Why Prediction Markets are Better at Predicting Covid than Public Health Experts

What are the predictions for Covid? Prediction markets like Polymarket are the best way to know what is actually going to happen.

How Did Scientists and Public Health Experts Handle the COVID-19 Pandemic?

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, only “29% percent of U.S. adults say they have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the best interests of the public, down from 40% who said this in November 2020”- a few months before the pandemic began. While this shift in attitudes is often attributed to the pervasiveness of medical misinformation and conspiracy theories disseminated through social media, there are plenty of reasons why medical scientists and public health experts might have lost credibility with the general public over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bet on the future of Covid cases on Polymarket
Visual from an April, 2020 New York Times report on the contrasting visions painted by the Covid-19 forecasts generated early models.

Pandemics are notoriously difficult to forecast, and COVID-19 was no exception

“Predicting the trajectory of a novel emerging pathogen is like waking in the middle of the night and finding yourself in motion-but not knowing where you are headed, how fast you are traveling, how far you have come, or even what matter of vehicle conveys you into the darkness,” writes University of Texas Biologist Claus O. Wilke. The last half century has seen the emergence of a number of viral pathogens-think ebola, the “Hong Kong” flu of 1968, swine flu, avian flu-that some experts predicted would result in untold casualties worldwide. In all of those cases, the epidemic was successfully contained before it could reach the catastrophic proportions foretold by predictions of that sort.

Conflicting Predictions

Early expert predictions of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic tended to fall at one of two extremes. Either they foretold a catastrophic, “doomsday” scenario in which infection was widespread and people were left to die as hospitals were flooded with patients they hadn’t the capacity to treat, or they characterized the threat of the virus as relatively minor and temporary.

The Limitations of Epidemiological Modeling

Most epidemiological forecasting models use some highly refined derivation of what is called ‘SIR’ Modeling, by which individuals within the simulation are classified as either ‘susceptible,’ ‘infectious,’ or ‘recovered.’ This is canonical epidemiological theory has been a primary part of the epidemiological toolkit for over one-hundred years.

Experts face a variety of pressures to create biased forecasts.

Expert predictions are often influenced by the imperatives of the institutions from which they derive their funding, or of which they often act as public representatives.

Bet on Your Predictions on Polymarket

Why prediction markets provide better information than experts

Prediction markets are not a replacement for public health experts, but because they represent the collective analysis of thousands of traders with real money on the line, they serve as an important clearing house for synthesizing the best information available.



Bet on your beliefs.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store