I narrowly missed COVID | Do we need more Climate Art? | Inequality as Side Effect | Bigly at Brown Uni
I was in Boston, US, most of the week for a healthcare conference. I managed to narrowly miss a COVID outbreak. Biogen (biotech company) held a meeting the week before that has had 6 patients from it. Some of that same Biogen management were at my healthcare conference. All those who came have tested negative. I was at the same hotel chain (Marriott), but thankfully not the same actual hotel. It may have been easy to pick up the virus and then carry it around without symptoms.
That and being a healthcare investor prompted me to evaluate in more detail the COVID situation. It’s still an amateur assessment, you can go to more expert analysis and links in the blog but the summary is:
COVID is worse than seasonal flu by 10x - 20x and Pandemic flu (Swine Flu) by 4x, but the worse case panic is overstated because treatment is likely (60% chance IMO) coming in 6 months and there is decent chance (but not overwhelming) that hot weather will slow progression. Still, there will likely be >100,000 elderly deaths over at least 2 waves over 2 years. The young and adult don't need to worry so much.
Risk is around healthcare services being swamped by exponential growth of critical cases before treatment is approved. This is because 5% to 15% of cases need hospitalisation, and in a short period most countries eg UK, US do not have enough ICUs / hospital beds to cope, so elongating the period matters.
The political fall out is unknown. The US has been unexpectedly poor (due to complications with the test from CDC and regulation) - this may weaken Trump this year. South Korea and Singapore have been (expected?) good. China after a (arguably) slow start has since performed strongly. UK response (as judged by testing) seems OK but NHS beds already stretched over winter. We have been here before with Swine Flu and Bird Flu, SARS, but some systems eg South Korea, have adapted much better it seems since then.
The second order economic impact quite varied, base case is a 6 - 12 month slow down (50% recession chance) with recovery thereafter, but with downside risk from US particularly given impact to small business (supply chain, in person exposure). World GDP growth has been downgraded (OECD) from 2.9% to 2.4% for 2020 (on contained scenario) but my estimate would be be 1.5% as US is not controlled. Markets to remain volatile. Some upsides might include environment, innovation, and remote working. If cultural change around COVID can happen dramatically fast, perhaps similar accommodations can be made for win-win environmental activities or even disability accommodations.
My show in Boston was cancelled (see virus), but I ended up performing at Brown instead (as someone else had to cancel, again see virus). Without any tech set-up, it went amazingly well. I think this is mostly as keynotes like this are typically on the boring side, but not mine. You win money, plays games, get mentos… and play the Pink Ties game:
(Thanks Cary for the photo) The students were bright and sparky and in my panel there was a good intersection with the development world. It still strikes me we need more on the innovation front and it was good to chat to some people about that. Still, there’s also a limit on what traditional pension fund and endowments can achieve and as always there’s a question of how effective divestment is or not, which I‘m not going to redux again here.
The brief summary on healthcare: lots and lots of early stage biotech innovation still happening, which is hopeful; Gene therapy is real.
My friend and collaborator David Finnigan discussed with me over the year whether we do or don’t need any more climate art. I tentatively observed that some art was (as I think David has put it) froth, froth on the drink. David wrote in early 2019 “…just about every artwork produced in the 21st century can be viewed through the lens of climate change and planetary transformations…”
In 2019 - apart from the fact that I have my own performance piece on climate with David - I was moved by these essays/art (see end) on a response to some climate art and I was engaged with the Olafur E exhibition at the Tate - visiting it 3 times in the year.
Still, I was at an Art + Climate conference - We Make Tomorrow - hosted by Julie’s Bicycle and I was definitely torn about whether we needed more art of this kind (froth).
I’ve now taken Thinking Bigly in to spaces where audience members have told me they never go to theatre and almost didn’t come as my blurb had “performance” in the wording but they really enjoyed the show. So "art" does dissuade many people. More on this conference next letter as I’m still writing up notes but I was impressed by Chris Stark of the UK Climate Change Committee. He came across as committed, eloquent and authentic. (As always in these types of conferences- that's why UnConference!) a huge shame that he couldn’t take more questions.
The conversation with Brian Eno and Kate Raworth was pretty fascinating. I’m still digesting the work Raworth is promoting. She’s typically placed as a de-growth economist, although there’s a strong portion which is circular growth as opposed to no-growth. As someone who has thought a decent amount about this, I was not entirely convinced by her workshop… but some interesting points about purpose.
I was discussing with friends over the last few weeks about inequality. I have leftist and rightist friends (I myself think of myself as apolitical and syncretic, more simultaneously left/right over many items) but the description of it matters. Many of the thoughtful thinkers look at inequality as a “side effect” or “bug” (feature?) of “grow the pie” wealth creating mechanisms.
This brings up interesting metaphors. If you are critical of growth, you evoke cancers and tumours as the damage out of control growth can bring. But if you think inequality is unintentional - then phrases like side effects seem better.
Side effects are useful to think about as it suggests you don’t want to damage the primary driver - wealth creation. But, you do want to mitigate the side effects where possible.
Two items on this topic, I’ve recently read. One is a Paul Graham essay, which clearly argues for the wealth creation aspect of capitalism and another the soon to be launched book of Alex Edmans, Grow The Pie, which is more nuanced but does also primarily argue that growing the pie, is win-win. Particularly important for left thinkers to understand this view.
Paul Graham Inequality Essay
Alex Edmans: Grow the Pie book.
Latest grants winner: Mia Hague of Greyling Post for a eco greetings card business that also donates to care homes. Mia writes:
“…Greyling Post is an eco friendly greetings card company, using designs and illustrations from our small collective of artists. We made a 'Cards to Care Homes' scheme where for every card bought either by the public or wholesale, we match the amount of cards and donate them to a residential care home. The feedback so far is wonderful. Sitting down to write inspires the residents to remember and connect with people during the days when they see few visitors. It helps those who can't get out to the shops and don't feel comfortable shopping online, and they're happy that they don't have to use their pensions to purchase cards for their friends and family…”
Summary of my recent eclectic link round up:
DrawDown has updated its solutions…
Climate Change Art - not sure we need any more indulgent art, but this was moving:
Rather than indulgent art, the Royal Court has a net zero plan - announced here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/collection/royal-court-theatre-a-credible-plan-for-a-just-transition-to-carbon-net-zero-through-2020/
A fantastical tale of how this homeless man built an underground bunker in Hampstead Heath but then ran into trouble with the anti-terror squad. Another story that if you made it up, people wouldn’t believe you: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/mar/05/invisible-city-how-homeless-man-built-life-underground-bunker-hampstead-heath
A very long read look at how Tulsa is paying people to move to this - seemingly very nice - town and regenerate it as remote workers. If you are interested in cities, charter cities and the like worth a read: https://www.citylab.com/life/2020/02/tulsa-incentives-work-remotely-coworking/604873/
Who knew the CIA ran such a massive spying operation through a corporate front?https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/national-security/cia-crypto-encryption-machines-espionage/
For my generation, this was the romance / Non-romance for us - a Q&A with Hawke and Delpy on Before Sunrise trilogy. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/22/movies/before-sunrise-ethan-hawke-julie-delpy.html
Do you have the makings of an online chess hustler? How e-sports is Making Chess Great Again. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/video-games/fast-loose-culture-esports-upending-once-staid-world-chess-n1137111
Nina Klose on what Open Space / UnConference experience was like when convening Climate + Theatre. Check it out for a flavor of what Climate UnConference could be.
Latest grant winners :Sponsorship for Sierra Leone AutismAwareness; Grant Winner: eco-greeting cards, Greyling Post.
I've had 100+ submissions and have backlog of 50+. Sorry if you are waiting for a response, I'm caught up to approx mid/end Jan. Micro-grants. £10K for positive impact people.
Next Mingle in London, 26 March:
➳Book Thinking Bigly, 26 March 7pm + Mingle 8pm
➳UK Science: Where did it go? Can ARPA save it?
➳A profile of Coinbase Billionaire: Crypto Guardian (Forbes)
➳Me on ESG investing / YouTube CFA UK
➳Micro-grants. £10K for positive impact people.