Predicting the Future: A Contest and Exercise in Gathering Collective Wisdom

crystalballWhen I was younger, we used to make predictions each New Year’s Day on what would happen in the next year, seal them in an envelope and open them when we got together the next New Year’s Day. Now we have The Wisdom of Crowds to do this for us. I thought it might be interesting to have readers of How to Save the World give their predictions for 2006. And just to make it interesting, if enough people participate there will be a prize for the most accurate prediction in each of two categories: US & World events (open to all), and Canadian events (open to Canadians only)

Before we start, here are the rules:

  1. Please do not use the comments thread below for your predictions. I’d like all predictions to be independent, and not influenced by others. So instead, e-mail me at [dave at howtosavetheworld dot ca] with the word Predictions in the subject line, and in the body, the numbers of the prediction questions and the letter of your answer to each, no later than Friday, January 13.
  2. No wishful thinking, please. This is what you think will happen, not what you hope will happen.
  3. If I get at least 50 responses in total I will award a prize worth at least $50 in each of the two categories to the person with the most correct answers. If there is a tie I will have an independent observer draw one of the names that were tied out of a hat. My judgement on whether answers are ‘correct’ will be final.
  4. I will publish the ‘collective wisdom’ of the respondents on Sunday, January 15 but not reveal any individual names or answers.

OK, here we go:

US and World Events:

  1. What will the S&P 500 stock index close at on the last day of trading in 2006 (it’s currently at 1271): (a) under 700, (b) 700-1000, (c) 1000-1300, (d) 1300-1600, (e) 1600-1800, (f) over 1800
  2. What will the NASDAQ stock index close at on the last day of trading in 2006 (it’s currently at 2274 and on a tear): (a) under 1500, (b) 1500-1900, (c) 1900-2300, (d) 2300-2700, (e) 2700-3000, (f) over 3000
  3. What will the 12-month change in the average US housing prices be at September 30, 2006 (using the OFHEO ‘purchase only’ data) (as at September 30, 2005 it was +10.95%): (a) decline of more than 20%, (b) decline of 10-20%, (c) decline of 0-10%, (d) increase of 0-5%, (e) increase of 5-10%, (f) increase of more than 10%
  4. What will the US national debt be at the last reported date of 2006 per the US Treasury Dept. (at the end of 2005 it was $8.2 trillion, up almost 10% from a year earlier): (a) less than $8 trillion, (b) $8-8.5 trillion, (c) $8.5-9 trillion, (d) $9-9.5 trillion, (e) $9.5-10 trillion, (f) over $10 trillion
  5. What will the annualized US trade deficit be as at the end of October 2006 per the Census Bureau (as at October 2005 it was $718 billion, up about 25% over the previous year’s deficit, pushing the accumulated deficit up over $9 trillion): (a) less than $600 billion, (b) $600-700 billion, (c) $700-800 billion, (d) $800-900 billion, (e) $900 billion to $1 trillion, (f) over $1 trillion
  6. What will the US average 15-year new mortgage rate be at the end of 2006 per Bloomberg (at the end of 2005 it was 5.25%, up from 4.76% a year earlier): (a) less than 5%, (b) 5-5.5%, (c) 5.5-6%, (d) 6-8%, (e) 8-10%, (f) over 10%
  7. What will the US (CPI) inflation rate be for 2006 (the rate for 2005 was 3.4%): (a) negative, (b) 0-2%, (c) 2-4%, (d) 4-6%, (e) 6-10%, (f) over 10%
  8. What will be the value of the Real Broad Dollar Index of the US dollar versus other major currencies per the Fed at the end of 2006 (the rate at the end of 2005 was 110.8, down from 113.6 a year earlier and 126.7 in 2002): (a) less than 90, (b) 90-100, (c) 100-105, (d) 105-110, (e) 110-115, (f) over 115
  9. How many US Senate seats will the Republicans hold after the 2006 mid-term elections (they currently hold 55, and 33 seats will be contested, about equally split between the two parties): (a) fewer than 48, (b) 48-50, (c) 51-53, (d) 54-56, (e) 57-59, (f) 60 or more
  10. What will be the status of the Bush/Cheney presidency at the end of 2006: (a) both intact, (b) Cheney resigned or impeached, (c) Bush, or both Bush & Cheney, resigned or impeached, (d) grand jury appointed to look at impeachable offenses but still in progress, (e) letters of impeachment drawn up but not yet exercised
  11. What will be the status of Blair at the end of 2006: (a) still in power, (b) declared intention to resign, (c) resigned or removed from office
  12. What impact will natural disasters (hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, melting of the icecap etc.) have on our lives in 2006 by most accounts: (a) significantly less than 2005, (b) comparable to 2005, (c) significantly greater than 2005
  13. Which of these countries will sign the Kyoto accord in 2006: (a) China, (b) the US, (c) both, (d) neither
  14. What impact will influenza and other lethal viruses have on our lives in 2006: (a) a lull, with significantly less mention than in 2005, (b) continued sporadic outbreaks of concern, (c) local epidemics raising the global influenza death toll to over one million (twice the ‘normal’ rate), (d) a global pandemic killing more than ten million people
  15. What impact will nuclear weapons threats have on our lives in 2006: (a) localized threats from Iran, Israel and/or North Korea, (b) significant threats to use nuclear weapons from additional countries, (c) actual detonation of one or more nuclear weapons as a hostile act rather than just a ‘test’
  16. What impact will biological and chemical weapons (or the blowing up of sites containing lethal chemical or biological substances) have on our lives in 2006: (a) nothing more than a few scares, (b) deliberate use of such weapons with 10 to 1000 fatalities, (c) deliberate use of such weapons by a group or nation with more than 1000 fatalities
  17. What will light crude futures be priced at at the end of 2006 (they are currently about $63/barrel, up 40% from a year earlier): (a) under $50/barrel, (b) $50-60/barrel, (c) $60-70/barrel, (d) $70-80/barrel, (e) $80-100/barrel, (f) over $100/barrel
  18. Which of the following will occur in 2006: (a) Chavez will be overthrown in Venezuela, (b) Putin will be overthrown in Russia, (c) both, (d) neither
  19. The most severe famine of 2006 (killing at least one million people) will occur in (a) East Africa, (b) Central or West Africa, (c) China, (d) elsewhere in Asia, (e) there will be no famine that bad
  20. What will Bush do regarding Iran in 2006: (a) invade, (b) sporadic incursions, no-fly zones and similar ‘limited’ military action, (c) embargo or other economic action only, (d) just threats and demands

Canadian Events: (Canadian respondents only please)

  1. In the January 2006 election, how many seats will the Liberals win: (a) fewer than 90, (b) 90-99, (c) 100-109, (d) 110-114, (e) 115-120, (f) more than 120
  2. In the January 2006 election, how many seats will the Conservatives win: (a) fewer than 90, (b) 90-99, (c) 100-109, (d) 110-114, (e) 115-120, (f) more than 120
  3. In the January 2006 election, how many seats will the NDP win: (a) fewer than 10, (b) 10-14, (c) 15-19, (d) 20-24, (e) 25-29, (f) more than 29
  4. In the January 2006 election, how many seats will the Bloq win: (a) fewer than 50, (b) 50-54, (c) 55-59, (d) 60-64, (e) 65-69, (f) more than 69
  5. Who will win the Stanley Cup in 2006: (a) Ottawa, (b) another Canada-based team, (c) Detroit, (d) another US-based team in the Western Conference, (e) a US-based team in the Eastern Conference
  6. Which Canadian party leaders will still be party leaders at the end of 2006: (a) Martin, (b) Harper, (c) both, (d) neither
  7. When will the next Canadian election be after the one in January: (a) before the end of June 2006, (b) in the latter half of 2006, (c) date set for 2007 by the end of 2006, (d) not scheduled by the end of 2006
  8. Will Canada suffer a significant terrorist attack (scale of the London subway bombings or greater) during 2006: (a) yes, (b) no
  9. What will be the status of Quebec at the end of 2006: (a) referendum held, majority voted to separate, (b) referendum held, majority voted not to separate, (c) referendum scheduled but not yet held, (d) no referendum scheduled or held, but significant powers transferred to Quebec and other provinces by federal government, (e) none of the above
  10. What will the value of the Canadian dollar be relative to the US dollar at the end of 2006 (it is currently at 86 cents): (a) below 80 cents, (b) 80-84 cents, (c) 84-88 cents, (d) 88-92 cents, (e) 92-96 cents, (f) over 96 cents
  11. What will be the status of Canada-US relations at the end of the year: (a) Canada or US has withdrawn from NAFTA, (b) Bush recognizes NAFTA court verdicts and repays illegal duties to Canada, improving relations, (c) Canadian litigation against US remains unresolved, relations remain sour, (d) federal government drops actions against US, and agrees to send Canadian troops to Iraq/Iran, (e) federal government drops actions against US, but does not agree to send Canadian troops to Iraq/Iran
  12. What will the TSX stock index close at on the last day of trading in 2006 (it’s currently at 11500 and on a tear): (a) under 9000, (b) 9000-10000, (c) 10000-11000, (d) 11000-12000, (e) 12000-14000, (f) over 14000

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