Predictions for 2021

Every year for the last few years, my local rationalist meetup (in Ottawa, Canada) has done a predictions night at the beginning of the year where we talk about the year to come, estimate and debate the probability of various events, and “score” our previous year’s predictions. Think something like Slate Star Codex publishes every year, only much less rigorous.

Historically we’ve done these events in person, on various scraps of paper, and it’s been pretty hit or miss: sometimes we’ve ended up with slightly different sets of questions, sometimes people can’t find their sheet the next year, etc. This year, because of the pandemic, we did it online in a Google Doc, so we’re theoretically in much better shape (though in hindsight it really should have been a spreadsheet, not a document; I spent way too long organizing it and formatting it after the fact).

For me, I think the majority of the value was in the discussions that arose ad-hoc when people put down divergent predictions. However, the predictions themselves are also pretty interesting in some cases, so with the permission of the group I’m publishing the anonymized predictions of Rational Ottawa for 2021, in five categories: COVID, politics, technology, media, and miscellaneous. A few notes before we get started:

  • We tried to be make clear, testable, and realistic predictions but we weren’t particularly rigorous about this. I’ve already found a few that are ambiguous as I’ve gone through reformatting them.
  • Some predictions ended up in “Miscellaneous” that really belong in other sections, just because of when we thought of them.
  • A few of these predictions are inside jokes but they’re hopefully pretty obvious (e.g. “Finland really doesn’t exist”).
  • I’ve pruned the personal section entirely rather than trying to redact individual questions to varying levels of comfort.
  • I’m not personally concerned about my anonymity in making these predictions, so I’m happy to note that I’m person #1.

COVID

Long-term health effects from those infected with COVID are common by EOY.
1: 10%
2: 35%
3: 15%
4: 65%
5: 15%
6: 50% 

Publicly funded economic aid for people with long-term effects from covid.
1: 5%
2: 7%
3: 5%
4: 10%
5: 3%
6: 15%

50% of US population vaccinated by end of summer.
1: 5%
2: 12%
3: 40%
4: 10%
5: 10%
6: 10%

50% of Canadian population vaccinated by end of summer.
1: 20%
2: 50%
3: 60%
4: 35% 
5: 70%
6: 30% 

50% of World population vaccinated by end of summer.
1: 10%
2: 5%
3: 1%
4: 5%
5: 2%
6: 2%

50% of US population vaccinated by end of year.
1: 65%
2: 50%
3: 60%
4: 55%
5: 25%
6: 65%

50% of Canadian population vaccinated by end of year.
1: 80%
2: 85%
3: 80%
4: 75%
5: 85%
6: 70%

50% of World population vaccinated by end of year.
1: 20%
2: 30%
3: 5%
4: 25%
5: 20%
6: 15%

Substantial subpopulation (>5,000) has ill-effects from vaccine.
1: 40%
2: 70%
3: 20%
4: 50%
5: 35%
6: 70% 

Mask mandate lifted in Ottawa by EOY.
1: 80%
2: 55%
3: 70%
4: 70% 
5: 80%
6: 50%

English (or other) variation overtakes Covid Original in case count by end of spring/summer/year.
1: 1/40/80 %
2: 1/30/55 %
3: 1/25/35%
4: 2/20/55%
5: 3/20/65%
6: 1/10/70%

More than 30k total COVID deaths in Canada by EOY (i.e. more in 2021 than 2020).
1: 60%
2: 35%
3: 30%
4: 60%
5: 45%
6: 50%

uOttawa Fall term live
1: 85%
2: 70%
3: 75%
4: 75%
5: 80%
6: 20%

Biden, McConnell, or Pelosi get COVID.
1: 10%
2: 10%
3: 10%
4: 10%
5: 10%
6: 5%

Someone in Rational Ottawa is diagnosed with covid by EOY.
1: 30%
2: 15%
3: 30%
4: 19%
5: 20%
6: 18%

No significant social distancing in Ottawa by end of spring/summer/year.
1: 5/40/90 %
2: 2/35/65 %
3: 5/50/85%
4: 1/40/85%
5: 10/70/90%
6: 1/40/60%

Senators playing in front of full live audiences by EOY.
1: 95%
2: 80%
3: 80%
4: 85%
5: 85%
6: 60%

Predict a specific date when Rational Ottawa has an unsocially distanced indoor meeting again:
1: September 10th, 2021.
2: November 12th, 2021
3: August 22nd, 2021.
4: September 17th, 2021.
5: September 3rd, 2021.
6: December 3rd, 2021

Most office work in Ottawa no longer done from home by EOY.
1: 75%
2: 65%
3: 80%
4: 49%
5: 75%
6: 65%

The coronavirus crosses the species barrier (as with the Danish mink) and mutates into something that complicates the situation
1: 5%
2: 7%
3: 10%
4: 5%
5: 5%
6: 20% 

Politics

Canadian election called.
1: 15%
2: 15%
3: 30%
4: 35%
5: no clue
6: no clue

Trump still living in US by EOY.
1: 90%
2:  85%
3: 90%
4: 80%
5: 90%
6: 80%

Republicans win both Georgia senate seats.
1: 50%
2: 40%
3: 40%
4: 50%
5: 50%
6: 70%

Democrats win both Georgia senate seats.
1: 20%
2: 40%
3: 45%
4: 25%
5: 35%
6: 30%

Split Georgia senate seats.
1: 30%
2: 20%
3: 15%
4: 25%
5: 15%
6: 45%

Evidence of Mitch McConnell doing cocaine?
1: <1%
2: 1%
3: 1%
4: 2%
5: <1%
6: 5%

Kamala Harris president.
1: 2%
2: 4%
3: 5%
4: 5%
5: 5%
6: 35% 

Ontario election called.
1: 5%
2: 2%
3: 10%
4: 10%
5: no clue
6: no clue

Doug Ford reelected, assuming Ontario election is called.
1: 80%
2: 70%
3: 60%
4: 70%
5: no clue
6: 75%

The Queen yet lives.
1: 95%
2: 85%
3: 85%
4: 85%
5: 90%
6: 90%

New Scottish independence referendum scheduled.
1: 30%
2: 20%
3: 20%
4: 40%
5: 15%
6: 60%

Irish unification referendum scheduled.
1: 5%
2: 10%
3: 2%
4: 5%
5: 30%
6: No clue

NDP remains short on cash by EOY.
1: 70%
2: 50%
3: 60%
4: 60%
5: 60%
6: 50%

Finland really doesn’t exist.
1: -5%
2: 1%
3: 200%
4: 1000%
5: 50%
6: no clue

Technology

VR finally gets significant mainstream uptake.
1: 10%
2: 15%
3: 10%
4: 15%
5: 10%
6: 14%

Quantum computers used for something useful that we couldn’t cheaply do otherwise.
1: <1%
2: 10%
3: 10%
4: 10%
5: 15% 
6: 30%

SpaceX successfully launches 8+ more humans to space.
1: 30%
2: 60%
3: 15%
4: 90%
5: 20%
6: 20%

SN9 starship test RUD
1: 50%
2: 30%
3: 30%
4: 50%
5: 35%
6: 40%

A SpaceX Starship makes it to orbit by EOY
1: 30%
2: 15%
3: 20%
4: 20%
5: 30%
6: 40%

GPT-4 exists
1: 80%
2: 50%
3: 40%
4: 60%
5: 60%
6: 50%

Boston Dynamics starts leasing out atlas as well as spot by EOY
1: 5%
2: 10%
3: 30%
4: 15%
5: 20%
6: 25%

Driverless shipping-trucks approved (on public highways) in some country
1: 30%
2: 50%
3: 20%
4: 75%
5: 50%
6: 60%

Uber owns a driverless fleet of over 200/2000 vehicles in operation
1: 5/1 %
2: 15%/1%
3: 5%/3%
4: 10/2%
5: 5/1%
6: 5/1%

Alpha (AI) used in medical assessment, as a tool
1: <1%
2: 20%
3: 1%
4: 99%
5: 20%
6: 50%

Go AI substantially better than any human player.
1: 90%
2: 95%
3: 99%
4: 99%
5: 99%
6: 90%

Tesla’s stock price higher on 2021/12/31 than on 2021/01/01.
1: 60%
2: 55%
3: 40%
4: 65%
5: 60%
6: 

Bitcoin value higher on 2021/12/21 than 2021/01/01.
1: 60%
2: 50%
3: 30%
4: no idea
5: 40%
6: 30%

OCtranspo electric bus trial goes well.
1: 60%
2: 70%
3: 80%
4: 75%
5: 70%
6: 40%

AI goes wrong somehow.
Everyone: 99.999%

Death by human-out-of-the-loop drone is publicized
1: 20%
2: 10%
3: 10%
4: 15%
5: 15%
6: 25%

Media

SSC substack launched in January as predicted.
1: 90%
2: 80%
3: 70%
4: 80%
5: 50%
6:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

NYT publishes an article on Scott/SSC/rationalists.
1: 20%
2: 10%
3: 20%
4: 40%
5: 15%
6: 50%

Dune releases in theatres only
1: 20%
2: 35%
3: 30%
4: 45%
5: 20%
6: 60%

Cinemas see drastic decline and new movies are released for streaming/VOD relative to pre-pandemic
1: 70%
2: 85%
3: 90%
4: 90%
5: 90%
6: 80%

Miscellaneous

[I] will subjectively rate the influence of the far left/far right as lower by EOY
1: 20/20%
2: 35%/30%
3: 40%/90%
4: 50/40%
5: 30/50%
6: 50/40%

At some point during 2021, one of the questions on this list will be rendered obsolete or inapplicable by changing circumstances and will need to be unasked.
1: 30%
2: 50%
3: 90%
4: 90%
5: 15%
6: 100%

Canadian airline closes forever
1: 10%
2: 5%
3: 5%
4: 5%
5: 5%
6: 5%

November/December 2021 is colder on average than in 2020
1: 50%
2: 50/50%
3: 60/80%
4: 85/95%
5: 80/80%
6: 40/40%

Enough snow for cross-country skiing on Christmas 2021
1: 30%
2: 20%
3: 40%
4: 40%
5: 30%
6: 10%

Hugging and kissing is practiced more than before the pandemic
1: 60%
2: 50%
3: 60%
4:…in rational ottawa? All the hugs 99%
5: 30%
6: 75%

Discarded non reusable masks become a waste problem in underdeveloped countries
1: 5%
2: 20%
3: 5%
4: 5%
5: 3%
6: 50%

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