Monday, March 16, 2020

Pascal's Wager Applied

     It's a simple grid, a logic chart, two sets of two-value inputs and the outcomes when they are combined.  Let's apply it to SARS-CoV-2 and see how it works out:

1. You stay home if you can, and take precautions if you cannot.  No unnecessary contact.
     A. If the coronavirus is over-hyped, you'll be a little bored.
     B. If the coronavirus is as bad as CDC and WHO say it is, you will not get sick, or at least if you do, the hospitals won't be overloaded.  You won't spread the virus.

2. You live life as usual, 'cos you're tough and brave.
     A. If the coronavirus is over-hyped, you'll do fine.  And hey, no crowds at the bar!
     B. If the coronavirus is as bad as CDC and WHO say it is, you will get sick and you will spread the disease.  Possibly to elderly or otherwise vulnerable family members, who have a much higher chance of death.  If you're over 60, the odds are distressingly high that you may die.

     Choice one or choice two: which one has the worst downside?  I don't know about you, but I'm going to treat this sickness as real.  You can't bluff a virus.  The Johns Hopkins data is convincing.


Unknown said...

In some places, they're even taking away the upside of case 2. Michigan's governor just ordered bars and restaurants to stop in-house dining starting at 3 p.m. today.

I can imagine the arguments, and don't doubt that they are sensible, but it just rubs me wrong that she can 'order' it.

Roberta X said...

As a practical and legal matter, she probably cannot actually order it. But "strongly-worded request" is kind of a subtle concept to get across on a webpage news story or in a two-minute segment of the evening news.

And who wants to be the greasy spoon that stays open and then becomes an epicenter of infection? Their possible downside from not playing along is huge.

If I was running a state or a city and I needed to order bars and restaurants closed, I'd have the Board of Heath (or local equivalent) define them as infectious disease vectors and go from there. Count on existing law already allowing for a 14- or 30-day emergency closure for "Typhoid Mary" situations, and ask yourself just how difficult it would be to get a judge to extend that after a perfectly fair trial. It's better to go along with an "order" that is really a request than to make them make it the real thing and give them a chance to run it past a court.

Eck! said...

The case for that is that under and "emergency order"
it may be legal. Also NYC, Boston, plus others have
done that or stronger as in SFO shelter in place order.

On the other hand as a elder adult it is on my best
interest to take it seriously. I get the flu shot
every year as its bad enough but hasn't killed me
yet but the risk of pneumonia is real. So testing
my immune system is ill advised.

The downside is until there is more understanding of the
behavior of the virus its not if I get it but when.
As there is no vaccine or treatment other than palliative

For those that do not buy in death is a real for this


B said...

I am curious,...I can't find any data to compare one on one with Bird flu/Swine flu.

How do the two compare with corona in lethality and spread on a time basis?

As far as I can tell, the lethality seems to be similar and the spread seems to be somewhat less.

But I can't get decent data to compare well enough to be sure.

Roberta X said...

The contagiousness of this coronavirus seems to be very high. But until we get a better idea of just how widespread it really is, especially the mild or asymptomatic cases, we cannot know how lethal it is in general.

We. Do. Not. Know. Keep an eye on data coming out of South Korea; I think they are the most trustworthy news source and they have run more tests than any place except China. The spread may well be enormous.

Public health response and the real-world effects to the illness tell me this thing is indeed serious and transmission is a major problem.

fillyjonk said...

Doing 1 here, partly because I'm still too young to die (I have asthma) and because, well, I dislike pain and medical interventions even if I were to survive this.

Less selfishly? I don't want to risk spreading it.

On another level: If enough of us voluntarily physically/socially distance, they won't start requiring people to be abroad with "papers," as I hear rumors of happening in Spain. I don't WANT government to control my movements so I'm controlling them myself for now.

I have enough nutritious food (most of it in cans) and books and knitting yarn, as long as I can keep myself psychologically OK I can wait this out.

My university is currently on break. We were told for "faculty only" to return after spring break so we can "pivot" to all online teaching, but I would be unsurprised if even that doesn't happen and we just throw out Spring Semester 2020. I am slightly worried about whether I will have a job in the future if that happens (refunding everyone's tuition could break us), but I suppose that's another worry for another time, when the threats seem less existential.