Life In A Global Pandemic, Part 7

A short while ago (less than two weeks?), Tyler Cowen wrote about how, in a world undergoing a global pandemic, "the speed premium" increases. That means that the information we received a short while ago will start to feel far less current than it would have in a non-pandemic world.

One case in point is this blog post itself. I read it when it was first published, on March 25th, and by now it almost feels like "ancient history." I had to scroll five pages into the Marginal Revolution blog to find it.

Everything I read about SARS-CoV2 last week seems almost quaint today. Last week was a world in which the United States, and especially Texas, had many thousands fewer COVID-19 cases, and deaths, than this week. That world no longer exists today.

Last week, I was feeling a lot of despair about COVID-19. This week, news is coming in from everywhere, and much of it is good news. The outbreak continues unabated in the United States, that's true, but on the other hand, there are dozens of organizations working on finding the best possible vaccine. There are also a number of non-vaccine therapies currently in testing. The speed with which all this has occurred is truly remarkable! It's inspiring, and it gives me hope.

One interesting thing about the prospect of a SARS-CoV2 vaccine is that this is not the only coronavirus out there. In fact, many coronaviruses lead to the common cold. For decades "a cure for the common cold" has been a metaphor for doing something ingenious that will revolutionize human life across the globe. Although COVID-19 is a frightening illness, it may yet give rise to a literal cure for the common cold. This would be stunning, in a very good way.

Can I allow myself to have that much hope? Perhaps it's a response to the fact that a lot of COVID-19 commentary I'm reading has been almost apocalyptic in scope. People aren't just pessimists, they think this might be the thing that destroys liberal democracy itself. In light of all that doomsaying, it is somewhat comforting to speculate that one of these many coronavirus vaccines might end up being good enough to inoculate us against the common cold.

And while I'm at it, I think the economic hardships we endure during this pandemic will inevitably spur progress through technological and economic innovation. In a few years, life is going to be much better than I ever thought it would be, if I can only hold out long enough to live to see the day.

To that end, I'm extremely disappointed in the vast number of people I see on social media who simply refuse to self-quarantine. They continue to believe that the virus is no big deal, despite many firsthand accounts to the contrary, accounts from clergy, politicians, professional athletes, well-known business-people, and so on. Every COVID-19 account attests to the severity of the disease, and yet some people continue to disbelieve.

These are the people who will risk my life. I think it's only a matter of time before they learn their lesson the hard way. The only question is whether I'll get infected before they figure it out. I hope not. I do not like my odds with this disease. 

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