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[flagged] Covid-19 and Human Irrationality (younglingfeynman.com)
21 points by rjyoungling 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

>While I’m not particularly interested in pandemics, I do find it an interesting and unique opportunity to observe human behavior.

I too am also a robot who's so logical that I'm above any form of human bias or irrationality. I observe these covid-19 events around the world and find it interesting because I'm too analytical. That's my main problem, I'm so analytical that I like to pretend I'm better than humans and pretend I find human behavior "interesting" when really I'm just being a dumb human myself in pretending.

hahha while it's a bit of a bummer that I gave you that impression, you did make me laugh! Thanks for your feedback though.

Who is the author and what are their credentials? Imho, this article bases a lot of it's logic on if so facto statements about human behavior which could be argued. I got a strong: "The world is either black or white" vibe from it.

Oh, you're not familiar with startup marketing growth hacker / the world's latest COVID-19 expert, RJ Youngling?


This is pretty clearly content marketing.

I agree that it's content marketing in the sense that I try to write things that others find worthwhile. It's not content marketing in the sense that I whip together a quick listicle. Thanks for your feedback though. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it.

"Because immediately after joining The Younglings bags of money will fall out of the sky! Okay.. maybe not quite.. BUT if you want to transform your good business into an extraordinary sales machine, then join us!"

It's an exotic hybrid consultancy-lifestyle business decorated with mock SV hype.


I don't know why this is on the front page, but, hey, probably a lot of YC alumni who want to DOUBLE THEIR REVENUE here.

I think because people found it interesting enough to upvote. I totally understand where you're coming from. The copy on the pop-up and the apply page is pretty in your face. That being said, hopefully people can judge the essay on its own merits. Sorry to hear you didn't like it!

Thank you for your feedback. I'll take it under advisement.

This is a very weird evaluation: It describes a post mortem on all of humanity from a site that, from what I can see, is mostly an entrepreneurship op-ed e-zine?

Certain points are also reflect a strange dissociation or at least misunderstandings of the very thing the essay appears to be describing as interesting to evaluate. For an essay describing human behavioral analysis, the writer appears to look down on emergent human behavior like elbow-bumping. Its analysis of individual rationality vs irrationality is incredibly silly- it is far more rational to evaluate the circumstance to understand that a systemic risk exists and to encourage systemic action as well as individual action than it is to hoard-buy toilet paper.

One thing that is fascinating me is where to draw the line between forgiving an understandable delay, and really blaming leadership for an unforgivable delay. Like, I am seeing blame for the us administration not preparing or responding more quickly to public knowledge in mid-february, but... what percentage of us had the forethought to divest our retirement accounts at that time? (I'm not looking for bragging anecdotes here, my point is that most people didn't.) There's a point at which anyone is somewhat certain that something bad is happening or about to happen, without having any sense of intensity or speed, where there's a certain level of human reaction delay. So is there a good standard for when it is no longer forgivable human/societal behavior, and becomes truly egregious cruelty, willful ignorance, and blame-worthy incompetence?

> what percentage of us had the forethought to divest our retirement accounts at that time?

What percentage of us had access to intelligence information saying how bad the situation could truly be?

What percentage of us have jobs in which we are responsible for other people's lives and the stability of our countries?

What percentage of us were getting briefed by the CDC and other related agencies when this whole thing started?

You cannot compare the public's reaction to government officials' reactions. It's their job to be on top of this stuff, react appropriately and guide the public through times of crisis like this. That's why we call them leaders.

However, you can compare their reaction to the reaction of the leaders of other countries. How did the US government react to this pandemic compared to South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, with months of additional time to do so?

Blame games are easy to play and have no doubt politicians will.

But if you are interested in how to think about these kind of decisions this might be more useful - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing

"what percentage of us had the forethought to divest our retirement accounts at that time? (I'm not looking for bragging anecdotes here, my point is that most people didn't.)"

The people who were educated and briefed on the full ramifications have done just that:


That's indeed fascinating. Any such line will always have an element of arbitrariness. I.e. Pick duration Y. Then why not Y+1 or Y-1.

That being said. Pandemics are highly predictable and where I live (Europe) we had the benefit of seeing different approaches being used by different countries with varying degrees of success (Taiwan v. Italy).

There are measures (such as air travel restriction) where we know they're not that effective (although they do buy you some time). There are measures (such as social distancing and being early and aggressive in closing schools and other facilities) that are known to be more effective.

I think the line can be drawn where one has sufficient information to act quickly and still refuses to do so.

In government's (limited) defense. Exponentials are highly counterintuitive, so it's understandable the right thing feels strange.

The right time to implement measures is precisely when everything 'feels fine'. That, coupled with political blowback and economical impact serves as a constraint to quick action IMO. [1]

I'm by no means an expert in this field. I merely study human behavior in the context of business. So with a little luck, an epidemiologist will chime in.

[1] I suspect that there's 1 other bias that plays a role. Namely, what doesn't occur is harder to quantify than that which does. E.g. The FDA might pull a drug and save lives as a result. On the flip side, the lives that are lost because certain drugs take years and years to market are hard to measure. There are virtually no consequences for The FDA regarding the lives that are lost by being slow. There are massive consequences for the lives that are lost by approving a bad drug. Now imagine that the harder to quantify lives lost due to slowness exceeds those due to bad drugs. That would mean The FDA had a negative net-effect yet it would feel positive due to this bias.

Regarding your footnote, I think that also applies to our state Governors. I don't think they have the advantage of federally classified briefings, so they're reacting to public analysis and the situation on the ground.

For instance, Oregon has implemented distancing and stay-in-place fairly early (apparently) in the state's outbreak. But Oregon is also surrounded by WA and CA, which maybe made it easier to do so.

A landlocked state in the south surrounded by other states that aren't taking it seriously might find it much more difficult to get buy-in for making those decisions.

Then you have states like Florida where it seems incredibly obvious they should have taken steps before now.

''so they're reacting to public analysis and the situation on the ground.''

Your analysis describes (more eloquently than mine) what I think is going on as well.

It would appear to me that that public buy-in specifically is what makes acting early challenging.

The federal government has unmistakably (maliciously at this point) failed us in our greatest time of need. States are now acting fully autonomously and some in open rebellion towards the federal government to support their infrastructure. Every single American is affected by this.

Long term, I see regional (multi-state) partnerships evolving into regional governments. Texas, Cascadia, etc. We may be at a turning point where this won't be a 'nutjob' idea anymore. Trump's election was a cry for help to reorganize our system (drain the swamp).

> States are now acting fully autonomously

As an outsider I have to ask: isn't that how's it meant to be? The Feds take care of national defense, foreign policy and Interstate commerce and the states look after themselves internally.

Surely federalists should be celebrating.

I did an HN post this morning about Disney having the best day in company history yesterday...there is no rationality or reason for this, and sorry to every HNer I already mentioned the Keynes quote about the market remaining irrational longer than investors remaining liquid.

But seriously we have so much in the way of resources, but instead the millionaires and billionaires are investing in a cartoon mouse and company that runs theme parks, hotels and cruise ships that will not only remain closed for the foreseeable future, but when they do open people will not risk going.

Its not just the public companies either, look at the university systems. Between just the top 10 schools with the largest endowments and they have collectively over $250B stashed away. 10 non-profits have $250B, they have labs and they have researchers at the ready...but how much of that money are they spending to combat this? How many of these brilliant minds are at work in the labs?

I won't even get into the government response...all you need to do it look at the President of the US who accepts and promotes medication based on his feelings and hopes and shuts down actual medical experts. It is all so ridiculous believing this is a manufactured conspiracy would almost be easier to accept than what is actually happening right now. But when you are dead, you will be glad you bought that Disney stock for under $100/share, it is after all a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The most fascinating thing to me is to see how diametrically opposed reactions from different countries are. Especially those that have experienced SARS v. those that didn't.

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