August 24, 2003

Future blows from invisible hands.

(Better never than late.)

Contrast and compare:

Danny O'Brien at oblomovka:

"My editor mailed me to ask about that last entry, and whether we should rewrite the piece. He said someone had pointed it out to him. Someone, my foot. Do you see what this is? This is the Internet getting back at me again."
Danny O'Brien at advogato:
"I help write which makes me one of those observers who collapse the eigenstate and ruin the experiment a lot of the time."

One of those many observers, I'd hazard. Observation, and remarking on observation, affects reality -- although perhaps not to the extent hazarded by the observations of Greg Bear's Blood Music.

Prophecies are predictions based on observation. The problem with the prophecies that we're told is that they can be self-fulfilling or self-negating; for some (social) experiments, the act of recording and promulgating the observation can affect the experiment. Do Gallup election polls affect subsequent decisions, and invalidate the very prophecies they make? Consider how Gore almost conceded, based on exit polls.

(You won't read to the end of this entry.)

Orlowski spitting fire about extropian political-futures markets for the Register misses the fundamental point of markets -- participants want you buy into the market philosophy. If you believe in markets, then what markets say matters to you. Much of what market analysts say exists only to evangelise the market process. Buy what they're saying and buy into the markets, for the markets can't become truly properly-functioning fair markets until everyone's playing in them. They're pyramid schemes that can pan out, with global prosperity for everyone.

(Extropians are optimists who have already bought in.)

Or so we're told. Markets are just large secondary experiments based on mass observation, and in the market the reaction to market behaviour based on observations of the market becomes the new reality of the market, and affects the primary experiment.

(Someone on blogshares bought shares in my blog and promptly blogged a link to me to up the price. Behaviour encouraged by that market.)

Make an observation on the worthlessness of your article, and suddenly your article really just might be worthless in its market as your observation is reacted to. Danny discovered that the observer exists within the system, and can ruin his own experiments in getting paid.

(Try calling an Old Master a fake. Once you've bought it. Try to sell it.)

Make an observation on, oh, the likelihood of political assassinations by buying into a dead-pool futures market that encourages the likelihood of such observations, and you affect the future likelihood of assassinations as your observation sparks reactions. Can such markets really predict the future, or merely cause it to happen by exercising the much-vaunted invisible hand? Would placing a price on someone's head in a futures market really be just a purely theoretical exercise?

The market doesn't stand outside the experiment. The perfect market becomes the sole way you manipulate that experiment -- but that market offers perverse incentives that are aligned to the internal reality of the market, not to the primary experiment and its reality. I'm coming to distrust the undeclared purposes of markets; they're not just tools.

Recording this observation here is probably a really stupid idea. It's just asking for it.

(You'll forget you ever read this, or you'll think someone else wrote it. It's just another blog entry.)

Posted by Lloyd Wood at August 24, 2003 01:17 AM
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