In Medias Res

What I’ve got so far:

  1. Everything’s on the table. The likelihood that your preexisting ideology or priorities are an entirely adequate match to what this situation truly requires of us is close to nil. “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” ― Eric Hoffer
  2. That said, your life experience will give you insights. Privilege your experience over your ideology and nominal priorities.
  3. All disasters are local. Concentrate on your meaningfully immediate environment, which in this case will be the local market for medical resources. For most of the US, that will be our MSA. For those outside an MSA (metropolitan or micropolitan) that will be their county; and for some it will be the group of counties that feed into the one hospital in the region.
  4. Deprioritize pandemic news from outside your local area. There are people in the massive NY/NJ/MA outbreak that I worry about, but what happens there will only modestly resemble what happens in the KC MSA, not least because of the difference in population density, which can approach 20x.
  5. Mitigate or avoid your own risk (including the risk you pose to others) by both following the hygiene advice we’ve all heard and minimizing your physical interaction with anyone outside your immediate household. Internalize R₀ = b × k × d, where R₀ is the reproduction number of the virus, b is the probability of infection given contact with an infectious person, k is the contact rate, and d is the infectious duration. While the nominal R₀ of COVID-19 is ~3, your personal R₀ can be driven to < 1 by your own behavior.
  6. The general form of the challenge confronting us is abrupt wide variation in formerly relatively constant phenomena. In Talebian terms, we have migrated from “mediocristan” to “extremistan.” The multiplicative nature of a novel viral pandemic, especially by comparison to the relatively predictable seasonality of influenza viruses, has a thick-tailed (power law) probability structure and complex payoffs (notoriously ranging from large numbers of nearly asymptomatic cases to abruptly life-threatening “cytokine storm” reactions). For detail, see The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics.
  7. So we find ourselves at serious risk of running out of ventilators, ICU beds, and even hospital beds generally, to say nothing of supplies (but see “all disasters are local,” above), raising the prospect of significant second-order mortality among those unable to obtain adequate care for entirely unrelated illnesses and injuries.
  8. In this connection, many prior customs, techniques, tools, and materials are being revealed as highly dysfunctional and, if all goes sufficiently well, will be swept into the dustbin of history. The bad news for me is that my earlier fears about easily-bottlenecked processes have been realized. But we may look forward to significant adaptation, including deregulation of medical services.
  9. Similarly, a large number of purported fixes and remedies will fail. Folk remedies, in particular, seem likely to be disastrous, and this blog’s audience needs no persuasion that attempts at central planning will fail thanks to the Hayekian local knowledge problem. In that connection, and to quote something I wrote a few years back: “John Gilmore famously said that ‘the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.’ The future adaptation of representative democracies will depend on our capability, as individuals, to interpret endemic institutional dysfunctionality as damage and route around it.”
  10. The relatively vulnerable are closer to the center of the network: affluent, living in high-density major cities, well-traveled, extroverted, socially active, with large numbers of regular contacts (even if mostly in a “bubble” as per Murray’s notorious quiz). But some are the alienated and defiant who reject risk avoidance or even risk mitigation tactics (or attempt folk remedies instead), ordinarily associated with …
  11. The relatively invulnerable, who are at or near the edge of the network: impoverished, living in rural or low-density metro areas, untraveled, introverted, socially isolated, rarely in face-to-face contact with others. Many of these people have mental health issues and associated substance abuse problems. But the relatively invulnerable are also the intelligent and conscientious who promptly adopt appropriate risk management strategies.
  12. The post-pandemic preferences of the relatively invulnerable will have massive economic and cultural effects. I expect a reasonably quick partial recovery from the economic shutdown, but full recovery may take several years. Many of the “third places” which have done well over the last few decades will not regain their patronage, and as of early April 2020, we can only guess which ones. Fond hopes of some of my co-religionists aside for a sudden revival, I believe church attendance and involvement will be well down in the aftermath, and will not significantly grow until the next “Awakening,” which per Strauss and Howe should occur at mid-century. Until then, believers will be culturally marginalized and congregations will be smaller—but comprised of relatively fervent, active members.
  13. Geopolitical risks are heightened, especially US-China tensions, and if Xenakis’ “58-year hypothesis” holds, this very year will see an echo of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  14. The most important output of this process—and it is a process, with inputs, providers, outputs, recipients, etc—will be a collective lessons-learned database, comprised of both tacit and explicit knowledge, and somehow transmitted to future generations.

34 thoughts on “In Medias Res”

  1. I think you are somewhat wrong about religion. The persistence of religion across millennia regardless of creed shows it isn’t going to let a little momentary glitch get in the way. There will be some churn. Some people will discover that they don’t miss it and fall away. I suspect they will be outnumbered by a larger number of Christmas/Easter types that will discover that there’s something they miss from the enforced deprivation.

    Somewhere near all of us are a bunch of Mormons, (sorry, not going to through the whole schpiel) properly spaced doing whatever they think will benefit the community. They will end with more members than they started with as they have every year. You won’t hear about it from the media.

    I suspect that there will be some adjustments as people come to realize better what they value. It often takes losing something to see the value.

  2. There are a lot of other churches also active, didn’t mean to play favorites. You’ll only hear about the ones that do something the media disapprove of.

  3. “The relatively invulnerable, who are at or near the edge of the network: impoverished, living in rural or low-density metro areas, untraveled, introverted, socially isolated, rarely in face-to-face contact with others. Many of these people have mental health issues and associated substance abuse problems.”

    Let me guess — in your other life, you are a speech-writer for Hillary Clinton?

  4. I think the peak in deaths will come by Easter. Then we should start unwinding the economy. Hydroxychloroquine should knock the top off the peak.

    The unwinding will take a while. Those elderly and high risk, like me, should continue to stay isolated except for necessary trips, food, doctor, etc.

    Testing for immunity should get going fast and those who test positive for antibody should be released from restriction. If the virus behaves like flu, we might see a second wave but mitigated like flu with partial immunity.

    The final mortality rate will be close to a bad flu season. Less than 1%.

    The cruise ship experience suggests that only 20% will be infected, so immunity might be an issue until a vaccine.

    Some businesses will be slow to recover. Airlines and movie houses. Conventions and meetings. My DIL is in that business and is very worried.

    The HVAC industry should get involved in air sterilization and maintaining those facilities. Restaurants with outdoor seating should be early to recover.

    I have read that people with Rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus who take Hydroxy Chloroquine have yet to see a case of COVID infection. They take a lower dose than that recommended for treatment.

  5. “The relatively invulnerable, who are at or near the edge of the network: impoverished, living in rural or low-density metro areas, untraveled, introverted, socially isolated, rarely in face-to-face contact with others. Many of these people have mental health issues and associated substance abuse problems.”

    That’s me! Its easy to isolate when you live in a field with a pony. ;) There are 76 cases on Vancouver Island, so I would guess several hundred in reality and its holding pretty steady. We have tested a lot, not enough, but more that most. We are quite disciplined, and anyone who is not keeping their distance, is shunned. The rest of Canada is unsurprisingly in worse shape, and we are hunkering down for the long haul.

    I doubt very much this will peak very soon, and its gonna be ugly.

  6. But the relatively invulnerable are also the intelligent and conscientious who promptly adopt appropriate risk management strategies.

    Gavin, that was uncalled for.

  7. “Gavin, that was uncalled for.

    Christopher, you have to remember that us gap-toothed deplorables are really touchy, especially when we have been drinking moonshine, which is most of the time.

  8. I doubt very much this will peak very soon, and its gonna be ugly.

    PenGun may be correct about Vancouver Island, the most left wing place in Canada, but the peak in Tucson AZ is likely to be next week and lower than the models.

    Hydroxychloroquine is the most important factor right now and will probably (depending on how stupid the bureaucrats are) shave off the peak of the mortality.

    NYC is hard to predict because of the mendacity and stupidity of the politicians.

  9. Mike who told you about Hydroxychloroquine and the uses the Chinese and S Koreans have made of it, do you remember? Who told you how it works?

    You really are not ready for what’s coming.

  10. That all sounds nice, but I don’t agree with a single word. After it’s confirmed over and done with, we will pick up where we left off. Trannie/queer/illegal rights, socialized meds, open borders, global warming, Orange Man Bad, etc. The chief long-term effect is that local governments and national organs will remember how easy it was to shut down any portion of their society and economy by edict, as though they were medieval potentates.

    For instance: A spate of shootings by illegal spics or hood rats will be capitalized upon by declaring a ‘firearms health emergency’ and shutting down every gun shop within a state or locality for as few weeks. Enough body blows like that and any business will go under. The bastards have tasted raw brute power, and it is delicious. They now have another tool in their arsenal.

    This is the eve of open tyranny in the United States. Not some gleaning of the unimportant or the incompetent or the frivolous; not some wide-awake moment of dawning realization of What Is Truly Important. Remember you heard it here first.

  11. In breaking news from Australia, Ivermectin, widely used for fleas and lice.

    According to the article that lives up to the Sun’s usual level of scientific rigor. “Anti-parasitic head lice drug Ivermectin has been found to kill the virus in a controlled lab within 48 hours”.

    Since the researchers are connected to a university, I assume that there is actually some plausibility that the results could translate in actual living patients in time. Of course Clorox would do the same in a “controlled lab” in seconds.

  12. “I’d change 14) to something more like “impressions left” than “lessons learned.” We can hope for learning, but it doesn’t always seem to happen.”

    The thing I think of every time I hear that nasty little construction “lessons learned” is the comment made to me by a senior British Army NCO who was doing an exchange rotation at the Engineer School. The subject had come up about something to do with an institution that the US Army takes a lot of entirely undeserved pride in, the “Center for Army Lessons Learned”, sometimes referred to as the acronym “CALL”. The British observation was a pithy one, and one I reluctantly have to agree with: “You can’t call that place a center for lessons learned if you don’t actually apply anything from it… You lot ought to more properly call it the “Center for Army Lessons Identified and then Bloody Well Ignored…”.

    He was more right than I really like to admit.

  13. Watch out for those butterfly wings on the other side of planet….

    Major rice exporters Vietnam and Burma have blocked external shipments, blaming “drought.”

    Rice prices on the international markets are zooming.

    Trump ordered lifting of restrictions on water deliveries to farms in California’s Central Valley. California grows a LOT of rice!

    Guess who predicted global hegemonic war in 2020? Leon Trotsky.

  14. MCS…not just burning down 5G towers, but also attacking telecom engineers.

    This is like something from a 1950s apocalyptic SF novel.

    The fact that something like this theory could gain popularity is an indicator of just how useless the vast increases in educational expenditures have been. And I don’t think it’s just a UK thing.

  15. I don’t see any actual evidence that the arson, if it was, was not anti-China rather than anti-5G.

  16. Brian…according to the linked story from The Sun, the theory originated based on a (false) assertion that there is no coronavirus in Africa and also not 5G, so therefore…It has been propagated by various ‘celebrities’. Mobile UK says “During this challenging situation, it is concerning that certain groups are using the COVID-19 pandemic to spread false rumours and theories about the safety of 5G technologies. More worryingly some people are also abusing our key workers and making threats to damage infrastructure under the pretence of claims about 5G.”

    See also:

  17. Wondering how long until coronavirus is blamed on Jews poisoning wells? (or reservoirs, to modernize the claim)

    I do think that specifically-antisemitic variants of the crazy are much less likely to propagate broadly in the US than in Europe.

  18. “I think you are somewhat wrong about religion”

    Same here. We watch church services daily with thousands of other people, and on Sunday tens of thousands of people are watching. I’m thinking when this is all over that we’ll move out of here and closer to a church so we can physically attend more often.

  19. David: there is zero evidence of who started the fires (assuming they were in fact intentional), so we have no reason to blame this fringe theory, which I’ve seen on twitter for two months.

  20. Brian…Did you read the link and the further links? There are people on social media maintaining ‘league tables’ as to which geography can destroy the most cell towers.

    If there is zero evidence that this is happening, why did the UK mobile operator issue their statement about threats they have received?

  21. From the NPR article which David F. linked above: “[UK Regulator] Ofcom announced Friday that it was sanctioning [radio station] Uckfield FM following an interview where the subject, presented to listeners as a nurse, echoed rumors that the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan was caused by the rollout of a 5G network.”

    Remember, 5G in the UK uses Chinese equipment. In the land of the Magna Carta, the authorities are rather defensive of Chinese interests. Wonder why?

  22. David:
    “Though it remains unclear who exactly was behind the attacks, ”
    That’s all I’m pointing out. I see multiple potential motives, including anti-China feelings.

    “it’s believed to be the work of anti-5G arsonists who believe debunked conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to the spread of COVID-19”
    Nutters saying nutter things online isn’t proof. Could be a different flavor of nutter, who don’t want to widely advertise their nutterness.

  23. I think trying to rationalize insanity is a waste of pixels. I would write it off as nothing more than wackos like the train engineer except it seems more somehow.

    The country that seemingly took the Blitz and V-2 in stride doesn’t seem to exist any more. I hope the one that built liberty ships in three days and a B-24 every hour still does.

  24. Another, maybe more plausible candidate treatment. A proposed anti-HIV retro-viral in Phase II that seemed to show promise in NYC. Phase II means it’s been given to a few healthy volunteers without killing them, Phase I, and then to a few patients, also without killing them, Phase II. Phase III would be when it is given to larger numbers of patients to see if it actually does any good. It probably doesn’t exist in any quantity so is at best something for the future.

    Rice takes a lot of water, I don’t know if there is that much production in California any more, they still have a drought. There are probably more profitable crops with better water consumption. Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are where most U.S. rice comes from.

  25. MCS: Honestly if it is anti-China sentiment then it would be a potentially hopeful sign. As it is, it is unfortunately probably true that there are more people willing to be violent to stop the radio waves from making them sick than in defense of England’s honor against foreign infiltration.

  26. Rice takes a lot of water, I don’t know if there is that much production in California any more, they still have a drought.

    The drought is largely man made. No new reservoirs to store snow melt and a federal judge sends irrigation water into the ocean to save a tiny non-native fish. There was reasonable criticism about using so much water to grow rice in a desert but CA left the sane world years ago.

    One big problem with models is that the effects of HCQ are not included plus the regional variation, as someone pointed out above, makes general predictions impossible.

  27. They do actually have a deficit of snow pack exacerbated by not increasing storage as the population increased and allocating water to questionable uses.

    Dr. Brix has said that this is the week to not go to the grocery store. Left unstated is the assumption that all the people that make them work will do so anyway. What I don’t understand is the rational. The people on the ventilators and that will die were all infected weeks ago. They seem to think this bad news will peak this week and we can only hope decline thereafter.

    Now masks. The “authorities” have at this time relinquished whatever credibility they had by trying to manipulate us into doing what they think we should instead of telling us the truth. I understand that since no epidemic has ever occurred, the hospitals couldn’t be bothered to keep a supply of PPE on hand. Dito FEMA as that would have taken valuable space from bottled water. I sort of expect that I will be spending next week making masks that I was assured were completely unnecessary. I’ll have the material by Wednesday, Amazon willing.

  28. California has been a big time exporter of rice. Of course the lefties and watermelons worked to shut down production. Exports go on ships at the Port of Stockton.

    As to water requirements, it is not as bad as you imagine from our mental image of flooded rice paddies. The flood water is used as an herbicide to suppress weeds until the rice is well established. Dry land rice cultivation is well known and productive with modern herbicides.

    The main point is that China’s neighbors are pushing back on the regional bully. Trump is positioning us to fight back and support our allies who need rice imports, like the Philippines.

  29. Penny is a nutter, and usually a pretty lazy troll, but he is 100% correct that he was beating the drum about Hydroxychloroquine very, very early. I discounted it, because he’s a lunatic, but it seems to have at least some validity to it, though the how, why, and what to do to make it an effective treatment are all still very much tbd as far as I can tell. I find it distressing but not surprising that the MSM is so awful that they are clearly desperate for it not to work, and for nothing at all to work, merely to spite Trump.

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