Razib Khan's predictions for 2012

By Razib Khan | December 31, 2011 2:46 pm

People often make “year end predictions.” I haven’t done that because I just haven’t bothered. But, it’s probably a nice way to see how full of crap you are. You can look back at how many mistakes you made, suggesting to you that you’re really a lot more ignorant of the shape of reality than you fancy yourself. So I’m going to put some predictions down right now. The title is self-centered, but I want it to be Googleable. There are two classes of predictions. The first class are those which I think have more than 50 percent chance of coming to fruition. I don’t want to pick “sure things,” because what’s the point of that? The second category is different, in that I think the chance of the outcome may be less than 50 percent, and the conventional wisdom is going to be opposite of the prediction, but I suspect the odds are better than people think. I’ll give myself “bonus points” if those come true.

 

>50 percent probability in my estimation

–  Mitt Romney will win the Iowa primary.

– Ötzi will have his genome published.

– A big paper will come out confirming that there has been massive (on the order of 50 percent or more) genetic turnover across Europe over the past 10,000 years.

– There will be more evidence published of “archaic admixture” events in the genomes of modern humans.

– No state will leave the Euro in 2012.

– The “great stagnation” will continue in the USA. GDP growth will not top 2.5 percent in any quarter. Unemployment will not drop below 7 percent by the end of the year.

– Housing will not bottom out in 2012 (Case-Shiller index in December 2012 will remain the same or below December 2011).

– Sprint will continue to lose ground to Verizon and AT&T in relative market share in mobile phones.

– Chrome will continue to gain share, but more at the expense of IE than Firefox. Firefox will remain within 5% of absolute current market share in December 2012 in relation to December 2011.

– There will be at least 150 references to “quantitative genomics” in Google Scholar in 2012 (vs. 70+ in 2011).

– We will see a $3,000 dollar genome (human sequence) for consumers by the end of the year.

– Time/Newsweek will write a long feature “How Facebook is over” in the last 1/3 of 2012 due to stagnation in active customer base.

– Google+ will be transformed from being a “Facebook-killer” to part of Google’s attempt to create a broader online identity (i.e., it will “fail” as a social network).

– Economic pessimism about India will become more prominent in the American media.

– The public offerings of web 2.0 companies will disappoint.

– There will be less talk about “e-books” after a peak over the summer vacations of 2012 because they will be so “normal.”

<50 percent probability, but greater probability than people think

– We will have the $1000 dollar genome by the end of 2012.

– Barack H. Obama will be reelected president.

– The Democrats will keep their Senate majority (almost perfectly correlated with the previous prediction).

– Greece will leave the Eurozone.

– China’s economic growth will be slower than expected, and will hit 5 percent in one quarter.

– 23andMe will shift away from “retail personal genomics.”

– There will be a major Islamic terrorist event in England or the United States (death toll  >10 = “major”).

– A major revision of our understanding of the archaeogenetics of the New World will be published, using ancient DNA

– The genetic architecture of hair curliness will be elucidated.

– Scientists will discover that 50% of more of the ancestry of most Africans is due to an ancient “back migration” event from Eurasian, on the order of 200 thousand years B.P. (which distinguishes Pygmies and Khoisan, who do not bear as much of this stamp).

– A major paper will be published in a high impact journal outlining the genes for major bio-behavioral differences between human populations.

– Siri will get good enough by December 2012 that people will no longer be able to play jokes on it.

– We will have a public discussion about the near future of widespread prenatal screening as part of national healthcare policy in the USA.

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  • http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/ Christopher@BorderWars

    Unlike the Democrats and the Senate which is a complicated probability, isn’t the Presidential race really best viewed as a binary choice? So by saying that Obama will be re-elected with less than 50% chance are you saying that it’s more likely he’ll lose than win?

  • Chris

    “- A major paper will be published in a high impact journal outlining the genes for major bio-behavioral differences between human populations.”

    Looking forward to that happening. Any prediction as to the kind of bio-behavioral differences?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #1, first, the senate outcome isn’t complicated. the individual races are highly correlated in swing states because of national wave effects. that’s why i say that without obama winning the white house it will probably be impossible for dems to keep the senate, since so many of their seats are in play. and yes, i do think economic fundamentals mean that obama has less than 50 percent chance of winning at this moment. what i’m saying though is that economic fundamentals probably underestimate his chance, because incumbents have an advantage and romney is not charismatic.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    No sitting President since WWII has won re-election if the unemployment rate on Election Day was in excess of 7.5%, though admittedly the n= field is small (Ford, Carter, Bush pere, IINM).

    romney is not charismatic

    Very true, and something that’s easy to forget given the blogosphere’s huge boner for Mormons.

  • Chad Booher

    Obama will be reelected. Just look at the GOP candidates LOL. Not likely Mr. Gingrich (or any other for that matter). People are becoming more logical and most of us see where the GOP’s interests lie, and that’s not with the Improvement of America as a whole, but rather aligned with the interests of corporations/ most of the top 1%. Not going to fly with me or most other average Americans. Their ridiculous anti-Obama propaganda has also lost it’s potency, as most of it proved to be exactly that. Propaganda.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    Nuclear exchange in the Middle East by 20 January 2012. Stable petroleum transcends diplomacy. Israel with be a competent military proxy in cahoots with Turkey (their Kurdish inconvenience) for containing renegade technical Islam (Iran) and impressing Malthusian reset (including goodbye High Aswan Dam). Damascus crushed and melted by a triangle of warheads is the olive in the martini.

    It’s an asymptoticaly identical big black headline no matter what. Make the deed larger than the outrage.

  • Chad Booher

    At least they will always have their Christian extremist base.lol That’s the one base they will always own among the average American people.

  • http://www.bradbrad.com Brad Daly

    I think the Obama’s reelection is > 50%. The incumbent effect is so strong.

    Since Hoover (something of an arbitrary starting point, I realize, but also the beginning of the modern American nation-state and media politics), the only un-reelected incumbents are Ford (never elected in the first place), Carter, and GHW Bush.

  • http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/ Christopher@BorderWars

    @Razib, Oh I was not thinking anything nearly as heady as that, just pondering simple probabilities. While you can collapse the senate outcomes down to the binary “will they retain control or not,” the actual calculation is a sum of the probabilities of the individual seats. I think this sum of probabilities has greater traction in the senate issue than say trying to estimate an Obama victory by summing probabilities of winning each state.

    I think the Presidential outcome is much easier to predict by way of national sentiment versus the Senate which has significant local concerns and historical staying power. I also don’t agree with #5 who seems to think national politics will bend to his own inability to understand or sympathize with alternate viewpoints. I’ve heard multiple people in recent months make comments like “I can’t understand how the Republican party can even exist as an entity” as if the particular appeal of that party is so unfathomable as to preclude any “rational” or in #5’s wording “logical” people from voting for a Republican.

    The actual political game is much more cynical than that. If politicians had to actually DELIVER on promises and make lives substantially better, why would the vast majority of Blacks still vote for Democrats? The resume of success in that arena is very short.

    Also, I see you got my e-mail about 23andMe changing their TOS. I think that bolsters your prediction.

  • Brian

    What will 23andMe do instead?

  • Ray

    as of writing, the intrade odds of Obama’s reelection are 51.9%, so it can’t be both less than 50% chance and a higher chance than people think.

  • pconroy

    I see Obama winning over most Republican candidates, except Ron Paul.

    I’m a Libertarian and 4 years ago, I wrote Ron Paul off as a crank, as he wouldn’t/couldn’t organize a proper candidacy. I think he has a viable chance today, as the Occupy Wall Street movement basically spreads his 40 year old message of fiscal responsibility…

    I think, as I’ve said before that Obama will go down as one of the worse presidents in history, right up there with Jimmy Carter. His only redeeming act is the elimination of Bin Laden. But bailing out Wall Street and printing trillions of dollars is unforgivable, as it destroys the savings of the ordinary punter, and effectively hands their hard won cash to the 1%

  • http://theunsilencedscience.blogspot.com/ nooffensebut

    A major paper will be published in a high impact journal outlining the genes for major bio-behavioral differences between human populations.

    You mean like when Reti et al showed that African-American men are ten times more likely than white men to have MAOA 2R, the allele that is twice as warrior-y as the warrior gene? I think it might be hard for such findings to make a big splash when the researchers do not wish to find them.

  • Konkvistador

    I’m sure gwern beat me to it but in case he didn’t…

    @Razib:

    Have you considered putting up these predictions on Prediction book:
    http://predictionbook.com/

    I’d love to put my probability estimates to them instead of just writing out silly sticky words, that can be lawyered to mean almost anything.

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    “Economic pessimism about India will become more prominent in the American media.”

    I’m not convinced that the Associated Press is aware that India continued to exist after Ghandi and hasn’t produced a front page article that didn’t involve death from unnatural causes or toilets or microlending for many years. The American media is barely aware that France or sub-Saharan Africa exist, let alone India. On the other hand, given that low bar, one page two, single column article on a slow news day in the entire year would probably meet that criterion.

    “I see Obama winning over most Republican candidates, except Ron Paul.”

    A Ron Paul GOP nominee would be hard pressed to get 40% of the vote in the general. He might win New Hampshire, Wyoming or Utah.

    A prediction of my own (under 50%): The U.S. involvement of 100 special operations forces in Uganda to deal with the Lord’s Resistance Army becomes a central focus of American public attention for at least a couple of weeks due either to a major unexpected casaulty toll, or a really dramatic victory that enhances faith in American ability to take on insurgencies.

    “A major revision of our understanding of the archaeogenetics of the New World will be published, using ancient DNA”

    The only hypothesis that could produce that kind of paper, with any real likelihood, would be something that established a quite recent data for a separate Na-Dene wave and documented that most of the minor haplogroups in the Americas are traceable to that migration. Hard to see any other way that it could happen (I suppose one could find ancient DNA to support the argument that pre-Clovis Paleoindians aren’t related to modern native Americans and went extinct no later than Clovis.)

    @ Uncle Al: Damn. Are you a 2012 guy or what?

  • dave chamberlin

    I predict one science news story to break on human evolution as unexpected and exciting as the Denisovan and Neanderthal news stories were. The big shots will all come to the GNXP thread that follows and weigh in with their opinions and amazement. Actually guestimating the odds of this are 1 in 5 but I thought I would counter Uncle Al’s bleak prediction with a positive one.

  • soren

    “most of the top 1%”

    “At least they will always have their Christian extremist base.”

    Chad, anyone who uses the term 1% shouldn’t bitch about religious extremists because they are one.

  • Donn

    Razib, few questions regarding your predictions:

    “- Scientists will discover that 50% of more of the ancestry of most Africans is due to an ancient “back migration” event from Eurasian, on the order of 200 thousand years B.P. (which distinguishes Pygmies and Khoisan, who do not bear as much of this stamp).”

    Wouldn’t this be impossible due to blacks(meant to encompass blacks worldwide not just black Americans) don’t have the Neanderthal/Denosovian genes?

    “- A major paper will be published in a high impact journal outlining the genes for major bio-behavioral differences between human populations.”

    Isn’t that pretty much already over with? As Nooffensebut mentioned, we know about the differences between blacks and non-blacks, though I’m not sure if that had been published yet or not in a “high impact journal”

    Both of these questions tie into this next one, given the above, I’m surprised you made no mention of Eugenics/Reprogenetics in your predictions? Wouldn’t all of this make the demand/support for Eugenic programs much more widespread? I’m not sure how far along genetic engineering is(especially with regards to IQ), but looks like now would be a good time to start engineering if feasible(despite any protests, my thing is if parents want to engineer their children as I’m sure many do and more will, why not?)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Wouldn’t this be impossible due to blacks(meant to encompass blacks worldwide not just black Americans) don’t have the Neanderthal/Denosovian genes?

    no. look at the time frame i specified. the best guesses are that the archaic admixture outside of africa took places ~50,000 years BP. the back migration that i’m positing is older. it may have predated the admixture.

    Isn’t that pretty much already over with? As Nooffensebut mentioned, we know about the differences between blacks and non-blacks, though I’m not sure if that had been published yet or not in a “high impact journal”

    it’s not over with. i have talked enough researchers without political axes to grind who are working in this area to accept that this is not a settled domain. and yes, i did specify “high impact.”

    I’m surprised you made no mention of Eugenics/Reprogenetics in your predictions? Wouldn’t all of this make the demand/support for Eugenic programs much more widespread?

    my predictions are for 2012. no, i don’t think we’ll start talking about this. yet. as prenatal screening becomes very common and nationalized healthcare ubiquitous, i think the topic will be broached. though to be fair, “end of life care” is the real low hanging fruit at this point, so i think that will be addressed before “beginning of life” choices.

  • Donn

    ^Ah, thanks for clearing those up, maybe I jumped the gun with Eugenics/Reprogenetics, though to be fully forthcoming it’s something I’m looking forward to excitedly(though it probably won’t do me any good..). How much further out from that do you think we are? A few decades? Maybe under that?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #20, 10 years? by then prenatal screening should be so normalized that it’s a background assumption.

  • toto

    - Scientists will discover that 50% of more of the ancestry of most Africans is due to an ancient “back migration” event from Eurasian, on the order of 200 thousand years B.P. (which distinguishes Pygmies and Khoisan, who do not bear as much of this stamp).

    200ky is mighty old. That’s the age of the oldest found anatomically modern humans in Africa, right? Did you mean 100ky? That would be the age of the Near East population which Dienekes posits is the actual source of the 70ky radiation of Eurasians.

  • Eurologist

    - A big paper will come out confirming that there has been massive (on the order of 50 percent or more) genetic turnover across Europe over the past 10,000 years.

    The way I interpret the autosomal data, there is a gradient from about 20% in the Southeast to about 10% in Central and Western Europe, to about 5% or less at the northern and Baltic fringes. Sorry, I don’t see this happening, the 2-4 main, distinct European components are just that, and they are old.

    – Housing will not bottom out in 2012

    It already has started: the change of the rate of decline is sufficient to point to an imminent bottoming out (latest with the March to June housing pick-up). In some regions of the US, apartment buildings are in short supply now, and new construction has started to pick up.

    – A major revision of our understanding of the archaeogenetics of the New World will be published, using ancient DNA

    The existing models are already so flexible, I can’t see this, either. There were perhaps two early, pretty much concomitant immigrations (coastal sea foragers and inland hunters), followed by a couple of waves of much more recent Inuits. Based on archaeological evidence, the first groups likely spent some time in Beringia first, so they are ~40,000 years old compared to most of Asia, or at least ~15,000 – 20,000 years old compared to some Siberian outliers. But, yes, like SE Asians and Eastern Siberians/Mongolians, I expect native Americans to have a high Denisovan and also another, high “additional ancient” component.

    – Scientists will discover that 50% of more of the ancestry of most Africans is due to an ancient “back migration” event from Eurasian, on the order of 200 thousand years B.P. (which distinguishes Pygmies and Khoisan, who do not bear as much of this stamp).

    Based on climate, I see strong contact before ~350,000 – 400,000 years, and then almost nothing until ~130,000 – 80,000 ya. So, I think back migration happened in the latter time frame, and likely again around 40,000 ya and again during the very early neolithic.

    – Siri will get good enough by December 2012 that people will no longer be able to play jokes on it.

    From “Insufficient data! I do not understand!” to “Cut it out – I know what you are up to. You are bored, you know you cannot win this game. May I suggest a game of chess? Also, my instructor taught me to sing a song. Would you like to hear it, Dave? Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…”

  • Naughtius Maximus

    A bit off topic, but what are the chances of Martin getting The Winds of Winter out in 2012?
    And will there be any mass suicides regarding the 2012 Mayan/Nibru nonsense?

  • Douglas Knight

    Intrade agrees that the presidential election is close. In fact, it currently puts Obama > 50%.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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