In brief

  • A decentralized prediction platform allows users to bet on coronavirus outcomes.
  • Its creators argue that it will help provide insight into the pandemic by incentivizing true information and disincentivizing false information.
  • Prediction markets have proven to be eerily accurate in the past.

In a somewhat morbid turn of events, decentralized prediction platform Gnosis has unveiled more than 50 markets for betting on the outcome of the coronavirus.

After subsidizing the project to the tune of $50,000, Gnosis launched the non-profit, dubbed "Corona Information Markets," on Tuesday. Prediction markets work by incentivizing true information and disincentivizing false information; Gnosis bills the platform as a means of aggregating information to make sense of conflicting data on the coronavirus. 

"No clear answers exist for questions like, ‘When will the peak in the number of cases happen?’ or ‘Are you immune if you have already contracted and recovered from COVID-19?’,” reads the announcement. “Drawing on the insights of experts is helpful in providing some guidance and enabling us to make more informed decisions for the sake of our families and our communities." 

Indeed, prediction markets have proven eerily accurate in the past. One such platform, Augur, enables betting on absolutely anything, from politics to entertainment. In the past, bettors accurately predicted events from Trump's impeachment in 2019, to whether or not Game of Thrones characters would die in the show’s finale.

Betting on misfortune 

While the project itself is a non-profit with altruistic goals, enabling people to bet—and potentially profit—on a lethal global pandemic presents a moral quandary.

Thus far, one of the biggest markets—with a total of $1,777 USDC riding on it—poses the following question: "How many confirmed cases of COVID-19 will there be in the US on June 1st, 2020?"

Over half of bettors predict that the US will have more than 2,000,000 confirmed cases by June 1st. As of press time, the actual figure stands at 826,240 confirmed cases. If accurate, the prediction market paints a gloomy picture—suggesting that cases in the US are set to rise by around 142%.

Corona Information Markets isn’t the only crypto project enabling people to speculate on the outcome of the virus; in February a group of developers created CoronaCoin, a token whose value was pegged to infection rates. Meanwhile, last month an artist created Corona Babies, a collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) designed to “commemorate” the virus pandemic.