I’m Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

I am doing an Ask Me Anything. Work and other time constraints permitting, I intend to start answering questions on Sunday, 2020/​07/​05 12:01PM PDT.


I am Top 20 (currently #11) out of 1000+ on covid-19 questions on the amateur forecasting website Metaculus. I also do fairly well on other prediction tournaments, and my guess is that my thoughts have a fair amount of respect in the nascent amateur forecasting space. Note that I am not a professional epidemiologist and have very little training in epidemiology and adjacent fields, and there are bound to be considerations I will inevitably miss as an amateur forecaster.

I also do forecasting semi-professionally, though I will not be answering questions related to work. Other than forecasting, my past hobbies and experiences include undergrad in economics and mathematics, a data science internship in the early days of Impossible Foods (a plant-based meats company), software engineering at Google, running the largest utilitarian memes page on Facebook, various EA meetups and outreach projects, long-form interviews of EAs on Huffington Post, lots of random thoughts on EA questions, and at one point being near the top of several obscure games.

For this AMA, I am most excited about answering high-level questions/​reflections on forecasting (eg, what EAs get wrong about forecasting, my own past mistakes, outside views and/​or expert deference, limits of judgmental forecasting, limits of expertise, why log-loss is not always the best metric, calibration, analogies between human forecasting and ML, why pure accuracy is overrated, the future of forecasting...), rather than doing object-level forecasts.

I am also excited to talk about interests unrelated to forecasting or covid-19. In general, you can ask me anything, though I might not be able to answer everything. All opinions are, of course, my own, and do not represent those of past, current or future employers.