In the spirit of #SkinInTheGame, Taleb’s idea that pundits should at least stake their reputations on the strength of their knowledge, last year I made some predictions about what has come to be known as The Current Year.
Like Scott Alexander, I am calibrating my predictions by comparing the percentage of predictions I got right at each probability level versus their probability (e.g., for predictions at the 70% confidence level, perfect calibration would represent getting 7/10 of them correct). Predictions with a probability rating of less than 50% are converted to their inverse.
The Syrian government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 80% . Gains in Latakia and the capture of Aleppo, but ironically, pushed back further in Palmyra than at the same period last year. Though the strategic value of Aleppo cancels out Palmyra tenfold, in technical terms this is still a failed prediction. My main area of uncertainty was regarding Turkish or Western intervention against Assad. In truth, the sadder and more banal reality is that outside a few elite units the SAA remains mostly worthless.
(2) A majority of these happen: (a) SAA liberates Deir Hafir; (b) Palmyra; (c) All of Latakia; (d) Links up with the Nubl pocket; (e) Maintains hold on Deir ez-Zor airport. 80%. Deir Hafir is still under Islamic State, while small bits of Latakia are still controlled by the rebels. The Nubl pocket was linked up with, and Deir ez-Zor airport is still under Syrian control. Though recently recaptured, Palmyra was still liberated, so this is technically a correct prediction.
(5) Islamic State will continue to lose ground in its heartlands and might end the year controlling little more than its capitals, but its overseas franchises – most notably in Libya – will expand further: 50% . Has been all but excised from Libya. (6) The Houthis gain ground in Yemen: 60% . Comparing the maps between Dec 2015 and today, the Houthis seem to have lost ground, although very marginally. I should probably stop making predictions about wars and places I know very little about.
(9) “Putinsliv” aka Putin abandons support for DNR/LNR and Ukraine recaptures them: 5%. INVERSE 95% Putinsliv doesn’t happen: YES. That said, nobody really expected this apart from the more zrada-anticipating Russian nationalists.
(10) A new conflict in the former Soviet space: 20%. INVERSE 80% no conflict: YES. Actually I outright said the most likely place for that would be Armenia vs. Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, and it came to pass, though not at a large enough scale to quality as a conflict.
(2) Politics – Electoral falsifications will be less than in the 2011 Duma elections: 70%. YES. There was much more than I expected – I was expecting the introduction of a partial FTPT system to greatly reduce this problem – but fewer than in 2011 nonetheless.
(7) Demographics – Russia will see natural population growth: 40% . INVERSE 60% there will be no natural growth. I was wrong – according to preliminary figures, the Russian population increased by 18K to November, relative to 24K in the same period last year. The population also almost always grows in December.
(9) Demographics – Life expectancy will increase: 80%. The mortality rate continues falling, a modest 1.3%, and the population isn’t getting any younger, so that’s a YES. It will probably be around 72 years in 2016, just as I predicted.
(10) Demographics – TFR will increase: 50%. This is currently very hard to assess. The number of births fell by 1.7%, but its well known that the number of women in their childbearing years is still falling, so overall the two effects will have almost perfectly canceled out. Therefore I am not yet in a position to rate this prediction. The total TFR for 2016 will certainly be in the TFR = 1.75-1.8 range, just as in the past two years.
(4) Brexit: 10% . INVERSE 90% no Brexit. Well that’s a fail, though at least I did up it to more than 50% a week before the referendum.
(19) Russia will predictably disappoint at UEFA Euro 2016 and will get knocked out at the group stage: 50%. YES. “… But Russia fans are regularly schooled on the dangers of abandoning pessimism” – indeed!
(3) Hillary Clinton becomes US President: 70%. Do note that I raised my assessment to 50% by June 2016 in a discussion with Razib Khan, and to 60-70% by September 2016 (no Internet record of it but ask Mike Johnson or Scott Jackisch), but then my nerve failed at the last moment (even though my final prediction of a 291-247 HRC win in the Electoral Collage was closer than that of most analysts, and I even got Michigan right). I may not be the God-Emperor’s psyker like the brilliant Scott Adams but being wrong was never sweeter.
(4) I will finally heed the advice of my detractors and fuck off back to Russia: 90%. YES.
(5) I will end up being underconfident on these predictions: 50%. Seems evenly calibrated. But the New Year is arriving in 15 minutes, so I don’t have time to calculate the exact calibration, so most fortuitously my two responses at the 50% confidence level remain exactly 50% correct. Wasn’t a great idea to have three questions at this confidence level!!