why so many are wrong on COVID | why do male uber drivers earn more | sustainability reporting
I am speaking about sustainability reporting with PWC at a webinar event on Thursday, link to sign up here. Date: Thursday 26 November 2020. Timing: 9.00am - 10.30am (UK)
My friend Doris has published her short story collection. She’s written a touching piece on love after losing your partner for the NYT here. Minus One follow characters whose lives are upended by death, estrangement, and loss—and the ways they must negotiate loneliness and absence to rebuild their new realities. Amazon link.
This paper looks at why male uber drivers get paid more than female uber drivers,when pay rates are the same. It turns out that faster driving, different geographies and more driving in the first 100 days explains the differences. (Cody Cook et al. 2020)
Bill Gates and Tony Fauci and Rachida Jones in conversation. Podcasts on what the world looks like post-COVID. And also on inequality. Podcast and transcripts.
Tyler Cowen and Jimmy Wales (founder of wikipedia) on Wikipedia, social media, incentives and much more.
Jan Morris has passed away. I had not appreciated how full her life or that she had changed gender. This piece told me about … “hiraeth” that Welsh word that is often translated as nostalgia, but which she – half-Welsh, half-English, another hybrid – feels more like a national addiction to longing….. Jan Morris interview from early 2020. ****
Summary: Vaccines are likely to give protection for at least c. 12 months and likely to reduce transmission rates, but vaccine hesitancy, mutation and maybe some amount of re-infection will mean that the virus stays with us permanently like influenza does. However like ‘flu we will find this disease manageable. We may also never know for sure why certain groups (eg men) suffer higher mortality.
The medium to long term speculative thoughts is that this crisis will spur more innovation and creativity across several domains.
This is because many may conclude it is human innovation that has saved us and will save us. Similar thinking may be applied to climate challenges (I expect Bill Gates will double down on this in his next book). I also think - while with much pain- the creative arts will also react with more creativity, although extremely crimped near term, as people will have to find new ways of reaching audiences/consumers.
This is a long form read over why so many people are fairly wrong (or only a little correct) about COVID and why the information seems so confusing. I will attempt to touch on:
Immunity and immune memory
Data reporting differences
Narrow vs broad thinking (fox vs hedgehog)
Back in August 2020, I made the point estimate judgement of an 80% chance of a vaccine by the end of 2020. Significantly above some observers estimates (although a good number of healthcare investors were making similar judgments). I noted some of my thinking in my August blog.
What’s useful to note is why many expert observers were more pessimistic. I can summarise that those groups were focused on past experiences, focused on the risks (which were clear) and anchored on previous examples. They were not willing to place faith in mRNA technology that had not produced commercial vaccines before even if much of the theory is well established.
Stock market prices embody future expectations that people with money (not reputation or press articles) buy and sell at. It’s very difficult typically to be ahead of this collective wisdom of the crowd. Still, a stock price reveals a signal that can be interpreted.
If you look at Moderna’s (one of the vaccine makers) stock price - which embodies many factors including politics, interests rates, etc - there was much of a run up from March to early November before the positive pivotal data in November. There are still future unknown events to come eg launch and distribution, but looking back one can suggest that investors with money were not super surprised by early November as much had already been “priced in” over March to October.
Mostly investors do not bet directly on a question such as “will there be a COVID vaccine in 2020?” But indirectly on stocks or other assets and prices which lead to money win/loss outcomes. These investors were suggesting through the Moderna stock price signal that there was a decent expectation of some success here.
I won’t rehash all the many science and socio-political points that went into my August forecast but suffice to say there are a number of people who do make and essentially bet behind these predictions.
Cross-immunity, herd-immunity, re-infection, strains, genetics and why everyone is only a little bit right. ...
Mostly - with rare exceptions - media articles will take a single look at a narrow domain question and present evidence in favour of a certain answer. Sometimes coloured by an ideology. (Even studies tend to look at a narrow question).
For example, if by ideas, you strongly favour individual choices you may balk at the idea of government imposed lockdowns and so you are drawn to articles suggesting Sweden or a “herd immunity” process as a way of proceeding without lockdowns. The actual data from Sweden does not matter too much - especially when you can find media articles to support your inclination.
Another example is re-infection. There are cases of re-infection, but it seems from what we know re-infection is rare but it can and does make article headlines.
[A distant simplistic parallel that people might understand is that you can get chickenpox twice (or rather, shingles after chickenpox) but it is rare.]
Still depending if you have an idea already about what we should be doing then a case of re-infection or an article about it can be used to support that view.
So you can put all of these statements together which have a little bit of truth to them.
There are asymptomatic carriers of COVID.
You can gain (some amount of) cross-protection for some (unknown) amount of time by exposure to other coronaviruses including the common cold.
This level of protection will vary with strain, genetics, immune responses and memory - which in turn vary with factors such as age.
Different strains can act with different people’s genetics to cause varying levels of severity of disease.
Different people’s immune system will “remember” the virus differently (age, strain etc. variant)
All of this becomes confusing because we would like a simple answer of 'do I get cross-protection or not?' Not the complex answer of 'it is dependant on strain, time and genetics (and perhaps environment) and will not be static'. ...More in the blog here.
I still think the underrated risk is vaccine hesitancy....