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2020's Prediction Thread

Usual disclaimers apply: probabilities are not exact betting odds, I try to give quantitive assessments wherever I can but many predictions are too vague to quantify etc. If I am still alive in 2030 I will try to give my subjective assessment to what degree I agree with the predictions.

Geopolitical
1. a China will become #1 economy in the coming decade, but will experience continued economic slowdown.

2. Taiwan put under siege by China (i) economically 80% (ii) militarily 50%
conditional on (ii) the US will back down 90%
conditional on the US not backing down this will lead to a nuclear exchange between US and China 10%

3. A missile/drone strike on an aircraft Carrier, crippling the ship 4%

4. India will commit what will later be regarded by a significant fraction of Western observers as genocide in Kashmir 10 % (low confidence)

5. Economic slowdown in the West (GDP/capita growth for 2020-2030 lower than 2010-2020) 70% - a plausible story is an aging population
6. Nuclear strike anywhere in the world 5%
7. a Continuing secularisation in the Middle-East 75%
b continuing secularisation in the West 85%
8.a Subsaharan Africa continues making little gdp /capita gains 70%.
b Population will continue to boom. Fertility will fall modestly 70%
c Immigration streams to the West from 3rd World countries, particularly Africa will increase 70%

9. Smoking/drinking will continue to fall worldwide, party drugs (MDMA etc) will become much more widespread 70% & 70%
10. No economic Recession comparable with the 2008 Great Recession 85%

Politics & Culture Wars
1. Revolution in Energy will increasingly make present discussion around climate change irrelevant

2. a Trump does not win reelection 70%
b conditional on Biden winning the primary, no crazy things (i.e. somebody dieing) Biden wins 85 %

3.a Conditional on it happening, Brexit impact on UK/England GDP per capita long-term will be negligible (< 2% of GDP counterfactually)

b conditional on (a), there will still be a significant fraction of people who honestly think that Brexit was a disaster. Most people
4. Higher education bubble in US will subside (echoing Vaniver, hard to make it more concrete, more know it when you see it)

5.a Traditional media will continue to fall into irrelevance, concentrate in a few major firms. Later into the decade I expect the decline to halt, traditional media taking a specialized role for particularly high authority/ high importance news. I model this as similar to Radio still having specialized uses.
b (some) Youtube& Instagram stars will attain widespread fame and recognition in a much broader context as the Millenial generation moves towards middle age. But I do not expect them to displace current celebrity elite based on tv&movie stars, musicians, sports heroes, etc.
c followup on b), the fragmentation of assigned status will continue in the West [but not necessarily globally, as globalization homogenizes cultures].
6. What will happen with the Culture Wars? This is very hard to predict. Will the apparent trend of increased polarisation continue, or will the opposite occur?
- Straight Woke memes will become less cool with the incoming generation of young people, mostly because whatever your parents do isn't cool. But the ideas of social justice will continue their expanse, particularly in the Middle east, South America, South-east Asia & India: social justice memes are fundamentally fit in a world of increasing wealth & communication. Another fundamental force is the continuing expanse of English: new media like youtube, continuing globalization etc have given renewed impetus all over the world to learning English. Of course these movements generate their own antitheses; it seems like historically many conflicts arise from a modernizing center versus a lagging periphery.
China & East Europe seem more like a wild card here: eastern Europe seems to have strong explicitly anti- Social justice political movements while China is a surveillance state with very strong hard-Nationalistic rightwing sentiments under the population.
- Trans-rights increasingly accepted
- Alt-Right ideas increasingly normalized (Likely) - It seems that moderate right wing parties are losing hearts and minds against more radical alternatives.
- Identity politics/ voting along identity continues in strength (Likely)
- increase popularity national unity/ decreased polarisation candidates in US. After Trump I expect a backlash towards more moderate, unifying candidates.
- Right-wing populist parties in Western Europe continue to grow, will remain mostly out of governments.
but at least one right-wing populist party will be in government in a Western European country that is not Italy

Tech
1.a More babies born with edits for medical reasons 85%
b more babies born with edits for non-medical reasons 70%
c babies born with explicitly IQ edits 60%
d CRISPR or CRISPR like techniques cure >5 genetic disease 70%
2. a Discovery cure for (1) large fraction of obesity (2) large fraction of heart disease (3) Male Pattern baldness (4) Dandruff 10/10/20/20

b Conditional on a) this cure is available on the market 30%
c conditional on a) this cure works by defeating some sort of germ/biological agent 20%/30%/80%/80%
3. Note: by mini-drone I mean a small drone that one would buy in the store, not the unmanned aerial vehicles and its siblings that the US military employs.
a) mini-Drone attacck will kill major Political Figure 85%
b) mini-Drone/drone bombs will be used in major terrorist attack killing many civilians 85%
c) conditional on a or b, massive fear around drone warfare
d) UAVs will become more and more dominant.
e) Something I am not sure about: will thee US military start phasing out fighter aircraft for automated vehicles or is this perhaps one of those jobs that is very hard to automate?
4. Crazy person kills AI researcher because of vaguely AI risk type concerns 80%
5. Top ranked Starcraft Broodwar player trounced by AI by 2025 (70%) by 2030 (85%)
6.a SpaceX sends that Japanese Billionaire around the moon 55%,
b conditional on a launch, it goes wrong 10%
c SpaceX will land unmanned probe on mars by 2030 85%
d SpaceX will land a human on Mars by 2030 60%
e SpaceX will become wildly successful and highly valuable with Starlink technology 60%

f Tesla will be the largest automotive company by market cap at least once 70% [this is the only prediction that I can actually bet on, but I do not own Tesla stocks... you decide what that means]
7. Self-driving cars will finally become a practical reality -?? very uncertain, I have very little knowledge about this, I see convincing arguments for both sides. Certainly it seems that self-driving cars in some capacity - perhaps trucks driving pre-determined routes- will become a reality, but I remain uncertain. I predict I will update strongly one way or another on learning more about this subject.
8. Exoplanet that is an almost copy of earth discovered (i.e. habitable zone, water, same size etc)- Likely too vague to give quantitative estimate.
9.a) An AI will compose a hit song without significant assistance. (80%)
b) AI-assistance in arts/creative professions such as writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, journalism), music, as well as in daily life will be widespread.

10. DeepFakes will be huge.
a) porn with DeepFakes will start seriously competing with real life performers
b) remix art with deepfakes; i.e. reshooting the (dissapointing) ending of popular tv dramas, completely redoing old films, etc etc.
c) value of videoevidence will be much less persuasive. This will have massive implications for court proceedings.

11. AI Autumn - the spectular developments we have seen recently with deep learning and related methods are unlikely to be equalled in the coming decades [just a regression to the mean argument here + there was somewhat of a compute overhang that is unlikely to be repeated] but the space of things to try seems quite large + the field is well-funded and attracting a lot of talent.

12. No Superintelligence by 2030; pretty clear. 95% Mostly a prior on complexity, reaction against hype etc.
13. a Satoshi Nakomoto (briefly) richest person in history 30%
14. >80% of cars on the road in US will be electric 80%
15. Working anti-aging intervention for mice 20% , working anti-aging for humans 10%, on the market 5%.
16.a VR entertainment will be the majority of the game market in terms of revenue - 70%
b VR entertainment will be a decided minority in terms of time spent playing. - 70%.
c VR porn will become a thing. Easy prediction here.
17. Military-grade lasers will evolve from mostly testing prototypes to usable weapons - somewhat likely
Rationalist

1. In general, Rationalist memes will become much more mainstream

a) Existential risk, in particular AI x-risk will be regularly mentioned by mainstream media- Likely
b) AI safety more generally will be a topic that commands at least 10% of the attention that global warming does - Likely

c) increased acceptance of cryonics & assisted suicide -Likely
d) HPMOR and the associated rationalist memeplex will be atleast well-known enough to need little explanation in high-brow circles.

22.a) AI Safety will be a respected academic discipline 90%

b) MIRI-style research will be a decided minority within this discipline 80%

c) MIRI will not continue their nondisclosure policy in the present form 70%

23. Effective Altruism mainstreamed significantly - 85%
Miscellaneous & Personal 1. I will become a parent 50 %
2. I change my specialization significantly 40% [It shocks me how high this is if I apply the outside view... generally applying outside view to oneself is distressing...]
3. I will die 1.28 %
4.a) Proof-assistants will be part of undergraduate math curriculum - not sure about this one; it is being done right now in an undergraduate program in London, and it seems to make sense. The undergrad math curriculum is already pretty full as is. Somewhat likely.
b) (Homotopy) Type theory will be offered as a regular module in good European Mathematics/Compsci Bachelor or Master's programs Likely

5. Programming will be offered as a serious stand-alone course at my high school. 65%
6. Significant developments in understanding agents based on Compositionality- somewhat likely

Is cardio enough for longevity benefits of exercise?

People report feeling better because of all kinds of reasons. This line of reasoning seems unlikely to convince a skeptic.

Let me throw out an alternate hypothesis, which is a little extreme but ought to be considered: doing sports is a form of health signalling. People signal their health and conscientiousness by sports. Let's call it the Health Causes Sports theory, as opposed to the Sports Causes Health theory. Notice that this neatly explains people feeling good after sports: they succesfully send a difficult-to-fake signal.

A problem with the Sport Causes Health theory is the weak evolutionary story. Why would expending energy and risking bodily harm for no concrete payoff be good for one's health? Many sports carry moderate health risks. Wouldn't it make more sense to not have health tied to activity?

The strongest argument is the Greasing the Gears - theory: by streneous activity people grease their bodily machinery. Too much is bad, but so is too little, and modern humans do too little of it. If this theory is right, it certainly doesn't seem to be any specific muscle [ as the precise sport doesn't seem to matter] but a generalized cardiovascular capacity.

It seems true that modern peoples are much more sedentary than in the past. On the other hand, the amount of activity that people display likely varies wildly over societies& time & place. The 'optimal level of activity' likely also varies with genetic background. If there really was a need to grease physical machinery one would think that the body would try to automatically modulate this, in the same way it has a thermostat for many important physical quantities.

The best argument for the Sport Causes Health theory is probably rats: exercising rats seems to increase their lifespan. There is a plausible story that this has something to do with mitochrondial capacity [I recommend de Grey's book Ending Aging and Nick Lane's 'Mitochrondia' for some possible theories]. Yet lots of things increase lifespan of rats, most famously calorie restriction. Here too, there is a plausible sounding mitochrondial story, as well as other stories. Yet the consensus is that the lifespan increase for humans using calorie restriction is relatively small, if not wholly insignificant [There was a recent post on SSC about this; my takeaway was that even if the effect exists it absolutely wasn't worth it]. Generally, only a tiny fraction of experiments with mice/rats replicate in humans [I've heard 10% being bandied around].

Most supercentenarians don't seem to have engaged in heavy sports, while top sportsmen & women do not exhibit exceptional lifespan increases over the general population. More general, the effect of iq on lifespan is much larger, suggesting underlying biological/genetic reasons dominate for lifespan.

Does this explain all health variance with regard to sports? I would say that's pushing it, yet I certainly would like to see this alternate hypothesis considered. I think there are some good arguments to be made for both theories (Sport Causes Health, Health Causes Sports). All in all, my best guess is that very moderate amount of activity is likely beneficial for health, but sports in excess of that is mostly health-signalling.

See also Hanson about signalling in team sports/competitions: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2019/04/champions-show-war-ability.html

Is cardio enough for longevity benefits of exercise?

Twin studies make my heart sing, so if you have a link I would be grateful!

Circulation and stress regulation are rather vague. There is more blood flowing, so suddenly your neurons are long-term better working? How is this consistent with (i) the blood-brain barrier and (ii) the general observation that cognition cannot be reliably be improved by interventions? Also, what is the evolutionary story?

The sleep quality seems anecdotally somewhat real. If you follow the links above otoh much of the research seems rather iffy.

In general, references would be appreciated.

Is cardio enough for longevity benefits of exercise?

I am incredibly skeptical of the supposed health benefits of exercise in general.

My alternate hypothesis is that healthy people exercise more because they are healthier.

Of course, there are some interventional studies but I am increasingly skeptical of the general competence of researchers in nutrition/health; my null hypothesis is simply that these studies are confounded/done badly/p-hacked/ etc etc.

One of the supposed benefits quoted in the link above is cognitive benefits. Although I can imagine some limited health benefits from exercise I am completely incredulous of cognitive benefits. What is a plausible mechanism of action where training your muscles has any effect on your brain, that is moreover evolutionarily sensible?

If anybody could provide strong unambigous evidence for these claims I would love to hear them.

Can we really prevent all warming for less than 10B$ with the mostly side-effect free geoengineering technique of Marine Cloud Brightening?

Less of this, please. From what Lanrian is citing Lomborg does not come close to outright lying. (there might be more in the link, I have not read anything but the comments.) Accusing somebody of literally lying is a very strong accusation and should only be done in the egregious cases for all the usual reasons.

You are clearly well-informed about this matter. Your earlier comment was helpful and updated me in various directions. You could make me update me even more by applying the Principle of Charity.

The Intentional Agency Experiment

Dear gworley,

Thank you for the link, it seems like an interesting result. The kind of proof that you'd like, purporting to show that a mathematical model is 'always' applicable to a real world situation, is surely nigh-impossible. If I try to summarise your main objection: the paper you linked to is a form of a 'partial' no go theorem for IRL; and you think it might be likely that there are very general No Go Theorems which would apply to any possible implementation of theoretical models of agency. This is of course possible, but I find it unlikely; in the real world humans are able to discern agency. No doubt there are many hidden assumptions and subtleties but I think it shouldn't stop us from trying to understand intention&agency in highly simplified situations.

In the model this is simply stated as given; we are trying to define intention; it might be that this definition does not accord to your intuitions about intention, but inside the model one cannot reject the conclusion. Of course, someone might come along and might come up with a more sophisticated model that has even more subtle distinctions. I look forward to such a model.

In danger of repeating myself, I cannot 'prove' that I can do what I can do. There is simply a model, which might be accurate in some respects and inaccurate in others; in the model one can do whatever one likes (following the rules of the model); applying it to the real world is trickier. As stated earlier there are many situations where the exact implementation is ambiguous or needs extra-theoretic assumptions. This is normal and occurs all over science. Galileo's results can be objected to in individual situations by referring to all kinds of contingencies like air resistance etc. Indeed, I have heard it said -but cannot confirm- that one Jesuit scholar refused to look through the telescope when Galileo founds the moons of Jupiter, objecting to possible smudges on the telescope. I think you will agree that Galileo's perspective was more productive then that of the Jesuit scholar, even though of course Galileo couldn't prove that his model was applicable [the fact that the moons weren't smudges on the telescope is one of those extra-theoretical assumptions].

It is clear that explications are somehow bouncing off, as (it seems) you are the second person to object in this manner. Perhaps the nomenclature 'experiment' was ill-begotten.

The Intentional Agency Experiment

Dear Vaniver, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You bring up some important points.

The Intentional Agency Experiment is an idealisation, a model that tries to capture what 'intention' is supposed to be. How to translate this to the real world is often ambiguous and sometimes difficult. Similar issues crop up all over applications of pure science&mathematics. 'Real' applications usually involve implicitly and explicitly many different theoretical frameworks and highly simplified models as well as practical knowledge, various mechanical tricks, approximation schemes, etc.

When I ask that R has a set of actions, this only makes sense within a certain framework. A rock does not have 'actions', and neither does a human within a suitably deterministic framework. So we have to be careful; the setup only works when we have a model of the world that is suitably coarse-grained and allows for actions & counterfactuals. Like causality, intention & agency seems to me intensely tied up with an incomplete and coarse-grained model of the world.

To clear any misunderstandings; if we have a physical object that at our level of coarse-graining may indeterministically evolve, for example a rock balancing on a mountain peak, we would not say it has possible actions. One could be under the impression that the actions that are considered are actually instantiated; but of course that is not what is meant. In the Intentional Agency Experiment is only asked to give an action given a counterfactual (hypothetical) world. If you'd like you can read 'potential action' everywhere where I write 'action'. Actions are defined when we have an agent that we can ask to consider hypothetical scenarios and outputs a certain 'potential action' given this counterfactual world.

We cannot ask a rock to consider hypothetical scenarios. Neither can we ask an ant to do so. Only a human or sophisticated robot can. Even a human or sophisticated robot will usually not consider just the 'clean' counterfactual but will also implicitly assume many other facts about the world. When we ask the to consider we don't want it to assume other facts about . So one should consider a world where the action is instantiated but an omnipotent being keeps from happening at the last possible moment.

In practice, it is frequently difficult to ask agents to consider hypothetical counterfactuals and impossible to have them consider 'clean' counterfactuals (where all else is held fixed). Nevertheless, just like in Economics we assume Ceteris Paribus, considering highly idealised models&situations often turns out to be a useful tool.

Moreover, we may try to approximate/instantiate the Intentional Agency Experiment in the real world. However, sometimes those approximations may not be the 'right' implementation. As mentioned, an ant cannot be asked to consider hypothetical scenarios directly. Yet, we may try to 'approximate' the piece of information by putting an obstacle in its way. If the ant tries and succeeds to overcome the obstacle the conclusion shouldn't be that 'it chose a different action'; rather the correct conclusion was that putting this obstacle in its way was not a sufficient implementation of the mathematical act of asking to consider .

Yes, in practice situations arise where the implementation of a model can be ambiguous, very hard to implement etc. These are exactly the problems engineers and experimental physicists deal with; and these are interesting and important problems. But it should not prevent us from constructing highly simplified models.