can bet on. "Joe commits fraud" is not easy to resolve--maybe rumors are swirling about Joe committing fraud and many people believe it but many others don't and there's no proof. On the other hand, "Joe convicted or pleads guilty of fraud in a US court by Dec 31, 2026" is something we can resolve.

Expand full comment

Many of the issues that we'd care about and call a scandal are things which are not illegal.

Imagine a charity lies about (or "selectively reports") information about how effective it is. EA then donates more money to it. Later, it comes out that the charity has presented misleading information about how effective it was. However, the charity doesn't lie about how the money was spent, and the money was used for the purpose donors were told it would be used for.

That's a scandal that EA would care about, but it's not clear that the charity has committed a crime.

Expand full comment

I am reminded of [Zvi's arguments against making blackmail legal](https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/blackmail/). Basically, legal blackmail has a bunch of negative consequences, even if you do want the blackmail material to come out.

Expand full comment

Well then. I read like half that article, and am persuaded that laws against blackmail make no sense.

Expand full comment

284 mana is more like $2.84 than $284, since $2.84 is what it costs to buy that much mana.

Expand full comment
author
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

If so then I suspect the other event, if it existed, was still not a hack but someone else trying to snatch the funds from under the nose of the regulators. It's too much of a coincidence for a random hacker to get in exactly when the government tries to secure the funds, and exactly before that event (there would be nothing to take after) but close enough so they could be confused on the timeframe.

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

This is just more confusion; that article says the Bahamian government "directed FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to access FTX’s systems after the Chapter 11 filing, “for the purpose of obtaining digital assets of the debtors.”

Bankman-Fried seems to deny this, or at least be claiming that the missing money is due to a disgruntled ex-employee hacking FTX.

So either he's (still) lying about what happened, he genuinely doesn't know what happened, or there were two lots of withdrawals of assets, one by the Bahamian government and one a hack.

Whatever way you slice it, this is not a good sign about the management of their affairs. Bankman-Fried seems to be the one person who had access to all accounts and control over what happened, and if he doesn't know or is lying and shifting money himself, then it's still a huge mess to sort out with even less hope of recovering what assets do still exist.

Nobody, not even a government, should be able to just help themselves to whatever money is in the crypto accounts - or *wherever* this money was held.

EDIT: There's a third possibility, that Bankman-Fried does truly believe what he told Kelsey Piper about being able to sort this all out if he hadn't allowed himself to be persuaded to file for bankruptcy.

So he cuts an under the table deal with the Bahamian government, which does not want to see its financial services sector go belly-up since that would really hurt its economy: he gives them access to a nice bunch of assets (nearly $500 million worth) and in return, they file for bankruptcy separately from what is going on in Delaware, and if they win he gets back in charge of what is left of FTX (not the US arm) and makes it all magically okay again.

That would also make sense of what he said as reported in Piper's Vox piece about "if we can win vs Delaware" - the 'we', presumably, being the rival bankruptcy case and if that is the Bahamas SEC taking it, why "we"?

That 'hack' might be him building up a war chest and blaming it on 'disgruntled ex-employee', so he can have assets squirrelled away to start trading again if he gets back any kind of entity out of the bankruptcy. Or, at worst, has money to flee the country and live anonymously someplace before he can be arrested.

Expand full comment

> or there were two lots of withdrawals of assets, one by the Bahamian government and one a hack.

That's how I understood this new communication - there were two events, in close proximity to each other. Of course if we had the address(es) we could verify it (that's what public ledger is for after all) but I haven't seen them published anywhere yet.

Expand full comment

>> so he can have assets squirrelled away to start trading again

Or to keep the staff psychiatrist on the payroll to continue writing scripts

Expand full comment

> I’ll take this chance to say: a lot of media is predicting the death of EA, or a major blow to EA, or something in that category. Not going to happen. The media isn’t good at understanding people who do things for reasons other than PR. But most EAs really believe. Like, really believe<

This is a case study. Id love to know more details:

https://www.history.com/news/baby-incubators-boardwalk-sideshows-medical-marvels

Expand full comment

The fact that lots of people believe in effective altruism does not mean that the Effective Altruism movement/community will continue to exist. Like, New Atheism is totally dead, but more Americans identify as atheists now than did when New Atheism was a big thing. Likewise, it’s possible that 10 years from now there will be more people giving 10% of their salary to charity, but fewer people “identify[ing] as part of the EA community”.

Expand full comment

If that take is right, then New Atheism has not failed; it's succeeded and continues to succeed, albeit at the sacrifice of its own reputation.

Expand full comment

I think the relevant question with respect to New Atheism is whether the increase in atheists was caused by New Atheism or simply would have happened anyways for demographic reasons.

It’s logically possible (though IMO unlikely) that the increase would have been even higher in a world where New Atheism hadn’t existed.

(There’s also a separate data quality issue: a lot of people who count as “Nones” in surveys and get lumped in with atheists lack the core commitment to scientific materialism that New Atheism had. Many are downright New Agey.)

Expand full comment
Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

Yeah I have a bunch of friends who are and have been atheists/“freethinkers” since the 90s. As far as I am aware none of us even know what the “New Atheists” are.

Expand full comment

There is a difference between ignoring religion, and willingness to criticize religion.

To be more precise, you do not need to spend every day criticizing something; just to be okay to do so when the debate turns that way. For example, I believe that homeopathy is bullshit, but most of the time I simply do not think about it. But there is a great difference between "99% of time does not think about it, 1% says loudly it's bullshit" and "99% of time does not think about it, 1% respectfully shuts up".

We get better at ignoring religion, even without New Atheism, on that part I agree.

But what is the last time you heard someone say loudly that all religion is bullshit (making it perfectly clear that Islam is also included)? This is something I associate with New Atheism. Without it, we only get the pathetic postmodern: "uhm... I am not saying that it is true... but I am not saying that it is false either... maybe burning the witches is not very nice... on the other hand, who am I to criticize someone else's culture...".

Expand full comment

Religion is obviously bullshit, but the sanity waterline is low enough that if it's excised, something worse rushes to take its place. Nobody has yet come anywhere near solving this problem, and New Atheists are no exception. Masses still very much crave opium of some kind.

Expand full comment

Aren't Bill and Melinda Gates practicing EA? Or are they excluded for being too libertarian, and not political, left, or 'activist' enough?

EA to achieve ideological or social-engineering or political goals seems narcissistic to me, just using the power of one's wealth to burnish one's virtue -- especially when the claim is that it's 'for the public good'.

Expand full comment

The gates foundation is very far from being libertarian and very close to being left politically

Expand full comment

I thought they were on to something when they issued college scholarships according to personal and family wealth, rather than race, gender, one's score on the barometer of victimhood, or some other social construct.

Used appropriately, data is egalitarian.

Expand full comment

I at least consider that they are proto EAs. A lot of "obvious" interventions aren't cost effective for the average EA precisely because the Gates foundation has been doing a great job at funding them (polio eradication being the main one to come to mind). IIRC in South Bay EA meetups, it was considered plausible that the lack of Gates funding towards a project was a weak signal if its quality.

Anyway, at least for the around 70 or so people I've talked to at EA meetups where gates was also discussed, there was zero discussion of his politics, mostly he was just evaluated on typical EA grounds, so that big of speculation is just wrong for South Bat EAs at least.

Expand full comment

They have a lot of good donations but also quite a lot that don't seem that effective - e.g. random schools or Red Cross or whatever. Effective Altruism is more of a spectrum though and I'd guess they are likely be a bit more EA than the median donor.

Expand full comment

Yeah, I may have been a bit too enthusiastic about Gates, but his origin story about reading the duty free guy's biography and then acting on it is, imo, very much part of the EA aesthetic.

Expand full comment

The Gates foundation is the most consistently EA-acting major donor. But they have never explicitly aligned with EA, the way Musk and SBF did, even though their donations have in practice been much more effective.

Expand full comment

Effective altruism is dead! Long live effective altruism!

Expand full comment

That's a good question; will people still be identifying as effective altruists/committed to EA principles and movement, or will they drop all that and just be doing old-fashioned charity? The secular version of "spiritual but not religious" being "I'm charitable but not EA"?

EA may be going through its version of the Catholic sex abuse scandals right now, and from this side of the fence:

(1) Yes, I do understand why people will still believe in the movement despite everything. I'm still Catholic myself, after all.

(2) Yes, I do understand the immediate current rush to disavow any relationship with Bankman-Fried, or that he was ever a True Scotsman.

(3) Yes, I do understand wanting to sweep all this under the carpet. We papists have been through all this.

(4) The worst thing you can do, and that MacAskill et al. can do, is to try and sweep this under the carpet or deny any linkages, because you (general 'you') are going to look like proper Charlies when pieces like the Sequoia article are disinterred with breathless coverage making MacAskill sound like Bankman-Fried's guru. Face up to it is better in the long run. "Yeah he was one of ours, yeah he talked the talk and possibly believed a lot of the principles behind certain dogmas, but also yeah he did wrong and we need to address how everyone fucked up and this is what we are going to do". Catholic parishes worldwide had to produce safeguarding statements and set up people who would be responsible if anything was ever reported to them again, EA will have to do something similar about "this is what we are doing".

(5) Those committees or boards or whatever will have to have some teeth. Preliminary reporting on the rumours about Bankman-Fried being dodgy and any investigations sounds like the same kind of "we set up a committee to look into this and produce a report on it" about the sex abuse allegations within the rationalist community (which I was re-reading lately, coincidentally) and sound the same faults: "we produced a report which advised to, in effect, do nothing because we don't snitch to the feds" and it's down to community mores and values. High value put on being open, on trust, on not being judgemental, on 'if everyone just sits down together and talks this out we can sort it out', on non-traditional ways of behaving and making up your own new institutions to replace the conventional ones.

(6) tl;dr - EA is going to have to own this, and set structures in place that will be actually effective, even if the operating parameters go against community norms of niceness and not being copper's narks

Expand full comment

I hadn't considered this linkage (I'm no longer catholic, but for fundamental 'don't-believe-in-God' reasons rather than specific disagreements), but I think it's a very good one.

One option EA has that the Catholic church does not is to row back on 'big names' in a general sense - EA has been a pretty big influence on me, but I'm not particularly attached to or impressed with any of the names often named, and I think it's a weakness; in particular, I think when people expect you to have something to say, a novelty bias creeps in (whether on purpose or not).

Expand full comment

This would be a huge win in my view, and I say this as someone for whom EA ideas have the largest single influence on my actions and beliefs in my adult life. If we get more of the core, important ideas:

1) There's a moral imperative for most well-off people to give a non-negligible amount to charity; and

2) You should care about how effective those charities are at helping people

I'm happy to get rid of much of the rest. It's interesting this should come up, because I've recently been pondering the idea of an 'EA Community' being a net negative, as I believe it introduces a corrosive novelty bias, and a tendency to act as though certain questions are solved even though they're only solved within a tiny number of people.

As an example, take the question of what forms of artificial intelligence are deserving of moral consideration, which I've seen come up relatively frequently in EA circles, and adjacent to the AI Safety question. Whilst I think this is an interesting question, and an enjoyable one to discuss, back in the rest of the world the question of whether 'Other humans, but poor' are deserving of moral consideration is still very much live (and, going by behaviours, an overwhelming majority would answer 'no').

The 'easy' questions still need a lot of work and focus, and I'm concerned they might not be getting it.

Expand full comment

On the matter of why Twitter became unprofitable, the short answer is it ramped up its operating expenses faster than its growth in revenue. From 2019-2021 TWTR added around $1.6bn in revenue and $2.5bn in op-ex.

The 2019 earnings number also looks much better than it really was because TWTR received a large tax benefit, though it still would have been nominally profitable without it.

2021 really was a good year for revenue growth, so maybe that spending did something. Though revenue growth was decelerating again in 2022 and op-ex growth was still very high. So this is what Elon figured -- a lot of that spending was wasteful and not doing much to drive revenue growth.

Of course, Twitter being profitable in 2023 just by slashing the op-ex to the bone while also losing some revenue doesn't necessarily make this a good investment for him, at the price he paid. The company's problem all along is that it has struggled to monetize itself in proportion to how big of a name we think it might be. More of a Reddit than a Facebook or Google. It was growing revenue too slowly to be considered much of a growth stock, but it was too unprofitable to be a value stock. That's why it was really just a dog of a stock.

Expand full comment

I would recommend against buying "Yes" on the Jones unblocking one.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1594552252865384450

Expand full comment

> at 4:50 PM California time, I spent M$1000 in play money (=~ $10 in real money) to manipulate it up to 95%.

Are you sure you spent M$1000? Market shows you having spend M$200.

Expand full comment
author

Maybe I confused that with the thing I tried manipulating my own market then. I'll edit it.

(hopefully this doesn't count as fraud - although if it does, I guess my $1000 position is about to go way up!)

Expand full comment

"Maybe Manifold should add a polling platform to their service?"

According to my market from a month ago this is a good idea!

https://manifold.markets/LachlanMunro/is-my-manifold-feature-idea-resolut

Expand full comment

There's also a market on whether it'll happen here: https://manifold.markets/NcyRocks/will-manifold-markets-implement-a-n

Expand full comment

> Notice the second-to-last item, “Trump To Lose”. This sounds like a prediction market bet but I don’t know of any real-money market big enough to absorb $7 million on this question - the closest questions on Polymarket have only $1.2 million and $30,000 total. It could have been on a British betting site, but I don’t know details.

My understanding is that this relates to FTX's in-house prediction markets. The reporting on this is a bit muddled — Yahoo News and Coindesk claim this is from the 2020 election, though they don't explain why it would still be on the books now. My best guess is it's 2024 shares, crypto retail traders are probably net long Trump to win, and FTX+Alameda ended up net short providing liquidity to them.

Expand full comment

Please tell me that that last bit was a joke and you don't actually think insider trading is sinister.

Expand full comment

That is definitely a joke. It describes Scott looking at the trade history as "financial detective work", and ends with "Congratulations to the happy couple."

Expand full comment

Okay, I want to clarify just in case this is some crazy political position I have never heard of, but you're talking about in this specific instance of play-money-betting-about-relationships and not insider trading in general, right? (And yes, definitely a joke in this context)

Expand full comment

This is some crazy political position you've never heard of. "You want more insider trading, not less. You want to give the people most likely to have knowledge about deficiencies of the company an incentive to make the public aware of that."—Milton Friedman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insider_trading#Arguments_for_legalizing

Honestly, I would have thought that this was self-evident in prediction markets. I mean, do you *really* want the people with the most accurate information to be prohibited from participating?

Expand full comment
Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

>I mean, do you *really* want the people with the most accurate information to be prohibited from participating?

There are a lot of scenarios in which I do. For instance, if one person has insider knowledge that other people will soon know, and trades on it before anyone else finds out the knowledge, the insider trading means that having the information a tiny bit ahead of time is immensely more valuable than just having the information at all. I don't want a small change in when they receive accurate information to lead non-insiders to be unable to profit. Why would non-insiders even participate in the stock market if they keep losing out on profit to insiders?

There's also the question of conflicts of interest.

Expand full comment

Is the purpose of a prediction market to ensure that the most people can profit? Or is it to discover the most accurate information?

If the insider uses his information, that's a signal to others of the true value of the asset, whether a stock or a prediction. Isn't that the purpose of these markets?

And what conflicts? In a low-participation market, there are lots of ways people—insiders or not—can game the system. Why is what an insider can do specifically worse?

Expand full comment

For stock markets: no, best possible information is not the purpose. Stock markets are intended to be places where people with no extra information to add to the market can make reasonably risky investments — and the enterprises can raise funding when the only way they can compensate for the downside risk is to offer more upside chance. Insider trading makes the already hard issues around good faith even harder.

Actually, given that insiders can typically _manufacture_ selective evidence without a corresponding change in fundamentals, and trade on the future evidence they are going to release later… yeah, a motivated insider can probably poison a prediction market with inside trading.

(Speaking of the specific prediction market in the original question, the linked trades are insider trading on a change in underlying reality, but there was a discussion in comments about manufacturing a resolution to match the exact-words just to insider-trade for laughs)

Expand full comment

Okay, I agree that information is not the primary purpose of a stock market; raising capital is (which makes the other reason you give as incidental as "information" is).

But I don't think your objections hold up.

If insider trading makes things harder for firms who issue stock, that is an excellent thing to not make laws about, because the affected party is in the best position to address the issue. A firm could make an enforceable commitment to not allow insider trading by its employees, etc.

However, would we want that? Take Enron. Enron certainly didn't want any insider trading lowering the stock price and potentially exposing their shoddy situation! But surely Enron's other investors would have wished people to do just that!

And certainly high-level insiders could manipulate the market and take short-term advantage. But then they will have damaged the firm's credibility, by releasing information that turns out to be false. Again, this seems like a self-policing situation.

And also—it would seem that the corporation *itself* is in the best position to perform this kind of manipulation. You can't make corporations trading their own stock on inside information illegal—there's no other kind! So if your objection were a real concern, it would seem to already be legal.

Expand full comment

Re: name of Michael Lewis’s book about SBF: There’s no way it will be called Atlas Rugged. Virtually all Michael Lewis book titles are nouns, often preceded by an adjective and/ or ‘The’: THE BIG SHORT; MONEYBALL; LIAR’S POKER; THE PREMONITION. I think it will be called

THE FUCK-UP.

Other suggestions?

Expand full comment

(being silly...)

Blockhead in Chains

CryptoFTXism

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

RISKY BUSINESS

THE FALL: FROM SAVIOUR TO PARIAH

UNEXPECTED VALUE

Expand full comment

High Expected Value

Expand full comment

You guys are keeping me sniggering. How about MONEY BALLS -UP

Expand full comment

NET NEGATIVE

LONG TAIL of the crypto

(In retrospect, "Blockhead in Chains" is more like the paranormal romance BDSM parody.)

Expand full comment

WHAT

H

A

P

P

E

N

E

D

Expand full comment

("Whappened Hat" for short.)

Expand full comment

Surely if there was a death penalty for participating in EA movement, EA would do the effective thing: disband itself, then create a new movement with the same goals and same people, instead of trying to keep being operational against the tide.

So technically it can lead to the end of EA movement on paper for just the PR reasons, regardless of the the power of faith in EA cause. The chance that EA will die in spirit is, of course, much less likely.

Expand full comment

Sounds like you're describing "a movement that calls itself 'Effective Altruism'", not "the effective altruism movement".

Expand full comment

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Expand full comment

Wine, though...

Expand full comment

Surely the prediction markets need to be anonymous for scandal markets to work?

I'm a Hollywood insider. I know all the rumours about Harvey Weinstein before the story breaks, but also know he has enough power to end the career of anyone who speaks out. I have to assume he is keeping an eye on who buys yes on his scandal market and blacklisting them from getting employment?

I feel often in these scandals (including FTX to some extent) the whisper networks say "yeah we all knew but they were incredibly vindictive so we couldn't speak out. Non-anonymous prediction markets is the same issue.

Expand full comment

I've seen exactly that in some of the reports about reports; "I/he/we never said anything because Sam is vindictive and I/he/we were scared what would happen".

There also seems to be fear of making "powerful enemies" within the EA movement, which is sad but if true, is also a very human phenomenon. Nobody is perfect, and no organisation will remain free of emotions and vested interests leaking through and colouring how they are run.

Expand full comment

Oh good Lord; bets are public? No, no, that won't do. You've got to encourage insiders to bet, or this will never work.

Expand full comment

Accounts on Manifold can be anonymous, just don't use your real name.

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, I agree that would be important for doing this right.

Expand full comment

Is "asking that a scandal market be shut down" a red flag in itself, or justifiable by some non-market-related principle?

Expand full comment

I think it's reasonable for a non-public-figure to not want that kind of scrutiny on their life. People are entitled to some measure of privacy, and may not want others digging around for dirt.

Expand full comment

If other people value someone's lack of privacy more than the person values his own privacy, wouldn't violating their privacy be a more efficient market?

Expand full comment

Sure. But would it be good or bad for the market in something bad to be more efficient?

Expand full comment

Are there any signs of EA PR pushback in more mainstream news sources? Should there be?

Expand full comment

Something I don’t understand about scandal markets is that they seem to have to contradictory requirements.

First, the market has to be large enough to absorb manipulation, or to even hit a true equilibrium in the first place. That’s why this can only be implemented for public figures: there simply aren’t enough people in the world who care about whether or not I will be involved in a scandal to make an efficient market.

But for scandal markets to be a reliable source of information about a person’s true propensity for scandal, the people participating in the market have to themselves have reliable information. But the vast majority of people making bets about a public figure are going to basically just go off of vibes. High-information betters are going to be drowned out by noise.

This is made worse when the markets have public betting: the people with the best information are quite likely close enough to the subject that publicly betting on a scandal would have real-life ramifications for their relationship with the subject.

Expand full comment

You don't need the vast majority of people making bets to be sharp, a handful of informed bettors with sufficient funding is enough. Think about sportsbetting. The vast majority of participants are clueless but the sharps still manage to move the markets to quite efficient lines

Expand full comment

This makes me think that the subject himself is likely to buy in big if he knows a scandal is likely to break!

Expand full comment

A scandal market may not be the thing, a whistleblower's market might be better, if we do want to encourage people to come forward and not rely on whisper-networks about "X is dodgy, don't trust them".

Every tabloid newspaper, gossip magazine, and clickbait website is running its own version of a scandal market. Just look at the rumours around Kate and Meghan: they hate each other! Kate is deliberately slighting Meghan! Meghan wore this dress to outshine Kate! Body language expert tells us what that lift of an eyebrow meant about relations between the royal siblings! And plenty of people buy these magazines and papers and click on the websites, not necessarily because they believe any of this, but because gossip is fun. And this is what keeps such things profitable enough to engage in them.

I would not count on scandal markets to tell me the truth about anything. And there is always the danger of malicious actors; didn't that David Gerard guy boast he was the one who sicced Cade Metz onto Scott via anonymous tips and hints?

Expand full comment

How would a whistleblower market work? Are you thinking something like "Will someone reveal previously-unknown information about this person?" That seems really hard to resolve objectively.

Expand full comment

This is an interesting point. Moving a prediction market in the wrong direction requires the marks losing actual cash money to the smarts. But everything about the media shows us that people absolutely are willing to (collectively) spend mindbogglingly enormous amounts of money for the sake of lurid-and-probably-false rumors. There's already an entire industry of professional smarts exploiting the marks in exactly this way as their full-time jobs.

Expand full comment

I remember (but in a very vague way) years back watching a television programme about a British tabloid (I want to say it was the Sun but I could be wrong). Part of the programme showed them deciding what story to run about a celebrity (again, I want to say it was Michael Jackson but I could be wrong there as well).

They had two versions of a story that they could run; one was a positive version about something (let's say it was "All lies that Jackson eats pandas!") and one was the negative version ("Jackson eats pandas, source says!") and they were trying to decide which story would sell better (needless to say, neither story was at all true but that didn't matter, they just wanted something to put up a big splashy headline with a photo underneath to get the punters to buy it).

I think they decided to go with the negative version and then they had the lawyers advising them "If you say it such-and-such a way, he can sue you for libel, but if you say it like this, you're in the clear".

So absolutely there's an industry around "how can we get a juicy story out there that may be totally false but who the hell cares so long as it gets us eyeballs".

Expand full comment

People without insider knowledge can still disagree about their models of the other person.

Also note that people who have a personal relationship can always bet anonymously.

Expand full comment

Auger peaked at around $11M open interest for the Trump 2020 election. It is possible that a very substantial portion of that was FTX betting NO at short odds.

Expand full comment
Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

"The market resolves not to “yes” or “no” but to the percent of FTX US users’ funds that they eventually get back; you make money if you were closer than other traders. "

Is that really so? I clicked through and it says yes/no market, and "yes shares worth 1 if yes wins".

Expand full comment

Scott is correct, I think you're probably looking at some "new user" popup that Manifold shows to everyone to explain how the site works in general. It doesn't say that in the market description.

Expand full comment

No, I followed the link to the event (FTX recovery %), then click on the three dot menu. There it says the type is YES/NO, and that the payout is fixed (hovering over the info symbol: Each YES share is worth 1 if yes wins).

Expand full comment

The market can also resolve to anywhere between YES and NO. (YES = 100% and NO = 0%)

Expand full comment

Where do you see this? Where can I get more info about the rules of these types of markets? (What is it even called?)

Expand full comment

It's the same type of market. It can resolve to any mix of YES and NO. For example if it resolves to 70%, then each YES share pays out M$0.7, and each NO share pays out M$0.3.

Expand full comment

But the info there says explicitly "yes shares worth 1 if resolved positivly", no mention of partial yes.

Do you have a link or something that explain how it works?

Expand full comment

I found this, but it also doesn't correspond to what Scott says, and that specific market seems to be quite explicitly a YES/NO one.

https://help.manifold.markets/ef908a19ee0e4eeab78359900b23708d

Expand full comment

It *is* a YES/NO market. They can resolve to somewhere in between as well.

If I ask you "Is Ukraine part of Russia", is the answer "yes" or "no"? They overlap and there's a lot of disagreement, so it isn't really either. It would make more sense to say the answer is around 80% no.

Expand full comment

The Republican bias in the predictit averages is a holdover from those people who bought "Trump to win" in 2016. They were the early miners that made bank in the California Gold Rush, and since then, there has been a deluge of Republican 49ers coming to make their claim, looking for the next big score and many of them will lose their shirt.

Expand full comment

(1) Re: Twitter - FUDGE IT, WHY ARE YOU GUYS MAKING ME DEFEND MUSK? By "you guys" I do not mean Scott, I mean the likes of the guy linked for 'reasons why Twitter might go dark':

"12) Oh shit. You reverted one of them. Now every locked account's tweets are visible to everyone. People might literally get murdered with machetes over their posts. That's not a hypothetical. It's now 9pm. The site is fucked. Who are you going to call?"

That's right, if Elon fires the wrong engineer/engie quits in a flounce-off because xie is not going to work for a fascist, people are going to get murdered with machetes.

I humbly submit that if you are in a situation where you are genuinely likely to get murdered with a machete, things are so dire that a freakin' social media site is the *least* of your problems.

TO HECK AND DARNATION WITH IT, ELON, BRING ON THE GIANT DEATH ZEPPELINS!!!!

And to this?

"28) Genocide. People use your platform to orchestrate mass murder, the machetes in churches kind. And fast. Lightning fucking fast. You need to be prepared *before*. If you don't have a team who knows how to detect and stop this ASAP, your ass is getting dragged to The Hague"

Then the *best* thing would be for Twitter to go dark forever, rather than "eh, let's keep it running so people have to figure out work-arounds about organising their machete massacre". I sincerely recommend that if you are more worried about "but we neeeds the blue birdie, we does we does!" because you tweet on it so you run scare stories about machete massacres in order to get the new boss to do things the way you like them, you should go stick your head in a basin of cold water to clear it and set your priorities right. If blue birdie is being used by people who would like to use it to plan machete massacres only for your crack team keeping it safe for rainbow socks, then down with it, don't preserve it.

I swear to God, *this* is the kind of messaging making me hope it ends up with Twitter Delenda Est (or at least half the workforce), Elon Triumphans and he is awarded one of these, and I can't stand the guy ordinarily:

https://exhibits.library.villanova.edu/index.php/ancient-rome/roman-activities/roman-triumph

All that I'm reading with the squeaking protests makes me think Twitter operates like the old joke about the Vatican: "Your Holiness, how many people work in the Vatican?" "Oh, about half of them".

Twitter profitability: going by this graph, it was always loss-making *except* for 2018 and 2019. The only thing I can think of that happened in 2018 was Donald Trump. Was he the reason for the surge in usage and hence driving revenue? Heck knows, I'm not a chartered accountant:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/274563/annual-net-income-of-twitter/

This is a slightly better story about 2018 profitability:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/08/twitter-makes-first-quarterly-profit-history

Expand full comment
founding

In (modest) fairness to the author of those tweets, (apparently) it wasn't all particularly about Twitter, but more any 'huge public web site/service', e.g. Gmail or any of the encrypted messaging thingies. (I think the overwrought tweets are a bit much even given that, but I know I don't like it when my customers are inconvenienced, let alone more significant victims of crime or malice.)

Expand full comment
Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

I do get that, but the furore around Twitter is half people saying "Musk will ruin it" and half people hoping it will collapse so they can gloat about it along the lines of "Ha ha Musk so stupid, idiot fascist man who won't keep hate speech off our site" (by which they mean "anybody who wouldn't fit in at a meeting of Persons Of Hair Colour and Septum Piercings on the most progressive Berkeley campus being permitted to express opinions in public"). These are not people in danger of being murdered by machetes (it would be very unkind of me to hope that they would be) but rather "oh no I cannot follow my reliable liberal bubble of opinionators about how Orange Man Bad", so the bit about "it is VITAL that there are enough engineers on hand to prevent MACHETE MASSACRES since we all know Musk is going to let the BAD ELEMENT back and that is what they do" was over the top.

As I said, I'm no Musk fan, but this sort of reaction makes me want it to happen that he fires them all, runs the entire shebang with three men and a dog based in Jaipur, and turns it around so that Twitter makes a consistent profit for the next eight quarters.

Expand full comment
founding

I sympathize!

But that particular tweet thread was making a (at least) slightly different 'prophecy of doom': the current chaos inside Twitter might lead to the site's/service's security failing and, e.g. agents of a repressive paramilitary organization will be able to identify their enemies and thus perpetrate machete massacres.

I don't read it the thread as claiming that the "BAD ELEMENT[S]" will perpetrate machete massacres, or that the critics of Musk will be massacred, but that the 'regular' targets of such things will be exposed by something breaking at/with Twitter.

Expand full comment

I want to see a market: “EA will renounce utilitarianism as a guiding principle by 2030.”

Expand full comment

I love you so much.

Now I need to figure out how to use Manifold.

(BTW, the number is about where I would have put it myself.)

Expand full comment

> Now I need to figure out how to use Manifold.

I'm not sure whether that was a sarcastic comment or not, but if not, feel free to ask me if you have any questions about the platform. :)

Expand full comment

I wonder if "girlfriend markets" can be used to attract girlfriends like "assassination markets" can attract assassins.

Expand full comment

Thanks for the shout-out Scott!

By the way, the data I collected and code for the analysis are available here:

https://github.com/mikesaint-antoine/midterm_forecast_analysis

in case anyone wants to do any further analysis (like a comparison of Manifold to 538).

Also, even though PredictIt did the worst of the three sites, I do want to say something nice about it -- PredictIt is BY FAR the best place to watch election results after the polls close. It's so much better at real-time information processing than the traditional media / pundits (who are not only technically unable to do this information processing, but also have an incentive to draw things out and make it seem like everything is a dead-heat race). Also, 538 doesn't update in real time like this on election night, and I think Manifold probably doesn't have the trading volume yet to do it reliably. So even though my post kinda implicitly criticized PredictIt, I do want to give them a huge compliment on that.

Also, I'm probably going to be writing more about forecasting and prediction markets, and doing more of these data collection and evaluation projects -- including sites I missed this time, like Polymarket. So if anyone's interested in this, please consider subscribing (for free)!

Expand full comment

I didn't watch it closely, but Manifold was updating pretty fast. People were watching PredictIt and Twitter for news in real time.

Expand full comment

Ah, interesting. I wonder if they'll still be able to update quickly even after PredictIt is taken offline, or if the Manifold users were basically just trading based on PredictIt prices, but don't have the trading volume to really price in new information themselves.

Btw I don't mean any of this as a criticism of Manifold -- if anything, I'm hoping that more of us start using it since more users and more trading will probably lead to more efficiency in pricing in new information. I'm really bummed that PredictIt is being taken down, and hoping that Manifold will be a viable replacement.

Expand full comment

Talk Elections/Elections Atlas and also #election Twitter are much better than PI. Way fewer memers and pumpers. Also depending on your persuasion there are various subreddits.

Expand full comment

Trump to lose 2024 is nothing like that deep on Betfair Exchange, so I doubt it was a British betting site.

The whole 2024 winner market is only £1,891,024 deep.

Expand full comment

Here’s one from the midterms that I put on Manifold Markets:

https://manifold.markets/JoeBrenton/will-nh-senate-nominee-don-buldoc-p

My purpose for creating this was to see if I could create a market that would gain traction on Manifold Markets and be a positive step toward resolving a political controversy by creating higher stakes on the question.

The way it played out is that it quickly converged to “No”, which is what I expected conditional on no response from the Don Buldoc campaign.

How could I have taken other action to maximize engagement on the market and the question in general? The main way I see would have been to try harder to force a response from the campaign. I could have, for example, used Twitter or other social media to press a harder challenge on the campaign to respond. Then the campaign would have faced the choice to either double-down or else be in a situation where the challenge is so visible that non-response could be viewed as ‘evidence of no evidence’

Expand full comment

What if instead of a scandal market you could report scandals to the police. This would be different that reporting a crime in the normal way, you could still do that. But this would be like a "half report". The police would only investigate if they got several reports against a person.

For instance people might be reluctant to tell the police they have been raped, because it's their word against the rapist, low chance of conviction. So they do a half-report. If the police gets two half-report against one person they investigate. Now there is two accusers, higher chance of conviction.

This is sort of what happened with me-too except with me-too the accusers was made aware of each other via the internet. But probably lots of people are reluctant to say they have been raped online.

Expand full comment

That's...that's how police reports work now. The reports are weighted by social status of the accuser, of course, but what you just described is how the police decide what to investigate. I'm having a hard time picturing how else the system possibly *could* work.

...have you ever made a police report? I have. They didn't investigate and I didn't expect them to; I just gave them a report so they'd have it on file in case something else happened.

Expand full comment

It's slightly different. The police is not allowed to investigate based on one half report. If a victim thinks that the criminal cannot be convicted based on just one accusation, with the current system the victim might be reluctant to report the crime because the victim might have to go though a lot of interrogations and maybe a trial and and it will all come to nothing.

Expand full comment
User was banned for this comment. Show
Expand full comment
author

I am banning this person for this comment. I expect this to be controversial because they're not doing anything too awful, it's just hard for me to imagine this person's presence making the commenting environment overall better. Feel free to tell me if you disagree.

Expand full comment

There is no commenting environment which that person is likely to make better, true. And being old enough to have been online since the Usenet newsgroup era, I can attest that that particular species of stupid has never not been present and never not been an irritating drag on the discourse.

All that said...well, sigh. I certainly want to disagree with the ban on the grounds that simple failure to make a place _better_ shouldn't be the standard in a reasonably-free society.

But as a practical matter...I got nothing. Letting that kind of nonsense get started in a forum is the beginning of the end of that forum, every time. You're defending the forum that you've built here and I have no practicable alternative to suggest.

All of which you already knew so I guess this comment is adding no value, sorry. Yea the ban is the least-bad move you could make there.

Expand full comment
founding

A well-kept garden allows only the flowers that are likely to make the place look better. With allowances for uncertainty, and you can always pull them up by the roots later if you don't like the way they turn out, but sometimes you just recognize a weed when you see it.

Expand full comment

Wow. I mean, on a practical level, you're probably right, but the only technical thing wrong I see here is "didn't provide any evidence for her assertions."

Expand full comment

Agree whole-heartedly. It was https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/tscc3e5eujrsEeFN4/well-kept-gardens-die-by-pacifism that convinced me that reign-of-terror is the best moderation policy.

Expand full comment

Is Polymarket worth getting into? I've been using Manifold for the past few weeks and enjoying it. Thing is I've never messed with crypto before...

Expand full comment
author

I don't know where you live, but Polymarket is illegal in the US. If you're abroad, then yeah, it seems like a good prediction market to me. It uses USDC, which is pretty safe by crypto standards, and handholds you through how to work with it.

The easiest way would be to sign up with Coinbase, which will involve a lot of giving them information, same way that opening a bank account might. It will be annoying but not require much technical knowledge. I can only confirm this is true for Americans, it might be worse somewhere else.

Expand full comment

I am UK based, so not an issue (man that’s fucking annoying that it’s banned in the US!!).

I see, ok well something to look into then. Thanks for the reply Scott, love the blog as always

Expand full comment

Ok, I've made a post on Manifold to discuss various types of scandal markets to try to figure out which one works best. I hope you don't mind me that I made 7 different scandal markets on you to experiment with various options. :)

https://manifold.markets/post/what-are-the-best-scandal-market-re

Expand full comment

I wonder if/how having the AI-generated image will significantly affect prediction quality. If art really does affect mood/mentality/cognition, will having some art there change anything? Will the surrealist quality of current AI art make people think more outside the box?

Would love to see Manifold A-B test that at the market level and come up with some fair cross-market metric of "consensus prediction accuracy prior to market close" to see if their images inspired better (or worse!) predictions. And of course make a meta-market about the result.

If the results are that the art significantly affects market quality, the possibilities for further A-B optimization are endless. Would adding additional parameters to each generation text to get the art to look a certain way further change market quality? E.g. Would asking the AI to make images in the style of Renaissance art enhance predictions more than modern art? And of course since the possibilities to test are endless, more meta-markets will inform what gets tested next.

If competition to get the most accurate consensus predictions is what will eventually set different prediction sites apart, they'll want to do some work in this vein on trying to create the optimal environment for accurate predictions

Expand full comment

In 2008 I was at an event where Musk was speaking. In those days, he was going through a public (& very messy divorce, gleefully covered in Gawker), plus the financial crisis had limited his ability to raise money for Tesla and SpaceX. The consensus in the room was that this guy is finished, he's just a two-hit wonder (Zip2 and Paypal).

That was the last time I have trusted the "wisdom" of the crowds when it comes to what Musk is capable of.

Expand full comment

To quote something random I saw: In the course of about 10 or 15 years we've gone from "Internet guy could never build a rocket" to "Rocket guy could never run a website".

There are many legitimate criticisms of Elon Musk but inability to run a tech business isn't one.

Expand full comment

[Disclaimer: I work at Metaculus.] Scott, any reason you embed the Manifold graphs but not the Metaculus one (i.e. like https://www.metaculus.com/questions/embed/13499)?

Also, we also have some questions about a variety of banned Twitter users getting unbanned that predate these current events by months: https://www.metaculus.com/questions/10860/who-will-twitter-unban-before-2023/

Seems like we need to improve Metaculus discover / embedding! Feedback here is welcome.

Expand full comment
author

I don't think Metaculus embeds work on Substack. When I post a link like the one in your first paragraph, or the HTML code you can get by clicking "embed" on the site, they just stay links or code.

I think Manifold only works because the Manifold people got in touch with Substack and asked them to add the functionality. You could also try that although I don't know how much energy Substack has for adding lots of different prediction markets.

Expand full comment

FYI, this is fixed! Clicking "embed" on the site and using that code in Substack should now make show a nice Metaculus graph. Let me know (dan at metaculus dot com) if you have any issues.

Expand full comment

> I’ve seen a lot of Twitter takes about how rich well-connected people never get in trouble for this kind of thing, but the markets seem less cynical.

"Never", at least sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. The most well-known fraudster in recent history, Bernie Madoff, got 150 years and died in prison.

It looks like the Enron scandal resulted in a number of guilty pleas and convictions as well, although I can't evaluate to what extent people in charge managed to shift blame onto underlings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron_scandal#Trials

Expand full comment

Did any of the people in charge immediately divulge their secrets to the nearest journalist? I think not doing that is a big part of how you avoid going to prison.

Expand full comment

Not sure, but as a 3rd data point, Elizabeth Holmes was just sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Expand full comment

Might scandal markets make whistleblowers less likely to be believed due to accusations that they have invested in the market (i.e. they're self-paid shills)?

Or what about when Wholesome Family Friendly Celeb with a Dark Past hedges himself by putting down $1,000,000 on him being involved in a scandal so that if you try and cancel them they stand to become many times wealthier?

I think that, at the *very* least, we should get more experience with the failure modes of other prediction markets before we try scandal markets for individuals, public or otherwise. You can't just say oopsie we destroyed somebody's reputation and livelihood because of an economic unknown unknown.

I'm somewhat less concerned about scandal markets regarding large institutions though.

Expand full comment

Eeeeeew, that's a good point. Erg.

Expand full comment

The thing about some people not being able to conceive of other motivations for doing things than PR resonates with me a lot, and is a really easy and quick way of explaining something I'd previously faltered around trying to nail down for ages.

I saw a really crystallising example of this back around the Australian Open (tennis) this year. Super-quick background for non-tennis-fans: At that point Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal were all tied on 20 slams (four per year, biggest titles in tennis) each, which is way way more than the next best at 14 (and long retired). Federer was basically past it, but Djokovic and Nadal were (and still are) actively going for more. Rivalry between Djokovic and Nadal to be the greatest ever (on this very common metric) is super-intense. Likely whichever gets it will hold it for decades, because tennis is normally quite swingy but those "big 3" had an age of domination which was unprecedented, and there aren't clear candidates to do the same going forwards (though you never know).

So the 2020 AO was a big one symbolically for breaking that three way tie, and just every slam right now is a huge deal for Djokovic and Nadal. But Djokovic got excluded for sort-of-vaccine reasons (he initially was told he met the exemption criteria due to infection some months before (rumoured to be faked, but this has died down and I reckon it was probably real, and this didn't feature at the time in the legal proceedings) but then after they let him in, and a judge ruled he was all cool in one of those disaster live public Zoom hearings, he got deported for "public order" reasons anyway based on alleged anti-vax statements in the past (which were in reality of the extremely weak "well who knows if science or random shit is really real; make up your own mind I guess" sauce)) and Nadal went on to win it. Nadal now leads 22-21, so, you know, it was a big deal as the AO is historically the Novak slam - he's won there more than anywhere else - so who knows, maybe it would be 22-21 the other way if he'd played and who knows what that impact will be come the end of their careers.

So anyway, all that's going on, and my boss at work tells me he just can't understand Djokovic's mindset. This is a common statement because Djokovic makes no sense a lot of the time, but I wasn't sure what I meant and I pressed him. Turns out he couldn't understand *why Djokovic wanted to play the Australian Open at all*, given there was enough commotion about his vaccination status and having to rely on exemption criteria that surely the crowd would largely not be backing him, so why on earth would he want to play? What would be the point of becoming the greatest tennis player in history if the media didn't universally laud you for it because of some health stuff?

I suggested that maybe Djokovic, like most elite sportspeople, was somewhat driven by the idea of *winning* or *having a legacy* or something, and that people will remember who won the most slams ever for decades, but not who got cheered slightly less or questioned over vaccination status at one tournament for very long at all, but he just couldn't understand it. To him, Djokovic was just making a simple error: He didn't realise he was out of favour and that it would be in his short-term PR interest to take the L and go home.

It's particularly nuts for Djokovic because he's *always* been the heel of the tennis world, next to the much more PR-friendly Nadal and Federer. He's always let his results do the talking in the face of an indifferent to hostile media (outside his home country of Serbia where he's basically God - I mean worldwide/western media). I say that as a long-term Federer partisan: Djokovic gets the sharp end of the media/fans a lot.

But this guy, my boss, to him it was just incomprehensible. What an idiot, not to realise he was unpopular with the mainstream press and just go hide away for his own good. What good is being a historically significant, greatest of all time sports icon if you weren't the media's darling of the day? An utterly mad perspective but all too common.b

Expand full comment

I've known such people as well. And I completely fail to understand where *they're* coming from. It simply does not compute.

Expand full comment

Request for future posts that embed Manifold markets: can you include in the text of the post what the market's prediction was at the time you wrote the post? I'm reading this post a mere 16 hours after it was posted and some of the markets have moved quite a bit, such that I did a double-take at some of your text about them (e.g. the Manifold and Polymarket predictions on one of the Twitter questions were no longer as close as they were when you wrote the post). (the embedded Manifold graph widget thing seems to show the current probability, not the one at time of posting)

Expand full comment
author

That makes sense. I worry it would get exasperating with 20 to 30 markets in a post, I'm hoping the Manifold people change their embeds to include this and also list number of traders (which I also think people need to know).

Expand full comment

valid & agree those would be good features!

Expand full comment