
August 5th, 2008
10:50 pm  Longshot Prediction Game: final probabilities OK, here's the third and final part of the longshot prediction game. It's a few days later than planned, but life and LiveJournal have a nasty habit of getting in the way.
There were 11 entries shading the probabilities of the twelve longshots up or down, ten through the poll and one by email. Assuming that everyone who offered an opinion on one poll but not the other deliberately failed to reply to one of them, Two people submitted probability statements without having submitted "most likely" and "least likely" nominations, which is perfectly welcome. Thank you to all eleven of you, and also to those who looked at the twelve statements and thought "Hmmm... they all look about right, so I don't need to vote at all".
USA to win most gold medals in Beijing. 6 say "lower than 52%", 1 says "higher than 52%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
Oil to trade at $200/barrel or higher. 4 say "lower than 50%", 1 says "higher than 50%", three of the "lower than 50%" people are going back on their previous nomination as "most likely".
BBC Global 30 stock market index to drop below 4750. 2 say "lower than 47%", nobody says "higher than 47%", one of the "lower than 47%" people is going back on his previous nomination as "most likely".
HP 6 to gross at least $285 million at the US box office. 1 says "lower than 46%", nobody says "higher than 46%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
Microsoft to takeover Yahoo. 2 say "lower than 36%", 1 says "higher than 36%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
USA and/or Israel to execute an overt air strike against Iran. 2 say "lower than 33%", 1 says "higher than 33%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister, Labour leader or both. 1 says "lower than 31%", 1 says "higher than 31%", one of the "lower than 31%" people is going back on his previous nomination as "most likely".
Firefox usage to reach 33% or higher. 3 say "lower than 28%", 2 say "higher than 28%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIII. 4 say "lower than 25%", nobody says "higher than 25%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
No more than 2 major hurricanes in 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season. 4 say "lower than 24%", 2 say "higher than 24%", nobody reverses their previous estimate.
Named British Prince or Princess to marry publicly. 3 say "lower than 23%", 2 say "higher than 23%", one of the "higher than 23%" people is going back on her previous nomination as "least likely".
John McCain to win at least 336 Electoral College seats. Nobody says "lower than 10%", 4 say "higher than 10%", two of the "higher than 10%" people are going back on their previous nomination as "least likely".
I have decided to award a swing of 1% per opinion or 3% when the opinion involves invalidating your previous conviction that an item was one of the most or least likely.
The panel have collectively concluded that best estimates of the probabilities of the twelve longshot events occurring after July 31st, 2008 and before February 1st, 2009 (unless otherwise stated) are:USA to win most gold medals in Beijing. 47%
HP 6 to gross at least $285 million at the US box office. 45%
BBC Global 30 stock market index to drop below 4750. 43%
Oil to trade at $200/barrel or higher. 41%
Microsoft to takeover Yahoo. 35%
USA and/or Israel to execute an overt air strike against Iran. 32%
Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister, Labour leader or both. 29%
Firefox usage to reach 33% or higher. 27%
Named British Prince or Princess to marry publicly. 25%
No more than 2 major hurricanes in 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season. 22%
New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIII. 21%
John McCain to win at least 336 Electoral College seats. 18% So we now have as good a set of probability estimates as I consider this method is likely to produce. I invite you all to favour, or oppose, each longshot at true odds. For each of the twelve boxes below, please select the box if you prefer to back the longshot and have a small chance of winning big points, or ignore the box if you prefer to oppose the longshot and have a big chance of winning small points. Hopefully the consensus of opinion will make things sufficiently close that each choice is tricky.
Which longshots do you want to support?
I choose to earn 53 points if "USA to win most gold medals in Beijing" happens, instead of earning 47 points if it doesn't.
1(5.0%)
I choose to earn 55 points if "HP 6 to gross at least $285 million at the US box office" happens, instead of earning 45 points if it doesn't.
1(5.0%)
I choose to earn 57 points if "BBC Global 30 stock market index to drop below 4750" happens, instead of earning 43 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 59 points if "Oil to trade at $200/barrel or higher" happens, instead of earning 41 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 65 points if "Microsoft to takeover Yahoo" happens, instead of earning 35 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 68 points if "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt air strike against Iran" happens, instead of earning 32 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 71 points if "Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister, Labour leader or both" happens, instead of earning 29 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 73 points if "Firefox usage to reach 33% or higher" happens, instead of earning 27 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 75 points if "Named British Prince or Princess to marry publicly" happens, instead of earning 25 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 78 points if "No more than 2 major hurricanes in 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season" happens, instead of earning 22 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 79 points if "New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIII" happens, instead of earning 21 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
I choose to earn 82 points if "John McCain to win at least 336 Electoral College seats" happens, instead of earning 18 points if it doesn't.
0(0.0%)
As I have been behind the pace on getting this process started, I suggest that I will keep the poll open for a little over 72 hours and close it when I get up on the morning (BST) of Saturday 9^{th} August. Hopefully this will be before too many gold medals will have been awarded. Sadly there does exist the possibility of "pastposting"  that is, if one or more of these events happens between the time I post the poll and the time I close it, feel free to jump on it and earn yourself guaranteed points.
I reckon that the average score in this game should be around 253 points. If you choose to oppose all 12 longshots and none of them happen then you'll score 348, which may be a winning score, but it only needs two or three of them to happen and you'll drop off the pace... :)

There's something sligthly disturbing, even in the hypothetical, of garnering more points if Israel attacks Iran than if not. I feel a bit like the bean counters in the basement of the Pentagon and it ain't pretty.
The other less than happy ones don't bother me as much. :) And the Pats losing the SB makes me spongy...all over. :) Jets! Jets! Jets!
Wahoo! I didn't know we could cheat. So, If Iran is attacked on the 8th.... That changes everything!!!
Is this the final poll? Some of these are somewhat open ended. The actual results have to wait until at least Nov for the McCain electoral college answer. Is there a deadline where the results become final and no matter what happens after it won't change the predictive ability of us clairvoyants? "The Dead Pool" may not be for you in that case. :) (Sometimes it's not for me, either.)
For openended things like "Oil to trade at $200/barrel plus", I'm only considering events occurring after July 31st, 2008 and before February 1st, 2009. Something like Superbowl XLIII happens slightly outside that window, but we ought to know the final scores early in February '09. I think oil will trade at $200/barrel eventually  maybe 2008, maybe 2018, maybe 2048  but I'm not convinced it's necessarily worth holding as a longterm investment that will beat interest or stock market returns available elsewhere. (Even if you could, which I don't think you can as a member of the public.) I wonder how many of the people backing HP 6 have actually looked at the stats for HP 5? Easiest 45 points I ever made!
 From:  imc 
Date:  August 6th, 2008 10:48 am (UTC) 

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HP5 made $292 million — what's your point? That's the total so far. The prediction game closes on February 1st.
 From:  imc 
Date:  August 6th, 2008 11:15 am (UTC) 

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I make that ten weeks from release. HP5 made 289 of its 292 million within ten weeks. Oh OK, not so crazy then. It'll come down to whether Winter box office can match Summer. I still vote no, but it's not as impossible as it looked at first glance.
 From:  imc 
Date:  August 15th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC) 

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Bugger, they've just moved it to next Summer for marketing reasons. Chris, does this mean the eight people who didn't tick this box have won 45 points, or is this item now void? Yeah, I've been thinking about that myself. Literally, it ought to resolve as a "no" for 45 points. However, my gut reaction was to void the lot. The more I think about it, the more I'm tempted towards the literal resolution, on the grounds that with each of these, there's always the possibility that any of them may fall flat for unexpected and unpredictable reasons, like the release of the film being postponed.
In conclusion: inconclusive. Expect a post on the subject within the next, ooh, month or so. Keeping everything in the same place, the blogger known elsewhere as daweaver predicted by email: I choose to earn 53 points if "USA to win most gold medals in Beijing" happens, instead of earning 47 points if it doesn't. I choose to earn 55 points if "HP 6 to gross at least $285 million at the US box office" happens, instead of earning 45 points if it doesn't. I choose to earn 71 points if "Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister, Labour leader or both" happens, instead of earning 29 points if it doesn't. ...and gives his reasoning here. This makes the final prediction proportions: I choose to earn 53 points if "USA to win most gold medals in Beijing" happens, instead of earning 47 points if it doesn't. 12/21 I choose to earn 55 points if "HP 6 to gross at least $285 million at the US box office" happens, instead of earning 45 points if it doesn't. 13/21 I choose to earn 57 points if "BBC Global 30 stock market index to drop below 4750" happens, instead of earning 43 points if it doesn't. 5/21 I choose to earn 59 points if "Oil to trade at $200/barrel or higher" happens, instead of earning 41 points if it doesn't. 4/21 I choose to earn 65 points if "Microsoft to takeover Yahoo" happens, instead of earning 35 points if it doesn't. 7/21 I choose to earn 68 points if "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt air strike against Iran" happens, instead of earning 32 points if it doesn't. 4/21 I choose to earn 71 points if "Gordon Brown to stop being Prime Minister, Labour leader or both" happens, instead of earning 29 points if it doesn't. 9/21 I choose to earn 73 points if "Firefox usage to reach 33% or higher" happens, instead of earning 27 points if it doesn't. 3/21 I choose to earn 75 points if "Named British Prince or Princess to marry publicly" happens, instead of earning 25 points if it doesn't. 1/21 I choose to earn 78 points if "No more than 2 major hurricanes in 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season" happens, instead of earning 22 points if it doesn't. 10/21 I choose to earn 79 points if "New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIII" happens, instead of earning 21 points if it doesn't. 4/21 I choose to earn 82 points if "John McCain to win at least 336 Electoral College seats" happens, instead of earning 18 points if it doesn't. 3/21 
