Week of April 13, 2020

Something inspiring then a few COVID-10 related stories:

Shock

Let us imagine for a moment that you are in Pires’ shoes, waiting on the orchestra stand for your turn. The concert hall is full, the orchestra is playing, and your solo, which the orchestra is leading up to, is set to begin in two minutes and twenty-eight seconds. When it is time for you to start, everyone else falls silent. It is so quiet in the hall that even the smallest sound carries to the seats at the back. Often the mere thought of such an experience is enough to make one’s hands go numb and one’s mouth dry up. However, what could be the worst that could happen, if you discount standing there nude and dying in front of the crowd? How about what it would feel like to sit up there if you had rehearsed a completely different concerto than the one the orchestra was playing? This is precisely what happened to concert pianist Maria João Pires at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in 1998.


Services

At the Phenomenal World, Gabriel Mathy diagnoses the present crisis as the "first services recession."

All indications point to one of the fastest plunges of GDP in US history. Facing this, we may want to turn to previous American recessions to think about our immediate future. But this recession will be different in at least one major way from those of recent memory: services are hit first. In most recessions, services are basically acyclical—they just don't move up and down with the booms and busts of the economy. The exception here is the Great Depression, but there the decline in investment is much more severe, as is the upward swing in the recovery. Services, it seems, just don't fall that much—even in the Depression.


Zebra

Our current economic experiment reminds me of Netflix’s Chaos Monkey. Rather than turning off or breaking a small percentage of the economy, though, we’ve turned off 30-60% of it. Matt Shapiro starts to think through what this means in The American Spectator.

A lot of things that aren’t “essential” over two weeks become essential over two months. The idea niggles in the back of my head that, just like we don’t see the severity of an outbreak until it’s too late to stop it, we won’t see the gaps in our supply chain until it is too late to mend them. The crisis here is no longer just the infection. It’s the infection, the economic devastation, and the potential dissolution of some of the basic assumptions we use to orient our lives. The assumption that “I can mostly go out whenever I want and buy whatever I need” is still in place in Seattle. But the civilizational scaffolding that buttresses that assumption is more brittle that we know. There are a lot of moving parts to a fully functioning society of plenty, and we can’t just freeze half of the gears and assume things will continue to operate indefinitely.


Bend

Maciej Cegłowski on two very important things: the need for more testing and surveillance and the need for ubiquitous adoption of masks.

On surveillance:

I am a privacy activist who has been riding a variety of high horses about the dangers of permanent, ubiquitous data collection since 2012.

But warning people about these dangers today is like being concerned about black mold growing in the basement when the house is on fire. Yes, in the long run the elevated humidity poses a structural risk that may make the house uninhabitable, or at least a place no one wants to live. But right now, the house is on fire. We need to pour water on it.

On masks:

The medical evidence for the practice is overwhelming. The post-SARS countries in East Asia have known this for a long time, and America and Europe are finally coming around. I've put a bunch of resources about the medical benefits of mask wearing in a further reading section at the bottom of this post.

But in this essay, I want to persuade you not just to wear a mask, but to go beyond the new CDC guidelines and help make mask wearing a social norm. That means always wearing a mask when you go out in public, and becoming a pest and nuisance to the people in your life until they do the same.

And a very important PSA from Zeynep Tefekci about N95 masks with flow valves:


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