COVID-19 Day 43: You Don’t Have to be a Genius to be Confused by COVID-19

C19_theportal

© Eric Weinstein THE PORTAL

It’s both terrifying and comforting to discover the smartest people in the world can be just as confused and puzzled by COVID-19 as me. Even the best-and-brightest rely on “faith” in their pet theories when empirical evidence is unavailable or inconclusive. It’s a comfort (albeit small) to know that we all share this uncertainty, regardless of our IQ or education.

I cope by studying the scientific literature about cornavirus and COVID-19. Honestly, I don’t understand most of the technical jargon, but you don’t need to have a Ph.D. to make an effort. Glean what you can from primary sources and use that to help guide you in determining if the information offered in the news is useful or not. You may be surprised how much you’ll understand through this exercise.

Beware of confirmation bias, which exists in scientists as well as laymen. Don’t blindly believe the studies which support your positions and discount the ones that do not. Be your own impartial witness; you certainly can’t trust a journalist nor a political leader to be impartial for you.

Mathematical Physicist and founder of the Intellectual Dark Web, Eric Weinstein hosts the podcast, “The Portal”. He opened this week’s program with a monologue about his personal struggle to understand the pandemic: the manipulation to manage information, the government’s strangely strong actions, and his own uncertainties about who or what to believe.

I wrote an abridged transcript to share with you.

 

 

Intro to The Portal, Ep. #026 [ABRIDGED]
April 20, 2020

Eric Weinstein: As of this recording I am now self-isolating at home and are essentially look down like measures as a quarantine mentality sweeps across our planet.

One way of doing this is to see it as a giant overreaction. Now I don’t hold this idea and I don’t wish to promote it, but the idea is that we have learned to live with influenza and this virus is similar in some ways to the familiar flu. I’m sure you’ve heard this from others,  I don’t want to go into it. I don’t wish to develop this idea here.

A second way of seeing this as an incredibly rapid societal change in deeply group behavior patterns. Unfolding over perhaps the last 7 to 14 days in earnest. From this angle, it’s astonishingly agentic, as measured at least by the speed of change and thus perhaps, it could signal the beginning of the end of the nearly 50-year dream-state we have discussed on this program; that set in, some time in the early to mid-1970’s, and signaled the end of the previous post-war growth regime.

Yet a different way of looking at the reaction of the pandemic, is to view it as a slow and inadequate response to a very serious situation. To this way of thinking, the most agentic among us were worried about the situation since at least January 2020. And they were simply getting no traction in talking through why they were alarmed, when attempting to convince the rest of us.

Of course all three positions have some merit but the first seems misguided to me, and I think the last has the most substance. Many people have asked me how I am sense-making in the current environment. The answer is rather disappointing. My answer is that I, unfortunately, appear to be among the most confused of my colleagues.

Almost everywhere I turn, people around me or nearly certain of things that contradict what various others of my colleagues know to be true. Unsurprisingly, most of these colleagues have settled on various strategies on which they place great emphasis:

So then the problem is definitely ventilators…

Unless it is really reagents and testing instead?

Or perhaps nothing else matters like behavior modification?

That is, if vaccines and treatments aren’t the clear way to go?

I want to share with you what I get from listening in, on such private conversations with some of the most respected names in health, science, and technology. I’m sorry to say what I get is, confusion. I am sorry to report that after many phone calls and having read a fair amount, I have not heard a truly coherent, comprehensive narrative emerge around this virus. No one can really trust China to report in on itself, and we don’t yet have enough time with the disease, outside of China, to speak about it sufficiently; authoritatively.

What am I doing personally? Well the first thing that I’m at least trying to do, is to stop listening to the very sources that fed me bad information. Initially telling me not even to worry, when I had the maximal amount of time to prepare and to be agentive. That kind of reporting is what I’ve elsewhere referred to as pure ‘journagenic’ harm.

Now you can say that ‘democracy dies in darkness’ with a fancy tagline but it also dies in civil society when you [mainstream media] are the major news site, and you write meaningless fluff-pieces on what are ultimately life and death issues; inducing people to undertake exactly the wrong course of action…Information. Data. Risk assessment. That’s what comes me down and I suspect it works the same way with a lot of you, as well…

So to sum up please take all of this seriously. We don’t yet have a way to filter out the information, misinformation, and disinformation with which we are all being bombarded. What can you do? Well, the best thing we can do is turn off the audio meant to calm the masses. And try to start reading the technical literature if you can. And lastly, watch for the sign: that powerful interests, are willing to put the very markets (the thing that enriches them) at risk to fight this. That is a bit counter-intuitive. But in the end, their revealed preference and the content of that information may be the best we have at this point.

 


 

 

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