My 2018 Predictions

(Initial Version from Jan 1 — Scott finally posted his predictions on Feb 6, so here I am again on Feb 6th with updates, see lower.)

A hazy future means high uncertainty gets quantified!

Just to clarify what I’m doing here, I’m using my best guesses and knowledge to make predictions about a set of future events. This follows the urgings of Eliezer Yudkowsky, and the example of Scott over at SSC, who does this yearly — and it follows in the footsteps of my participation in the Good Judgement Project.

I’m picking these because they seem to be important things potentially happening in the coming year, not because I have specific domain knowledge. I’m happy to find and hear from people who are more accurate and have better judgement than myself, and can prove it with a public track record — and I know several — because I can learn from them. So If you don’t think I have any basis for these predictions, you may be right, but I am a #superforecaster with a track record. And I challenge those with more knowledge, or claims that they could make guesses as well as I can, to try it and see.

All that said, I’m starting with the things I don’t think Scott over at SSC will predict, then I’ll log my predictions on his list once it’s out. That prevents me from cherry picking easy things to predict, or focusing on ones I have more than normal insight into.

US Politics

Interestingly, these are all gonna be correlated in a way the scoring won’t account for. Still, for predictions, it’s put up or shut up.
(I’m waiting for Scott to list what 2018 Election categories he’s predicting. For now;)

Democrats take the senate: 45%
(The seats up for grabs are largely Democrat controlled — hard to make inroads.)

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.)

Republicans win House of Representatives special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district: 60%

Trump’s approval rating, based on the RCP average, will be over 40% / 45% at some point in 2018: 60% / 25%

Previous-year long-term predictions:

There will be a Republican primary challenger getting >10% of the primary vote in 2020 (conditional on Trump running) — 70%

The stock market will go down under President Trump (Conditional on him having a 4 year term, Inauguration-Inauguration) — 60%

New long-term predictions:

The retrospective consensus of economists about the 2017 tax bill will be;
…didn’t increase GDP growth more than 0.2%: 95%

…that, after accounting for growth, it increased the 10-year deficit
more than $1tr / $1.2tr / $1.5tr, respectively: 90% / 70% / 40%

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

Conditional on impeachment, the senate will convict: 20% (67% vote needed)


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”;

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 
15% — (Mid-December 2017) was the top.

I’m on the record already;
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;
Within Byun Hyun Woo’s Lifetime: 98% (He claims it won’t, here. Only this low because he might die in the next couple years.)

Scott’s Prediction Topics (His Numbers)

1. Donald Trump remains president at end of year: 98% (95%)
2. Democrats take control of the House in midterms: 55% (80%)
3. Democrats take control of the Senate in midterms: 45% (50%)
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.]
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.]
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.]
7. PredictIt shows Donald Trump having highest chance to be GOP nominee at end of year: 95% (95%)
9. Some sort of major immigration reform legislation gets passed: 80% (70%)
10. No major health-care reform legislation gets passed: 90% (95%)
11. No large-scale deportation of Dreamers: 95% (90%)
12. US government shuts down again sometime in 2018: 60% (50%)
13. Trump’s approval rating lower than 50% at end of year: 95% (90%)
14. …lower than 40%: 60% (50%)
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.]

16. Dow does not fall more than 10% from max at any point in 2018: 45% (50%)
17. Bitcoin is higher than $5,000 at end of year: 90% (95%)
18. Bitcoin is higher than $10,000 at end of year: 70% (80%)
19. Bitcoin is lower than $20,000 at end of year: 80% (70%)
20. Ethereum is lower than Bitcoin at end of year: 50% (95%)
21. Luna has a functioning product by end of year: N/A (90%) [I don’t know what this is.]
22. Falcon Heavy first launch not successful: N/A — Just saw this. (70%)
23. Falcon Heavy eventually launched successfully in 2018: N/A — Just saw this. (80%) 
24. SpaceX does not attempt its lunar tourism mission by end of year: 95% (95%) [??]
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%) [??]
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.]
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%)

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

{I don’t follow these.}

PERSONAL (Not Scott’s, but adapted):
47. I move by end of July: 95%
50. I go to Oxford as a visiting researcher: 65%
51. I do a postdoc at Oxford: 30%
53. I get at least one article published in a newspaper or decently large website (not Ribbonfarm or Kol Habirah): 20%
55. I weigh more than 160lb at year end: 50%
63. My paper with Scott G. goes on Arxiv/published: 90%
64. My paper with Abram/Osonde goes on Arxiv/published: 50%


Freedom of Propaganda

The first amendment to the United States constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and this has been extended quite a bit by the courts. For example, “freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country,” (Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, 148) and anonymity is protected as well (Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60). These critical rights have both positive and negative repercussions, one of which has been particularly salient in the past year; propaganda. The question I’d like to ask is a simple one; what rights do foreign governments have to intentionally seek to disrupt the internal affairs of the United States?

The obvious answer,of course, is none. Bluman, et al., v. Federal Election Commission reaffirmed this, saying “The Supreme Court has long held that the government (federal, state, local) may exclude foreign citizens from activities that are part of democratic self-government in the United States.” The question, however, is how this is operationally possible given the current landscape of speech and propaganda. Can the money from an untraceable “Super-PAC” be constrained to US funds alone, given the complex web of international financial ownership that exists? Can we really ensure that our political candidates and appointees are not under the influence of foreign intelligence agencies, given their right to privacy? Can we guarantee freedom of speech to Infowars, however blatantly false and obviously insane, while restricting true accounts from used as disinformation?

The US Constitution famously begins with a purpose; “ to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” These goals are praiseworthy, but no rights nor obligations emerge from them. The president swears to defend the constitution, but it seems clear that he cannot be impeached for failing to insure domestic tranquility, or for undermining the blessings of liberty. The first amendment clearly isn’t intended to allow armies of Russian trolls to masquerade as citizens on Twitter — but that intent seems hard to reconcile with the first amendment rights of anonymity.

The question we need to ask is how we can insure domestic tranquility while respecting the rights of our own citizens to anonymously and freely express themselves. I do not have an answer, and I’m deeply worried that the two are not compatible.