When some people find themselves gifted with powers beyond those of mere mortals, they often ditch the wage slave life and turn to a life of crime. But what are some of the legal ways you can use those awesome powers to get rich quick?
At the blog Law and the Multiverse, attorneys James Daily and Ryan Davidson examine the intersection of science fiction and the law. In his "Getting Rich with Superpowers" series, Daily examines the potentially legal ways superfolk might make the big bucks.
He starts with stock market, contemplating how superpowers might be used to gather inside information. He notes that superpowered hearing is a legitimate way to gather inside info or a hot stock tip, since overheard conversations have long been deemed a perfectly legal method. Telepathy might be a harder sell, although he suspects even that would be alright:
Telepathy is more problematic. As we've discussed before, telepathy may run afoul of a person's right to privacy. Would discovering information about a company be highly offensive to a reasonable person? Would it matter if the victim was a regular employee of a giant company or an emotionally-invested founder of a small business? It's hard to say how a jury would react. It is not clear to me whether this kind of privacy violation would be sufficient to trigger insider trading laws, however. The law prohibits the use of deception to acquire insider information, and telepathy could qualify, though it seems a bit strained. S.E.C. v. Dorozhko, 574 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that computer hacking to obtain insider information may be "deceptive device or contrivance" prohibited by Rule 10(b) and Rule 10(b)-5).
Insider trading through time travel? Perfectly A-OK.
Next, he turns his attention to gambling. Eidetic memory (for card-counting) and empathy aren't at issue, since they're just bigger, better versions of legally permissible gambling skills. Other powers are a bit stickier:
Precognition and time-travel are, alas, probably a fraudulent act within Nev. Rev. Stat. § 465.070(5), which prohibits, "[placing] or [increasing] a bet after acquiring knowledge of the outcome of the game or other event which is the subject of the bet, including past-posting and pressing bets."
He does acknowledge, however, that the word "after" makes the time traveler issue more complex, since technically the gambler would acquire said information later in the timeline.
Telepathy, x-ray vision, probability manipulation — even superspeed and dexterity — all come with their legal troubles, which make me think that this making money legally business is terribly overrated.
Image via Neato Coolville, from Parada Magazine. Artist unknown.
Getting Rich with Superpowers, Part 1: Insider Trading and Part 2: Gambling [Law and the Multiverse]