My 2019 Predictions

I am once again making a yearly set of public predictions which I will publicly score early next year, as I did last year and the year before (as well as in other formats and/or less publicly in various forums even earlier.) This is, essentially, a vanity project — predictions benefit greatly from frequent updating, discussion, consensus, and aggregation (especially if the latter two are managed carefully — and interesting and ongoing area of research.) It is helpful to me personally to reflect on my success and failure, and gain insight into my (lack of) accuracy and calibration, but that’s not a reason for anyone else to care.

At the same time, I’ve agreed with those who say it’s important to publicly signal the baseline willingness to make frequent, concrete, and publicly evaluated predictions. Not only do I take the predictions of those who fail to do this less seriously, I have publicly called out pundits, reporters, analysts and others who fail to do this, and will probably do so again in the future. If you talk about the future but don’t make your record clear, you’re doing a disservice to the public. This is doing my very small part to make publicly accountable predictions a norm.

The initial predictions are as-of 1–13–2019, but will (probably) be updated to include my estimates on SSC’s predictions, as well as the expected VOX Future Perfect predictions. Edit to add: As of 1/16, I am predicting on all of the Vox future perfect predictions. Their predictions are in {}

Now, on to the show.

Politics

It’s a lot easier to do these predictions in an election year, but I have a few easy-to-quantify things I will mention. Also, since Israeli elections are coming up (in April,) and I’m in Israel, I’m going to risk making a fool of myself and predict a few things on those.

Trump’s RCP average approval rating on 1/1/19 is above 30%/35%/40%/45%/50%, respectively: 95% / 85% / 50% / 40% / 5%.

Trump still president at end of year: 96% {90%} (Note: I was predicting this question before VFP, but they included it.)

VFP: No Democratic presidential candidate will become a clear frontrunner (Predictwise probability of nomination >50%) in the political prediction markets at any point in 2019: 75% {60%}

VFP: The US will not enter a recession: 65% {80%} (My scoring assumes we use NBER’s retrospective peak month. They usually delay announcing for about a year, so this likely can’t be scored until 2020.)

VFP: Congress will not authorize funding for a full-length border wall: 98% {95%} (“Full length” is cheating.)

Added Q: Congress will authorize funding for a border walls of at least $5.7bn: 15%

VFP: US homicides will decline: 75% {80%}

International:

VFP: The United Kingdom will leave the European Union: 65% {80%} (I think an extension past end of March is likely, and cancellation or extensions pushing past Jan 1, 2020 are possible.)

Added: Brexit will be delayed past March 29th (or cancelled): 51%

VFP: Narendra Modi will continue as Indian prime minister after the 2019 elections 70% {60%} (I’m not better informed than Dylan and Kelsey, but I have a stronger trust in polls + stronger prior that dislike of the opposition will translate into a win.)

VFP: Neither India nor China will enter a recession: 80% {70%} (Similar to Dylan’s reasoning, but stronger. But joint questions are annoying.)

Added: India will not enter a recession: 85%

Added: China will not enter a recession: 85%

Israel

Netanyahu is prime minister after the Israeli elections: 80%

Netanyahu’s party gets the most votes: 85%

Jewish home passes threshold / gets 6 seats: 60% / 35%

Arab parties (total) seats decline for 11: 70%. (Splitting is dumb, but seems inevitable.)

EA-Related:

VFP: Malaria deaths will decrease 75% {80%} (Strongly based on their guess — they know more than I do about this.)

VFP: No additional countries will adopt a universal basic income: 80% {90%} (There are lots of countries that might do something, and the idea is gaining traction, so I’m hedging.)

VFP: More animals will be killed for US human consumption in 2019 than in 2018: 75% {60%} (The trend is strong, the economy is fine. I’m confused that they have their probability so low.)

Tech:

VFP: Impossible Burger meat will be sold in at least one national grocery chain: 95% {95%}

VFP: Fully autonomous self-driving cars will not be commercially available as taxis or for sale: 70% {90%} (Even if they aren’t price competitive, there’s a huge cachet in being first to market. Someone wants to do it, even if the tech is still too expensive. But they say “real commercial product,” so they might hedge if it’s offered but far too expensive, etc.)

VFP: DeepMind will release an AlphaZero update, or new app, capable of beating humans and existing computer programs at a task in a new domain: 60% {50%} (AlphaGo was October 2015, Alphazero was Dec. 2017. I assume they have more projects that are in the works — unclear if they will release them.)

Environment:

VFP: Average world temperatures will increase relative to 2018: 65% {60%}

VFP: Global carbon emissions will increase: 80% {80%}

My earlier long-term predictions:

(2017) There will be a Republican primary challenger getting >10% of the primary vote in 2020 (conditional on Trump running) — 60% (was 70%. I’m thinking about total popular vote, and given the structure of primaries, this is a higher bar that I initially thought about. Still, there are a LOT of republicans who hate him, and many more public figures who would switch over if they weren’t scared of what happens when Trump wins.)

(2017) The stock market [Edit: S&P] will go down under President Trump (Conditional on him having a 4 year term, Inauguration-Inauguration) — 60%(no change, was 60%. But I’m affirming because which split congress usually means markets go up, I have greater concerns. I’m updating based partly on results so far, with markets up, and partly on my suspicions that the current gyrations will get worse, and that the current economic mismanagement really is a big problem.)

(2018) The retrospective consensus of economists about the 2017 tax bill will be;
…didn’t increase GDP growth more than 0.2%: 96% (was: 95%)
…that, after accounting for growth, it increased the 10-year deficit
more than $1tr / $1.2tr / $1.5tr, respectively: 93% / 80% / 45% (was: 90% / 70% / 40%. See recent article about how poorly it’s working out.)

(2018) The House will vote to impeach Trump before the end of his current term: 75% (was 65%) Note: 50% vote needed.

(2018) Conditional on impeachment, the senate will convict: 10% (was 20%) Note: 67% vote needed. (Most uncertainty is if he does something additionally crazy, crazy enough to prompt short term worries about safety/stability.)

Personal

Still living in Israel at end of year: 97%

I have (some) official academic affiliation: 60%.

I have an affiliation with: F-O/CC-C/Te-I/Other: 40% / 40% / 30% / 20%

My multi-Agent Goodhart paper is accepted into the special issue: 60%

I publish or submit pre-prints of at least 1/2/3 more papers: 90%/80%/60%.

My Google Scholar H-index hits 7 / 8 / 9: 65% / 35% / 5%

My actual (no-self cites, includes non-google sources) H-index hits 6 / 7 : 70% / 30%

2018 Predictions — Accuracy and Score

OK, it’s (slightly after) that time of year again, and I need to make my new predictions. But you can’t improve unless you figure out how you’ve been doing, so here’s my review of last year’s predictions. (I still need to put in my calibration numbers, and those aren’t looking great for me.)

Note: The first set are my own, the second (numbered) set are following Scott Alexander’s predictions. I have the outcome as a binary yes/no in bold preceding the question. I have removed many of my earlier comments, and added new ones in bold. Feel free to go back and make sure I’m not cherry picking to make myself look less stupid.

(I’m taking out the long-term predictions that I can’t yet grade.)

Brier Score: 0.1957. Ouch! (Brier Score w/o Crypto Qs: 0.1374 But listing this score is just me cheating to feel better.)

My calibration was fairly good, though the sample is noisy.
Key: Right / Wrong [Cheating, w/o Crypto] (Cumulative w/ 2017) — Percentage [Cheating, w/o Crypto] (Cumulative)

[50–60%): 4 (6) / 1 (4) — 80% (60%)
[60–70%): 3 (11) / 4 (7) — 43% (61%)
[70–80%):4 (10) / 0 (2) — 100% (83%)
[80–90%): 5 [3] (15) / 3 [1] (4) — 57% [75%] (79%)
[90–95%):4 (13) / 0 (0) — 100% (100%)
[95–99%):7 (18) / 2 [0] (2) — 78%[100%] (90%)
[99+%]: 0 (4) / 0 (0) — N/A (100%)

US Politics

No — Democrats take the senate: 45%
(The seats up for grabs are largely Democrat controlled — hard to make inroads.)

No — The Republicans will maintain control of the House of Representatives in 2018 elections: 45% 
(Last year I said 40% — this is what the prediction markets now say, but I’m updating. I’m skeptical that Trump’s unpopularity convinces the heartland to vote dem, or stay home. But this is a low confidence prediction, made early.)

No (Wrong)— Republicans win House of Representatives special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district: 60%

Yes/No — Trump’s approval rating, based on the RCP average, will be over 40% / 45% at some point in 2018: 60% / 25% (It got really close to 45%, though.)

Cryptocurrency

I SUCK AT THIS, as the past two years should make clear. (And if you think you can do better, why aren’t you rich? (Alfred, you don’t need to respond, I know.)) But I still think there’s a real chance that the bubbles pop — and even if they don’t, I expect the pace of growth to slow once the regular capital markets have put in their money.

Bitcoin Crashes — “loses more than 50% of peak value”;

Distribution — Hard to Score via Brier — Off-the cuff probability distribution: 
10% — BTC investment (not use) spreads until much of public holds at these high prices before crashing 
60% — not very soon, but w/in 2–3 years 
15% — Crash During 2018 
Yes — 15% — (Mid-December 2017) was the top.

I’m on the record already;
No, (No) — Conditional on the crash occurring? 1 year later, I’d predict bitcoin is smaller than at least 2 alternatives, and less than 25% of total cryptocoin market cap, with 80% confidence. (1 altcoin, 33%, 90% conf.)

Global Catastrophic Risks

AI Progress indicators –

AI wins a Real Time Strategy game (RTS — Starcraft, etc.) in full-mode against the best human players before end of;
No-2018–25%

(Other years removed.)

Scott’s Prediction Topics (His Numbers)

US: 
Yes — 1. Donald Trump remains president at end of year: 98% (95%)
Yes — 2. Democrats take control of the House in midterms: 55% (80%)
No— 3. Democrats take control of the Senate in midterms: 45% (50%)
No— 4. Mueller’s investigation gets cancelled (eg Trump fires him): 20% (50%) [I assume almost immediately being relaunched by appointing him an independent counsel or equivalent after firing doesn’t count. If it does, I probably agree with Scott.]
Correct— 5. Mueller does not indict Trump: 80% (70%) [I can’t see him indicting Trump. I think there will be a report with arguably indictable offenses, but even so it very well may come out in 2019.] ( I’m happy to have called what now seems inevitable in the comment.)
No — 6. PredictIt shows Bernie Sanders having highest chance to be Dem nominee at end of year: 60% (60%) [Biden and Warren are more viable choices, and Bernie is really old. But this is predicting the prediction, so I’m less certain about this than I am that he won’t be the nominee.] (Beto and Kamala Harris are on top. And given that Obama beat Hillary, I should have remembered that new people would show up. This was stupidly overconfident)
Yes — 7. PredictIt shows Donald Trump having highest chance to be GOP nominee at end of year: 95% (95%)
No— 9. Some sort of major immigration reform legislation gets passed: 80% (70%)
Correct— 10. No major health-care reform legislation gets passed: 90% (95%) (I predicted this right after the individual mandate was repealed at the end of 2017, it seems, so yeah.)
Correct- 11. No large-scale deportation of Dreamers: 95% (90%) (Not that they figured anything out, but it hasn’t been mass deportations.)
Correct — 12. US government shuts down again sometime in 2018: 60% (50%) (I was correct by a hair. )
Correct — 13. Trump’s approval rating lower than 50% at end of year: 95% (90%)
No. — 14. …lower than 40%: 60% (50%)
WAITING ON SCOTT — 15. GLAAD poll suggesting that LGBQ acceptance is down will mostly not be borne out by further research: 70% (80%) [This is WAY outside my wheelhouse, here.]

ECONOMICS AND TECHNOLOGY:
No (Correct) — 16. Dow does not fall more than 10% from max at any point in 2018: 45% (50%) (It did, twice!)
Wrong — 17. Bitcoin is higher than $5,000 at end of year: 90% (95%)
Wrong — 18. Bitcoin is higher than $10,000 at end of year: 70% (80%)
Right— 19. Bitcoin is lower than $20,000 at end of year: 80% (70%)
It was — 20. Ethereum is lower than Bitcoin at end of year: 50% (95%)
X — 21. Luna has a functioning product by end of year: N/A (90%) [I don’t know what this is.] (Still Don’t.)
X — 22. Falcon Heavy first launch not successful: N/A — Just saw this. (70%)
X — 23. Falcon Heavy eventually launched successfully in 2018: N/A — Just saw this. (80%) 
Correct — 24. SpaceX does not attempt its lunar tourism mission by end of year: 95% (95%) [??]
Correct — 25. Sci-Hub is still relatively easily accessible from within US at end of year (even typing in IP directly is relatively easy): 95% (95%) [??]
Correct — 26. Nothing particularly bad (beyond the level of an funny/weird news story) happens because of ability to edit videos this year: 80% (90%) [But I’m putting a major fake news controversy as bad. Unsure Scott agrees.]
Nope — 27. A member of the general public can ride-share a self-driving car without a human backup driver in at least one US city by the end of the year: 60% (80%)

CULTURE WARS:
Correct — 28. Reddit does not ban r/the_donald by the end of the year: 90% (90%)
Correct — 29. None of his enemies manage to find a good way to shut up/discredit Jordan Peterson: 70% (70%) [??]

COMMUNITIES:
{I don’t follow these.}

PERSONAL (Not Scott’s, but adapted):
Correct — 47. I move by end of July: 95%
Correct— 50. I go to Oxford as a visiting researcher: 65% (It was AMAZING.)
Correct (I didn’t)— 51. I do a postdoc at Oxford: 30%
Nope — 53. I get at least one article published in a newspaper or decently large website (not Ribbonfarm or Kol Habirah): 20% (But it was close — I submitted something that’s still in process.)
55. I weigh more than 160lb at year end: 50% (Close. And I don’t have a scale handy. Not that it affects the score, so…?)
Correct — 63. My paper with Scott G. goes on Arxiv/published: 90%
N/A- 64. My paper with Abram/Osonde goes on Arxiv/published: 50% (To explain, this was intended to be the multi-agent goodhart paper, which I did put a version of online, and is getting jounral reviewed, but it is not co-authored with them, so I’m taking a mulligan.)