Earlier this week, a tourist submarine by deep sea exploration company OceanGate, set off on an eight day trip to explore wreckage of the Titanic. Approximately 2 hours into the dive, however, all contact was lost with the vessel, and a team was quickly deployed to attempt a rescue.
The submarine was to ferry 5 passengers – including billionaire Hamish Harding as well as 48 year old businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman Dawood to the bottom of the ocean.
With each seat being priced at $250,000, the missing submarine and its prominent explorers swiftly gained widespread attention in news headlines and ignited a social media storm,
Polymarket, a Polygon-based platform that lets you “bet on your beliefs”, quickly created a market based on the situation titled “Will the missing submarine be found by June 23?”
Unlike perpetual platforms, the trades on Polymarket are binary – meaning that you can either vote “yes” that they will be found, or “no”, that they will not be found.
Other trending bets on Polymarket include the possibilities of an Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg fight, USDT depegging, and whether Putin will remain president of Russia this year.
What’s So Wrong About Betting on a Submarine?
The bets on Polymarket usually revolve around “putting your money where your mouth is”.
Claims that Donald Trump’s mugshot will be released soon or that Ukraine will sever the land bridge, carry less weight because the outcome generally does not have an immediate effect – and usually only serve to increase one’s “clout”, or social status, should they come true.
However, bets can also have a direct influence on outcome. In most professional leagues, a team’s staff, players, and even the referees are not allowed to bet on the game, in order to prevent any match fixing.
While it’s unlikely that anyone involved in the situation would trade a few thousand dollars for five lives – the fundamental argument still stands.
Should Polymarket garner widespread usage and a similar situation arise in the future, no one could guarantee that the outcome will not be manipulated for millions of dollars.
The other core argument lies with the irresponsibility of betting on people’s deaths.
If a trader bets “no” on Polymarket, they will essentially be placing money on the fact that the entire crew and passengers will be dead.
The corresponding (albeit slightly exaggerated) argument being presented is – if you knew someone was going to be killed, would you be comfortable making money on that information?
While this revolves around concepts of individual morality that a Web3 publication should not delve into, many have evidently agreed that such behavior is wrong.
Why it’s (kinda) Okay To Bet on a Missing Submarine
Let’s recap – betting on a missing submarine is wrong because
- Those directly involved could be influenced to manipulate the outcome
- You shouldn’t make money on death
While these arguments are compelling, we have to also contextualize them in the space of Web3.
Crypto prides itself on permissionless and decentralized markets. As we refrain from rolling back blockchains after every hack, we should avoid censoring decentralized applications.
Furthermore, prices are often seen as a convergence of all information available.
Having a market on any situation – immoral or not, it can help participants filter the news and make informed decisions quickly.
A prime example took place when debris of the submarine was discovered on the morning of June 23. The bets almost instantly converged despite a 90-odd percentage chance that it would not be found prior to the news.
Since an official statement was made regarding the lives of the crew, the chart has flipped entirely to “yes”.
In the context of bets manipulating outcome, Twitter user Stefan Patatu also makes the case that someone with enough capital could use Polymarket as a reason to deploy resources in order to save the ship.
Within the equities market, there exists the concept of “activist short sellers”, who drive negative headlines in order to influence the stock price of a company.
Here, Stefan argues for the case of “activist long buyers”, who seek to profit off positive headlines – in contrast to the market’s overall negative outlook. As the majority of the market bets on the pessimistic outcome, it only further incentivizes the activist to force the results in their favor.
“Betting that they would die increases their odds of living”, he states.
The Slippery Slope Fallacy
Often, people are drawn to cryptocurrency due to its messages of transparency, decentralization, and open-sourcing. With the recent bank runs, we are once again reminded why the blockchain could be a driving force to keep those in power accountable for their actions.
Taking action against a market that bets on the outcomes of a missing submarines, therefore, would be against the core beliefs of Web3.
While some may argue that allowing traders to essentially bet on “death” could open the gateway for more immoral markets, it is important to draw the line between immorality and illegality.
Conversely, the same could be said for censorship – if one market is removed, it does not mean that anything remotely immoral will be taken down in the future.
Regardless, censorship resistance and privacy are the key propositions of cryptocurrency. Whether an individual uses them or not is up to them to decide.
[Editor’s Note: This article does not represent financial advice. Please do your own research before investing.]
Featured Image Credit: Chain Debrief