Intrade’s Black Swans

Betting site Intrade ceased operations on March 11, citing possible “financial irregularities.” Launched in 1999, the website has been a grand experiment in the wisdom of crowds, with speculators correctly calling outcomes as diverse as the presidential elections and Taylor Swift’s Grammy win for Fearless. But some events the Intrade hive mind didn’t see coming:

Osama bin Laden will be captured or killed by June 30, 2011.
Intrade odds: 3%

The Supreme Court will rule Obamacare’s individual mandate constitutional.
Intrade odds: 22%

LeBron James to sign with the Miami Heat in 2010.
Intrade odds: 6%

Conan O’Brien will sign a television deal with TBS.
Intrade odds: 5%

Pope Benedict XVI’s successor will be from Latin America.
Intrade odds: 11%

One bet no one braved was on the future of Intrade itself. A wager on whether the site would close by December 2012 didn’t get any takers.“Even if you were willing to take that bet and you won,” explained NYU Stern’s Panos Ipeirotis, “who would pay you?”

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Intrade’s Black Swans