Category Archives: grid

Crisis-Response and Covid-19

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has written several articles recently on the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 on society. Their great-sounding motto is that the RSA “believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future.” I’ve enjoyed several of their animated videos over time, with signature black and red colors and sped-up hand drawing illustrating a featured talk.

I’ve been meaning to read a few of their recent articles on Covid-19, but hadn’t until I spotted an interesting two-by-two matrix labeled Crisis-Response Measures. Actions or practices that are performed during and after a crisis are divided over four cells as to whether they are stopped or started in those two times. Thus we examine the actions or practices that are:

  • Jettisoned (Let Go): Stopped During Crisis, then Stopped Post-Crisis
  • Transitory (End): Started During Crisis, then Stopped Post-Crisis
  • Restarted: Stopped During Crisis, then Started Post-Crisis
  • Amplified: Started During Crisis, then Started Post-Crisis

When in the middle of a crisis, one often is so busy that there’s no time to think about what one should be or should not be doing, and to be in that situation is certainly poor planning. Plus we should try to determine what we should plan to be doing in the future, thus giving our planning a normative consideration. Just because we’ve been doing something before the crisis or began something because of it doesn’t mean we should continue.

Indeed, there may be few or even no reasons to go back to the old ways of doing things, and a crisis is a grand opportunity to change the bad and maybe find good new practices and institutions for maintaining them. Of course when good and bad are in great dispute you have a lot of difficulty in coming to a consensus of action. And being in the midst of a crisis is perhaps not the best of times to come to a meeting of the political minds.

Also, these charts don’t describe the actions that are transformations of old actions, only distinguishing them as being new or old. Anything started during the crisis is new (transitory and amplified) and anything stopped during the crisis is old (jettisoned and restarted). However, there are many great ideas in these essays and we certainly need to build bridges to a future that we can look forward to living in.

Further Reading:

https://www.thersa.org/

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2020/04/change-covid19-response

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2020/05/stabilisation-transition-bridges

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Scenario Thinking and Covid-19

Scenario Planning, Analysis, or Thinking is a technique for probing into possible futures when you are anticipating or overwhelmed by tumultuous challenges. One often starts by examining two factors that have both great Importance and Uncertainty and then considering two extremes of each. For their four different mixtures, you can posit causes, how to recover from bad outcomes, what actions would be favorable for all scenarios, etc. In other words, one can develop related stories about these different futures.

In these slides by authors Steven Weber and Arik Ben-Zvi, the two important and uncertain factors are Public Health and Economics, both affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and for their initial purposes independent of each other. For public health, the disease could kill far more than estimated (a secondary wave) or kill less (vanish like a miracle). For the economic impact, the toll could be sustained (a long term depression) or the recovery could be relatively quick (v-shaped). So the two factors and their extremes are

    • Economic recovery is slow (depression, recession), or fast (v-shaped)
    • Health and death toll is worse (than estimates), or better (yay)

The four scenarios that are named are basically

    • Economy good, Health good: Americans Win
    • Economy bad, Health good: Fractured USA
    • Economy good, Health bad: Resilient USA
    • Economy bad, Health bad: Coronavirus Wins

and the scenario stories are told with respect to January of 2021 at the next state of the union address. Each of these scenarios are quite detailed and then followed by Insights and Implications for all. Often Scenario Thinking is used for more distant future analysis, but this shows it can be used for a mere nine months as well.

Further Reading:

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6663482861041012737/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenario_planning

Continue reading Scenario Thinking and Covid-19

The Genetic Code

There are many ways to show the genetic code, the map between triplets of nucleotides and the amino acids of proteins. Here is one that may be a bit awkward to understand, but other more standard ones are easily found.

 First, here are the codes for the four nucleotides:

  • U = Uracil
  • C = Cytosine
  • A = Adenine
  • G = Guanine

As well, let

  • $ = U or C
  • % = A or G
  • & = U or C or A
  • * = U or C or A or G

And so, here are the amino acids and their nucleotide codes

A = Ala = Alanine = GC*
C = Cys = Cysteine = UG$
D = Asp = Aspartic Acid = GA$
E = Glu = Glutamic Acid = GA%
F = Phe = Phenylalanine = UU$
G = Gly = Glycine = GG*
H = His = Histidine = CA$
I = Ile = Isoleucine = AU&
K = Lys = Lysine = AA%
L = Leu = Leucine = UU% + CU*
M = Met = Methionine = AUG
N = Asn = Asparagine = AA$
P = Pro = Proline = CC*
Q = Gln = Glutamine = CA%
R = Arg = Arginine = CG* + AG%
S = Ser = Serine = UC* + AG$
T = Thr = Threonine = AC*
V = Val = Valine = GU*
W = Typ = Tryptophan = UGG
Y = Tyr = Tyrosine = UA$
# = Stop = UA% + UGA

Note that some letters encode both nucleotides as well as amino acids, which might be confusing.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_code

[*10.146, *10.147]

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The Four Philosophy Ensemble

A woman came up to me and said
“I’d like to poison your mind
With wrong ideas that appeal to you
Though I am not unkind”
She looked at me, I looked at something
Written across her scalp
And these are the words that it faintly said
As I tried to call for help…

— From Whistling in the Dark, by They Might Be Giants

  • The Cynic
  • The Realist
  • The Optimist
  • The Apathetic

Further Reading:

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FourPhilosophyEnsemble

The Utopian vs. the Dystopian

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_(They_Might_Be_Giants_album)

https://genius.com/They-might-be-giants-whistling-in-the-dark-lyrics

Notes:

Since these pair up nicely (Realism and Apathy, Optimism and Cynicism), perhaps one could combine them as Optimistic Realism, Optimistic Apathy, Cynical Realism, Cynical Apathy.

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The Eisenhower Matrix, Revisited

I don’t take responsibility at all.

There’s going to be a lot of death.

— Donald Trump, 45th President of the USA.

Above is the Eisenhower Matrix, but below detailed for the current president in this pandemic year.

Do First: Deny, diminish, blame. Say the coronavirus is a hoax, that it is under control and cases will go to zero, and that it will vanish with the spring. Blame previous administrations for all mistakes (bad tests that don’t exist, lack of Federal stockpiles), news media that are critical or ask probing questions (nasty, no-talent), and China. Pass on tests offered by WHO. Criticize states and medical professionals for asking for needed ventilators and PPE.

Eliminate: Eliminate pandemic response team created by Obama in 2017. Fire public servants for doing their jobs (Inspector Generals, civil servants, state department individuals). The PREDICT initiative for tracking potentially dangerous viruses was eliminated in September of 2019 when the funds ran out. In addition, eliminate (almost) everyone in the administration that might tell the president that he is wrong or making a bad decision. Just in: eliminate the top oversight IG for the 2 trillion dollar virus relief funds.

Delegate: Delegate critical decisions and coordination to unqualified individuals, such as VP Mike Pence and security-whatever Jared (“the federal stockpile is ours”) Kushner. Say the states need to find their own ventilators and PPE, and then use federal government to intercept their orders. Delegate everything that is difficult or might make this president look bad, so they can take the blame. (“I don’t know them.”)

Do Last: Take credit for doing a “great” job and having “great” ratings (and continuously throughout). Feel good if there are only 100 to 240 thousand American deaths. Expect a grateful nation to re-elect him for a second term. Take a bow (hopefully out)!

Further Reading:

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2018/07/07/the-eisenhower-matrix/

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The Frauchiger-Renner Paradox

“The new experiment shows that, in a quantum world, two people can end up disagreeing about a seemingly irrefutable result, such as the outcome of a coin toss, suggesting something is amiss with the assumptions we make about quantum reality.”

— From the Quanta article by Anil Ananthaswamy

As above, so below.

As we face the deadly onslaught of electron-microscopy-sized agents, remember to wash your hands for twenty seconds, follow physical distancing rules of six feet or more, and please be safe.

Further Reading:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/frauchiger-renner-paradox-clarifies-where-our-views-of-reality-go-wrong-20181203/

https://algassert.com/post/1904

https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.01456

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reimagining-of-schroedingers-cat-breaks-quantum-mechanics-mdash-and-stumps-physicists1/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigner%27s_friend

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2013/01/11/schrodingers-cat/

[*11.12]

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The Devolution of Trust

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a simple game designed to show how the success or failure of cooperation between individuals can be contingent on various factors, primarily some sort of reward. Shown above is a representative payoff matrix between two players; each square shows the two choices and the two winnings for each. Each player cooperates (A or B) or cheats (A’ or B’) with the other player, so for example if A and B’ obtains (A cooperates but B cheats) then A loses 1 and B wins 3.

Each player knows all the values of the payoff matrix so it is said they have perfect information, except they don’t know what their opponent will do. If they are rational and believe their opponent to be as well, the wisest thing to do is for both to cooperate to maximize their winnings, knowing that their opponent knows that they could also cheat. If the game is played only once, however, that is clearly not the case.

If the game is iterated, things change. If each player remembers what their opponent did previously, and it is considered to be informative for what they might do next, then the player could use it to condition their decision to cooperate or cheat. Different algorithms or personalities can be considered for the players, with more or less thinking about what to do and more or less willingness to cooperate, and it is interesting to try different strategies, all the while seeing what adjustments of the payoff matrix might do to the results.

This Evolution of Trust site is a very nice lesson in some of the complications that can result for such algorithms and adjustments. On the whole, this site indicates that rationality and consideration for others can thrive, if conditions are right. In the traditional Prisoner’s Dilemma, the reward values in the payoff matrix are usually considered to be jail sentence time (so less is better), or for the site mentioned above where I’ve taken the representative matrix, monetary value (so more is better).

One thing of note in these examples is that each player doesn’t distinguish their opponent by anything other than their posteriori plays, because these players are supposed to be all part of the same group or society. But what if there is an a priori distinction that conditions their decision? So, if your opponent is a known Y, and you are a X, then you might want to raise your social credit with your other Xs by punishing a Y, even if it punishes you or even other Xs in the long run.

For example if you are a member of gang X, you wouldn’t want to cheat against another X. But cheating against a member of gang Y might raise your in-group social capital and be as important as the value of the reward. Or you might want to punish your opponent in group Y by not granting them any benefits even at the cost of your own benefit. Such distinctions are not usually part and parcel of the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, but they would add an interesting and realistic dimension to the game.

And thus lend insight into the woes of our modern political scene and culturally diverse society.

Further Reading:

https://ncase.me/trust/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sneetches_and_Other_Stories

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2017/08/03/the-prisoners-dilemma/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devolution_(biology)

[*11.24, *11.172]

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The Utopian vs. the Dystopian

Crime. Pollution. War. Climate change. Corruption. Lies. Overwhelming, isn’t it?

It’s easy to be cynical these days. Reading the newspaper or watching the news on television informs us all of the myriad ways the country and the world are going down the tubes. And watching your favorite entertainments on your beloved media devices shows you all sorts of dystopian futures and worst case scenarios that you’d rather not be in the middle of in a few years time.

It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to feel disenfranchised and helpless by the onslaught of problems that we are facing every day, every week and every year. It’s hard enough to manage our own issues and get through the day without feeling like we’ve lost ground to disorder and entropy. It’s hard to be happy about a future that will be hardly worth catching up to, a future less happy and less hopeful than we thought we had earned and even deserved.

Utopianism is out, and Dystopianism is in. Nobody seems to want to hear about bright and shiny possibilities for everybody. It’s either pie-in-the-sky or it’s flat-out impossible. Human nature and economics collude to block us from hoping for better days, for a sustainable progress in our quality of living, learning, and planning. No words to the contrary, because that’s not being “realistic” of how the world works, or how it is run. All we can do is wait for ruination.

Happy reading and watching!

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_and_dystopian_fiction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightenment_Now

[*11.126]

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