maxbarry.com
Wed 23
Jun
2021

Australia and the Pandemic

What Max Reckons There’s a Brian Aldiss series of novels about a planet that has 500-year-long seasons, and ahead of each great winter, people get attacked by a virus called the Fat Death, which makes them gain a ton of weight, or else die, or else first one then the other. It’s actually symbiotic, because the virus allows the survivors to make it through the coming cold years, but the people don’t know that, so try their best to avoid it. Each cycle, a few pockets of smart-alecs manage to stave off the virus to remain slim and healthy and smug, but if they’re successful, they realize they’re skinny weirdos who can’t hang out with anyone.

Australia is that pocket of skinny weirdos.

It turns out that when you’re very successful at keeping COVID out of your country, you don’t feel a real urgency to get vaccinated. Only 4% of Australia is fully vaccinated so far, and a sizable chunk of the rest seem reluctant to be injected with something to protect them from a virus that isn’t really present around here.

This is an interesting situation to me because it involves people doing good things that lead to bad outcomes. (I also like the reverse situation, when bad things will lead to good outcomes.) Plus it comes with a big dollop of human inability to assess risk, which is a fascinating topic that I’ve written and spoken about before (essay, video). People are terrible at risk. We’re the evolutionary result of a biological system that prioritized fast decisions over correct ones, which was fine when the risk was saber-toothed tigers, but less fine when it’s blood clots.

We’re instinctively happier with risks that are the result of our own actions, such as swimming in a dangerous current or driving a car, than risks imposed on us by outside forces. And we especially hate risks that are new. We like to classify things into simple categories, with the result that a lot of people now believe driving to a medical center would be perfectly safe, but getting a vaccine there would be dangerous.

I’m not sure how Australia plans ever to open its borders. So long as they remain shut tight, there’s a low enough risk of catching COVID that for many people, it will be treated as zero. And a vaccine that presents any risk at all, however small, will be seen as dangerous.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Bec (#4091)

Posted: 158 days ago

Whilst I agree with you about the awkward situation we are now in, I think the large majority of people I know are happy to get vaccinated and want the borders opened as soon as possible. From what I have seen this is especially true for anyone under the age of 50.

If our government wanted us to all be vaccinated quickly we would have seen incentives to do so, like in America or Europe, in Australia we've barely even seen advertising promoting the vaccine. All advertisements here are talking about how the risks, rather the benefits of the vaccine. Other countries, like France, Singapore and NZ have been using emotive ads to motivate people.

Given they couldn't even get the most vulnerable people vaccinated in the first roll-out I don't think the responsibility rests completely with the Australian public. For a prime minister who is known for his marketing background, he's missed a golden opportunity here.


towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 158 days ago

On the plus side, once Australia opens it's border and cases start to grow exponentially again, it will be very easy to buy a lot of vaccines, because the rest of the world isn't competing for them anymore.
So thanks Australia, for letting us get vaccines first. Even if it probably wasn't intentional.

1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 157 days ago

I'm not sure if you're read this but I do encourage you to, if not.

www.goodreads.com/book/show/11382184-the-optimism-bias
or
www.ted.com/talks/tali_sharot_the_optimism_bias?language=en

It made the world fall into place for me, the realist, and why I hate (yeah, hate) the irrational stupidity that is the average human.

How does this relate to your post? Risk. The inability to assess risk in the GFC was, in part, contributed to over optimistic behaviour.

Now I'll go and watch your video but cannot read the document; no MS Word.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 157 days ago

@1001.0010.0101 there are online word readers. The first one I tried didn't work, but products.aspose.app/words/editor does.

1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 157 days ago

@towr - Thank you.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 157 days ago

Sorry, I don't have Word either, but that's what people always seem to ask for.

"Risk" by me in other formats:

Ebook:
maxbarry.com/misc/risk-max-barry-20090925.epub

Open Document:
maxbarry.com/misc/risk-max-barry-20090925.odt

Merni (#8296)

Quote: "nope"
Posted: 157 days ago

@towr: "it will be very easy to buy a lot of vaccines, because the rest of the world isn't competing for them anymore." If your idea of the rest of the world is America, China and some parts of Europe, then yes. Otherwise, as expected, most of the developing world is still lagging far behind on vaccines. (It will probably be easier for Australia to compete against, say, Angola than against the US and EU though.)

1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 156 days ago

@Max - Thank you for sharing this. I wish I had found it earlier in time.

Not ashamed to admit it's the first thing of yours I have read. Reading is difficult and those "next thirty minutes" for me was about 140.

Risk for me was walking away from a decades long computing career in 2013 to be my mother's full time carer. It was easy to predict then that the decision was career ending. The role ended in August 2019 and nearly every attempt to return to full time employment since has been complicated by the lack of current and recent work based referees. Adding to this problem is the view by many that once a person reaches 50+ years of age they are automatically redundant.

In 2009 shortly before you wrote the essay I had disposed of all my security in the world. The major assets like property. This earlier excursion into the world of risk was driven by a realisation that I had all these things for no reason. I was already happy with just being alive so in the absence of a relationship and/or family of my own I felt a need to abandon the fear of loss by losing everything the television told me I needed. The 6 figure bank balance was a monster I needed to destroy because it wasn't making me happy, nor did it make my Brother happy.

As of today I have $644 in the bank and I am the least bit concerned about the future because I know if I were to become homeless, I'd be good at it too like every other thing I turn my lack of fear towards. I say 'were' because just last week I have managed to secure a meaningful new role supporting those that struggle with the world.

Aside from that good fortune, I was prepared to go it hard because it aligns with my general personal view about a purpose in life and that is, to conquer fears. After all, we are born with a preloaded fear of death and to conquer that is in itself probably the greatest achievement of all, whatever the means of exit.

I say that because in 2004 I stood in front of the 'audience' at my Brother's funeral and began the eulogy with two words, "Well done!" The crowd was aghast! Max was well loved in the community as a entertainer and proprietor of a popular restaurant. But 7 years earlier he lost the love of his life and despite a committed effort to assimilate to how we're meant to deal with loss as dictated by others, and a lack of offspring, he said goodbye on his terms in the hope of reuniting with her. Risk be damned! I'm proud of him for it.

Matthew (#6407)

Location: Perth
Posted: 156 days ago

@1001.0010.0101

There's also LibreOffice, which opens almost all word files well.

1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 156 days ago

@Matthew - Thank you.

Nalini (#7120)

Location: Canberra
Quote: "Geeks will inherit the Galaxy"
Posted: 144 days ago

Well this post dated well didn't it? We've now got the Hunger Games of vaccines and people are bitching about not being able to get an appointment or waiting a month or more (for me it is a month) while others are suggesting incentives... for people to accept non-existent vaccines.

In principle I agree with you about risk assessment etc. However, when an elite Sydney school manages to get 163 of its students vaccinated because someone "made a mistake" that allowed 163 parents/guardians to sign consent forms and get their precious little darlings the rolls royce vaccine while people in 1a and 1b can't get a vaccine, Australia has bigger problems than vaccine hesitancy.

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