Scott Alexander is planning a COVID origins bet. If there is a debate, will judges conclude COVID came from a lab leak?

If Scott Alexander does not organize and bet at least $10,000 on a COVID origins debate which concludes before January 1st 2026, this market will be cancelled and all mana will be returned.

If such a debate is successfully organized and completed, this market will resolve based on the finalized results of that debate.

If neutral judges in a debate organized by Scott Alexander rule that COVID-19 most likely came from a laboratory release, this market resolves YES.

If neutral judges in a debate organized by Scott Alexander rule that COVID-19 most likely had a zoonotic origin, this market resolves NO.

In the case of a tie, such as a debate with two judges in which one rules for lab leak and one rules for Zoonosis, this market will be cancelled.


In his latest post based on the Rootclaim COVID Origins debate, Scott concludes by saying:

If it helps, I’m currently working out terms for a 6-digit lab leak bet of my own (no guarantee this will come to fruition, most of these fall apart in the resolution criteria stage). I feel bad for not being willing to answer every possible lab leak argument going forward, but hopefully offering lab leakers a few hundred thousand dollars if I’m wrong will be a suitable consolation prize.

For now, I’m still at 90-10 zoonosis.

In the Rootclaim debate, both sides put up $100,000 and then two neutral judges decided whether whether Covid-19 most likely originated from zoonosis or a lab leak from gain of function research. In the Rootclaim debate, both judges found in favor of Zoonosis.

It seems likely that a debate by Scott will follow a similar format, although perhaps he will have someone other than himself arguing for Zoonosis or the debate might be held in text form. A debate in any format organized by Alexander with at least $10,000 of his own money will resolve this market.

I will not trade on this question.

For a multichoice version of this question which will not resolve N/A in any scenario, see:

Get Ṁ600 play money
Sort by:

Why do people care what he thinks so much? Imagine calling yourself a rationalist, implying you think other people just don't care about being rational, and then making a blog talking about things you're not an expert on.

@Shkeonk Why do you care so much what we think about him?

Ralph Baric's testimony to the oversight committee. Baric favors zoonotic spillover but not from the Huanan Seafood Market (the theory Scott appears to favor based on the Rootclaim debate). In Baric's view the outbreak occurred earlier around October 2019. He warned researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology they should do their research in BSL-3 but they continued making chimeric viruses in the more risky BSL-2 labs, can't rule out lab origin.

bought Ṁ1,010 YES

@Joshua can a tie be 50% resolution instead of cancellation?

@benshindel Hmmm, I've historically been skeptical of 50% resolutions because I think they distort the price, but we are entering a brave new world where N/A resolutions will be more complicated because of cash prizes, so that's worth considering.

Would anyone object to this alteration to the rules?

@Joshua we had this discussion in the previous debate market. It makes a very big difference in how aggressively you can bet

@DavidKochanov I don't recall, which market was that?

@Joshua there was poll about it even. I agree in general 50% is better but changing the question now ends up being a rug pull for the people who bet under 50% thinking that it would resolve to N/A in case of a draw.

@DavidKochanov Oh yeah, right I remember now. Okay, I'll keep the N/A condition.

@Joshua Revisiting this with the pivot’s focus on avoiding N/A Resolutions

@benshindel Again this would be a big change in the resolution criteria which wouldn't be fair at all to people who bet aggressively under 50% with the original description in mind. You can just make a new market that resolves to 50%.

@DavidKochanov I mean… I don’t think a potential 50% resolution would meaningfully change betting strategy in this market tbh… not quite sure I understand why you think that

@benshindel Let's say you think that p of judges saying it is zoonosis is 0.19, p of judges saying is lab leak is 0.01 and and p of all other outcomes is 0.8 when would you buy NO with the NA resolution criteria and when would you buy NO when it resolves to 50% in 0.8 of cases

New market? The pivot also makes distant resolution dates less desirable, so I'm moving up the timeline and also dropping the required wager amount:

bought Ṁ840 YES

Michael Weissman's Bayesian analysis that Scott mentions but says he hasn't read as yet.

bought Ṁ4,125 YES

A rebuttal of some mathematical claims about early Covid-19 made by Scott Alexander.

As evidence against an earlier introduction, Scott also presents a doctored version of Fig. 3E from Pekar et al.'s "Timing the SARS-CoV-2 index case in Hubei province", 2021. It seems this misleading image was used for the Rootclaim debate.

bought Ṁ700 YES
bought Ṁ10 YES

I don't usually go around telling people but... it was me. I was just trying to make a sourdough starter and then things got out of hand. Sorry for ruining the debate (and for all the death and stuff).

More related questions