Critics blasted policy-makers Tuesday for dropping a controversial plan to create a futures market to help predict terrorist strikes. Legislators like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) may have found the Pentagon’s Policy Analysis Market, or PAM, “grotesque.” But proponents of “idea markets” say PAM’s quicksilver cancellation will rob the country’s intelligence agencies of a tool with a strong history of accurately predicting future events. It’s a decision that’s “pure political,” said Bill Adkins, with Neoteric Technologies, which has a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, grant to design markets trading on the future of hybrid electric vehicles and the spread of SARS. But supporters of the project point out that gathering intelligence is often a messy business, with payoffs to unsavory characters and the elimination of potential adversaries. The futures market, ugly as it may sound, doesn’t involve any of those moral compromises, said Robin Hanson, one of the earlier promoters of the concept of trading floors for ideas and a PAM project contributor. It’s just a way of capturing people’s collective wisdom. “Among the many things we do for intelligence, this is one of the least reprehensible,” Hanson said. “Paying people to tell us about bad things. That’s intrinsic to the intelligence process.” And a trading floor could be more effective than paying off a snitch. Full Story
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