With covid, we've seen the climate drama play out in a rapid 3-month microcosm (both what's happening and what the climate doomsday-ists say will happen): denial, dismissal of its severity, ignorance towards the science and experts, incompetent government response until it's too late, widespread disruptions, stock market collapse, the connected officials catching wind of this early and hitting their personal exits, etc. The idealogical debate going on now with covid is what's the acceptable tradeoff between economic/corporate welfare versus literally human lives.
But we've also seen positive trends too: individuals are taking matters into their own hands by 3D printing medical hacks around ventilator shortages, and manufacturers are retooling and mobilizing industrial capabilities towards those same needs.
Covid is the current systemic crisis -- we need all-hands on deck for it. And as we've seen with the shelter-in-place orders, if it's not voluntary it's going to be forced. Question is can we learn from it and be humbled by it enough to seriously tackle the existential systemic crisis on our doorsteps.
Meaning you can have a state-wide localized disaster in e.g. Texas or Florida, or France, but it won't be global for quite some time. Weather events also tend to be much more predictable (we know that a Hurricane won't hover over 1 state for 6 weeks, for example)
Don't get me wrong, it is a global phenomenon, but because it's much more gradual than "shut everything down", it doesn't have the same effect on people's behavior.
I'd venture to say local weather crises evoke approximately the same response as Covid-19.
This puts words on what's been frustrating me the most when talking about this issue with some of my friends and on online boards.
I haven't considered it before, but when I think about it now I realize that I see a clear distinction among those I have been talking to between those who have done an MSc or higher in an area such as physics, mathematics or computer science.
(I don't mean to imply that those people are in some way more intelligent, but it goes to show how extended practice of systemic thinking and problem solving can prime us to better understand complex issues in general, or at least get a better approximation for our uncertainty and how that relates to risk)
I also think there's the simple fact that the vast majority of even educated people have a hard time understanding simple statistics.
There's been this notion that "Japan has handled the outbreak well" or, among the conspiratoricals, "the government is hiding the real numbers" where my take is that the data is just not there to make any kind of conclusion either way yet.
And this is hardly a US issue - we see the same pattern most everywhere.
Because they aren't testing broadly in the population, which is a way of "hiding the real numbers" without it looking so nefarious... you just don't get real numbers and then there's nothing to hide. As a political tool it's a nice bit of sleight-of-hand, but as a public policy decision it's disastrous.
The study of Complex Adaptive Systems is pretty fascinating, and is a somewhat systematic way of getting at the concepts being mentioned in this quote. It's definitely science it's just a different focus, where you spend a lot more effort looking at the emergent and often unpredictable properties of an adaptive system with autonomous components.
This isn't exactly some groundbreaking theory at this point, it emerged in the late 80's or so and had a mild pop culture moment but it's still pretty handy for providing a framework and some language for understanding and discussing situations like the one described here.
You are not the only one who is like that in my circle. What did you do with your knowledge to prepare for this epidemic?
I have many people though being hyper-vigilant about the news however they practically did nothing to prepare for it. So why bother?
I'm educated and I don't see valid statistics. Without total comprehensive direct and antibodies tests we just don't have valid statistics data. We MUST test everyone (in proper statistical sense) to obtain valid data to work with. Instead we got all media histerically fixated upon single topic and hence total panic.
That reads like anti intellectual mumbo-jumbo to me. What complex system  are we talking about? There aren't very many feedback loops in the dynamics of a pathogen invading a totally susceptible population. That's the whole problem. The main one that comes to mind is the lock downs that are being put in place everywhere now - once you already have a big issue.
I fully agree that a lot of people don't understand the severity of a pathogen spreading exponentially as long as the absolute numbers look low. But there are more than enough people who do, who can give solid advice in that kind of situation. These people have been really concerned since late January at the very least.
If they weren't heard, that's the problem.
I would say another 90% of these people are concerned all the time because they are smart yet emotionally immature.
Tl;dr: if your society is going to be owned by pandemic there’s a bunch of doctors working in healthcare who will figure it out; so starting isolation early on will lead to people ignoring you when it actually hits us
There are a myriad of disasters that could or will happen, at some point. But the most important reason that we are not prepared is AFAICS because governments and people generally simply hope that such things won't happen, and if they do, not on their watch, due to the path of least resistance.
Understandable, but for one who long has had the ability to envision all sorts of mayhem, I sure wish people would take this opportunity to wake up, not only to virus threats but to all of the gravest risks that confront us, and start chipping away at those that are actually possible to mitigate.
To put it another way: if you laid out a ten-page paper describing exactly the right course of action (you're omniscient, you know these things) on the desk of every federal leader, it still wouldn't happen. If you did it on the first day of the outbreak, it wouldn't happen. If you did it today, it wouldn't happen.
It's a power failure, not a knowledge failure or a "we think wrong" failure. Nobody is sitting at their desk right now saying "damnit, we tried our hardest and just didn't THINK of the solution! If only we were better thinkers!".
Perhaps personal acquaintance with victims will change that, but I have suspicion that it won't. Certainly it hasn't so far.
They win elections because they know how to care for enough of the people to win. If it angers you, as it does me, the only way to combat it is to win. No amount of complaining or message sending changes that basic fact.
You may be interested in the research of Page and Gilens, which shows the opposite is true.
Considering Trump's slim vote margin of victory in 2016, this could matter.
Talk of re-opening the economy early instead serves a different constituency: the people who fund much of the recent Republican political program. These are mostly rich individuals who can make idiosyncratic, self-centered decisions. The result is a Republican political machine that pursues the interests of these individuals, even when it means coming into conflict with the interests of their voters.
The reason politicians want to make these funders happy is that, if the politician loses office, these funders are the same people who can set them up with a well-paid gig in the broader political machine. See for example Sarah Palin, who made this work so well that she quit her political job early.
Isn't that the reason for the end of systemic thinking? If it is highly complex, what good is it to focus on managing the system? Why not manage the perception and let evolution run its course?
If Earth was hit by an meteor two weeks ago, or if there was a major earthquake in California, I'm sure we'd see similar blame coming from the media.
Someone that has been warning of meteors or earthquakes for two decades would get on TV and talk about how negligent everyone in power is for ignoring their warnings. Agencies would argue that with more funding they could have responded earlier.
Everyone who already hates Xi Jinping or Trump or Johnson or Pelosi will attach new narratives to their favorite villain blaming them for the event and the response.
Maybe sometimes shit just happens, and we should skip the blame game and focus on improving our response.
The best thing about this story was that it's was self-reflective on the media's 180 on this issue. That's something I don't see often in media. Just four weeks ago all the major media outlets were downplaying everything, and now those same outlets are placing blame for not taking things seriously on everyone but themselves.
COVID-19 has been a looming problem in the US for over six weeks. I personally stocked up on nonperishables four weeks ago when it was clear that government was doing nothing to attempt to control or even just monitor domestic spread, and the blowup was only a matter of when.
Framing this situation as if it just suddenly occurred is preposterous. It only seems that way to people who were asleep or pushing the agenda to stay asleep, much like how a drunk driver thinks whatever they hit just "came out of nowhere".
Many institutions and influential people are jointly and severally responsible for pushing the narrative of denial and inaction. None of them get absolved simply because other ones were doing the same while wearing different team jerseys. And the ones that continue to stonewall, distract, and disrupt deserve the most blame.