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Airline Epiphanies

Planes, Boyhood, and Rainbows.

There is not particularly much I am grateful for at this moment.

It’s eight hours into my nonstop flight from London back to San Francisco and the thirty-nine degree curvature in my spine is causing periodic flashes of sharp pain to ripple up my back. And to top it off, the British Airways staff hasn’t served booze in hours.

However, this flight has invoked a couple of strikingly meaningful moments of inspiration, both of which have varying degrees of relevance to my project, Augur.

First, I watch Boyhood. The picture captures the actual development of its cast over the course of twelve years or so, redefining what film “realism” means in the process. What was particularly riveting for me was the fact that the subject of the movie, a boy by the name of Mason, is probably just two or three years younger than me in real life. Thus, my ability to relate to both his personal development, and culture’s transformation around him, felt unusually raw. To say the film struck a nerve would be a gross understatement. But further critique should be saved for another blog I am probably never going to begin again.

Nevertheless, one of the most probing themes of the film was probably the search for meaning, authenticity, and truth. This directly relates to Augur.

We live in a day and age when an individual can open a newspaper or browse a website and consume more data and information than most individuals digested in a lifetime one millennia ago. Yet, little of that information is grounded empirically. And while humanity may have a greater understanding of truth than at any point in human history, it is too often diluted by punditry and politicking, opinion and gossip.

There is no better illustration of this problem than forecasting.

Fox News anchors might actually tell lies more than they tell the truth. What pundit, from any news source, besides a statistician like Nate Silver (regarding baseball and elections), has a higher than 20% accuracy rating in predicting future events? None come to mind.

So how do we cut past the bullshit and uncover truth? How do we find meaning in a virtual world?

Enter Augur.

Augur forces its participants to put their money where their mouth is. Any deviation or aberration from consensus in a market leads to arbitrage opportunities for rational actors.

In 2012, during the presidential elections, millions of dollars were suddenly injected into InTrade, causing Mitt Romney’s odds of election to skyrocket. Savvy users quickly took advantage of the opportunity and bought down the likelihood of the oligarch winning to the preexisting odds within an hour or two.

This is the beauty of prediction markets: attempts to manipulate them are encouraged, as they provide arbitrage opportunities for smart participants. This is especially true with Augur, as the transparency of the blockchain provides unprecedented ability to gauge behaviors of individuals in the market. All that is necessary for this powerful tool to truly succeed broadly is volume, something no public prediction market has ever had.

This brings me to the second striking moment of this flight.

Our plane left London in the late afternoon and continuously raced against the glowing sunset for the duration of the flight. This phenomenon was quite delightful, as the glorious rainbow sky I often find myself wishing could last forever ever, has.

How on earth does this experience relate to Augur?

You see, sunsets are very time-sensitive occurrences. Therefore, in order for our plane to fly in line with the rotation of the earth for so long requires the plane to move along on just the right path and speed.

This relates to the experience of Augur, as we must constantly keep pace, both to determine the proper timeline of our own development, with our crowdsale, beta, launch, and so forth, and also with the pace of deeply intertwined products such as Ethereum and Blockstream’s sidechains. The volatility of bitcoin’s price is an unending concern as well. Timing announcements, blog posts, and developments add to the task.

Eventually, we have to come to terms with the fact that sunsets can’t last forever, even if you’re moving at 550 miles per hour. Timing is not always going to be perfect. Sometimes we move too fast, sometimes too slow. And while we should always strive for the goldilocks zone, as the Grateful Dead famously sang, “Every silver lining's got a touch of grey.”

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