Open Challenge to Mark Williams

This is an open challenge to Mark Williams, Master Lecturer in Boston University’s Department of Finance and Economics [1], based on my previous post about prophets with no skin in the game.

Mr. Williams predicted in December 2013 that the price of a whole unit of Bitcoin would fall below $10.00 in the first half of 2014. As the deadline bore down, and it was becoming clear that his prediction would be off by more than one and possibly even by two orders of magnitude, Mr. Williams backpedaled by pointing out, “[A]sset bubbles cannot be easily timed.” [2]

One wonders if Mr. Williams would have been so understated, if his powers of divination had not failed so completely. There is only one way to know, and that is give him a shot at redemption, but in broader terms than his original blunder, because not only are asset bubbles difficult to time accurately, they are impossible to time consistently.

Of course, every now and then someone somewhere might guess correctly about the outcome of some future event, but if this counts as successful forecasting, then one might as well treat lottery winners and weather reporters with similar deference. It isn’t enough to call some event in advance; one must demonstrate the ability to do so repeatedly, and without an equivalent number of failed predictions.

Were this not true, the prescient could foretell business cycle inflections and reap cost-free arbitrage profits. However, the No Arbitrage Assumption is as fundamental to Finance as the Law of Supply and Demand is to Economics. Although arbitrage opportunities might exist for fleeting moments—as supply-&-demand violations might occur from time to time—they are the stuff of high-frequency, intra-day trading, and useless for prophesying asset prices and market conditions months or years in advance.

Mr. Williams has asserted, “Will this bubble be completely deflated in the next six months to a year? Time will tell… If the question is, ‘Do I still see bitcoin dropping to these much lower levels in the future?’ The answer is yes.” [2]

To this end, I offer Mark Williams the following wager:

Choose a date. Cherry-pick the peak of an upcoming runup, if you like.

Then, if the US dollar price of a whole unit of Bitcoin falls to 10% of the price on that date before it rises to 10x the price on that date, then you win, and I will give you 100 bitcoins.

If, on the other hand, the price rises to 10x before it falls to 10%, you give me 100 bitcoins.

No embarrassing time limit. Just let it run until one of us wins.

If these terms are unacceptable, I am more than happy to negotiate some alternative.

Either way, each of us should bear the cost of his expectations, especially when sharing those expectations with others.

After all, if one does not have any skin in the game, it’s just economics.

Notes

[1] http://www.bu.edu/energy/people/faculty/bio-williams/ [return]
[2] http://www.coindesk.com/mark-t-williams-bitcoin-bulls-time-will-vindicate-prediction/ [return]

Dr. Evans is a veteran of the first Moneypunk cycle during the 1990s Dot.Com Era and co-founder the Conscious Entrepreneurship Foundation, which is dedicated to using decentralized blockchain management systems in fulfillment of the Bono Declaration: “Capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.” He has taught Economics and Finance for more than a decade, and is having the time of his life riding the Bitcoin Rollercoaster to teh moonz.

2 Comments

  1. The game isn’t really fair. If you win, you get 100 bitcoins which are worth a lot. If you lose, you pay 100 bitcoins which are worth very little.

    It would be fairer to do it 100 vs. 1 or something of the sort.

    Reply
    • Fair enough. That’s why I indicate near the bottom that I’m willing to negotiate alternative terms.

      Then again, if Mr. Williams believes his claims as strongly as he indicates, then he should see this a easy money.

      Reply

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