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>> and will keep the funds otherwise.

If I'm possibly going to give my money away, why would I want to do this to some random contract, instead maybe a Charity or somewhere other than directly to the contract?




It is kind of awkward that a business that exists to help you get things done is paid whenever you fail.


Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are supposed to help you be healthy, but make more if you're ill long-term.

Banks, credit card companies, and brokerages all make more money if you make poor financial decisions (fees, interest, and active trading, respectively).

Auto mechanics and car companies make money if your car doesn't work or doesn't last past the warranty period.

Even piano teachers only make money if you continue needing lessons, rather than becoming able to learn on your own.

Hopefully enlightened businesses will follow the model that customer referrals are more scalable than bleeding the money out of any one individual.


The incentive structure you are describing is a huge part of the problem in the statist/industrial paradigm of human existence.

Blockchains and smart contracts purport to lift of out of these conditions, but, as you point out, this one seems to suffer from the same flaws.


>The incentive structure you are describing is a huge part of the problem in the statist/industrial paradigm of human existence.

You misspelled "capitalist".


Sure, call it that too. I think that that word is a bit unwiedly in today's political dialogue, because it means something different to everybody.

To some, "capitalist" is an attribute of a society that resist state intervention in economic collaboration. It is equal to the phrase "free market" and viewed with great skepticism.

To others, "capitalist" is more tantamount to greed and cronyism; it is understood in a way that's contrary to traditional anarchic theory about the state.

You might detect that I usually find myself in the second category.

Because of this dichotomy, I like to think of the procession of ages of humankind represented by the dawn of the internet being from "statist/industrial" toward "humanitarian/information-driven".

But you can also certainly think of it as being from "capitalist" to "humanitarian" or whatever may go in that second slot, sure.


It sounds like you're fantasizing about anarcho-capitalism?

What type of system do you think cryptocoins facilitate?

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/l-p-d-libertari...


I have run into AnCaps whose opinions I respected, but I've never quite been convinced that their version of the world is sufficiently selective for compassion.


>Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are supposed to help you be healthy, but make more if you're ill long-term.

Which results in unnecessary procedures, and unnecessary prescriptions.

>Banks, credit card companies, and brokerages all make more money if you make poor financial decisions

Which caused the housing crisis and great recession.

>Auto mechanics and car companies make money if your car doesn't work or doesn't last past the warranty period.

Which results in some of the most untrustworthy salespeople in one of the most untrustworthy industries.

All of those industries are regulated by the government, precisely because the incentives are wrong and it causes people to do more harm than good if left unregulated.


I was able to find a trustworthy mechanic. If they did a poor job or were sabotaging my car when I brought it to them, I would choose another mechanic.


My point is those fields need extra regulations because there are incentives that promote unethical behavior, and thus shouldn't be used as examples of why this websites incentives are good business practices. Not that there's no such thing as a trustworthy mechanic.


HN is ridiculous. If a mechanic sabotages your car, you can sue them... you know, a service provider by the government. But what if your town has only that one mechanic? What if the mechanic is worth billions and bought the other smaller shops just to shut them down? Do keep in mind that sometimes there is no competition, or the incentives are so perverse that competition doesn’t matter. The world isn’t black and white. Despite what Ayn Rand might’ve told you, you can’t just expect competition to fix literally everything.

Hackernews is supposed to have smart people, but the pithy nonsense like the parent I’m responding to makes it abundantly clear that that’s not the case.


You aren't making a case for, you are making cases against all these other industries.


Those problems also outline a potential business model based on verified long-term reviews.

If a doctor's treatment record and long-term ROI follows them around, or if piano students can track their proficiency over time, the market can act on that information. Without it, we're all flying blind so of course we get suckered into bad exchanges.

It also reflects opportunities for stronger regulations... For example, financial advisor were required to act in the best interest of their customers (until Trump repealed Obama's executive order)


This is effectively the business model of every health club out there. They lock you into a 1 year contract, knowing most people will not continue past the first or second month.


In that case, the only incentive they have for you to fail is to pack more gym memberships in the same square footage. Still, I think as a perverse incentive it's a lot more indirect.


Exactly, while they can benefit from having fewer people go regularly to offer a better experience to those who do, churn is still a gym's biggest problem, it's why they lock up longer contracts and why gyms have trainers available and regular progress reports, to enhance customer LTV.


But in this instance, that's the incentive. You want that money back, rather than going to someone else.


That's also the business model of most dating websites.


If you really want it to motivate, the funds should be sent to some group you detest if you fail. I.e. the DNC for a staunch republican, or the NRA for someone who believes in gun control.


Our (Beeminder's) counterargument: https://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity/

Excerpt:

Take my thoughts on this with a huge grain of salt, given my conflict of interest, but I really dislike commitment devices that destroy things — either information or other forms of value. StickK’s anti-charities seem the most egregious, actively harming the world. I’m certainly motivated to not allow the world to become a worse place, so it’s not that it would be ineffective as a commitment contract. Just that I’m also motivated to prevent things that don’t make the world worse in any way, like paying money to a third party (who’s not evil).


> StickK’s anti-charities seem the most egregious, actively harming the world.

That assumes that (1) there are "good" charities and "bad" charities, and (2) that most of Stickk's users are good people who end up benefiting "bad" charities when they fail.

Point (1) seems hard to prove and point (2) is impossible to prove without detailed info about how Stickk is used.

It seems like you're in this market, so perhaps you have data like this. Do you? If not, how do you justify the above assertion?


Good points, but I don't think we need assumptions that strong. For example, if democrats donate to the republican party as an anti-charity and republicans donate an equal total to the democratic party, then probably democrats and republicans would all agree that that's strictly worse than nobody donating at all.

But more to the point, I'm just viewing it from the individual user's perspective. From your point of view, you're actively harming the world by donating to an anti-charity. It doesn't matter that those other wrong-on-the-internet people think your donation is doing good. :)


It is useful to distinguish between the individual user's perspective and the global perspective.

You want to focus on the individual user, and that makes sense. But to him/her, they're using an anti-charity because they want to increase their odds of accomplishing their goal. So when thinking about whether it is "good for the world" or "bad for the world" that people do this, we have to factor in:

1: the x% probability that the user will fail, and money will be donated, and

2: the y% chance that the user would have failed without the anti-charity option, but succeeds instead because of it.

When you consider both of these aspects, it is not at all clear that the anti-charity option is bad for the world.


Ah, yes, my assumption is that you can derive the same amount of motivation with a non-evil beneficiary by just jacking up the amount at risk. Like donating $1 to the KKK is extremely aversive but you're equally motivated to avoid giving, say, $1k to a neutral 3rd party.

Exactly zero harm befalls the world in the latter case.

I'd even go so far as to say you could achieve the same effect with a true charity by risking an amount that you really couldn't afford. But, as I point out in the blog post I linked to above, no one ever has the guts to actually do that.

Btw, on Beeminder we very occasionally have people who risk thousands of dollars. I think they tend to be really hardcore fans who may in fact view it as improving the world by giving us money. Hence them shrugging off smaller amounts and needing to risk something ridiculous to stay motivated to stay on track. But it's still super win-win (because they do stay on track overall -- and sometimes staying on track means things like finishing a PhD!).


> Ah, yes, my assumption is that you can derive the same amount of motivation with a non-evil beneficiary by just jacking up the amount at risk. Like donating $1 to the KKK is extremely aversive but you're equally motivated to avoid giving, say, $1k to a neutral 3rd party.

Is there any evidence to support this theory? Seems like the existence of tools that offer anti-charity donations indicate that for at least some people, this assumption is incorrect.


It's easier to slack off on your goals if it feels like a noble thing to do.


Couldn't the smart contract literally "burn" the funds in case of failure?

Like transfer a small percentage to the owner as a fee for the service, then send the rest to a faulty address or contract setup to never be retrievable?


yes. or maybe even distribute it among those that managed to reach their goals.


Then people might try to game the system. I think you present the excess to one person each day that receives votes as the best (public) goal matched. It incentivizes people to publicize their goals, which helps the business, and also makes them more likely to fulfill the goal. You will still see gaming I'm sure, but at least it will be vetted by peers.


In a way "burning" the funds already does distribute them to everyone else.

Since that is now money that is forcibly and irrevocably taken out of circulation, so therefore everyone else's money is worth slightly more because of it!


Goal: "Set a goal that makes me eligible to receive a portion of the rewards".

Done!


Even more reason to not fail your goal and give money to "stupid freeloaders" :P


I wonder if deliberately sending money to a blockchain address that no one has the keys to could be legally considered destruction of money?

Probably not yet, but maybe eventually. It's essentially the same as burning it.


Destruction of value is not destruction of money. If I were to buy some extremely expensive memorabilia (a pristine copy of Abbey Road, signed by all of the Beatles) and burn it in my back yard, that wouldn't be destruction of money.

While BTC, ETH, XMR function like currencies and can be traded - they are not recognized as a currency in most places


+1. I'd be fine giving the site a percentage as a cut, but would want to be able to designate an address for the primary portion of the funds.


> instead maybe a Charity

Money going to charity won't make me feel that bad about not achieving my goal.

"oh well atleast someone needy is getting the money"

Defeats the whole point of the exercise( pardon the pun).




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