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The betting site for big thinkers

I love to gamble. Personally, I’m pretty content with the menu of bets you can find at the typical internet sports book: NFL, Nascar, the next winner of American Idol, etc. But for the deeper thinkers among you, there is a great “betting” site called

The wagers there are a little more exotic. Mitch Kapor and Ray Kurzweil, for instance, have bet $20,000 on whether a computer will be able to pass the Turing Test (i.e. be able to pass as a human in conversation) by 2029. Kapor says no. In addition to making a bet, the two parties write up their reasons for taking the side they take. 2029 is a long ways away, but I think I’m with Kapor on this one. People who have picked sides are split almost 50-50.

Other bets at the site:

At least one human alive in the year 2000 will still be alive in 2150. (68% agree)

The universe will eventually stop expanding. (only 35% agree).

Some bets that have been offered, but so far have no takers:

By the year 2150, over 50% of schools in the USA or Western Europe will require classes in defending against robot attacks.

By the year 2020, the tickets to space travel – at the least to Moon, will be available over the counter.

By 2030 all surgical anesthesia will be administered and monitored by computers, with no need for professional medical supervision beyond the surgeon.

It is a fascinating website.

Just an aside on Mitch Kapor. I had the chance to meet him 20 years ago, when I was still in high school. At the time, he was in his early 30s. He had already founded Lotus and become one of the biggest shots in high tech. But, he took the time to have a breakfast with a bunch of high school kids. I have thought about the things he said at that breakfast regularly for the last 20 years. He attributed his success to two things: (1) always just doing what he loved, and (2) luck. This statement had a big impact on me.

A quick look at his bio suggests he was telling the truth, at least about doing what he loved: along the way he majored in cybernetics, was a disc jockey, and taught Transcendental Meditation.

As far as attributing his success to luck, I have never heard anyone else as indisputably accomplished attribute his or her success mostly to luck before or since. My own belief is that almost every successful person underestimates the contribution of luck to their success. (I’ve even seen lottery winners, if you want to call that success, go on the Today Show and talk about how skill is somehow responsible for their winning.)

A few years ago, I was shocked when Mitch Kapor came up to me after a lecture I gave, completely unaware that we had met decades earlier, to tell me how much he enjoyed my research. Which reminded me how lucky I have been.