[Day 73] Let’s make a bet about the future

I have just found out about a website that totally changed the way I spend my free time. It’s called the Long Bets. We read about Long Bets while checking out the Interval, a retro, steampunk-ish, peculiar-looking place that claimed to be a “bar cafe museum”. As a side note, the Interval is such a pretty place that is definitely worth a visit.


According to the website itself, the Long Bets is “an arena for competitive, accountable prediction“, “a forum for focused discussion and debate about prediction” and “an attractive tool for philanthropic giving“. If you want to make a prediction, you go to the website, put your argument there with some argument. Then if someone disagrees with you, that person can challenge you, and you can choose to accept the challenge for a certain amount of money.

The money eventually goes to the charity of choice of the winner. They have had 718 predictions but only 28 bets so far, many of them are made by prominent figures such as Warren Buffet, Eric Schmidt, Ray Kurzweil, Kevin Kelly. The bets touch on different fields, from technologies, economics to environments. Each bet’s value ranges from $200 to $1M (a bet made by Warren Buffet using his pocket money against Protege Partners, LLC).

Just Warren Buffett being Warren Buffett

I spent the whole evening reading through their hundreds of predictions. Below are some of the most interesting predictions that I found.


Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Chief Futurist, will, of course, make the first challenge. Mitchell Kapor is not a strange name in the tech world. He created the first spreadsheet VisiCalc, and later founded Lotus. Kurweil’s argument is almost 3000 words long and worth a read.

There has been a great deal of philosophical discussion and speculation concerning the issue of consciousness, and whether or not we should consider a machine that passed the Turing test to be conscious. Clearly, the Turing test is not an explicit test for consciousness. Rather, it is a test of human-level performance. My own view is that inherently there is no objective test for subjective experience (i.e., consciousness) that does not have philosophical assumptions built into it. The reason for this has to do with the difference between the concepts of objective and subjective experience. However, it is also my view that once nonbiological intelligence does achieve a fully human level of intelligence, such that it can pass the Turing test, humans will treat such entities as if they were conscious. After all, they (the machines) will get mad at us if we don’t. However, this is a political prediction rather than a philosophical position.


The terms stated that it can either be manned or unmanned. This prediction is exciting, yet rather ambitious, so I looked at Tibor Pacher’s profile. He has a PhD in Physics from Heidelberg University, Germany. He is “founder and leader of the official Google Lunar X-Price team “Puli Space” and lead scientist for the PULI ROVER experiment at the MARS2013 mission in Morocco“. He looks like he knows what he is talking about. I sure hope he’s right.


Joe Keane’s argument is concise:

Theoretical physics is incomplete regarding what processes can occur at such high energies. No one knows what is going to happen.

My only question is that if the Earth gets destroyed then who’d get the money?


Following Brexit, there will be Frexit, Quitaly, and Angeleave Merkel


This one is a no brainer, right? Right? Right? I suspect it will happen in my lifetime.


In case you’re wondering, Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand are cofounders of the Long Bets

I wonder what Mykel Kochenderfer would say about this bet

And of course, there will be people making a bet against themselves. Just to be safe, you know.


Last but not least, if you want to go against Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine and co-founder of Long Bets, now is your chance. His prediction is still unchallenged.

I’d go against him if I had the money

His argument:

Current estimates of the world’s peak population are made with assumptions that don’t take into account the major role that globalization is having.

This means the earth’s population will reach its peak sooner than official forecasts predict and because there is no visible counterforce compelling the majority of couples to have more than 3 kids each, world population will rapidly fall after reaching its peak.

It will diminish to our level by 2060 and keep falling.

So, want to make a bet?

[Day 73] Let’s make a bet about the future

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