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Numbers games

Posted by Hajduk on Thursday, March 26 2020 at 00:51:42AM
In reply to I am heavily burdened with Covid 19 posted by Gimwinkle on Wednesday, March 25 2020 at 6:11:19PM

Last week numbers, according to WHO itself, 2020 casualties so far:

Smoking: 2 million, of which 300k non smokers
Alcohol: 845k
Infant [under 5] starvation: 445k
Suicide: 200k
Gun crime: 65k [*]

Covid 19: 8272

Obviously the reason we fear this isn't because it's going to kill many people. Rather it's because it's a new threat which wasn't there before.

Compare it to AIDS. AIDS kills 100% of those it infects (though many factors influence how fast and how painfully. Plus of course you can still die before AIDS kills you from non disease, or non immune, causes.) But we stopped truly fearing it when we realised that it was actually pretty easy to avoid contagion: safer sex practices, don't re-use or share needles, screening of blood transfusions. Corona is at the other extreme: low casualty rate, but easy to pass on.

Another factor in increasing fear is that (same for all infectious diseases) we feel it to be outside our control, or human control generally. It is perceived (again like all infectious diseases) more or less as a roulette. At least 4 out of the 5 other causes of death I mentioned (and I would say all 5, but I don't want to get too deep into social and political ideas and debates) are under human control. Many other sources of death with also very high numbers are under human control too. Infectious disease is mostly not. Therefore we fear it more.

I know people really are dying. And I know more are still going to die before the state of an epidemic recedes either locally or worldwide. And I know that the virus will anyway live on to fight another battle someday later, same as the flu or the cholera come and go and come and go and come. But I'm seriously more worried about the effects on society (understood in its organic totality) and on the economy at all levels. Economically, this is probably the worst crisis the world has undergone since the Bronze Age Collapse about 3200 years ago, which may have been originated by climate change (not anthropogenic; stop with that, Greta); and we didn't do very well back then. (And it had social effects beyond that too, but they're not so well understood as in later crisis periods because, of course, the further back we go, the less evidence there is, and the least reliable it becomes as more interpretation has to be involved). That will have longer term effects and over more people and across more countries and places, than the disease itself.


[*] I must remark that the way WHO measures gun crime is different than how the US DOJ does; and of course, that every country also measures it differently, and also that they are differently reliable regarding crime statistics. Diseases are easier to measure without definitional problems. Regardless, the main point that more people are shot than will die of Corona, is true.

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