tl;dr I’m sick, my attention is sapped, and I’m bored, so I’m making a little retrospective scrapbook on Covid-19 changes in tech, culture, and political institutions that I can update daily-ish.
(originally written 16 March 2020)
For weeks now, my entire social media world has caught Coronavirus!, and for absolutely good reason. Surely visitors to my small corner will have had enough of it by the time I submit this post. Sorry!
As I write this I’m not well and haven’t been for a few days. It might be the thing, but it may not be- I lose my health when the weather turns, like clockwork. I’m only really concerned about being a vector for more vulnerable people, and to be honest not much behavior modification is necessary on my part so I don’t want to sound like a martyr anyway. I was an expat for 2 years (in the health sector in Mumbai), and upon returning I still live like a digital nomad, mostly isolated in my apartment in Maryland and working online. I go to the grocery store on weekday mornings and float in and out like a ghost anyway.
When I came back to the USA in early February I was a bit puzzled by how dismissive almost everyone seemed to be. Parts of Twitter were already abuzz, public health associates in Mumbai were alarmed, my contractors in Shenzhen had already been out of office for a few weeks. I moved a bit into cash as a precaution, my girlfriend’s brother stocked us with Soylent and MREs, and not much else happened for a couple of weeks. But here we are!
If you’re reading this, odds are that you are also extremely online, also got the signals ahead of the general public (and, presumably, parts of the federal government), and like me, you have also seen how fast this has moved. Any information advantage we may have had in early February is now wiped. It’s a fascinating information problem, because if I was in political leadership I would clearly have had to move optimizing for speed and risking still being wrong about the nature and severity of the issue. Waiting for support or validation could lead to disaster.
Aside from the illness, consuming media and observing the apparent sweeping changes in people’s personal and institutional behavior is eating a lot of my time. It makes me optimistic to see that kind of dynamism, even if a large chunk of it is still abstract panic. If I’m going to consume this information anyway, I might as well turn it into a project.