Week of July 27, 2020

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:

Zoom

Professor David Malan transformed Harvard’s CS50 from an introductory computer science course into a cult and lifestyle brand. The course’s success and Malan’s methods provide a glimpse of where higher education and the future of learning might be headed in the time of COVID-19.

“I think giving David freedom to innovate is really in everybody’s best interest. You never know what’s going to come out of it.”


Election

This was obvious from the day he was elected. Masha Gessen reviews Lawrence Douglas’ book Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.

Suppose Biden wins. “The best we can expect from President Donald Trump after an electoral defeat is self-pitying, peevish submission,” Douglas writes. If he goes—which will require an overwhelming electoral defeat—Trump is not only sure to play the victim, blaming the Deep State and undocumented immigrants for his loss, but also likely to linger and delay his departure. The ragged end of his Presidency, if it comes, will be full of conflict and resentment. There will be no orderly handover, no constructive transition—a disastrous prospect during a pandemic and a deep recession, and yet another blow to our perceptions of how elections and government operate.

This is the best-case scenario.


Day One

An incredible opening statement from Jeff Bezos to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.

When I’m 80 and reflecting back, I want to have minimized the number of regrets that I have in my life. And most of our regrets are acts of omission—the things we didn’t try, the paths untraveled. Those are the things that haunt us. And I decided that if I didn’t at least give it my best shot, I was going to regret not trying to participate in this thing called the internet that I thought was going to be a big deal.


Liar

I’m thankful for two things:

  1. That Western Australia has done amazing job combatting COVID-19.

  2. Our kids are two young to have serious questions about what’s going on.

Dan Sinker on many parent’s current reality:

My five-year-old understands the reality of our uniquely American failure in a way that the president does not: for him, this year is gone, lost in a way that no child should ever have to know, and yet an impossible number of them now do.


Race

Inside Sarah Gilbert’s race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Oxford. Even after a viable vaccine has been created — the logistics of distributing it quickly and efficiently are mind-boggling.

Producing millions, if not billions, of doses of the vaccine may be the biggest challenge in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. AstraZeneca is signing production agreements with companies worldwide, including Oxford Biomedica Plc, a small gene and cell therapy company a 10-minute drive from the Jenner Institute. Oxford Biomedica has agreed to produce several million doses, with potential to scale up into the tens of millions if it works. James Miskin, the company’s chief technical officer, describes a multistep production process that sounds to my layperson’s ears like a cross between making a sourdough starter and boiling down sap to make maple syrup.


Failure

Surrounding yourself with yes men and women might not be the best idea as President of the United States. Inside the Trump administration’s failure to address COVID-19.

Dr. Birx’s belief that the United States would mirror Italy turned out to be disastrously wrong. The Italians had been almost entirely compliant with stay-at-home orders and social distancing, squelching new infections to negligible levels before the country slowly reopened. Americans, by contrast, began backing away by late April from what social distancing efforts they had been making, egged on by Mr. Trump.

The difference was critical. As communities across the United States raced to reopen, the daily number of new cases barely dropped below 20,000 in early May. The virus was still circulating across the country.

Italy’s recovery curve, it turned out, looked nothing like the American one.


Grief

That this essay was written in The New England Journal of Medicine is alarming.

The morning you die, I don’t want to be there — like most mornings now, when I rise against my whole will and crawl dejectedly into scrubs. I don’t want to be a plague doctor or a hero on TV. Now on the news, White men hold guns and signs that say “live free or die” to protest the lockdown. I imagine what they will look like dying on vents in ICUs staffed by doctors lacking sleep and proper training, soaked in moral fatigue. I imagine what their wives will sound like on the phone as they cry and say “Do everything.” I wonder if these wives will thank me or tell me to be safe.


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