Friday, January 14, 2022

Predictions, and Having Others Answer Some Questions

I looked over at my own predictions early in 2020 and also some others that I referred to then. The prize has to go to Greg Cochran over at West Hunter who said that because the R-value was not below 1, covid wasn't going away just yet, and the longer it hung on, the more chance for variants.  He mentioned that variants of a new virus were more likely to be significantly worse than variants of a long-established one. So, that is what happened, and what is still happening. Delta was more deadly, and a little more contagious.  Omicron is a lot more contagious, though it still looks less deadly. (Apparently that virus gets stuck in the nostrils and nasal passages more, going less often all the way to the lungs.)

Razib Khan and Spencer Wells both also said that R>1 meant continuing contagion.  I at least noted them and allowed those as "I hope this ain't true" possibilities, but I essentially dismissed them as overly pessimistic. When I accuse people of believing what they would prefer to be true rather than what is true, it's because I have had first-hand experience with this, namely myself. 

I was not completely dismissive of the disease by any means.  I was more on the side that the doomsayers were at least partly right, and there was a lot of death in the room already, and people dismissing this as "just the flu" were already wrong by April 2020, so why were we continuing to even listen to them anymore? I did say in May that we would have over 100,000 deaths by August 1, which was regarded rather skeptically here. I predicted that there would be both overcounts and undercounts of cases and deaths because of the newness. Different places would have different rules, and it would take a while to settle.  Did he die of covid, or of the pneumonia we are pretty sure was caused by covid even though we don't have a confirmed test? (Remembering also that the CDC screwed up some test design, and the FDA worsened that by insisting for a while that was the only one that could be reliably used. I didn't predict that, though.) What about the increase in heart attacks among people who have some of these other symptoms? And household members with covid-like symptoms? Such questions of causality are often present in cause of death, which is why we look at things like excess mortality to sort it out. So I got that one right. I was partly right in predicting that the more precautionary measures worked, the more some people would claim they had never been necessary. I had an early version of that all the way back to March 2020. The related thing that I did not see - largely because I was dismissing the importance of variants - was that many people would treat the variants as equivalents and dismiss differing results of interventions with a wave of the hand*. "Oh, they didn't work." It's infuriating crap, but I have to at least grant that people weren't told that possibility (even probability) very much.  I don't know that many people knew that was happening even as it emerged, nevermind beforehand, so I am not blaming anyone for not making that prediction and hammering it home right from the start. It's just that without that people were going to feel that the rug had been pulled. Rather like wartime. "You said the boys would be home by Christmas!" (Those often were not quite so. Presidents or generals might have said "We hope they'll be home by Christmas," or "We think they'll be home by Christmas." The public may have ignored such.  We should be smart enough to recognise at this point that 1. War is going to cost ten times as much and 2. However well we do at first, enemy is going to adjust, too. We aren't that smart after all. So too when the enemy is disease, apparently. It adjusts.)

I haven't looked at my further predictions as we went along.  I don't remember anything brilliant, and think I was usually overoptimistic but acknowledging caution, and being irritated with people who were entirely dismissive.  Not very helpful really. If any of you remember anything I said that was either prescient or horribly off it's okay to mention it.

Update: While looking for a link I did see some of what i have written over the last two years.  I have repeated myself, but I generally like what I was thinking.


This goes to the problem I mentioned above that the variants changed the landscape dramatically, so treating the last two years as some sort of coherent whole is just wrong. To the people who say "See, the interventions didn't work," I will mention a post I put up last summer, in which someone commenting on a Twitter graph stated that it "proved" we had had this virus under control early, with the implied conclusion "except all those stupid governors opened up their states and created all this further mess." I rejected that logic as well.  While it is possible that this is what happened, it was neither obvious nor conclusive from that data. It was consistent with that data, but that's not the same.

The weakness of the "From covid vs with covid" position. From someone other than me.

Not jumping to conclusions from partial info and what you hope is true.

A suggestion at National Review that because we are all going to get covid anyway, we should abolish restrictions. Same as the previous about jumping to conclusions.

No, that does not follow.  It might be true, but you have to supply more evidence.  I can understand that people might not have the obvious counterarguments occur to them in the first 24 hours. Yet I think professional commenters on national affairs at NRO should do much, much better, but people miss things. Yet after the first responses are in, how do people keep thinking "Well, we don't have to answer that.  Those are just the opinions of silly people?" 

Note also the comment from Tom Bridgeland, a commenter who has more skin in the game than I do - or ever did - last in the thread at this point under the Jan 11 "Just Approximate Numbers" post.

I have mentioned before that people are seeing only a curated version of society because they aren't connected to hospitals. It's the same as not seeing so many things that are real but not out on Main Street: Prisons, the military, night shifts.  We have this tendency to view what we do as "real life," and not notice what we don't notice, even after reminders. I imagine this is a universal trait and long has been. It did occur to me that it's not just people in health care, it is anyone connected to staffing anything. Those may not see covid death much, but they certainly see lots of cases these days. They also have the frustration of not having people who can come in because of quarantine, but they at least see some if it, unlike many of the rest of us. I wondered why my wife and I hear about so many individual cases when we are both retired, and decided it is because we are on prayer chains and are deeply connect to congregational life in general. We hear about people we know, but also many at one remove, of someone's sister with covid in another state and she is carrying for an aged relative, etc. I wonder how much not having that has affected people's perceptions the last two years. 

I do also see the Main Street world and because of prayer chain, hear a lot of people losing jobs and other restriction effects.  I don't know why people would think otherwise. Actually, I do know why.

*Did anyone predict that? Given human nature about lack of effort in thinking and preference for tidy explanations it looks easy in retrospect that piling them all in the same basket for convenience would happen, but I don't recall anyone who actually put that on paper in advance. "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." Niels Bohr (not Yogi Berra)


PenGun said...

I harassed you and your community when this began. You were obviously idiots, and I did my level best to impress you with how serious it was.

That just got me insults, and not particularly original ones as that's not really what you lot do, originality.

So it will be a million dead form this thing in America, and its really your country's fault. Your rather pitiful medical system, and your precious freedoms are to blame.

Delete away, I'm talking to you.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I will let this one stay. Your memory is convenient. You said some accurate things, and always did, about several topics. You just don't have any ability to discuss things with people.

And the part about people being insulting to you is rather humorous.

PenGun said...

I am alone. No one, well no one I have found, has any group I might be part of, as nearly everyone is seriously confused about current events, and even more so when it comes to reality.

So I wander the net picking on idiots for their own good, and generally trying to do light without heat, and failing a lot. ;)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Let me reciprocate by ratcheting down some and suggesting how you might reduce the heat so that people see the light you are offering. You might make a serious attempt at answering people's objections, even if you ultimately decide they are not valid. As an example pertinent to the covid discussion, I several times, here and at Chicago Boyz, that your ragging on American decisions and bragging on Canadian ones - not entirely without merit, as Canada continues to run below 40% of American fatalities - overlooked the geography and variability of the covid rates. Ontario and Quebec, which are much more in the same climates, population density, and culture as their counterparts across the border, were somewhat better but not enormously better than American results. I just checked. Quebec is actually not as good as Vermont and Maine, more like New Hampshire and New York minus NYC metro. Ontario is a bit better, but not that different from the upper Minnesota and upper New York it borders. Toronto's numbers suck, but ar better than Detroit's which is something. The Maritimes are even better than Maine, down to actually Scandinavian levels of infection, and the three northern provinces are likewise very good, even a bit better than Alaska - though AK has enormous shipping traffic through Anchorage and...well, you see. It gets granular. It gets complicated. The other provinces do better than their American counterparts across the border, but how much of that is is complete emptiness to the north compared to the North Central American states having contact with more populated areas to the south. So it's a discussion. And even when you make valid points, you don't get it all.

I did the research and pointed these things out to you several times, without the least acknowledgement of the cold hard facts I brought forward. And then you are shocked and insulted...why? I decided not to bother.

I fully get your point that American focus on freedoms might actually - paradoxically - be a limitation on actions in an emergency, and thus not free in some deeper sense (and even there, I am making the foundational argument for you that you never made yourself). But when you go the next step and say "China did great at this," making the utilitarian argument that we think they had less death, despite the known dishonesty and unreliability of their reporting, I put up with it a few times before finally cutting it off. They locked their own people in particular places with no access to food, medical care, or other necessities. And now they are doing it again. I consider that unconscionable, as would the majority of not only "muh freedom" Americans, but Canadians and the rest of the Anglosphere, Western Europe except for committed Marxists, and even a lot of abused colonials in other places. You can make an argument against the centuries of Western tradition - many have - but it's on you to explain why this sort of mistreatment of your own citizens is a good idea. You would have the utilitarian argument of "fewer dead people" in your favor for openers. But it's on you.

I will post this, and alert a few people whose opinions I respect about tone. If they say to delete it, I will.

Tom Bridgeland said...

I will admit to wholly missing the great fall and winter waves of 2021 to now. I expected a much smaller wave, given the numbers of vaccinated and the numbers of prior infected. I did not believe there were enough remaining vulnerable people to cause the wave we are in now.

I missed the waning vaccination level of protection, and wholly missed the number of reinfections that proved to be possible. This, in spite of having several co-workers who had had COVID twice. So, I am hoping the OMICRON will prove to be the last big wave, but not predicting it will.

Speaking to PenGun, your complaints about the US medical system must surely stem from, to say this gently, a lack of personal experience. Funny how US hospitals near the border are always full of Canadian patients. One has to explain that away, if one is to claim that one system is so surely superior to the other. I must also note that Canada failed to produce even one novel vaccine in this great pandemic. What a shameful failure of the pharma companies and the great universities.