Here are some things I’m thinking about now.
WORLD / CULTURE
Do masks prevent sickness? A coronavirus guide on what to do (and not do) to stay healthy: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/do-masks-prevent-sickness-coronavirus-guide-what-do-not-do-ncna1154641
“…every public health official and organization has been saying there is no need to wear a mask if you’re a healthy, uninfected person.
It’s much more likely that you would get the disease through your hands. You shake the hand of someone infected or touch something that person has contaminated with the virus, then you touch your eyes, mouth or nose, and voilà, you can become infected. That explains why, along with telling you not to bother with the masks, the same public health officials and agencies are shouting at you to wash your hands and stop touching your face.
What are masks good for, then? First, they are crucial for people who have the disease. Remember those drops of saliva? Wearing a mask if you’re sick can help catch a large number of them, greatly reducing the amount of virus that gets into the environment or onto other people.”
I find any recommendation not to wear masks as the default during this crisis, dubious. I have been wearing surgical masks and latex gloves whenever I have gone out to the grocery store or gas station and discard them before I return to my car. These items are remnants of a time we will come to know as BQ – Before Quarantine. When you have a preschooler in the house, they’re bound to bring home all kinds of cooties. We have made regular use of these items to protect each other from passing illnesses back and forth. I’ve also made regular use of hand sanitizer and wash my hands frequently.
Experts have repeatedly said that the incubation period for COVID-19 can be as long as 14 days (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32150748) and many will be asymptomatic during most of that period. Doesn’t it make sense then that as a precaution, we all assume we are infected, and we wear a mask not to protect ourselves, but to protect others potentially? The “expert” opinion here seems to have some holes in it.
Oh, wait a minute, there might an expert that agrees with me…
Should We All Be Wearing Masks In Public? Health Experts Revisit The Question: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/31/824560471/should-we-all-be-wearing-masks-in-public-health-experts-revisit-the-question
“Wearing a mask is ‘an additional layer of protection for those who have to go out,’ former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NPR in an interview… ‘Face masks will be most effective at slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 if they are widely used, because they may help prevent people who are asymptomatically infected from transmitting the disease unknowingly,’ Gottlieb wrote. Gottlieb points to South Korea and Hong Kong — two places that were shown to manage their outbreaks successfully and where face masks are used widely.”
All this business about whether to wear a mask or not underscores how difficult it is for people, even experts in a particular discipline, to asses risk.
Why the Human Brain Is a Poor Judge of Risk: https://www.wired.com/2007/03/security-matters0322/
It seems we are bad at analyzing risk because our brain is at war with itself.
“So here’s the first fundamental problem: We have two systems for reacting to risk – a primitive intuitive system and a more advanced analytic system – and they’re operating in parallel.”
The fight or flight parts of our brains are both activated in times when we need to make decisions, sometimes life and death decisions. The more rational and reasoned part of our brains – the neocortex – are newer evolutionarily, and often loses the battle with the older, more emotional, and reactionary part of our brains – the amygdala. Here’s a good paragraph from the article,
“People are not computers. We don’t evaluate security trade-offs mathematically, by examining the relative probabilities of different events. Instead, we have shortcuts, rules of thumb, stereotypes and biases – generally known as ‘heuristics.’ These heuristics affect how we think about risks, how we evaluate the probability of future events, how we consider costs, and how we make trade-offs. We have ways of generating close-to-optimal answers quickly with limited cognitive capabilities.”
Could it be that a good investor will have a more developed neocortex or a less invasive amygdala than most of us? Perhaps this allows her to navigate potential heuristics to her advantage, the same ones we lean on but are often wrong. Rules of thumb have their place though. They can allow us to make decisions faster. Heuristics might also help with the low-consequence decisions we all need to make every day, which even if wrong, aren’t worth deep time-consuming analysis we would give other more consequential decisions.
One rule of thumb that seems pretty solid is, don’t own lions and tigers as pets…
Netflix’s Tiger King Is the Only Show Crazier Than the World Outside Right Now: https://slate.com/culture/2020/03/netflix-tiger-king-review-joe-exotic-documentary.html
The story of Joe Exotic is, to put it mildly, wild (no pun intended). SPOILER ALERT. Joe Exotic was the P.T. Barnum of big cats and other dangerous animals on a roadside zoo in Oklahoma. I am only half into the second episode. The entire time watching that episode-and-a-half I felt a little pang of anxiety, feeling that any moment, someone was going to lose an arm or worse. I didn’t have to wait long. Joe and the workers at his zoo have proven to be bad at risk assessment. Definitely worth your “Netflix & Quarantine” time.
U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Soar to Record 3.28 Million: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-unemployment/u-s-weekly-jobless-claims-surge-to-record-3-28-million-idUSKBN21D1WJ
“Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 3.00 million to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ending March 21, eclipsing the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982, the Labor Department said. That also dwarfed the peak of 665,000 in applications during the 2007-2009 recession, during which 8.7 million jobs were lost.”
[UPDATE APRIL 2] A Widening Toll on Jobs: ‘This Thing Is Going to Come for Us All’: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/business/economy/coronavirus-unemployment-claims.html
“More than 6.6 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, setting a grim record for the second straight week.
The latest claims brought the two-week total to nearly 10 million.”Continue reading “10 Million Unemployed Is Nobody’s Fault”