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Predictocracy: Market Mechanisms for Public and Private Decision Making

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300115994
ISBN-10: 0300115997
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Decision markets will one day revolutionize governance, both public and private, and Michael Abramowicz's Predictocracy is the first book length exploration of them—a wild roller coaster ride through the many strange wonders to be found in this vast new territory.”—Robin Hanson, Associate Professor, Economics, George Mason University
(Robin Hanson)

“A terrific and forward-looking book in which imagination and insight come at the reader as fast as prediction markets are growing.”—Saul Levmore, Dean & William B. Graham Professor of Law, University of Chicago
(Saul Levmore)

“Will Hillary or Arnold ever be elected? Will Die Hard VIII be a hit? Will the HP merger go through? Will Sanjaya be voted off this week? Our best evidence on all these questions increasingly comes from prediction markets. We already live in a world where orange juice future prices can usefully supplement the best government weather predictions. But Predictocracy shows that we're just scratching the surface of what can be done with this powerful tool. Abramowicz's inventive mind shows new ways to design prediction markets and radically new domains to predict. In this new world, peer reviewed journals, legal restatements, even deliberative democracy may ultimately be guided by the force of predictive bets.”—Ian Ayres, Professor, Yale Law School and author of Super Crunchers:  Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way to be Smart
(Ian Ayres)

"Abramowicz argues that prediction markets could be used to improve forecasts and help with decision making in almost any field. . . . [He] argues persuasively that they have merit and that policy makers and researchers should experiment with them to assess their value for decision making. Recommended."—Choice
(Choice 2008-08-21)

About the Author

Michael Abramowicz is associate professor of law, George Washington University. He lives in Arlington, VA.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300115997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300115994
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,057,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Michael Abrahmowicz, in his new book, Predictocracy: Market Mechanisms for Public and Private Decision Making, resembles nothing so much as a nutritionist. He takes a piece of fruit (prediction markets, in case you're missing the metaphor) analyzes it in great detail, explains how it works, what makes it good for us, and then proceeds to compare it to other fruits, one by one, showing how they can be combined to make better meals for us, and so on. Which is all well and good, except that sometimes one gets the feeling he's a nutritionist on another planet, not Earth.

Abrahmowicz himself notes the oddity of his exercise. He says: "From the vantage point of today predictocracy is political science fiction. ... And like most science fiction, it seems extraordinarily unlikely to happen."

Not that readers of this blog (and readers of his book, and followers of political elections), aren't familiar with prediction markets. Indeed, some of us are perhaps too familiar. Rather, the idea that we would let prediction markets determine some of the things that Abrahmowicz suggests is not right or wrong, just strange.

For example, using prediction markets to derive legal decisions, while perfectly logical (as he explains it), just seems like it would encounter a tad bit of resistance (from, say, everyone).

At one point Abrahmowicz says "The more ambitious aim of this book has been to argue that bets may often be the best building blocks for institutions," which can only open himself to accusations of proposing not Predictocracy, but Vegasocracy.
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Format: Hardcover
This had the potential to be an unusually great book, which makes its shortcomings rather frustrating. It is loaded with good ideas, but it's often hard to distinguish the good ideas from the bad ideas, and the arguments for the good ideas aren't as convincing as I hoped.
The book's first paragraph provides a frustratingly half-right model of why markets produce better predictions than alternative institutions, involving a correlation between confidence (or sincerity) and correctness. If trader confidence was the main mechanism by which markets produce accurate predictions, I'd be pretty reluctant to believe the evidence that Abramowicz presents of their success. Sincerity is hard to measure, so I don't know what to think of its effects. A layman reading this book would have trouble figuring out that the main force for accurate predictions is that the incentives alter traders' reasoning so that it becomes more accurate.
The book brings a fresh perspective to an area where there are few enough perspectives that any new perspective is valuable when it's not clearly wrong. He is occasionally clearer than others. For instance, his figure 4.1 enabled me to compare three scoring rules in a few seconds (I'd previously been unwilling to do the equivalent by reading equations).
He advocates some very fine-grained uses of prediction markets (PMs), which is a sharp contrast to my expectation that they are mainly valuable for important issues. Abramowicz has a very different intuition than I do about how much it costs to run a prediction market for an issue that people normally don't find interesting. For instance, he wants to partly replace small claims court cases with prediction markets for individual cases.
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Predictocracy: Market Mechanisms for Public and Private Decision Making
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