What do you think is the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world?

What do you think is the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world?

[ 29/August/21 ]

It seems to me that the biggest impact is that more people are starting to see that the information ecology of our existing economic, political, legal, religious, and other institutions is broken.

We all, necessarily, have strong tendencies to simplify the complexity that does in fact seem to exist. The more stressed we are, the stronger that tendency is. Much of it subconscious.

So when we are really stressed, our experiential world is actually subconsciously simplified down to simple binaries (Friend/Foe, Good/Bad, Right/Wrong) and there is no place for the nuance and uncertainty and diversity that does actually seem to necessarily be present in reality.

The evolutionary reasons why such tendencies exist in all of us are well characterized, but rather than teaching people how to recognize and counter such biases within us as they emerge; most existing systems are actually using them to exploit us at various levels. Online AI systems exploiting and feeding such biases simply to keep our attention on screens for a few extra seconds, so that they can generate some fraction of a cent in advertising revenue (as one example).

More people are starting to recognize that information and sense-making systems are fundamentally broken, and are being exploited by multiple sets and levels of essentially “cheating strategies”, that now pose existential level risk to us all. In the presence of fully automated systems, free market incentives are no longer aligned to liberty or security – at any level.

I have individual life and individual liberty as my highest values; and at the same time I am clear that liberty without responsibility is necessarily destructive. Every level of structure has necessary sets of boundaries required for its existence. Human beings are the most complex thing we yet know of in existence. The levels of responsibility necessary for human liberty are profound. The more liberty we claim, the greater the burdens of responsibility we must shoulder, necessarily – anything less than that is self terminating – the logic and systems of that are beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

Any real expression of liberty necessarily results in diversity, and any diversity that is not a real threat must be respected (if one makes any claim to liberty).

This demands of each of us, that we make the real and difficult effort to overcome the automatic biases we have to simplify our classifications.

If we make any claim to respecting life and liberty, then that logically and necessarily demands of us that we go beyond our tendencies to black and white judgements – to us and them, to good and bad, right and wrong, and allow for nuanced and varying diversity and complexity that does in fact seem to surround us.

When people demand simple answers to complex situations then they are in fact demanding that their liberty and responsibility be removed.

If we make any claim to liberty and responsibility, that demands of us that we accept complexity and diversity.

We are not all the same.

We are all different.

And in many ways we are all more alike than we are different.

All of those things can be and are true. That demands accepting complexity and diversity.

Covid-19 is not the worst pandemic to hit us, and it is far worse that most common flus. It is highly infectious, and if it “gets away” in a community then many people in that community will die, and many more will be left seriously disabled, some permanently. It is serious. 10 times as many US citizens have died from it than died in the entire Vietnam conflict; and that with all the measures that have been taken to counter it.

It is real.

It is dangerous.

It needs to be accepted and respected as such.

And many countries have shown that it is possible to eliminate it, and doing so requires cooperative activity.

It is in fact, clearly, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, in everyone’s interest to cooperate, to isolate, and to eliminate the virus.

That is doable. We have done it here in New Zealand twice – currently we are in a lockdown with the Delta variant that got past our border controls.

Isolation is always going to be the only immediately effective strategy against any real pandemic. That as always been the case, and will always remain the case. It has been so throughout history, as any familiar with history will clearly know.

It is not “rocket science”.

It is as old as humanity.

And anything can be used and exploited by cheating strategies; and not everything is.

We all need to be alert for conspiracies, at any and all levels, and not everything is a conspiracy.

We live in a complex world.

Science has proven beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that for complex organisms like ourselves, evolution and survival is much more about our ability to cooperate than it is about our ability to compete, and both aspects are necessarily present in complex systems – but it is cooperation that must be foundational if long term survival is the desired outcome.

So we need to cooperate, and we each need to be alert for cheats on the cooperative – each and every level. Nothing simple or certain, however much we each crave simplicity and certainty.

With a little bit of luck, more people are starting to realize this, and we will all be better off because of that; as we get to higher level cooperation that actually respects and empowers individual liberty and creativity and diversity.

And to be very clear – cooperation is nothing like control.

This is not “one world government” in the sense of control of all; and it is one cooperating world in the sense of multiple levels and classes and instances of agents accepting and respecting diversity, and cooperating for mutual benefit and survival and freedom (responsibly exercised – responsibility is essential – all levels).

People need to accept the logical reality that rights without responsibility are necessarily destructive.

We need rights, and they have to come with responsibilities. No escape from that, at any level.

[separate thread Comment to Jane Wilson’s answer – … “mass hysteria” …]

You are not using an adequate dataset to draw that conclusion.

You need to look closely at what happened in places where the infection rate actually got quite high, and the percentage of deaths and their age distribution in that context.

The lethality of the virus does seem to strongly correlate to the initial virus load one picks up (which makes perfect sense from an immune system response perspective). If the immune system is overloaded, then death can occur quite frequently even in young healthy people.

Certainly, this is nowhere near as bad as the 1918/19 influenza pandemic, the death rate in the second wave of that in some places was over 80%, and some communities had armed citizens at their boundaries with orders to shoot to kill any who approached.

This is a serious pathogen, though far from the most serious.

What this pandemic has clearly shown is that the economic and political systems present in most countries are essentially broken, and are no longer serving the interests of their populations.

I was also an active mensa member for a decade or so, and studied biochemistry and microbiology at Waikato University in the early 70s.

IQ is only really useful if we take care to feed it accurate data, and it makes serious effort to identify and counter its own internal biases (which are necessarily present in all of us). Without that, IQ just becomes a tool to justify what set of biases we already have.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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