Re: poly: Idea Futures, some questions

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Wed Jun 24 1998 - 18:41:14 PDT

Robin wrote:

> Nick B. wrote on 6/9/98:
> >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")
> I find it hard to believe that this sort of threat is actually a
> substantial componenet of current deterrence to stealing patentable
> ideas.

Intuitively: if you are a researcher in a cold fusion project, and
your group makes a design for a new reactor, you would hardly run
off and set up a company and build that reactor for your own profit,
if you had signed a contract with the research group that all results
and ideas belonged to the group. (Even if you hadn't signed any
contract, it would still be a major venture for you to assemble
capital and expertise etc.)

On the other hand, if all you had to do were to anonymously buy some
idea futures, or tip off a friend while playing golf, the risk of
detection seems *much* smaller and the operation would also be much
easier to carry out.

> But it turned out to be crucial, one could consider requiring
> idea futures market participants to similarly have detailed documentation
> of their reasoning for making the trades they do.

That doesn't sounds *extremely* implausible. Pick any stock, and I'm
sure I could easily cook up a justification for buying it. Would the
law require that your justification was *valid* -- if you can't
*prove* to the authorities that IBM is likely to rise next year,
you'll go to jail if you invest in them?

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Thu Jun 25 21:01:12 1998

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