Trading Made Us Lazy

This week I was listening to an interview by Tucker Carlson. He was interviewing Peter Walker, an ex-executive at Mckinsey & Company, a world famous consulting firm. In the interview, Carlson primarily questions Parker about his praise for the CCP and whether he regrets Mckinseys role in de-industrializing America. Mckinsey & Company has a reputation for advising businesses to relocate manufacturing over-seas, this strategy can decrease costs and increase profits. In addition to Carlson interview with Parker, the cultural atmosphere has changed. Many people are are upset that Americas industrial capacity has been handicapped, and this got me thinking about Peter Thiels critique about innovation and technological progress.

In numerous interview across the World Wide Web, Peter Thiel asserts that technological progress has stalled in America. Of course he is not referring to computer and digital technology, but the physical world around us. Thiel often illustrates his point by asking listeners to think about a bedroom or living form the 1970’s. Aside from extra screens like phones and computers, there has not been much transformation in the physical world. He further illustrates the point by contrasting differences in the physical world from the 1920’s – 1970’s, and the 1970’s – 2010’s. Thiel points out that radical physical transformation across the country had taken place throughout the last one hundred years, but we have not seen the same radical physical transformation in the last fifty years.

While reading Thiels book Zero To One , he noted the that in the modern world economic growth primarily comes from technological innovation and globalization. Innovation creates new industries and production capacities previously unavailable. With innovation we can develop new types of energy production, access new types of energy, create products that were impossible before, and radically expand economic capacity. Some examples of this would be the combustion engine, cars, techniques to manufacture stronger metals, airplanes, and computers. On the other hand, growth through globalization does not rely on radical new invention but on trade, it takes ideas and technology from one part of the world and brings them to another.

We have all heard the saying “necessity is the mother of invention.” In our modern world, globalization may have killed Americans perception of “necessity. I believe Thiel is correct, that radical physical change has not been occurring, and that it is because of our reliance on globalization.

Over the last fifty years production and consumption have become global. Therefore, companies can see growth by producing in one place and selling in another. This has created many cheap products for Americans. We have cheap goods of all types. Walk into a Walmart and you will find a plethora of inexpensive toys, clothes, and gadgets. Also in America, if you cannot afford something nice like a new car or house, it is easy to get credit. In America it has become relatively “easy” to acquire many of our modern conveniences, so where is the necessity? The necessity for companies and individuals to innovate new industries is not so high when they can continually market cheap new gadgets and toys at low costs. As long as Americans can pay for the new toys and gadgets or take out loans, the economy keeps on moving. However, since the low-cost production strategy has now put America in a bad strategic position with China, globalized economic growth is at risk. And as the economic crisis brought on upon America by the CCP virus unfolds, we may be forced to create economic growth through new physical innovation, not merely through creating and trading new and marginally interesting gadgets.

Debunking The Origin Of The Coronavirus

When the CCP Virus began spreading in January, people across the internet pointed out the existence of a virology lab in Wuhan, China. There were videos and pictures pinpointing a lab in china using publicly available data, and people were raising the possibility that the virus originally came from a lab and not a wet market. In addition to “internet investigators”, Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas was shown in a viral video noting the existence of a bio-safety, level-four lab, in Wuhan that should be investigated. In the video Senator Cotton alleges that Chinese scientist work on many deadly viruses, including coronavirus.

After Senator Cotton made the claim back in January, news outlets around the world began “debunking” the Senator, and anyone else who questioned the origin of the virus.

shown above is a headline from Business Insider(BI). The BI article asserts that Senator Cottons CCP Virus claims were “debunked”. BI also conflates Senator Cottons statements about the bio-safety lab with the “bio-weapon” theory. Therefore when Senator Cotton said we should investigate the bio-safety lab, the mainstream media made the statements about “bio-weapons” instead. According to the BI’s own article, Senator Cotton never mentions “bio-weapon”, see the screenshot below.

In addition to Business Insider running cover stories for China, The Financial Times and Science Magazine did the same. The Financial Times ran an article stating “Coronavirus was not genetically engineered in Wuhan lab”. Once again, a large media platform deflected questions away from the origin of the virus to whether or not it was genetically modified. This trick has been constantly used to discredit people who question the origin of the virus. When people ask questions about the Wuhan bio-safety lab or China CDC lab, attention is deflected to genetic engineering. Since “experts show” the virus was not “genetically engineered”, the claim that the virus was natural occurring, but may have been accidentally leaked from a lab is usually disregarded as well.

Below is an article from Science Magazine debunking “rumors” about the origin of the virus.

This is a quote form the article –

“A group of 27 prominent public health scientists from outside China is pushing back against a steady stream of stories and even a scientific paper suggesting a laboratory in Wuhan, China, may be the origin of the outbreak of COVID-19″

The vast majority of articles discrediting the leaked virus theory came out from January through March. However, since the medias initial campaign to debunk the leaked virus theory, a different story has begun to emerge. Remember earlier how Business Insider “debunked” Senator Cottons theory about the virus origin? Two months later, they are running headlines speculating the virus may have come from a lab.

It only took two months for Business Insider to essentially reverse their initial stance that the virus was not leaked from a lab. Here is another article from the Washington Post, they discuss how the virus could have accidentally been leaked.

It is astonishing how media convinced millions of people the virus could not have been leaked from a lab, only to reverse course months later. I have seen many arguments breakout between friends on social media over the origins of the virus. Most arguments were fueled by naive trust in media to convey truth. This blind trust in media has been substituted for critical thinking. The CCP Virus is tricky and hard to understand, and you cannot trust mainstream media to help you. They will be months behind the curve, just as were for telling people to wear masks. To stay ahead of the CCP Virus, read, think critically, and trust your instincts.

Getting Back To The Future

It is now April 12th, and many parts of America are still “locked-down” because of the CCP Virus. I put lock-down in quotes because I am not sure about the best way to categorize what is happening in America. Most State Governors have issued “Stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders, but the level of legal consequence varies widely across states and localities. Nevertheless, businesses around the country have been closed, gone out of business, or are barely hanging on through delivery services. Martial Arts schools, concerts, dances, are shutting their doors. Since March, 16 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, but society is looking for the next steps to take. How do we get out of this mess?

When we can move out of our homes and back to work is proving to be an impossible task to predict. Though I am seeing two schools of thought emerging. One side believes governors should immediately lift “Shelter in place” orders and allow people to go back to work. The other approach is to create a system of identifying infected people and separating them from others.

First lets look at the immediately lifting “shelter in place” orders. The logic behind this position is based on the perceived severity of the CCP Virus, and damage to the economy. Since many places outside of New York are not experiencing outbreaks and hospitalizations with similar severity, people are questioning the need the for lock-downs across the country. Proponents of immediately lifting “shelter in place” orders believe they will not experience much local disruption if the virus spreads, and assume they can handle the burden that arises. Additionally and most importantly, people are growing increasingly nervous about the economy. At first glance it may seem callous to worry about the economy when lives are stake, but medicine and economics are interlinked. It’s obvious that hospitals need money to run, and people need money to pay. Drivers delivering medicine and much needed PPE need fuel, food, etc. these supplies require a supply chain of people to work. Therefore a functioning economy is necessary for vital systems to remain functioning. There is also a growing concern about millions of Americans being pushed into poverty, with livelihoods being destroyed which may cause more deaths. The implications of staying locked down are legitimate, but all options must be explored.

Another way to begin re-opening the economy is to identify and create virus-free zones, then separate regions by whether or not they have the virus. In the virus-free zones, called green zones, people could work at full capacity(theoretically). Overtime as people recovered and developed antibodies to the virus, they could go to work, and overtime turn red zones into greener zones(or yellow). Simultaneously, as red, yellow, and green zones are being established, newly infected persons would need to quarantine and allow for contact tracing. People that were identified through contact tracing would need to quarantine as well, to maintain green zones.

I am currently in favor of the second option. I would like to see green zones identified where people can immediately get to work without fear of the virus. Overtime we can expand green zones, track and trace the sick, and decrease the size of red zones. This options seems it would mitigate the disease burden, while allowing economic activity to resume, but there are obstacles to achieving these zones.

One of the biggest obstacles is testing. To determine who has antibodies, we need testing on a massive scale. It appears we do not have infrastructure in place to take care of this scale of testing. We also need testing for the virus on a massive scale. In addition to testing for the virus and antibodies, we need the ability to isolate infected people and trace contacts. While self-isolation is the most viable option in America, we have to figure out how to trace at scale. There are numerous ideas being thrown around, including Google and Apple developing systems to alert people if they have been in contact with someone who is infected. Obviously privacy concerns come into play with technology and contact tracing. However, another problem is how to maintain green and red zones.

People have been floating the idea of providing certificates or “papers” to certify that a person has antibodies to the virus or has been tested. This would allow green zones to prohibit entry to people who do not have antibodies or people who are infected. Practically speaking this seems like an obvious strategy. Though when dealing with a country like America, we must respect civil liberties, so these ideas must not be taken lightly.

Which strategy we choose remains unclear, though peoples impatience and institutional incompetence are pushing Americans towards option one: opening up the economy without a mitigation strategy. If we go down this path, people should prepare for more deaths locally. People should also be prepared to isolate themselves or their families independently of government or social decree. This is a critical time to educate yourself, and push for the future you want.

How Reliable Is Flu Data?

As the CCP Virus (Coronavirus) continues to infect the world, infection and death rates are going up at an exponential rate. As of writing this, the United States has seen over 7,400 deaths in nearly two weeks. However, as Americans continue to “shelter in place” the future remains unclear. When will this be over, and how damaging will the virus truly be?

Screenshot of current death and infection statistics 4/4/2020

To answer the question about how bad this virus will be, we are looking at estimates. The current estimates for the total number of deaths are between 100 ,000 – 240,000. However, many people have been questioning the various models and projections coming out of CDC. For example, Mike Cernovich has rightly been pressing the issue of model accuracy while maintaining that this virus is dangerous.

Additionally Neil Ferguson, an Epidemiologist from Imperial College London, has come under fire for “revising” his estimates about the projected coronavirus deaths. Though Ferguson maintains that his revisions were still inline with his previous estimates, assuming countries (UK) took extreme mitigation efforts.

Experts, business people, techies, and more are beginning to ask hard and serious questions about the CCP Virus models. These models are currently holding hundreds of millions of people hostage, and we have a right know what’s going on, but how much trust should place in these models?

All the talk of models and assumptions made me curious about the flu data: exactly how accurate are annual flu infections and deaths? This year many people wrote off the potential damage from the CCP Virus based off “60,000 people died last year from the flu, it’s no big deal.” Considering the impact coronavirus is having in America, and that the death toll in the U.S. is officially 7,400, did 60,000 people really die of the flu last year?

According to the CDC’s website , there were an ESTIMATED 34,157 deaths from the flu between 2018 – 2019. There is a range of death estimates from 26,000 – 52,000. I capitalized “estimated”, because these are not recorded deaths. In fact, the recorded deaths from the flu are likely considerably lower, since the according to the CDC, they use a multiplier to account for non-documented deaths that “should” be attributed to the flu. Before going into death rates, lets dig in to how the flu hospitalizations and illnesses are tabulated.

Below is how the CDC calculates hospitalizations. The CDC “assumes under-detection of influenza” and therefore must make an “adjustment” to find the accurate numbers. The under-detection has various reasons, one of which is the “average sensitivity of influenza tests.” We will come back to this later. Though it should be noted: influenza tests may not be sensitive enough to pick up all influenza infections.

In addition to test in-sensitivities and limited geographical flu testing, actual flu data for a given year can lag up to two years. Therefore the CDC uses data from earlier seasons to make estimates for current seasons. While I cannot debate the efficacy of the CDC flu estimates by directly looking at their models, these “assumptions” , “estimates”, and lack of “test sensitivity” make me very suspicious about the accuracy of CDC flu numbers.

Lets move on to how the CDC estimates flu illnesses in the America.

The CDC extrapolates total illness based on hospitalizations and how many people sought “medical care for an influenza-like illness.” based on a 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. What on earth is an “influenza-like illness?” Is it wise to base flu illness off of a survey? Surveys require people to use their memories to answer questions, we know memories are not good guides to providing hard and reliable data. Additionally, people can experience fevers, coughs, congestion, headaches, etc. for many illnesses besides the flu, this survey seems weak, and should be investigated.

When looking at flu deaths, the CDC uses a model to estimate a ratio of deaths to hospitalizations(which is already estimated), After making “adjustments” they look at death certificates and estimate flu “related” deaths because they don’t all occur in the hospital. The CDC may also include data from people who died of pneumonia and other respiratory and circulatory causes. Once again, these estimates seem a bit suspect in their accuracy.

Lets see why the CDC doesn’t just count death certificates of people who died from influenza.

The CDC may count people who died of pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in their flu death estimates. Many deaths in America are being estimated as flu-related, yet these estimates cannot be verified . The CDC makes these estimates because they are confident the flu is under-reported. How does the CDC know the flu is under-reported? Because the “virus is only detectable for a limited number of days after infection.” , thus many people who actually have the flu may come up negative for the flu infection. This is why the CDC discusses “test sensitivity” in one of their many reasons for using various “estimates” and “adjustments” to calculate flu illness and hospitalization.

Finally we can look at admitted limitations of “Influenza Burden Estimates”, according to CDC.

First off, the CDC acknowledges that hospitalizations are based on reporting, and hospitalization reports are refined over-time as more data is collected.

Second, in-hospital flu deaths are adjusted based on flu testing rates and the test sensitivities( which are suspect). However, during current seasons CDC isn’t aware of “testing practices”, therefore they use data from prior seasons, then CDC “updates” their estimates when more data arrives about “testing practices”.

Third, CDC estimates of illness, medical visits, and hospitalizations may not be accurate ” if patterns of care-seeking have changed.” But I’m sure the CDC is constantly searching the United States to examine peoples behavior, so nothing to worry about.

Fourth, CDC deaths for current seasons may be estimated from prior seasons if current data isn’t available. And their models use “frequency of influenza-associated deaths that have cause of death related to pneumonia or influenza (P&I), other respiratory or cardiovascular (other R&C), or other non-respiratory, non-cardiovascular (non-R&C) to account for deaths occurring outside of a hospital by cause of death.”

Fifth, currently CDC uses statistical methods to calculate the influenza burden that cannot be compared to years before 2009. So you cannot compare current flu illness, visits, etc… to years prior to 2009, because the models have changed.

At this point the limitations of flu data coming from the CDC should be obvious. There are many assumptions about how flu illness, medical visits, hospitalizations and death are calculated, these assumption should be constantly reviewed and updated, are they being constantly reviewed? The underlying assumptions about the flu are extremely important today, as many people used flu statistics to dismiss the danger of the CCP Virus. In addition to dismissing CCP Virus dangers, many people are currently confused about how deaths from the CCP Virus are calculated, and skeptics believe we are over counting deaths because some patience already had underlying conditions(possibly severe). However as noted above, many people with heart and lung problems, who have never tested positive for the flu, are counted as flu-related deaths every year. Therefore while questioning the validity of data and modeling about the CCP Virus, we should also take a look back at the flu, and maybe even CDC.