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.
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.
Continue reading Scenario Thinking and Covid-19
One can gain knowledge from words, but wisdom only from things.
— George Wald, Harvard biochemist and 1967 Nobel Laureate
Many images of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (a.k.a. 2019/nCoV a.k.a. COVID-19) are in the media, with the colorful spiky ball motif being the most frequent. Above is a representation of one of its proteins, its main protease, which allows the virus to process the proteins created after it splices its own RNA genetic material into your cells.
The larger three lobed spiky proteins from which these types of viruses gets the name “corona” are responsible for grabbing onto and opening up the surface of (in this case) lung cells, so that this smaller protein can perform its function within the cell. In more detailed images, you may have seen it as small pairs of spheres on the viral surface.
Several different crystal structures of various proteins of COVID-19 have been solved and released recently, including this main protease and the spiky protein peplomers. Studies of these structures will hopefully lead scientists to discover inhibitors to their functions and thus treatments and preventive measures. Go science!
Unfortunately, these results will come much too late for many of us. Science could have also helped us with the initial defense against this deadly virus, but the powers that be deigned to consider the gravity of our plight. And even today many such leaders and spokespersons are ignoring important information and spreading misinformation.