I haven’t been active on this board for the past year or so, but I have fond memories of the informal bets that have been wagered here over the years. I feel this new rule represents a victory for ignorance.
It’s easy to make a prediction, to assert that something will happen. But a bet - or really the setting of odds - focuses the mind and can clarify the underlying issues. I once challenged Bricker by writing, “Gee guy, you seem pretty confident. Will you give me 10:1 odds?” He replied something like, “I’m not 10:1 confident. I’m even money confident”. Seen in that light, our differences were less than they might have first appeared. (By the way, that’s how you handle folks who use betting as a bullying tool. Ask them for 200:1 odds if they are so confident.)
More generally, while I believe truth exists, knowing it is a matter of being less wrong. That implies any reasonable conception of the truth must be probabilistic. And there are few better ways of grasping scientific probabilities than friendly wagers. As an example, I’d point to longbets.org. Wagers there run for many years; winnings go to charity. “Long Bets is about taking personal responsibility for ideas and opinions.”
Admittedly, progress in scientific betting is slow. Robin Hanson: “I think the most interesting question is how little effort we actually put into forecasting [aka probabilistic prediction -mfm], even on the things that are important to us… Even academics aren’t very interested in collecting a track record of forecasts- they’re not very interested in making clear enough forecasts to score… What’s in it for them? The more fundamental problem is that we have a demand for experts in our society but we don’t actually have a demand for accurate forecasts.”