Climate scientists chat, losing my wallet, health equity, learning from theatre
I speak with a climate scientist. I perform a piece of theatre. I think about health equity. I lose my wallet, but it comes back.
Thanks to everyone who came to How We Die and those on livestream. (Still available for 7 days, I think some people had trouble with the link but Theatre Deli are fixing it this week). I learned a tremendous amount and it was life affirming to perform with you all.
Performing How We Die
Dec 2, Chatham House event, re-imagining sneakers
Losing my wallet
Links below: Autistic people being locked away; Advice from Sondheim; On being a buddhist priest; Down Syndrome stars; Improbable needs a new exec director; education not at school.
(Thanks George for the pic)
I perform seldom. I do consider the joint experience of a live sharing as a vital human quality. I was asked about why this show? Partly, I feel strongly that there are events that will happen which are unstoppable but can be handled better by preparation and communication. Death is one of those life events. Partly, the communal sharing with friends and strangers is vital. Partly is it helps me learn myself.
I explained that I believe novel creativity happens in unusual ways when you combine deep thinking from one domain and transfer that knowledge to another domain. I think working in theatre arts helps me think better about investing, how the world works and communication with people. Much like how I think everyone should try blogging. Everyone should try and create a piece of theatre.
I’d like to give thanks to everyone who helped. The audience are important for completing the work but David and Mags at Theatre Deli did a lot of the tech set up. These are the types of jobs that - overall - theatre are underpaying (along with much else) and undervaluing. I thank them so very much because the show wouldn’t happen otherwise. (Pictures from tech below) After a string of theatre sad - this is a theatre happy story (while I’m lucky I don’t need to earn money from theatre) - this is a piece of theatre making from nowhere to somewhere that I can share with you all.
A piece of kindness this week. I dropped my wallet (I didn’t even realise at the time). Michael picked it up, found Ryan’s card in my wallet, gave it to Ryan who came and gave me back my wallet. Thank you Michael and Ryan. This happens about 60% of the time in the UK and I am thankful… as a recent field experiment suggested. “…we turned in more than 17,000 lost wallets containing varying amounts of money at public and private institutions and measured whether recipients contacted the owners to return the wallets. In virtually all countries, citizens were more likely to return wallets that contained more money.”
This week, I did meet with the Pfizer CEO. Honestly, healthcare equity is such a complex topic that I can not easily write about the whole of it, even if I had any sure answers which I do not. But, it’s no secret to communicate that Pfizer management are thinking very hard about healthcare equity (it’s one of their core values) even if many people will disagree on the position that Pfizer have ended up on. Pfizer are effectively giving away their anti-COVID pill to low and middle income countries, and high income countries are, in effect, subsidising this. Pfizer would argue its vaccine is also underpriced. Let me sketch out briefly the current system.
In our current system and set-up (and I know a bunch of you would prefer the system to shift), we allow companies and individuals a time-limited monopoly on works of art and inventions in order to foster innovation and create new products and services. These are patents (approx 20 years from invention, and copy right 50 years +).
Few people (although some do) argue that Apple should give away its iphones because access to smart phones will make people’s lives better (which it would) or that Vodafone should give internet access to everyone.
Typically, the current system suggests that governments or people should fund those items. So under this framework, high income nations should buy eg vaccines and pills and send them to poor nations. This would benefit everyone.
Now, one further argument (which philosopher Jo Wolff and I briefly discuss in our podcast) is that certain organisations are uniquely placed to help. Pharma is unique in its healthcare capabilities to help the situation, so it has a unique responsibility to do so.
A COVID pill or vaccine is saving the system wealth in the order of $1trillion - $10s of trillions in GDP and life. The current system would give the inventors a good % of that value and indeed would suggest the charge would be for the value given.
Pharma argues these items are vastly underpriced on this basis as a % of value and the discount they give are part of the give back on the social contract. They argue that software companies do not give back any of this value to society for free or even at a discount.
An important philosophy difference is that pharma is dealing directly with health/life and software is only dealing indirectly with health. The current system doesn’t differentiate too much on that although some societies do. Also the current system means if you simply grant fund a project you don’t have any equity in that project. For that you have to buy a share or a license to that project. (Else, you can argue - and some do - that eg all internet innovations are public goods because the orginal research came via US funding).
In any event, the most rational course under the current framework is/was for rich nations to gather eg $100bn and scale up vaccine and pill production for low income countries. Problem solved. (Or, in the early days, a government could also have bought 60% of eg Moderna shares at eg $40bn and been technically able to direct its projects)
However, no high income country judged that as politically plausible, as being mostly representative democracies they judged their populations would not be happy with such a course of action and, or, those governments felt protection for their own situations were best.
Hence, those who disagree with those views put direct pressure on eg. pharma companies, but not eg software companies, because they feel they get nowhere with governments but can convince companies otherwise.
This is an old debate as to where responsibilities of governments, companies and NGOs lie. Of course, the “irrational” obsveration is that the world would have enormous positive net benefit in both life and GDP if rich nations were to do this. It is mostly a win-win idea on a global scale.
This is a microcosm of the climate debate and overall challenges with inequality. And to what extent you weight growth solutions (growing the pie) and re-distribution solutions (sharing the pie). Most thinkers (and the general population) agree you need both sets of solutions but heavily disagree on the weighting.
On COVID, pills and (pan) vaccines are continuing to come and in the mean time, as I have said, on a 5 year view most people will be exposed and probably catch the virus but vaccines will make the illness very mild for the vast majority. In any case for an extended conversation in this area, feel free to reach out to me, and we can chat.
My other recent endeavour is a conversation with the climate scientist Zeke Hausfather.
What is most misunderstood about climate science today.
Why many doomsday scenarios are unlikely but yet serious damage from climate is happening now.
Why scientists have been poor in communicating what is mean by tipping points with respect to climate.
How he thinks about climate “tail risk” and how as tail risk diminishes the less heating happens.
The problems with “averages” and how there is uncertainty not only about our amount of emissions, but the sensitivity of the climate to our emissions.
Why climate is better thought of as a gradient rather than point thresholds.
The problem with climate economics due to time horizons, long time horizons and the discounting models economists use.
Zeke’s thoughts on the range of different projections coming out post COP26 and what they mean. (Article link here)
Zeke’s view and under-rated/over-rated on:
gas as a transition fuel
green New Deal
Zeke finishes with advice for people who want to be involved in climate.
Message me if you want to come to this event on Dec 2:
Links this week:
This is awful and scares me:
In honour of Sondheim, some sage advice:
On being a buddhist priest
Down Syndrome stars:
Improbable need a new Exec Director
On other ways of education:
Naomi Fisher @naomicfisherWhen children are unhappy at school, their parents often feel intense shame. It's no easier for the young people themselves. When I was a teenager, I refused to go to school. I can still feel the distress of that time in my body. 1/ https://t.co/y81e5UPRMt
Sharks come back to the Thames