Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Animals as forecasters

Futures markets and in particular prediction markets are a good way to hedge against various risks as well as establish what people really think about the likelihood of some event. As they a putting money on the line, these markets are deemed (and have proven) to be more really than surveys and polls. Of particular interest in this context was the short-lived "terrorism futures market" organized by the Pentagon, which was supposed to offer an additional tool for predicting terrorist threats, and which would allow those who could suffer from terrorism to buy insurance against it. Unfortunately, there was also a fear that threats could materialize because of the market, as people would try to manipulate it.

Adi Schnytzer and Yisrael Schnytzer point out that there is another potential for prediction markets: natural disasters. Of course, we humans are so far not particularly good at forecasting such events as earthquakes, but some animals have evolved a sixth sense in this respect that is rather underexploited. While it seems difficult for scientists to drum up money to study this, maybe because this technology does not seem credible or usable, the Schnytzers point out that if prediction markets are created for natural disasters, then funding would emerge if money is to be made. And this would also establish whether these theories have credibility.

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