June 04, 2020 4 min read

If you incentivize something, it becomes more common. This can be seen everywhere you look.  Here are a few quick examples.

Firstly, let’s look at incentives for news publishers. News publishers are companies.  Their job is to make money so they can live to write another day. News organizations of the past simply assumed that better profit would result from better truth-telling.

Now, thanks to Facebook and Google Analytics, they can test what kind of story makes them more money. What kind of story do you think gets shared more (and therefore gets more ad impressions and makes more money) - a sober, factual story or one that elicits emotions?

News stories get more traffic if they elicit emotions. This results in greater polarization of public opinion (which most people believe is happening), because people incorrectly assume that the agenda of news organizations is to inform.
If we incentivized telling the truth, we would get better news.

In case you want to learn about something that I think might work, I suggest looking at prediction markets such as Gnosis and Augur.  Imagine if news organizations got paid more if they reported the truth and lost money if they lied.  That would be a revolution, but it’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency and is a system that allows people to move money without relying on a third party such as a bank to keep records. Instead of a bank or other institutions, individual users kept records of transactions on their computers. How can anyone trust a network of random people to keep honest records about who paid who? Surely someone would cheat and pay themselves extra? Well, maybe they would if the incentives to do just the opposite weren’t so strongly defined and enforced.

In Bitcoin, these record keepers pay for the privilege of being able to record transactions honestly. Every ten minutes they submit their records for review and one bookkeeper is selected to receive a reward for their hard work. They actually don’t get paid immediately, which gives all the other bookkeepers time to audit the work, and if they catch a mistake or fraud, they get paid for the sleuth work.  The fraudster gets penalized, and the bad news is that they lose both the reward they would have received and the money they invested to participate.  

If you’d like to learn more about how Bitcoin incentives work, the process is called “Bitcoin mining” and there are loads of great explainer videos and articles out there.

So now, to the reason I’m writing this. I think that the world would be a more interesting place if people were encouraged to entertain their fellow humans. I have devised a system to incentivize exactly this behavior.  

To make a long story short, I developed some software that displays a ghost on a projector or TV screen that people can interact with from a game on their phone as they walk by. The game on the phone is called Ecto Quest and the projector/TV app is called Ecto Quest Portal (since it opens a portal through which ghosts can enter our mortal world).

You can run Ecto Quest on any iPhone or Android phone. Ecto Quest Portal is designed for Apple TV, Windows or any Android device.  Most interestingly, it can be used on Android projectors such as the ones we sell on SpookyGenius.com, and these create a fantastic effect worth seeing.

Players on their phone can engage the projected ghost on a Portal, and shoot at it from their phone.  If they avoid damage and deal enough damage to the ghost, they can catch it. If they catch it, they level up in the game and win other points and prizes. The player can start or leave the battle any time as long as they are close enough to the ghost display.

Portal operators get a large share of the items that the player consumes in battle with their ghost. Items can be sold or used by the people who operate the Portal, so there is both a fun reason to host a Portal and a financial incentive.

Portal operators do not gain 100% of the items consumed in battle - why not? Well, again... incentives. I don’t want it to be profitable to sit all day tapping a button on your phone, faking activity. This is what happens whenever someone gets paid per click on an ad on their site and Google has to go to extreme lengths to avoid this. Better to just make that behavior unprofitable. Also, I want people to engage with the Portals that are out there, so I want to be incentivized and to incentivize others for spreading the word that there’s a spooky genius with a Portal in the neighborhood.

I think this all makes sense in terms of incentives. I want to hear what you have to say. Be careful, though. Dissenting opinions will result in me releasing the synthetic murder hornets.

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