Risk engineering, not epidemiologist models or the criminally incompetent WHO, saved the day

Risk engineering, not epidemiologist models or the criminally incompetent WHO, saved the day. By Raúl Ilargi Meijer.

This is interesting not only because someone arrives at the obvious solution, but because it is an about face by moderately noted financial commentator Bob Moriarty. We featured Bob’s ignorance recently on the Wentworth Report, where he argued for herd immunity based on misquoted headlines about the Iceland study. Bob is now promoting this article. Welcome on board Bob.

The article starts with the usual three strategies. Many people are now saying “flatten the curve” when they really mean “crush the curve”. Politicians latched onto “flatten the curve” then quickly switched to “crush the curve,” but didn’t want to admit they were previously wrong so deliberately muddled the two rhetorically.

Everyone who isn’t misreading data eventually ends up at the crush the curve solution. Nearly all the world’s governments are now there.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is … distinguished professor of risk engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

If you have a disease that is both contagious and deadly, you don’t … first wait and (build a model to) see how deadly and contagious it is, as an epidemiologist is wont to do, you can act right off the bat. Of course the scientists at the WHO and various government know this basic stuff, but they still haven’t acted accordingly. ..

Taleb doesn’t take prisoners, and labels the WHO “criminally incompetent”. And I fully agree: they get paid billions a year to be the world’s ears and eyes in case a new disease pops up somewhere, and they have still let it happen.

[Taleb’s colloborator] Yaneer Bar-Yam on March 23 gave it another try when he wrote in USA Today that “We Need An Immediate Five-Week National Lockdown To Defeat Coronavirus In America”. We know how that went (I don’t really have space to include that piece). According to this little graph I picked up last week, the US is barely 50% locked down. And that’s not going to cut it.

The lockdown spectrum

Two days after Yaneer Bar-Yam’s USA Today article, Taleb and Bar-Yam had a piece in the Guardian, which focused on the UK situation. And guess what? Nobody listened, again. You have to understand, these guys are perceived by the “science crowd” in “epidemic land”, who demand to be seen as the ultimate authorities on the topic, as big threats to their perceived power.

The last thing the “science crowd” want is for a bunch of complex systems guys, who they don’t understand anyway, to upstage them. And granted, the headline alone is ample threat to the UK government’s scientific advisers. But that attitude leads to more entirely preventable deaths; as I said above, the epidemiology etc. crowd simply lack the knowledge that the risk engineers do have, and which could help them prevent those deaths. …

After we failed to halt the virus while we could, thanks to China, the WHO and your own government, in that order, mass mask wearing is inevitable — because not doing so involves an asymmetric risk: even the worst mask reduces infection rates by 30%, and if both people involved in an interaction wear one, that may be 90%.