Friday, January 13, 2006

Nest Egg

Risk has been treated as a commodity for centuries by those in the actuarial profession, but the rise of peer-to-peer distributed networks and the advent of the "War on Terror" has transformed how social actors can interact with that market of risk. Although the Pentagon's "terror futures index" was nixed by government officials, as Wired News reported, the webpage of the Policy Analysis Market was archived by U.C. Irvine alumnus Robin Hanson, who now teaches at George Mason University. Thanks to Hanson, critics can still examine the program's disquieting rhetorical appeals from the Information Awareness Office ( with the Foucauldian motto Scientia Est Potentia. Described as a "market in the future of the Middle East," the program promises predictions based on "objective data and observable events."

To become a Policy Analysis Market trader, which can only be done via the website, three basic requirements must be filled: 1) acceptance of the terms of use, 2) selection of a username and password, and 3) deposit of funds into the registrant's PAM trading account. The site is obviously targeted at experts in think tanks and universities. If only I could make money betting on the likelihood of the government committing more online rhetorical gaffes . . .

In 2005, gamers were given an opportunity to dive into an amateur version of this betting pool in Where Next?. This macabre website promises to reward the online Nostradamus who best predicts where, when, and how the next terrorist attack will occur -- using the Google Earth interface and some handy terror icons -- with a customized t-shirt that commemorates the feat of successful prediction. The site has through-a-glass-darkly predictions by cranks, crackpots, gambling addicts, policy wonks, and cyber-activists. My favorite was the prediction of a terror attack in Greenland caused by the method of global warming. (Click image to enlarge.) I'll play almost any political online game, but it seemed like bad karma to place my wager here.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

While your karma-intuition is widely shared, it seems misguided; you would mainly do good by sharing any information you had about terrorist attacks.

1:01 PM  

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