Emergency health measures implemented in six major countries have “significantly and substantially slowed” the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to research from a UC Berkeley team published today in the journal Nature. The findings come as leaders worldwide struggle to balance the enormous and highly visible economic costs of emergency health measures against their public health benefits, which are difficult to see.
“The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but through our individual sacrifices, people everywhere have each contributed to one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” Hsiang said. “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”
Armed with a few lines of Excel or R code, epidemiologists had been making prophecies about what would happen 1-8 weeks into the future. Citizens would then be able to see what actually happened:
- https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2020/05/13/the-swedes-actually-did-have-covid-19-models/ (Swedish academic “scientists” off by about 40X despite no change in Swedish policies)
- https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2020/05/24/did-doom-visit-the-swedes-yesterday-as-planned/ (American academic “scientists” off by 10-13X trying to predict events 3 weeks out in a country that had no policy changes)
- https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2020/04/12/everything-the-gleeful-journalists-said-would-happen-to-sweden-has-happened-to-massachusetts/ (regarding guaranteed exponential growth without a lockdown)
(It is not surprising that these “scientific” results proved to be false, even beyond the usual “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” factors. As no country had ever tried an American-style “shutdown” (in which citizens still meet at grocery, liquor, and marijuana stores and still party every night on Tinder), only a scientist with a letter from God would have had a prayer (so to speak) of predicting the effects of such a shutdown. The self-proclaimed “scientists” also had no data regarding how easy it was for coronavirus to spread, what percent of the population was naturally immune, etc.)
The obvious inability of “scientists” to make useful predictions is not good for the image of “science”, even if “scientists” hadn’t further brought ridicule on themselves by flip-flopping on masks and the dangers of contaminated surface transmission, telling people it was okay to gather in huge crowds for BLM protesting, and telling others to quarantine while having sex with married women who would then go back to their husband and kids.
What’s the solution? Scientists can take up the genre of alternative history science fiction.
Traditional novel: What if the Germans had won World War II? Maybe the U.S. would be governed by an authoritarian puppet president, controlled by a foreign dictator. State governors would issue stay-at-home orders that eliminated Americans First Amendment rights to assemble. Young children would be locked into small apartments, denied schooling, friends, and playgrounds. Some brave folks would #Resist by going into the streets to battle with the city governments that they themselves had elected and would soon vote to re-elect.
Science-informed novel: Look at this two-parameter mathematical model. It shows what would have happened if we hadn’t locked down like I was recommending.
The beauty of this new approach is that, as with the “What if the Germans had won?” novel, there is no way to prove the author wrong.