Predictions for 2021 (+ a template for yours)

by epiphi3 min read5th Jan 20216 comments

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Forecasts (Specific Predictions)World Modeling
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How do you make new year's predictions?

  1. Assemble a list of predictions about what you think will happen in the next year.
  2. Assign probabilities to each item. I follow the approach of picking a limited number of probabilities (51%, 60%, 70%, 80%, and 90%) and assigning one to each item that I have an opinion on. You could also use the full 0 – 100% range and bin the probabilities when you assess them.
  3. At the end of the year, score your predictions. You then get to assemble a sense of your calibration!

The first item on that list is where I usually get stuck, so here's a template predictions list for you (you'll be prompted to make a copy of the Google Sheet).

The items on the template list were assembled by me and jayterwahl after looking at current Good Judgment Open Challenges, some LW forecasting threads (2020s, existential risk), the post on throwing a prediction party, and previous predictions from SlateStarCodex (2020, 2019) and Zachary Jacobi (2019, 2018).

My predictions

To avoid being anchored, you may want to use the template and make your own predictions before reading on. My previous attempts at predictions have also been much less accurate than SlateStarCodex or Zachary Jacobi's, so don't update too much regardless.

All predictions are for the end of 2021 unless otherwise specified.

COVID

  1. On March 1 2021, >15 US states have an overall COVID positivity rate of >10% — 70%
  2. Fewer than 1 million US COVID deaths — 80%
  3. US has the highest official COVID death toll of any country — 80%
  4. Before March 31, 2021, 4 or more COVID vaccines approved by the US FDA — 70%
  5. Before March 31, 2021, 6 or more COVID vaccines approved by the US FDA — 70%
  6. SF Bay Area will be shut down in some major form (eg restaurants closed for indoor dining) beyond June 15 — 70%
  7. …until the end of the year — 51%
  8. New COVID strain leads to dramatically worse situation (50K+ US deaths, much more extreme lockdowns) — 80%
  9. On April 1 2021, between 2.5 million and 5 million cases of COVID-19 declared by Africa CDC — 80%
  10. On April 30 2021, more than 6 countries have 100,000 or more deaths attributed to COVID-19 — 90%
  11. More than 10 countries will have 100,000 or more deaths attributed to COVID-19 — 70%
  12. More than 3 million global COVID deaths — 70%
  13. Fewer than 10 million global COVID deaths — 70%
  14. Before June 1 2021, Canada permits discretionary travel for foreign nationals arriving from USA — 60%
  15. Before June 1 2021, UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that percentage of working adults who “worked from home exclusively” fell below 20% — 51%
  16. Before May 1 2021, Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have not been officially cancelled — 70%
  17. I will get the COVID vaccine — 70%
  18. I personally will not get COVID (as per my best guess if I had it; positive test not needed) — 80%
  19. I personally am back to working not-at-home (i.e. regularly working in an office, co-working space or other public spaces) — 60%

Politics

  1. Joe Biden becomes (and remains) President of USA — 90%
  2. Jair Bolsonaro is still President of Brazil — 90%
  3. Boris Johnson is still Prime Minister of the UK — 90%
  4. Netanyahu is no longer Prime Minister of Israel — 60%
  5. Liberal party of Canada remains in power as a minority government — 90%
  6. An election is held for Canada’s parliament — 60%
  7. On May 12 2021, Ethiopia’s Tigray region still under federally-imposed state of emergency — 80%
  8. Before March 1 2021, China has not declared an air-defense identification zone over any part of the South China Sea — 90%
  9. No war (i.e. ongoing military engagement) between major or nuclear powers (including India and Pakistan) — 80%
  10. Yemen Civil War continues — 90%
  11. New nuclear non-proliferation treaty between USA and Russia is in negotiations and seems plausible — 51%
  12. New nuclear deal between USA and Iran is in negotiations and seems plausible — 60%

Economics & technology

  1. No global economic collapse — 90%
  2. No major stock market crash — 90%
  3. IMF estimate for world GDP growth in 2021 will be higher in its April 2021 World Economic Outlook report than in its October 2020 report — 70%
  4. OPEC+ will adjust production upward in its next meeting — 80%
  5. China’s year-on-year GDP growth for Q2 2021 will be above 6% — 60%
  6. Tesla delivers >250,000 vehicles to customers in the first half of 2021 — 70%
  7. Bitcoin is above $30,000 at the end of 2021 — 60%
  8. Decent AR glasses (lens projection) are not released — 90%
  9. No human is living on another terrestrial object (moon, Mars, etc.) — 90%
  10. China’s robot girlfriend, Xiaoice, has 750,000,000 unique users — 60%
  11. Synthetic horseshoe crab blood is approved for use outside of Europe — 90%
  12. DeepMind releases Alpha[X], an algorithm which beats previous human efforts in a novel domain — 80%
  13. Cultivated meat served publicly (e.g. available in a restaurant) outside of Singapore — 51%

Miscellaneous

  1. Atmospheric carbon is above 415 by the end of 2021 — 70%
  2. CO2 emissions in 2021 are up compared to 2020, but down compared to 2019 — 60%
  3. US unemployment rate falls below 5% — 70%
  4. More than 12 people die in protests or political violence in the USA — 80%
  5. Fewer than 100 people die in protests or political violence in the USA — 90%
  6. No terrorist attack kills more than 10 people in USA — 80%
  7. Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia — 70%
  8. No resolution to Julian Assange situation — 60%
  9. Deaths from opioid poisonings in Canada are down compared to 2020, but up compared to 2019 — 70%

Personal

  1. I will not switch jobs. — 90%
  2. I will make more than $500 in a way that is different from my primary job or investments. — 70%
  3. I will not get a tattoo — 60%
  4. I will go to another continent — 70%
  5. I will go on at least 3 dates (with three new people, one new person three times, or some combination therein) — 80%
  6. I begin a new biology or biohacking project — 51%
  7. I do not find at least one new supplement I take or expect to take regularly x 3 months — 80%
  8. I travel outside the country at least once — 80%
  9. [redacted] — 70%
  10. [redacted] — 90%
  11. [redacted] — 60%
  12. [redacted] — 80%
  13. [redacted] — 70%
  14. [redacted] — 90%
  15. [redacted] — 70%
  16. [redacted] — 70%
  17. [redacted] — 90%
  18. [redacted] — 60%
  19. [redacted] — 51%
  20. [redacted] — 51%

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6 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:30 AM
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Isn't it time that LW got prediction functionality given how many people use it?

(we are also working on making it easier to implement)

Upvoted, and: Why new year's predictions? Why not new day's predictions, or new week's predictions? Months? Seasons? Book pages? TV episodes? That's not a critique of this post specifically. I just don't see very much of it.
Also, why limit yourself to existing fields and "miscellaneous"? Can we construct topic areas around which to ask weirder questions / make weirder bets and predictions? What are some of the strangest topic areas we can invent? What about topic areas whose most accurate description would lose a lot of information if it were condensed into any existing English word? 

(Also, unlike book page or tv episode predictions, the predictions in this post are typically about large-scale processes rather than immediate concrete realities, e.g. like those of your "personal" category. What if, instead of 'everywhere' and 'right here' predictions, we had 'over there' predictions as well?)

I'm not suggesting the topics would need entire sentences, but even just the combination of three or four words might give you access to strange topic spaces. Psycheconomics predictions, anyone? "Psychenomics" doesn't mean anything to me in advance, but maybe with a bit of experience searching we can categorize information to "psychenomics" semi-arbitrarily and get a kinesthetic feel for a previously unseen territory. 

The demarcation of our disciplines, I'm assuming, is not a feature of the world; in alternate timelines, we do not distinguish between psychology and neurology, or history and anthropology, or computer science and mathematics. Those seem related, so it may be intuitive to treat them the same, but why not have categories for crossdisciplinary or discipline-queer questions/bets/predictions?

What is the best proportion of personal/over-there/everywhere predictions? How long did it take you to write these predictions? When you write one, how deep is your thinking behind it? How often do you make predictions like these? Only once a year? Couldn't you do better? Should you carry notebooks with you everywhere all the time, prepared to write predictions? Should you use an interval timer to force you to make a prediction whenever it rings? Should I limit how much time in the day that I spend on writing predictions? Could all the questions I'm asking related to prediction writing be its own field of study?

Why new year's predictions? Why not new day's predictions, or new week's predictions?

In general, it is easier to make a list of predictions and gauge uncertainty at one time. It takes a lot of effort, and so is generally done sparingly. The beginning of the calendar year makes a good Schelling point to do that work, especially given that there are lots of other "new year" rituals it folds into. 

Couldn't you do better? Should you carry notebooks with you everywhere all the time, prepared to write predictions? Should you use an interval timer to force you to make a prediction whenever it rings?

There is probably a market outside of Less Wrong (definitely within Less Wrong and the ratcom) for some sort of app or service that reminds people to make predictions, gauge uncertainty, and then update those predictions at time intervals. Think "Anki cards" but for predictions. The biggest hinderance is mental effort and the fact that the rewards are so nebulous ("oh wow, I've become good at gauging uncertainty thats [socially] useful for... what exactly?")

https://predictionbook.com/ has a skeleton that could be extended with prompts for belief updates. It already has prompts for adjudication of your previous predictions.