THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Predictions For 2018

At the beginning of every year, I make predictions. At the end of every year, I score them. So here are a hundred more for 2018.

Some changes this year: I’ve eliminated a bunch of predictions about things that are very unlikely where I just plug in the same number each year, like “99% chance of no coup in the US”. I’ve tried to have almost everything this year be new and genuinely uncertain. I’ve also included some very personal predictions about friends and gossip that I’m keeping secret for now – I have them written down somewhere else and they’re for my own interest only.

My rule is that I have to make all of these without checking existing prediction markets – otherwise I wouldn’t be learning anything about my own abilities. I’m also not doing any research beyond what I already know, because otherwise this will take forever. I bet some of these are terribly misinformed, but that’s part of what I’m including in my calibration estimate. These were written a few days ago; a few already seem obsolete.

I’m keeping 50% predictions even though everyone keeps telling me they don’t matter. My only excuse is that I write everything down first and then decide what I think the likelihood is, and sometimes my best guess really is 50%.

US:
1. Donald Trump remains president at end of year: 95%
2. Democrats take control of the House in midterms: 80%
3. Democrats take control of the Senate in midterms: 50%
4. Mueller’s investigation gets cancelled (eg Trump fires him): 50%
5. Mueller does not indict Trump: 70%
6. PredictIt shows Bernie Sanders having highest chance to be Dem nominee at end of year: 60%
7. PredictIt shows Donald Trump having highest chance to be GOP nominee at end of year: 95%
9. Some sort of major immigration reform legislation gets passed: 70%
10. No major health-care reform legislation gets passed: 95%
11. No large-scale deportation of Dreamers: 90%
12. US government shuts down again sometime in 2018: 50%
13. Trump’s approval rating lower than 50% at end of year: 90%
14. …lower than 40%: 50%
15. GLAAD poll suggesting that LGBQ acceptance is down will mostly not be borne out by further research: 80%

ECONOMICS AND TECHNOLOGY:
16. Dow does not fall more than 10% from max at any point in 2018: 50%
17. Bitcoin is higher than $5,000 at end of year: 95%
18. Bitcoin is higher than $10,000 at end of year: 80%
19. Bitcoin is lower than $20,000 at end of year: 70%
20. Ethereum is lower than Bitcoin at end of year: 95%
21. Luna has a functioning product by end of year: 90%
22. Falcon Heavy first launch not successful: 70%
23. Falcon Heavy eventually launched successfully in 2018: 80%
24. SpaceX does not attempt its lunar tourism mission by end of year: 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%
26. Nothing particularly bad (beyond the level of an funny/weird news story) happens because of ability to edit videos this year: 90%
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: 80%

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

COMMUNITIES:
30. SSC gets more hits in 2018 than in 2017: 80%
31. SSC gets mentioned in the New York Times (by someone other than Ross Douthat): 60%
32. At least one post this year gets at least 100,000 hits: 70%
33. A 2019 SSC Survey gets posted by the end of the year: 90%
34. No co-bloggers make 3 or more SSC posts this year: 80%
35. Patreon income less than double current amount at end of year: 90%
36. A scientific paper based on an SSC post is accepted for publication in real journal by end of year: 60%
37. I do an adversarial collaboration with somebody interesting by the end of the year: 50%
38. I successfully do some general project to encourage and post more adversarial collaborations by other people: 70%
39. New SSC meetups system/database thing gets launched successfully: 60%
40. LesserWrong remains active and successful (average at least one halfway-decent post per day) at the end of the year: 50%
41. LesserWrong is declared official and merged with LessWrong.com: 80%
42. I make fewer than five posts on LessWrong (posts copied over from SSC don’t count): 70%
43. CFAR buys a venue this year: 50%
44. AI Impacts has at least three employees working half-time or more sometime this year: 50%
45. Rationalists get at least one more group house on Ward Street: 50%
46. No improvement in the status of reciprocity.io (either transfer to a new team or at least one new feature added): 70%

PERSONAL:
47. I fail at my New Years’ resolution to waste less time on the Internet throughout most of 2018: 80%
48. I fail at my other New Years’ resolution to try one biohacking project per month throughout 2018: 80%
49. I don’t attend the APA National Meeting: 80%
50. I don’t attend the New York Solstice: 80%
51. I travel outside the US in 2018: 90%
52. I get some sort of financial planning sorted out by end of year: 95%
53. I get at least one article published on a major site like Vox or New Statesman or something: 50%
54. I get a tax refund: 50%
55. I weigh more than 195 lb at year end: 60%
56. I complete the currently visible Duolingo course in Spanish: 90%
57. I don’t get around to editing Unsong (complete at least half the editing by my own estimate) this year: 95%
58. No new housemate for at least one month this year: 90%
59. I won’t [meditate at least one-third of days this year]: 90%
60. I won’t [do my exercise routine at least one third of days this year]: 80%
61. I still live in the same house at the end of 2018: 60%
62. I will not have bought a house by the end of 2018: 90%
63. Katja’s paper gets published: 90%
64. Some other paper of Katja’s gets published: 50%

SECRET: (mostly speculating on the personal lives of friends who read this blog; I don’t necessarily want them to know how successful I expect their financial and romantic endeavors to be)
65. [Secret prediction]: 80%
66. [Secret prediction]: 70%
67. [Secret prediction]: 70%
68. [Secret prediction]: 60%
69. [Secret prediction]: 70%
70. [Secret prediction]: 60%
71. [Secret prediction]: 50%
72. [Secret prediction]: 50%
73. [Secret prediction]: 50%
74. [Secret prediction]: 90%
75. [Secret prediction]: 90%
76. [Secret prediction]: 60%
77. [Secret prediction]: 70%
78. [Secret prediction]: 60%
79. [Secret prediction]: 50%
80. [Secret prediction]: 60%
81. [Secret prediction]: 80%
82. [Secret prediction]: 70%
83. [Secret prediction]: 50%
84. [Secret prediction]: 70%
85. [Secret prediction]: 70%
86. [Secret prediction]: 70%
87. [Secret prediction]: 60%
88. [Secret prediction]: 50%
89. [Secret prediction]: 50%
90. [Secret prediction]: 70%
91. [Secret prediction]: 90%
92. [Secret prediction]: 50%
93. [Secret prediction]: 90%
94. [Secret prediction]: 50%
95. [Secret prediction]: 60%
96. [Secret prediction]: 60%
97. [Secret prediction]: 60%
98. [Secret prediction]: 95%
99. [Secret prediction]: 70%
100. [Secret prediction]: 70%

Other properly formatted predictions for this year:
– Socratic Form Microscopy (2017 results, 2018 predictions)
– Anatoly Karlin (2017 results, 2018 predictions)
– Various people from the subreddit
– Very many people on Metaculus

[EDIT: List of predictions I’ve already been convinced are miscalibrated as of 3 AM 2/6/18:
– Bitcoin prices are already too high (they were higher when I wrote these predictions a few days ago).
– Stock market is more likely to have large fall (it was higher when I wrote these predictions a few days ago)
– Chance of Trump’s approval not breaking 50% probably closer to 95% than 90%.]

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302 Responses to Predictions For 2018

  1. shakeddown says:

    57. I don’t get around to editing Unsong (complete at least half the editing by my own estimate) this year: 95%

    Nooooooooo

    • PrincelyConduct says:

      I would say it’s perfect the way it is, but that’s status quo bias talking. Can’t wait to see Unsymphony in late 2019.

  2. johnjohn says:

    > Trump’s approval rating lower than 50% at end of year: 90%

    I’d put that one in the 98% bucket. Unless you think there’s a 10% chance that war breaks out in 2018

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I thought about this one a bit, but two recent presidents (W and Clinton) have seen jumps in their approval rating around that size, and although people are more polarized on Trump, I didn’t want to discount it too much.

      War or terror attacks are two likely ways his ratings could increase. And I feel like there’s also a world where the economy keeps improving a lot, there’s a popular bipartisan compromise on immigration that cements his reputation as a dealmaker (even though most likely it would be despite rather than because of him), and he sticks with the advisors he has now and learns to take their advice and basically mellows out, and just barely scrapes 50%.

      Talking about it now I feel like probably I should have said more like 95% anyway, but too late.

    • James Miller says:

      There is some evidence that GDP will grow at 5.4% in the first quarter. Continued 5%+ growth will likely give Trump an approval rating >50%.

      • Nornagest says:

        5.4% is very, very good, but I’d be astonished if it keeps up. That’s not a partisan thing; I generally think the administration’s influence on the economy is overrated, and I’d be close to equally astonished if anyone else was at the helm.

        The charts on just about everything lately are also making me a little squeamish. I’m not normally one for financial prophecies of doom, but the market crash we saw yesterday looks very much like a blow-off top to me, and real estate still looks like it’s on an unsustainable trajectory. Fundamentals still seem basically sound, but all it’d take is one piece of really bad news.

      • Ben J says:

        James,

        The Atlanta Fed GDP-Now measure is very unreliable this early in the quarter. It is based on partial data released over time, and only a low volume of low-quality indicators are available this early.

        It is not uncommon for GDP-Now to heavily overstate growth early in the estimation process:

        – the first estimate of the June Q 2017 was 4.3 and the BEA’s advance print turned out to be 2.6.

        – the first estimate of the March A 2017 was 3.4 and the BEA’s advance print turned out to be 0.7.

        This bias seems persistent too – in much more than half of the recent cases (I haven’t crunched it exactly) the GDP-Now initial estimates are above the advance print.

  3. Steve Sailer says:

    Thanks.

    How would one go about highlighting long-shot predictions that you don’t think are likely to come true in 2018 but you think people ought to consider?

    For example, take Angela Merkel’s “Camp of the Saints” decision in the late summer of 2015. As far as I can tell, nobody that I’ve heard of forecasted that a major European leader would open the door to a million Muslims in 2015, but it happened and likely set off the subsequent Brexit and Trump aftershocks as voters came to see what conventional Establishmentarianism could lead to.

    But it took 42 years for Raspail’s dystopian prediction to more or less come true.

    Or take Houellebecq’s 2015 dystopian novel “Submission.” What are the generalized predictions in that? That a Muslim political party gets a share of the government in a major European state? That men of the right (like Houellebecq’s Houellebecqian narrator) begin to convert to Islam under the new regime? This second prediction in “Submission” is so out there that the odds of it happening must be tiny. But it’s still a really interesting idea.

    • johnjohn says:

      > That men of the right (like Houellebecq’s Houellebecqian narrator) begin to convert to Islam under the new regime?

      https://news.sky.com/story/far-right-german-politician-quits-leadership-post-after-converting-to-islam-11221072

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am using only 50%, 60%, … 99% to make it easier to score. If you wanted, you could make predictions at 1% or 0.01%. You’d just have to find a more complicated scoring rule. There are plenty of people in the subreddit who would help you with that.

      • bobzymandias says:

        I wrote a python code which should calculate your r value for arbitrary probability assignments. I’ve put in Scott’s results for the last 4 years plus a few others linked to in the blog so you can see how to work it.

        If you’re perfectly calibrated you should average 0.5. More than that can only be due to luck (unless you cheat your calibration e.g. by choosing alot of very likely things, negating half of them, and putting them all in as 50% predictions). If you’re slightly lower than 0.5 then that could just be due to luck too.

        Doesn’t help for longer term predictions of course – I’d be interested in the maths of analysing someone’s predictions if they were made using a probability distribution over time of when they think an event will occur (if at all).

        I guess at any point in time you’d sum up the cumulative probability distributions of all your predictions and that’s how many of your predictions should have come true by now. Use that to get an r-value, integrate that calculation over all the time that’s passed since you made the predictions and divide by total time. Then you’d have an r-value which updated at the same rate as the temporal resolution of your predicted probability distribution.

        • Loris says:

          I think if you can trivially cheat a metric then it isn’t a good one.
          Is there a reason not to weight prediction scores by some function of their prediction probability such that 50% predictions are weighted at zero?
          (I didn’t work out what your code was doing.)

          • bobzymandias says:

            The code just calculates that if you are perfectly calibrated then how likely it is that you would get a worse calibration score just by luck – i.e. the standard definition of the r-value. (Note that if you’re perfectly calibrated it doesn’t mean that you will get exactly 4 out of 8 50% predictions correct, it just means that that is the expected value). A “worse calibration score” is just any result which is less likely than the result you got, given the perfect calibration assumption.

            So the code only rates your calibration level, not your predictive power. 50% predictions are useful for the former but useless for the latter.

            For predictive power you would need something like a Brier score which rewards you more if you predict with higher confidence levels and you’re correct and punishes you more if you’re wrong.

            In order for a Brier score to be meaningful you have to be comparing yourself to someone else who is answering the same questions, otherwise you can get a really good score just by only answering easy questions.

            The cheating issue is a good one but one I can’t see a way around it short of doing that. I guess as people are publishing their predictions it should be pretty obvious if they are cheating the system.

      • Federico Vaggi says:

        It’s actually pretty trivial to score: you can use the cross entropy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_entropy). This is what is used in machine learning problems for prediction.

        In practice, it’s a few lines to implement in Python, or you can find lots of existing high quality implementations: http://scikit-learn.org/stable/modules/generated/sklearn.metrics.log_loss.html

  4. James Green says:

    39. New SSC meetups system/database thing gets launched successfully: 60%

    I hope this happens. I have not the technical skills, but any who does could make this happen couldn’t they?

    • Error says:

      Technically. The social engineering problem of getting people to converge on it would be the hard part, IMO.

      But the way it was phrased suggests to me that there’s already a plan in the works.

  5. thirqual says:

    About 29), I would have put at least 90%, in light of his notoriety despite epic self-owns like this one

    link to his facebook

    He said worse on Twitter (“proof itself, of any sort, is impossible, without an axiom (as Godel proved). This Faith in God is prerequisite for all proof”) but deleted the post:

    r/ bad philosophy thread about

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Despite a multi-decade history of stuff like that to use as ammunition, nobody has managed to discredit him (in the social reputation sense) yet.

      I think I’m imagining something more like Milo, where he said lots of controversial things that an observer might have expected to discredit him, but he didn’t actually face social consequences until someone found his stuff on pedophilia, which managed to turn his own supporters against him.

    • Forge the Sky says:

      Yeah, that’s not…exactly the sort of thing that rouses the masses against someone.

      Even the more sophisticated thinkers that might see the issues with statements like that, if they’re inclined to be charitable, could easily forgive them with ‘he’s using ‘God’ metaphorically’ (and to a degree he is); or ‘his thinking has evolved on this in the last few years’ (which is also true, though perhaps not sufficiently for the most rigorous of analysis).

      The things that protect him are mostly the sense that people get from him that a) he’s on their side; b) he’s grappling with ideas seriously; and c) he cares about people. So long as none of those impressions are disrupted, he’s going to be difficult to discredit.

      All it takes is one stupid statement, of course, which leads me to basically agree with Scott’s 70%. Peterson has said himself that he’s very aware of how precarious his circumstance is and how careful that makes him, but with how many of his words are being recorded it’s not too improbable that something bites him.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        In the recent Joe Rogan interview he mentioned the Ashkenazim IQ and the Cathy Newman interview was about the reasons behind the male-female wage gap. Some interviewer just has to combine the two and conduct an interview about race. Then it’ll be pretty difficult to be both honest and not fuck up.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Has any hostile interviewer ever done anything like that?
          eg, exhibited belief that the subject believes things?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            At a Q&A somebody (who identified as Jewish) tried to ask him about “excessive Jewish influence in politics” or something and he refused to talk about it.

            Really, I think that’s the best solution for Peterson when asked about Horrible Banned Discourse and the like: correctly state the subject is outside his area of expertise. He already has his own hills to die on so there’s no sense going off and dying on somebody else’s.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            But truly that’s just consistent with his views? He's against identity politics, and somebody here has already quoted him saying that he's also against White identity politics (criticizing the Charlottesville marchers), so he's not going to support Gentile identity politics either. Jewish privilege can't be any more legitimate than White privilege.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I don’t just mean interviewer of Peterson. I mean hostile interviewer of anyone, ever.

            There are lots of people with reputations as “gotcha” interviewers, but do any of them put any work into understanding their targets?

        • Forge the Sky says:

          If he discussed race-realist adjacent thinking in the same manner he discussed the wage gap, I don’t see that coming back to bite him either. So long as he kept it unemotional and sort of ‘here are the facts, and we need to find an ethical way to accommodate them.’ The sort of people that horrifies are the sort of people that already hate him for his view on gender pronouns and so on.

          Very loud, angry opposition is just par for the course for the good professor at this point. Discrediting him would, as Scott points out above, require him doing something his supporters find distasteful.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Talking about sex or gender in that regard is far less taboo than talking about race or ethnicity in that regard. Some portion of his fanbase – I would imagine the bulk of it – is liking the fact that there’s a guy they can follow without planting their flag in the “probably a racist” camp. And there’s a lot of people who are neutral or just don’t care who are currently shrugging who would change their minds if he started talking horrible banned discourse.

            Right now in Canada, Peterson is unpopular with campus lefty activists, but I’ve heard people who I would classify as left-wingers, to the left of myself sometimes, say they think he has some points. He’s not really that unpopular outside of campuses; probably a lot of Canadians who fall fully into the mainstream think he’s right about this or that. I don’t think either would be the case if he was promoting (looks at what euphemisms I’ve used thus far) aychbeedee.

          • Randy M says:

            Can one acknowledge a potential likelihood of the topic without being considered a promoter of it?

            If he were to say “Given our evolutionary history, race may well have some explanatory role in outcomes we care about, but what I’m concerned with is see individuals of all types fulfill their potential” does that move him into the deplorable basket?

          • dndnrsn says:

            That topic? Absolutely. I cannot think of any examples of anyone pulling that off; biological doctrines of race have been associated with some pretty bad stuff, to say the least. It isn’t without reason that most people match anyone talking about it to someone who must be promoting bad stuff.

          • Deiseach says:

            If he were to say “Given our evolutionary history, race may well have some explanatory role in outcomes we care about, but what I’m concerned with is see individuals of all types fulfill their potential” does that move him into the deplorable basket?

            Absolutely. All you need to do is have someone with a gaggle of Twitter followers or some kind of social media platform chop off the first half of that – “Given our evolutionary history, race may well have some explanatory role in outcomes we care about” – and throw away the disclaimer, and then go off on a tirade about “See? He’s a Fascist Nazi Racist who is misusing science to try and prove that certain races are inferior and bad outcomes are their own fault and nothing to do with systemic racism baked into society and the legacy of slavery!”

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I studied set theory and mathematical logic, so maybe I should feel the pain, but I still fail to see why what Jordan Peterson has to say would be discredited by the fact that he’s not a mathematical/technical guy and occasionally (or even regularly) slips up in that area.

  6. melboiko says:

    I’ve never heard of the “biohacking” subculture (a quick websearching led me to someone advocating “natural living” and buying “unprocessed water”—kind of a letdown), but confession time: I admit that I am excited at, rather than afraid of, the prospect of guineapig-ing my own body-brain with the process of gender transition. When I think “I wonder what will change” I smile, rather than shudder.

    This is not to say that’s my main motivation—I wouldn’t be undergoing all the risks, financial costs, and social repercussions just for the sake of intellectual curiosity—but I can’t deny that the intellectual curiosity exists.

    Relatedly, I feel woefully underused as a guinea pig. Every study I read about transgender identity goes like “genetics certainly are involved, but more data is needed and…” “fœtal hormonal exposure plays a role, but more data…” “there are brain differences, but it’s unclear whether these are pre- or post-hormone therapy, so more data…” “Blanchardian correlations don’t pan out statistically, but still, more data…” “digit ratio may or may not be related, so, data…” and I keep thinking, hey, I’m data. Is there any way I can get measured? This is like, last chance to run some IQ tests, personality tests, MRIs and whatnot before reversing sex hormones; it feels like a wasted opportunity.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m measuring you!

      (if you took the survey, that is. And if so, thanks!)

      • melboiko says:

        And thank you for that—last year’s survey discovery that transgenderism is associated with blindness to the rotating face illusion (which I share) actually gave me some impetus in shaking off denial. I know enough statistics to realize how silly and illogical is this (and of course I had a lot more stuff to ponder after literal decades of active questioning); but sometimes a bit of kaballah can help in seeing things from another angle (the angle in this case being “what if transgender feelings maybe aren’t about ‘a woman’s soul trapped in a man’s body’ but instead some sort of weird bio/neuro/cognitive configuration?”)

    • Murphy says:

      Unfortunately while they have observational data it’s hard to collect some of the sort of data that would answer some of those questions conclusively. After all, you can’t ethically randomly assign random members of the population to hormone therapy.

      You’re data but you’re self selected data.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Well, conceivably you could get some volunteers to randomly either go ahead and transition (maybe with the carrot of having it paid for, if that’s ethical?) or wait another decade. There probably wouldn’t be that many, though.

    • Murphy says:

      Re: biohacking.

      There seems to be a couple of quite different groups with the same label attached.

      The one I’m most familiar with as biohackers are basically the genetic engineering equivalent of where personal computing was when Steve Wozniak and co were soldering in a garage. I know a couple of such biohacker labs which have got certified and have done a number of projects engineering organisms on a shoestring budget using second hand and ad-hoc lab equipment. Many in this community are quite smart, capable and sensible and it tends to attract biology/genetics postgrads.

      The other group seems to be people who really really really want to be cyborgs and the projects seem to tend to involve jamming computer equipment under their skin, often unwisely.

  7. Pablo Stafforini says:

    Ethereum is lower than Bitcoin at end of year: 95%

    As measured by market cap or price per coin? (The latter is much more likely than the former, but the former seems less likely than 95%.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Second one.

      • tmk says:

        Market cap would be more interesting. Price per coin compared to other coins is largely meaningless.

        • Brad says:

          One problem with market cap is that no one knows how many bitcoins are irrevocably lost.

        • b_jonas says:

          Price per coin compared to a thousand dollars is also meaningless. So was comparing the price of petrol to round numbers (200, 250, 300, then 400) of HUF per liter that we’ve seen in the news a decade ago. But such comparisons are still useful in a similar way that Schelling points are useful.

  8. tentor says:

    At least post a hash of your secret predictions so you can proof they were not made after the fact.

    (Also you still haven’t adressed the fact that your prediction about Merkel being reelected in 2017 was technically wrong)

    • Placid Platypus says:

      I don’t think he plans to reveal the secret predictions after the fact either, so posting a hash wouldn’t help much. Which raises the question why he’s bothering to post them at all I guess.

      • Error says:

        Now I’m trying to figure out whether there’s a way he can demonstrate that a prediction was correct without revealing what the prediction was.

        • Ben Thompson says:

          If he doesn’t reveal what the prediction was, then why will you care?

          If he could prove that one (or several) of his secret 90% predictions came true about events the prediction markets had pegged as highly unlikely, now that would be something.

  9. Philosophisticat says:

    Currently, bitcoin is at ~6.7k. Using the absolutely most conservative numbers consistent with what scott says here.

    30% chance of bitcoin at 20k.

    50% chance of bitcoin at 10k.

    15% chance of bitcoin at 5k.

    5% chance of bitcoin at 0.

    This gives bitcoin an expected value for Scott of at least 11750 dollars. And this is very much a low end estimate-it assumes Scott believes it is literally impossible for bitcoin to have any value above 20k, that if bitcoin is anywhere between 10 and 20k it is has to be at 10k, etc. Currently, bitcoin is at ~6.6k. This is a 78% expected return at minimum, more realistically over 100% expected return. The expected return from conventional investing in index funds is something like 7-10%. Given Scott’s recent reflection on the rationality community’s mistakes regarding cryptocurrency, I expect Scott and anyone who trusts his judgment is putting all their savings into bitcoin.

    Tremendous failure of the efficient markets hypothesis ongoing, apparently.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree you probably have found an error in what I’m talking about – although to be fair, when I wrote these predictions a few days ago, Bitcoin was closer to 10K and so if I had predicted today’s value you would have told me I should concentrate all my efforts into shorting Bitcoin.

      But even if you’re right, “putting all their savings into Bitcoin”? Surely they should pursue a diversified strategy including some crypto and some stuff that hedges against crypto.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I was ignoring the diminishing marginal utility of money, the value of the feeling of security, and other things that make real life investing about more than expected return. You’d still end up massively crypto-centric if you took that into account, especially if you’re a good utilitarian/effective altruist, since that extra cash is going to bednets which don’t have substantially diminishing marginal utility at the scale relevant to your donation.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        Do you actually own bitcoin / plan to buy bitcoin, or do you implicitly believe the EV of buying bitcoin is close enough to 0 to not be worth it for you?

      • Chalid says:

        Even when it was $10k, there’s no way an asset undergoing regular 10% daily moves has just a 5% chance of being down 50% in a year.

    • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

      I was about to write something in the same vein: The only proper way to test financial predictions is to put actual, significant money on them. I’ve got a feeling those percentages would shrink a little bit in that case.

      • melboiko says:

        I wonder how would prediction percentages change—everyone’s, not just Scott’s—if they were all backed by money in the form of bets.

        • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

          From my own limited experience, in the most amazing way. You can’t rhetoric your way out of a losing trade.

          • beleester says:

            However, it would also mean your predictions are skewed by loss aversion and diminishing marginal utility of money.

            You’re not going to bet your life savings on a 60% chance, because losing your life savings is a lot more significant than doubling your life savings.

          • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

            In a nice coincidence, professional traders (including the profitable ones) make the right call about 60% of the time. The bias you’ve mentioned is counteracted by proper risk management and position sizing (ie not betting your life savings), otherwise nobody would make any money ever.

            Having skin in the game is one of the necessary prerequisites if you want to give your financial predictions any sort of credibility.

          • yodelyak says:

            I don’t know how I could persuade you of this, besides pointing and hoping you work it out on your own (assuming I’m right), but I think if we couldn’t use rhetoric at all, that would be bad for coordination.

            I guess the way to point at this is to say, “If we ever all became sincerely convinced rhetoric could have no impact on our goals or expectations, then we’d be immediately outflanked in terms of coordination, which because most of the really bad stuff is the result of coordination problems, would be bad.”

    • akarlin says:

      I sold my modest amount of BTC at $11k. Based on its historical pattern of surges and crashes, I expect it to be around $4k in about 1 years’ time (I predicted this on Jan 1, when it was at $14k), at which point I will start buying it up again – and will invest much more in it, this time round.

      • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

        If you’re confident in your prediction, why not short it?

        • PrincelyConduct says:

          Short options are a lot more risky than long options; if it shoots up unexpectedly, a lot of money could be lost.

          • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

            I’m aware of that. But if you’re confident in a 4k prediction and keep enough maintenance margin to account for the inevitable bumps on the way down, that gives you a massive margin of safety for screwups (currently about 3.2k).

        • akarlin says:

          1. I am not aware of any convenient shorting options for BTC.
          2. Would have done it at $20k; not interested (confident enough) at $7k.
          3. I am reasonably sure that BTC will be undervalued at <$4k, hence will be happy to invest in it at that price. If OTOH it stays at around $10k indefinitely, then most likely I won't make any further forays into it.

        • Walter says:

          How would you short bitcoin?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
            In the Brave New World of 2018, you can short Bitcoin, but you can’t short Pork Bellies.

      • pontifex says:

        I think bitcoin has been hyped beyond what its real value is. Ironically, as Bitcoin’s volume has grown, the number of places accepting it has dropped.

        However, once the whole Tether scandal has blown over (or been resolved one way or another), I’ll probably buy some Monero. It seems more useful than Bitcoin, since it’s actually anonymous.

        My prediction:
        25% chance bitcoin between 0 and 4,000 by the end of the year
        50% chance bitcoin between 4,000 and 10,000 by the end of the year.
        25% chance bitcoin above 10,000 by the end of the year

        • AISec says:

          Problem is, as economist Alex Lipton likes to say: Bitcoin has no [inherent] value, so it can have any price. Hence his and Sandy Pentland’s Tradecoin project.

    • Pablo Stafforini says:

      Given Scott’s recent reflection on the rationality community’s mistakes regarding cryptocurrency

      Where can this reflection be found?

      • Iain says:

        Here (but see also the comments here, particularly this comment.)

        • pontifex says:

          Thanks, those are really interesting discussions.

          I think the advice to buy bitcoin when it was super-cheap was on balance good advice. More of us probably didn’t take it because of the usual difficulty translating thoughts into actions. It’s especially scary that Moldbug, of all people, was one of the ones to suggest it…

          It’s less clear to me that buying it in 2017, when it was $1000/coin or so, was really a rational thing to do. The risk was just much higher, for an asset that nobody has come up with a convincing valuation metric for. It’s very tempting to look back with 20/20 hindsight. But actually, we may soon find that much of bitcoin’s rise was the result of market manipulation by the Tether company (if recent headlines are to be believed…)

          Another big issue is that if you weren’t a true believer in bitcoin, it would have been pretty hard to follow it from $100/coin (or whatever) to $20,000/coin without selling somewhere along the way.

        • Walter says:

          I am super proud. If you look back at the LW post you will see me being like “Ok, makes sense”, and then I bought Bitcoin pretty heavy. I didn’t make the full “Now I retire” money, but I made several years salary.

    • A1987dM says:

      I expect Scott and anyone who trusts his judgment is putting all their savings into bitcoin.

      [emphasis added]

      I agree with the general thrust of your comment, but “all”? seriously? The utility of money is not linear; you wouldn’t want a 5% chance of going broke even if it came with a 30% chance of tripling your savings.

      • A1987dM says:

        (OTOH, assuming logarithmic utility of money and your probability, the optimal amount of money to spend on Bitcoin is 85.5% of your net worth and you only actually get negative expected utility if you spend more than 99.994% of your net worth in Bitcoin, so your claim is much slighter an exaggeration than it initially sounded like to me.)

  10. Tatu Ahponen says:

    I’m probably not the only one instinctively wondering whether the Bitcoin predictions would have been different, say, a month ago, or two months ago.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      We need an SSC Economic Optimism Index.

    • dotctor says:

      These crypto predictions should probably be done on a monthly (nay daily! basis) 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      This stuff is really, really difficult to predict. When Bitcoin was at 20K, I thought it was in an unsustainable bubble but also that it probably had enough juice in it for one more leg up. I wasn’t convinced otherwise until it had spent a few days bleeding money without any signs of recovery, although I was at least convinced before the first big crash. Even after that crash, though, for a long time it looked to me like it might be in one of the 30-50% corrections that Bitcoin liked to do every few months before making higher highs; I wasn’t convinced we were in a long-term bear market until it fell below 10K and stayed there.

      The last crypto bear market, in 2013, lasted two years. A week ago I would have said the next one would probably be shorter (maybe six months, to pull a number out of a hat), but I hadn’t considered that it might coincide with a broader economic downturn, which tend to hit speculative assets hardest. After yesterday’s stock bloodbath, who knows?

  11. Toby Bartels says:

    I'm keeping 50% predictions even though everyone keeps telling me they don't matter. My only excuse is that I write everything down first and then decide what I think the likelihood is, and sometimes my best guess really is 50%.

    That's what you have to do then, of course.

    But can you offer any insight on how the 50% predictions get phrased the way that they do, rather than the reverse? If that's systematic rather than haphazard, then the 50% calibration does have meaning.

    • onyomi says:

      I feel like it has meaning for the purposes of calibration, regardless, just not for rating your general prediction ability. And it seems like updating priors on particular issues is more useful than just tracking a generalized prediction ability.

      Example, if you had asked me, at the beginning of 2012, my probability for Obama winning reelection, I probably would have said about 50-50. Since then, I’ve updated my priors to include a stronger assumption of incumbent victory.

      • tmk says:

        Yes, I think it’s just the overall hitrate of 50% predictions that is meaningless. Individual 50% predictions can still be interesting.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        I don't want to repeat this discussion, which we had in the 2017 results thread.

        But one thing that came out of that discussion was that a lot of people who doubted the meaningfulness of the 50% calibration (like me) did believe that it would be meaningful of there was a systematic way of picking between the two 50% statements (the statement made and its negation).

        So for SSC as a whole, it would be good if Scott would explain how he decides on the phrasing, and now is the time when he might remember.

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t believe that the result of 50% predictions is meaningless. In particular, I don’t believe that making a prediction of X with a 50% confidence is the same as making a prediction of ~X with a 50% confidence. They seem meaningless individually, but do provide information when you combine them.

          If you predict X and predict X in a second instance, and the two X’s are correlated, you’ll’ get either correct-correct or incorrect-incorrect. If you predict X in one instance and ~X in a second instance, you’ll get correct-incorrect or incorrect-correct. If you stated that your prediction has a 50% confidence, the latter means you got 50% right (matching your confidence) and the former means you got 100% or 0% right. (The former averages to 50% between the scenarios, but that isn’t the same.)

    • matthewravery says:

      Making predictions about things you think have a 50% chance of happening is about whether you understand your own uncertainty, not about whether you’re good at predicting. It’s a valuable and critical part of this exercise. If you’re right half the time about thing you think have a 50% chance of happening, then you have a very good understand of what things you’re uncertain about. If you’re right 70% of the time about things you think have a 50% chance of happening, then you’re underestimating your ability to predict things in this range, which is an important thing to discover. If you’re right 30% of the time about things you think have a 50% chance of happening, you’re overestimating your ability to predict these things.

      You can learn about whether there are certain topics or issues that you’ve over- or under-confident about by calibrating in this way.

      The fact that you can make an equivalent statement about the converse (if you think P(X) = .5, then it’s equivalent to say P(!X) = .5) is irrelevant if we assume that X isn’t phrased in a way that biases Scott one way or the other, though I don’t know how we’d go about testing that.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        if we assume that X isn’t phrased in a way that biases Scott one way or the other

        On the contrary, if it is biased one way or the other, then we know what overconfidence or underconfidence at the 50% level means, so I really hope that Scott will explain how the predictions get phrased one way rather than the other while he still remembers making them.

        • matthewravery says:

          You may be able to learn something at the aggregate level but not at the individual question-level. Scott has some pre-identified categories for his predictions, but there’s probably not enough predictions at 50% confidence in any one bin to draw a useful conclusion.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I would think that the “50%” prediction actually means “(50 + epsilon)%”, where epsilon is a very small number. That is, Scott thinks that the way he phrased it is more likely than not, but he has so little confidence in that fact that he can’t be significantly more certain than a coin flip.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        That would be a nice answer. In that case, Fung that he rounds to the nearest 10%, the expected average epsilon is about 2.5, and the 50% predictions should be graded as if they were 52.5% predictions.

    • Tenacious D says:

      For readers of SSC, Scott’s 50% predictions (at least the quantitative ones) could be treated as his over-under line. For example, I’d take the over on these three:

      16. Dow does not fall more than 10% from max at any point in 2018: 50%
      44. AI Impacts has at least three employees working half-time or more sometime this year: 50%
      53. I get at least one article published on a major site like Vox or New Statesman or something: 50%

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Yeah, some of the 50% predictions seem designed to be 50%, contra Scott's statement about them that I quoted. That's definitely legitimate, but it calls for a different method of analysis.

  12. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    > Mueller does not indict Trump: 70%

    Actually that’s a near-certainty, and it has nothing to do with Trump’s innocence or guilt. Mueller could discover that Trump sold all the national security secrets of the United States to the Russian government in exchange for a sweet pile of cash, and he still wouldn’t indict Trump. That’s because the DOJ has long held that it does not have the constitutional authority to indict a sitting President. So if Mueller finds that Trump committed crimes, the procedure would be to inform Congress about it so they could begin impeachment proceedings. (If he’s impeached and removed from office, then afterwards he could be indicted.)

    So you might want to change #5 to “Mueller does not release a report accusing Trump of crimes.” Because as it currently stands people could bet against you with those odds and easily win.

    • Matt M says:

      That’s because the DOJ has long held that it does not have the constitutional authority to indict a sitting President.

      I find it unbelievable that people keep saying, and believing this.

      One could also say “FBI precedent is that you don’t take paid opposition research as evidence for a FISA warrant to spy on a Presidential candidate” I guess.

      Practically all of society is saying that Trump is a new and unique evil and only Mueller can stop him. Precedent is irrelevant here. We’re talking about stopping Hitler, don’t you know!

      • John Schilling says:

        “Practically all of society” is a hyperbolic overstatement there, and the segment of society that does that sort of thing has approximately zero overlap with the segment of society that seeks a career in the upper ranks of civil service or law enforcement.

        And no, there isn’t a meaningful precedent about opposition research being an invalid basis for a warrant.

        • cassander says:

          Am I reading you wrong? Because I know lots of people seeking those sorts of careers that have said that Trump is a new and unique evil.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s a difference between people seeking those sorts of careers from the bottom and those at the top. Even Sir Humphrey was a naively idealistic undergrad, I would wager.

            Lacking twenty years in the civil service, Donald Trump is uniquely evil and must be stopped by any means necessary. With twenty years in the civil service, Donald Trump is uniquely disruptive, but so are coups and there are well established tools for containment.

            I suppose I did misspeak with “seeks a career in the upper ranks of the civil office”; there’s lots of people who seek that career with no real chance of getting it, and lots more who will be different people by the time they do.

          • cassander says:

            The people I know aren’t undergrads, they’re double digit GS. that’s not the top, by any means. It’s not even close to the top, but it’s on the way, and well past old enough that they ought to know better.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I suspect the “Trump is a new and unique evil” are the meaty middle of the bureaucratic class. AKA, the ones who actually execute the meaningful day-to-day activities of the state.

            The people at the very bottom of the pyramid – your mail carriers, your E3 military, your DMV clerks, couldn’t give a shit. They’re so far down the pecking order that politics doesn’t affect them.

            The people at the top, your SES (or even higher) are senior and hopefully cynical enough to realize that this is all a scam. One big club – and we ain’t in it. They know how the system works and they don’t fall for talk radio or cable news hysteria. They’ve already been through Reagan and Bush and Clinton and another Bush and Obama and seen very little meaningful change. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, and they won’t be fooled again.

            But it’s that big middle chunk who are freaking out and creating ALTERNATIVE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK RESISTANCE TWITTER accounts. There’s a whole lot of these people, and they are the ones with direct power to fuck up your life. They are the EPA bureaucrats who direct their agents to come check out whether or not your property has suddenly become a protected wetland. They are the supervisors at child services who decide that your Make America Great Again hat makes you an unfit parent and your kids are going to become foster children. They’re the senior NCOs and junior officers who can, off the record, suggest that the rules of engagement don’t apply on this mission – and the police chiefs who decide which “anonymous tips” warrant a midnight SWAT team and which are unreliable and best ignored.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        I’m not talking about “precedent”, I am talking about the legal opinion of the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice believes that it does not have the authority to indict a sitting President. Robert Mueller is not going to simply disregard the legal opinion of the Department he works for and indict Trump, unless the Office of Legal Counsel issues a new legal opinion on the matter.

        And there is no precedent, rule, or legal opinion that opposition research cannot be used as evidence in a warrant application. But of course, an investigator should take into account the bias of source the when evaluating the reliability of a piece of information. And indeed, the FBI made clear in its warrant application that Christopher Steele’s information was part of opposition research against Trump, and Christopher Steel’s information was not the sole basis for the warrant request, it was just one of the items.

        • Matt M says:

          Robert Mueller is not going to simply disregard the legal opinion of the Department he works for and indict Trump

          Well, that’s just like, your opinion, man.

          To be clear, I think an indictment is unlikely and I think this is part of the reason, but the people who are acting like this makes it a 100% certainty he will not are, in my opinion, not seeing the full picture.

          Everything is unprecedented… until it happens.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            I am again not arguing on the basis of what is or is not “unprecedented”. I am arguing on the basis of the procedures of the Department of Justice. As a special counsel, Mueller has a degree of independence from the normal chain of command at the DOJ, but he still answers to Rod Rosenstein. He’s not just a free spirit who can do whatever he wants. In any case, I’m not saying it’s a 100% certainty that Trump won’t be indicted, just that it’s very unlikely.

            By the way, let me ask you three questions to get a sense of your view of things:

            1. What is the probability that Mueller will release a report accusing Trump of crimes?
            2. Contingent on 1, what is the probability that Trump is actually guilty of the crimes Mueller accuses him of?
            3. Contingent on 1, what is the probability that Trump will not be indicted?

            My answers are 90%, 95%, and 99%. (But I’m not well-calibrated, so all three would need to be adjusted downward to get an adequate gauge of my beliefs.)

          • Matt M says:

            1. What is the probability that Mueller will release a report accusing Trump of crimes?
            2. Contingent on 1, what is the probability that Trump is actually guilty of the crimes Mueller accuses him of?
            3. Contingent on 1, what is the probability that Trump will not be indicted?

            Haven’t thought about this in detail, and haven’t been following the story in detail either, but I’ll take a crack at it.

            1. <50%
            2. 90%*
            3. 50%

            My major caveat here is that I think the likely scenario is that Mueller will file a report accusing Trump of a whole lot of bad-seeming stuff (i.e. "collusion with russia") that are not actually crimes. I think he won't accuse of an actual crime unless he has really really really good evidence. And I think his decision to indict or not will be entirely contingent upon his belief in the evidence, and that “DOJ policy says you can’t” will not be a major factor in the decision process at all.

            Or hell, maybe this is their endgame to try and trick Trump into making a bad political move, like firing Mueller. Someone leaks that Mueller is about to indict, Rosenstein removes Mueller for violating DOJ precedent, media reports that obviously, Trump pressured him to do so, or whatever.

          • Brad says:

            @Keshav Srinivasan
            Feel free to ignore Matt M on legal issues. He doesn’t have any clue what he is talking about but doesn’t think that ought to be disqualifying from opining frequently and with seemingly high confidence.

            Ref: http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/02/04/open-thread-94-5/#comment-597864

          • Matt M says:

            Oh look, my own personal troll is back.

            Weird how you aren’t demanding to know what law school Keshav (or Scott, for that matter) attended. Nope – I’m required to justify my opinions with a broad range of specific expertise, but nobody else is.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            @Matt M “My major caveat here is that I think the likely scenario is that Mueller will file a report accusing Trump of a whole lot of bad-seeming stuff (i.e. “collusion with russia”) that are not actually crimes.” A few things. First of all, if Mueller finds that Trump is not guilty of any actual crimes, then most likely he would not issue a report to Congress about Trump. Prosecutors are not supposed to release derogatory information about people they determine are innocent. (Though Comey violated that in the Clinton case, so it’s at least possible that Mueller would do the same.). But Mueller will probably issue some kind of general report at the end of the investigation talking about Russian interference and the extent to which the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

            Second of all, it is not the case that collusion with Russia is not a crime. What is true is that the *word* collusion is not a term found in federal law (at least in this context; it has a separate meaning in anti-trust law). But what does exist in federal law is the word conspiracy. The Russian government hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s Gmail account to help Trump win. If the Trump campaign was coordinated with Russia in the hacking or release of the hacked emails, that would be a federal crime. Both the Don Jr. emails and the George Papadopoulos guilty plea make it plausible that the Trump campaign engaged in this sort of activity, whether Donald Trump himself was personally involved or not.

            So I think there’s a significant possibility that one or more people in the Trump campaign will be indicted on conspiracy charges. But as far as Trump himself, I think he’s more likely to get nailed on obstruction of justice. You have at least three incidents that could each serve as the basis of an obstruction of justice: 1. Telling Comey to lay off the Flynn investigation, as documented in Comey’s contemporaneous memo. 2. Firing Comey to take off pressure of the Russia investigation, as documented in the official White House minutes of Trump’s Oval Office meeting with the Russians 3. Dictating Don Jr.’s misleading statement about the June 9 Trump Tower meeting. (There’s also Trump’s tweet claiming he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time he fired Flynn, although the White House has tried to claim that Trump’s lawyers wrote that tweet or something.) I think it’s extremely likely that Mueller will find Trump guilty of obstruction for at least one of these items. And he may also find Trump guilty of either false statements to the FBI or perjury, if Trump does an interview with Mueller (or gets subpoenaed by Mueller’s grand jury) and then lies, which I think there’s a good chance of unless Trump’s lawyers narrow the parameters of the interview to such an extent that Trump doesn’t have the opportunity to lie.

            In any case, you seem to think that there’s no scenario where Mueller releases a report accusing Trump of actual crimes, but chooses not to indict. Whereas I think that’s one of the most likely outcomes, if not the most likely outcome, of this process. (As far as what happens after Mueller issues his report to Congress, there’s a chance House Republicans vote to impeach him, but more likely impeachment will only happen if and when Democrats retake the House, and even then he’ll probably be impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, because it would be hard to get the requisite supermajority in the Senate to convict Trump in an impeachment trial. But I think Trump getting impeached, even if the Senate doesn’t convict, will probably deeply tarnish him and render him politically dead.)

          • Matt M says:

            Though Comey violated that in the Clinton case, so it’s at least possible that Mueller would do the same.

            This is pretty much my exact model of the situation.

            It’s a “matter of public interest.” He’ll release a report outlining all of the shady stuff Trump did, but fall short of accusing him of an actual crime. There’s a reason that the media keeps referring to “collusion” and NOT “conspiracy,” and I suspect Mueller will use similar language for similar effect.

            This investigation was clearly a product of a politically motivated witch-hunt. Now, it may be the case that they stumbled upon an actual witch, I haven’t followed it closely. I have no real opinion whether Trump is actually guilty of anything or not. But I know how political games are played. The entire purpose of this whole thing is to demonize Trump, but without overplaying their hands. And I think that’s what they will do.

            Mueller won’t accuse Trump of actual crimes unless he’s really really really sure there were actual crimes. Dems won’t vote to impeach unless that happens.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            @Matt M I don’t think it’s the product of a witch hunt at all. The Australian government informed he U.S. government about George Padadopoulos’ interactions with the Russians. That’s what led the FBI to open an investigation into the Trump campaign, and any competent investigator would have opened an investigation under those circumstances; the Papadopoulos documents reveal some serious stuff. So it’s not some weird coincidence where a witch hunt lead to finding some actual witches, it’s more like serious evidence of the presence of witches led to the witch hunt.

            In any case, leaving aside the collusion issue, what do you think about likely of Trump getting hit with the obstruction of justice? In my previous comment I listed three incidents which I think Mueller could easily use to establish obstruction.

          • Matt M says:

            Keshav,

            I don’t know enough about the legalities involved to estimate there. I think obstruction charges are unlikely unless accompanied by some sort of fairly solid legitimate crime he was supposedly obstructing.

            I get that legally this is not necessarily true – that you can obstruct justice even if you are innocent. But this is not a normal case, a normal crime, or a normal defendant. My general hunch here is that Mueller wants to get out of this without either side hating his guts. That’s probably impossible – but “Publish a report where you say they did a lot of bad stuff but recommend no formal action” (ala Comey) is probably the closest compromise.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Matt, Brad is basically correct in that you opine on matters you aren’t necessarily correct on with high confidence (and I’d say with some belligerence as well).

            Who knows what Mueller will do, but if the DOJ has to be involved, then Sessions probably won’t go so far as to break with tradition, even assuming he’d want to indict Trump to begin with. In a political sense, throwing the ball to Congress is probably a pretty slick move, since it makes all the Republicans look bad if they defend Trump, as opposed to just Trump himself.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Russian government hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s Gmail account to help Trump win. If the Trump campaign was coordinated with Russia in the hacking or release of the hacked emails, that would be a federal crime. Both the Don Jr. emails and the George Papadopoulos guilty plea make it plausible that the Trump campaign engaged in this sort of activity, whether Donald Trump himself was personally involved or not.

            But Don and George are not the sitting president, Trump is. And unless they get emails “Dear Donald, what can I do for you now you’re finally going for the big one? Regards, Vlad” and “Hey Vlad, how about you hack the Democrats for me? Bestest buddies 4eva! Love, Donald” “I got your back, babes, kisses, Vlad” exchange, then they don’t have anything to say Trump himself knew about it, solicited it, or promised favours in exchange.

            I don’t know if “he is friends with crooks and bad characters” is enough to impeach a president, not even if “bad guys hacked our election in his favour hoping he’d do them a good turn once elected – but he didn’t ask them to do it” would work.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know if “he is friends with crooks and bad characters” is enough to impeach a president

            Being friends with crooks and bad characters, whose criminal bad behavior just happens to favor your political career, and then abusing your executive power to quash the FBI’s investigation of your friends’ crimes, certainly ought to and maybe would. But only if all of that can be solidly proven.

          • Matt M says:

            then abusing your executive power to quash the FBI’s investigation of your friends’ crimes, certainly ought to and maybe would. But only if all of that can be solidly proven.

            It still seems weird to me that we might have an FBI investigation conclude that Trump somehow prevented an FBI investigation.

            Is “attempted (but failed) obstruction of justice” still impeachable? As Sideshow Bob said, “Do they give a nobel prize for ‘attempted chemistry???'”

          • Yosarian2 says:

            Is “attempted (but failed) obstruction of justice” still impeachable?

            Sure. In fact obstruction of justice was one of the things in the articles of impeachment written up against Nixon before he resigned. And that totally failed.

  13. gbdub says:

    22. Falcon Heavy first launch not successful: 70%

    I’m a moderate SpaceX skeptic, but that’s too high. I doubt the insurance / range safety folks (not to mention SpaceX internal mission assurance, who I’m sure all have epic ulcers but do exist), who have a much more informed assessment of the risk than we do, would let it on the pad if the risk was actually that high.

    Probably would peg risk of failure at more like 25%, higher only if you count a bad landing by one of the boosters as “not successful”.

    • glasnak says:

      This also seemed way too high to me. Unless you count “postponed for a few days” as not successful?

      • gbdub says:

        That would be a weird definition though, since often those are range / weather related.

        Maybe, “need to take the thing down, perform some major rework in the HIF, and bring it back out >1 week from now”?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think I’ve heard Musk say it’s a first test of a novel design and he expects it to fail. I don’t know if he’s just lowering expectations so we’ll be excited when it succeeds, but I believed him.

      If I was letting myself do research, I guess I would check how many first attempts at launching a new rocket design fail.

      • gbdub says:

        I don’t know if he’s just lowering expectations so we’ll be excited when it succeeds

        I suspect that’s what’s going on. This may be the most important launch ever for SpaceX:
        1) It’s a very expensive asset sitting on top of another very expensive (and unique) asset, Pad 39A, which is the only pad available for crew. Any significant damage to 39A would probably be a significant setback to Crewed Dragon testing. Plus it’s 3 cores and an upper stage that can’t be used for a paying customer.
        2) Operational tempo – SpaceX already has a serious backlog of launches, and any failure would need to be scrutinized heavily to make sure it didn’t reveal a flaw in the F9 fleet. This would push things back even further
        3) Falcon Heavy needs big Air Force / NRO contracts to justify its existence (probably won’t have many paying customers outside that) and there is an ongoing competition to develop an EELV replacement (e.g. ULA’s Vulcan proposal). This one going boom would significantly hurt SpaceX’s standing in that competition and their ability to score lucrative NSS contracts for FH and F9 going forward

        Basically I think today’s SpaceX has much more to lose on this flight than SpaceX had for the first F9 flights. In any case this is at least the most important flight since the first F9 and until the first crewed flight.

        Now we know Elon has an ego (why else would he tempt the rocket gods with his cherry red piece of personal hubris as the cargo), but I doubt he pulls the trigger on this flight without a very high expected likelihood of success.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The third launch of Falcon 1 was definitely more risky than this. SpaceX can survive a failure of this test unless it does something egregious like people on the ground.

        • Lambert says:

          They’re not human-rating a Heavy with a dragon on top. He’s gunning straight for BFR, apparently.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Human-rating” is a term that applies only to manned space vehicles that are going to carry NASA astronauts, and NASA is only interested in buying the Falcon 9. If someone offers Musk/SpaceX enough money to e.g. launch a manned Dragon around the moon before the BFR is ready for it, he’ll just go ahead and do it without the human-rating part. Likewise if BFR gets bogged down and Elon is impatient to get to Mars.

            There would be some engineering to integrate the Dragon launch escape system with the Heavy’s mission profile, and possibly some reliability enhancements over an unmanned Heavy, but it confuses the issue to use the term “human-rating” for those.

      • Iain says:

        For the record, Musk said he feels like there’s a 2/3 chance of success, but would realistically predict it as closer to 50-50.

        As first rocket designs go, this is not very novel. Indeed, the side boosters have already flown and landed successfully on solo missions.

    • Janet says:

      Welp… mark off the “Falcon Heavy first launch fails” as a wrong guess, and “Falcon Heavy successfully launches by the end of 2018” as true. What. A. Beautiful. Show.

      • Deiseach says:

        The Guardian seems to be very much not impressed, despite conceding that it is an impressive achievement; I’m reading this article at my desk drinking my tea in the pre-real work hour and laughing (luckily I’m the only one in the building so far):

        It takes a beat or two for the brain to compute. The image is startling, incongruous, barmy. A car floats in space. At the wheel is a spacesuit, seatbelt on. Earth hangs behind it. The two objects don’t work together. The image jars like bad Photoshop. But it is real.

        The photograph was beamed down to Earth courtesy of Elon Musk’s ego, bravado and taste for the absurd. It is human folly and genius rolled into one, a picture that sums up 2018 so far.

        …Even Musk, engineer of the circus show, was surprised that his audacious stunt worked. “Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth,” he tweeted. His plan is for the $100,000 Tesla Roadster – with the message “Don’t panic!” stamped on the dashboard and David Bowie playing on the speakers – to cruise through high-energy radiation belts that circuit Earth towards deep space.

        …Musk is not without his critics. Many wondered what the point of the expensive stunt was. Should the most powerful rocket of our age not have carried a more useful, worthy payload?

        Either way, the plan worked and puts SpaceX far at the front of the commercial space race.

        I admit, that image of the spacesuit in the car and Earth in the background does look like the cover of one of those jokey humorous SF books. Amazing. Now I have to wonder was Musk really as low-confident as he said, or was it all in aid of making the successful launch appear even more audacious? Anyway, congratulations!

        • Janet says:

          “… well, they would, wouldn’t they, luv?” 🙂

          You don’t accomplish something so audacious without an extraordinary level of self-confidence– call it bravado, or even arrogance, if you want; but don’t ever forget that it’s essential to the achievement. There are lots of reasons to give up, to say no, to take the easy way, to chicken out. There has to be something even more massive to drive you over those obstacles.

          You also need a very concrete, very specific vision of what you want to achieve. And now we know what that vision was, for Elon Musk: his cherry-red sports car, with a space suit belted into the driver’s seat, and David Bowie playing on the radio, with the Earth’s disk receding into the background as it heads out into outer space. And a pair of rocket boosters using massive jets of flame to land, simultaneously, gently, upright on the launch pad. And a huge carnival of people gawping at the sky and cheering. And that was the point of the expensive stunt. To achieve that vision. And he did… and that will open the doors for lots of other peoples’ visions as well. Which makes me very, very, very happy.

        • JayT says:

          Many wondered what the point of the expensive stunt was. Should the most powerful rocket of our age not have carried a more useful, worthy payload?

          This was obviously written by someone that has no idea what they are talking about. The point of this “stunt” was to see if the rocket would work. There is no way they would put anything of real value on a test like this. If it wasn’t his car, the payload would probably have been a block of concrete.

          • Iain says:

            The first Dragon test flight was carrying a wheel of cheese.

          • bean says:

            Agreed. I’m not exactly a SpaceX advocate, but the headaches of trying to get a more useful payload on a prototype rocket are big enough that I definitely don’t blame them for launching something simple and completely under their control.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is no way they would put anything of real value on a test like this.

            Actually, it’s quite common to put high-value payloads on the first flight of a new rocket. Common, but not very smart. Anything “worthy” of launching on a Falcon Heavy, is worth launching on the second Falcon Heavy.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Would it have made sense for them to include a satellite for observing Mars?

          • John Schilling says:

            Would it have made sense for them to include a satellite for observing Mars?

            It would need to be a fairly sophisticated satellite, as the launch won’t provide fine enough guidance for a close flyby of an inert payload. Satellites like that are generally the culmination of a life’s work for the PI, and consume hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of man-years of combined effort. When you go tell the PI in particular that you are putting the greatest thing he will ever do on a rocket whose greatest proponent says has a 50-50 chance of blowing up, he’s going to note that he’s only in this position because he was able to convince funding agencies to pay $bignum for him to build the satellite in the first place and so the odds are probably better than 50-50 that he can get someone to spring for a reliable launch vehicle.

          • gbdub says:

            Seconding John Schilling’s point – anything that actually needs a Falcon Heavy to fly probably costs several times as much to develop and build (and is worth even more to you than that) as the launch cost of the rocket. So you’re not going to risk it on a first flight to save a few bucks.

            This is a potential hole in the SpaceX vision that I don’t think enough SpaceX fans appreciate: having cheap launch vehicles is great, but without equally cheap, commercially viable payloads to justify the lift capacity, it’s not going to revolutionize spaceflight.

    • gbdub says:

      Probably would peg risk of failure at more like 25%, higher only if you count a bad landing by one of the boosters as “not successful”.

      Damn, where’s my prize 😉

  14. gbdub says:

    4. Mueller’s investigation gets cancelled (eg Trump fires him): 50%

    You did write e.g. and not i.e., but does this prediction only count if Trump is the initiator of the cancellation?

    • quaelegit says:

      Irrelevant aside but I love that SSC is a place where people appreciate the distinction between e.g. (explemi gratia, “for example”) and i.e. (id est, “that is”), especially when it actually affects the meaning of the sentence. 🙂

  15. Simon_Jester says:

    I definitely agree that 50% predictions are important, because aside from “Events happening shouldn’t affect my priors” (I’m just going to call this the Morons’ Fallacy…), the single most common cognitive bias or fallacy I’ve encountered related to probability goes something like:

    “There are only three probabilities, 100%, 50%, and 0%.”

    Call it… the Fallacy of the Golden Median?

    Now, I figure Scott isn’t going to make that rookie mistake, but nevertheless, it is a very, very common pattern for people to predict a 50% probability of an event when they very much ought to assign a 30% or 70% probability. So it’s worth tracking one’s 50% predictions to see if they are persistent over- or underestimates, or if they subdivide into two classes, one over and one under.

    Also Toby’s point about the phrasing is important.

  16. jw says:

    Question: You mention his enemies not shutting down Jordan Peterson.

    But I’m curious of what your opinion of Dr. Peterson is.

      • Patrick Merchant says:

        As a fan of both, I think Scott Alexander vs. Jordan Peterson would be a much more worthwhile debate than any of the ones Peterson’s been having lately.

      • WashedOut says:

        If that’s the extent of Scott’s criticism, it’s pretty tepid and brief.

        “anti-SJW stuff pretty annoying”….compared to what? SJWs? Neo-marxist rantings?

        My guess as to what’s going on: Scott is a liberal. Peterson represents some of the strongest and most effective opposition to people on the end of Scott’s axis. Scott’s not getting burned but he can feel the heat by association, and it’s “annoying” to be associated with people at the end of your axis/horseshoe.

        I’d welcome a more considered criticism of Peterson from Scott, insofar as he has formulated one.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Personally, I think he’s an excellent public speaker, who has some sensible ideas about personal behavior and stoicism. Unfortunately, like many liberal-arts people, he lacks the ability to distinguish metaphor from reality. Thus, his overall philosophy is largely incoherent (at best).

      That said, I’d take an honest person with an incoherent philosophy over a screaming maniac with a bunch of pre-approved slogans any day…

      • meh says:

        His recent pointing out of the absurdity of SJW gone too far is somewhat different from his main work which he has not been able to defend well. When the flaws in the ideas are pointed out, he will claim he is ‘not smart enough’ to work it out, but does not admit that it is wrong.

        He points out orwellian use of language that he disagrees with, and then proceeds to redefine the word ‘truth’.

        Folks enamored with his pointing out the irrationality of extreme SJWism are not noticing how irrational his other ideas are. Unfortunately, the way he has been treated is just making him a more sympathetic character, and giving fuel to some of his legitimate complaints. You don’t need to ‘so what you’re saying’ him, you can just listen to what he actually is saying.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Yes, agreed on all counts. That said, IMO he’s on much firmer ground when he sticks to his scientific discipline (clinical psychology, and yes, I understand that it’s a soft science), as opposed to venturing into deep philosophical waters.

  17. meh says:

    Are you trying to be well calibrated at the bucket level, or the prediction level? In this years results you said:

    my main concern was that I was underconfident at 70%. I tried to fix that this year by becoming more willing to guess at that level, and ended up a bit overconfident. This year I’ll try somewhere in the middle and hopefully get it right.

    which sounds like you are calibrating the buckets, but aren’t giving true estimates to individual predictions.

    • Placid Platypus says:

      I’m not sure how the two are different- what would it look like to be well calibrated at the bucket level but poorly calibrated at the prediction level, or vice versa?

      • meh says:

        I call a coin flip 10 times, but assign 75% chance to heads.
        I also say for the next 10 days the chance the sun comes up is 75%.

        My 75% bucket is well calibrated, but the individual predictions in that bucket are not. So that is how they are different, but I am not sure how you can measure that.

        I think it can be internalized though as you are making predictions. Only Scott knows what his true estimates are. But even then maybe there is some uncertainty…. is he just throwing guesses into the bucket, or is he trying to globally re-calibrate himself?

  18. Placid Platypus says:

    I fail at my other New Years’ resolution and try one biohacking project per month throughout 2018: 80%

    Should this be “to try” rather than “and try”, or did you resolve to not try biohacking projects?

    • entobat says:

      I had the same confusion, but personally I think it’s hilarious to read it as Scott having a biohacking addiction and this being a cry for help.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        I ran into a guy like that online once. I’m not sure whether his gullibility caused him to start eating buckyballs, or whether buckyballs gradually turned his brains into Swiss cheese, or both…

  19. googolplexbyte says:

    16. Dow does not fall more than 10% from max at any point in 2018: 50%

    Didn’t this already happen.

  20. John Schilling says:

    One more prediction. When these predictions are scored, at least 50% of the discussion in the comments will be about whether or not 50% predictions are meaningless: 50%.

  21. Aapje says:

    Suggestion for a biohacking project: try to measure how not doing any biohacking projects affects your mood.

  22. Deiseach says:

    Luna has a functioning product by end of year: 90%

    My first reaction to this was “Really?” but thinking about it, they’re plainly aiming for Korea as a test market to get into the Asian online dating market, plus some of that sweet crypto hype, so they will have a product up and running (I honestly don’t think they’re interested in Western markets as of yet, maybe never).

    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: 80%

    I’m not at all sure about this one, especially if it’s “a member of the general public who is not related by blood, marriage, or went to school with your cousin Phelim to any of the people working on self-driving cars”. I don’t think any legal department is going to let the possible liability of “the man in the street” get into the company’s product without a back-up driver for fear of “situation engineers assured us would never, ever happen does, passenger gets injured even a tiny bit, goes to law for $$$$$$$, judge says what the hell were you doing letting a car out on the road without a driver, grants damages of $$$$$$$, now the general public think our self-driving cars are death traps”.

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t think functioning product implies good product.

      So long as the product is technically viable, it’s functional, even if there are only 20 users and only 1 of them is female.

      • Deiseach says:

        there are only 20 users and only 1 of them is female

        To be blunt, that would be a lot more functional than I expected after reading the “if we build it, they will come” notions of the onlie begetter, with no coherent explanation as to what the hell bolting on a cryptocurrency to a dating site would do apart from enabling their marketing to go “Blockchains! Like Bitcoin only for Love!” and sprinkle buzzwords with abandon in their pitch to venture capital.

        I’m not saying it struck me as being on the same lines as the main plot device of The Producers, but you know – there’s a lot of businesses out there that raise the wind, then suddenly go bankrupt, and then the founder(s) start up again elsewhere with another sure-fire success while the investors are left looking at their empty bank accounts. Particularly in view of the recent shut-down of Bitconnect, creating their own cryptocurrency seemed like something that could be open to abuse, let us say.

    • Nornagest says:

      I expect Luna to have a website with people on it, but even those sketchy “Hot Singles In Your Area Now!” links lead to a website with people on it. I don’t expect it to carve out a significant chunk of the online-dating market, and I don’t expect it to be a fun place to hang out or a good place to find an SO.

      It may or may not be profitable, depending on how hard the altcoin bubble pops and whether investors wise up to blockchain hype early enough.

  23. rulerstothesky says:

    “No co-bloggers make 3 or more SSC posts this year: 80%”

    …you have co-bloggers? Do you take guest posts?

  24. Brad says:

    Mueller does not indict Trump: 70%

    I would have put this one higher.

    1) because a decent majority of constitutional scholars that have seriously looked at the question concluded that a sitting president can’t be indicted

    2) because if it leaked Trump could fire Mueller before an indictment could issue

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      I agree, 70% may be a defensible estimate of the probability that Mueller will not conclude in 2018 that Trump is *worthy* of being indicted not the probability that Trump will not be indicted, which is a near-certainty. By the way, even leaving aside the possibility of indictment, I think if Trump catches wind that Mueller is merely planning to inform Congress that Trump is guilty of say, obstruction of justice, there’s a good chance that he would fire Mueller for that. Which would of course be idiotic, because that’s the quickest route to impeachment, even at the hands of a Republican Congress, but Trump might do it anyway.

      • Brad says:

        Even if Mueller’s team were to conclude that they could indict Trump, Trump could fire him as soon as the indictment was unsealed and instruct the replacement acting attorney general to dismiss it (firing people in order until he found another Bork.) Mueller, being knowledgeable about how American law works and recent US history, knows this. There’d be no point to it, it’d be a pure stunt.

  25. Anonymous Bosch says:

    I think you’re drastically overestimating the likelihood of a major immigration deal. House Reps won’t bring a bill forward without majority support within their own party (the Hastert Rule) which means you need some hypothetical bill that satisfies both the hardcore House Reps and 9 Senate Dems. I don’t think such a bill exists. Plus I think immigration is not like health care and taxes where Trump has no prior views and will sign whatever. He’s a restrictionist which puts him out of step with half of his own party and all of the Dems. As long as he demands Stephen Miller’s entire legal immigration platform in exchange for DACA things are gonna go nowhere fast.

    My guess is you see a short-term punt to ensure no deportations of photogenic college graduates during the midterms and they revisit next year. A Dem House can find more common ground with moderate Reps than the other way around.

  26. Murphy says:

    Your estimate for trump re: impeachment seems to diverge strongly from the prediction markets and the more traditional bookies.

    Predictit stands at 36:64

    https://www.predictit.org/Contract/7419/Will-Donald-Trump-be-impeached-in-his-first-term

    Meanwhile paddypower stands at evens:

    http://www.paddypower.com/bet/politics/other-politics/donald-trump?ev_oc_grp_ids=2944322

    So possibly some money to be made .

    • Matt M says:

      Thanks for pointing this out. About to buy some “will not be impeached” shares.

    • Taymon A. Beal says:

      The usual explanation I’ve heard is that existing prediction markets tend to overestimate the probability of unlikely events, because the usual mechanism for correcting a miscalibrated market (arbitrage) is thwarted by trade restrictions. That said, this looks a little extreme even given that. I wonder what’s going on.

      • EricN says:

        It’s not that unlikely that Trump will be impeached in his first term conditional on Democrats winning the House in 2018. To impeach Trump it suffices to have a majority in the House. I’d put the probability of impeachment below 36% but not far below — maybe around 30%.

        (I also disagree with Scott’s 80% prediction for Democrats taking the House; I’d put the probability around 65%.)

        • Matt M says:

          To impeach Trump it suffices to have a majority in the House. I’d put the probability of impeachment below 36% but not far below — maybe around 30%.

          I don’t think Democrats in “purple” districts would vote for impeachment unless the charges were pretty darn legit. This is a more serious thing – I don’t think it’s a vote that is likely to go straight party-lines.

          • Murphy says:

            If a few lies from Bill Clinton were enough 5 minutes of Trump under oath for literally anything will yield enough weird lies for a dozen impeachments.

        • gbdub says:

          You’re saying that if the Dems take the house they are 50% likely to impeach Trump? That still feels high.

          • EricN says:

            It seems very plausible that the Mueller investigation will result in charges against Trump. The most likely charge is probably obstruction of justice, and there seems to be a fair amount of evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct justice. Given how much Democrats hate Trump, and also Trump’s low approval rating (which will probably stay about the same if the economy continues being strong and will probably go down if it gets weaker), I think obstruction of justice charges will be sufficient for House Democrats to impeach Trump.

            And there are of course avenues to impeachment that don’t involve charges against Trump. But I think the scenario I outlined above has a fairly high change of occurring. (Scott gives Trump a 30% chance being indicted just this year.)

          • gbdub says:

            You’re not going to get enough of the GOP senators to flip and convict Trump for obstruction of justice unless there is extremely strong evidence that the justice he obstructed was for a very serious crime he was personally responsible for. I tend to think that if such existed, we’d have heard about it by now given the general leakiness of all involved.

            I don’t think the Dems would launch a doomed impeachment – too many purple-state Dems in the House would have to vote for it, risking their 2018 gains. At that point Trump is useful to them anyway as a devil to run against in 2020 – make the GOP either wed themselves to a doomed Trump reelection campaign or try to force him out.

          • EricN says:

            I agree. I was stating my estimate of the probability that Trump will be impeached, not that he will be convicted. The probability that he will be convicted is probably around 5% or maybe less.

          • gbdub says:

            My point is that I think the Dems will not bother to impeach Trump unless the probability of conviction is much higher than 5%. I don’t think it gains them much, and it might backfire.

        • Walter says:

          Pretty much this. I expect Trump to be impeached if and only if the dems take the House.

          As a consequence, I expect Trump to be impeached with decent likelihood, but have a very low estimation of him being impeached this year.

          Spring next year or not at all is my guess.

    • Nornagest says:

      The prediction markets on this look very high to me, and I’d short them if I had a reasonable prospect of earning money on it without it getting eaten up by fees (which I don’t; prediction markets suck). Scott’s prediction looks low, though.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Do you really mean to make a sweeping condemnation, or do you just mean that PredictIt’s fees suck and that’s all you have access to?

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s nothing wrong with the concept of a prediction market, but all the implementations I’m aware of suffer from some combination of poor liquidity, high fees, and low limits. PredictIt has the least liquidity problems, but its $850 limit puts a low ceiling on upside; combine that with its fee structure and it means there’s little prospect of making significant total profit unless you’re making impractically good bets on an impractically broad range of issues.

          Might be good for beer money, but not much more.

    • Janet says:

      Let’s see… on 7 November 2016, Predictit had it as Clinton 82, Trump 22. Paddy Power lost over 3.5 million pounds on the 2016 US election, as they had Trump and 5:1, and they paid out Clinton backers early in expectation of her winning. So yeah, might want to take that thing in for calibration.

      • Nornagest says:

        To be fair, pretty much everyone was throwing out numbers somewhere in that range. Nate Silver was getting flak for rating Trump’s chances too high, and he was saying something like 35%.

      • meh says:

        Wait.. why did they pay early? Even if he had withdrawn, and the election was uncontested, wouldn’t they want a month of interest? I hadn’t heard of this, and really don’t understand.

  27. vV_Vv says:

    59. I won’t [meditate at least one-third of days this year]: 90%
    60. I won’t [do my exercise routine at least one third of days this year]: 80%

    Why the brackets? Are these about drugs and sex?

    • Unsaintly says:

      It’s to differentiate between “I will spend 1/3 of the days this year not meditating”, meaning he would be correct if he meditates no more than 244* days, and “The total number of days I meditate will not exceed 1/3 of this year”, meaning that he would be correct if he meditates less than 122* days.

      *ish

  28. “47. I fail at my New Years’ resolution to waste less time on the Internet throughout most of 2018: 80%”

    This seems like an unusual use of the word “resolution.”

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m wondering how Scott defines wasting time on the internet.

      • Evan Þ says:

        +1. I tried a similar resolution some years back which failed due entirely to my motivated redefinitions of “wasting time on the Internet.”

    • Simon_Jester says:

      Human resolutions tend to be notoriously irresolute, especially when they’re fighting an uphill battle against our psychological reward mechanisms…

      [Also, I accidentally clicked the ‘report’ link on the above comment and I am REALLY SORRY if anyone wastes time as a result. I didn’t click any further than that]

  29. Nicholas Weininger says:

    I am surprised to see so few geopolitical predictions. Notably nothing about the likelihood of war with N. Korea, but also nothing on the Middle East, Italian elections, nuclear detonations generally, etc. Do you feel under informed to make these predictions, or are they in the 99% bucket, or…?

    • quaelegit says:

      Since he didn’t do research before making these predictions it’s quite possible he didn’t feel informed enough compared to previous years. (For example I’m probably less well informed than Scott but I had no idea Italy is having elections this year.)

    • Tenacious D says:

      I’ve got a few:

      1. At least 3 North Korean soldiers defect across the DMZ than last year, 70%
      2. Kim Jong Un still in power, 80%
      3. At least one quarter of no growth in Canada’s economy, 70%
      4. Civil war in Yemen still on-going, 70%

      • John Schilling says:

        As with the Syria prediction last year, you’re going to want a hard metric for what it means for a civil war to be “still on-going”. There will be die-hards with guns around for a long, long time, and I don’t think Yemen has anyone with the stature of a Robert E. Lee standing by to say “Go home and knock it off” to the losers.

        • Tenacious D says:

          Good point.
          The metric I’d propose is the top five cities (Sana’a, Taiz, Hodeida, Aden, and Ibb) not all being under the control of the same party.

        • engleberg says:

          Mosby told his troops to go home after the war too. When there’s no St Robert, how do you motivate the Mosby’s to quit? The Sauds could afford a pretty good Quitter’s Pension Plan.

    • Deiseach says:

      Re: Italian elections, I think any attempt at predicting these is futile. They seem to operate on “You don’t like these results? Wait a few weeks, we’ll have new ones!”

      That Silvio Berlusconi is not only still a force in politics but seemingly on the verge of making a comeback (what happened to all those “six year bans on being in public office”?) should indicate that there’s no point making any serious “well, if we analyse voting patterns in the Maremma in 2008” judgements.

  30. Jayson Virissimo says:

    My rule is that I have to make all of these without checking existing prediction markets – otherwise I wouldn’t be learning anything about my own abilities.

    I’m not so sure about that. IMO, if people were to defer to prediction markets on issues where they aren’t expert, that would be a huge win in terms of “raising the sanity waterline”. So much of rationality is having good heuristics for who to trust and when.

    If you are using calibration scores as a rough measure of your own epistemic rationality, then excluding useful techniques (that you would otherwise use) doesn’t seem like a good idea.

    • Simon_Jester says:

      I think he’s trying to determine how well he can perform in absolute standards, not to maximize the accuracy of the predictions. Insofar as consulting a prediction market would increase his accuracy (possible) but decrease the certainty with which we could attribute his success to his own intellect, it would be counterproductive.

      • Incurian says:

        To be really sure it’s his own prediction prowess we’re testing, we should probably completely cut him off from the outside world for a couple years and then test him.

      • Jayson Virissimo says:

        Prediction markets are just one more potentially rationality-enhancing technology. Others might include argument maps, Excel spreadsheets with built-in Markov chain Monte Carlo functions, or even pen & paper for calculating conditional probabilities from simple ones.

        Should these be excluded too? If not, is there a principled reason to exclude prediction markets, but not these other technologies?

        • Toby Bartels says:

          Well, all of those other things are things that one can do on one's own. Prediction markets take input from other people; forbidding them is similar to forbidding research (which Scott does).

          • Jayson Virissimo says:

            If “doing it on one’s own” is the principle, then newspapers (as well as cable news, Twitter pundits, etc…) are also out.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Yes, I presume that Scott doesn't do research on those either.

            Or to be more precise: Scott does various things in his normal life and is allowed to learn from them. But when the time comes to make his annual predictions, he just makes them and doesn't check his favourite Twitter pundit first.

            Or so I presume.

  31. Squirrel of Doom says:

    One way these predictions are arguably biased is that you are yourself picking what to predict.

    It would be interesting if you committed to predicting things that others had chosen for you.

    Crowdsourcing those items may just give Prediction MacPredictionface results. How about inviting some trusted smart people like David Friedman, Eliezer Yudkowsky, etc to give you a few things each to predict?

  32. Slice says:

    I not too long ago finished up the DuoLingo Spanish for English speakers. I found it a bit thin. I am now doing the English for Spanish speakers module which, surprisingly, goes much further. My original course got me enough Spanish to test out of about a third of the second course. Yo voy a aprender un pequito ahora. 🙂

  33. ilikekittycat says:

    In [15] is “LGBQ” unintentional or a hedge that acceptance of the T may, in fact, drop independently of the others?

  34. Bugmaster says:

    26. Nothing particularly bad (beyond the level of an funny/weird news story) happens because of ability to edit videos this year: 90%

    If something bad did happen, how would you know ?

    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: 80%

    Wow, are you serious ? This strikes me as ridiculously optimistic, unless maybe by “can ride” you mean “on one special day of the year as a publicity stunt”, not “as general practice”; or maybe if by “city” you mean something like “corporate campus”. Otherwise, I’d be willing to put up some money betting this doesn’t happen.

    • Evan Þ says:

      If something bad did happen, how would you know ?

      We have a screening test: Video is released of A. Famousguy doing Horrible Things; Famousguy denies it and says “this must be a fake.” Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t – but if it is a real fake, it’s fairly clear this’d happen.

      • Bugmaster says:

        How would you tell the following two situations apart ?

        1). A video is released of Famous McFamousFace doing horrible things; he denies doing these things; but actually he’s guilty.
        2). A video is released of Famous McFamousFace doing horrible things; he denies doing these things; but actually he’s innocent and the video is a really good fake.

        • Evan Þ says:

          You can’t (well, not without a lot more probably-inconclusive investigation). Like I said, it’s a screening test: if you don’t see happening, then you know video editing isn’t causing bad things.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Maybe we count the inconclusiveness itself as a Bad Thing? It is, after all, a consequence of the theoretical ability to edit videos much better than we could before, even if no editing was done in this particular case.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Waymo is already doing cars without a human in the driver’s seat in Phoenix.

      https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/tech/2017/11/07/waymo-self-driving-cars-arizona-now-truly-driverless/837721001/

      There is a human in the backseat to monitor what happens.

      The general public cannot buy this service right now: they are using pre-registered test families. Scott’s test seems to that someone can install an app and be taking a ride in a day or two, and his terminology “without a human backup driver” doesn’t seem to exclude a monitor in the backseat. So the question is when they feel confident enough to sell this to someone whose only qualification is having a credit card.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Does the person in the back seat have some kind of a remote controller or a killswitch or something ? If so, I’d count him as a backup driver, even if he’s using a joystick (or a GUI) instead of a steering wheel.

        • gbdub says:

          I suspect autonomous cars are always going to have a killswitch for the foreseeable future, that seems too strict.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Sure, a simple killswitch makes sense; merely having one installed in the car won’t violate Scott’s prediction. However, requiring that a trained employee rides in each self-driving car at all times, would violate the prediction — even if that employee’s job is just to push the “Emergency Brake” button when needed.

    • Lambert says:

      The line between ‘fools unaided humans’ and ‘is undetectable to professionals with forensic tools’ is pretty large.
      And if they achieve the latter, we have more to worry about than SSC predictions.

      • Bugmaster says:

        While this is true, the overwhelming majority of people — including most journalists — don’t care about “professionals with forensic tools”. This situation has certain grim implications regarding the court of public opinion, as well as jury trials (to some extent).

        • John Schilling says:

          The overwhelming majority of people – including most journalists – do care about what the consensus of Talking Heads on Television(*) say. Most people don’t want to be on the wrong side of a consensus of Certified Smart People.

          Since the Talking Heads are almost evenly divided between Democratic Partisan Hacks and Republican Partisan Hacks, the minority who do care about professionals with forensic tools can often be enough to tilt the balance towards one consensus or another as the least-committed hacks start to defect from the ultimately losing side.

          (*) also including major newspapers and certain corners of the internet.

  35. A1987dM says:

    I’ll bet my $150 against your $600 that bitcoin is less than $5k at the end of the year.

  36. Nornagest says:

    The US politics predictions look poorly calibrated to me in a way that’s hard for me to put my finger on, but which looks consistent with the generally poor performance on Trump-related questions in last year’s survey.

    PredictIt’s take on potential candidates is a weird thing to be tracking at this point. High confidence in Trump as a GOP candidate is probably a shoo-in, but also not very interesting at the midpoint of a term. The Dem call means almost nothing.

    • Matt M says:

      “Bernie to lead prediction markets” strikes me as a form of “No clear leader will emerge for the Democrats in the next year” prediction. Which isn’t that interesting, but does convey some valuable information.

      • engleberg says:

        ‘Bernie to lead prediction markets’ strikes me as a form of ‘DNC got caught stealing the primary from him last time’.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        “No clear leader” doesn’t distinguish between the old guard: Sanders, Biden, Warren.* 60% seems high to me even for just p(Sanders|No clear leader). Biden and Warren are practically tied with Sanders on Betfair, but he’s substantially ahead of them on Scott’s choice of PredictIt. (Harris is in first place on Betfair, second on PredictIt.)

        * It’s weird to call Warren “old guard” given her short political career. But I think she’s in the same place as Sanders and Biden.

        • Matt M says:

          Sanders seems like a plausible default to lead though, given that he finished #2 to Hillary last time.

          It’s also worth noting that Sanders is leading on predictit right now. I know Scott says he didn’t check sites to make these predictions, but it’s plausible he has checked them recently, and thus already had prior knowledge that Sanders is currently ahead, and some change would be required to displace him.

          ETA: I’m still bummed that my prediction (Hillary) isn’t even listed. Come on predictit! Let me put my money where my mouth is!

        • John Schilling says:

          Biden and Warren are practically tied with Sanders on Betfair

          Biden and Warren are probably not tied with Sanders in the first most important place, the place inside their respective skulls where they decide whether or not to run in the first place. Elizabeth Warren is the youngest of the three, and she’d be the oldest president in US history on her inauguration day. Sanders has almost a decade on her. Plus, Warren and Biden conspicuously wimped out of running in 2016, while Sanders lost – the electorate doesn’t like quitters or losers. The idea that because these three are recognizable Big Names on the Democratic political stage, they will obviously all run for election in 2020, strikes me as weak.

          • Controls Freak says:

            she’d be the oldest president in US history on her inauguration day

            This caused me to find this. And TIL that three of our last four presidents were born in 1946. Mildly interesting.

          • quaelegit says:

            Apparently Summer of 1946 was a good time to be born if you want to be president!

            (Hmm, I guess June 14th is technically before summer solstice… but lots of schools are out for the summer by then, so close enough, right? 😛 )

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Sure, who says that summer doesn't begin until the solstice?

  37. mingyuan says:

    My insider knowledge says that several of your probabilities in ‘Communities’ are too low, but probably some of that is classified so the only one I will publicly stand in defense of is 39. Things are happening! I have plans!

    • Aqua says:

      is there a place we can read more about it? what is it??

      • Aapje says:

        It probably has something to do with Luna 😛

      • mingyuan says:

        So, the current meetups database is hosted at https://ssc-meetups-community.github.io/meetups/, which is just not a good system for all sorts of reasons – mostly it’s hard to update and has no features; it’s just a list. We’ll be moving all the SSC meetups to LessWrong 2.0, once there’s a meetups system there (it’s in the process of being built; I expect to move the SSC data within the month). I wrote a bit about the plan for the new meetups system in the last section of this post. Also feel free to reach out to me if you’re a person who’s interested in starting or attending a meetup!

        (Also nooooo, it has nothing to do with Luna! Death and destruction upon us all!)

  38. AISec says:

    You might consider publishing hashes of your secret predictions, so you can prove their phrasing later if challenged… if you care about that sort of thing. If you use a Mac, it goes like this:

    echo “this will be encrypted” | md5
    72caf9daf910b5ef86796f74c20b7e0b

    • Evan Þ says:

      Yes, that’s a good idea if Scott plans to reveal to his friends at the end of the year that “yes, I did preregister a prediction that you’d break up.”

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      md5 is perfectly fine for this, but people will freak out, so he can use sha256:

      $ echo this is a test | shasum -a 256
      91751cee0a1ab8414400238a761411daa29643ab4b8243e9a91649e25be53ada –

      • AISec says:

        Security’s all about tradeoffs, but yeah – I probably did annoy some people with the less-secure-but-good-enough option.

      • actinide meta says:

        MD5 vs SHA doesn’t matter for security against disclosure of the predictions, though it could conceivably affect the credibility of the commitment (a malicious Scott might be able to generate pairs of predictions with the same hash). More importantly, both of these proposals are badly insecure against disclosure – they are subject to search though the space of plausible predictions. To fix this, you need a random salt or an HMAC or something like that.

        To be clear, what Scott actually did is the second smartest thing he could do in this situation (after not making a public statement about his secret predictions at all).

  39. Sniffnoy says:

    46. No improvement in the status of reciprocity.io (either transfer to a new team or at least one new feature added): 70%

    Seems to me the main problem with it is just a lack of people on it, not any lack of features…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Katja and a few others want a “matchmake other people” option, but have been too lazy to add it.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Huh, interesting. How would that work?

        (That’s “interesting” in the sense of, well, that’s an interesting idea, not in the sense of, I would find that to be a substantial improvement…)

        • johan_larson says:

          What is reciprocity.io for? The site doesn’t say, and I can’t try it without signing up for Facebook.

          • Aapje says:

            Figuring out which friends are interested in dating/sex without having to risk damaging the friendship if the feelings aren’t reciprocated.

            Basically, it’s Tinder, but restricted to your friends.

          • Matt M says:

            I wonder how many people have actually gotten successful dates/hook-ups from there?

            My first instinct is like, less than 50…

          • Aapje says:

            Google doesn’t even show it in the first page for me when I search for “reciprocity dating” or “reciprocity friends.”

            This suggests very a low usage rate/bad marketing.

        • johan_larson says:

          So it’s for people who are too shy to ask out members of their social circle.

          I’m surprised that’s a big enough problem that someone bothered to build an app for it.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are reasons other than shyness for not asking out members of one’s own social circle. Asking people out is not a zero-risk action except that rejection make shy people feel bad; it can destroy perfectly good friendships and disrupt social circles. If there’s a way to reduce those risks, that would be a good thing to implement on at least a trial basis.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m surprised that’s a big enough problem that someone bothered to build an app for it.

            If your social circle involves work colleagues, then that’s a good reason; sure, there are plenty of “we met at work and now we’re married” stories, but there’s also a risk of “we met at work, had an affair, broke up both our marriages”/”we met at work, dated, had a bad break up and then the other party tried to get me fired”/”we met at work, I asked them out, they turned me down, and now it’s really awkward” stories.

          • Walter says:

            I am surprised you are surprised. People not asking out people that they like is a definite thing.

          • Matt M says:

            People not asking out people that they like is a definite thing.

            Yes – but that’s not exactly what this models.

            How common do you think it is that two people both like each other but that neither one of them ever acts on it. I’d say relatively rare.

          • yodelyak says:

            The mere existence of such a site, if it were a popularly known-about thing in my circles, would require many of my friends to live with a much higher, closer-to-the-front-of-their-minds awareness that, but for social sanction, some of their friends might want to sex them.

            I’m still thinking about this site, but I haven’t mentioned to any of my friends that it exists. I think it’s partially that I think I’d be recognized as a defector against the existing social order. And also that even mentioning such a site to any specific friend would seem like a come-on.

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, it definitely seems an issue that proposing to use the site is itself a strong message of attraction to a friend/colleague. At the very least this will generate gossip. So proposing this in itself requires a friend/colleague group that is rather positive about such things.

          • Kyp says:

            Matt M,

            See, that’s interesting, because my guess would be that it’s reasonably common, at least in certain groups (particularly work-related things for the reasons Deiseach described). It’s obviously not going to be an easily quantifiable thing by its nature, but my personal suspicion is that it happens a lot still that both people like each other but have no ‘safe’ way to test if that’s true.

            That being said, it’s also not hard for me to imagine a platform that tries to solve that running into signaling problems, where, like Aapje pointed out, just mentioning it is a hint that you like someone, or even that using it signals a lack of boldness or confidence which would reflect negatively on at least the male users of it. Despite those issues, I think it would be a useful solution to a hard-to-quantify problem if it actually turned into something.

          • Matt M says:

            I guess my point here is that there’s a very specific type of couple this might be useful for. BOTH people have to be both too shy to make a first move, but also NOT too shy to sign up for a site where you encourage your friends to express a willingness to date/hook up with you (and, neither of you have mutual friends who could make the match happen, either)

            I feel like that’s NOT a large group of people to draw from…

          • gbdub says:

            Such a site seems like it would only work in the context of a social circle that is already on board with dating internally. But that’s also the sort of social circle where it’s least necessary, since such a circle will probably already learned to deal with the awkwardness of internal dating (and internal breakout fallout).

            In a less open circle, what’s to stop a bad actor from signing up, submitting that they like everybody, and using that to figure out who is into them (and potentially using that for bad acting)?

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            The other person will be notified too, which can be an issue if you don’t actually like them back.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Way back in the late 90s, there was another site set up for reporting secret crushes, where it would only reveal the pairing if both people reported each other.

            A female colleague got a notice she had one, so she just put in every single male person she knew as a crush to see find out who it was.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            johan_larson: Really? My recollection is that this is one of those things that get invented over and over again but somehow never sticks around.

            So, as an illustration, here’s how I’d use it if there were more people I knew on there. It’s certainly true that I would have (were there more people I knew on it) found it much more useful a few years ago when there’s no way I’d ever ask someone on a date directly; these days I don’t so much have that problem, at least not to that extent, but it seems to me there’s still a number of cases where I’d use it (although admittedly not all of them might constitute using it usefully).

            Looking through my list of friend on Facebook and imagining all of them were on the site, here’s the types of cases that I observe popping up — note that often multiple of these co-occur, and indeed some of them are only actually problems when combined with others:

            1. This person hasn’t really indicated any attraction to me — I guess this might not count as using it in a useful manner, since the probable outcome is that they are, in fact, not interested, but I’d still check the box just in case they were just like I was many years ago and determined to hide such things IRL.

            2. This person lives far away and I only see them when one of us is visiting where the other lives. This one isn’t necessarily a problem by itself, but if you combine it with #3 or #4 it makes things fairly awkward.

            3. I don’t know the person that well / we’re not in regular contact — this one again is not necessarily a problem by itself; however you combine it with #2 or #4 and things get awkward.

            4. I didn’t try anything with this person back in the day — this is the thing, I guess, is that there’s a number of people I used to know who I was attracted to at the time but did absolutely nothing to indicate this to, because only in the past few years have I really learned how to do this sort of thing. And again I’m not sure that this one is a problem by itself… but if you combine it with #2 or #3, then there’s more of a problem.

            (#4 is kind of similar to #1; note that #4 is not a problem if the person does actually seem interested in me now! The thing is that I think a number of people just aren’t going to express anything very detectably if you aren’t playing along, so there’s a difference between “this person seems uninterested” and “well I didn’t notice anything back then but I wasn’t trying anything so it’s hard to say”.)

            5. I was in fact a total creep towards this person back in the day — I think you can see why I’d be very wary of asking in such a case, even if there are some indications that they might be interested these days.

          • Skivverus says:

            The “check off everyone to see if they like you” exploit could probably be mitigated with a (possibly increasing) cooldown between checks, timed expiry of checks, and/or maximum check marks available at once.

          • And also that even mentioning such a site to any specific friend would seem like a come-on.

            The solution would be to mention it to lots of friends at once, so it wasn’t specific to any one of them–perhaps as an odd and interesting thing you had heard about.

          • Matt M says:

            The solution would be to mention it to lots of friends at once, so it wasn’t specific to any one of them–perhaps as an odd and interesting thing you had heard about.

            It’s still a big, public declaration of “I am romantically interested in one of my close friends,” which might not be too terrible for a regular person to make, but keep in mind, we’re suggesting this to someone who we already know is too shy to approach their interest directly.

            I’m pretty shy and I’m MUCH more comfortable approaching a single person than talking to a large group about my romantic interests.

          • John Schilling says:

            but keep in mind, we’re suggesting this to someone who we already know is too shy to approach their interest directly.

            You keep using “too shy” when that is only one of several reasons a person might not declare a specific romantic interest in their friends.

  40. Pete Michaud says:

    I’d definitely bet in favor of #43 🙂

  41. MugaSofer says:

    I’ve eliminated a bunch of predictions about things that are very unlikely where I just plug in the same number each year, like “99% chance of no coup in the US”.

    But then you won’t get to be embarrassed in five years when there’s a coup!

  42. John Schilling says:

    One cherry-red Tesla roadster now in heliocentric orbit.

    So, is this the first time an annual prediction was settled on the day it was posted?

    • Nornagest says:

      All I can think of is that scene from Heavy Metal where the astronaut deorbits in a Corvette.

    • gbdub says:

      Technically speaking it won’t be heliocentric until a final burn in a few hours, assuming that goes well.

  43. darkar says:

    >22. Falcon Heavy first launch not successful: 70%
    Out of curiosity, does the update on this alter your probability for their attempting to start lunar tourism this year? At a first glace 22 seemed to high, but 24 seemed about right.

    (Also, yay! Successful launch!)

    • gbdub says:

      It shouldn’t. SpaceX is not going to fly people around the moon this year, and definitely not “tourists”.

      Right now both Boeing and SpaceX are nominally planning crewed test flights to low earth orbit late this year, but realistically I would expect both to slip into 2019. Boeing is actually a little ahead of SpaceX according to NASA schedules right now.

      And that’s to low orbit on an F9. A trans-lunar mission on FH would require getting FH crew certified. Frankly SpaceX would be foolish to waste effort on that until commercial crew to ISS is well established – NASA is getting VERY antsy to have that capability in 2019 when Soyuz seats start drying up.

  44. Douglas Knight says:

    I’m keeping 50% predictions even though everyone keeps telling me they don’t matter. My only excuse is that I write everything down first and then decide what I think the likelihood is, and sometimes my best guess really is 50%.

    But it could equally well be true that sometimes your best guess really is 55%, yet you don’t allow that guess, but force yourself to choose between 50% and 60%.

    The buckets are arbitrary. You could change them. You should change them.

    ━━━━━━━━━

    Or, whatever, don’t change them. Keep it this way because that’s how you’ve always done. But don’t confabulate bullshit explanations.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      Yeah, I think that it would be better to use 55%, 65%, etc as the buckets (with the understanding that, for example, 65% means anything between 60% and 70%), until the high end. But that would make it harder to compare with previous years, of course.

  45. anthonynaguirre says:

    Permission to put some of these on Metaculus.com? (Though some already are.) It could even be fun to create a “beat Scott” series…

  46. Controls Freak says:

    35. Patreon income less than double current amount at end of year: 90%

    Perfect way to tell your critics, “You want to prove me wrong? Here’s how you prove me wrong.”

  47. Mark Atwood says:

    Your secret predictions should publish the hashvalue of the text of the prediction.

  48. actinide meta says:

    I suppose I’m beating a dead horse, but I don’t think 50% predictions are useless unless you are only interested in your calibration and not your accuracy, which seems backwards in terms of priorities. Any reasonable scoring function for accuracy (e.g. cross entropy) will penalize you for making any prediction except 50% for things that are actually 50% likely to happen. Right?

  49. gbdub says:

    Would Scott changing all his 50% predictions to say 51% or 55%, thus committing to directionality, solve most of the objections to the 50% predictions?

    • Toby Bartels says:

      As far as I'm concerned (not that I'm the only person to ask), that would solve the problems on Scott's end.

      One thing that this 50% issue has highlighted is that we don't have a clear-cut way to measure the goodness of the calibration (we know what perfect looks like, but we don't necessarily know how to measure the imperfection), and any method of measurement in which 50% predictions have an impact can be criticized for that. But we can argue about that afterwards; it's not a problem with the predictions themselves.

      Indeed, I'd be happy if Scott gave any systematic way to distinguish P from not(P) in the 50% predictions. (But I'm only showing for myself here.)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I think it’s worth pointing out that 50% is not magically different from other numbers. It is infinitely worse, but the finite problem increases continuously as you approach 50%. If you have a category of 51%, you need hundreds of predictions to assess whether you correctly decide between 49% and 51%. So you shouldn’t do that (in a pure calibration exercise). Probably Scott should just throw out the 50% category and do 60, 70, 80, 90, 95, but it would be reasonable to start with 55% and make up new buckets.

    • sty_silver says:

      As I understand it, there is zero mathematical reason not to do 50%, or to think of them as any different from any other probability. The problem is purely with people complaining.

      • gbdub says:

        I hate it, but I think I’ve come around to the complainers’ side. Let me explain how it clicked for me:

        All of Scott’s predictions share several qualities:
        1) they are boolean tests; either A or not A, and the probability of not A is 1 – the probability of A
        2) they are independent (mostly) of one another
        3) they are (mostly) single trials. He’s not predicting 100 flips of the same coin, he’s predicting 1 flip of 100 different coins
        4) the “direction” of his predictions are arbitrary. Note that he only predicts 50% or higher – if he wants to predict A, but determines that he thinks A is 30% likely, he will predict “Not A: 70%”

        He’s using these predictions to calibrate his confidence levels. Let’s say he makes 100 predictions at 70% confidence. At the end of the year, 40 come true. Next year he would say, “I am overconfident about things at the 70% level, I should move that down in the future”. But note that, because of 4) that’s identical to saying “I am underconfident about things at the 30% level” (60/100 things he implicitly gave a 30% probability to occurred).

        Now, let’s say Scott makes 100 predictions (A, B, C, etc.) at 50% confidence. 60 come true. Ah ha! He is underconfident, and should adjust his probability up. But that also means he was overconfident about not A, not B, not C, etc. Whether these predictions showed under, over, or right on confidence was entirely dependent on how he worded his predictions and which ones were “A” vs “not A”. If he has a specific system for determining whether he predicts A or not A, that’s okay – he knows which way to adjust. But if the choice between A and not A is arbitrary, how does he adjust?

        Consider the second scenario again, now Scott is using those results to make a new prediction D. Normally he would say that D is 50% likely, but his results implied he was not well calibrated at 50%. Should he put D in the 60% bucket, implying that he thinks D is more like the A, B, C… he predicted last year? Or should he put D in the 40% bucket, because D is more like the not A, not B, not C… of last year’s predictions? There is no way to choose, because the “more like A / more like not A” distinction is meaningless!

        • actinide meta says:

          50% questions don’t impact calibration, per se, but calibration is merely a component of accuracy.

          It’s true that a single total cross entropy isn’t actionable in the same way that a calibration curve is. But you can look at your individual predictions (weighted by their contribution to cross entropy, so you’ll focus *most* on incorrect strong predictions) and try to adjust the priors and thought process behind them.

          To expand on this: accuracy is what you actually want, the thing that you hope improves from year to year [1]. Calibration is a valuable concept because it provides an exercise for improving the accuracy of a black box predictor, like another expert. And there is nothing wrong with doing this exercise on yourself. But your own predictive process is not a black box; there are other ways to go about improving it. And even if not, you might still be interested in scoring your accuracy!

          [1] Since the questions are chosen differently each year, a fair comparison might be challenging. You could have a bad year in cross entropy terms just because the questions were harder. Ideally you would want to see other predictors scores on some of the same questions.

  50. Conrad Honcho says:

    2. Democrats take control of the House in midterms: 80%
    3. Democrats take control of the Senate in midterms: 50%

    These are not insignificant predictions. In the first you’re predicting democrats will be so popular as to overcome gerrymandering. For the second, remember this is the Senate class that rode Obama’s coattails in 2012. There are 34 Senate elections this year. 26 of them are for seats that are currently held by a Dem or an Independent who caucuses with the Dems. There are only 8 Republican seats up for grabs. In order for the Democrats to win the Senate, they need to flip two seats. So you’re predicting Democrats will win at least 28 of the 34 Senate elections in the fall. And many of the seats currently held by Dems are in rust belt states that went for Trump.

    I dunno. That seems very unlikely to me, especially with the way the Democrat messaging seems to be going, running on “yah illegals and boo Trump.” Illegals can’t vote (we hope), and the Republican senate candidates in those states are going to be running on a platform of continuing Trump’s so-far successful economic policies without the baggage of being Trump themselves. My prediction is:

    The House shifts by fewer than 10 seats in either direction: 60%
    Republicans gain at least two seats in the Senate: 80%
    Republicans gain at least four seats in the Senate: 50%

  51. Galle says:

    29. None of his enemies manage to find a good way to shut up/discredit Jordan Peterson: 70%

    What does “discredit” mean in this context? In my experience, he’s already not really taken seriously by anyone who doesn’t already agree with him.

  52. mlicinius says:

    To push back just a little bit on Trump’s chances of staying President by the end of the year (which, don’t get me wrong, is probably still 90% or 92%): I think 5% is roughly the base rate chance of any president not finishing a year. There have been something like 172 non-presidential-election years, and 9 Presidents who did not finish out their term. This is a little back of the envelope (sure a couple of those presidents died in election years), but that seems to imply that just a normal president has about a 4-5% chance of not making it through a given year for whatever reason?

    (The counter-argument is that no president has passed away in office since Kennedy – so it might not be fair to apply historic statistics to current presidents).

    So the question becomes – isn’t Trump at least a little bit different. Not dramatically, but doesn’t the possibility that he just pulls a Sarah Palin and resigns make him a few percentage points less likely to survive the year than base rates? Let alone a few percent chance that a heavily enough smoking gun comes out?

    Ultimately I’m only differing by a few percentage points – so it’s not a dramatic shift – but food for thought.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Trump quitting is not in his personality. He will not ever resign. Even if there is a smoking gun, you’re going to have to impeach and convict him.

      • John Schilling says:

        Two uncontested divorces and six chapter-11 bankruptcies suggest otherwise. And he’s resigned from the board of directors of more companies than I can count(*) when they wouldn’t do things his way.

        I don’t think a Trump resignation is likely, particularly this year, but it is quite possible he’d pull a Nixon if backed into a corner.

        *Because no matter how I phrase it, Google fills the search results with people who have resigned from serving under Trump

    • Nornagest says:

      Trump is 71, and he’d finish his term at 74. The chance of him dying in the interim, per Social Security actuarial tables, is about 8.2% if I’m doing my math right.

      That might be an overestimate, though. He doesn’t smoke or drink, and seems pretty healthy.

      • jg29a says:

        He doesn’t smoke or drink, and seems pretty healthy.

        He also eats fast food in large quantities once or twice a day, is the fattest president since Taft, and seems to have really poor sleep habits even by presidential standards.

        OTOH, his father lived to 93. (His paternal grandfather died early from the flu epidemic, giving us little information.) His mother made it to 88 despite severe injuries from a mugging. Not terrible genes, certainly.

  53. mayank says:

    #16 and #22 have been falsified

  54. Alexander Turok says:

    Your House and Senate predictions are significantly different from PredictIt’s, are you going to bet there?

    I’d be willing to bet 100$ at 2:1 odds against your prediction about self-driving cars.

  55. jg29a says:

    Impeachment or other political process entirely aside, doesn’t Trump’s age and sex put him at around 2.5% annual mortality? I’m not sure how much to increase that figure for obesity, extremely poor diet and job stress, as opposed to much better than average medical monitoring, but I’d go over 3% easily. And that’s not even considering the nonfatal health crisis that makes him clearly unable to serve.

    If I’m in the right ballpark, then 95% to remain in office implies >99% that he won’t be removed by political process. Is this more or less your thinking, or does your figure represent a political prediction, ignoring health?

    • Toby Bartels says:

      That statistic includes people who begin the year slowly dying in nursing homes or otherwise afflicted. Trump is already ahead of them. And despite his overweight and the ridiculousness of his public medical reports, he doesn't seem especially unhealthy.

      ETA: The Presidency is hard on a person, of course, but I even predict that it won't be as hard on him as it is on most, since he doesn't seem to be taking it all that seriously.