29 July 2009

Robin Hanson: Refuge markets

GCR 2008: Robin Hanson - Catastrophe, Social Collapse and Human Extinction from Future of Humanity Institute on Vimeo.

So imagine a refuge with a good chance of surviving a wide range of disasters. For example, it might be hidden in a mine, stocked with years of food and power, and continuously populated with forty expert hunter-gatherers (or perhaps subsistence farmers), ten refuge tech experts, and thirty amateurs. Locked down against pandemics, it is opened every six months for supplies and new residents.

A refuge ticket gives you the right to an amateur refuge slot for a given time period. For reasons to be explained in a moment, we might also want to match a resort with each refuge. To exercise a refuge ticket, you show up at its matching resort at the assigned time.

Refuge and resort tickets would be auctioned off years ahead of time, and then traded in subsidized markets. Many now think it legal to trade sporting event tickets conditional on which teams are playing. If so, maybe we could also legally trade refuge and resort tickets conditional on various events.

For example, one might buy a refuge or resort ticket valid on a certain date only in the event that USA and Russia had just broken off diplomatic relations. The price of this resort ticket ticket would rise with the chance of this event, while the price of a refuge ticket would also rise with the chance that this event will be followed by a disaster where refuge residence substantially raises your chance of survival.

So refuge and resort event ticket prices should together indicate the chances of catastrophic events. If there were several levels of refuges, some protecting only from mild disasters while others also protect from extreme disasters, ticket prices could indicate disasters size expectations. And if we further allow ticket trading conditional on policies that might mitigate disasters, such conditional prices could tell us which policies speculators expected to most help.

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