Thoughts on the Corona Virus Response

Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash

Panic, Fear and Social Unrest

Due to social media, the panic has spread far more virally than the virus itself. Watching social media and news, people are flocking to healthcare centers in fear that they may be infected which is causing even more panic. The initial response has been on the basis of the stories coming out of Italy. The Coronavirus tests are really complicated. What if those cases turn out to be false positives? Grocery stores are running out of stock and in cases shoppers are rioting. Stock piling is causing shortage of masks and other gear for healthcare workers.

Economy

Stock markets globally are down 25%. People are staying shut at home, stockpiling supplies. It is very clear that the global economy will hit a recession. Banking and financial systems which are already under stress will be further hit by non payment and writing off loans. Governments will have to print more money to help the banks recover from this, which itself puts the morality of capitalism at risk.

Authoritarianism

Governments are calling in “emergency” laws to forcefully restrict people’s movements. People are praising the Chinese model of forced shutdowns and restrictions and shaming democratic governments for taking the time to think and respond.

Fake Medicine

More than 90% of Coronavirus cases in China were forced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is not scientifically proven. Indian government agencies and right wing outfits have been accused of promoting traditional Indian medicine, and cow urine, a favorite of the current ruling coalition. People are unknowingly forced to use such medicines.

Doubtful Mathematics and Simulations

Most of the mathematical models and simulations shared on the internet have very few parameters. While doing our graduation in Industrial Engineering, were introduced to the MIT Beer Game. In this game each player controls one “factory” of a supply chain and tries to make “rational” decisions. This game has been played over the ages by school children and Fortune 500 CEOs. And they all fail to predict the outcome of their decisions. The learning is that even such a simple system is wildly unpredictable.

Moral Equivalence

Coronavirus is not the only big problem for humanity. While it is too early to predict the total number of deaths, humanity has other huge problems that we effectively ignore. Millions of people suffer of hunger and malnutrition and millions die of air pollution. There is broad scientific consensus that global warming will be disastrous for the planet and far more dangerous that the corona virus. But we refuse to act on these just because their impact is much slower.

Distributed Solutions

While I understand we all need to do our best to contain the virus, but knee jerk reactions and authoritarian approaches to solving the problem may not work. We may be forced to solve a problem that may not actually exist. If the shutdown does succeed, we may never find other common sense ways of succeeding either, and such isolationist measures will become the de-factor response to any future crisis.

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Rushabh Mehta

Rushabh Mehta

founder, erpnext | the best code is the one that is not written