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deletedFeb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022
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Seems viable if you're bullish on fusion. We know how to take CO2 out of the atmosphere but it's prohibitively energy intensive. Giant tokamaks would change that.

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No need to have full control of emissions. Enough if there's some effective carbon capture technology by 2100. And that seems pretty likely.

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There are quite a few problems with a prediction market here (real-money or not):

1) certainly both the US and Russia would spend $100k to influence these markets if the top-line number were actually something important. if the markets are giving accurate numbers now, it is only because nobody important cares.

2) the counterparties I want to bet against are the news media sources that are (IMO inaccurately) claiming a high risk of invasion this week, not John Q. Public who thinks a war is likely because they've been listening to CNN and think 35% is a low number.

3) the "Russia invades Ukraine by the end of the year" markets presumably will move if Russia does not invade Ukraine this month. However, as I think it's very possible Russia will invade later this year (and not at all possible this month), my priors won't be effected at all. I don't even know what I am supposed to do with my money to communicate that through the market.

My personal estimate is that "Russia invades Ukraine this week" is at most a 1% chance. PredictIt doesn't seem to have a market, and Manifold says "35% by the end of the month". Metaculus only has "65% by the end of the year".

There is a very limited amount I am willing to put money on this, though. A return of 1% (v. a loss of 100%) is too minimal compared to the risks of "Joe Biden really wants war", "Vladimir Putin is mind-controlled by hostile aliens", or "my math is off by a factor of ten".

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I had this thought too, especially with Scott's question about Manifold not lining up. When you get to play money, I have no trouble picturing the Russian content farmers being asked to go make low bets on a fake website for a few hours.

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One separate risk of note is "resolution risk" - there is an argument that Russia already has had an "invasion force" in Donetsk and Luhansk for years, and it's possible that is enough for the market to resolve to "yes". In particular if Joe Biden reads a speech that makes that argument.

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I think the counter to the "Russian trolls" argument is that I think one of the GJP numbers above is superforecasters, ie people who Philip Tetlock discovered were superforecasters years ago and continues to make predict things. Russia can't trivially infiltrate that group. America *might* be able to, but it would be a lot of work for not much payoff.

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You're aware that the situation you describe is "when a state wants to engage in propaganda, they'll have to do so by making giant cash payments to anyone who is able to see through their propaganda, and as long as I continue seeing through their propaganda they have to keep handing me more cash or else the propaganda just stops working." Doesn't seem sustainable without some sort of limit to how much money the skeptics are allowed to demand.

Imagine if every time I knew Fox News was wrong they had to send me a check. They'd have to be wrong less often or else eventually I'd buy out Fox

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I just submitted a question on whether there are Russian trolls on Metaculus to Metaculus. There are multiple active participants of this discussion there whose only comments are on this discussion and who's track records are, e.g., 5 resolved questions with probabilities on 4 of them worse than the community’s average.

In my model, Putin really wants everyone to think Russia will invade due to multiple incentives (including oligarchs and friends not wanting to have their names in a personal sanctions list, which is preventable by making EU/UK/US hold the sanctions available for the case he's invading). However, the current level of build-up makes me lot more uncertain about my model, whether he wants to invade and whether the conflict might start just from the tensions (e.g., you think someone shoots at you so you shoot in reply; it's probably easier than to launch a nuke in response to a nonexistent war, because multiple people need to confirm the launch; though anthropic effects).

I don't buy any of the reasons for the invasion that Russia promotes. Putin don't really care about NATO, he is not that stupid to think someone is going to invade Russia; all of the previous decisions regarding Ukraine were pretty rational from his standpoint: he got approval ratings skyrocketing after Crimea, by supplying the separatists and sending people there he cheaply made a large portion of the Ukrainian economy go to the military and greately decreased the stability and the confidence in the future of the country and made it a lot easier to present Ukraine as something Russian people who watch TV don't want to happen in Russia.

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This is a tangent, but I strongly dislike the sanctions strategy of banning VIPs from visiting the US. This strategy reduces the likelihood of changing minds that can change the world: it would have prevented Boris Yeltsin's fateful visit to a US supermarket.

https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bayarea/news/article/When-Boris-Yeltsin-went-grocery-shopping-in-Clear-5759129.php

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I think Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov, Oleg Deripaska, and Gennady Timchenko wouldn't see anything new if they travel to the US one more time. On the other hand, seizing billions of dollars worth of their EU/UK/US assets that they bought from what Putin gave them and what they stole in Russia is something they and others actually fear.

Navalny and his team are promoting the idea of personal sanctions for years (e.g., here's a letter they wrote to Biden shortly after the Navalny's arrest: https://context-cdn.washingtonpost.com/notes/prod/default/documents/61cca9fa-3693-4085-8f69-e032af3d463f/note/6a6a769b-9e91-4a74-983e-949274f5fead%2E). I wouldn't say that's the full story here, but the personal sanctions affecting just 20-30 people would cause the core of what Putin's power is built on to tremble, and the risk of those sanctions is a large enough incentive for Putin to do something like making the world believe he is going to start a full-scale war with Ukraine.

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founding

A bullet in the back of the head in the Lubyanka basement is a thing they fear even more. Barring them from travel with the US/UK/EU, binds their fate closer to Putin's good will. And for that matter, confiscating their money in US/UK/EU banks, binds their fate closer to Putin's good will. They may not *want* this, but they're not stupid enough to miss the fact that Putin can ruin or kill them, they can mildly inconvenience Putin, and they have no safe place to flee.

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Richard Hanania says sanctions don't work but appeal to the politician's syllogism demanding "do something" short of actual war.

https://www.econlib.org/sanctions-and-asylum/

https://richardhanania.substack.com/p/new-book-public-choice-theory-and

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That Yeltsin story was 35 years ago, Russia is a very different place right now. This reasoning might still make sense when talking about North Korea, but if you think an average Russian oligarch is set in his ways because he hasn't seen enough of the West you should take a good look at the London real estate market.

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I think their point was more general, that by barring someone from physically going to the West, we are preventing them from interacting with anyone outside of the Russian sphere and pushing them further into Putin's arms.

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GJI does recruit new superforecasters from the pool of successful GJO forecasters - we're not all the original ones from the IARPA tournament.

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I got a reply from a Metaculus admin on the question I proposed on whether Russian trolls operate on the platform:

"i had already spoken to our other staff when i made the initial review. if we use a weaker standard of suspicion, then our determination is that this already happened, so the question is automatically unnecessary. if we take a stronger standard of suspicion, then the question is unlikely to resolve non-ambiguously.

i appreciate the interest in the question, but i don't feel that our users should be trying to suss who is a bot or paid agent. we welcome users to hold each other accountable for good etiquette, sharing quality info, and not spamming or violating our terms of use, but a sort of witch hunt of accusing people of acting in bad faith should not be encouraged."

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Hey Alex. Alex here at Insight Prediction. Note that in our markets, the events trade like stocks so you would be able, at least in theory, to sell your shares at a profit as soon as next week. If you bought "No" on invasion now, you don't have to keep it until the end of the year. You could post a sell order in-the-money and see if it fills at some point in the next week.

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That's just making a blind bet that the market is filled with people who think that "if there is going to be an invasion, it will happen in the next week or two -- and if it doesn't happen then, it won't happen".

It might be true. But I would not risk day-trading to try to profit off people who may not even exist.

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Fascinating game theoretical issue raised by point 1. I assume that whatever US intelligence agencies do will be half@$$ed and incompetent and, therefore, not worth thinking about. Only Russia presents interesting issues.

What is Russia's best prediction market strategy? Push No or Yes. For no, why not lull the enemy to sleep and preserve the element of surprise. For yes, why not scare the enemy. As Sun Tzu wrote: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

If Russia plays officially what will prevent insiders with real knowledge from front running the official bets. I guess there is fear of a bullet in the back of your head. But, even Putin might be tempted to pocket a few bucks.

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What's to stop an outsider from taking the opposite position to whatever the kremlin is trying to push so as to make money on the distorted market?

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Sure an outsider can profitably play against a whale who is placing his bets for some non-predictive reason. If they know that the distortion is there. Which is a big if.

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Why do prediction markets outcompete other ways for nations to signal intent?

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I am not a prediction market fan. I was just following up Alex Power's comment. I am a sports fan, but I never bet on them.

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Yeah, I don't mean to unfairly pin you to that, just trying to flesh this out.

Prediction markets seem like a somewhat odd place to devote disinformation resources, since these markets often all disagree and none of them drive new outcomes all that much. Maybe that changes in the future and they start competing with fb as an info source, but for now they are a bit niche. But who knows, I don't know all the incentives for how paid trolls work.

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Russia spent $200,000 leading up to the 2016 election buying the worst and least effective Facebook ads money could buy. I would not at all be surprised if they would be willing to drop $20,000 to distort a bunch of prediction markets. Even if it's not a good use of their money, it's still very cheap and within the realm of things they have been known to do.

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So I think you're acknowledging that manipulating prediction markets would not have any significant impact, but arguing that Russian trolls are so prolific that impact is not a useful way to determine whether or not a thing will be manipulated.

Does that capture your view?

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I dunno. I have no idea why. I was just interested in game theoretical strategies if they did want to play.

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Shouldn't an extension of the cube be that people can make their own markets, and profit a tiny percentage off the volume? Would incentivize high quality questions.

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That’s how Manifold works - market makers take home 4% (amount subject to change, they’re testing different percentages). Obviously that’s with playmoney though, so the incentive is relatively low.

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4%, but not of total volume, of trader profit! So in practice the fee is fairly low, around ~1% volume: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/16puyE-KHKc41coQsXqOxB6N0ESYjp71wyu_Sa2RI6lU/edit#gid=0

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This is kind of an incredible meta question: https://manifold.markets/RavenKopelman/will-dr-ps-question-about-trump-bei

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Yes! It's driven so high because of arbitrage with the original market, but I think a trader has some alpha betting against it.

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Reposting this from the OT. Scott - last week in your passage of polymarket post you said the following:

"In 2010, Philip Tetlock (one of the signatories on the pro-prediction market letter) did some pretty basic forecasting work, not even prediction market level, and proved that he could significantly outperform top analysts at the CIA with access to classified information. The government refused to hire him or use any of his methods, and continued shutting down new prediction markets as they arose."

This seems objectively false. Starting in 2010, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)'s office of Incisive Analysis (OIA) at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) funded the Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE) Program. This wasn't quite prediction markets, although it did run contests based on predictions and reward those with the best predictions. This program also cites Tetlock's good judgement project as a resource and founding source of inspiration. In fact, Phillip Tetlock was a winner of one of the ACE prediction tournaments in 2013. I'm not sure to what extent this is going on, wikipedia makes it looks like the ACE program only lasted until 2015, but an interview with IARPA's new lead in 2015 makes it sound instead like they considered ACE a success and will be implementing it more broadly now.

Either way though, your initial claim of "The government refused to hire him or use any of his methods" doesn't hold up. They clearly did make use of his methods, and continued working with him for at least the next half decade or so.

Sources:

Interview with Tetlock where he talks about how the GJP was linked to IARPA: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/can-we-improve-predictions-q-a-with-philip-superforecasting-tetlock/

Wikipedia article on ACE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggregative_Contingent_Estimation_(ACE)_Program

IRPA Description of ACE:

https://www.iarpa.gov/research-programs/ace

interview with IARPA director in 2015 where he talks about ACE:

https://spectrum.ieee.org/iarpas-new-director-wants-you-to-surprise-him#qaTopicThree

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Thank you, I'll post a correction somewhere.

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No worries!

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I think Manifold is off on the Ukraine question because people don't care much if they get their play money back. Probably a lot of people think of 'advocating that war will likely happen' as close to 'advocating that war should happen' and vice versa. There are a lot of people who would think of betting against war happening as a kind of advocacy, that you think war shouldn't happen. So long as it's play money, the actual question of 'will war happen' may not even cross your mind before your political hindbrain starts advocating.

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Manifold differs from Metaculus though, and Metaculus is even less skin-in-the-game since there isn’t even playmoney that you can choose to invest more/less of.

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"I tried to spend some play money to correct it and it snapped back to just as wrong as it was before. I have no explanation."

I have an explanation:

You didn't spend enough to correct Manifold's entire population-level mismatch between war bulls and war bears. You only spent enough to momentarily adjust the quote to something that was out of step with the composition of users on Manifold, and someone snapped it back to the correct number *for Manifold*. Nobody can arbitrage this against other markets because it's fake money. Even on the real money markets, high fees often prevent arbitrage.

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If a market can naturally have a "population-level mismatch between war bulls and war bears" without any obvious reason (ie explicitly only advertising at peace marches), this seems like a pretty fundamental problem with prediction markets I hadn't known about before. Even granted that it can be solved with real-money markets, it's still surprising.

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It seems like a fairly natural result to me. Consider Tesla stock in the US stock market. There’s a combination of people who think it will skyrocket and take over the world and people who think it’ll be worthless and all the other automakers will eat its game. There are also some people who think it will be just a normal automaker in ten years, but let’s ignore them. So the current price is based on some average of those two group’s expected values, weighted by the number of people in each group (and how much money they have).

Imagine an alternate universe where the facts about Tesla are the same but a lot more people are dubious about Tesla’s stock - maybe they all think that public transit is the future. In this alternate universe, we’d expect Tesla to have a lower stock price even though the base facts about the company are identical.

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“ So the current price is based on some average of those two group’s expected values”

Why an average? And why just the expected values, rather than that and something based on the variance?

An alternative would be that current price results from the interaction at the margin of the members of the two groups' evaluation of the risk/profitability of taking money from someone from the other group. This has the disadvantage of not suggesting a neat formula, but the advantage of plausibility.

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I said average to elide the details of how the stock market actually works, but yes. It's based on a complicated interaction between all of the individuals and the price at which any of them think that it's worth buying/selling the stock. I don't think that breaks any of my analysis though.

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I guess I was being pedantic, then. Triggered by “average”! Ha!

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I think differences between user-sets will be more than random, because they heard about the markets from different places. Maybe one prediction market gets plugged on ACX, and another gets plugged on Joe Rogan, and a third gets plugged on CNN. These userbases have different average priors and output different average probabilities. This can be fixed by either getting so big that everyone uses a common market*, or making arbitrage easier. Prediction markets could make arbitrage easier by reducing fees and denominating contracts in something that has a higher expected value of holding than USD (e.g.: SPY, BTC, ETH) to keep up with the opportunity cost of the arbitrageurs' money.

* although even in the case where you had a universal common market, it's possible the whole world is biased-on-average, and unfortunate that you can't arbitrage against prediction markets in alternate universes where people have different biases.

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Even with a small or universally-biased market, in the very long run (and ignoring a bunch of frictions and complexities) this ought to solve itself by the unbiased people grabbing more and more of the biased people's money - thus more and more influence over the market.

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That would be true if the market is large enough (read, expensive enough) that the money already inside the market is relevant to the money being spent on the market. If the total market cap of a market is something small like $100,000 (or especially the play money versions), then there's nothing really stopping people from bringing in outside funds to overwhelm the market. Even if the free money version limits what outsiders can bring in, you just make more accounts to create the same thing as a single whale investor.

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This is sorta true. Manifold is new, so maybe new users who don't know what they're doing haven't had enough time to lose their free play money, and that makes manifold less accurate than it will be in the future.

But even on superbowl props, the numbers can be off by 20% year after year for decades, and and there are still enough degenerate gamblers willing to spend their money betting on the wrong side.

A prediction market is a tax on bias, but realistically that's only going to reduce bias, not eliminate it. The elasticity of supply of bias is not that high.

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It doesn't seem wildly surprising to me that it could happen at random in a population as small as Manifold's.

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Does that imply that Scott (or anyone else) thinks making a front end for Augur would be a particularly high impact opportunity for a developer?

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022Author

What's going on with Augur Turbo? It sounds like it solves at least the transaction cost problem but I'm having trouble finding it. I'm actually just generally confused about the current status of Augur - can you fill me in?

Also, in what sense is regulation a current problem for Augur? I understand it's a *risk*, but given that the risk has not yet materialized, in what sense is it preventing Augur from catching on?

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For me, the problem with Augur was the UI. I was very excited when a fellow professor from Yale told me about Augur. I rushed to go check it out, and was disappointed i couldn't even view the website unless I had added some kind of crypto wallet that I had never heard about and Augur provided zero explanation how to get. I spent 15 minutes, didn't get anywhere, and eventually just lost interest. With Augur Turbo, I found the website once but then the next time I wanted to place a sports bet I, like Scott, couldn't even find the website.

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I think something vaguely in the category of this would be good, but I don't know enough about actual Augur to know if this is possible or desirable.

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Difficulty of use of Augur is that it uses crypto, not the interface.

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I suspect it’s both - crypto is a huge hurdle (and I don’t think any markets will take off that rely on it), but I think other crypto markets also have a better interface than Augur

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Polymarket does too.

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Polymarket uses crypto and gets a lot of use, I think a crypto market could still be very successful, as long as it doesn't require any skills beyond "have a Coinbase account".

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I agree. The problem with Polymarket is not so much that it "uses crypto", but that the entire exchange is on the blockchain. And on a specific blockchain that isn't easy to deposit onto. Also, b/c they are on chain, trading is slow and 40% or so of trade attempts fail. For Insight Prediction, I have experienced less than a 1% failure rate. AFAIK, right now you can't deposit directly from Coinbase, Binance, or FTX to polymarket, for example. At Insight Prediction, you can deposit directly from any of these sources, although we don't yet take deposits directly from polymarket/polygon/matic. A friend of mine who is involved in a crypto Sports bookie website that has both crypto and Paypal deposits said they were shocked that in practice, they got roughly half of their deposits in crypto. For us, once we get our KYC up and running you will also be able to deposit via a bank transfer for many jurisdictions if you are KYC'd (but, sadly, not for those in the US or EU).

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The analyses I've read say that the current week is critical. Russia's "military exercise" is only scheduled to last until Feb 20, and keeping their troops on alert beyond that will look ridiculously suspicious. Even aside from image, they can't *afford* to mobilize their troops for too long, it drains morale and wastes their fuel reserves. And if war breaks out, they want it to be during the winter, while Europe is reliant on their gas, not during spring, when Europe (especially Germany) could easily sanction them.

So I don't agree that the different timescales justify the different predictions. If they're going to invade, they're going to do it soon, not wait around and then suddenly do it in May.

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I agree, but the timescale only has to explain a 5% or so difference. If 5% is the base rate of Russia invading Ukraine in any given year, then the anomaly goes away.

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The main problem are not time scales but resolution criteria. If you look in the fine print, the Metaculus market does not resolve positively if the invasion is limited to the Donbass. On GJOpen this scenario (reasonably) is at 18%. Much more than any timescale effect. In other words, adjusting for the resolution criteria, the probability the Metaculus market assigns to an invasion is just way above all the other markets. It is possible that this is due to a lot of newbies who did not read the fine print. But it is still a notable discrepancy.

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much of the donbass is still under ukranian control; presumably a lot of that 18% includes russia invading the ukranian parts of the donbass (occupying terrorities their puppets already control isn't much of an invasion and doesn't really advance putin's interests)

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I guess I'm missing something about prediction markets. If I understand correctly, they're an attempt to harness the "wisdom of the crowd" by 1) maximizing the size of the crowd, 2) making sure the predictors are being serious by requiring them to put money on it.

OK, but what an earth makes them likely to be reliable about what's actually going to happen? It's not up to the market as to whether Russia actually invades Ukraine, and why should any number of uninvolved punters be any more correct about it than a smaller number of Russia experts?

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If you're wagering a scarce currency, there is accountability: when you're wrong, you lose that currency.

Over time, the better traders gain more influence as they accumulate currency. See Vitalik's natural selection argument: https://vitalik.ca/general/2021/02/18/election.html#can-prediction-markets-become-better

That's the long-run argument. The short-run argument is that trader's know they will be held accountable, so they bet more carefully! It aligns incentives in a way that a poll does not!

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Has anybody done research on whether those who have been correct in the past are significantly more likely to be correct in the future? Does it matter whether the topic of the new predictions is different?

Accountability and carefulness make you more cautious. It doesn't make you more likely to be correct. It may make you less so. I'm still left with my original question, why should any number of uninvolved punters, no matter how much they've invested in it, be any more correct about something they have no control over or inside knowledge of, than experts on the topic?

I apologize if I sound trollish. I'm genuinely puzzled here, and if anyone has advice on how to express genuine puzzlement without sounding like a troll, I'll take it.

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Yes, Eugene Fama researched serial correlation of returns as part of his EMH work. He found a lack of it, which is what you'd expect given EMH.

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> why should any number of uninvolved punters, no matter how much they've invested in it, be any more correct about something they have no control over or inside knowledge of, than experts on the topic?

When you have reliable experts then you do not need prediction markets.

But in many cases (like Ukraine right now) experts have wildly diverging opinions.

And there is long litany of cases where experts were tragically wrong, were wrong how certain their predictions are and are still considered experts.

Ideally, prediction markets can find, reward and rate experts. In meantime people try to setup them with uninvolved punters and hope that prediction markets are so great that market with uninvolved punters and some experts will be comparable to experts (or even better).

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Sure, experts can be wrong. But that only increases the imperative of the question I was asking: why would one expect a group of non-expert punters to be any better? "hope" and "try" are reasons to give it a shot, but not reasons to have the kind of confidence in the result that is being expected whenever prediction markets are being discussed here.

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It only works if there is some inventive for "experts" i.e. good predictors to get seriously involved. In sportsbooks, the general public is often wildly unbalanced, betting overwhelmingly on the favorite for example. But this is offset by people who are actually good at betting on sports, who pile money on the opposite side and create a very efficient market in sports predictions. If sharps didn't get involved, prices would get bid up to unreasonable (inaccurate) levels.

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But there are also facts to oppose these tendencies.

For example there will be significant flow of casual, ultra-amateur predictors while market is young. People who wants to feel themselves important, good at predictions... with generic questions (like questions everyone has some kind of opinion in contrary to stock market predictions). May be "pro" predictors outnumber these amateurs in future, but I definitely not sure that's already happens.

Heh, I feel like my argument is some kind of "gambling" argument of official regulator...

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An old example of “the wisdom of crowds” is the “guess how many jellybeans are in this glass jar for a prize” game that supposedly got played at county fairs and such. Someone observed that the results approximated a normal distribution with a mean close to the correct answer and respectably small variance. The idea being that if you could choose between using that crowd data or hiring an expert to guess for you, the crowd was the better choice (assuming similar cost, or if getting the data is cheaper - that raises a side point, that with a prediction market it may be possible to get people to pay you to give you the information you want, instead of paying them).

We don’t need to know why the crowd does better, if and when it does, in order to take advantage of the possibility. It may turn out that there are questions that prediction markets are terrible at, and others where they do well. The point is to find out whether there is indeed an advantage, not to explain the phenomenon, if it exists. Of course, if the explanation becomes obvious, and can be reproduced by a single expert or team, prediction markets might become redundant after the discovery was made.

Perhaps we could make some noises about dispersed or tacit knowledge that can have an effect in a prediction market with many participants but is inaccessible to experts otherwise as a hand-wave toward a general explanation. It seems like an interesting question to what degree might it become a beauty contest, where everyone tries to guess what other people will guess, rather than guessing the real answer.

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The way Scott and others here have been writing about prediction markets has not been in a spirit of curiosity to see whether an algorithm that works for a simple numerical estimate can be applied to a complex many-unknown-factored question like "Will Russia invade Ukraine?" Instead, they write as if prediction markets have been proven, or at least are assumed, to be a confidently reliable way of forecasting. What I'm asking is where does that serene confidence come from, because it certainly doesn't come from accuracy at guessing the number of jellybeans.

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Serene confidence is misplaced, but so is automatic dismissal or demands for a theory. My impression was that enthusiasm for prediction markets had to cool off a bit when Tetlock published Superforecasting. My impression is that not much is known but much might be worth finding out.

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There are two classes of problems where this is a pretty plausible mechanism for finding the answer:

(1) The jigsaw piece problem. If you need the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle, it's very difficult to spot it among 500 other similarly-shaped pieces lying on the table. But as soon as someone hands you the right piece, you can test it and immediately see that it's the right choice. There are some problems that are like this, e.g. many basic problems in math, or the problem of finding out how to program this or that known but obscure behavior in C# or Javascript. The answer isn't obvious a priori, but once someone hands you the answer, you can immediately confirm it works. In a situation like this, the more people you have exposed to potential solutions, the faster the real solution will be discovered -- and once it is discovered, it will rapidly propagate through your community, because pretty much everyone can confirm it is the real solution.

Of course, plenty of problems, even in math or programming, have nonobvious solutions, or have solutions which can't easily be recognized as such without arduous checking and/or some degree of rare brilliance. Scientific discoveries usually fall into this category, I would say. There are almost no generic 18-year-old high-school graduates who could prove that general relativity is a better explanation for gravity than Newtonian physics, so if it was up to "the wisdom of the crowds" to find relativity it would never have happened -- it's just too hard to recognize the correct solution even if you stumble over it.

(2) The jury of your peers problem. We have jury trials because an essential problem for the court of law is deciding who is lying. When it comes to assessing the truth of testimony, nothing (that we know of) beats the considered impression of *several* disinterested human observers. A skilled liar can fool one person relatively easily, but fooling 8-12, with varying backgrounds, perspectives, natural prejudices, et cetera is very much harder. The odds are much higher that someone will have the perspective or background to spot the cracks in the story and alert the others. So in this sense, if the problem is one of sorting through the obfuscations and bullshittery of human actors, the more people who both take it seriously (e.g. have money at stake) but are not personally involved (so not pushing one view or the other), the better a chance that falsehood will be seen through. I suggest the same argument is why companies usually have boards of directors that supervise CEOs, why we have boards of review, boards of examination, et cetera.

Again, the primary difficulty in solving plenty of problems does not lie in seeing through human obfuscation and bullshittery, but in cases where it does, experience suggests the crowds can be pretty wise.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

But I think both of these examples, certainly the second one, require the members to consult and discuss with each other as a group in order to achieve the right answer. My understanding is that prediction markets consist of measuring the cumulative opinion of each individual acting alone. Or is it iterative? (i.e. having placed their bets, bettors are allowed to change them under influence from the crowds)

The other and even more serious problem with the comparison is that in your examples, the prediction market can't outperform the specialized experts because it is the experts. People staring at a jigsaw puzzle are going to know more about its contents than people who haven't (except for the designer), and by your description the jury was chosen because they -are- the experts on human behavior.

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

Could "using a Nobel Prize winner as a sperm donor" count as a genetic engineering technique that raises IQ points by more than 10 points on average? I suspect that you could get that up and running today and offer it profitably for less than 25% of median household income. If you combine that with embryo selection a 10 pt average effect seems plausible.

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Now I'm curious how much a Nobel Prize winner could charge for this. Also, would an Economics Nobel winner charge more than say, Physics?

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Check out stud fees for Kentucky Derby winners. A good father for your horse can run couple hundred thousand. I don’t even want to think about an unscrupulous male Nobel winner.

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What exactly would make it unscrupulous?

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I guess if you are a 100% free market capitalist it’s perfectly fair. I was imagining bidding wars. A bit unseemly for my sometimes old fashioned tastes.

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I guess I am thinking more about how there is a constant shortage of donated blood, because selling one's blood is mostly illegal, but there's never a shortage of donated plasma because people can sell it legally and easily. Or the similar thing with adoptions, or surrogate mothers, or fertilized eggs, or any other number of cases where we outlaw or heavily regulate trading something for money because it gives people a bad feeling, and then as a consequence the orphanages are full even while people are desperate to adopt but can't, and stuff like that

Like, incentives matter here. We definitely should prefer a world where nobel winners have more children over a world where they hhave fewer children. So we probably shouldn't interfere with any voluntary interactions between adults that result in more children of nobel winners

I don't even think of this as having to do with free market capitalism, I would definitely support a government initiative to make an incentive payment to any nobel winner every time they have a child, in fact it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I could imagine some 19th century socialist recommending as one of the obvious benefits of the coming communist paradise

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Yeah, I could see that.

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I am not sure how much of a legal risk is non-anonymous sperm donation. Like, if the recipient one day decides to sue the donor for child support, what is the chance that the judge would go "obviously, the interest of the child is more important than whatever agreement the donor and the recipient have signed". I think I remember reading some stories like this.

Maybe the first step should then be creating a legally bulletproof framework for non-anonymous sperm donation. So that the Nobel winners could be reasonably sure that their prize money will not follow their sperms soon.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repository_for_Germinal_Choice Best guess: Bill did it for free (expenses paid?) . I would. Just short of an Nobel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repository_for_Germinal_Choice William Bradford Shockley Jr. (February 13, 1910 – August 12, 1989) was the manager of a research group at Bell Labs that included John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. The three scientists were jointly awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for "their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect".

Partly as a result of Shockley's attempts to commercialize a new transistor design, California's "Silicon Valley" became a hotbed of electronics innovation. In his later life, Shockley became a proponent of eugenics.[1][2] A 2019 study in the journal Intelligence found him to be the second-most controversial (behind Arthur Jensen) intelligence researcher among 55 persons covered.[3]

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You’d have interbreeding problems fairly quickly.

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Hey Scott, this is Alexander at Insight Prediction here, the new academic prediction market now with a public beta open to non-US residents. I'm a big fan of yours and so we certainly appreciate the link. One thing to note is that many of the current participants in our market and in our beta in general have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in prediction markets. This market has few participants, but make no mistake, these are sharks making large bets. That said, the sum of their judgement can still collectively be wrong, and it will be interesting to see if the market is right in this case.

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Also, I'm not actually sure about the best way to contact you, but we are actually keen to talk to you about Insight Prediction, if possible. Also more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

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author

scott@slatestarcodex.com

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Thank you! I wrote you a pitch about our website, and would love to set up a call to answer any questions you may have. I myself, while anonymous online, just emailed you with my real identity (as an academic).

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Manifold is at 48% because it asks "before February", not "before 2023", which is what most other sources ask. If you look at that question, then it jumps to 55%, which is still weirdly low. https://manifold.markets/NiclasKupper/will-russia-invade-ukrainian-territ

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I think there is a substantialy higher chance that Russia will take Odessa than Kiev. Metaculus on this seems misaligned.

Odessa is a Russian speaking city, close to Russian army in Moldova, with which invaders might want to link up. Kiev, on the other hand, is full of Ukrainian nationalists, an attempt to take it might lead to ugly things increasing the probality of severe sanctions on Russia.

Also, according to supposedly leaked Russian plans, invasion should start from the south (of course this might just be intentional misinformation). See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNIU6TRsRzk.

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I wonder if forecasters use the same map that was posted here.

And how could e.g. color of Crimea (to Russia instead of Ukraine) change this prediction about Odessa...

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

As I have an apartment in neighboring Berdyansk: Mariupol is NOT yet under control of the "separatist" - though I am sure that it is by far the most likely of the 4 to get invaded by Putin's fighters. (close to the border, small, nobody cares about it, on the way to Crimea, if Putin plans "only" to cut out enough territory for a land connection to Crimea. Which is also true for Berdyansk.) People are native speakers of Russian, and were often pro-Russia before the war (2014- ....). As they all watch Russian TV and can all see that there is zero truth in its narrative "Ukrainian Nazis about to invade Donbass - Putin-Patrol to the rescue!" - no longer so.

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Huh, I guess I misunderstood then. I was going off of claims that it's "in Donetsk Oblast" and that "Donetsk is occupied by the Russians", was my issue that Mariupol is in some small corner of Donetsk that isn't, or am I even more confused than that?

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

You are doing pretty good knowing anything about Donetsk! "Only" the eastern half of Donetsk Oblast is, well, "held by separatist forces" (who get Russian passports for Valentine - or any day.) see wikipedia https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Regions_of_Donetsk_Oblast.png (Mariupol is Number 20 resp 12. Grey area: Putin's gangs. Oops: "Donetsk people's republic").

Same with the southern half of neighboring Luhansk oblast (better map!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luhansk_People%27s_Republic#Elections

If Russia would occupy/annex it (as Crimea), it might have to pay pensions/subsidies/infrastructure etc.. Putin usu. avoids that (Russia: GSWN gas station with nukes) - see Georgia. I bet on war as a hedge. That the forces are seriously preparing/ready does not change the calculation. There will be a last minute call by Putin "now"/"no". He can still declare "diplomatic victory". I give war ... 55%, with big cities untouched 85%. Hoping my first son does not die in it. F§$% Putain.

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I had never really noticed the Kaliningrad Oblast until recently. What the hell is that little Russian exclave all about? Rhetorical question. I dug into it a bit after seeing it on a map of the Ukraine standoff.

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Gutes altes Königsberg. One great-great-uncle from its region. Center of original "Prussia". Pretty German, so when those all fled, no reason to give it to Poland/the Baltics. But a nice port and a convenient air and missile base for Stalin.

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A background thread just returned. Why is that so name so familiar? The 7 bridge problem! That was nagging at me for a while.

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Also where Immanuel Kant lived!

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Should I interpret this as people being super unconvinced that the US is willing to confront Russia directly unless they're invading a member of NATO?

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

We are very much convinced the US is absolutely unwilling "to confront Russia directly unless they're invading a member of NATO". As Biden spelled out very clearly. To Putin's joy. With Trump president this goes: "to confront Russia directly unless they're invading America". OCT/RT-watchers may differ - but do usu. not read ACX.

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If you bet Cincinnati and got 3.5 you won. I think the Houston mattress salesman bet Cin on a money line, so he would have lost.

I think that Putin will invade Ukraine and take the whole enchilada. But that is just me and my years of studying Russian history, culture, and politics. FD, my mother was born in Ukraine and left at age 12 in the middle of the 1930s. She loathed both Ukrainians and Russians because they were Jew haters.

The most insightful argument for no invasion has been made by Holman Jenkins in WSJ:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-biden-cold-warrior-russia-nato-putin-ukraine-crimea-donbas-germany-aid-president-scholz-11644353348

FWIW. You pays your money and you gets your choice

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Sure the Rams won but did they cover the spread?

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Not if you got 3.5. if you got 3 it was a push.

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> I don’t know what possessed him to make a Joe Rogan Georgism interviewee market, unless he’s gunning for the position.

Mostly just curious how far the movement's reach will be in a year, and that's the largest podcast that I know of. If one is betting Georgism is on a similar trajectory to public saliency as UBI, we would expect it to start cropping up in places like this sooner or later (he's had plenty of guests on to talk about UBI over the past few years).

I also made a few other Georgism-related bets, such as whether the ongoing project in Richmond Virginia will take some concrete next steps, and whether my other homeland of Norway will see at least one major party adopt it as part of their political platform.

I also generally agree that Manifold's major issue is that I don't want to tie up my fake money for months or years just to push a bet's margin by a couple of points. Not sure what the solution is there.

I also made a bunch of bets about crypto games, related to my ongoing research for my day job. This bet on the price of Axie Infinity's $SLP token was a real photo finish:

https://manifold.markets/LarsDoucet/will-axie-infinitys-slp-token-be-wo

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

Did you ever get around to thinking about some of the uncertainty and incentive structure objections to Georgism that were raised on your Georgism posts (some by me)? Not hounding you, just wondering.

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A problem with the strategy of making a market asking "will I be convinced of X" is that adversaries can buy a lot of NO (if X is true), then argue you into doubting X, so it is not a very symmetric truth-finding weapon.

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Sorry. A *too* symmetric truth-finding weapon. Better to make a second prediction market asking whether X is/will be true.

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I guess the aim is to avoid ambiguity about whether something is actually true. Family trees of dead people are very hard, for example, since it will be hard to impossible to dig up concrete evidence (no pun intended). By asking this way, you can turn an ambiguous or open question into a clear resolution, at the cost of the drawbacks you mentioned and (most likely) less general investment and, therefore, worse predictions.

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I spend tachyons on the https://www.metaculus.com/accounts/profile/119291/ track record - they performed worse than the community average on 4 of the 5 resolved questions they had predictions on. The only comments they made are on that question.

https://www.metaculus.com/accounts/profile/120816/ and https://www.metaculus.com/accounts/profile/122261/ are both also commented only on that question. And, I mean, just look at the comments they made!

That definitely causes some suspicion.

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I'm not sure I understand this comment; can you rephrase? It might help if I understood what "spend tachyons" meant.

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On Metaculus, there are “points” and “tachyons”. You earn tachyons when you get achievements or log in, and you can spend them on things like unmaking your prediction or viewing the Metaculus prediction. If you have level 6, you can spend them to view other people’s track records (the info on the predictions they made on resolved questions, brier score history, binary calibration, etc.)

https://www.metaculus.com/help/faq/#what-tachyons

I saw a couple of users who commented only on the invasion question. I checked the track record of one of them, and they look like they’re trying to be safe and earn points by watching the community average and making a bit less confident prediction. That’s probably different from what a new Metaculus user trying to predict things and be active in the community looks like.

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The Lithuania question seems a shorthand for "all out NATO-russia war" to me. Russia would certainly invade Lithuania in that case - the Suwalki gap at least. And invasion of Lithuania would surely trigger a large scale war.

So it's not a crazy question. But 18% is way too much.

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Now that we have markets where users can pose questions, can we begin part II of the road to futarchy and start doing conditional predictions? E.g. US GDP is above $x in 2025 and a democrat is president vs US GDP is above $x in 2025 and the president is not a democrat.

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In theory yes, in practice we should probably wait until it doesn't assign a 15% chance to The Rock becoming President in 2024.

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Can somebody explain to me why all these people think there's going to be a colony on Mars by 2050? Slime Mold Time Mold writes that Mars would be a great location for a charter city, which just seems obviously untrue. Wouldn't it be a million times cheaper to build something on Antarctica or international waters or like, buy an island from a developing country?

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Mars has the bonus of being very exotic location, going to some desolate place on earth is already possible quite easily for your average income earner. Additionally, futurists will love it (obviously) and doomsday predictors will appreciate the protection from the climate catastrophe and nuclear war.

Neither group will be particularly excited by an island.

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Once a hundred people have been to Mars, will it still have the exotic-ness factor over Antarctica? Lots of people still consider Antarctica exotic enough to commission cruises or flights to it, but none of them seem to want to live there. Not sure why Mars will be more popular.

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Wishful thinking answers your question. But it's a little more to do with the lack of thinking critically.

The problem stems from the power of our imagination, followed by a reluctance to expend the energy required to check all the hidden steps taken to produce the imaginative vision.

You only have to utter the words "Mars Colony", and a lot of people will readily conjure up an image of such a thing, and not realize that the technology to achieve a Colony on Mars simply does not exist. And when you point this out, the believers will push a piece of paper towards you with a drawing on it and say "Sure it does!"

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When I ctrl+F "Mars" literally the only passages I get are your comment and the responses to it -- who on earth* are you even referring to when you say "all these people"?

*or on Mars

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Maybe I'm failing to parse something important, but Ideamarket feels... Incoherent?

Here's my attempt to summarize how it works:

1. We have two objects: *Users* and *URLs*.

2. A *URL* is a link to an article, tweet, picture, or other content containing a truth claim.

3. A *User* is someone who votes on whether or not a *URL* is accurate.

4. People can deposit money in a *URL* to make it appear higher in the rankings. This gives the *URL* owner dividends.

5. People can deposit money in a *User's* account. The more money the User has, the more influence their vote has. This gives the *User* dividends.

6. This vote appears to have no affect on the rankings. Or maybe it does? They don't bother to explain. My best guess is that the *URL* will have some kind of "Influence-adjusted percent of *Users* that think this is horseshit" indicator. The votes will affect this indicator.

From these conditions, Ideamarket extrapolates:

1. People will be incentivized to invest in *URLs* they agree with to keep them near the top.

Why is this the case? I'm not sure. They do some hand-waving, but there's no clear chain of logic. I'll go through some possibilities.

I. Investing for dividends

You don't appear to get any dividends for investing in a *URL,* only owning it. That takes this off the table.

II. Investing for ideological reasons

You could invest for ideological reasons. Suppose you really like a story Ann Coulter wrote. You invest the $12,000 it currently costs to make the top-10 on Ideamarket. Congratulations! Your story is now the 10th most visible item on a subsection of Some Website. In the real world, Google Ad impressions cost $2.80 per thousand views or $0.75 per click. For the same price, you could have made the Ann Coulter story a top result in 3,000,000 Google searches--or had 13,333 guaranteed to click-throughs.

And that's how much it costs *now,* with a userbase that's probably like, 1,000 people *at most*. If Ideamarket ever takes off, that's going to get exponentially more expensive. And let's assume it does. Would you rather be the 10th highest link on Some Website? Or would you rather reach 100 million people—nearly one-third of America—with a Superbowl ad?

III. Investing for speculation

That leaves investing in the hopes that other people invest, so that you can sell before they sell, but, like... for that logic to work, there has to be an impetus for investing in the first place? Unlike NFTs, you don't get a unique "thing" that only you own. Unlike cryptocurrencies, there's no early adopter incentive.

But let's assume people invest anyway. We've established it doesn't make ideological sense to invest. That means the only reason to invest is speculation. If that's the case, the highest ranking posts will be the ones that... speculators speculate other speculators will speculate. Probably that means the most popular newstory of the current moment, I guess. Who knows what totem speculators will latch onto?

Whatever it is will have little-to-nothing to do with truth, or even what people generally believe is true. Which means Ideamarket will be functionally useless, aside from making some people richer and some people poorer.

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Agreed. They haven't managed to line up incentives in any useful way as far as I can tell. Maybe they're relying on somehow generating enough buzz that people are intrinsically motivated to become high-ranking users? Which a) is some pretty wishful thinking, and b) doesn't do anything for the URLs, whose financial rewards all go to whoever happens to have submitted the URL first.

Even beyond that, suppose they do find a way to line up incentives such that users are motivated to a) receive a high ranking on their network, and b) find and invest in URLs that will be highly ranked. In that case what they've got is a two-sided popularity contest (in the sense of a two-sided market), which has little to do with trustworthiness. This is...maybe OK with them since the founder doesn't believe in facts?

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2020/09/03/wittgensteins-revenge/

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I've got to admit I haven't figured out why it would be coherent either.

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> Improving adult IQ is really hard.

I once increased my IQ by 27 points (a little under 2 SD) in 2 days. How? I did an IQ test from a book. 2 days later I did another test from the same book. Because the questions were similar I was able to do a lot better.

I'm sure if I practiced doing lots of standard IQ tests, I would get better at them.

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Haven't people studied this with SATs and found it maxes out pretty quickly?

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Prediction markets for what some human will decide to do has the fundamental problem that that human can bet on his own decision.

Putin is by some accounts the richest man in the world, and would probably not spend effort insider trading on these tiny markets, but it still feels like a fundamental flaw of the whole concept.

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(commenting to follow the responses to your question)

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The purpose of a prediction market is to make correct predictions about facts which are of interest to whoever is subsidising the market.

In that way it is very different from, say, sports betting. If a jockey makes a bet knowing that their horse is sick today, they're exploiting the bookies (or other gamblers if it's a bet exchange) and the bookies will try to notice and ban them. It might even be illegal. Whereas if Putin puts $1m on a prediction that he has the power to make true, great! The "bookie" wanted to know the truth, and now they know the truth.

An unfortunate side-effect is that a bunch of people lose money. But, this is what they signed up for. They said they could predict what Putin would do and they were wrong. If they had predicted "Putin will do the least-predicted thing after buying shares of it" they could have bought many least-predicted-thing shares *first* and made bank (while dragging the prediction to an *accurate* ~50% and reducing Putin's potential profits).

Admittedly you need a fairly mature and well-understood (and low-friction) market for this to work reliably.

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I can't image a less credible use for predictive markets than this.

There are ZERO people on these markets with any knowledge or skill in this area - unless Putin or Shoigu are participating.

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You can get a good amount of knowledge of Russian troop movements from publicly available sources. Large army bases are visible from satellite, people will see military convoys on the road and post to social media, etc. Obviously you can't predict whether Putin will give the "Go" order or not without being psychic, but there is good evidence that if he does give the order, the Russian army is ready to do it immediately. If it's a bluff, it's one they spent a decent amount of money and manpower on making it believable.

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As I noted responding to another commenter - there have been multiple NATO as well as NATO+Ukraine exercises just since July 2021.

Similarly, a significant number of these "open source" pics are staged: take a satellite pic of an existing Russian base and crop the pic to remove the concrete barracks.

As for the social media pics: the credibility of that has been greatly damaged by the use of old pics, pics from totally different regions, etc etc.

I'm not saying Russia is perfectly innocent, but I am saying that there are all manner of not legit information - deliberate or otherwise - floating around as well as a very clear lack of a full picture.

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Then it should be easy for you to make bank by beating the market, no?

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Right, I can beat the market composed of everyone knowing nothing because of why, exactly?

I don't pretend to know something for which no one but Putin and Shoigu know anything about.

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author

The point of prediction markets isn't that they know everything, it's that they can assess the limited amount of information that people do have.

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The limited information that people do have in this case is entirely a function of mainstream media passing on government assertions.

GIGO is a very real likelihood.

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If that's true, then people won't do any worse by listening to the prediction market than they would have from listening to the mainstream media, and the prediction market at least provides an opportunity for people with better information to participate and drags things towards the correct answer.

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Your statement boils down to: 2 crap sources of data are better than 1.

I disagree.

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You shouldn't, that's like the entire point of gathering multiple data points.

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Opinions which cannot possibly be informed do not equate to data.

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People don't know much about jelly beans in a jar but enough intuitive guesses and you'll be pretty close to the right number.

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People know the sizes of jelly beans. They know the rough dimensions of the jar. As such, they can *guess* given an estimated range of jellybean counts.

A Russian declaration of war on another country?

We have zero knowledge of any of the dimensions. We can guess Russia doesn't want to start a nuclear war, but that's about it.

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Shrug. People "know" about wars: they have information (more or less depending on how old they are and what wars they have seen or read about or experienced.)

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The Ukraine situation is completely exposing how utterly limited the information sources in my life are. It’s driving me nuts that I can’t understand this situation better. I’m floored by how low the prediction markets have the invasion percentage at, I would think it was near certain.

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founding

what would Putin actually gain from escalation? holding territory is expensive, EU is buying gas anyway, and NATO won't accept Ukraine as long as they have Donbas and Donetsk occupied.

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It sounds like you're giving good reasons why *Russia* wouldn't benefit from the invasion.

*Putin* gets to feel big and powerful to himself, gets to maintain a reputation for being dangerous and unpredictable that i assume he likes, gets to play war games which he may enjoy doing, etc.

As long as it's his choice, whether it's good for Russia doesn't matter unless that's the primary term in his utility function, and I'm not placing super high odds on that.

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founding

Agree. [I think somewhere in this godawful commenting system I already mentioned that] Putin likes to stir shit, keep people on their toes, etc. As he did when he was a station chief in Dresden back in the KGB era.

> gets to feel big and powerful to himself

Yep. But he is perhaps the ultimate pragmatist. This long, pressure cooker style operation seems to serve a few very concrete goals for him, but it's unlikely he really wants to risk the well oiled machine for a very unstable and costly buffer zone.

As he used to run whatever KGB ops back then he now does on a larger scale. Divide and conquer, etc. Nord Stream 2 here, a local warlord appointed as (autonomous) oblast there, some border skirmishes south, some air raids to make sure the interests in Syria are taken care of.

For one this takes the focus off Belarus.

We shall see.

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You might be under-appreciating just how competitive the political field around here is. It breeds sociopaths, true, but it breeds them smart. A person this bloodthirsty and stupid won't stay in power for long; the military or the three-letter agency will find ways to replace them (arguably, a similar "replacement" happened in 1991 and solidified in 1993). You're also attributing external politics of a large country to personal decisions of one person. That's like me assuming that USA politics are an extension of the will of Joe Biden, and only his will. It just doesn't work, no matter how much your news sources would tell you it's always Putin's initiative.

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So, I'm also doubting it will happen. I'm not the whale on Insight Prediction who has bet against invasion, but I'm familiar with his thinking. My thinking is: (1) my Russian friends think there is close to zero chance of invasion. (2) My Ukranian friends also believe Putin is bluffing. (3) I'm not actually aware of any real intelligence or logic that Putin will invade rather than just making a big, loud threat to invade. (4) If he invaded now, there would be a lot of sanctions. I think it would go badly for him, with limited upside. (5) By just threatening to invade, and whipping the western media up into an hysteria, and then not invading, he can arguably achieve some goals. (6) When he took Crimea, he didn't drop obvious hints for months before that he was about to invade. He did it quickly, and without so many warnings that "I'm about to invade! Put all of your troops on high alert so that it's as difficult as possible for me to invade!" And, (7) people have been reporting for weeks that an invasion was imminent, and, well, it hasn't happened yet. On the other hand, the Insight Prediction and Metaculus questions could resolve as Yes if the Russians just capture a few villages near Donbass in a border skirmish six months from now.

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Your estimate seems accurate. I think there's really a very low chance of full scale invasion as there is a lot to lose and not a whole lot to gain. Any kind of big flashy action would be met with severe sanctions, and Ukranian land does not bring a lot of value for Russia. Border skirmishes, operating through separatist republics, or accidental incidents - that could happen. But anything more than that seems unlikely

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My own prediction is that, in the short term, Putin will gain effective control of Eastern Ukraine -- through a combination of annexation, puppet leaders, official concessions, and the like (P=70%). A full-scale military invasion, however, is somewhat unlikely (P=15%) -- although small skirmishes are probably inevitable (P=90%).

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Let me follow up here and say that I was as wrong about this as someone can be! Why was I wrong? Well, there is a possibility part of the answer may be that I'm simply not all that bright bright. I think my closeness to both Russians and Ukrainians was part of the reason. Both groups of people were very skeptical, and I talked to many of them, and valued their judgement more than that of those who read the US media. However, many upper-class Russians almost never watch their own media, and are in some kind of isolated bubble. I realized talking to them was raising my level of noise. The US media does occasionally have an anti-Russian slant, and I thought that was happening this time. However, while I don't know what the name for this kind of bias this is on my part, but they were quite correct in this case, as was US intelligence. Just because they are sometimes a bit biased doesn't mean they are always wrong. Third, I was so busy with my startup that I didn't read a lot of good articles laying out the case why this time Putin was going to invade until after it happened. I just thought most of the analysis and intelligence was based off of troop movements, and Putin seems to mass troops at Ukraine's border every year. Even worse, part of the reason I didn't dive into No was that I thought there was a good chance Putin might seize a few more towns in Donbas or something, as that hotspot flares up occasionally anyway. I also thought if he invaded now he'd just take the rest of Donbas. It's hard to have been more wrong.

The only thing I was right about is that the war so far does look like it's gone badly for him. The chances that Putin is out of power by the end of the year on Insight Prediction is now around 20%. That's not high but given Putin's stranglehold on power it's significant.

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"Based on the 97% YES rate, I’m guessing 13177 is in fact a prime number. "

I just plugged it in to check, and apparently the answer is "yes," to the question "can you just plug numbers up to this size into google and ask if they're prime and get a straightforward yes or no answer."

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or you could play primel (I always start with 10243 and 56879 and never lose nor take more than 3 minutes)

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I feel like the Valinor question is like the good twin of an assassination market - if someone is planning to clean up the backyard, they could make bank off that question. (Well, play-money bank.)

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I can't say I see a huge difference between people betting on whether an invasion of the Ukraine will take place and those who used to bet on how long a hanged man would twitch, back when hangings were public entertainment.

War is really ugly stuff. If there actually is an invasion, a whole lot of people will die -- many of them young, many of them children, quite a lot of them wholly blameless in any conceivable way -- and they will die in awful agonizing ways, by being shot and bleeding out, or being burned to death, crushed by falling masonry, having limbs blown off by bombs and shells, et cetera. Some people just have to figure the odds on that, because big decisions have to be made and that's their job. So be it. But for J. Random Well Off First World Internet Dweller to amuse himself by betting on death and suffering in far away Asia seems unpleasantly cold-hearted and ghoulish to me. I hope they all lose.

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Are you fucking serious? Knowing how long a man will twitch when he is being hanged is completely useless, having that practical knowledge does not help anybody at all. You think knowing whether or not there will be a war is similarly useless?

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Are you aware of the econ literature about the good accuracy of prediction markets? If we are only allowed to use prediction markets for "lighter" stuff with non-serious consequences, then would this not leave the world a lot worse off with a lot more people burned and crushed to death?

J. Random Well Off First World Internet Dweller is actually participating in a massively parallel decentralized information processing system which helps other people with figuring out the odds needed to do their job! This is way more virtuous than you make it out to be! You can also make altruistic hedges, i.e. if you worry about war then make a bet that pays off in case of war, and then if war occurs you can donate the payoff to GiveWell.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 16, 2022

I don't see why J. Random Well Off First World Internet Dweller wouldn't be risk-neutral about world welfare. If this particular JRWOFWID doesn't know anything that other JRWOFWID don't know (which is pretty much guaranteed if he thinks Ukraine is in "far away Asia"), it would be just as good in expectation to just give the money to GiveWell instead of betting it on a prediction market.

I think a much better argument is that J. Random Well Off Second World Internet Dweller can buy YES shares to hedge against his home **getting bombed**. (Or whatever happens when your home town becomes an active war zone. I'm not really sure what, but it can't be good). It's like offering life insurance to someone who might get hanged soon.

Of course this is all hypothetical, because as far as I can tell we don't actually have any real-money prediction markets on this. All we have is experts ("experts"?) and play-money markets ("markets"?). If I'm wrong and there are real-money markets, please let me know.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

predictit and betfair are both real markets that track prediction markets in important global matters (although with betfair it's more of a sidebusiness compared with their sports betting)

And the price data is genuinely really useful

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Feb 16, 2022·edited Feb 16, 2022

I can't find any markets on Russia/Ukraine on either of those platforms.

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I am less confused about some prediction markets begin at 20% vs 60% than Scott. A prediction market is only as good as its user base. If you would happen to have a prediction market with user base in Russia, then it would predict less than 5%, because it's simply not a topic in Russian media. If your user base is in Germany, you get a very different prediction than from a user base in France, or from the US, or from Easter Europe. They are just exposed to different media sources. Probably the same goes with a democrat vs republican user base.

In theory, these things even out once the user base is even moderately mixed. So if you have a few users from everywhere. But I would guess that the current markets still have user bases which are too homogeneous.

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How is the war nonsense not a topic in Russian media? That it's important to avoid the war is more or less the main topic of every newscast here.

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Hm, perhaps I got this wrong. I have read that the massive military presence in western Russia is almost not mentioned in Russian media, and that this info is even actively suppressed. (The activity in Belarus yes, but only as a normal military cooperation.) I guess that doesn't mean that the tension between US and Russia are not reported.

Could you give a summary of what's the take of Russia media? I would be interested in that.

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Feb 17, 2022·edited Feb 17, 2022

To be honest, lately I've been trying to avoid the news because it's depressing to the extent of affecting my sleep, no matter whether it's 1tv.ru, BBC, or France 24. (Have you noticed France 24 showing footage of NATO tanks while implying those were from Belarus? I did!) But here's my take on what I've heard from other people or from TV turned on by my relatives:

Some of it is coverage of the Western coverage. "We have been accused of moving troops somewhere close to Ukraine. To the extent that is true, it's every country's internal matter where they move their troops on their own soil, and, anyway, part of a training exercise." "A fake video of Russian invasion is reportedly being prepared by Western media." "Have you seen it? Bloomberg have already published news of our «invasion», but then, thankfully, retracted it." "Public figure X is accusing Russia of being bloodthirsty idiots while there's nothing to gain from «conquering» Ukraine or any other neighbouring country, even if we wanted that." "Because of fake news of impending invasion, economy of Ukraine is suffering."

Some of it is coverage of the DPR/LPR crisis. (That's how the news sources call the territory where the civil war is currently in progress.) "Here's civilians suffering after Ukrainian forces bombed their homes." "According to the DPR/LPR intelligence, so-and-so private military companies have been moving their forces closer to their border." "Look at all this weaponry dumped by NATO into Ukraine!"

Some of it military incidents with NATO forces. "Dangerous approach with NATO planes on 2022-02-10,11." "NATO plane intercepted on 2022-02-12." "USA sumarine entered Russian waters supposedly in order to observe fleet exercise on 2022-02-12, was identified and fleed, leaving a dummy submarine imitation behind."

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The problem of bets taking a long time to resolve and thus not warranting the investment doesn't seem like a problem with play money- it seems like a problem with betting in any poor long term asset, such as cash. But if allow bets denominated in say, S&P500 index funds, or any other currency, then suddenly long bets don't have to compete with markets returns, which should allow profitable betting down to a much smaller inaccuracy.

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This. We'd like to allow this. Allow bets in some appreciating or at least interest-bearing asset.

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Your map is faulty. Mariupol is controlled by Ukraine.

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author

Fixed, thanks.

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If you don't know anything (maximum uncertainty) shouldn't you predict 50% chance?

As disclaimer, I've been participating in GJP since 2013.

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That's what you'd like to think, if you think everything is most naturally cut up in yes-no questions. But if I ask you whether the next ball drawn from this urn will be white, and then I ask you whether the next ball drawn from this urn will be black, and then I ask you whether the next ball drawn from this urn will be red, you probably shouldn't say 50% for all of them.

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Your proposition is not a case of MAXIMUM uncertainty (which is when you don't know anything at all) - (you are implying information - ie that red might also be a choice along with white and black, which is not a case of maximum uncertainty.)

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Right. But I think in the case of maximum uncertainty, if there is some sense to be made of that concept, it seems clear that your prediction for each color should be less than 50%. (I personally think there isn't a concept of "maximum uncertainty".)

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Will A happen? I don't know. This essential equals maximum uncertainty, Therefor you are compelled if you are honest to say 50% chance. Now if you think you know some things well then . . . what do you know and how certain are you of your knowledge.

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I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that 50% is what you should say in cases of maximum uncertainty, like not even knowing what the proposition is. Saying 50% to everything and to its negation is a way to get perfect calibration. But if you don't know that you're considering negations as well as atomic propositions, or if everything comes as members of a larger family, then 50% isn't necessarily the answer you should give.

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That's a lot of knowledge of the situation, though.

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Under maximum uncertainty, you shouldn't bet at all, because your expected return is the same amount you bet minus transaction fees (which always exist, even if it's just your time or wear & tear on your keyboard)

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founding

Interestingly enough, while prediction markets were forecasting a greater-than-not likelihood of Russian invasion, financial markets were implicitly betting the opposite (both Russian and Ukrainian currency is trading stronger against the dollar, stable wheat and falling LNG futures) and based on the news this morning it seems like financial markets were right. I have no real analysis here, but would be interested in what other folks think of this divergence.

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My take is that prediction markets mistook political theatre as reliable evidence. Why would the Ukrainian government downplay the risk of Russian invasion, as they have been, if there was a strong case for it? Consider that the US would have been presenting the best evidence to them behind closed doors to get them to play along.

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founding

I agree with your take, but I guess my mind was running more towards what this tells us about how prediction markets differ from regular markets (to the extent any market is not a prediction market lol).

My lingering intuition is that the missing feature of prediction markets is non-prediction use cases. It could be as simple as speculation does not provide enough liquidity to support the level of efficient pricing of a modern global financial market or as complex as the fact that speculative arbitrage is only possible because of inter asset class asymmetry ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s a small n to make any grand conclusions but I’m updating my confidence in prediction markets down.

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Yeah. This just shows that prediction markets with low liquidity are useless. Like. I am sure those estimate are super wrong, but I am not gonna go and register to "prove" them wrong and win some play money. Or even 50$.

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Does the fact that people are now calling the capital of Ukraine 'Kyiv', rather than the English version of the name 'Kiev' have any bearing of the probability of an Russian invasion?

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Fyi, Kyiv is the name in Ukrainian, while Kiev is in Russian (both languages are normally written in cyrilic, though).

In the West, Ukrainian cities are mostly known by their Russian names, but since 2014, Ukrainian government started to push Ukrainian names, which are now e.g. on Google maps. Don´t know if that answers your question.

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I think "Kiev" was replaced by "Kyiv" when "the Ukraine" was replaced by "Ukraine". It was all a concerted set of changes, related to the ones China did a few years earlier switching "Peking" and "Nanking" and "Mao Tse-Tung" to "Beijing" and "Nanjing" and "Mao Zedong", and the ones various other countries have done.

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The Soviet Union did a lot of renaming *to* Russian names previously, didn't they? After the mass deportations under Stalin.

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In Ukraine, no. There were no mass soviet deportations of ethnic Ukrainians. Crimean Tatars on the other hand were deported to Central Asia. Many died as a result.

Most of Ukraine was put under Russian rule under Catherine the Great, so names were Russian long before soviet times. Smaller western part belonged to Austria-Hungary until 1918, and then to Poland and Czechoslovakia until WW2.

Largest city in western Ukraine was called Lemberg under Austria-Hungary, Lvov in Russian and is now officialy Lviv.

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"There were no mass soviet deportations of ethnic Ukrainians." I suppose "death" is not technically mass deportation.

The Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People is 1846 when there was also the Brotherhood of the saints Cyril and Methodius. The russification began after the collapse of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

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It is odd how these things happen, don't you think? Peking was called 'Peking' for years, and then suddenly it was 'Beijing'. Bombay was Bombay and then suddenly it was 'Mumbai'. Kiev has been known as 'Kiev' for the half-century or so that I have heard of it then all of a sudden everyone starts calling it 'Kyiv'.

This is either a natural social phase-change phenomenon or a cause for mild paranoia, I am not sure which.

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