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Augur as a Social Good

by Jeremy Gardner

Monday, January 19th was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

To many, especially those in places of privilege, this holiday engenders feelings of pride in how far the United States has come since that extraordinary reverend marched on Washington and spoke at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and told thousands of his dream of equality.

But Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has not been realized in more ways than it has.

I first witnessed the disparity in how individuals are treated during my delinquent adolescence in a small college town in Massachusetts. My recklessness  brought me into contact with law enforcement, but it was never with more than a severe smack on the wrist (or pavement).

When I first moved to a major city when I was eighteen, it was immediately apparent that I had been living in an absolute bubble due to the “virtue” of my skin color. For behavior that would leave my black teen counterpart bruised and handcuffed, I would only be the butt of some half-brained cop’s joke, but nothing more. A couple of years later, I worked at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination under the governor, and I learned, from investigating the traumatizing accounts of minorities, just how differently I had been treated.

I do not have a solution to the inequities in our society, nor do I believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer. I try my best to make my acquaintances aware of the differences in our society, but understandably, it can be quite difficult for middle-class white folks to even begin to fathom the stark disparities in our society. I do not blame them.

However, do I believe that Augur could begin to chisel away at inequality in the world, by forcing us to confront painful truths about the societies in which we live?

Absolutely.

Major pivot, I know. But hear me out.

Remember that, in its heyday, InTrade was the darling of the New York Times and many other major publications and news media outlets. Then consider the unstoppable and limitless, global nature of Augur. The news media will be unable to resist covering the platform’s markets. My goal is to have a daily Augur prediction page in the Wall St. Journal by the end of 2017, in addition to having Augur integrated with Google searches. I hope that trending predictions can influence social commentary as much as “trending topics” on Twitter and Facebook do now.

Some social-good use cases:

Gay Marriage & SCOTUS: Astute political observers will create a market and bet that the Supreme Court of the U.S. will find prohibiting homosexual couples from marrying to be unconstitutional. Odds will be so uneven, that it will be difficult to deny this new reality. This will thus usher in greater discourse about equality for all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation or preference. The dogmatists who bet against this inevitable ruling will lose their money, while the rest will be rewarded. Similar markets: discriminatory voter ID and immigration laws, corporate personhood, drug laws.

Government Whistleblowers: High-net worth individuals, government agencies, companies, nonprofits, and NGOs, could galvanize potential whistleblowers in government to reveal improprieties (e.g. NSA citizen-spying, illegal IRS profiling) by betting large sums against such information from being revealed by a certain date. A whistleblower could then bet that such an event would happen, and then anonymously release the info on time and be greatly rewarded. Similar markets: corporate/bureaucratic whistleblowers, corruption, anti-terrorism/radicalization, police shooting reporting.

Crop Hedging: In much of the developing world, farmers do not have access to agricultural insurance (let alone subsidies) like they do in the United States. Augur could serve as a hedging mechanism for farmers against bad weather and/or yields each season. A market maker, anywhere in the world, could be incentivized to give liquidity to this sort of market for the same reasons insurance companies are. Similar markets: life and all other sorts of insurance, hedging for all sorts of activities.

None of this will happen due to the “kindness of one’s heart.” No, these sorts of markets will arise purely out of the desire for profit. With Augur, the desire for profit can only be realized through the attainment of truth. When there is a wrong in society, there can now be a financial incentive for truth to be unleashed, and goodness to prevail. And truth, in the context that it is being discussed, is exactly what Martin Luther King sought when he told the thousands standing before him in Washington D.C. what his great dream was.

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