Bush Impeached? Wanna Bet?
Aug. 04, 2003 PT
Though there was an outcry over the Pentagon's
terrorism futures market, a similar online exchange is in the works
to predict what the U.S. government is up to.
The American Action Market will offer
various Washington "futures" that can be bet upon and
traded. Examples include:
Which country will the White House
Who will be the next foreign leader to move off the CIA payroll
and onto the White House's "most wanted" list?
Which corporation with close ties to the White House will
be the next cloaked in scandal?
The AAM will begin registering traders in September and plans to
open for business Oct. 1 -- the same launch date proposed for the
Pentagon's terrorism market, until it was shelved.
Like the Pentagon's scrapped Policy Analysis
Market, the AAM lets traders "bet" on future events by
buying and selling futures as though they were stocks. The higher
the price, the more likely the market believes the event will occur.
But instead of predicting terrorist strikes, the AAM will predict
things like the next White House staffer to quit.
"The idea is to answer some of the
most pressing questions in the world: What will the White House
do next?" said one of the founders, Andrew Geiger, an American
programmer living in Paris.
The AAM market is the brainchild of a
half-dozen academics from various colleges, including the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Yale University, New York University and
the University of Montreal. Most, however, are keeping their identities
quiet until they get an institutional go-ahead.
The market was organized on Nettime, a
politics and culture mailing list.
"It's quite amazing, the Pentagon
and the White House are very fertile imaginative fields these days,"
Geiger said. "(The AAM project) sounds humorous, but that just
shows how far things have gone. We've entered the realm of fiction.
Things really are Dr. Strangelove."
The AAM project complements another academic
project, the Government Information Awareness project. The GIA was
built in response to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's
Terrorism Information Awareness program.
Its organizers hope the market will attract
academics, politicians, civil servants and other insiders to provide
accurate predictions of White House behavior. Geiger said even those
who read the newspapers are qualified to be traders.
"Our goal is to have people with
insight into how the White House works," said Geiger. "There
are a lot of people who spend a lot of time thinking about what's
going on in the world these days. A lot of that thought could be
transferred into the system, giving you trading data that will tell
you what's really going on."
Geiger added, "Who knows whether
it will reveal stuff? Anyway, it will be engaging."
The public, he noted, will be able to
follow trades on the market's website.
David Pennock, a senior research scientist
at Overture Services, said futures markets have proven to be very
good predictors of many different kinds of events, from the weather
to election outcomes.
"It's one of the best, if not the
best, way to predict the future," he said. "It's a good,
well-known method for getting information that's distributed around
Bob Forsythe, a University of Iowa professor
who helped organize the Iowa Electronic Markets, which speculate
on election results, agreed that futures are reliable indicators
of what's going to happen next -- if the traders are knowledgeable.
"You have to have informed
traders or they don't work very well," he said. "Who are
the informed traders in an assassination market, for example? The
same's true for predicting the White House."
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