Re: poly: Idea Futures, some questions

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Tue Jun 09 1998 - 09:38:49 PDT

Peter M. writes:
>>>Contract this with the idea futures situation. Suppose a research
>>>project requires the collaboration of many people. Each of these
>>>persons (and possibly many others too) could steal the gist
>>>of the research findings and buy idea futures. If their personal
>>>transactions are monitored, they could tip their friends.
>>With patents, they could similarly tell their friends about the patent
>>idea, and their friends could then file for the patent.
> It's pretty hard to patent an idea stolen from a friend without that
>friend noticing. I think this plays an important role in detering such
>filings. It's a good deal harder to detect the use of stolen ideas to
>profit on an idea futures market.

I think it's important to compare apples with apples, and to distinguish
the default implementation of idea futures from the set of all feasible

If there are only five labs in the world that could conceivably come up
with some patentable idea, then this makes it harder to steal the idea;
you have to sell it to one of those other labs. If the friend of an
employee of one of the labs instead trys to patent the idea, that's a
big red flag to draw attention and investigation.

Similarly if there are only five labs in the world that could conceivably
come up with information relevant to some idea futures market, then if the
friend of an employee of one of those labs bets in the market, that's also
a big red flag for investigation.

One's default image of idea futures may have hundreds of people
participating in any given market. But if secret stealing were a big
enough problem, market participation could be severely restricted. You
might allow only those five labs to play, or you might require a large
fee for participation.

On the whole I think the benefits of wider participation likely outweigh
any increasing costs of policing idea theft. But one can disagree and
still use idea futures.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627
Received on Tue Jun 9 16:58:23 1998

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