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Monday, March 4, 2013

Predicting the Next Pope

I've posted about prediction markets before ("How Good Are We at Predicting the Future?" "Election Update"), but if you don't remember, they are futures markets created for the purpose of predicting the outcome of various events. People who invest in them want to make money, so they try to take into account a variety of factors in making their decisions, and if a particular event attracts enough activity, they can be quite accurate. For example, various markets picked President Obama to win reelection back seven months in advance ("No One Likes an 'I Told You So,' But..."), and it accurately predicted several weeks in advance that Philip Phillips would win last year's American Idol competition.

Not surprisingly, there are markets attempting to predict who the next Pope will be ("Who Will Be the Next Catholic Pope"). As of now, the front runners are Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy (26.6% chance of being selected) and Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana (19.8% chance of being selected). It's unclear whether there's been enough activity to make these predictions accurate, of course. What's interesting, though, is that a number of those in the running for the position are from Italy, which means that the chances that the next Pope will be from Italy are quite high.

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