Do you believe in God? Would you put your cryptocurrency holdings on it?
Augur, an ethereum-based platform for betting on the outcome of real-world events, aims to be a repository of crowd-sourced knowledge for journalists, investors and policymakers, as well as an effective tool for hedging against adverse outcomes.
But it’s also become one other thing: a hilarious place to troll.
Forums for questioning a higher power are just one of many markets that currently exist on the decentralized prediction market, developed by the non-profit Forecast Foundation and funded with one of the world’s first token sales in 2015.
That token sale took place before people were even using the word initial coin offering, or ICO, to refer to these types of crypto fundraising schemes, and the project went through the ICO boom in beta – with the developers testing and vetting one of the most hotly-anticipated launches in crypto history.
As such, when it launched on ethereum’s live blockchain last month, it briefly surpassed the most famous decentralized application, CryptoKitties, in terms of the number of users. Although enthusiasm has since dipped markedly.
So far, most of Augur’s markets – and the vast majority of the trades on the platform – deal with relatively vanilla topics like the outcomes of sporting events or the prices of crypto assets. But a few take a truly dark turn, gauging the likelihood that prominent figures will be assassinated or that terrorist attacks and mass shootings will occur.
Others, though, are just goofy, evoking the cryptocurrency community’s peculiar obsessions, wild rumors and the sorts of riddles a bridge troll might ask before letting you pass.
So here’s to the Augur users who have selflessly donated their time and potentially their funds – market creators post a bond in the platform’s native REP tokens, which they lose if a market is deemed “invalid” because the outcome cannot be verified – all just to brighten their fellow users’ days.
In no particular order, here are a few of the weirdest markets on Augur today.
Vitalik Buterin, creator of ethereum, the world’s second-most valuable blockchain, enjoys the kind of wealth and notoriety few 24-year-olds have.
But does he have a girlfriend? And if not now, when?
These questions have vexed the crypto community enough to spawn a dedicated article – one that’s apparently been viewed over 18,000 times. And now, indelibly etched into Buterin’s own creation, there’s an Augur market for it too.
Buterin himself must confirm the relationship, according to the market’s terms, and the couple must have been together for at least one full day.
It’s worth noting here that (as with many Augur markets) nobody has bet on this one at the time of writing.
Are you there, God?
Ostensibly, Augur markets must be based on verifiable events, but Augur is a platform without moderators, so that’s become more of a guideline.
As mentioned above, the perfect example: someone has posed the question, “Does god exist?”
They’re apparently in no hurry to find out, as the market expires at the beginning of 2020. And the resolution source must be the “news media.”
The heathen users that initiated the market give the creator of the universe a 10 percent chance of existing. No money is at stake at the time of writing.
SAFU or not SAFU
Naturally, Augur users haven’t passed up on the chance to sprinkle the platform with their particular flavor of memes.
Titled “FUNDS ARE SAFU?” one market references a bizarre – but popular – YouTube send-up of Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao’s attempt to reassure users that their crypto holdings on the platform were safe.
Looking at the market’s details, however, it appears not to be a joke, but a serious – if vaguely worded – question about whether Binance will be hacked: “Will the security of https://www.binance.com/ be negatively affected such that there is a newsworthy loss of money?”
The market expired without any bets having been placed.
Does not compute
Competition is stiff, but the trolliest market currently active on Augur may well be this restatement of the liar paradox – the sort of query one might use to incapacitate a murderous supercomputer.
For the uninitiated, the statement “this sentence is false” is a paradox because, if the statement is, in fact, false, that means it checks out. So it’s true.
If the statement is true – by being false – then it violates its own premise: it has to be false.
Thinking about this paradox goes back to at least the fourth century BCE, making it one of humanity’s longest-running time wasters. Adding a pinch of circular meta-salt to this concoction, the market creator made the point of reference for this market Predictions.Global, a site that scrapes data from Augur.
The pee tape
The allegation that Russian authorities possess compromising material on U.S. president Donald Trump is one of the stranger stories to emerge from the 2016 election.
The existence of this compromising material – originating from a collection of documents prepared by a former British intelligence officer working (indirectly) on behalf of Democrats – is often known as the “pee tape” due to its alleged content.
But it hasn’t been proven.
Judging by an Augur market on the topic, though, chances are around one in four that such a tape will emerge before the end of Trump’s first term.
Betting volume on the market has been very low, however, at the equivalent of less than $60.
McAfee’s bold prediction
Many of the most liquid and valuable markets on Augur deal with the prices of cryptocurrencies.
So at first glance, it’s hard to see what’s remarkable about one particular market predicting that the price of bitcoin will pass $1 million before 2020.
But there’s a clue in the fact that it’s tagged “McAfee.”
The anti-virus-software-creator-turned-cryptocurrency-hype-man has published many inadvisable tweets. Topping the list, however, is one from late 2017, when he predicted that bitcoin would hit $1 million and reiterated a promise he’d made earlier to “eat my dick on national television” if he proved incorrect.
Yet another Augur market gets to the, um, meat of the story.
And that’s probably enough Augur for today.
Monkey with banana image via Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash