Remote, Day Five

So, how are you doing?

I’m five days into my own personal attempts at self-isolation. Or as I like to call it, Friday. I can say that I’ve done more self-isolation than normal. I’m an introvert and a member of Gen X, so staying engaged while staying inside isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things. I realize that the same cannot be said for most. I live in Tennessee so we haven’t seen quite the magnitude of impact as, say, Washington, California, or New York. Not yet anyway. I suspect we’re just on a slightly different timeline. The future isn’t evenly distributed yet.

There are a number of things that I’m fortunate for. My kids are grown so there isn’t any stress of them needing to be watched, educated, or entertained since the schools are closed. I work in the world of programming and technology and the flexibility of code and computers makes working from home a non-issue. If anything, I’ve gotten more productive and saved time and money by not commuting. I’m years away from retirement so the financial hit in the markets doesn’t lead me to stress a lot about my 401k. No one in my family or friend circle is sick yet.

I’ve managed to let some information through my usual ‘media distancing’ filters. Enough to make a few observations:

  • We have no idea how bad things are. We have estimates based on guesses based on theories. And in some cases, there’s a good bit of hope and wishing thrown in. This is not to say that we should panic, just that we are lacking data. I’m all for flattening the curve, but we are blind as to what the curve really looks like or where we are on it.
  • As with all significant events, some people are overreacting and others are underreacting. And it will only be with hindsight that we know who is in what category. Even so, the safe bet is those who are acting as if nothing has changed are underreacting and those buying guns and ammo are overreacting.
  • Our distrust of institutions is not helping our situation. That news has to be sensational to get ratings and clicks means that we have become too accustomed to ignoring it. Meanwhile, the government in the US lacks leadership and effectiveness because of collective apathy, unthinking partisanship, and low expectations. The responsibility for all of this lies with all of us.
  • Given the amount of time that you can be infected and asymptomatic, the best course of action is to assume that you already have it and limit your interactions accordingly.
  • I’m normally not opposed to some degree of government regulation, but the FDA and other government bureaucracies do not have the capability of reacting with the speed and agility necessary to counter this.
  • In a similar vein, Congress should get set up to be able to legislate remotely. That they are unable to do this given all the technological advances of the last quarter century is a degree of incompetence bordering on criminal.
  • Most of us are lacking two fundamental capabilities right now - an understanding of exponential growth and the ability to sit quietly in a room by ourselves.
  • People are people. There are good people out there doing amazing things. And there are assholes that are actively making it worse for the rest of us. Try to be in the first group.
  • Calm makes for the best decision making. There’s a definite undercurrent of anxiety in the world right now and it’s completely understandable. We can’t turn off fear, but we need to make sure we are not making decisions from a place of panic.
  • The worst is yet to come and normal is a long way off. We’ll probably get to the former in something on the order of weeks or months depending on our collective response. The latter could be years away and it will probably be a different sort of normal than what we are accustomed to.

Among the many podcasts that I listen to, there have been a couple of statements that I thought were a good commentary on all this. First, prepare for turbulence. Second, this is a soft-reset on civilization. One that will show us what we’re made of. There are a number of challenges ahead and no one is getting through it unscathed. How we all respond will determine where we go from here. We can make it better, or we can make it worse. One thing is certain, the apocryphal malediction “may you live in interesting times” does sound like a curse in the context of the biggest global system shock since World War II. Good luck out there and take care of each other.

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