COVID-19 PSA: Why To Avoid Experts in Complex Domains
March 8th, 2020
I am not an expert in infectious diseases, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night...
Seriously, though, I do have a certificate from the Real World Risk Institute  which I believe makes me a kind-of "anti-expert"  in infectious diseases and other things related to complex domains (economics, sociology, synthetic biology, psychology, medicine, diet, exercise, etc.).
As an"anti-expert" — or more colloquially referenced by us graduates of RWRI: "bullsh*t busters" — the job is to shout fraud when you see fraud. In the case of COVID-19, there is a lot of fraud, particularly from "expert" doctors, infectious disease "experts", and multi-national government-funded "experts" like the World Health Organization.
Here's the gist. Exposing yourself to COVID-19 is not like the flu. Exposing yourself to COVID-19 is like exposing yourself to COVID-19. In complex domains, you can easily spot the "expert". They typically are the fellows who reference data or peer-reviewed studies to make a point , or even make comparisons. Instead, invoke the precautionary principle. Work backwards from "worse case scenario" and then see where you want to land. So, let's use Russian Roulette — or riding in a Helicopter in Hawaii — as a framework.
"Playing Russian Roulette or riding in a Hawaiian tour helicopter is definitively non-ergodic. An individual's time average of playing many times is 99.999% dead, even though the ensemble average after a single round is only 16.666% dead. Dead is an "absorbing barrier"."
What does this mean for COVID-19? You individually may not get sick — or crash — this time, but with repeated exposure, you will eventually get sick. If you're sick, then you may get really sick. And if you get really sick then you may reach an absorbing barrier. Humanity may not reach an absorbing barrier with your death but it eventually will if the game keeps playing .
So, to answer your question "stay home, you’re tired of SXSW anyway" or, in the words of Texas native Bill Paxton, is it more like, "Game over, man!": Find your worst case scenario and work backwards from there. I will not tell you what to do  but I will share what I’m doing:
I am not traveling. I am not attending public events like SXSW and Y Combinator Alumni Demo Day. I am not touching my hands to my mouth. I am not leaving my hands dirty. I am not running low on food and water and medical supplies. I am not listening to the World Health Organization’s recommendations.
Best of luck, and for God’s sake, don’t listen to the "experts". Those more paranoid survive, but it’s up to you to determine your level of paranoia.
 COVID-19 while not "THE END TIME", our reaction to it will create a precedent
 Silver Rule
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