Psychic Terror Network

For those of you pronos­ti­ca­tors who want to get in on the ground floor of the Psy­chic Ter­ror Net­work (a.k.a. the Pol­i­cy Analy­sis Mar­ket), here’s the home of dot-com Home­land Secu­ri­ty. Its home­page is appro­pri­ate­ly rem­i­nis­cent of the Heaven’s Gate Cult web­site, anoth­er mod­ern pseudo-religion (their sto­ry here).
The Pol­i­cy Analy­sis Mar­ket is cosponored by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects, and a spin-off of The econ­o­mist mag­a­zine, con­firm­ing my sus­pi­cion that this is the cult of the cap­i­tal­ists at work. It’s Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations here: there’s a “guid­ing hand” to com­plete­ly unfet­tered mar­kets that allows them to meet people’s needs bet­ter than indi­vid­ual intel­li­gence ever could. For­get the CIA, we’ll use inter­net surfers! They’ll want to make mon­ey and they can do our intel­li­gence gath­er­ing for us bet­ter than those desk jock­eys in Lan­g­ley! This Psy­chic Ter­ror Stock exchange is the per­fect mar­riage of Nineties dot-com can-do, eight­ies market-über-alles and Seventeen-Seventies God-guides-the-rich Calvin­ism.
Trad­er accounts open in two days so get ready to join the Pyschic Ter­ror Net­work your­self!
UPDATe: We’re too late. Pen­ta­gon can­cel­ing Pyschic Ter­ror Net­work under the weight of ridicule they’ve received to the idea. Maybe the Pen­ta­gon should hire Nan­cy Reagan’s astrologer for their ter­ror alerts instead (actu­al­ly they should hire her great web­mas­ter, whose great design sure beats that of the Heaven’s Gate dropout they used).

Betting on Terror

The news sites are all report­ing a Pen­ta­gon plan to bet on future ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty (BBC). It’s report­ed as a stock market-style sys­tem in which sucess­ful pre­dic­tions by investors would win them mon­ey.
Some­one at the Pen­ta­gon has read a lit­tle too many books about the infi­nite wis­dom of the free mar­ket. There are those who have a reli­gious faith in the pow­er of unfet­tered cap­i­tal­ism, who posit it as a kind of all-knowing, self-correcting God. With the input of enough self-interested actors, the truth can be dis­cerned. I’d argue that stock mar­kets are more like blogs (the highly-linked New York Times ver­sion of the arti­cle), with every­one rush­ing to make the same links (Asso­ci­at­ed Press).
The truth of the mat­ter is that recent intel­li­gence laps­es have been the result of polit­i­cal med­dling in the col­lec­tion and ana­lyt­i­cal process­es. When the boss wants a cer­tain result (proof of weapons in Iraq, proof of Al Qae­da links), then the group-think pres­sure to con­form will warp the sift­ing process. A stock market-style sys­tem for pre­dict­ing ter­ror would be about as accu­rate as a poll of CNN and Fox News watch­ers – it will tell you what every­one thinks but it prob­a­bly won’t tell you the truth.