Predictions for 2020

One of my favorite bloggers, Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex, regularly publishes predictions for the year. Here are his predictions for 2020. I thought it’d be fun to make some predictions of my own, following the same rules and a similar format. In 2021 I’ll rate my predictive success and maybe make some more predictions.

Rules (copied from SSC): all predictions are about what will be true on January 1, 2021. I’m using the full 0 – 100 range in making predictions this year, but they’ll be flipped and judged as 50 – 100 in the rating stage.

So if I predict a bunch of things are 90% likely, then come 2021 if 9 out of 10 of them are true, then my predictions were very accurate. If I predict a bunch of things as 60% likely, then if 9 out of 10 are true, I was less accurate. If that’s confusing it’ll all make sense in 2021 when I review these. I will not make any predictions at 0% or 100%. Instead my range will be 5% to 95%, but mostly in increments of 10.

Politics and Economy

  1. Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee come November voting: 95%
  2. Trump is the Republican nominee: 95%
  3. November election proceeds normally: 95%
    • By “normally” I simply mean that the election occurs on the scheduled day in all 50 states. I think states may also expand voting by mail, but no state will cancel or postpone the election. I do expect some states to use the pandemic as an excuse for even more voter suppression, but sadly that fits the definition of “normal” in the US.
  4. Trump wins the November election: 60%
  5. Democrats maintain control of the House: 80%
  6. Republicans maintain control of the Senate: 70%
    • This is mostly based on which states are having senatorial elections this year. Nearly all of them are Republican strongholds.
  7. US GDP for 2020 is down by at least 30% year over year compared to 2019: 80%

At the beginning of the year, I would’ve given Trump a 95% re-election chance against Biden, and 90% against Sanders. I think if I were to do these predictions this coming August, I’d probably predict an even lower chance of Trump winning based on current trends.


  1. Minnesota lifts stay at home order but then reinstates it at least once: 90%
  2. Three months or more of cumulative stay at home in Minnesota: 80%
  3. Five months or more of cumulative stay at home in Minnesota: 20%
  4. Over 100,000 in the US dead from coronavirus: 90%
  5. Over 250,000 in the US dead from coronavirus: 40%
  6. A vaccine is generally available by end of 2020: 10%
    • By "generally available" I mean that it's not in clinical trials, that it's available in sufficient quantities for use as needed, and that it is safe to be given to at least 90% of the population.
  7. A generally available therapy exists that reduces mortality by 30% or greater: 60%
    • This can be either be preventative or something that reduces severity of the symptoms.
  8. I have had coronavirus: 40%
    • This is based on either a test or my best guess based on symptoms and contacts.
  9. I am hospitalized for coronavirus: 5%
  10. At least one person I know dies of coronavirus: 60%
    • This hinges a lot on the definition of "know". Let's say it's people I've met in person more than once and I remembered how I know them when I learned about their death. Public figures and celebrities don't count (not that I've met many).
  11. Fatality rate in the US is estimated at less than 1% in retrospect, excluding any newly developed treatments from #13: 70%
    • Note that even a "low" fatality rate like this is still very dangerous when combined with rapid spread and no vaccine/immunity.

When I talk about Minnesota’s stay at home orders, I’m not including social distancing orders like we had starting on March 17.


  1. I am still working for ActiveState: 95%
  2. I have attended at least one non-Perl conference (in person or online): 60%
    • What "attending" means for an online conference will be on the honor system.
  3. I have released at least one CPAN module every month for 20 years: 80%
  4. My weight is 210 pounds or below and has been since November 1: 70%
    1. See I Weigh Way Less for more than you ever wanted to know about this topic. For reference I was at 216 last time I weighed myself.
  5. My weight is 200 pounds or below and has been since November 1: 10%
  6. I have climbed at least one climbing route (top rope or lead) rated 5.11(-/a) or higher: 60%
    • This mostly reflects my prediction about access to climbing gyms and outdoor climbing this year. Absent coronavirus I'd have put this at 95%. Note I consider this to have happened even if I fall or rest during the climb and then continue. This is just about whether I can top out at all.
  7. I have a bouldering wall in my garage: 80%
  8. I maintain my three hours (ish) per week weight training schedule (modulo illness or injury that prevents me from doing so): 95%
    • There's a little leeway here. For example, yesterday I did 45 minutes instead of 60 because of some neck & shoulder issues, but I'd still count this week as a success.
  9. I'm still vegan: 95%
    • If I let myself score 100% this would definitely be 100%.
  10. I spend time in Taiwan this year (whether on vacation or as a temporary move): 10%

Longer Term Predictions

Coronavirus has gotten me thinking a lot about the future. A lot of this is because I keep seeing people on social media make hilarious (to me) statements about how coronavirus will change everything. We’ll rethink capitalism. We’ll establish single payer health care. Trump’s supporters will realize he sucks. Everyone will go vegan to lower pandemic risk.

My prediction is that none of these things will happen. Humanity will learn very little from this crisis, and Americans will learn even less.

So here’s some predictions for the next five years and 7 months, to be evaluated at the end of 2025.

  1. The US has invested more in pandemic preparation: 90%
  2. This investment is done well enough to be meaningful, per the evaluation of experts in the fields of epidemiology and public health: 30%
    • This will be a really hard one to judge. If I were more ambitious I’d try to establish a panel of judges right now, but I’m too lazy.
  3. The pandemic resulted in significant changes to the US re: capitalism vs social democracy: 5%
    • This could be a major overhaul of the unemployment system, some sort of federal universal basic income (not a one time check), or a major change to the costs of higher education, as well as other things I’m not thinking of yet. Note that state-by-state changes will not count unless at least 2/3 of states have made similar changes.
  4. The US has a universal health care system that results in coverage for all and significantly lower costs (to a level on par with other developed countries in Europe and Asia): 5%
    • We might have some sort of half-assed opt-in Medicare for All plan, but health care costs will continue to go up at an alarming rate and many people will still lack coverage.
  5. Political polarization in the US is significantly reduced, per public polling: 10%
    • Again, I’m too lazy to pick the exact measurement in advance, but I’ll look at some set of 1+ polls on this topic that have been done in the same way from at least 2020 to 2025.