Monday, 9 March 2020

The Numbers Game

Much hysteria over the weekend where my insouciance over the Yellow Peril brought condemnation and accusations of, well, of all the usual stuff. (You know, racist, Nazi, Tory, etc...) The fact is, I’m not that bothered, if truth be told. Yes, I know that the latest ‘worst case’ scenario has 350,000 dead, but claims from one interlocutor that ‘cases are doubling every day’ is simply untrue. If that were the case, we would already have Italian levels of infection. But we haven’t, not yet. And until we do I refuse to get all that bothered.

It’s this worst case business that bothers me. Like rcp8.5, the worst case supposition for CO2 emissions as proxy for climate change, the worst case coronavirus predictions are what they state they are. That is, if it all goes horribly wrong and everybody does exactly the wrong thing and then more bad stuff happens and everybody continues to do exactly the wrong thing, then here comes the apocalypse. Again. (Does this sound familiar?)

Except it won’t because, with each each event, we will react, and even given the enormous propensity of the human race for fucking up, we can’t always get it wrong; not every time. At the moment we’re washing our hands more regularly (what were we doing before, you ask). If it gets palpably more proximate we may be more careful regarding contact with others. And if we catch it we will, mostly, do the right thing and self-quarantine.

Much as with Brexit we will learn as we go along and nothing even close to the cataclysmic predictions will occur because, as stupid as we are, we are not actually that stupid. Worst case predictions are just that and to use them as concrete forecasts is morally dodgy at best and verging on criminally irresponsible when wielded by the wrong hands. By wrong hands I mean those who seek to control and command for reasons which have little to do with public safety. I’m talking about politicians here.

Fortunately, due to recent events both at home and abroad, the stock of politicians’ verisimilitude couldn’t be lower and I think we all recognise how these people weaponise every ‘opportunity’. Keep calm and carry on couldn’t be better advice right now and once the empty toilet roll shelves have been re-stocked and people figure out how this works, maybe the population will get bored with all the sensationalism and get back to near normal. It wouldn’t surprise me if, after this mass hysteria, winter 2019/20 turns out to have one of the lowest mortality rates of recent years.

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