Metaculus Help: Spread the word
If you like Metaculus, tell your friends! Share this question via Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit.
Pandemic series: attack using a genetically engineered virus by 2020?
Given the dramatic advances in our ability to understand and modify the genome of organisms, the idea of a pathogen that has been genetically engineered (rather than artificially selected) to increase its virulence, transmissibility, or scope of effect is a rapidly growing concern.
As discussed in this question, researchers have successfully "upgraded" H5N1 to be airborne, using techniques that could also be applied to MERS and SARs — all pathogens with high virulence but low transmissibility. One could also imagine increasing the virulence of highly-transmissible flus or other illnesses. Techniques used by these groups have been published and are thus available to other researchers with sufficient expertise.
Bioweapons research on large scales is outlawed by the Bioweapons Convention, but this did not prevent the Soviets from following a massive program into the 1980s and perhaps 1990s, and it is quite possible that clandestine programs exist today using more modern techniques.
Genetic engineering also opens up possibilities that do not exist in nature or earlier research efforts. For example, pathogens could be engineered to attack people with genetic markers strongly correlated with particular races or types of ancestry (as so-called "ethnic bioweapon"). An agent might even target an individual person's genome.
As these techniques grow more powerful and accessible, we ask how likely is such an attack, which would combine ability to genetically engineer pathogens with intent to cause harm (or at least act without consent):
By 2020 will a human be deliberately infected (without their consent) by a pathogenic virus genetically engineered to increase its virulence, transmissibility, or scope of effect?
The question resolves as positive whether or not the attack is successful, but should be termed an attack: deliberate and unfriendly. Resolution is by report from a credible media, government or other source.
Metaculus help: Predicting
Predictions are the heart of Metaculus. Predicting is how you contribute to the wisdom of the crowd, and how you earn points and build up your personal Metaculus track record.
The basics of predicting are very simple: move the slider to best match the likelihood of the outcome, and click predict. You can predict as often as you want, and you're encouraged to change your mind when new information becomes available.
The displayed score is split into current points and total points. Current points show how much your prediction is worth now, whereas total points show the combined worth of all of your predictions over the lifetime of the question. The scoring details are available on the FAQ.
Note: this question resolved before its original close time. All of your predictions came after the resolution, so you did not gain (or lose) any points for it.
Note: this question resolved before its original close time. You earned points up until the question resolution, but not afterwards.
This question is not yet open for predictions.
Metaculus help: Community Stats
Use the community stats to get a better sense of the community consensus (or lack thereof) for this question. Sometimes people have wildly different ideas about the likely outcomes, and sometimes people are in close agreement. There are even times when the community seems very certain of uncertainty, like when everyone agrees that event is only 50% likely to happen.
When you make a prediction, check the community stats to see where you land. If your prediction is an outlier, might there be something you're overlooking that others have seen? Or do you have special insight that others are lacking? Either way, it might be a good idea to join the discussion in the comments.