Thoughts on Covidiocracy

Thoughts on Covidiocracy

Cover Illustration is from XKCD#2278

I would like to note a few concerning semantic and naming gymnastics pulled off by the media and WHO during this crisis. This list might become a lot longer in the future once I find the time to return back to it:

  • Social Distancing: We actually need to grow closer together than ever. What we need is 'physical distancing' from both the people and the things they touch. Very different things and very different kind of messaging.

  • COVID-19 virus: This name for the virus instead of the actual technical name SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease) makes it sound as if this is a 2019+ problem. It completely hides the fact that this family of virus was known since 1930s and that human-infecting SARS related coronavirus have been known and are being warned about since the early 2000s.

Let's not have any doubt on whether this is indeed SARS 2.0. It is. And it is here because we have been ignoring all the expert warnings about the next re-emergence of SARS and even defunding antivirus researches for SARS related coronavirus.

  • Kung Flu/Chinese Virus: Wuhan Virus would have been consistent with past nomenclature but giving racist nicknames or attaching nationality as opposed to a region of origin wouldn't be fair.

  • Lockdown: A lockdown is a harsher word for a strict quarantine and conjures imprisonment related imagery due to semantic adjacency with 'lock up'. It's still more acceptable than 'curfew' though. In some places, stronger words might actually be necessary. However it brings resistance from the people in countries who are skeptical of their government's power grabs.

  • Infection/Death count: Although it is implicit in the name, these numbers only reflect the known infections or known deaths. Either 'reported' or 'confirmed' as qualifiers might be needed more often than not in public communications. Even the richest countries have not had enough tests done per capita to know the correct numbers.

To make things worse, countries are scrambling to save face and keep their actual numbers hidden. NYC recently had a very unusually high surge in 'heart attack' related deaths. China somehow has ridiculously low number of new cases per day.

This part of the rant was inspired by Bill Maher making some sense with his unpopular opinion in his New Rule monologue on the issue of naming the virus as per the academic tradition, among other things.

Speaking of power-grabs, here is a chilling Economist article about how the world will probably never be the same as countries move towards a new order.

"But history suggests that a return to pre-covid days is unlikely. Two lessons stand out. The first is that governmental control over the economy takes a large step up during periods of crisis—and in particular war. The second is that the forces encouraging governments to retain and expand economic control are stronger than the forces encouraging them to relinquish it, meaning that a “temporary” expansion of state power tends to become permanent."

If you are playing on the side of the virus, and many people inadvertently are, a change of world order might not even seem unexpected or even news since outright destruction and global scale genocide is not beyond the realms of possibilities.

In this regard, Ndemic's Plague Inc been my favorite strategy cum simulation game for quite a while. It has become depressingly prophetic, just like Black Mirror, but in a much more precise manner.

I have been infecting and killing the entire global population on and off for 5+ years now. In different scenarios and with different pathogens, it has mostly been the case that

  • starting with low severity of symptoms and low fatality rate makes most of the governments ignore the looming crisis till its quite late
  • emergence of new kinds of symptoms at a later point, e.g. diarrhea, means that you can start killing effectively with those sweet, free and inevitable mutations
  • the poor countries receive the most deaths and damages in any outbreak
  • densely populated countries and low income countries are the best places of interest for your early days as you can infect most of the population without the governments noticing
  • regular hand washing and closing down of ship/air ports are always included in scenarios with higher difficulty level
  • investing in research labs and collaboration around the world is bad news for your win.
  • better infect and kill scientists when they still have too low of a budget to protect themselves and work even in rich countries and especially those leading the global research efforts
  • if you are getting out of control in EU/US, you are close to victory
  • if you have reached Greenland and Madagascar, you have probably also infected almost every other country.
  • it is also a great idea to start from remote countries like these or reach there early on
  • bioaerosol and zoonosis are your best friends
  • olympics and other mass events/festivals not getting canceled is a good sign that the people have chosen money at the cost of deaths
  • the news cycle is highly depressing and morbidly funny at the same time

The key to our survival in this new covidiocratic world order would be to understand the signs and warnings we have had since many years, accept our past mistakes openly and move on together to fight the new COVID-19 SARS virus.

Speaking of keys, I found myself quoting earlier to my friend the popular 3NF ideal, "The key, the whole key and nothing but the key. So help me Codd". It reminded me that as computer scientists we don't shy away from beta substituting God. Or as developers of worlds and as gamers in those worlds, we roleplay as God. But we also see similar grandiose delusions among many public leaders gaming our current world with their unjustified decisions and power grabs. Now is the absolute wrong time to have God-delusions or taking power hungry measures alike those from our political and high positioned covidiots.

The key is probably to be less covidiotic and more human.

(This needs to be normalized way beyond Codd's normal forms.)