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I am not aware of any active Russian political predictions markets, apart from “Will Vladimir Putin be president of Russia at the end of 2018?” at PredictIt (currently at 93% FWIW).

I suppose there are three main reasons for this:

1. Interesting American fads only reach Russia with a lag time of several times, if they ever do.

2. Russian politics is predictable. Sure, Putin will win. OTOH, predicting things such as the turnout rate, or Zhirinovsky’s share of the vote, or whether or not Navalny spends more than 80 days in jail in 2018, could still be pretty fun.

3. Legal obstructions. Online betting is highly restricted in Russia (e.g. I can’t even access Oddschecker without a VPN).

Furthermore, political predictions market would seem to be outright banned by Article 56, part 3 of the Russian elections law of 2003, which forbids “lotteries and other risk based games” where the winning of prizes depends on the results of the elections.

Even so, VCIOM has opened a predictions market, apparently skirting the law because they don’t take money from any of the participants and thus fail to qualify as a lottery or risk-based game.

wciom-russia-elecrtions-2018-predictions-market-jan

Here are the current predictions: Putin – 72%, Grudinin – 11%, Zhirinovsky – 10%, Sobchak – 2%, with turnout pegged at 65%.

Activity seems to be very low, so I don’t think this market is informationally worth much.

On the same website subsection as the predictions market, VCIOM has also released more detailed polls in terms of electoral socio-demographics, which confirm many of the observations I have long made on Russian politics.

(In the following charts: Blue = Putin; Yellow = Zhirinovsky; Pink = Grudinin; Gray = Sobchak; Green = Yavlinsky; Blue = Titov).

poll-wciom-russia-elections-2018

Just for orientation: If the elections were to be held on the next Sunday, around 73% would vote for Putin.

poll-wciom-russia-elections-2018-sex

Female political conformism: As in the FOM poll, Putin scores much better with women (~78%) than with men (~68%), whereas both the Communist and nationalist candidate score twice better amongst the men, if from a low base.

poll-wciom-russia-elections-2018-age

Old communists, young nationalists: Also as in the FOM poll, the 18-24 year olds are giving Zhirinovsky around 10% to Grudinin’s 5%, while the 60+ year olds are giving 10% to Grudinin and almost nothing to Zhirinovsky.

Some other observations:

Employment: As is an old-established pattern, state workers (~75%) support Putin more than workers in the private sector (~70%).

Location: As usual, residents of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg are the least pro-Putin (~68%), relative to residents of large cities (~70%), small cities (~75), and rural areas (close to 80%).

Income: People with the lowest incomes are significantly more likely to vote for Zhirinovsky, presumably because they tend to the young (more nationalist) and the unemployed.

Anti-rating: Sobchak has by far the highest.

In other Russian elections news, Navalny is planning to lead his flock to a new series of protest meetings tomorrow (Jan 28) in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. I don’t expect anything interesting to happen either now or before the elections in general. Navalny will be arrested, probably before he shows up, and will spend a fortnight in jail. 200 people will get arrested. Turnout will not exceed 10,000, the maximum (realistic) estimate for turnout at the last protests on Tverskaya in March 2017. I probably won’t bother showing up to cover the event.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Prediction, Russia, Russian Elections 2018 
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Previous predictions/calibrations:

Please note that my “Blackpill Timeline” is a what-if scenario, not a prediction.

While percentages for existing predictions will remain fixed, I reserve the right to add more predictions during the next couple of days.

World

Economics

  • Oil prices (WTI Crude) are higher than $70: 50%
  • BTC prices are higher than $4,000: 50%
  • Russia’s GDP grows by 2.5%+: 50%
  • USA’s GDP grows by 2.5%+: 50%
  • Ukraine’s GDP grows by 3.5%+: 50%
  • China’s GDP grows by 6.5%+: 50%

Science & Tech

  • No new global temperature record: 60%.
  • China will have more top 500 supercomputers than the US at the end of 2018: 90%
  • Robust mouse rejuvenation does not happen: 95%
  • Radical life extension does not happen: 99%
  • Artificial General Intelligence or superintelligence do not happen: 99%
  • There is no significant (>10 nukes) nuclear warfare: 99%
  • Human civilization does not run into an existential risk (if it does, I will try my best to confirm it here before the Internet winks out): 99%

World Conflicts

  • US will not get involved in any new major war with a death toll of >50 US soldiers: 80%
  • US strike on a North Korean missile base: 50%
  • No major conflict on the Korean peninsula (>50 deaths): 90%
  • No Korean War II with US/ROK ground invasion: 95%
  • No major conflict between China and the US (>50 deaths) in East Asia/SE Asia: 95%
  • No major conflict between China, and Vietnam or India (>50 deaths): 95%
  • No major conflict (>50 deaths), except Donbass, in the former Soviet space: 90%
  • There will not be a US strike on Iran: 90%
  • No major (direct) conflict between Iran and the US (>50 deaths) in the Middle East: 95%
  • No major conflict/US military intervention in Venezuela: 99%

syrian-civil-war-jan-2018Syrian Civil War (map right for reference purposes)

  • The Syrian Civil War is still ongoing: 80%
  • The city of Idlib is still under rebel control: 60%.
  • Islamic State no longer controls any territory in Iraq and/or Syria: 90%
  • US and its allies will not impose a no fly zone over Syria: 90%
  • There will not be a major clash between the US and Russia over Syria (>3 fighters lost by either side): 90%
  • Turkey will not “backstab” Russia and the Syrian government: 90%
  • The cold war between Syria and the SDF does not turn hot: 80%
  • Syria controls more territory at the end of 2018 than it does today today: 70%
  • Syria still controls Aleppo: 90%
  • Bashar Assad will remain President of Syria: 90%

War in Donbass

  • War in Donbass doesn’t reignite: 70%
  • CONDITIONAL: If it reignites, it will happen during or within a month of the FIFA World Cup: 70%
  • Mariupol still under Ukraine control: 80%
  • Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, and Kharkov all still under central Ukrainian control: 95%
  • Russia does not recognize the DNR, LNR, or some other de facto state formation within the Ukraine: 80%
  • No “Putinsliv”/abandonment of Russian support for DNR/LNR, with the Ukraine recapturing Donetsk and Lugansk: 95%
  • The Crimea remains Russian: 99%

World Politics

  • No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in Middle East/North African countries, apart from Iran and those already so afflicted: 70%
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in China: 95%
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in Iran: 50%
  • The Iranian “regime” (defined as one based on wilayat-e faqih) will remain in place: 80%.
  • Venezuela undergoes sovereign default: 70%.
  • Nicolas Maduro remains leader of Venezuela: 60%.
  • Kim Jong Un remains leader of North Korea: 90%
  • Julian Assange still cooped up at the Ecuadorian Embassy: 80%
  • US further expands Russia sanctions: 80%
  • US does not relax or remove Russia sanctions: 90%
  • EU further expands Russia sanctions: 50%
  • EU does not relax or remove Russia sanctions: 80%
  • Russia is not cut off from SWIFT: 90%

Russian Politics

  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in Russia: 95%
  • Putin wins the 2018 Russian Presidential elections: 99%
  • Putin gets more than 80% in the Russian Presidential elections: 50%.
  • Pavel Grudinin (KPRF) gets more than 7% in the Russian elections: 50%.
  • Zhirinovsky (LDPR) gets more than 8% in the Russian elections: 50%.
  • Zhirinovsky gets more votes than Pavel Grudinin: 60%
  • Navalny is not allowed to run: 90%
  • CONDITIONAL: If Sobchak is allowed to run, she gets more than 3% in the Russian elections: 50%.
  • CONDITIONAL: If Navalny is allowed to run, he gets more than 8% in the Russian elections: 50%.
  • Russian elections see record low turnout: 80%
  • The Russian elections see more than 60% turnout: 50%
  • Alexey Dyumin upgraded from governnorship of Tula oblast and given a significant position in the federal government: 60%
  • Dmitry Medvedev continues as Prime Minister: 70%
  • Alexey Ulyukaev gets a suspended sentence on appeal: 60%
  • There will be at least 100 arrests in post-elections protests: 80%
  • Putin remains Russian President at the end of the year: 90%
  • Putin’s approval rating (Levada) is higher than 60% at year end: 50%
  • There will be substantial (>10,000 in Moscow) anti-government protests in Russia: 80%
  • There will be no be massive (>100,000 in Moscow) anti-government protests in Russia: 60%
  • Even fewer Russians approve (Levada) of the United States at year end than they did this December (24%): 50%.

Ukrainian Politics

  • Poroshenko remains in power: 90%
  • The Ukraine does not undergo sovereign default: 95%
  • Saakashvili extradited to Georgia: 70%

US Politics

  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in USA: 95%
  • Trump remains US President: 80%
  • Trump’s approval rating (538) is higher than 32%: 50%
  • Democrats will control the Senate: 50%
  • Democrats will control the House: 60%
  • Rex Tillerson no longer Secretary of State: 60%
  • Jared Kushner no longer in the White House: 80%
  • Hillary Clinton does not get prosecuted: 95%
  • Freedom House lowers United States Freedom Rating [no longer think this will happen. But as promised, carried over as-is from last set of predictions; will know in early February]: 50%

European Politics

  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country (>100 deaths): 95%
  • No EU country schedules a referendum for EU exit in 2017: 90%
  • No country leaves the Eurozone: 95%
  • 5 Star Movement will win the Italian general elections: 60%.
  • Fidesz wins a majority of seats in the 2018 Hungarian parliamentary elections: 95%
  • Angela Merkel will no longer be German Chancellor: 60%.
  • New Labour wins more than it loses in UK local elections: 70%.
  • Catalonia will not be an independent state de facto or de jure: 95%
  • No Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 70%.

Culture & Human Interest

  • Germany will not win the 2018 FIFA World Cup: 80%
  • Russia will fail to advance past the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup: 60%.
  • Russia will not win the 2018 FIFA World Cup: 99%
  • GRRM publishes Winds of Winter: 70%.
  • UNQUANTIFIED: Daenerys dies, Theon lives (in the show):
  • UNQUANTIFIED: Influence of the Alt Right declines.
  • Mount & Blade: Bannerlord released: 80%
  • Cyberpunk 2077 not released: 90%
  • Sputnik and Pogrom above 1 million monthly visitors again as of November 2018 (SimilarWeb), despite it being blocked in Russia: 80%
  • The Unz Review has more pageviews than in 2017: 80%.

The AK

Life

  • I will still be in Russia: 95%
  • I will not be banned from Twitter or Facebook: 80%
  • CONDITIONAL: Will have more than 5,000 followers on Twitter: 50%
  • I will start work on a PhD: 60%
  • Some significant health problems I have will not be resolved: 80%
  • I will be in a long-term relationship: 60%
  • I will not be engaged/married: 90%
  • I will be living in another apartment in Moscow: 90%
  • I will meet my savings target for 2018 (remont done; enough money to immediately pay off debts if I need to): 70%
  • I will weigh 75kg at year end 2018: 50%
  • I will not cardinally change my political positions (disavow Russian nationalism, support Navalny, etc.): 90%
  • I will not get seriously drunk (throwing up) this year: 70%
  • I will not take hard drugs this year: 90%
  • I will not go skiing/snowboarding this year: 90%

Travel

  • I will visit Romania: 80%
  • I will visit Austria: 70%
  • I will visit Czechia and/or Hungary: 50%
  • I will visit the LDNR: 50%
  • I will not visit the United Kingdom: 70%
  • I will visit at least three Golden Ring cities in Russia: 50%
  • I will visit Saint-Petersburg (Russia): 50%
  • I will not visit Crimea (Russia): 80%
  • I will not visit Portugal: 80%
  • I will not visit non-European Russia: 90%
  • I will not visit the United States: 95%
  • I will not visit any other countries not mentioned here: 70%

Blogging

  • I will continue blogging: 95%
  • I will continue blogging at The Unz Review: 90%
  • I will not write a record amount of blog posts at The Unz Review (262+): 70%
  • There will be more visits than in 2016: 70%
  • There will be more pageviews than in 2016: 70%
  • There will be more comments than in 2016: 60%
  • I will write more than 30 posts for my akarlin.ru Russian blog: 50%
  • I will write 20+ book reviews: 50%
  • I will write 5+ film reviews: 50%
  • I will write 5+ video game reviews: 50%
  • I will have more than 3 new articles published at Sputnik and Pogrom: 50%

Projects

  • ROGPR podcast will still be active and I will still be involved in it: 80%
  • ROGPR podcast will have more than 20,000 subscribers on YouTube: 50%
  • I will author or coauthor an academic paper: 95%
  • I will author or coauthor two or more academic papers: 70%
  • I will have published a book by Dec 31, 2017: 80%
  • CONDITIONAL: If so, this will be my long planned book on Russia (Dark Lord of the Kremlin): 95%
  • I will not have published two or more books by Dec 31, 2016: 60%
  • CONDITIONAL: If so, this will be a development of my ideas in A Short History of the Third Millennium: 70%
  • I will not get a RationalWiki “hagiography”: 60%
  • I will not appear on Ukraine’s Peacekeeper list: 80%

PS. Note for future self: Tally correct/incorrect world and personal predictions separately; also combine and analyze them for the past several years.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Prediction, Rationality 
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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 2017.

See also predictions and results for 2016.

As usual, 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.

Correct predictions are left as is, while wrong predictions are crossed out. Additional comments are in bolded italics.

***

Predictions – World

World Affairs & Conflicts

  • No major conflict (>50 deaths) in East Asia/SE Asia that involves China and/or the US: 95%.
  • US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 50 US soldiers: 80%.
  • No major conflict (>50 deaths), except Donbass, in the former Soviet space: 90%.
    • The big one here is Armenia vs. Azerbaijan, but because reasons, the likelihood of a new flareup is now considerably lower than last year.
  • Oil prices are higher than $60: 50%. WTI Crude is at $58.47/barrel as of 12/23/2017. Perfectly calibrated prediction.
  • China’s GDP grows by 6%+: 50%. Close: 6.9% in Q1, 6.9% in Q2, 6.8% in Q3.
  • China will have more top 500 supercomputers than the US throughout 2017: 70%. And by quite the margin, now.
  • There are fewer European migrant arrivals by sea than in 2016: 80%. 170,317 in 2017 vs. 362,753 in 2016, 1,015,078 in 2015.
  • Venezuela does not undergo sovereign default: 80%.
  • Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >50 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%.
  • North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt (>100 deaths): 95%.
  • No new global temperature record: 90%. Correct, this was the third hottest year.
    • If only because it will be hard to beat 2016. That said, I expect shipping in the Arctic to continue booming.
  • Radical life extension will not be developed: 99%.
  • Superintelligence will not be developed: 99%.
  • No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in USA: 95%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in China: 99%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in Russia: 95%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country (>100 deaths): 90%.

Syrian Civil War

  • Bashar Assad will remain President of Syria: 95%.
  • IS no longer in control of Raqqa: 50%.
  • IS no longer in control of Palmyra: 80%.
  • IS no longer in control of Mosul: 95%.
  • IS still controls some territory in Iraq and/or Syria: 90%. That’s a few bits of bare desert, but still.
  • Syria still controls Aleppo: 80%.
    • The first danger is a Turkish stab in the back, in which its proxies turn hostile and, in effect, encircle Aleppo between al-Bab and Idlib (though I don’t view that as being likely). The second danger remains the banal fact that most of the SAA is no good, especially its garrison units. I don’t fully exclude the possibility of the rebels seizing the city back once the elite units are sent off somewhere else.
  • Syria still controls Deir ez-Zor airport: 90%.
  • Idlib is still under rebel control: 70%.
    • That province has the lowest polled support for Assad of any in Syria, and that number has correlated very well with the difficulties the Syrian state has had in reimposing its authority there.
  • US/Allies will NOT impose no fly zone over Syria: 95%.
  • Turkey will not “backstab” Russia and the Syrian government: 90%.
  • The Syrian Civil War is still ongoing: 95%.
  • Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War is scaled down relative to today in a year’s time: 70%.

War in Donbass

  • War in Donbass doesn’t reignite: 80%.
    • Incidentally, and quite ironically, Trump’s election may well have made Ukraine’s position safer (that at least is also the opinion of Igor Strelkov). Were HRC to bloody Putin’s nose in Syria with a no fly zone, three guesses as to who the object of a “short victorious war” to restore Putin’s reputation might have been. With Trump, Syria as a source of escalation is removed.
    • The Ukrainians also now have far fewer reasons to heat things up, because its a safe bet that Trump won’t be interested in pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.
  • No “Putinsliv”/abandonment of Russian support for DNR/LNR, with Ukraine recapturing Donetsk and Lugansk: 99%.
  • Mariupol still under Ukraine control: 90%.
  • Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, and Kharkov all still under central Ukrainian control: 95%.
    • Kolomoysky has been defanged as a regional attractor, but Odessa remains a potential powderkeg. I think Ukraine will pull through – as I’ve always noted, Right Sector thugs count for more on the streets than protesting pensioners.
  • Poroshenko remains in power: 90%.
  • The Ukraine does not undergo sovereign default: 90%.
    • The next key date is January 2017 when the Commercial Court in the UK rules on the status of Russia’s $3 billion loan to Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian economy shows GDP growth: 80%. Growth: Fell from 4.8% in Q4 2016, but remains decidedly positive at 2.5% in Q1, 2.3% in Q2, 2.1% in Q3.
    • If only because there is very little room for it to fall any further, with GDP per capita only 70% that of the UkSSR in 1989.

Russia

  • Putin remains Russian President: 95%.
  • Putin announces entry into Presidential race for his second (fourth in total) term: 90%.
  • GDP grows by 2%+: 50%. Russia’s growth was 0.5% in Q1, 2.5% in Q2, and 1.8% in Q3; growth for the entire year will probably be around 1.7%; will need to be 3.2% in Q4 to eke out 2%.
  • Putin’s approval rating according to Levada doesn’t dip below 70% during the year: 50%. They didn’t even dip below 80%; minimum was 81% in June and November.
  • Russians have a more positive view of the US than of the EU as of the last Levada poll in that year: 60%. This prediction actually came true by March 2017, when for a single month, marginally fewer Russians approved of the EU (36%) than of the US (37%) – a stunning reversal, since before the Ukrainian crisis, the EU had traditionally been seen in a much better light. Then came the attack on Syria, and by May, US approval was back down to 23% versus 27% for the EU. As of December, the EU has an approval rate of 28% to America’s 24%.
  • There will not be any substantial anti-government protests (>10,000): 90%. The most substantial oppositionist protest was Navalny’s “He is Not Dimon” meeting at Tverskaya; I was there personally and estimated 7,000-8,000. Khodorkovsky’s “Enough” got a pathetic 200. This year’s Russian March likewise had almost no people, the event having long been hijacked by pro-Ukrainians. The one demonstration that did satisfy this condition was the Anti-Khrushchevki Demolition Protest, which gathered around 20,000 people – however, they did not present a united anti-government agenda, even to the point of sending Navalny packing, so I don’t think this counts.
    • Trump isn’t interested, and the Europeans don’t have as much money.
  • Natural population growth: 70%. This year saw an ~11% decrease in Russian birth rates, a strange and sudden collapse that seems to have been part of a general Eurasian (Ukraine, Baltics) and maybe even industrialized world trend. Preliminary figures for Jan-Oct 2017: 1,418,090 births (1,588,095 in 2016), 1,532,955 deaths (1,567,803 in 2016), translating to natural decrease of -114,865 (+20,292 in 2016). Looks like the definitive end of the brief period of Russia’s natural growth during 2013-15.
  • Total population growth: 95%. Net immigration usually runs at around 250-300k / year, so this is still true.
  • The Crimea remains Russian: 99%.

United States

  • Trump remains US President: 95%.
  • Rex Tillerson becomes and remains Secretary of State: 80%.
    • Had already predicted his rise at PredictIt well before Trump made it public (see right).
  • Hillary Clinton does not get prosecuted: 90%.
  • US economy grows by 3%+: 50%. Growth: 2.0% in Q1, 2.2% in Q2, 2.3% in Q3 – not gonna happen.
  • US relaxes or removes Russia sanctions: 50%. We’ve now transitioned to the US likely selling Javelins to the Ukraine, LOL.
    • Trump might support that, but Congress surely won’t.
  • The Alt Right acrimoniously splits into Trumpists and anti-Trumpists: 70%. Absolutely.
    • This prediction actually dates back to May 2016.
    • Incidentally, this is yet another fascinating Putin/Trump parallel – Putin’s Solovyev/Starikov are Trump’s Milo/Cernovich, while the ethnats have at best a “mixed” relationship with them.
  • The “Ferguson Effect” reverses or at least stabilizes (homicides in major urban areas peak off): 60%. Apparently so.
  • *** Freedom House lowers United States Freedom Rating: 50%. We need to wait until Jan 31 for the Freedom in the World 2018 report to come out; moving this prediction into next year’s.
    • For instance, lowers “Civil Rights” category from 1 to 2, because they are too triggered by Trump.
  • There will be fewer campus disinvitations “from the Left”: 70%. In 2017, there were 29 disinvitations (43 in 2016), of which 24 “from the Left” (35 in 2016).

Europe

  • François Fillon becomes French President: 70%.
  • Marine Le Pen will not be French President: 80%.
    • Yes, to be sure, last year’s events made fools of mainstream analysts, but the fact remains that the French political system is very tough for nationalists. Trump wouldn’t have won in that format either.
  • Merkel remains German Chancellor: 70%.
  • Frauke Petry will not be German Chancellor: 90%.
    • Based on opinion polls, I just don’t see how it’s possible.
  • No country leaves the Eurozone: 95%.
  • Article 50 is invoked in the UK: 90%.
  • No second Scottish referendum is called: 80%.
  • Scotland remains in the UK: 95%.
  • No Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 70%.
  • The EU relaxes or removes Russia sanctions: 60%.
    • The Mediterraneans don’t care and are getting increasingly restive.

Misc

  • The Unz Review has fewer viewers than in 2016: 70%. I was wrong. Great!
    • Would be great to be wrong, but it’ll be hard to beat the (last) Current Year.
  • Mount & Blade: Bannerlord released: 95%.
  • GRRM publishes Winds of Winter: 80%.

Predictions – The AK

  • I will still be in Russia: 95%.
  • I will make my hajj to Crimea: 50%.
  • I will continue blogging: 95%.
  • I will write a record amount of blog posts (172+): 70%. Will finish up at around 260, versus 128 in 2016 and 130 in 2015.
    • I should imminently have a lot more free time so my productivity should increase.
  • There will be more comments than in 2016: 80%. 17,743 and counting, versus 6,204 in 2016 and 5,504 in 2015.
  • There will be more visits and views than in 2016: 80%. 751,826 views and counting, versus 493,156 in 2016 and 382,574 in 2015. I’ll be sure to do some more statistical navel-gazing on the 10th anniversary of my blogging career (January 9, 2018). How do I stack up against the others here? Steve Sailer gets an order of magnitude more views (c.11 million in 2017). James Thompson will be a little shy of half a million.
  • I will create a Russian language blog and write more than 10 posts for it: 60%. I actually wrote considerably more for akarlin.ru – around 32 posts. Though due to low intensivity, commentary is inactive. That said, our ROGPR podcast is growing by leaps and bounds – the YouTube channel already has 4,000 subscribers.
  • I will write 30+ book reviews: 50%. Total fail.
  • I will write 5+ game reviews: 50%. Total fail.
  • I will write fewer than 5 movie reviews: 80%.
  • I will author or coauthor a paper: 90%. Total fail. Though a couple are now tantalizingly close.
    • An S Factor analysis of Russia is forthcoming.
  • I will author or coauthor two papers: 70%.
  • I will not author or coauthor more than two papers: 80%.
  • I will finish writing at least one book: 70%. Total fail.
  • I will publish that book by Dec 31, 2017: 50%. Total fail.
  • I will not be banned or shadowbanned on Twitter or Facebook: 90%.
    • Of course it helps that I barely use them nowadays.
  • I will finally get a RationalWiki “hagiography” ala JayMan or hbdchick: 50%.

***

Here is my calibration graph:

predictions-calibration-2017

Did pretty poorly on the 50% confidence predictions. However, of my 50% confidence personal predictions, all five were wrong; cancel them out, and the calibration for this level would be a much more respectable 42%.

My main weak point was being massively over-optimistic on what I could get done in 2017.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Prediction, Rationality 
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Might as well get this out of the way now so as not to sully the New Year cheer.

Here’s a pessimistic (for some) but plausible (I think) way things will develop in the next couple of years.

1. Trump cedes key positions to globalists and neocons. This has already happened; for all intents and purposes the US is now ruled by a junta of generals and oligarchs.

2. Democrats win the House and Senate in 2018. Prediction markets now giving a ~60% chance of a Democratic House (PredictIt, PredictWise) and a ~45% chance of a Democratic Senate (PredictIt, PredictWise). The political capital accruing from an improving economy is more than mitigated by the Republicans’ naked cronyism and pro-oligarchic policies, which Trump has chosen to unambiguously associate himself with. Gerrymandering is good in normal times, but in a “blue wave” year, all those 55%-45% “safe” districts flip.

3. Having outlived his usefulness to the GOP, Trump is himself impeached, 25th’ed, or at least made a lame duck by 2019. PredictWise actually gives Trump about 10% points less chance of finishing his first term today than they did at the beginning of 2017. These numbers are not just /r/politics and Blue Checkmark fantasies, they are the results of people putting their money where their mouths are.

predictwise-trump-finishes-1st-term

4. Rampant domestic SJWism in 2019 as the Democrats unleash two years’ worth of pent up hatred and frustration. M uch of this is going to be less believable than satire, so I leave the details here to your imagination. The only thing I will note is that it is increasingly evident that SJWism is getting effectively weaponized by the elites against its enemies.

5. Purges of remaining populists on both the Right and the Left through #Russiagate. N one of this needs #Russiagate to be true to any significant degree. This has long ceased to be a legal matter, if it ever was in the first place; it is now just power politics. Note also the increasingly Red Scare-like attacks on the dissident Left for being Kremlin dupes. The populist Right has already been betrayed and defanged. This serves the interests of both the Clintonistas and the old GOP – that is, of the Establishment.

6. The ascendancy of neocon foreign policy. Though the Clintonista Dems and the old GOP won’t fully see eye to eye on domestic matters, one point of agreement will be on foreign policy – that is, on the twin pillars of Israel First and Russia containment.

An image of Russia as the archenemy of democratic civilization has been successfully built up in the past year, so we can expect everything from weapons deliveries to the Ukraine up to Iran-level sanctions as payback for their “attack on American democracy.”

Meanwhile, pressure on Iran and China will be let up, leaving Russia more isolated; and relations with Europe will improve after the neutralization of the hated Drumpf and the end of American obstructionism on issues like climate change.

Russia and Assad have yet to “win” in Syria. Yes, the Islamic State has been defeated and Aleppo liberated, but there are still large rebel concentrations – including one directly supported by Turkey – which can be reactivated after the next false flag and consequent American-led “humanitarian intervention” campaign. Turkey might be schmoozing up to Russia right now, since an Assad-ruled unitary Syria is better for it than an independent Kurdistan, but why wouldn’t it try again for an Islamist Syria should the opportunity present itself again?

7. Russia will come under incredible strain. If my read on Russian politics is correct, Putin’s next term will focus on the search for a successor and a transition from personalistic to institutional power. This is an issue that can only be given full attention in the absence of significant world tension. Consequently, I think it is likely that Putin will seek to make up with the West during this period, offering modest concessions in return for another reset.

However, in this scenario, the West will hardly be interested in dialogue, which will leave Putin a smaller subset of choices.

a) Total Surrender: Withdraw from the Donbass and leave it to Kiev’s tender mercies; evacuate Khmeimim/Tartus as the US, Saudis, Israel, and possibly turncoat Turks move in to bomb it into democracy; pass on power to a systemic liberal, who might adopt Navalny’s suggestion to rerun the Crimean referendum under international auspices. Ironically, this will require a major step-up in repression to accomplish, since nationalists will be mad about this and liberals will sense blood in the water.

b) Hunker Down: This will invite harder and harder sanctions from the West, up to and including being cut off from SWIFT, and possibly outright military clashes should Russia put up resistance in Syria, or retaliate elsewhere. In this scenario, repression will also have to be increased against non-systemic liberals as the regime is forced to lean more on nationalist support domestically, and China internationally.

Well, that’s it for my gloomy presentiments. Now you tell me why they’re wrong.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Prediction, United States 
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esoteric-kekism

Last year, I resumed my New Year’s tradition of posting annual predictions.

I recently analyzed the success rate of those predictions for 2016, the year when meme magic became real.

Here are my predictions for 2017:

Predictions – World

World Affairs & Conflicts

  • No major conflict (>50 deaths) in East Asia/SE Asia that involves China and/or the US: 95%.
  • US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 50 US soldiers: 80%.
  • No major conflict (>50 deaths), except Donbass, in the former Soviet space: 90%.
    • The big one here is Armenia vs. Azerbaijan, but because reasons, the likelihood of a new flareup is now considerably lower than last year.
  • Oil prices are higher than $60: 50%.
  • China’s GDP grows by 6%+: 50%.
  • China will have more top 500 supercomputers than the US throughout 2017: 70%.
  • There are fewer European migrant arrivals by sea than in 2016: 80%.
  • Venezuela does not undergo sovereign default: 80%.
  • Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >50 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%.
  • North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt (>100 deaths): 95%.
  • No new global temperature record: 90%.
    • If only because it will be hard to beat 2016. That said, I expect shipping in the Arctic to continue booming.
  • Radical life extension will not be developed: 99%.
  • Superintelligence will not be developed: 99%.
  • No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in USA: 95%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in China: 99%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in Russia: 95%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country (>100 deaths): 90%.

Syrian Civil War

  • cant-mossad-the-assad Bashar Assad will remain President of Syria: 95%.
  • IS no longer in control of Raqqa: 50%.
  • IS no longer in control of Palmyra: 80%.
  • IS no longer in control of Mosul: 95%.
  • IS still controls some territory in Iraq and/or Syria: 90%.
  • Syria still controls Aleppo: 80%.
    • The first danger is a Turkish stab in the back, in which its proxies turn hostile and, in effect, encircle Aleppo between al-Bab and Idlib (though I don’t view that as being likely). The second danger remains the banal fact that most of the SAA is no good, especially its garrison units. I don’t fully exclude the possibility of the rebels seizing the city back once the elite units are sent off somewhere else.
  • Syria still controls Deir ez-Zor airport: 90%.
  • Idlib is still under rebel control: 70%.
    • That province has the lowest polled support for Assad of any in Syria, and that number has correlated very well with the difficulties the Syrian state has had in reimposing its authority there.
  • US/Allies will NOT impose no fly zone over Syria: 95%.
  • Turkey will not “backstab” Russia and the Syrian government: 90%.
  • The Syrian Civil War is still ongoing: 95%.
  • Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War is scaled down relative to today in a year’s time: 70%.

War in Donbass

  • War in Donbass doesn’t reignite: 80%.
    • Incidentally, and quite ironically, Trump’s election may well have made Ukraine’s position safer (that at least is also the opinion of Igor Strelkov). Were HRC to bloody Putin’s nose in Syria with a no fly zone, three guesses as to who the object of a “short victorious war” to restore Putin’s reputation might have been. With Trump, Syria as a source of escalation is removed.
    • The Ukrainians also now have far fewer reasons to heat things up, because its a safe bet that Trump won’t be interested in pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.
  • No “Putinsliv”/abandonment of Russian support for DNR/LNR, with Ukraine recapturing Donetsk and Lugansk: 99%.
  • Mariupol still under Ukraine control: 90%.
  • Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, and Kharkov all still under central Ukrainian control: 95%.
    • Kolomoysky has been defanged as a regional attractor, but Odessa remains a potential powderkeg. I think Ukraine will pull through – as I’ve always noted, Right Sector thugs count for more on the streets than protesting pensioners.
  • Poroshenko remains in power: 90%.
  • The Ukraine does not undergo sovereign default: 90%.
    • The next key date is January 2017 when the Commercial Court in the UK rules on the status of Russia’s $3 billion loan to Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian economy shows GDP growth: 80%.
    • If only because there is very little room for it to fall any further, with GDP per capita only 70% that of the UkSSR in 1989.

Russia

  • Putin remains Russian President: 95%.
  • Putin announces entry into Presidential race for his second (fourth in total) term: 90%.
  • GDP grows by 2%+: 50%.
  • Putin’s approval rating according to Levada doesn’t dip below 70% during the year: 50%.
  • Russians have a more positive view of the US than of the EU as of the last Levada poll in that year: 60%.
  • There will not be any substantial anti-government protests (>10,000): 90%.
    • Trump isn’t interested, and the Europeans don’t have as much money.
  • Natural population growth: 70%.
  • Total population growth: 95%.
  • The Crimea remains Russian: 99%.

United States

  • rex-predictionTrump remains US President: 95%.
  • Rex Tillerson becomes and remains Secretary of State: 80%.
    • Had already predicted his rise at PredictIt well before Trump made it public (see right).
  • Hillary Clinton does not get prosecuted: 90%.
  • US economy grows by 3%+: 50%.
  • US relaxes or removes Russia sanctions: 50%.
    • Trump might support that, but Congress surely won’t.
  • The Alt Right acrimoniously splits into Trumpists and anti-Trumpists: 70%.
    • This prediction actually dates back to May 2016.
    • Incidentally, this is yet another fascinating Putin/Trump parallel – Putin’s Solovyev/Starikov are Trump’s Milo/Cernovich, while the ethnats have at best a “mixed” relationship with them.
  • The “Ferguson Effect” reverses or at least stabilizes (homicides in major urban areas peak off): 60%.
  • Freedom House lowers United States Freedom Rating: 50%.
    • For instance, lowers “Civil Rights” category from 1 to 2, because they are too triggered by Trump.
  • There will be fewer campus disinvitations “from the Left”: 70%.

Europe

  • François Fillon becomes French President: 70%.
  • Marine Le Pen will not be French President: 80%.
    • Yes, to be sure, last year’s events made fools of mainstream analysts, but the fact remains that the French political system is very tough for nationalists. Trump wouldn’t have won in that format either.
  • Merkel remains German Chancellor: 70%.
  • Frauke Petry will not be German Chancellor: 90%.
    • Based on opinion polls, I just don’t see how it’s possible.
  • No country leaves the Eurozone: 95%.
  • Article 50 is invoked in the UK: 90%.
  • No second Scottish referendum is called: 80%.
  • Scotland remains in the UK: 95%.
  • No Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 70%.
  • The EU relaxes or removes Russia sanctions: 60%.
    • The Mediterraneans don’t care and are getting increasingly restive.

Misc

  • The Unz Review has fewer viewers than in 2016: 70%.
    • Would be great to be wrong, but it’ll be hard to beat the (last) Current Year.
  • Mount & Blade: Bannerlord released: 95%.
  • GRRM publishes Winds of Winter: 80%.

Predictions – The AK

  • I will still be in Russia: 95%.
  • I will make my hajj to Crimea: 50%.
  • I will continue blogging: 95%.
  • I will write a record amount of blog posts (172+): 70%.
    • I should imminently have a lot more free time so my productivity should increase.
  • There will be more comments than in 2016: 80%.
  • There will be more visits and views than in 2016: 80%.
  • I will create a Russian language blog and write more than 10 posts for it: 60%.
  • I will write 30+ book reviews: 50%.
  • I will write 5+ game reviews: 50%.
  • I will write fewer than 5 movie reviews: 80%.
  • I will author or coathor a paper: 90%.
    • An S Factor analysis of Russia is forthcoming.
  • I will author or coathor two papers: 70%.
  • I will not author or coauthor more than two papers: 80%.
  • I will finish writing at least one book: 70%.
  • I will publish that book by Dec 31, 2017: 50%.
  • I will not be banned or shadowbanned on Twitter or Facebook: 90%.
    • Of course it helps that I barely use them nowadays.
  • I will finally get a RationalWiki “hagiography” ala JayMan or hbdchick: 50%.

***

Lazy Glossophiliac and E. Harding contributed their own predictions.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Prediction, Rationality 
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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.

Correct predictions are left as is, while wrong predictions are crossed out.

***

Conflict

(1) 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.

(3) Assad will remain President of Syria: 90%. YES.

(4) The Iraqi government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 90%. YES.

(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.

(7) The War in Donbass reignites: 30%. INVERSE 70% it doesn’t: YES.

(8) Mariupol ends the year in DNR hands: 10%. INVERSE 90% it doesn’t: YES.

(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.

Russia/Eurasia

(1) Politics – The Russian Duma elections are slated for September 2016. United Russia will comfortably take a majority of the seats: 95%. YES. UR took 343/450 = 76% of the seats (I predicted 80%).

(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.

(3) Economics – The recession will end in 2016: 80%. YES. Multiple indicators suggest this has indeed happened in the second half of the year, so I am willing to call this as a win.

(4) Economics – There will be overall positive GDP growth in 2016: 60%. Nope.

(5) Ukraine – The recession will end in 2016: 70%. YES. Ultimately, its so depressed that there’s hardly any room to fall further.

(6) Ukraine – The Poroshenko regime remains in power: 80%. YES.

(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.

(8) Demographics – Russia will see population growth: 95%. YES.

(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.

World

(1) US/Allies will impose no fly zone (i.e. attack Assad) over Syria: 10%. INVERSE 90% will not. YES.

(2) US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 90%. YES.

(3) An Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 30%. INVERSE 70% there will not be. YES. The Nice attacks killed 86 people.

(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.

(5) The Euro is here to stay: 90%. YES.

(6) China will not go into recession or have a hard landing: 90%. YES.

(7) End of Western sanctions against Russia: 10%. INVERSE 90% sanctions remain. YES.

(8) Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >100 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%. YES.

(9) North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt: 95%. YES.

(10) Oil prices will NOT end the year below $40: 70%. YES. WTI Crude is currently at $53, which is about what I expected. Note that many analysts were predicting $20 oil.

(11) Will be hottest year on record thus far: 80%. YES. Absolutely, and by a large margin. The Arctic is in absolute meltdown.

(12) No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%. YES.

(13) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in USA: 99%. YES.

(14) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in China: 99%. YES.

(15) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Russia: 95%. YES.

(16) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country: 90%. YES.

(17) China tops 2016 Olympics Gold medals table: 40%. INVERSE 60% it will not. YES.

(18) Germany will win UEFA Euro 2016: 30%. INVERSE 70% it will not. YES.

(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!

(20) Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is released: 80%. The Turk disappoints. It’s my solitaire goddamit, get a move on!

USA

(1) Donald Trump will secure the Republican nomination : 40%. INVERSE 60% Trump won’t get it.

(2) Hillary Clinton will secure the Democratic nomination : 90%. YES.

(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) The US enters recession: 20%. INVERSE 80% no recession. YES.

(5) Peak SJW?: No percentage due to inability to measure. My impression is that “peak SJW” has indeed passed, at least for now. Do you agree?

Myself

(1) I will write a record amount of blog posts: 70%. 127 to 130 last year.

(2) I will author or coathor an academic paper: 60%. Currently collaborating on an S factor analysis of Russia with Emil Kirkegaard

(3) I will finish writing at least one book: 30%. INVERSE 70% no books. YES.

(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!!

***

Here is my calibration graph:

predictions-calibration-2016

I got really unlucky on my 60% confidence level predictions.

Here is what happens where all the 60% and 70% confidence predictions are combined into one 65% confidence level:

predictions-calibration-2016-adjusted

Not to blow my own horn, but this is some impressive calibration.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Geopolitics, Prediction, Rationality 
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us-elections-2016-predicted

Final EC Prediction – Will be very happy to be wrong. I do think there is a Shy Trumpist factor, which will really make itself felt in rustbelt Michigan, but I fear that it might be canceled out by higher Hispanic turnout, especially in Florida and Nevada.

The person who likes to bomb a couple of brown people countries every decade paints Trump as a racist for his gall at wanting to cut down on immigration to levels that are still orders of magnitude higher than in Japan and for wanting to build a wall like the Israelis have.

She has portrayed him as a national security risk even though any other person who handled top secret information like she did would be serving a long prison sentence.

Her sycophants portray her as an economic progressive even as she runs a giant money-funneling operation powered by donations from Arab oil sheikhs, Goldman Sachs, and the esteemed guests at Lynn de Rothschild’s wineyard.

And assuming the McCarthyism mantle, they have run a truly unprecedented campaign of vilifying Russia – all but comparing its actions in Syria to the Holocaust (see second debate) – and Donald Trump’s outrageous proposal to restore normal relations with the Dark Lord of the Kremlin. Instead, he has been implied, without any evidence whatsoever, to be an agent of the Kremlin – a far more serious attack on the legitimacy of the US political process than Trump’s refusal, quite understandable in these circumstances, to commit to accept the results of the elections.

The media has been so completely and utterly in HRC’s pockets – there are too many cases to count by now of media companies directly coordinating with the DNC, as revealed by Wikileaks – that it makes the Russian state media look free and partial in comparison in relation to Putin and Untied Russia.

And yet what do Americans overwhelmingly care about? Many of the same middle-aged women who made Fifty Shades of Gray into a bestseller reproach Trump for chasing skirt a decade ago. Instead of asking questions about what it says about the system of power in their country that the Bushes were in possession of this kompromat for more than a decade and released it to help their “enemy” dynasty.

Let’s be forthright: Donald Trump is a very socially savvy who might not be the most intelligent of people but who has sane, everyman views on both social policy and international relations. He does not appear to have any substantial investments in Russia (unlike Romney!), but even if he did, would you rather have Russia or the Islamic State-with-better-PR? Yes, it is likely that he used all sorts of loopholes to grow his business (welcome to real estate!) and to avoid taxes (again, like Romney!), but most people who’ve known him tend to speak very well of him – something that cannot be said for his rival.

Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, cheating, lying warmonger whose mental issues and overinflated sense of moral superiority might result in World War 3. I suppose there would be a certain comedy to living in Fallout/Metro 2033 on account of HRC’s determination to protect the bearded apemen who carried out 9/11 against her own putative country, but we will only be able to appreciate it on the most cosmic of scales.

Let’s MAGA, not war.

kek-wills-it

 
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I like predictions. Part of that is related to my passion for quantifying everything, but another is philosophical, and borne of my antipathy towards charlatanism (I am extremely sympathetic to N.N. Taleb on this issue). In 2005, U.C. Berkeley psychologist Philip Tetlock published a study on expert fallibility spanning 18 years, 284 experts and 82,361 forecasts on economics and politics. Their average forecast was worse than if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to every outcome. Journalists and professors, undergrads and PhD’s, left-wingers and right-wingers – all were about equally (in)accurate. One group in particular stood out for its poor performance. They were the experts with the biggest reputations – the ones always being sought out by the media for sound bytes – making predictions on their own areas of professional interest. To add the incarnadine cherry to the meringue and cream pie, those on-demand experts were also the ones most confident in their own predictive prowess!

impostor

Though xkcd is far too kind to the sociologists.

Now to be sure there are areas, especially the exact sciences, where real experts do exist – that is, experts as in experts who are consistently right. Nobody will hire a physicist who doesn’t understand differential equations. Charlatans are quickly identified. But this is far harder in the social and political sciences, where leading “experts” generally can and do avoid making any falsifiable predictions (not that it matters much since even even those who do make big mistakes, far from being called to account for it, are instead made Ambassadors to Russia). This is a sad if perhaps inevitable state of affairs. After all, good mathematicians merely blow up manifolds. “Good” economists blow up economies. “Good” political scientists might blow up the world.

In any case, now that I am in the habit of regular blogging again – recall that I took a long break in 2014 before I moved to Unz one year ago – I have decided to resurrect my longtime New Year’s tradition of making predictions about the coming year and thus resume my minimal contribution to making the punditry at least somewhat answerable to reality. The one difference from previous years is that I will also now be adopting Slate Star Codex’s method of calibration.

Conflicts

(1) The Syrian government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 80%.

My guesstimate two months ago that the RuAF will be able to swing the balance of military power across multiple local theaters from stalemate to one favoring the SAA appears to be correct. In the most significant development, Kweiris AFB and its environs have been liberated; with the YPG now in control of Tishrin Dam, the Islamic State in the north may now be in danger of being completely cut off. Advances are being made in Daraa, Hama and Homs, and around Aleppo. Rebel offensives are now almost uniformly unsuccessful. Of course large-scale Western or even Turkish intervention against Assad can still change everything.

(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%.

(3) Assad will remain President of Syria: 90%.

Even in the event that there is a new round of elections, Assad is easily the most popular personality in Syria. This is proved in opinion poll after opinion poll. He wouldn’t even have to falsify anything. If there was ever going to be an internal coup, it would have already happened. Short of a freak death/assassination, or open Western aggression (which Russia preempted this year with its intervention), he is likely secure as never before during this war.

(4) The Iraqi government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 90%.

(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%.

That said I think its “extinction” (in Syria/Iraq) will have to wait a couple more years. Note that there are two separate conditions in this prediction.

(6) The Houthis gain ground in Yemen: 60%.

Not by any means knowledgeable on this subject, but Saudi military performance appears to be atrocious – traditional Arab military incompetence and with no asabiya to compensate.

(7) The War in Donbass reignites: 30%.

In particular I can imagine the Poroshenko regime doing this to draw attention away from Ukraine’s continuing economic collapse (with default on the horizon) and approval ratings that are now even lower than Yanukovych’s in 2013.

(8) Mariupol ends the year in DNR hands: 10%.

Will obviously be lower than the risk of the War in Donbass reigniting. Is the next logical target, but might be preempted by a Minsk III. Also Rinat Akhmetov might well object as he did last time.

(9) “Putinsliv” aka Putin abandons support for DNR/LNR and Ukraine recaptures them: 5%.

I have always been skeptical of this popular theory amongst the more “enthusiastic” Russian nationalists. But Prosvirnin and Co. could conceivably turn out to be right.

(10) A new conflict in the former Soviet space: 20%.

These do tend to creep up every few years. The most obvious (but largely unknown) focal point is Armenia vs. Azerbaijan, and tensions have drastically crept up this year. If Aliev wants to regain Nagorno-Karabakh, now would not be the worst time to go about it.

Russia/Eurasia

(1) Politics – The Russian Duma elections are slated for September 2016. United Russia will comfortably take a majority of the seats: 95%.

United Russia is consistently polling ~45%, which rises to ~70% when people who reply N/A or say they’re not going to vote are excluded. This is unlikely to change much for the worse because the recession will likely be easing up by the time elections come up (see below). In between Orban- and Yanukovych-style election rules changes, this will translate to probably around 80% of the seats in the next Duma on current trends (up from 64% today).

(2) Politics – Electoral falsifications will be less than in the 2011 Duma elections: 70%.

When they were quite substantial (about +7% to United Russia). With the election rules changes, there will be less need of that to guarantee a Putinist majority. There are ways of approximating this so this is a valid prediction. The currently high approval ratings of Putin and patriotic fever in any case make a repeat of the Bolotnaya protests of 2011-12 highly unlikely. Khodorkovsky will remain disappointed.

(2) Economics – The recession will end in 2016: 80%.

As I argued in this article, the Russian recession of 2014 is best viewed as a Volcker-type shock, as opposed to being the result of any deeper underlying problem in competitiveness or political economy. Actually for a variety of reasons I expect the Russian economy to grow unusually strongly in the 2016-2020 period, but that is for another post. I should stress that the great bulk of the decline has to do with the collapse in oil prices and has had little to do with the sanctions (about 10% to be precise).

(4) Economics – There will be overall positive GDP growth in 2016: 60%.

These are the projections of various international financial organizations such as the World Bank and in this case I see no particular cause to take issue with them. That said, the IMF predicts -0.6%.

(5) Ukraine – The recession will end in 2016: 70%.

The Ukraine is an economic disaster zone. Literally. Automobile sales have returned to the levels of 196 9 (fifty years ago in the hypermilitarized “sovok” economy). Almost as much housing is being constructed in Russia’s Krasnodar Kray – population 5 million – as in all of Ukraine – population 40 million. But a consequence of all this is that it really is difficult to see how it could possible go much lower. After all, Ukraine still has respectable levels of human capital, and should peace prevail and should it maintain solvency (and the IMF has given every indication it will stretch the rules to ensure that it does) a resumption in growth from its very low base seems likely.

(6) Ukraine – The Poroshenko regime remains in power: 80%.

There is a very good chance that Yatsenyuk will go but I see no obvious reasons why Poroshenko will not survive 2016 as well as the pro-Western orientation of the Ukrainian state. His approval ratings might be in the gutter, but unlike Yanukovych, he has bloodied hoodlums to ensure his rule, and the acquiescence of the capital. (In contrast Kiev turned on Yanukovych even though opinion polls indicated that as of February 2014 more Ukrainians disapproved of the Maidan than approved of it). More importantly, he has the support of the US in his battle with the oligarchs. The oligarchs turned against Yanukovych because they didn’t want to run the risks of having their assets in the West frozen. To the contrary, Joe Biden is now in no uncertain terms demanding that Igor Kolomoysky – the biggest oligarch who opposes Poroshenko – step in line (which he does). (Incidentally, I am in communication with a very well informed geopolitical analyst who thinks that Ukraine’s pro-Western orientation will NOT survive 2016. My own sympathies regardless, I am betting against him.)

(7) Demographics – Russia will see natural population growth: 40%.

As it has in 2013, 2014, and almost certainly in 2015 (December statistics forthcoming). Incidentally, predicting Russia’s demographic recovery in the first place – I have been doing this since 2008, back when it was a marginal view amongst both professional demographers and the general Western and even Russian punditry – has been the crowning success of my predictive career. That said, a number of demographic realities now intrude on this positive picture. The Russian TFR (total fertility rate) now appears to have essentially stabilized at 1.7-1.8 children per woman, but the number of women in their childbearing age is now (and has been for the past 5 years) declining precipitiously as the “lost generation” of the 1990s reaches their peak fertility years. Assuming deaths remain broadly steady – rising life expectancy balanced against the secular aging of the population – it will now be a close call between deaths and births. (Not that a plus or minus sign at the beginning of a number measured in the tens of thousands out of a population of 145 million is all that significant except symbolically).

Incidentally, apologies for the strong focus on demographics. Its been an obsession of mine since I began blogging (mostly because all the Kremlinologists were getting the most basic facts wrong).

(8) Demographics – Russia will see population growth: 95%.

This is a no brainer. Immigration has always been strongly positive and will easily cancel any possible small decline in natural population growth. Predicted population increase of about half a million.

(9) Demographics – Life expectancy will increase: 80%.

I was right that the cut in alcohol excise taxes only had a very marginal effect on mortality this year (in fact improements continued after adjusting for Crimea), and with this now accounted for, I fully expect to see life expectancy to rise substantially in 2016. I expect Russia’s life expectancy to be around 72 years in 2016.

(10) Demographics – TFR will increase: 50%.

Far less certain because the traditional driver of TFR increases in Russia in the past decade has been the abrogation of 1990s-era birth postponement. This process will gradually draw to an end, while the full impact of the 2014 recession will be making itself felt. Of course due to the age structure of the natural population, even a constant TFR will result in a decrease in births of almost 3%. So that is highly likely (80%?). I expect Russia’s TFR to be around 1.8 children per woman in 2016.

World

(1) US/Allies will impose no fly zone (i.e. attack Assad) over Syria: 10%.

Real possibility in 2013-2014, appears to have faded with Russia’s intervention. Scuffles with Turkey regardless.

(2) US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 90%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander.

(3) An Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 30%.

Although the concern about them is highly understandable, it should be noted that in the past ~decade there were only two such instances – Spain in 2004, and France in 2015. So there’s likely a less than 50% chance of that happening in any one year, regardless of the current increase in tensions.

(4) Brexit: 10%.

Even assuming the referendum is held this year and not in 2017, both polls and bookies still show a large margin for the UK to remain in the EU.

(5) The Euro is here to stay: 90%.

And the EU too. Take issue with Leonid Bershidsky as you will, but for the most part I agree with his conclusions – at least for next year.

(6) China will not go into recession or have a hard landing: 90%.

Happy to take an easy win from the predicted-ten-of-the-past-zero-Chinese-recessions crowd.

(7) End of Western sanctions against Russia: 10%.

Not gonna happen. But they’re not all that significant and they don’t seem to be all that stringently enforced.

(8) Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >100 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander. Agreed.

(9) North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt: 95%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander.

(10) Oil prices will NOT end the year below $40: 70%.

I am highly skeptical about people claiming oil prices will tumble down to $20. When the electronic herd unanimously veers in one direction, it is time to stop and ponder. The equilibrium inflation-adjusted price of oil in the 1945-1973 period was around $20, which suggested that this was the marginal cost of producing an extra barrel of oil during that period back when nobody had even heard of M. King Hubbert. His projections of “peak oil” might have been invalidated by technological innovation – especially the exploitation of shale oil – yet even so, the decline of the easiest to access oil in the four decades since means that it is highly implausible that the longterm equilibrium price of oil is still at $20. EROEI will have gone down in the intervening years. Short of a new global recession (unlikely – see below), I do not see any big further declines in the oil price.

(11) Will be hottest year on record thus far: 80%.

Happy to take an easy win from the ever diminishing global-warming-denial crowd. Likely that 2016 will be even hotter than record setting 2015.

(12) No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%.

I.e., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, etc. Excludes developments in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

(13) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in USA: 99%.

(14) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in China: 99%.

(15) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Russia: 95%.

(16) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country: 90%.

(17) China tops 2016 Olympics Gold medals table: 40%.

It has been going up and up over the years. Don’t see this as a particularly illogical prediction. Russia will plummet due to its disbarment from athletic competitions in 2016 Rio Olympics.

(18) Germany will win UEFA Euro 2016: 30%.

The German team continues going from strength to strength. Nobody else is even close. That said, football is unpredictable.

(19) Russia will predictably disappoint at UEFA Euro 2016 and will get knocked out at the group stage: 50%.

England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia. Second place should be a breeze, but Russia fans are regularly schooled on the dangers of abandoning pessimism.

(20) Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is released: 80%.

I am dying to play that game. Hopefully with the Oculus Rift.

USA

(1) Donald Trump will secure the Republican nomination : 40%.

While the Trump Who Cannot be Stumped might be by far the highest polling candidate, the establishment bigwigs really hate him, and so the bookies give the edge to Rubio. Now for the record I give Trump higher figures than the bookies, and not (hopefully) because of my personal sympathies/biases but because due to my experience of Russia watching, I am currently observing some uncanny parallels between the media campaign against him and against Putin. The Western MSM has gone head over heels trying to deny the popularity of Putin in Russia, and now appears to be doing the exact same with Trump (which incidentally might partly explain why Putin and Trump have banded together in a mutual admiration society). But when you deny an overly obvious thing people tend to just get angry and mistrustful of the Lugenpress (“lying media”) in general, an effect which will massively help Trump. Even so, the deck is stacked against him – unlike Trump, Putin was initially appointed to high office – so I think it is more likely than not that he will fail to become US President or even secure the Republican nomination.

(2) Hillary Clinton will secure the Democratic nomination : 90%.

(3) Hillary Clinton becomes US President: 70%.

Like it or not the Democrats appear to remain poised to hold on to the Presidency, short of a major recession beginning right about now…

(4) The US enters recession: 20%.

But I don’t see that happening for reasons I have already expounded upon.

(5) Peak SJW? I don’t really see how you can go about quantifying that – through Google Trends? – but 2015 has clearly been the year of the Social Justice Warrior. But in between the spectacle of the Pink Guards shouting down genteel university professors and the wave of violent crime that #BLM has ushered in thanks to their vilification campaign against the police, 2016 might see the reaction against it – now mostly confined to pepe- and anime-themed avatars on the Internet – increasingly move into the mainstream.

Establishment attack dogs such as George Will (another charlatan) claim that Trump winning the nomination will destroy the GOP, but frankly I think the risks of that happening are higher if the elites conspire to deny it to him. He would then be in a position to directly challenge the GOP by running as an independent and indeed has indicated he might do just that. A large percentage – possibly a majority – of the Republican rank and file will follow him and allow him to create a genuine third political force purged of neocons and cuckservatives. I put the independent chances of this happening at: 20%.

That said, a caveat is that I do not expect any longterm changes. American Millenials are SJWs. And they will be ruling the country in 20-30 years time. Pray for radical life extension so the old fogies can balance them out!

Myself

(1) I will write a record amount of blog posts: 70%.

This is rather likely even if I do say so myself. I have much better productivity systems in place today relative to start-2014, when I had several other RL commitments besides (one of which basically forced me to take a 2 month break during the summer). I only have to do marginally better this year to surpass my all time record in 2012 and 2013. So long as Unz doesn’t fire me, and there isn’t any big personal crisis-related emergency, I fully expect this to happen. Consequently, I also expect record amounts of comments, visitors, visits, etc.

blog-output

 

(2) I will author or coathor an academic paper: 60%.

I have been putting it off but its hopefully more likely than not this year. The two potential topics are Russian demography (by myself) and the structure of Russian IQ (collaborator).

(3) I will finish writing at least one book: 30%.

This refers primarily to Apollo’s Ascent, though I have a few ideas for sci-fi books twirling about in my head too (problem is that I am very bad at coming up with interesting plots). I really wish it was higher but I know myself better than to indulge in too much optimism. That said, this is one prediction I really hope to fail at.

(4) I will finally heed the advice of my detractors and fuck off back to Russia: 90%.

It’s been years since I was last there and I intend to make a potentially very lengthy visit.

(5) I will end up being underconfident on these predictions: 50%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander. Predictions <50% will be converted to their inverse for calibration evaluation in one year’s time. There are 50 predictions in total so that allows for a fairly comprehensive analysis.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Geopolitics, Prediction, Rationality 
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I have always loved falsifiable predictions. Let’s look at some that Ukrainian policians have made for Ukraine.

President Leonid Kravchuk, 1991: In 10 years, we will become the richest country in Europe. We will be a second France!

President Viktor Yushchenko, 2004: In 10 years, we will live like Poland!

Leader of the Opposition and Mayor of Kiev Vitaly Klitschko, 2013: In a year you won’t recognze Ukraine!

Ex-Head of Foreign Ministry Vladimir Ogryzko, 2013: “In 22 years Ukraine will be one of the leading countries of the civilized North Atlantic community. And in Europe there will be a Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Kiev axis that will determine the fates of all other countries.”

Former Georgian President (wanted for crimes in Georgia) and Governor of Odessa Mikheil Saakashvili, June 2015: Ukraine is poorer than Moldova, previously the poorest country in Europe, is poreer than Armenia, Albania, Kosovo…

Former Georgian President (wanted for crimes in Georgia) and Governor of Odessa Mikheil Saakashvili, June 2015: In 20 years, we will return to Yanukovych-era living standards.

Ukraine’s Finance Minister and US Citizen Natalie Jaresko, August 2015: In 25 years, Ukraine’s GDP might reach Switzerland’s level.

Former Georgian President (wanted for crimes in Georgia) and Governor of Odessa Mikheil Saakashvili, September 2015: “Ukraine’s GDP has fallen from $184 billion to $115 billion, that is we have fallen close to Gabon’s level. With all due respect to Africa, Ukraine is Gabon.”

gabon-mask Forget about Khrantsiya. Forget even about Polan stronk. Ukraine is now Gabon with permafrost!

And I do apologize for my calumny against Gabon. As a cursory glance at IMF statistics shows, its GDP per capita is actually now about 3 times that of Ukraine.

And poor, unfortunate Switzerland – what an economic catastrophe Jaresko is forecasting for you! Are we really looking at a full Africanization of the Helvetic highlands as soon as 2040?? Even I’m not that pessimistic on the longterm effects of the current refugee crisis, but apparently Ukraine’s American Finance Minister is!

Though by then, even Africa might well be an improvement. As befits an oligarchic regime relying on Euro-Atlantic cargo cultists and iodine-deficient inbred stormfags for its support, it isn’t all that surprising to see Ukraine registerering as many polio cases as all of continental Africa combined in 2015.

Two children in southwestern Ukraine have been paralyzed by polio, the first outbreak of the disease in Europe since 2010, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, in a setback for a global eradication campaign.

The WHO said Ukraine had been at particular risk of an outbreak because of inadequate vaccination coverage. In 2014, only 50 percent of children were fully immunized against polio and other preventable diseases, it said.

The risk of further spread within the country is high, although the threat to nearby Romania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia is low, a WHO statement said.

Note that this is happening in the svidomy south-west of the country that is completely untouched by the war. The only region of the world where there are more polio cases is the tribal areas of Pakistan/Afghanistan swarming with mujadeen fighters. So it is not that surprising to also the natural sense of brotherhood tying svidomy Azov fanatics to the Mohammedan invaders who are fighting to drag Novorossiya back into the Banderastan lunatic asylum, and whose presence even the NYT has by now been forced to acknowledege.

And why is Novorossiya fighting? So as not to have to listen to:

High Gauleiter of Galicia–Volhynia Dmytro Yarosh, 2020: We are now back in our golden age when the Proto-Ukrs dug out the Black Sea. We have arrived at our destination and we intend to stay here forever!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Prediction, Svidomy, Ukrainian Crisis 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.