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Covid-19; we dodged a bullet
#1
And this situation illustrates why technological advance is a good thing, and also why it causes problems.

Covid-19 spread as fast as it did, because of transport technology; specifically cheap air transport. But consider a counterfactual:

The virus jumps from bats to humans in 1990 or maybe 1989, instead of 2020 or maybe 2019. It spreads about as fast as it did in RL, maybe a bit slower because that area of China wasn't as developed then. And what happens next?

Well, for a start, we don't get to hear about the new virus for a lot longer, because the technology to do the characterisation was nowhere near as advanced. So it spreads undetected (or at least undetected as being new) for a lot longer. And:

The prospect of a vaccine is years off, not months. (Genome sequencing and so on were nowhere near as good.) So the only realistic way of containing the plague is really brutal quarantine measures; something like what New Zealand did, or more so. Including the virtual shutdown of the airline industry and closure of just about all passenger ferries.

The effect of the virus is a lot worse, because medical monitoring is a lot less effective and more expensive.

The higher numbers of casualties mean that treatment for other medical problems is affected a lot more.

There has to be a very difficult choice made, regarding an internal lockdown in (for example) the UK. In 1990, a lockdown like the one enacted in RL would utterly devastate the economy - because internet trading was in its infancy, and the technology for home working was not as available, far more expensive and not as good. The choice to be between wrecking the economy and killing hundreds of thousands of people by not locking down.

So: Only thirty years ago, this bug would have killed half a million Brits, wrecked the economy for a decade or more, and possibly caused a war. (Economic disruption on that sort of scale does that.)

That's why high technology is a good thing. Comments?
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#2
I think it also shows how technology is useless without the social institutions to back it up. In various countries tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people have died who didn't need to. Millions of people have lost loved ones in spite of the technology being there to keep them alive. South Korea doesn't have any better technology than Italy, France, the UK, or the US. Yet its excellent track-and-trace and mass testing system meant that it was able to keep deaths low and avoid lock downs.

There's also the worrying problem that our increased communication technology and infrastructure has massively increased the ability of misinformation to spread, as well as allowing for the mass collection of data that makes creating targeted misinformation easier. I have a hard time imagining that in the 90s so many people would have thought that the virus was a hoax, and anti-vaxx groups were nowhere near as large.

What should happen is a full inquiry of everything that went wrong, everything that could have been better, and a thorough comparison of why countries that had all the means to avoid such high death counts failed to do so.
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#3
(02-13-2021, 08:08 PM)Rynn Wrote: I think it also shows how technology is useless without the social institutions to back it up. In various countries tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people have died who didn't need to. Millions of people have lost loved ones in spite of the technology being there to keep them alive. South Korea doesn't have any better technology than Italy, France, the UK, or the US. Yet its excellent track-and-trace and mass testing system meant that it was able to keep deaths low and avoid lock downs.

There's also the worrying problem that our increased communication technology and infrastructure has massively increased the ability of misinformation to spread, as well as allowing for the mass collection of data that makes creating targeted misinformation easier. I have a hard time imagining that in the 90s so many people would have thought that the virus was a hoax, and anti-vaxx groups were nowhere near as large.

What should happen is a full inquiry of everything that went wrong, everything that could have been better, and a thorough comparison of why countries that had all the means to avoid such high death counts failed to do so.

Good points. IMHO the reason for the difference is that South Korea is far more used to authoritarianism, and far more tolerant of it, than is the UK for example. It's also much more uniform in ethnicity and culture. Quite simply, if anything like the compulsory mass testing and track-and-trace used in Korea had been tried in the UK a significant proportion of the population would have refused or evaded it in some way.

The problem in the US was caused right at the top. America has serious problems, as evidenced by the choice of candidates in the 2016 election. The choice was appalling; between a reality-show host with no grip on most of the issues, and a shrieking harridan who thinks most of the electorate were "a basket of deplorables", to say nothing of her alleged criminality.

I thought at the time that, of the choices, America chose the least bad option. Now, I'm not so sure.

Regarding the UK, the politicians were of course distracted by Brexit. An issue that should have been done and dusted eighteen months before, and the politicians messed that one up too.
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#4
(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: Good points. IMHO the reason for the difference is that South Korea is far more used to authoritarianism, and far more tolerant of it, than is the UK for example.

How is South Korea more authoritarian than the UK? The SK government is a democratic republic with multiple branches acting as checks against each other, and a national assembly elected by proportional representation. While the assembly is dominated by the largest two political parties (Democratic and United Future) the method of voting is far more democratic than the UK plurality system, and given that voting reform was pretty recent it remains to be seen whether these two parties retain their dominance. In addition the SK head of state is elected by popular vote as opposed to the UK's constitutional monarch, and while the Queen exercises little political power the royal family still have an undue influence in British politics (see the recent revelations that Prince Charles has vetted laws on rent reform to prevent tenants living on land he owns from being legally allowed to purchase their properties).

The widespread track and trace system in SK worked because they were prepared for this sort of event and the government was quick to enforce participation as a social responsibility, I'd hardly call that authoritarianism. Particularly as, in the long run, it lead to a retention of every-day civil liberties as those testing positive could quickly isolate. This prevented the need for mass lockdowns, along with saving thousands of lives. By contrast the UK government consistently offered contracts to companies with little to no proven ability to provide the required services, and there have been a slew of scandals related to contracts going to brand new companies spun off by Tory party donors. Combined with the Dominic Cumming's example that the pandemic was operating on a Rules for Thee, Not for Me principle and it's laughable to suggest that the UK did poorly due to it being anti-authoritarian.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: It's also much more uniform in ethnicity and culture.

Anytime someone calls out a nation's ethnic uniformity it's often a dog whistle, and an excuse. It's a popular talking point for US right wing pundits when trying to explain why the US couldn't possibly implement social institutions that various European countries have had for decades, mostly pointing at the Nordic countries and attributing their extensive social services and worker rights laws as being somehow due to their whiteness. Really not sure what reasonable point you can make about ethnic diversity being a hindrance to effective diseases management. The fact that there are British people who are white, black, asian etc. in no way contributed to our poor COVID response.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: Quite simply, if anything like the compulsory mass testing and track-and-trace used in Korea had been tried in the UK a significant proportion of the population would have refused or evaded it in some way.

Agreed there is a weaker culture of social responsibility, exacerbated by people at the top ignoring the rules they implemented. To get back to the point of the thread it really shows that technology was only part of the issue here, and in the UK given that we have nearly the highest deaths per capita of any nation I would say we dodged one bullet to dive into several more.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: The problem in the US was caused right at the top. America has serious problems, as evidenced by the choice of candidates in the 2016 election. The choice was appalling; between a reality-show host with no grip on most of the issues, and a shrieking harridan who thinks most of the electorate were "a basket of deplorables", to say nothing of her alleged criminality.

I thought at the time that, of the choices, America chose the least bad option. Now, I'm not so sure.

At this point I'd question the critical thinking skills/media bubble of anyone still unsure as to whether or not the Trump regime was the worse option. Studies are already estimating that in excess of two hundred thousand deaths could have been prevented. It begs belief that a centrist regime, regardless of what one thinks of centrists (and I wouldn't class myself as one) would have led to the same number of deaths. "Shrieking Harridan" is another dog whistle to, whether or not you intended it or were simply repeating something you've heard. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Hilary Clinton as a politician but hitting her with generic misogyny about being a shrill woman isn't one of them.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: Regarding the UK, the politicians were of course distracted by Brexit. An issue that should have been done and dusted eighteen months before, and the politicians messed that one up too.

Of course, Brexit was always a delusional pipe dream manufactured to gain votes for a particular election that has caused immeasurable damage. It's hardly the sole reason the UK covid response was so terrible. Again, technology here was largely irrelevant.

I can't see this thread going in any good direction. Is there any specific technology you wanted to discuss? Or is it just an attempt to make a feel-good story out of a situation in which tens of thousands of families in my country alone are grieving needlessly?
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#5
(02-13-2021, 10:47 PM)Rynn Wrote:
(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: Good points. IMHO the reason for the difference is that South Korea is far more used to authoritarianism, and far more tolerant of it, than is the UK for example.

How is South Korea more authoritarian than the UK? The SK government is a democratic republic with multiple branches acting as checks against each other, and a national assembly elected by proportional representation. While the assembly is dominated by the largest two political parties (Democratic and United Future) the method of voting is far more democratic than the UK plurality system, and given that voting reform was pretty recent it remains to be seen whether these two parties retain their dominance. In addition the SK head of state is elected by popular vote as opposed to the UK's constitutional monarch, and while the Queen exercises little political power the royal family still have an undue influence in British politics (see the recent revelations that Prince Charles has vetted laws on rent reform to prevent tenants living on land he owns from being legally allowed to purchase their properties).

The widespread track and trace system in SK worked because they were prepared for this sort of event and the government was quick to enforce participation as a social responsibility, I'd hardly call that authoritarianism. Particularly as, in the long run, it lead to a retention of every-day civil liberties as those testing positive could quickly isolate. This prevented the need for mass lockdowns, along with saving thousands of lives. By contrast the UK government consistently offered contracts to companies with little to no proven ability to provide the required services, and there have been a slew of scandals related to contracts going to brand new companies spun off by Tory party donors. Combined with the Dominic Cumming's example that the pandemic was operating on a Rules for Thee, Not for Me principle and it's laughable to suggest that the UK did poorly due to it being anti-authoritarian.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: It's also much more uniform in ethnicity and culture.

Anytime someone calls out a nation's ethnic uniformity it's often a dog whistle, and an excuse. It's a popular talking point for US right wing pundits when trying to explain why the US couldn't possibly implement social institutions that various European countries have had for decades, mostly pointing at the Nordic countries and attributing their extensive social services and worker rights laws as being somehow due to their whiteness. Really not sure what reasonable point you can make about ethnic diversity being a hindrance to effective diseases management. The fact that there are British people who are white, black, asian etc. in no way contributed to our poor COVID response.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: Quite simply, if anything like the compulsory mass testing and track-and-trace used in Korea had been tried in the UK a significant proportion of the population would have refused or evaded it in some way.

Agreed there is a weaker culture of social responsibility, exacerbated by people at the top ignoring the rules they implemented. To get back to the point of the thread it really shows that technology was only part of the issue here, and in the UK given that we have nearly the highest deaths per capita of any nation I would say we dodged one bullet to dive into several more.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: The problem in the US was caused right at the top. America has serious problems, as evidenced by the choice of candidates in the 2016 election. The choice was appalling; between a reality-show host with no grip on most of the issues, and a shrieking harridan who thinks most of the electorate were "a basket of deplorables", to say nothing of her alleged criminality.

I thought at the time that, of the choices, America chose the least bad option. Now, I'm not so sure.

At this point I'd question the critical thinking skills/media bubble of anyone still unsure as to whether or not the Trump regime was the worse option. Studies are already estimating that in excess of two hundred thousand deaths could have been prevented. It begs belief that a centrist regime, regardless of what one thinks of centrists (and I wouldn't class myself as one) would have led to the same number of deaths. "Shrieking Harridan" is another dog whistle to, whether or not you intended it or were simply repeating something you've heard. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Hilary Clinton as a politician but hitting her with generic misogyny about being a shrill woman isn't one of them.

(02-13-2021, 09:35 PM)iancampbell Wrote: Regarding the UK, the politicians were of course distracted by Brexit. An issue that should have been done and dusted eighteen months before, and the politicians messed that one up too.

Of course, Brexit was always a delusional pipe dream manufactured to gain votes for a particular election that has caused immeasurable damage. It's hardly the sole reason the UK covid response was so terrible. Again, technology here was largely irrelevant.

I can't see this thread going in any good direction. Is there any specific technology you wanted to discuss? Or is it just an attempt to make a feel-good story out of a situation in which tens of thousands of families in my country alone are grieving needlessly?

Neither. Simply an illustration of the undoubted (at least by me) fact that high technology gives a society more options - and that anti-science and anti-technology individuals seem to have lost sight of the fact.

The technologies involved are mostly in the field of communications and infotech. Not particularly emphasised, for example, was the fact that a new variant of the virus was genome-sequenced in a week or two.

By the way, it's a known fact that resistance to the idea of getting vaccinated in the UK is most evident among the ethnic minorities who are also known to be most in need of it. The reason for that has to be cultural.

The whole mess is also an illustration of the fact that technology doesn't solve the problem by itself. The institutions also have to work properly; for example, there were severe problems with supply, and shortages, of PPE due entirely to the bureaucratic inertia of Public Health England. It would appear that the thing that government is best at is getting in the way, particularly when box-tickers, i-dotters and t-crossers are in charge. Which they usually are, unless one has politicians who actually care.
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#6
(02-14-2021, 12:01 AM)iancampbell Wrote: By the way, it's a known fact that resistance to the idea of getting vaccinated in the UK is most evident among the ethnic minorities who are also known to be most in need of it. The reason for that has to be cultural.

There are various studies looking into the polls that report this, the most worrying findings are that BAME groups are being specifically targeted by anti-vaccination groups in order to amplify historical mistrust in authorities (stemming from a history in the west of experimentation on minorities under the guise of vaccination programs and overall poor focus on health outcomes for minority groups). There's also the co-founding issue that BAME people are disproportionately poor, with BAME neighbourhoods having fewer and less well funded public services.

The homogeneity of ethnicity, therefore, is neither here nor there. The issue is down to structural issues that lead to ethnic minorities being disproportionately represented in disadvantaged groups.
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#7
I don't see this thread going anywhere positive - at least if it's going to include the areas of politics and race. Rather than shutting it down I am (at least for now) just going hope that it will either stay on the expressed topic or sink beneath the waves on its own.

Also - because I wish to respond to the points below and don't wish to do that and then immediately shut down the thread, which doesn't feel like the right response in this situation.

Regarding that response.

(02-14-2021, 12:01 AM)iancampbell Wrote: By the way, it's a known fact that resistance to the idea of getting vaccinated in the UK is most evident among the ethnic minorities who are also known to be most in need of it. The reason for that has to be cultural.

There are quite a number of other possible reasons besides 'cultural' (another dog whistle in many cases btw, if we're counting).

While I can't speak for the ethnic minority population of the UK, the reason for this in the US owes quite a lot to history:

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The Disturbing History of African-Americans and Medical Research Goes Beyond Henrietta Lacks

In other words, the US has a long history of using non-white people as lab rats without their knowledge or consent. That this should lead to suspicion and/or resistance to mass vaccinations using medications for which there is no real long term history of known effects hardly seems surprising.

Also in the US (not sure if there is any equivalent in the UK/Europe) we have the 'anti-vax' movement, which seems to largely be made up of white people. So the 'culture' argument would not seem to apply there.

(02-14-2021, 12:01 AM)iancampbell Wrote: The whole mess is also an illustration of the fact that technology doesn't solve the problem by itself. The institutions also have to work properly; for example, there were severe problems with supply, and shortages, of PPE due entirely to the bureaucratic inertia of Public Health England. It would appear that the thing that government is best at is getting in the way, particularly when box-tickers, i-dotters and t-crossers are in charge. Which they usually are, unless one has politicians who actually care.

While complaining about the government is apparently a popular pastime on both sides of the Atlantic, there is a considerable amount of hypocrisy involved. If the government were to simply do something quickly, without jumping thru all the hoops that people are complaining about - and then something bad happened as a result - the same people who are unhappy with 'government inefficiency' would be leading the charge to scream about how the government moved to fast without enacting the proper checks and double-checks. It's basically a no win situation for the government.

In a similar vein the idea that 'the private sector' is somehow inherently more efficient than 'the government' generally leaves out a number of inconvenient points such as the fact that 'the private sector' is not generally the subject of news reports talking about all the money it wastes (even when it does) or how inefficient it is, even when it actually is. Such things very much go on (I work for a major corporation, and have worked for several others in the past - believe me, I know), but either never leave the company or don't rise to the level that it makes the news or - if it does make the news - often only appears in specialized publications/outlets that the majority of the population doesn't pay attention to.

There's also the 'grass is always greener on the other side of the fence' effect. In other words, if 'the government' were to suddenly start running itself more 'efficiently' (whatever that might mean - I doubt it means the same thing to everyone), it is entirely likely that doing so would produce various side effects that people advocating for that kind of thing either haven't thought of or that are simply unforeseen - and that they really wouldn't like. Be careful what you wish for is usually a good philosophy. And assuming that a major change - any change - will result in nothing but positive benefits, is usually not a good idea IMO.

Anyway,

Todd
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#8
If this virus had hit in 1990, the baby boomer population would be 30 years younger. As I understand it, the baby boomer population outnumbered the surviving members of the earlier generation by a significant margin, so this would mean a smaller population of the significantly vulnerable.

Also, the memories of the good things vaccines can do would be 30 years fresher. Around here, that same baby boomer generation is lining up for the vaccine with little prompting, while there is expectation that the next generation down, which doesn't remember Polio as more than a chapter in their Junior High History books, is more likely to balk. Especially with such figures as Playmate of the Month Jenny McCarthy beating the drum that vaccines are bad. I get the impression that some have lumped vaccines in with GMO's, plastic hormone analogues in the water, and the eating of red meat rather than tofu and kale.

Economies were at least a BIT more locally independent 30 years ago, which might mean that closing borders and turning inward might have been more of an option. I don't think it would have mattered, however, as the virus got out of its cage before anyone knew the virus was a new thing.

PPE wasn't so single-use 30 years ago. The shortage of such equipment would have taken longer to feel as hospitals kept steam-laundering their existing equipment. Also, JIT manufacturing and stocking wasn't as prevalent, with stores often having decent sized stockrooms.

More people lived in rural areas, which would mitigate for the spread of the disease.


On the flip-side, a lot of the things that COVID makes worse, are also things we've gotten better at treating in the last 30 years. We'd probably have had a lot more death by "heart attack", listed as such with no further investigation, had this happened 30 years ago.

Then there is our expanding waistline, which doesn't help.

And then there is the absence of Amazon to consider. Although we did have Sears and Roebuck, it just wouldn't have been as fast.

All in all, I think you're right that it would have been worse had we faced this 30 years ago, but I don't know how worse, as there are these other factors to moderate the effects.



On to South Korea. While it is a democracy now, it wasn't in living memory. I believe the habits of following orders without question, because that's the way you were raised, are easier to fall back into for them. It may also be a case where the government, if it is as superior in appearance as you say, is closer to the people, socially, inhibiting skepticism of government, but that would be the same effect generated for essentially the opposite reason. It may also be a mixture. A generally obedient population, a carryover from the time when it wasn't a democracy, who feel like their leaders are their neighbors and so are more trustworthy.




As an aside, I'm awaiting the day that Bayer buys Kaspersky, and Astrazenaca nabs Norton. Blue goo, here we go.
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#9
Quote:I think it also shows how technology is useless without the social institutions to back it up.

Can't deny that in a pandemic a totalitarian regime like the CCP can work wonders: everyone at home until the virus die off, masks almost glued to the face and draconian punishment for those that don't respect the restrictions.
Even those less worried of the single's rights and more oriented towards the common good, like South Korea, are doing much better than the western block Confused

Anyway the amount of stupidity I see around, in the so called Information Age, is worringly Angry


Quote:South Korea doesn't have any better technology than Italy, France, the UK, or the US
 
I fear is people with a better sense of duty, sigh...
Here in Italy I heard much more complain for the privacy invasion of tracking apps than their correct working, FFS!


Quote:The prospect of a vaccine is years off, not months. (Genome sequencing and so on were nowhere near as good.)

I won't vouch on sequencing itself as viruses have a very small genome and you would had very soon the whole planet sequencing capabilities on it. For sure the "next gen" sequencing are much better than the Sanger's in the 90'.
The key on the vaccine in less than a year in this case, I guess, is due to a complete pubblic support on the matter and a shitloat of billions invested. Plus, maybe, the new mRNA strategy to manufacture them.
I wouldn't expect mass antibodies tests rolled out asap in the 90's.

Quote:There's also the worrying problem that our increased communication technology and infrastructure has massively increased the ability of misinformation to spread, as well as allowing for the mass collection of data that makes creating targeted misinformation easier. I have a hard time imagining that in the 90s so many people would have thought that the virus was a hoax, and anti-vaxx groups were nowhere near as large.
Probably at the time people would know in person someone who had permanent damage from preventable diseases.
And may Andrew Wakefield burn in hell get in the lovely care of the Queen of Pain for that fraud of a papaer! Angry

Quote:The widespread track and trace system in SK worked because they were prepared for this sort of event and the government was quick to enforce participation as a social responsibility, I'd hardly call that authoritarianism.

South East asian country have a shorter history of democracy and rights of the individual compared to the western block, much more in dictatorial governs. And much more familiarity with disease like the Covid, which is a SARS like virus, so they were more prepared and with a population more willingly to follow orders.

Won't comment on ethnicity, I think that is a scapegoat in 99,99% of the cases, at least.

Quote:I don't see this thread going anywhere positive - at least if it's going to include the areas of politics and race.
Aww... I was just jumping in bringing the human stupidity! Blush

Quote:Also in the US (not sure if there is any equivalent in the UK/Europe) we have the 'anti-vax' movement, which seems to largely be made up of white people. So the 'culture' argument would not seem to apply there.
Got those here as well Dodgy

Quote:PPE wasn't so single-use 30 years ago. The shortage of such equipment would have taken longer to feel as hospitals kept steam-laundering their existing equipment.

Cold war's gas masks for everyone! Tongue
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#10
Well, at least now we know that all those stupid characters depicted in apocaliptic situations are pretty realistic! Tongue
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