Listening to older bigshot academics talking among themselves, I find they talk surprisingly often about the Nobel prize – who deserves it, who is being considered, who is lobbying how to win, who should have won but didn’t, and so on. Their lust is obvious; the influence of the Nobel prize on elite academic incentives is far out of proportion to the money involved.
It is surprising to see academia so influenced by one rich man from a century ago, rather than by rich men today. Prizes once mattered much more than they do today, and I expect a comeback: sometime in the next few decades I expect someone to pay a billion or two in an attempt to displace the Nobel prize. Compared to the usual academic money-influence ratio, this would be quite a bargain. To succeed, this new Post-Nobel prize should:
- offer a prize amount ten or one hundred times the Nobel prize,
- create a correlation between who wins and who elite academics think should win that is not much worse than with the Nobel prize, and
- do this consistently for a decade or two, and appear able to continue indefinitely.
This task is not trivial, but quite feasible. I hope, however, that this patron sets himself a higher goal: to increase the correlation between winners and their long-term intellectual contribution. I suggest making heavy use of posterity review:
- create a perpetual process wherein historians evaluate the influence of academics from a century before,
- create long term betting markets that estimate today the influence evaluations of those future historians, and
- each year give N new prizes to the N living people who have not yet won, for whom the betting markets show the highest positive influence estimates.
Under this system people would stop lobbying the prize committee, and start to lobby market speculators and future historians.