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The Pandemic Isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System (newyorker.com)
54 points by fortran77 on April 21, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments



A fragile global system in which during a pandemic, people are still fed and clothed? It's actually a testament to the modern economy that the pandemic hasn't resulted in immediate shortages for basic sundry goods. The few shortages we are seeing are for highly specialized medical equipment (N95 masks are not simple cloth covers).

I don't understand this mentality of pretending that our 'system' is somehow inferior to the past. Previous pandemics resulted in mass death not only from the disease but also from the economic fallout. We're really not seeing this right now. Perhaps we will in the future. But we can't write articles on what we want to happen to sell more news.


A fragile global system in which during a pandemic, people are still fed and clothed? It's actually a testament to the modern economy that the pandemic hasn't resulted in immediate shortages for basic sundry goods. The few shortages we are seeing are for highly specialized medical equipment (N95 masks are not simple cloth covers).

Because largely, nothing of our capital goods are being destroyed. Most humans are still alive, and we can employ the manpower to run the equipment to ensure we are fed if it comes to that.

A fragile global system in which during a pandemic, people are still fed and clothed? It's actually a testament to the modern economy that the pandemic hasn't resulted in immediate shortages for basic sundry goods. The few shortages we are seeing are for highly specialized medical equipment (N95 masks are not simple cloth covers).

There's certainly weakness in our system.

Basically, preparing for a pandemic look like waste to us. It's equipment and goods that aren't be used to satisfy the needs of people.

We are fragile because we rather buy cheap mask from oversea rather than making sure that our mask production industries have enough what it needs to produce masks in the quantities we need. And we are fragile because pandemics preps have no advocates when it come to government downsizing. And because we don't have a pandemic as deadly COVID-19, we don't war games to find weak sots and spend even more money to fix our weakness.

And all weakness that are fixed are never going to matter until we hit an especially deadly pandemic.

It's like a race car versus a normal car. A normal car, people likes reliability. They don't care about getting from point A to point B fast as possible. They don't care about the extra mass that keep them alive impacting the fuel economy some amount. While the ideal race car is the car that break apart at the finishing line, with engineering margins shaved until the edge of failure.


I think this virus has been a good test run and now we can put the procedures in place to save us from a real pandemic treat in the future.

Can't imagine the WHO is going to be caught in a second amateur hour with similar embarrassing proportions.


What is a real pandemic threat? COVID-19 + Ebola/HIV?


> Can't imagine the WHO is going to be caught in a second amateur hour with similar embarrassing proportions.

I can imagine it, especially when a certain someone is trying to defund them to shift blame.


The special treatment the WHO gave to China and the execution of their primary task was clearly all pointing to a lost of their objectivity as an institution.

Trump is right to stop the funding in order to prevent more moral hazard. Don't hate the player but the game. In politics scapegoating is the daily bread & butter, the only difference is the media tries to create an outrage about Trump while if Obama did the New York Times would have helped him with the optics.


Yes, in the UK we have seen people divert from frivolous activities like formula one to making medical equipment or from bar staff to supermarket checkouts. It seems a modern economy has quite a bit of slack in it and we don't need many people to keep everybody fed.


>A fragile global system in which during a pandemic, people are still fed and clothed?

That's our metric for a multi-trillion dollar global economy? That first world countries with the most resources like the US can at least keep it's citizens fed and clothed during a pandemic? No offense, but countries many Americans would consider "third world" can do that too. And this is what's wrong with our current "system". Why are "first world" economies with the most resources struggling with "third world" problems?


> Why are "first world" economies with the most resources struggling with "third world" problems?

They're not though. That's the point. Not only is everyone fed and clothed, people are also buying video streaming services, ordering takeout, getting groceries delivered, video chatting with friends. I mean... my wife and I are ordering things to further our hobbies and enrich our daughter's lives.

This is literally the easiest pandemic ever.


The supply chain may not be fragile but other areas are more tenuous. We should acknowledge that it is very harsh times for a lot of people right now.


Absolutely, but it is pretty clear that the supply chain during this pandemic is way better than it's ever been during any previous, and that this is a good thing.


there have been immediate shortages for basic sundry goods


There've been shortages in the sense that stores can't keep their shelves stocked as fast as people buy. The only thing I know of that's just disappeared entirely from stores is yeast, and that's still available on Amazon with some shipping delay.


Mind-boggling that they are intellectual but idiots (IYI's in Taleb's terminology) still making the "but car accidents kill more people and we don't shutdown" argument.

Car accidents are not contagious and multiplicative. This simple point bears repeating and explanation. If I get in a car accident and then go home there is almost zero risk of me starting a contagion of multiple car accidents among my family, co-workers and community. Just repeat this over and over again to folks. Car accidents are not contagious and multiplicative. Car accidents are not contagious and multiplicative. Car accidents are not contagious and multiplicative.

"The common flu is as ..." argument. Common flu is contagious and multiplicative but nowhere near as fatal. We are looking at 60,000+ covid-19 deaths with a near shutdown across the US. That death toll is near the high-end of a bad flu season. Just imagine what it would look like with business as usual.


Go and check the recovery rate graph. Whats happening there? Is it multiplicative?


I think the term multiplicative threw you off. It simply means that the R0 > 1. So a virus is contagious and will spread to increasing numbers of people in the population.

Contrast that with the R0 of a car accident. We can reasonably say it is close to zero or some might even say negative ;)


R0 is not static. It will come down as more social distancing/mask wearing - hospital/nursing processes improve day by day.

Just remember the initial months numbers you base your projection on is not todays reality. No one was taking things seriously back then. Many deaths were because hospitals had no plan to handle overload.

Today even Trumpers who are protesting for reboot are wearing masks. Things change. Hospitals and nursing homes are much better prepared.

Most importantly just tracking covid deaths and forgetting about everything else leads to a Focusing Illusion - https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/21/world/coronav...

Look at Sweden in the table provided why do they have the least Excess Deaths even though they are following a different strategy?




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