Re: poly: Idea Futures, some questions

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Tue Jun 09 1998 - 15:30:15 PDT

Robin Hanson wrote:

> >The ownership of the patent might depend only on that. But companies
> >and labs often require their employees to sign a contract that
> >prevent them from leaking the company's information. These contracts
> >are often enforceable today, but might not be so with idea futures.
> I don't see why such contracts need be less enforceable.

As I said, if someone copies all the ideas in a patent application
(e.g. a mechanism that would give workable cold fusion), than it will
be much easier to prove that theft has taken place than if you just
steal one bit of information ("Cold fusion doesn't work")

> If need be,
> patrons who subsidize a market on question hoping to encourage research
> could prohibit anonymous trading in their market.

I have assumed all along that the trading would not be anonymous.
(Otherwise the situation would seem pretty hopeless indeed).

> This would make it
> easier to show that it was an employee's brother who made a killing off
> of information that only a certain lab could plausibly have had.

How do you prove that the employee's brother didn't just act on a
hunch or on his personal assessment of publicly available
information? Or for that matter, what prevents the insider from
striking a deal with a non-relative? We already have some
substantial problems with insider trading today, and I have given two
reasons why the problem might be much worse if we have idea futures,
the most important one being that sensitive decisions in companies
can usually be taken by a very small number of people, whereas
reseach often requires the cooperation of many researcher. The
difficulty of preventing a leak increases rapidly with the number of
persons sharing a secret. I don't think you have answered this
objection yet.

Nicholas Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Tue Jun 9 21:52:11 1998

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