Predicting the future from 2021
Saturday January 2, 2021
Second year of doing these! Let's make some predictions for 1, 5, 10, and 20 years out!
- Vaccine effective in controlling all strains of COVID-19.
- No additional pandemic on the scale of COVID-19.
- Donald Trump indicted.
- S&P 500 closes above 4,000.
- At least one of FAANG split up by government intervention.
- Joe Biden is dead.
- Democratic presidential ticket of Harris and Buttigieg loses. 
- Intelligent extraterrestrials clearly real and communicating with humans. 
- S&P 500 closes above 6,000.
- S&P 500 closes above 8,000.
- S&P 500 closes above 12,000.
 What odds would you give me?
 I've included one low-probability, never occurred before, possibly impossible prediction, at the recommendation of my sister. There were Haim Eshed's claims, after all, and those videos. And wouldn't it be fun? I'll give aliens an optimistic 2% for the next five years and reevaluate then as needed.
Reviewing predictions from 2020
All my one-year predictions were correct, at least if you interpret my "S&P under 3,000" as meaning any time during the year, not just at the end of the year.
I'm feeling more optimistic about the stock market now than I was last year. Maybe that's a sign that it'll do more poorly now?
I had Justice Ginsberg dead by 2025, so my timing was sadly not maximally precise.
Most of my predictions from last year were very conservative. Understanding the present is a good method for predicting the near future, but it isn't very interesting.
I have less to say about the farther future. It's harder to predict, and I already predicted some things in the range of 10-20 years out last year. No changing them now! I'm also just thinking more about personal plans/goals; this stuff is just for fun.
Some people assign probabilities to all their predictions, and I think this isn't very interesting, because it's easy to nod along with probabilities. Predictions are interesting when they're surprising, and certainty can increase surprise.
It would be possible to compare probabilities between people and see where they're most different. I could imagine making a little web survey/app for this, which might be fun and good to do in a class learning about cross-entropy, for example.
A possible taxonomy of predictions by probability:
- Very likely based on the present. (More hurricanes.)
- Coin flip. (Old person dies in some period.)
- Slightly unlikely. (Underdog wins something.)
- Very rare but known possible. (Pandemic.)
- Possibly impossible. (Aliens visit Earth for wine and cheese party.)
It's the very likely ones that make the most sense to think about most of the time, I think, both because they don't require hedging and because there's less uncertainty in the estimate of the probability itself.
COVID-19 and the right questions
COVID-19 is the big thing that wasn't predicted for 2020: very rare but known possible. I'm not going to predict any other things in this category this year either, because that's easier and usually right.
When I wrote my 2020 predictions, there was already some news about COVID-19. Is there something like that right now that I'm missing? I googled "early signs" but didn't find anything likely to make me seem perspicacious.
The things that turn out to be important are hard to predict because you have to ask the right questions to even consider them. What aren't we considering now that will turn out to be important?