Steven D. Levitt over at the Freakanomics blog (the companion blog to the book by the same name that is on my reading list) pointed me to the utterly fascinating longbets.org, which he described as “the betting site for big thinkers.”
In a nutshell, bettors publicly put real money on one side or the other of an issue with long-term implications, with the idea that one day the bets can be settled. So what are big thinkers betting on?
By 2030, commercial passengers will routinely fly in pilotless planes. Craig Mundie, CTO of Microsoft, has $1000 on “yes,” and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has $1000 on “no.” (I guess we won’t be seeing the GooglePlane, but am I the only one who is a little alarmed that the CTO of Microsoft is saying we’ll have pilotless planes? Once you’ve seen a giant blue screen in Times Square. . . . )
In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times’ Web site. Dave Winer has $1000 on “yes,” and Martin Nisenholtz says, “no.”
By 2060 the total population of humans on earth will be less than it is today. (Kevin Kelly says “yes,” but there are no challengers yet).
Here’s another one without a challenger yet: By the year 2150, over 50% of schools in the USA or Western Europe will require classes in defending against robot attacks. Alex K. Rubin says “yes.” I’m not so sure about that one, but if I put up the cash, it would be up to my heirs to collect on that one if I won.
Reading the bets is good for some brain-stretching fun, and there are still plenty of predictions waiting for challengers. Winning is about pride, not money — all money is donated to charity.
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