03 September 2007

Which million-dollar problem will fall first?

At Inkling Markets, you can bet on which of the seven Millennium Problems will be solved first.

The choices include the option "none", which is defined as "All problems will resist a solution indefinitely."; I'm not sure who would bet on that, because "indefinitely" means no one will ever be able to claim the prize.

I wonder about the efficiency of prediction markets when most of the people involved don't know what they're talking about. People talk about "the wisdom of crowds". But do the crowds need to be at least somewhat informed? And are the people who will take part in this particular prediction market informed enough as to not be totally worthless? (I suspect, for example, that people will vote for the problem they've heard of; the story of Perelman's proof of the Poincare conjecture was pretty widely distributed in the media about a year ago. It was overshadowed by the Pluto-isn't-a-planet story which broke around the same time, though.)

Incidentally, I'd bet on Poincare, for the obvious reason that Perelman came up with a proof! The CMI hasn't announced that they're giving him the prize yet, because there's a certain waiting period involved in order to make sure that the proof becomes widely accepted, but clearly that's the one furthest along the pipeline.

So in this particular case, the fact that people have heard of the Poincare conjecture is probably because of its connection to these prizes and the proposed proof.

A more interesting prediction market would be for the second Millennium Prize to be claimed.


John Armstrong said...

I'm not sure who would bet on that, because "indefinitely" means no one will ever be able to claim the prize.

Appropriately enough, given that Pete Rose shows up in Beloit's 2007 "mindset" list, I've got a story related to that.

One of the comic strips my father used to have hung up outside his office was an old one from Tank McNamara. A bookie was (clearly, in context) taking bets on Rose's reinstatement, and listing odds for various time spans. In the last frame he says, "Well, it's 3:1 no reinstatement for life, but how would you collect?"

Isabel said...

Depending on the interpretation, you could argue that if Pete Rose isn't reinstated before he dies, a bettor could collect.

But that doesn't seem like the right interpretation, because reinstatement in this case includes being able to be voted into the Hall of Fame, and you can get into the Hall of Fame posthumously. It's not like a Nobel Prize.

John Armstrong said...

Well, yes. I'm trying to quote it exactly as written, but I'm certain that "for life" is being used to mean "permanently".

Julian said...

There is some text on the page that says "Note: The Poincaré Conjecture is not included as it was solved before this market started, although Perelman has not accepted the prize money."

I can't quite reconcile that with the rest of the page, though. If Perelman gets the money, who gets paid?

Matt Brubeck said...

The questions seems to be which of the six remaining (i.e. non-Poincare) problems will be solved first.