Kevin Kelly's 25-year bet with a neo-Luddite has been decided

Originally published at:


i say Sale was actually the winner – it’s just taking a little longer than he estimated.


His response should have been to ask for double or nothing on 2045


I think Sale has won.


I’m glad Kelly won, but I can’t say that society is “flourishing” either. As for Sale’s three factors, I can’t rule out economic disaster of that magnitude in my lifetime, inequality continues to continue on its unsustainable trendline, and we’re already experiencing a signifcant number of environmental catastrophes due to global warming.


I disagree entirely - if “not even close” is the bet - then he lost in my opinion.


Um… this post is a little bit like FUCKING JINXING IT.

It’s way too fucking “close” for comfort; Kelly lost.


It’s what we do.



Yeah we aren’t exactly in “not even close” territory, so if that’s the exact wording of the bet, then I’d agree it’s a win for Sale.


Talk about living in denial. We’re sheltering at home from a pandemic that has trashed the reputation of virtually every government in Europe and the Americas, we’re seeing the effects of catastrophic climate change play out in real time, and the US, supposedly the bastion of democracy is in the middle of an attempted coup. So pretty much the last opportunity to cash in on this bet before the stake is worthless.

ETA: We already know that a collapse won’t be recognized at the time, and maybe not even afterwards:
“It could be hoped that historians, when gathering all facts in the peaceful aftermath of the Collapse, would identify, agree and highlight the root cause. But it may also be that even in retrospect, the period will not be described as an era of environmental collapse, but as a dark, less civilized period.”


The problem with the bet was it was a all-or-nothing sort of bet. Everything All Roses, or The Apocalypse has Come. They failed to sufficiently nail down where the line needs to be drawn in that large swath of grey area between the extremes.
I say it should be a draw. Environment, Economy, and Society is in the process of collapse at the moment, but the Environment has been in a slow decline for ages, and Economy and Society have always had an ebb-and-flow to them, so those may very well bounce back.

The bit that seemed to be missing in the terms of the bet was the state of and presence of technology. Which seems odd since the whole disagreement between the two was based on technology (if it’s good or bad, if it makes lives better or worse).

[edit] For the Environment, it’s not 100% clear cut, we’ve got global warming (carbon emissions) as a growing problem, and micro-plastics in the ocean, but in other areas, we’ve cut back on pollution (no more leaded gas or lead paint for instance), and things like air-quality have improved (smog in many western cities is greatly reduced from what it had been in the 1970’s for instance, and waterways are less polluted).


I don’t want to say that Sale won, but he won. We are at a point where things can go either way. We are too close to disaster.

Sale extemporaneously cited three factors: an economic disaster that would render the dollar worthless, causing a depression worse than the one in 1930; a rebellion of the poor against the monied; and a significant number of environmental catastrophes.

Civilisation can and has survived the first two factors, and they often go hand in hand. Things may not be the same again but they usually settle down back into civilisation within a lifetime. It’s the third factor that civilisation has a poor record against, and we aren’t doing well enough this time.

Edited to show that I believe Sale won


$1000 sounds like a nice prize but that’s just $40 a year for 25 years, doesn’t even cover his cable bill for that time period

Plus he’d have to win $1700 today to make it as valuable as that $1000 was in '95


If the exact wording was “Nowhere even close!” then Sale did win; because as we’ve both stated, it’s WAY too fucking close.


I didn’t mean to suggest that I thought Sale lost. I’ve modified my comment to make it clear that I believe he won.


It’s worth reading the article Mark linked to.

First, because the terms of the bet were clear, and by the terms, we’re not even close. Date certain means what it means, which is 2020.

Second, because the luddite himself, on a book about the bet, wrote, “So let me just admit that I was wrong,”

and Third, because despite the judge’s ruling, he’s refusing to accept the results.

If you aren’t prepared to play by the rules, don’t play.


Did anyone ever play the Amiga game Nuclear War, where the game ended with whichever leader was the last standing jumping up and down outside of his bunker amid the desolation shouting, “I won! I won!”?

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Seems to me that the petty bet itself is dwarfed by the fact that we are terribly close to everything being FUBAR, but I guess “being right” is what really matters, above all else.


Sale failed to predict the exact nature of each disaster and the order in which they would occur