[Epistemic Status: I think this post gestures in the right direction and the ideas in it are positive on the margin. However I am uncertain what I would write if I put substantially more time into thinking on the subject and think it plausible that discussion on this post will cause me to change my mind.]

tl;dr: I think LessWrong would benefit from new users betting on predictions at the top of their posts/comments. This might be difficult to do, so in order to encourage it I am offering to subsidize markets created by new LessWrong users on Manifold - a site for betting with play money for free. 

Sometimes it is important to be able to discuss things without exposing them to harsh analytical criticism or being forced into objective stances[1]. This probably applies even more often to people new to LessWrong who may not be used to the particular epistemic standards here.  However, if you think you are comfortable submitting your ideas to more rigorous scrutiny, one thing you can do is bet on them.

Betting on your beliefs is a major part of the culture of LessWrong[2]. Beliefs that someone is willing to bet on are taken more seriously and can help ground discussion. Recently, the site Manifold.markets has provided a way to do this for free, using play money called mana to bet on user created (and resolved) markets. They also provide a subsidy feature, where users can subsidize markets to encourage betting on them. 

I think a lot of recent content by new users on LessWrong gestures at concepts sort of vaguely or proposes a theory without communicating the writer's level of confidence, which isn't unreasonable - communicating in a novel way is hard! But this has the unfortunate result of making it difficult to have productive conversations, at least for me, as I often end up feeling like I might disagree with the writer's underlying beliefs but those beliefs aren't made explicitly enough for me to contradict. 

In order to encourage betting by new users, I am offering to subsidize manifold markets new users include within their posts or replies. I intend do this[3] for all[4]such markets I see mentioned by new users[5] that I see (see footnotes for qualifications/details).  I recommend putting the markets in the top of your comment/reply to maximize the chance that I notice them. This should provide an incentive (in mana) to make such markets, as well as increasing the accuracy of those markets by incentivizing betting on them.

Some proposals for markets you can create, ideally with expiry dates in the near future (next few months) with a probability that is not too close to 0% or 100% in your point of view.

  • Whether a newsworthy event will happen. It doesn’t need to perfectly capture all of what you are arguing, just “will a major newspaper report in the next year that X happened” works.
  •  Whether a decision you are advocating for will be made. 
  • Whether there will be a substantial amount of interest in a few months about a topic you think is promising.
  • Whether a project you are proposing will be successful, or continue to exist.
  • Whether a prominent researcher will publicly agree with something.
  1. ^

    I like this post which discusses that.

  2. ^

    This does imply that new users to LessWrong who may lack experience betting are at a disadvantage when betting against users who have been around awhile and have practice betting. This is why I'm offering to subsidize bets users make rather than just offering to bet against them.

  3. ^

    How large the subsidy is may vary but I'll start off by defaulting to 100 mana for markets in posts and 20 mana for markets in replies.   

  4. ^

    All markets within reason, if someone tries to abuse this I do not intend to subsidize them. 

  5. ^

    Where new user includes anyone with a sprout icon next to their name, and possibly other users depending on my personal judgement.

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I'm excited for this sort of thing.

(I think this might be the sort of post that is normally a bit too-meta for frontpage, but I'm frontpaging it because I'd like more rationality content prominently on the site)

(I think this seems good for both new and old users, although I agree it's a fairly simple exercise that makes for a good onboarding process for newer people)

Why would you bet on whether a decision you're advocating for will be made? You can believe a decision is useful and also believe it won't be made due to political reasons. You should bet on whether, if made, it would work, at most, and that might be hard to define without the counterfactual.


Making a bet is like trying to write a computer program that runs perfectly the first time you run it. One reason I don't bet is that I'm no good at writing bets without loopholes (where a loophole is something that leads to the bet being lost in a scenario which doesn't falsify the proposition that the bet is meant to be about.)

We also don't know people's financial situations, so it's hard to tell whether someone's willingness to bet is affected by being in a good financial situation. For that matter, it's hard to distinguish between justified confidence and foolhardiness.

Normies don't bet like this, and there are reasons for it.

Manifold.markets is play-money only, no real money required. And users can settle the markets they make themselves, so if you make the market you don't have to worry about loopholes (though you should communicate as clearly as possible so people aren't confused about your decisions).

If by 'Normies' you mean normal internet users, I highly doubt that's a concern. Since approximately 0% of posts would be written by such, nor would they want to participate on LW to any significant degree.

The point is not that they are here, but that they have reasons why they don't bet other than just arbitrariness, and these reasons may still apply.

This is cool!

I think it's better to offer to bet in any market that any newcomer makes rather than offer to subsidize. Manifold doesn't (yet?) surface higher subsidy things in the feed more, so it would only make a difference for people on the search page that are sorting by liquidity, but even so,100 mana subsidy isn't actually sufficient to bring it to the top of. Or put another way, it's not sufficient incentive when there are better trading opportunities. (We do try to surface new markets. And I do expect markets posted on lesswrong to get some engagement because people on lesswrong see it).