FutureMAP is the short name for a little program formally known as the Futures Markets Applied to Prediction. It was an idea brought to us by our fine friends in the Department of Defense known as DARPA. Basically it was to be a terrorism futures market. It would have enabled investors to profit or lose from certain little events such as terrorist attacks, the overthrow of particular governments, assassinations, nuclear threats and other assorted goodies that are likely to occur in some of the world's more unstable regions.

If you’re like me and don’t dabble in the futures market and futures contracts here’s a brief overview as it pertains to commodities .

A futures contract is an obligation to buy or sell a specific quantity and quality of a commodity at the futures market price on a specified future date.

Just for shits and grins, let’s say you were willing to bet that Saddam Hussein was going to be killed within the next three months. If I read my definition correctly, you would act as the “seller” in this “transaction.” The person willing to take your bet would act as the “buyer”. You could lock in your price and await the result. Sound too far-fetched? Guess again. The Pentagon wanted to sponsor a website that would initially allow up to 1,000 “investors” to do just that. Does anybody want to speculate about who those “investors” might have been and what kind of insider information they might have been privy to?

Here’s what DARPA had to say about the project…

The DARPA FutureMAP (Futures Markets Applied to Prediction) program is a follow-up to a current DARPA SBIR, Electronic Market-Based Decision Support (SB012-012). FutureMAP will concentrate on market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events. Strategic decisions depend upon the accurate assessment of the likelihood of future events. This analysis often requires independent contributions by experts in a wide variety of fields, with the resulting difficulty of combining the various opinions into one assessment. Market-based techniques provide a tool for producing these assessments.

There is potential for application of market-based methods to analyses of interest to the DoD. These may include analysis of political stability in regions of the world, prediction of the timing and impact on national security of emerging technologies, analysis of the outcomes of advanced technology programs, or other future events of interest to the DoD. In addition, the rapid reaction of markets to knowledge held by only a few participants may provide an early warning system to avoid surprise.

After the text there is a picture of what appears to be a dart board or target with three or four darts stuck in it. There’s also a graph that displays along the “x” axis the words “Probability of Terrorist Activity %”. Along the ‘Y” axis, one could presumably bet on the “Probability of Overt Action %.

Fortunately, the program was cancelled after it came under fire from leading Senators from both parties. Here are a few excerpts that echo my sentiments on the whole matter.

''For the life of me, I cannot believe that anybody would seriously propose that we would trade in death - 'the most irresponsible, outrageous, and poorly thought out of anything I've heard from the administration.'' - Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota

''I was appalled that we would be in a sense setting up a futures market in death and destruction, and it is not in keeping with our values,'' - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York

Even Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense got into the act when he said…

'We'll find out exactly how this happened, recognizing by the way that the agency that does it is brilliantly imaginative in places where we want them to be imaginative., It sounds like maybe they got too imaginative in this area.''

By the way, DARPA is/was headed up by John Poindexter, the same guy who was convicted of lying in the Iran-Contra fiasco and who, after having his conviction overturned, brought us Total Information Awareness which was subsequently re-named Terrorist Information Awareness after much public outcry.

Does anybody else out there find it as appalling as I do that the government was even considering such a program?



Update...On July 31, 2003, the DoD announced that Mr. Evil was resigning as a result of the furor caused by FutureMAP. In this writers opinion, at least it served one purpose.