Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I have to use my real name to make a bet or comment in a discussion?

Long Bets is about taking personal responsibility for ideas and opinions. Posting and betting under your true name is part of standing up for what you think. Anyone is welcome to cruise around the website anonymously, of course, but to participate in Long Bets you have to register - as you.

Why can't I change my vote if I change my mind later?

For the same reason that predictors can't change their predictions and bets. Like the predictions, a vote is a permanent record of a judgement made at moment in time. Often you will change your mind later, and this record will remind you what you changed your mind from. In the cases where you turn out to be right, you may be glad to have on the record how early you were right. Discussion is the place to record your evolving views about a Prediction or Bet.

How come I can't keep my winnings?

You keep the most important thing, which is public credit for winning your Long Bet. Betting where bettors keep the money winnings is defined as gambling and is illegal throughout the United States. Though some may do it informally, a formal service like Long Bets must not. Having the winnings become philanthropic gifts solves the legal problem and also introduces an appropriate element of service and generosity to the whole process. Long Bets as a way of making money would be nuts anyway - the delay is too long. Set up as a form of giving, Long Bets engages long-term thinking and long-term responsibility in even more ways.

How does the whole predicting and betting process work?

The details can be found in this outline of the betting procedure.

Can a group of people place a bet?

Yes, however at this time only one registered user account can be associated with a bet at one time. One way to make it work would be to register a group account, with a group name, and a list of members in the profile section. The group must have a designated contact who will handle all direct interactions with Long Bets; that contact's email should be used on the group account and he/or she will be responsible for signing the Bettor's agreement, and paying for the donation. Long Bets requires that only one signature appears on the agreement, and that the donation is submitted in full in one lump sum. All group coordination should take place amongst yourselves behind the scenes.

What if your investment portfolio tanks?

The Farsight Fund portfolio at Capital Research, which holds all the Long Bets stakes, is carefully designed NOT to tank, and also to take advantage of its very-long-term schedule --- it can ignore market oscillations that would upset other funds. The portfolio is more global than most, so it can also ignore local economic oscillations. There is always the possibility that civilization as a whole could tank, and then probably the Farsight Fund would go down with it. On the other hand, The Long Now Foundation is building tools to manage civilizational breakdown, and maybe it could devise some sort of device or system to provide value continuity. Suggestions welcome.

Why can't I bet on a sports team?

There are lots of ways to bet on sports teams that are far better than Long Bets. Here, the emphasis is on bets "of societal or scientific importance." You could bet about when the Olympics will forbid genetically enhanced athletes, or introduce competition between robots...

Why do year dates have five digits, like 02002?

Partly it's a token, partly it's real: to fix the Y10K problem. The year following the year 9999 should not be 0000. If you're making an 8,000 year bet - and some may - it's an actual issue. The five-digit usage emerged in The Long Now Foundation as an emblem of very-long-term thinking. (And Clock designer Danny Hillis did run into a Y10K glitch in Microsoft Excel when he was calculating planet orbits over the next several millennia: figures after the year 10,000 were screwy.)

I saw some Long Bets in Wired magazine. What is the relationship between Wired and Long Bets?

Wired magazine helped Long Bets enormously with its launch in April 2002 - Wired editors identified celebrity bettors and interesting subjects to bet about. Long Bets made the contractual bet and then Wired published the bets prominently in the magazine. Except for a payment of $5,000 to Long Bets for writing by Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand, there was no money exchanged - Wired got newsworthy copy; Long Bets got help with the launch. Wired has an ongoing exclusive right to occasionally publish further Long Bets, if the bettors involved are comfortable with that (no payment is involved, just visibility). The agreement with Wired has no effect on other media reporting on bets on the Long Bets site.

Can I make a contribution to The Long Now Foundation without publishing a prediction or joining a bet?

Yes. The Long Now Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public education nonprofit foundation and your tax deductable donation (Tax ID 68-0384748) will make it possible for us to add new ways of looking at the future to this website.

Donate by check or money order:

The Long Now Foundation
Fort Mason Center, Building A
San Francisco, CA 94123