New Year's Predictions Thread (2011)

As we did last year, use this thread to make predictions for the next year and next decade, with probabilities attached when practical. 

Happy New Year, Less Wrong!

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Shouldn't we also review how accurate last year's predictions were?

I checked- most people (including me) predicted for the decade rather than the year. In hindsight, that seems to be all about Far Mode signaling, so I made sure to do a 2011 prediction.

There were some obviously false ones - predictions of a terrorist attack in the US, eg. (There were attempts of varying levels of entrapment, but I didn't find any actually successful ones.)

In my opinion, mattnewport's 50% odds weren't that badly calibrated (especially given the Times Square attempt).

For me, the Times Square attempt falls straight into the 'self-radicalized incompetents' category akin to the British airport attack or the JFK plot; it makes perfect sense to me that 'real' attacks will be rare and with minimal casaulties (I have argued that Terrorism is not about Terror and Terrorism is not Effective in the past, and now that I think about, supposedly there's a power-law governing terrorist attacks).

As far as credible attacks go, I guessed from going through Wikipedia's categories of terrorist attacks by year that a better prior would be more like 1/3, not 1/2.

But when I say 'obviously false' I don't mean that it's an insane prediction (if you read through the thread you'll see I do call out some predictors for making predictions which I consider 'on crack' - not naming any names here, but none of his seem any more likely to be true after the passage of a year), I just mean that it's objectively and clearly judgeable as wrong now that the year is out.

This is a rare and valuable property, as one will learn after reading through a few compilations of predictions for 2011.

I just mean that it's objectively and clearly judgeable a wrong now that the year is out.

This is a rare and valuable property, as one will learn after reading through a few compilations of predictions for 2011.

Thanks for the clarification; my first reading was that you were holding people to the wrong standard. If you made 10 predictions at 70% each, and 6 of them come true, then you should be lauded rather than criticized. If all 10 of them come true (and appear to be causally independent of each other), then you should be criticized for underconfidence.

If all 10 of them come true (and appear to be causally independent of each other), then you should be criticized for underconfidence.

/looks at http://predictionbook.com/users/gwern

: (

I'm guessing that many of your 80% and 90% predictions would be positively correlated with one or two major trends (e.g. there was no global economic meltdown in 2010), so it's not quite that simple. Looks like pretty good calibration to me overall.

The 70-90% bracket for me is ~70 predictions judged; I don't think most or even many of them are economic-related (except in a weak sense).

If you wanted to check my intuition, there doesn't seem to be any easy way to filter my user page for just the judged ones within a probability range short of downloading and processing the HTML, but you could look through a few dozen or score of the recently judged predictions (http://predictionbook.com/predictions/judged) since I have looked at every prediction on the site and registered my own probabilities for essentially every prediction which isn't either sports or highly personal (and even then I've frequently given it a shot anyway).

Wow, really? I'll happily make the same bet again for 2011 if you'll offer it again - though I'd like to slightly tighten the rules to say it has to be a conspiracy, because I don't think something like Fort Hood should count.

Oh, my own odds are lower than mattnewport's, just not low enough to call his estimate crazy.

Also, my bid-ask spread is pretty high if we're talking actual bets. I'd take the "yes" side at something like 10:1 odds, and the "no" side at 2:1 odds the other way. And I'd only feel morally comfortable betting the "yes" side in the context of a formal prediction market, where the positive externalities to having accurate odds would assuage my guilt about collecting in that case.

The unemployment rate in the United States will continue to be above 8%: 90%

"Core inflation" of the U.S. dollar (which ignores food and energy prices) shall remain below 2.0%: 80%

The fifth book in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series will be published: 5%

A superintelligent AGI will be created: Less than 1 in 1 million

The Large Hadron Collider will destroy the world: Less than 1 in 1 million

My 96-year-old grandmother survives another year: 67%

The Riemann hypothesis is proven: 1 in 5000

I qualify for the Magic Pro Tour: 1%

I get a "real job": 1%

The Large Hadron Collider will destroy the world: Less than 1 in 1 million

Agreed. And if we're proven wrong, I promise to buy everybody on this list who publicly disagrees a beer, or else an unreasonably expensive mineral water as a means of signaling the equivalent level of deference.

It might be worth noting that even if the LHC does do something that causes the world to be destroyed, it might be a rather slow destruction that could take a few years to complete, so that's not entirely an empty promise...

Damn! I had counted on it being completely empty. Well, no backing out of it now. My offer stands!

My 96-year-old grandmother survives another year: 67%

Dead wrong on this one. She died a few hours ago.

I was going to ask why you gave death such a low probability, but when I went to look at what the mortality rates actually said for a 96 year old female, I found that many don't even go that high: http://www.deathriskrankings.com/MortStats.aspx

Huh.

Yeah, so far. She had been mostly gone for quite a while, so...

This one and Alzheimer's greatly bother me because they are cryonics-resistant.

1 in 5000 is too small for the Riemann hypothesis, given that people have only been seriously working on it for 130 or so years, and that there still exist very smart people who are optimistic about one approach or another. (I know some of them, in fact.) It's not like P vs. NP, where the experts in the field are agreed that there's almost surely a long way to go for any approach.

I'd put it at 1% to 2.5%, myself.

The fifth book in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series will be published: 5%

This sounds about right. GRRM expires before finishing the series: 30%.

China will remain on-schedule with their build-up of nuclear plants (70%) and will announce that they are once again increasing their goal for nuclear generation capacity by 2020 above their current target of 112 GWe (50%). The mainstream position of major environmentalist groups in Europe and North America will continue to be that nuclear plants are always delayed and far over budget, even as China continues to demonstrate otherwise (90%).

Cloud computing will see two big trends. First, commoditization: there will be more choices, and significantly better interoperability between those choices (80%). Second, Amazon Web Services will continue to roll out interesting new services, and everybody else in the market will either be playing catch-up or trying to focus on different niches, but not leading the market in any significant way (70%).

Iran will not produce a nuclear bomb in 2011 (90%). North Korea will continue saber rattling, but will not be involved in a war (80%).

There will be a second season of High School of the Dead, allowing me to get my zombie action fix for the year (60%). I know this is crushingly inconsequential, but zombies are fun.

SpaceX will successfully complete orbit-matching and docking with the International Space Station (60%), as well as the first flight of their Falcon 1e rocket (70%). Conditioning on success in the ISS docking, the first two resupply missions will succeed (80%). All within 2011.

ONE YEAR LATER: I am too damn optimistic. The highly publicized accident at Fukushima caused China to delay their nuclear build-up. My cloud computing predictions were accurate, but also super conservative, and so were the ones about Iran and North Korea. There wasn't a second season of Highschool of the Dead; just a fairly disappointing one-episode OVA. The Falcon 1e looks delayed, and the first docking of the Falcon 9 with the Space Station is scheduled for early 2012, which is nice, but still not 2011, so that prediction didn't quite come true.

China will remain on-schedule with their build-up of nuclear plants (70%) ... The mainstream position of major environmentalist groups in Europe and North America will continue to be that nuclear plants are always delayed and far over budget, even as China continues to demonstrate otherwise (90%).

Is this the conjunction fallacy here? I read this as P (China on schedule) = 70% but P (enviros dis nukes & China on schedule) = 90%.

Do you mean P (enviros dis nukes | China on schedule) = 90%, or P (enviros dis nukes) = 90% with the reference to China a rhetorical flourish?

Looks like I could have phrased that better. My 70% prediction was that China would remain overall on schedule. My "China continues to demonstrate otherwise" statement only requires that a significant number of China's nuke plants continue to be on schedule and under budget, which requires much less conjunction of events. For example, if huge setbacks arise for the construction of AP1000 reactors, but China's CPR1000 reactors continue to be constructed cheaply and smoothly, then this could invalidate my first prediction but not the second.

That's a nice thing about China's approach to nuclear build-up: they're going with a bunch of different designs and approaches, from conventional gigawatt behemoths to Russian fast breeders to indigenously-designed pebble beds. If something doesn't pan out, they may not meet their goals, but they have a high probability of one or more approach working smoothly. So far, it looks like everything is going according to plan.

Wow, you think the North Korea situation's that bad? A one in five chance of war seems too high for me.

In retrospect, you're right. Bump up the no-war-in-NK probability. It's funny how assigning a lower probability to X feels cautious, but assigning a higher probability to not-X feels risky, even though it's just two ways of saying the same damn thing. I think there's a top-level post in this somewhere.

For even more recent predictions, y'all can check out http://predictionbook.com/predictions

(I've recently added ~90 based on various lists of predictions sparked by the new year, many of which are interesting, IMO; this is quite aside from all the predictions on this page.)

As noted by Keynes, markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent. However, I'd say about 80% for each of the following:

The price of gold will fall in real terms. [ETA one year on -- Wrong. Fell a bit towards the end of the year, but still a net rise.]

The price of U.S. housing will fall in real terms. [ETA one year on -- numbers still seem to be being crunched, or at least I can't find anything very recent I'd regard as reliable.]

The rate of inflation of U.S. dollars will rise. [ETA one year on -- I think I got this one right. Subject to updating with better data in the near future.]

There will be much more discussion in the general media of a "higher education bubble." Not sure how to measure this.

@JoshuaZ, the number of servicemembers leaving due to DADT repeal will not be measured. The goverment won't ask, and won't tell. [ETA one year on -- I think I got this one right, for what it's worth. As I understand it, the U.S. military is on a path toward shrinking in general anyway.]

And finally -- not necessarily a prediction for this year -- things that can't go on forever won't. 100%

the number of servicemembers leaving due to DADT repeal will not be measured. The goverment won't ask, and won't tell.

Yes, but others will be trying to measure this, including some aspects of the right-wing in the US.

I'll go a bit further and predict that, because of how politicized the issue is, there will not be any mainstream agreement on whose unofficial figures are more accurate.

There will be much more discussion in the general media of a "higher education bubble." Not sure how to measure this.

I disagree, for a narrow definition of "general media," and agree for a broad definition of it. It's been an open secret for quite some time that college has a lot of flaws and is negative value for wide swaths of the population, and I imagine that will catch on in many circles. But I really don't see that breaking into the mainstream media, since the value of college is artificially high in most of their narratives (especially since the journalists who are working for the MSM will be people who need to double down on their belief that their degree was worth it).

I should have thought of this before: I just googled "higher education bubble" in quotes, and got 'About 41,000 results'. A search in google news gives five results. A year from now, that should be higher. Not a very good yardstick, but at least it's checkable.

You'll need the relative frequency of the phrase (per running word of news article text), not the absolute count of it. In the extreme, if the "from" date of the google news search doesn't advance, you can only expect the number to increase :) Even if there's a fixed time window, you can also expect more words to be generated in the next year than in the past year.

For what it's worth, my latest search for the same phrase now results in 'About 1,860,000 results.'

  1. Gold: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2100
  2. Housing: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2101
  3. Inflation: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2102
  4. Skipping higher-ed bubble and no-measurement because I don't know any good way to operationalize them (Google hits seems like a terrible one, even if we could get replicable data from them about the rate)

The rate of inflation of U.S. dollars will rise. [ETA one year on -- I think I got this one right. Subject to updating with better data in the near future.]

Checking CronoDAS's prediction, the core rose to something like 2.15%, which was definitely above what it was last time, so I marked it right.

I'd mention that it's much better to reply to your predictions a year on than to edit them, but then I remembered who I'm talking to.

@JoshuaZ, the number of servicemembers leaving due to DADT repeal will not be measured. The goverment won't ask, and won't tell.

Was that another prediction, or something the government has already confirmed?

That would be a prediction, specifically applied to what the federal government will do or not do during 2011.

With that said, I'd say human motivations are complicated. I could foresee, for instance the following motivations for leaving the military:

Enlisted infantryman:

[Subjective motivation]: I have failed ranger school in an embarrassing fashion.

[Declared motivation for leaving the army]: A bunch of fags are running the show now.

Infantry officer:

[Subjective motivation]: A bunch of fags are running the show now.

[Declared motivation]: I now wish to serve my country by pursuing public office.

Why do you think the price of US housing will fall in real terms (even not counting inflation)?

Basically, I'm persuaded by the arguments that housing prices are out of line with a historical trend and out of line with incomes and prevailing rents.

Now that you mention it, and upon reflection, I must admit I am biased by some vague, aesthetic sentiments as well. My subjective impression is that the bigger=better approach to housing in America should become less fashionable rather than more. I'd like to think of this as an "intuition," but maybe it's just a "bias." Anyway, we'll get some evidence as the new year goes on.

Now that you mention it, and upon reflection, I must admit I am biased by some vague, aesthetic sentiments as well.

Are you going to therefore revise your estimate downward?

That's a good question. If this were a disinterested Bayesian search for the truth, then of course. But I take this particular game as a simulated bet, albeit for no monetary stakes. Before I post anything, I have to search inside myself for the most rational course; but once I place my bet, I'm stuck with it. No fair changing it. Reality will determine whether I win or lose, come the end of 2011.

Also, in this real world of ours, I think inarticulable intuitions may have a rational basis, in the same way that a skilled basketball player can make a free throw without knowing what the hell a parabola is. With that said, I should say I don't yet know whether my predisposition was a "bias" or a "brilliant intuition."

On the other hand, this could make for good, low-stress practice at updating estimates based on new evidence/deductions. You probably should keep your original estimate in its place (since that's what people's replies are predicated on), but could you say here what you'd now estimate that probability to be?

Another good question. Upon further reflection, I'd have to admit that my thoughts in this area are....what's the opposite of rigorous? Fuzzy, vague, unconscious? Someone who is very experienced and skilled in an area that requires intangible intuition or a "feel" for something might have very good judgment without being able to articulate the bases for that judgment. But I'm not experienced or skilled in the housing market. For that reason, I think I should be very suspicious of my own subjective intuitions in this area. They are breeding grounds for unknown bias. So I should revise my estimate downward. I must also admit that any pretense of a specific percentage estimate is far more precise than I am able to give. Right now I'm thinking of a range rather than a point, something like sixty to eighty percent.

P.S. Goddammit, I had to think about this some more and must clarify. My confession: I had to revise specifically downward because I think my subjective emotional biases would tend to make me wish that the housing market came down. On a conscious level, I made my first estimate in good faith. But now I am a bit more wary of what I was then thinking.

Fucking rationality. Okay, I've got stuff to do, so I'm going to forget this topic entirely for a bit.

As Ray Kurzweil's predictions have come up in the comments, here's his "Predictions Essay" (4.1MB) where he grades himself on them and responds to some critics.

General AI will not be made in 2011. Confidence: 90%.

The removal of DADT by the US military will result in fewer than 300 soldiers leaving the military in protest. (Note that this may be hard to measure.) Confidence: 95%.

The Riemann Hypothesis will not be proven. Confidence: 75%. (Minor note for the nitpickers: relevant foundational system is ZFC.)

Ryan Williams recent bound on ACC circuits of NEXP ((See here for a discussion of Williams work)) will be tightened in at least one of three ways: The result will be shown to apply for some smaller set of problems than NEXP, the result will be improved for some broader type of circuit than ACC, or the bound on the circuit size ruled out will be improved. Confidence: 60%

At least one head pastor of a Protestant megachurch in the US will be found to be engaging in homosexual activity. For purposes of this prediction "megachurch" means a church with regular attendance of 3000 people at Sunday services. Confidence: 70%.

Clashes between North Korea and South Korea will result in fatalities: Confidence 80%.

General AI will not be made in 2011. Confidence: 90%.

I hope to hell you're underconfident about that.

Given Vast quantities of computing power, it would qualify as a very silly AGI which will eventually try dropping an anvil on its own head just to see what happens.

Roughly, no.

Nice failsafe if it unexpectedly goes "foom" though.

I'm definitely willing to put $300 to $100 on Riemann not being proved - even knowing that you may have some relevant insider knowledge.

I guess one issue is that we couldn't expect to know for sure by this time next year if it had been proved or not - I'd be willing to go with something like "by January 1 2012, no preprint will exist of an essentially correct proof of the Riemann Hypothesis (in ZFC)".

Yeah, multiple people have called me out on RH, and thinking about it more, I'm probably was just being way too underconfident.

  1. GAI: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2092
  2. DADT: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2093 (assuming year timescale)
  3. Riemann: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2094
  4. Ryan Williams: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2095 (I, uh, hope you'll be judging that one; I don't follow complexity theory work as closely as you obviously do.)
  5. Sex scandal: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2096
  6. Korea: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2097 (when judging I assume any unilateral attack counts even if the other side doesn't retaliate, like the Cheonan)

Regarding 4, there are a fair number of people here interested in complexity theory issues so it shouldn't be that hard to get people to judge that. Also note that I deliberately made the question more precise by listing three of the more plausible ways the result might be extended rather than just that it would be tightened. That helps make the question clear cut (if it were generalized to anything that could be reasonably construed as a tightening of his result I'd bump the probability up but it would be much trickier to judge the result.)

I think your confidence for the Riemann Hypothesis not being proven is way too low. Unless there has been some major recent improvement I'm unaware of, next year doesn't look too much better than any recent year. In addition to the apparent improbability of being solved in any particular year, I would suspect that a problem of this magnitude would show some more significant cracks before being solved.

If I thought there was anything like a 10% of AGI in the next year, my priorities would be radically different.

A lot of people in this thread have said that I'm way too underconfident about RH, and thinking about that, they are probably right. At this point, there are two "obviously false" statements that we can't even disprove:

1) There are zeros of the zeta function arbitrarily close to the line Re s =1.
2) A positive fraction of the non-trivial zeros lie off the line (with the zeros ordered in the obvious way by the size of the imaginary part).

We also can't prove the related Lindelof hypothesis which is an easy consequence of the Riemann hypothesis.

All three of these are things that one would expect to be done before RH is proved, and we don't seem very close to resolving any of these with the possible exception of statement 2. There's some reason to believe that 2 might be disproven from further tightening of Hardy and Littlewood type results in the same way that Levinson and Conrey showed that at least two fifths of the zeros lie on the line (I lack the technical knowledge to evaluate the plausibility that Conrey's type of result can be further tightened, although the fact that his result in the tightest known form has stood for about 20 years suggests that further tightening is very non-trivial.) Note that we can prove the slightly weaker statement that almost all the zeros lie with in epsilon of the 1/2 line, which is sort of a hybrid of the negations of 1 and 2, but that result is about a hundred years old (one thing I actually wish I understood more is how if at all that result connects to the Hardy and Littlewood type results. My impression is that they really don't in any obvious way but I'm not sure.) Analogs of RH have also been proven in many different contexts (including the appropriate analogs for finite fields and for certain p-adic analogs); I don't know much about most of those, but it seems like those results don't give obvious hints for how to resolve the original case in any useful fashion.

I guess the real reason for my estimate is that there seem to be so many promising techniques for approaching the problem that I don't understand much in detail, such as using operator theory, or connecting the location of the zeros to the behavior of some quasicrystals.

I was almost certainly underconfident in my above estimate, and I think everyone was very right to call me out on that, so I won't be taking any bets on it. I'm not sure how to revise it. Upwards is clearly the correct direction, but thinking about the probability estimate in more details leaves me feeling very confused.

How confident are you, that they are underconfident? Each one?

My estimates are 95% Riemann in a year, 97.5% GAI in a year

My estimates are 95% Riemann in a year, 97.5% GAI in a year

This looks rather odd with no context quoted! :P

I bet Eliezer really, really, really hopes I'm overconfident about THAT one.

General AI will not be made in 2011. Confidence: 90%.

I like this. In other words it's over 70% that AGI will be invented before 2020.

No. That calculation assumes independent probabilities for each year.

So, it's not the prediction for the next year only, but for a longer period.

Interesting.

No. One model that could produce that prediction for next year is that one is 89% confident that GAI is impossible, and 90% confident that if possible, it will be discovered next year. Strange beliefs, yes.

But they give 10% chance this year and 11% in the next ten.

At least one head pastor of a Protestant megachurch in the US will be found to be engaging in homosexual activity....70%

Why do you draw attention to this question and how did you reach this estimate?

Unless you have knowledge of some change (eg, newspaper interest), this seems easy to estimate by the frequency of occurrence. This is a question about the steady state of the world, not about the future (modulo the not terribly rapid change in the number of megachurches). If you care enough to mention this, I'd expect you to care enough to have have some gut feeling estimate for this. In particular, 70% odds for the first such scandal to reach those who haven't heard about earlier scandals (if any) is absurd (again, unless you know about some change).

Compare this to your prediction about RH!

This question was based on a combination of the base rate and the increasing number of megachurches.

In particular, 70% odds for the first such scandal to reach those who haven't heard about earlier scandals (if any) is absurd (again, unless you know about some change).

But these scandals do occur. A naive base line rate puts them at around slightly over one every two years. Prior example scandals include Ted Haggard (2006) and Eddie Long (2010). I picked a rate slightly higher than the expected from the historical base rate primarily since the number of megachurchs has been growing over the last few years. (Note also that I used a stricter definition of megachurch than is often used. 2000 regular congregants is often the dividing line, not 3000).

There's another reason to expect an increasing rate-- it's harder to keep secrets these days.

Yes.

Also, I strongly suspect that changing attitudes towards homosexuality in the US plays a role, although I don't have a precise understanding of how I expect that to work.

Speaking roughly: my intuition is that when X is bad, a lot of people who have minor suspicions that someone they trust is doing X are motivated to pursue those suspicions, but when X is really really bad, those same people are instead motivated to not think about their suspicions. And I think the ratio of people who think homosexuality is really really bad to those who merely think it's bad is decreasing.

Not to mention, of course, that illicit relationships by their nature can't be kept secret from everyone -- the other person in the relationship has to know -- and the more acceptable the class of relationship becomes in the broader community the easier it is for the other person to reveal it.

I wonder if itemised bills for rentboys etc have turned up on any megachurch's accounts. That would make for an amusing, if not very surprising, document leak.

General AI will not be made in 2011. Confidence: 90%.

Seems underconfident. Shane Legg, who is an AGI researcher, predicts:

My longest running prediction, since 1999, has been the time until roughly human level AGI. It’s been consistent since then, though last year I decided to clarify things a bit and put down an actual distribution and some parameters. Basically, I gave it a log-normal distribution with a mean of 2028, and a mode of 2025.

Although it really depends on what you mean by "General AI."

How representative is Legg's prediction of people in that field? It "feels" very optimistic, but I don't have the relevant expertise. What do other researchers think?

Anecdotal evidence suggests it assigns way more probability mass to the next few decades (leaving almost none for subsequent development, social collapse, etc) than the vast majority of researchers. Surveys have been conducted among folk strongly selected for belief in AI (e.g. at Ben's AGI conference linked below, on transhumanist websites, etc) that put a big chunk of probability in that period, but usually not as much as Legg.

Unfortunately, there aren't yet any representative expert polls, and it would be hard to get an expert class that was expert on neuroscience, AI, and outside factors that could speed up progress (e.g. biotech enhancement). Worse, where folk have expressed skeptical views, they have almost always been just negatives with respect to a particular date, rather than probabilities. It seems fairly likely that the median relevant representative expert would assign a probability over 5% but less than 50% to Legg/Kurzweil timelines, particularly if you factored out mysticism/religion-based skepticism.

EDIT: Here's another survey.

26 of the contributors to the NSF-backed "Managing nano-bio-info-cogno innovations: converging technologies in society" were surveyed on the date at which various technologies were developed, and the median predictions reported in Appendix 1.

Page 344 gives a median estimate of 2085 for AI functionally equivalent to the human brain:

This is handy as a less selected group than attendees at an Artificial General Intelligence conference, although they're still folk with a professional interest in futuristic technologies generally.

This is helpful. One question, though:

It seems fairly likely that the median relevant representative expert would assign a probability over 5% but less than 50% to Legg/Kurzweil timelines, particularly if you factored out mysticism/religion-based skepticism.

Does this mean "For any given year, a relevant expert would only assign 1/20-1/2 the probability of FOOM by that year that Legg and Kurzweil do"? If not, what does it mean?

Shane Legg says that there is a 95% probability of human-level AI by 2045. Kurzweil doesn't give probabilities, but claims high confidence in Turing Test passing AI by 2029 and a slow takeoff Singularity over the next two decades. I would bet that a representative sample of experts would assign less than 50% probability to human-level AI by 2045, but more than 5%.

Shane Legg says that there is a 95% probability of human-level AI by 2045.

I was surprised, his recent post didn't leave me with this impression, and I didn't remember the past well enough. But apparently this is correct, here's the post and visualization of the prediction endorsed by Legg.

Over the last few years, in part due to Less Wrong, I've stopped paying attention to short-term issues. I basically don't consume news anymore as I don't like wasting time learning facts that will be outdated in two-weeks. I think this is a pretty good strategy for information consumption but it means I have very few stable/reasonably distributed predictions with one-year horizons... and they're almost all basketball predictions.

Is it worthwhile to read political and economic news just so I have more things to test my calibration on? Would reading more news even improve my predictions or just make me more/falsely confident in them?

Is it worthwhile to read political and economic news just so I have more things to test my calibration on?

No. You want to calibrate yourself? Run through the dozen or so trivia calibration datasets which have been linked on LW, or work your way through the >=136 predictions for 2011 on PredictionBook.com.

Would reading more news even improve my predictions or just make me more/falsely confident in them?

If I were to read the NYT like I used to, cover to cover, I think my predictions would improve. Hidden in obscure articles were many early indicators of things to come.

If you were to read it, or were to read USA Today, I think your predictions would get worse than the sort of dumb Outside View-like prediction you would otherwise have been forced to make ('Well, I don't know much about the Korea situation or this succession thingy, but I do know there hasn't been an active war in, like, half a century so I'll put a low chance of hostilities being renewed').

Wind power will provide more actual electricity than nuclear power by 2021, 80%, and I'd willing to put actual money behind this if it wasn't for high transaction costs of such a long term bet.

EDIT: Recent events in Fukushima power plant make me slightly more certain about my prediction. Magnitude of the effect will depend on severity of the failure, but it will undoubtedly make safe renewables like wind look more attractive than nuclear power, decreasing chances of the supposed "nuclear renaissance".

I was about to take the other side because of Chinese expansion of nuclear power, but apparently they're boosting their wind energy capacity even more (in the next decade, at least). By 2020 they expect 80 GWe of nuclear and 100 GWe of wind.

(Link stolen from last year's energy predictions, but the article was updated last month.)

ETA: Ah, as sketerpot pointed out last year, the figures for peak wind capacity are misleading, as actual production is 20-30% of peak capacity. (You won't usually have optimal windspeed.) Nuclear plants run at 90%+ of capacity. So upon second thought, I would take the nuclear side at those odds.

Here's reasoning behind my bet:

First, Chinese plans for wind power are consistently ahead of schedule, and ridiculously so:

China had originally set a generating target of 30,000 MW by 2020 from renewable energy sources, but reached 22,500 MW by end of 2009 and could easily surpass 30,000 MW by end of 2010. Indigenous wind power could generate up to 253,000 MW.[58] A Chinese renewable energy law was adopted in November 2004, following the World Wind Energy Conference organized by the Chinese and the World Wind Energy Association. By 2008, wind power was growing faster in China than the government had planned, and indeed faster in percentage terms than in any other large country, having more than doubled each year since 2005. Policymakers doubled their wind power prediction for 2010, after the wind industry reached the original goal of 5 GW three years ahead of schedule.[59] Current trends suggest an actual installed capacity near 20 GW by 2010, with China shortly thereafter pursuing the United States for the world wind power lead.

It would be beating a dead horse to mention nuclear power and schedule in the same sentence.

Second, growth in wind power is extremely widespread.

On the other hand nuclear is extremely concentrated. Today US, Japan, and France alone produce more than half of global nuclear electricity - and they're not expanding much. All nuclear's hopes are about China, but China has little nuclear power, with very low utilization rates of what it has, and in fact China already produces more electricity from wind than nuclear!

And third, skaterpot's numbers are totally completely utterly wrong.

Wind capacity factors are rapidly increasing due to technological progress. Just 2005 to 2008 global average capacity factors increased from 19.2% to 24.5%. The problem was never "wind not blowing" - capacity is not installed based on highest wind velocities - the problem was getting adequate power from wider range of wind velocities. The real range is more like 30%-40% range for new wind farms.

Actual nuclear power capacity factor is 78% for 2008 globally. American nuclear gets 90%, but that's what you get from mature non-expanding nuclear industry, typical nuclear problem is entire plant being shut down for one reason or another, and such problems are concentrated in first decade of plant's operation. Nuclear will never get 90%+ capacity factors if it's rapidly expanding.

I'd be quite willing to bet wind overtaking nuclear in nameplate capacity around 2015-2017, but I'd need to double check all figures before putting my money behind this pet.

Assuming both are growing, we'd get capacity factors like 30%:75% - wind higher than now as most of these wind farms would be very recent, and nuclear lower than now as most of these power plants would have typical first-decade issues. This 2.5x growth can easily happen in another five years.

OK, good research. Given that info, I still think 80% is a bit too high, but not outside my bid-ask spread.