Friday, April 17, 2020

Update 1

Update to the update: It looks like it was a mistake and they revised it back to 2174. The  model is back on track. Our model is an effective instant bullshit detector.

All of today’s delta of 5.2% came from a single-day doubling in US COVID-19 deaths. This chart shows only US deaths as reported daily.

This data doesn't fit any model except the one where US medics and coroners write COVID-19 on death certificates without bothering to verify that the novel coronavirus is the cause of death. This is the result of a political rather than a medical or a scientific decision. Garbage data isn't worth modeling: garbage-in, garbage-out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Simple Model of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Take a Petri dish, fill it with agar, put a drop of bacteria sample in it, close it and put it in a warm place. The bacteria will grow explosively at first but then growth will slow down and eventually stop completely once the bacteria have consumed all the nutrients the agar can provide. Mathematically this process can be characterized quite accurately using the logistic function:

The logistic function also works well for characterizing pandemics, since the underlying process is similar. Rate of growth of bacteria depends on the number of bacteria and slows down as nutrients run out; rate of spread of infection depends on the number of infected individuals and slows down as the number of individuals left to infect declines.

Mathematical models can be arbitrarily complicated and, as an immediate consequence, arbitrarily wrong. It is possible to fit a polynomial to just about any data just by adding enough terms to it, but the predictive value of such an exercise is pretty much nil. The logistic model is simple. It uses just three parameters: midpoint, maximum and growth rate. And it models real, physical phenomena that are ubiquitous in nature: exponential growth and exponential saturation.

In modeling the coronavirus pandemic, we had to add a fourth parameter: a small offset. This is because the Chinese data, for whatever set of reasons, is difficult to treat as part of the world model. In mid-February the coronavirus jumped petri dishes, if you will. After that point the petri dish became the entire planet.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Hermitix Podcast: Coronavirus, Economics and Culture

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Supporting Hermitix:

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic my future employment is uncertain at best. As such I believe it’s finally time that I turn Hermitix into everything it can be. I have updated the Patreon page with new and unique rewards alongside adding in 3 clear stretch goals. The purpose of these stretch goals is to allow me to pursue the continuation of Hermitix as a full-time job.

The first goal is a mere $1000 per month, this is the smallest amount I can live off. I will work on Hermitix as much as did when I was a joiner, 44 hours per week. The quality will not diminish and the quantity will be raised. Full-time Hermitix will commence 2 months after reaching the first stretch goal, allowing me ample time to get my affairs in order and produce a backlog of content.

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Friday, April 10, 2020

Coronavirus Crisis: Danger and Opportunity

“There is a lot happening in the world all at once right now. The entire planet is rapidly reconfiguring itself. The world is begging for a new post-capitalist, post-industrial order to be born…”—a quote from Orlov’s latest book The Meat Generation, published before the current crisis kicked off. The large scale, hierarchically-organised, and centrally controlled systems in energy, industry, transport, health, banking, politics–and more–upon which our modern societies depend, have once again proven dangerously unstable and inadequate when faced with serious challenges.

In the case of the current coronavirus meltdown, the real crisis has been the fear, panic, and craven capitulation with which so many have blindly reacted. Theories and speculation abound as to where all of this is taking us and just what a post-coronavirus future may hold. Based on events thus far, however, the wholesale compromise and loss of freedoms of speech, association, assembly, and travel, and the right to choose in health care, appears entirely possible. Whatever happens, a comprehensive return to ‘business as usual’ seems highly unlikely. The planet is indeed being reconfigured, in ways that are only just beginning to make themselves known.

(Stream/download audio)

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Flunking The Coronavirus Test

With all the ink being spilled over the topic of SARS-Cov-19 and COVID-19 and its various ramifications and effects, you might think that there is little to add. However, I am yet to see an article on the coronavirus as a test—not in the sense of a test for the presence of the virus or antibodies to it, but it as a test of us, as individuals, families, communities and entire nations. Already we see its effects range from relatively benign to unmitigated disaster. As always, to blame the test for one’s failure to pass it is to invite laughter at one’s own expense.

Those likely to flunk a test may prefer to refuse to take it. But refusing to take the coronavirus test is hardly an option. According to many epidemiologists, around 80% of the world’s population will eventually be exposed to this virus. A Machiavellian prince ruling over a primitive society that doesn’t have even a rudimentary public health care system could simply ignore it. Then, based on the presently available, inconclusive numbers, somewhere around 4% of the population will die, but the majority of them will be either old, sick or both. The prince would welcome this, thinking that old and sick people are a burden, so good riddance! He might even try to make some political hay out of the situation: since the virus has a foreign source, those it infects are also somehow foreign, or foreign-influenced, and therefore traitors who deserve this affliction as a sort of supernatural punishment. Referring to SARS-CoV-19 as “the Chinese virus” is very much along these lines.

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