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Coronavirus beats AI too


“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Talleyrand

 Didn’t we learn anything from SARS, MERS and H1N1 and its variants?

“The more things change, the more they remain the same”. Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

“To ignore history is to repeat it” George Santayana

You get the idea.

Doing Nothing Beats AI

So here I was thinking that AI had finally become useful. But here we are quarantining most of the world.

If we didn’t take any measures at all, what would happen? A bad flu season globally I would think. And as in any bad flu seasons, millions would die. Do we shut down the world to prevent these unavoidable deaths with the annual flu season?

Sure, there are people dying from coronavirus. That’s happening with or without extraordinary measures. Those deaths will continue even with extraordinary measures.

It is well-known that epidemics are usually self-limiting. That is because when a bad microbe hits us, our immune systems don’t recognize it and are temporarily blindsided. After a few months, our immune systems adapt and get ahead of the curve. That happens with or without extensive quarantines.

Much of the quarantine strategy is based on the assumption that you can identify people who are ill. But we now know that you can be asymptomatic and still have Covid-19. But we are still proceeding as if that assumption were true. But it isn’t and we are still proceeding, nonetheless.

Cure is Worse than the Disease

We know that the vast majority of people with coronavirus recover. The fatality rate is probably way lower than the apparent rate of 2.7% when you count in the mild and asymptomatic cases that aren’t being counted in. Why quarantine these people when they aren’t going to end in death anyway? Isn’t that a case of massively wasted resources? Has anyone in healthcare ever heard of the 80/20 rule?

Is there a better way? Maybe. For starters, why don’t we quarantine the small minority who are at risk of death and ignore everyone else? Or at least treat them differently?

Could we draw a cordon sanitaire around vulnerable older people – say in their 70s and 80s who have compromised immune systems and damaged lungs and concentrate our scare resources on them? Could we quarantine them instead of most of the population?

Couldn’t we enforce this quarantine with ankle bracelets or RFID tags to tell us when they stray out of the safe zone? If we adopted a strategy like this, we could free up the resources in hospitals that will be used up on cases that are not going to be fatal.

Now clearly this is all way above my pay grade. But that’s what we have AI for. Is anyone using it? Do we actually understand how different quarantine periods and age limits differentially curb the spread of the virus? Will we go on to quarantine absolutely everyone in the world? Do we also quarantine our domestic pets? What does AI have to say about that?

Think Tanks Tanked

It seems to me that we are in the midst of bureaucrats, healthcare people, politicians and the rest all making rules about quarantining without any earthly clue as to what the ramifications are of the decisions they are making. In the process we are destroying companies, livelihoods and whole economies. Has anyone factored the economic effects in? How about emotional and psychic ramifications?

Wouldn’t you think that our enormously expensive healthcare bureaucracies would have more than gut feel to guide us to reducing the adverse impacts of the decisions we are making?

Coronavirus has led to stock markets cratering, oil markets collapsing. What are the next shoes to drop? What are the next Black Swans to swoop in? Political impacts? Revolutions?

I for one was expecting some useful input from AI. Looks like I was wrong. So what use is all this AI stuff now? Will it ever be useful? Or just another set of toys for academics and experts to play with in their spare time?

And AI seemed like such a great idea at the time….






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