This article does a good job of explaining how betting can be a useful rationality practice. An excerpt:

The interesting thing about this practice was that it made us both think very carefully about the accuracy of all of our statements. The most embarrassing thing ever was to say, "I bet you anything that I'll be on time..." and then be unwilling to back up the assertion with a bet. Failing to bet was an admission that you'd just said something that you had no real confidence in.

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I agree to an extent, but if taken to the level described in the linked article I think it would have a net negative effect because it creates an incentive to conceal information. To take an example from the link, two friends are discussing whether a certain restaurant is/isn't open, and one (let's call him "A" and the other "B") has previously visited the same restaurant at the same time of day. "A" is better off not revealing that fact, so that "B" will give better odds (or agree to take the bet). An environment where you're betting against each other all the time could quickly change from "put your money where your mouth is" to "take advantage of inside information".


Overall, I am for betting because I am against bullshit. Bullshit is polluting our discourse and drowning the facts. A bet costs the bullshitter more than the non-bullshitter so the willingness to bet signals honest belief. A bet is a tax on bullshit; and it is a just tax, tribute paid by the bullshitters to those with genuine knowledge.

— Alex Tabarrok, “A Bet is a Tax on Bullshit

I often challenge friends to a bet when our predictions differ, but they almost never take it up. They say they're “not gamblers”.

The ancient romans were addicted to betting and used complex fractions to express odds. I wonder what that says about their intuition about probability.

Links supporting this:

Also note that a major bet is central to the plot of Ben Hur.


At one place I worked we used to bet a small amount of money or a beer on work-related predictions against each other. I remember losing a six-pack when a certain code review practice I was so sure would endure was nixed by the newly assigned team lead.

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