The coronavirus is here to stay for months or years on end. The world is slowly emerging out of the global lockdown. If we can predict what the world will look like and how people’s behaviours will change, we could adapt to the new reality or even become the leaders of the new world.
That’s why I’ve decided to keep on writing quite a lot about COVID-19 in this edition of the newsletter.
🪑The empty-chair economy. Spain is slowly beginning to reopen the country's economy after the lockdown period – they've allowed small shops and services to operate.
It seems that, though, most places will not operate as they used to before the pandemic. Unless we invent a vaccine, the more likely scenario is that we will be living in an "empty-chair" economy: with different shift arrangements in factories, and half-empty buses, trains, or restaurants.
Luis Garicano, a Spanish economist, thinks we will experience a "zombie recovery" throughout the world – a state somewhere between "the situation isn't bad enough to warrant a governmental intervention" and "the situation isn't good enough for the market to grow and operate on its own."
Even in places that have less stringent restrictions, businesses are facing insufficient numbers of customers. This seems like a natural consequence of the pandemic – people are afraid to appear in public spaces, thus they don't really want to go shopping that much. On top of that, many people have lost their jobs, which has compelled them to curb their consumption significantly.
There's a market that's growing fast now, though: plexiglass shields. So many of them are being procured by restaurants, factories, and supermarkets that their producers can't keep up with the demand.
📊Deutsche Bank has published a chart presenting the cumulative worth of all financial aid programmes so far. The current programmes are worth more or less the same as all financial aid programmes run since 1970.
A side note is in order here: we don't really know how much of the funds have already been spent, because the chart is based on what the world's countries have pledged rather than how much they’ve already spent.
🇸🇪Sweden has taken up a different strategy for fighting the virus. They have refrained from instating a full lockdown, instead opting for a system based on trust in their citizens.
The COVID-19 death rate has been 131 per million citizens so far in Sweden, compared with 55 per million in Denmark, 14 per million in Finland, and 13 per million in Poland, which have all introduced significant restrictions.
It seems that Sweden's approach is more of a long-term solution, and reopening the country in Poland might look similar to what's been happening in Sweden.
The virus will remain part and parcel of our lives until we discover a vaccine. The research is well underway, but we won't see the vaccine for the next 12-18 months, optimistically speaking.
🦠We still don't know much about what SARS-CoV-2 really is. Globally, its mortality is 6%, but in Italy it’s amounted to 9%, while in Germany it's as "low" as 3%. The difference is striking.
What we know for sure is that COVID-19 is not another kind of flu. The statistics from Poland show that 61 people died of flu in the 2019-2020 season, while COVID-19 has taken 536 so far (as of 12 May). This means that COVID-19 is almost 10 times as dangerous as the flu.
It seems that the group that's the most vulnerable are the elderly and those who suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular issues, or cancer. Interestingly enough, no data so far have shown that patients suffering from asthma are at a higher risk of being hospitalised.
When we look at smoking, it also doesn't seem to increase the risk of contracting the disease. On the contrary, COVID-19 morbidity among smokers is disproportionately low. French researchers have begun studies aimed at verifying a hypothesis that nicotine lowers the risk of contracting the virus.
A correlation has been spotted between being vaccinated against TB with the BCG vaccine and COVID-19 death rates. In countries such as Poland, where vaccinations against TB have been obligatory, the mortality is almost 50% lower than in Italy, where the vaccinations aren't mandatory.
The proportion of asymptomatic virus carriers has oscillated between 1.2% (China) and 17.9% (the Diamond Princess cruise ship).
🇵🇱According to some simulations run by researchers affiliated with the University of Warsaw, the peak of the pandemic in Poland will occur in July. The number of COVID-19 patients will reach one million by then – provided that the heavy restrictions remain in place. We don't know how many of those infected will not exhibit any symptoms.
📺Researchers from the Becker Friedman Institute have analysed the impact of the information given in America's two most popular talk-shows – Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight – on COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.
It seems that one standard deviation more in the viewership of Hannity (who refused to recognise the seriousness of COVID-19) results in 30-percent higher morbidity and 20-percent higher mortality in comparison to Carlson (who treated COVID-19 seriously).
In a nutshell, what TV hosts say has a large impact on how people behave.
🔍Amazon is the search engine of first choice for people looking for certain products – 49% of buyers start their search on Amazon, compared to only 22% going for Google.
Amazon sells products in two different models: (1) directly or (2) as a platform for independent merchants (similarly to Allegro in Poland).
Amazon also sells their own private label products, which compete against their counterparts produced by different manufacturers. Every retailer has their own private label products, and Amazon is no exception here.
When asked by the Congress whether they use the data about purchases with independent merchants to optimise the sales of their private label products, Amazon stated that they did no such thing. Independent merchants treat their data as their property.
It turned out, however, that Amazon's employees used those data on a regular basis, for instance, to find optimal pricing for private label products. This makes for ethical and business trouble for Amazon: you just can't trust them.
Amazon as a platform stands in direct competition against its own users, i.e. the merchants. It seems like a good time for other companies to try and poach those merchants. Since 2018, Google has been doing just that together with Shopify. The most recent addition to this strategy is the option for adding products (for free) directly to the Shopping section of the search engine.
⚡️In 1985, the year I was born, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev started an international initiative to build an International Experimental Thermonuclear Reactor (ITER).
The work on ITER has been carried out since 1988, with 35 countries taking part in the initiative – with the reactor itself being built in France. The plan is to start the reactor in 5 years' time and for it to reach nuclear fusion in 2035.
Nuclear fusion is our chance to have a source of unlimited and clean energy.
🎭Damien Hirst's net worth today is about 300 million dollars, which makes him the richest artist in the UK, and one of the richest painters and sculptors in the world.
In the interview, Hirst speaks about what it's like to create as much as he does, sell art worth tens of millions of dollars during a single weekend, and establish a company that "produces art" and then radically downsize when the hype for Hirst subsided.
🗣A thread on Hacker News and Twitter about the ideas that changed people's lives. People have mentioned Nonviolent Communication or Inversion, which means creating anti-goals for yourself, e.g. "I'm not going to eat sweet stuff" instead of saying "I'm going to eat more healthy food".
People also talk about the situation when our taste is much more developed than our creative abilities and we're always dissatisfied with what we make (according to the author, this is normal when people start to learn how to create).