Plague journal

Coin tosser

I changed my watch to just show the time. I no longer have appointments I need reminding of out of the house, and days have ceased to have meaning.

Some things will never go back to normal. Some things shouldn’t. California is saving $40 million per day by not having so much car traffic, and people are trying bikes. Some companies have been surprised to find that people are still productive working from home, and are starting to ask themselves why they have expensive office space they make people commute to every day.

Inside the house, everything seems normal. Outside is weirdly quiet, and people are starting to wear masks, but it feels more or less OK. Going to a store, however, is a weird nightmarish experience.

We went to a small grocery store yesterday. I was surprised to see a couple of people still not wearing masks. I’d read that N95 masks are only effective if you have no beard. It turns out that surgical masks are problematic if you’re unshaven from being at home all week; the stubble kinda ratchets the mask down a little every time you open your mouth. Next time I’ll remember to shave.

There’s a long Scott Alexander post about predictions, in which he writes:

Prediction is very hard. Nate Silver is maybe the best political predicter alive, and he estimated a 29% chance of Trump winning just before Trump won. UPenn professor Philip Tetlock has spent decades identifying “superforecasters” and coming up with complicated algorithms for aggregating their predictions, developing a prediction infrastructure that beats top CIA analysts, but they estimated a 23% chance Britain would choose Brexit just before it happened. This isn’t intended to criticize Silver or Tetlock. I believe they’re operating at close to optimum – the best anyone could possibly do with the information that they had.

So saying Trump had a 29% chance of winning can make you the best political predictor alive, and predicting a 23% chance of Brexit is enough to beat CIA analysts? Well, I’m starting the Coin Toss Institute for Futurology. Our algorithm indicated that Donald Trump had a 50% chance of winning, and that the UK had a 50% chance of voting for Brexit.

Sure, you say, hindsight is 20:20 and you probably tailored the algorithm to get those results. Well, no, but here are some predictions for the future using the same algorithm: Donald Trump has a 50% chance of re-election, there’s a 50% chance Joe Biden will win. There’s also a 50% chance Democrats will take control of the Senate. Now, let’s see if I beat Nate Silver again.