2011 Predictions

My predictions for 2010 didn’t turn out so well, but I’ve delayed long enough. Time to come up with some predictions for 2011. As usual, I’m assigning difficulties between 0 and 1 to each prediction.

Sports

1. Patriots win Super Bowl (difficulty 0.6)

One of the things that makes the NFL so compelling is that even an overwhelming favorite seldom has a better than 70 to 80 percent chance of winning any given game (see, for example, last week’s Seahawks victory over the heavily-favored Saints). As a result, even if one team is clearly better than all others, the chances of winning two playoff games and the Super Bowl are slim. My difficulty is roughly in line with the 8-5 odds given by professional sports books.

2. Celtics or Heat win NBA Championship (difficulty 0.5)

I wanted to just predict a Celtics championship, but they only have a realistic chance if they’re healthy for the playoffs. Again, my difficulty is vaguely in line with the current betting odds.

Two quite boring predictions, I know, but these are the only sports I’ve been following lately.

Politics

3. Weakened filibuster and secret holds in US Senate (difficulty 0.4)

The public is getting a bit tired of the partisan gridlock (even those who like the results), and there’s currently a political situation that makes changing the Senate rules feasible: the minority party in the Senate controls the House, so there’s no danger of legislation being passed against party policy, and they are also threatening to become the Senate majority in the near future, so weakening the power of the minority is appealing. I expect the Democrats to pass rules changes weakening the filibuster somewhat (e.g. requiring 40 votes to extend debate instead of 60 votes to close it) and limiting secret holds by individual senators.

4. Immigration reform passed (difficulty 0.8)

Despite the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding immigration, I think it’s one of the few issues where the two parties agree that reform is needed, and I (perhaps naively) believe that Congress does want to demonstrate some significant accomplishments during this session, before the 2012 election wars. The current system of allocating a tiny quota of green cards by lottery is absurd on a number of levels; a points-based system more like Bush’s old proposal seems like it could pass.

5. Charges brought against Assange in US; he avoids extradition (difficulty 0.6)

Building an espionage case against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in the US seems straightforward. I seriously doubt that countries are in the habit of granting extradition for such cases, however. Whatever happens with the sexual assault charges, I expect that Assange can avoid his US legal troubles by simply staying out of the US.

Technology

6. iPad remains most popular tablet (difficulty 0.3)

2011 will finally see some competition for the iPad. That competition will appeal only to those with religious objection to Apple, however. (The iPad’s price, in particular, leaves very little room for competitors.)

7. New iPad released (difficulty 0.3)

Released around April; camera(s) included; otherwise very similar to the current model. I’d love to see a retina display on an iPad and think that its new glass technologies might make it to the iPad (i.e. the display is directly on the back of the glass, and not under it like current laptops), but I don’t expect the resolution to change in this iteration.

8. Blackberry loses spot as most popular mobile OS (difficulty 0.7)

With the iPhone coming to Verizon there’s a very good chance that the iPhone will retake a lead over Android, but both platforms have far more momentum than the Blackberry. RIM is fighting to keep hold of its current (quite loyal) user base; Apple and the Android crowd are going after new smartphone customers.

9. Ballmer no longer CEO of Microsoft (difficulty 0.7)

It’s been a long time coming. There is no question at this point that Microsoft has lost its leadership position in technology. Worse, even among normal consumers its reputation is mediocre at best. The company is flailing in the consumer space, and its success is becoming more and more confined to the enterprise space. You don’t have to call this failure—when IBM made a similar shift to enterprise consulting its profits grew—but shareholders aren’t going to put up with a CEO who has squandered such a dominant position in so many markets.

Financial

10. Another good year for stocks (difficulty 1.0)

Europe may be facing some major institutional problems (more bailouts and defaults are inevitable, although none should be disastrous enough to allow anyone out of the Euro), but the US is looking pretty strong—even the employment numbers should finally start perking up in 2011. I expect another 15% rise across the board: Dow to 13500, NASDAQ to 3150, S&P 500 to 1500.

As usual, I’ll take partial credit for this prediction: a hit at difficulty 1.0 if I’m within 1%, 0.7 if I’m within 10%, 0.5 if I’m within 20%, etc. (Difficulty is given by e^(0.03963(1 - percenterror)).)