Old Introduction

A protocol for ideological risk management

The problem: Media corporations are central banks of narrative

In the same way that fiat currencies are valuable only because governments say they are, fiat narratives are true only because media corporations say they are.

Media corporations have near-limitless power to enforce fiat narratives using tactics like these:

  • Limiting the scope of discussion (“Democrat vs. Republican”)

  • Astroturfing (paying people to imitate a grassroots movement)

  • Distributing airtime ($4B of free airtime to Donald Trump in 2016)

  • Sponsoring entertainment and media (CIA involvement in media)

  • Great firewalls (China)

  • Banning media outlets (Facebook and Twitter)

  • Interrupting members of US Congress to cover Justin Bieber (Video)

  • Scripting local news on a national scale (Video)

  • etc.

In the same way that Bitcoin allows people to transact without trusting banks and governments, a decentralized market that measures the perceived value of ideas allows people to define reality without trusting media corporations.

The solution: Ideological risk management

Pascal’s Wager is the most famous example of beliefs-as-bets:

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Pascal argues in favor of a belief in God due to its high reward and low risk, and to the high risk and low reward of its alternative.

All beliefs work this way — when we “bet on” a belief, we expect to be rewarded more for holding that belief than we would for betting on an alternative.

Typically, the risks involved in betting on a belief are primarily personal and social:

  • “Will my community still accept me if I contradict their beliefs?”

  • “I’ve been saying x on social media, how embarrassing would it be if I started saying y?”

  • “If I believed something else, who would I even be?”

Research on numeracy, cult behavior, science denial, and scientific suppression shows people tend to be far more concerned with issues like the above than with whether they are actually right or wrong.

This is normal and natural, but it’s no secret that humans are lousy belief-investors. We do not manage “ideological risk” well at all.

“Rationality is risk management; nothing more.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

To achieve collective “rationality,” therefore, we need a mechanism for collective ideological risk management — an idea market that uses financial structures to assign value to ideas and narratives about how the world works.

Introducing financial risks and rewards to “belief betting” alters the risk management landscape for decision-making about beliefs. Not only do financial markets codify what deciding what to believe means in the first place (i.e., making a bet), they reward better thinking and punish worse thinking.

What is an idea market?

Idea markets use investment to establish credibility for ideas and narratives without trusting a centralized third party.

Idea markets use price discovery to advance discovery.

A protocol for ideological risk management

While hopefully idea markets make intuitive sense, one metaphor may resonate more than another. So here are a bunch to choose from:

A protocol for the battlefield of ideas A protocol for trustless credibility A protocol for defining reality without media corporations A protocol for harnessing greed to empower curiosity A protocol for capturing the value of obscure genius A protocol for perpetual scientific and cultural revolution A protocol for killing bad ideas A protocol for rendering propaganda powerless A protocol for making credibility harder to achieve by force than by merit A protocol for using price discovery to advance discovery A protocol for creating high-quality common knowledge A perpetual global dashboard for sincere belief An authority without authorities

An intellectual gold mine

Idea markets allow investors to profit by identifying and popularizing under-appreciated ideas. (I call this venture philosophy.)

Since anyone can participate, an “intellectual gold rush” will occur, as millions of people comb the internet to find obscure geniuses and usher them into the spotlight.

A scientific and cultural revolution engine

Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions argues that scientific progress is incremental most of the time — only occasionally do we participate in revolutionary science, in which discoveries are made that change our fundamental assumptions about the world.

Idea markets crowdsource a continuous renewal of our fundamental assumptions about the world, enabling an environment of perpetual scientific and cultural revolution.

William Gibson wrote, “The future is here; it just isn’t evenly distributed yet.” Idea markets are future-distributors.

Humanity’s ideological immune system

By making it profitable to identify under-appreciated ideas, idea markets in turn make it expensive to promote ideas that can’t stand on their own merits — propaganda and false narratives.

Corporate and governmental interests will need to continually spend money to artificially inflate the value of a false narrative, and with each passing day the reward to venture philosophers who convincingly replace or refute it will increase. Thus, weak narratives will crumble and propaganda will fail.

What do idea markets measure, exactly?

Idea markets measure

  • current

  • perceived

  • usefulness

Current: That the Earth moves ‘round the sun would have been very exciting and disruptive 400 years ago, not so much today.

Perceived: Idea markets operate on the assumption that discovering important “truths” with any kind of finality is impossible. Idea markets, like science, share the principle that all discovery is tentative, pending improvements.

Usefulness: An idea market investment asserts that an idea is worthy of increased attention. Profitability is proportionate to how many others come to agree with you over time.

What’s the value of measuring “perceived” truth?

What gets measured gets managed. — Peter F. Drucker

Measuring perceived truths allows us to collectively manage the zeitgeist, rather than have it managed for us by centralized interests.

The purpose of idea markets is not to fully eradicate falsehoods or forcefully prevent them from achieving prominence. It’s to create a game that over time rewards billions of people for managing trust responsibly, instead of dozens of people for managing it poorly. (This is what Bitcoin does for money.)

Are idea markets a kind of prediction market?

No. Prediction markets reward people who predict the outcomes of events. They close at a specific moment, and require an oracle to testify to the outcome.

Idea markets reward people who identify useful information. They operate in perpetuity, and on the assumption that determining important “truths” with finality is impossible. They therefore need no oracle to decide who is “right.” The market decides over time.

The purpose of an idea market is to make quality a requirement for popularity, instead of an obstacle to it.

Won’t idea markets allow people to manipulate narratives directly?

Parties who buy a high rank out of pocket must stay profitable while competing with the purchasing power of entire populations. Ideamarket is a new income stream for trusted voices, and a permanently increasing expense for propagandists.

Second, direct manipulation is extremely preferable. Today, links between information manipulation and vested interests are obscured. In idea markets, they’re explicit, and the public has equal access to this same power.