What Will Normal Look Like?

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Apr 1, 2020

Filed under: Random 206 comments

I am so far untouched by the Coronavirus. To my knowledge, I haven’t been exposed. Nobody in my friends and family has it, or is worried they might have it. I’m not impacted by any shortages. My job of making content for the internet is as secure as ever. The only direct impact this has on my life is that my wife’s main job is on hiatus. That sucks, but I gather we’re doing okay by the standards of a state-wide shutdown. My only real concern right now is with what’s happening to other people.

It’s April first, but I’m not in the mood for making joke posts. Instead, I just want to blather about what’s going on. It’s fine if you skip this. Unlike most of my content, this isn’t designed to entertain. I’m making this post because the writing process is therapeutic, and this is what my brain wants to think about right now.

Living in Interesting Times

This is a depressing topic, so I'm going to lighten the mood with some fun pixel art screenshots.
This is a depressing topic, so I'm going to lighten the mood with some fun pixel art screenshots.

I’m 48 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Over my lifetime I’ve gotten used to the rhythmic nature of disasters. Oh look: It’s another hurricane, another war, another terrorist attack, another economic downturn, another plane crash, another wave of drug abuse. Horrible things happen and people die, but deep down there’s still a sense of order. “This too shall pass.” We have a sense of how to respond to these sorts of things and we can usually make a pretty good guess about how long it’ll take for the world to get back to normal.

But this time? I have no idea. This is all new to me.

Sometime in the last couple of daysIt was probably sometime on Monday. we crossed the threshold where the number of COVID-19 deaths in the USA exceeded the death toll of 9/11. And as bad as that is, we know that things are just getting started.

Even the lowest, most optimistic projections predict that COVID-19 will kill 30× more people than 9/11And that’s just in the USA! Globally, things are looking even worse.. And yet there are still large numbers of people out there who think this is no big deal.

At this point an article would normally transition into the “blame, outrage, and finger-pointing” section. Maybe I’d rant about various world leaders and blame them for being unprepared. Maybe we could fling some blame at reckless people who continue to endanger themselves and others with large public gatherings. Maybe we could indulge in a little indignation over the liars and fools that have been spreading misinformation that compounds the problem.

But I don’t want to do that. One, it would violate the no-politics rule. Two, that argument would be unproductive. Three, the internet is already thick with that sort of thing. Fourth and most importantly: I really don’t care to read the resulting discussion, much less moderate it.

So instead of asking “How did we get here and who should we blame?”, let’s jump ahead six months, or a year, or two years. The question on my mind right now is, “What will the new normal look like?”

What Will Change?

Okay, this is a depressing spooky graveyard and it's not doing much to cheer me up, but you have to admit I'm an AMAZING groundskeeper.
Okay, this is a depressing spooky graveyard and it's not doing much to cheer me up, but you have to admit I'm an AMAZING groundskeeper.

What kind of changes will this make to culture? What will life be like once the virus has passed, burned out, or been defeated?

By necessity, I’m going to focus on North America right now. I don’t understand other cultures enough to make predictions outside of USA / Canada, and the fog of war is pretty thick these days.

Here are a bunch of completely unsubstantiated predictions / guesses:

1. We’ll see a renewed interest in prepper culture. 

I knew a lot of folks who grew up during the Great DepressionThey’re all gone now, alas. who went on to be irrationally frugal. Even when they were flush with cash and the economy was booming, they would still haggle over pennies with the cashier and spend a bunch of time hunting down, cutting out, sorting, and applying coupons. They’d treat morsels of leftovers as precious, and mend out-of-style clothing rather than putting down a few bucks for something fresh and new. Likewise, I suspect this mess will leave an impression on people down the line. In the future, some people with the means and the space will probably keep a few months of non-perishables around in case this happens again. A few people will go overboard and build bunkers full of guns and toilet paper, but for the most part this change will manifest as people subconsciously keeping a reserve of essential items.

If another wave hits in the next few years, I think we’ll adapt better. This time everyone went nuts and bought ridiculous piles of toilet paper. Most of these people bought TP because that’s what everyone else was buying. They didn’t know what they’d need, so they followed the herd.

Right now there’s some poor bastard sitting on a mountain of toilet paper who would kill for a cup of coffee and some Pepto-Bismol. Somewhere there’s a woman trying to bake for her family with four gallons of spoiled milk and no sugar or butter. These upcoming weeks of isolation will do a pretty good job of teaching people what they actually need and how to plan for these situations.

2. Working from home will be far more common than it was before COVID-19. 

Most people will still have to leave the house to work, but a small chunk of the population will continue telecommuting. Companies will like the idea of maintaining less total office space, as well as the peace of mind that comes from having fewer people walking around coughing and sneezing all over the equipment and each other.

Workers will enjoy not having a commute. Commuters will enjoy the slight reduction in traffic and crowding on public transit. Everyone will enjoy an overall reduction in the spread of common seasonal illnesses.

This shift has been a long time in coming. All the way back in 1999 I was wondering why so many analysts and programmers needed to congregate all the time.

It won’t be instant, but this is probably the first step in a generation-long shift regarding work attitudes. At the dawn of the 20th century, people had to adjust from working on farms to working in factories. The change was slow on an individual scale, even though it looks rapid in hindsight. We’re probably at the start of a similar shift.

3. We’re going to be a lot better at remote collaboration.

Related to the previous one: Over the next few months we’re going to work out the protocols and etiquette for how to properly work from home.

Setting up a video conference has a lot more overhead and social friction than popping your head into Alan’s office and asking him to explain Project Foo or the whatsit system to you. We’ll need to work out how to exchange information without turning the workday into a never-ending deluge of video calls.

How do you know if someone is working or goofing off? Will we still require professional clothing, or are people going to be attending video meetings in their pajamas? What about people stuck in an office? Will those folks enjoy a less restrictive dress code to help balance things with the people working from home? How much privacy are we willing to give up to work from homeI’m already hearing stories about companies openly putting spyware-type stuff on the machines you take home.? Are people willing to allow their employer to see a live feed at all times, or to see what applications are running? Is eating okay during a meeting? Are we going to adapt our meeting protocol now that our faces are on a grid and we’re no longer having a meeting around a table?

How about a cremation? Is that cheering anyone up? No?
How about a cremation? Is that cheering anyone up? No?

4. More retailers are going to starve.

This was bound to happen eventually, but this outbreak is going to hasten the process. A lot of older folks have been shopping at stores because that’s how they’ve been getting household goods for the last 50 years and that’s what they’re used to. A lot of these people are creating their first Amazon.com account this week. When this is over, a lot of those people are going to find they prefer ordering stuff on their phone rather than driving to the mall.

Some goods will be safe from this, of course. Shipping frozen and refrigerated goods to residential locations is still really expensive, so we’ll probably still go to the store for milk, meat, veggies, etc. Likewise, really big purchases (furniture and appliances) are probably better suited to the old showroom paradigm. Shopping for kids still requires trying stuff on because the little runts grow so dang fast, so clothing retail ought to be mostly okay.

But for electronics, dry goods, toys, personal care products, tools, kitchenware, and a thousand other non-perishable things, the future of shopping is going to be online.

5. People will take this shit seriously in the future.

Right now lots of people have the mindset that this is all overblown. They shrug and say, “It’s so nice out today. I’m going to the beach. If I get it, I get it.” They haven’t yet internalized the danger of the situation.

To a certain extent, I understand why they feel this way. In terms of living human experience, this has never happened beforeBecause the last time it happened was in 1920 and everyone that experienced it is long dead.. It’s a very odd quirk, but people – particularly young people – sort of take the current status quo for granted. The world has been one way for their entire lives, and it sort of feels like it’ll always be that way.

Newton posited the theory of gravity in 1687. One of the implications of universal gravitation was that all stars must therefore be falling towards each other OR be flying apart – a universe of stationary stars is simply not possible. However, it took hundreds of years before people seriously considered this, because it’s natural to assume that the current state of things is the natural and inevitable state of things. If those smarty-pants scientists got bamboozled by this line of thinking, what chance do the rest of us have in forming coherent models of the world around us?

Also, in the west we’re pretty used to hearing about terrible disasters around the world: Ebola outbreaks, SARS, out-of-control HIV. This stuff doesn’t generally impact the average person in the anglosphere, so I imagine there’s a certain attitude of “It can’t happen here”, even though pathogens don’t give a damn about national borders.

Making things worse is that the threat of COVID-19 is completely invisible until it finally gets around to trying to kill you. Aside from the empty streets, the world looks so normal.

The final thing that’s tripping people up is that this pandemic requires us to take the media seriously. The problem is that the media is ALWAYS making dire predictions and gravitating towards far-out worst-case predictions. This recession will be the worst! This snowstorm will be the worst! This product recall is a huge deal and this object might kill your children at any second! Maybe terrorists are trying to kill you right now! Maybe you have cancer! YOU ARE ALWAYS IN PERIL SO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T STOP WATCHING WHILE WE CUT TO COMMERCIAL.

So the quadruple-whammy here is:

  1. You need to believe that yes, something New and Different really is happening in  the world…
  2. …even though you’re in the First World and this sounds like a Third World disaster and…
  3. …despite the fact that you can’t see it, you have to somehow accept that…
  4. …the media is actually right this time, despite their long history of making mountains out of molehills.

Here is the donkey that brings me dead bodies in exchange for carrots. He can talk, but we don't really get along.
Here is the donkey that brings me dead bodies in exchange for carrots. He can talk, but we don't really get along.

This is a lot to overcome, but I imagine this is a problem that COVID-19 is about to solve for us, one way or another. Things look normal on the streets and in your living room, but if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself inside a hospital then it’s going to feel like you’re witnessing the end of the world. Once a couple hundred thousand or so people die, the skeptics will get the idea. They’ll see celebrities die. They’ll probably know someone who died / nearly died. Some of them will get sick themselves and discover that no, this isn’t actually “just another flu”.

Word will get around, and thinking will change. This change is happening already, it’s just frustratingly slow. The full force of COVID-19 is due to land in a month or soAgain, in my part of the world. For you it may be ongoing, or it might be a few months away., and it’s about to make a lot of people into believers.

Once society overcomes this mental block, people will be ready to take this seriously. If COVID-26 comes knocking in a few years, I imagine people will be a lot better about staying put and taking proper precautions.

6. Hobbies and habits will change.

People are turning to non-social hobbies like movies and videogames. In some cases, these new habits will stick and we’ll wind up with slightly more electronic entertainment and slightly less of whatever it is people do when they leave the house. I’m not an expert in this area.

Also, I wonder if everyone isn’t going to be a bit more germaphobic in the future. I was already a germaphobe before this happened. I always washed my hands when coming home and I’m big on defending my personal space in public. I imagine lots of other people will adopt similar unconscious habits.

Also, I wonder if handshakes aren’t going to be phased out as the default greeting with strangers. I’m sure old-timers like me will continue to shake hands, but maybe the younger generation will adopt a no-touchy greeting that will gradually displace the handshake. I notice cons like PAX adopted the “elbow bump” greeting years ago to help control the spread of garden-variety illnesses. Maybe something like that will catch on.

Wrapping Up

This was a bad idea and I'm bad at cheering people up.
This was a bad idea and I'm bad at cheering people up.

We’re not going to return to the old normal, but sooner or later we’re going to get used to some new thing that we’ll eventually call “normal”. I’ve made my guesses about what that would look like. I imagine they’re wildly off-base and narrowly focused on my corner of the world, but I’m a habitual shut-in trying to extrapolate from current events due to a looming sense of anxiety.

At any rate, I think it’s easier to imagine what life will be like in a year than it is to imagine what life will be like in a month. We’re entering some very uncertain times. Stay safe. I worry about you folks and I hope we all make it through this.



[1] It was probably sometime on Monday.

[2] And that’s just in the USA! Globally, things are looking even worse.

[3] They’re all gone now, alas.

[4] I’m already hearing stories about companies openly putting spyware-type stuff on the machines you take home.

[5] Because the last time it happened was in 1920 and everyone that experienced it is long dead.

[6] Again, in my part of the world. For you it may be ongoing, or it might be a few months away.

From The Archives:

206 thoughts on “What Will Normal Look Like?

  1. defaultex says:

    The point you mention about how much people will allow others to see in a video conference kind of setup worries me most looking forward. We have given up a LOT of privacy and gained a lot of invaluable services as a result. Something like this is definitely going to increase just how much has to shift outside of our bubbles of privacy. Not worried of any laws that’ll force us to put more out but just the social ramifications. Imagine refusing to give out your home address, none of my employers ever sent me anything in the mail, so why give them my address yet if I deny it then I’m denied the job. That’s the type of thing that worries me. Hell my mom still rants about people putting their kids on Facebook, I happen to agree most of the time but if you didn’t do that and had a Facebook account how long do you think it would be before your defending yourself against child abuse claims based on the fact you dont’ show such pictures on your Facebook but have 20 you just posted from a party two nights ago.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m hopeful that people will learn that “trading” privacy for anything is a fool’s errand – it’s never quantifiable how much benefit you’re getting, and at how much cost, and almost always could be done with less loss of privacy. Even in an office setting, with ostensibly reasonable goals (make sure employees aren’t goofing off), there’s ways to do it without spying on people. Number of clients talked to, sales made, bugs fixed, features shipped, etc. You’ll need measures in place to make sure people aren’t gaming the system, but that usually just means peer-review of some kind. :)

  2. Codesections says:

    Right now lots of people have the mindset that this is all overblown. They shrug and say, “It’s so nice out today. I’m going to the beach. If I get it, I get it.”

    Is this something you’re seeing personally, or based on news reports?

    I’m asking because it very much does *not* match my perception – but my viewpoint is so limited right now that I could be missing a lot.

    For what it’s worth, I see people taking it *very* seriously. People walk their dogs, but keep their distance. People go to the grocery store, but many wear masks and all stay six feet away from each other (even when that means waiting, or taking a different path). What I’ve heard from friends and family members is pretty similar. Even the corners of the Internet I hang out on (Mastodon, HackerNews, etc) seem to be taking this seriously.

    But, again, I see only a little—a single town, a thin slice of the Internet, and reports from a few relatives. It sounds like you’re seeing something different?

    1. tmtvl says:

      There has been footage of the London police telling people to stop sunbathing in the park, stop treating the lockdown like a vacation, and go (and stay) home. Belgian police has spread the news that they have stopped warning people and now immediately fine anyone who goes out without a valid reason.
      So yeah, I think that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that people are being quite laissez-faire about the whole affair.

      I’ll respect the no-politics rule, but I’m not happy with how things are handled.

      1. Thomas says:

        I do think though, that the press are looking for examples of people not obeying the lockdown (because it gets clicks) but but these are exceptions to the norm and the vast majority of people in the UK are treating it seriously. My partner went outside today for the first time in a week, and Cardiff was like a ghost town.

        1. The Wind King says:

          I’m lucky enough to live in the Somerset countryside so getting out is a lot easier, but if I see someone coming the other way (usually bikers or dogwalkers around here) I dive in the hedge to give them space.

          1. Asdasd says:

            I dive in the hedge

            Any excuse, eh?

        2. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

          Morning Consult poll in the US last week had 74% of voters approving of a pause/quarantine/lockdown/whatever-we’re-calling-it, and the modal category thinking it will last about 2 months.

          So I think people are generally taking it seriously.

          I also wouldn’t read too much into people going outside, so long as they are keeping their distance. Don’t know about the UK, but in the US, parks are being deliberately kept open as a way to extend the isolation by giving people an outlet to stretch their legs (and yes, my circle has made many comments about their “hour in the yard”).

          1. Thomas says:

            Google have tracking data on people’s movements:

            It backs this up. Travel has dropped dramatically (but not totally)

            1. Thomas says:

              Well kind of. The US is being a bit slower the Europe but I guess that’s because different states are handling it differently

      2. DrCapsaicin says:

        I also think it is regional. I live in South Texas where there have only (as if that isn’t enough) been 50-100 cases reported for a regional population of 5-600K. There has been a Stay-at-Home order in effect for a week, but there have been so many people out, the local police just said the warning period is over and they will fine up to $1000 or 6 months jail for violators to try and enforce it.

        But at the same time, the local grocery stores are empty of food, so… I don’t know what people are thinking/doing.

    2. Shamus says:

      I barely talk to anyone outside of my 3-person household, so yes: This is mostly based on news reports of people.

      I had had a few people in my social circles that said things like, “If I get it, I get it”. But that was about three weeks ago. They’ve all since changed their attitudes as they learned more.

      1. Cubic says:

        You could tell them “You just don’t get it. You don’t just get it.”

      2. Steve C says:

        How the news chooses to present the information is a problem in and of itself. I don’t mean teams of ‘them’ and ‘us’ or whatever. I mean the news cycle makes it difficult to build a coherent picture of what is going on. It doesn’t help that the news has been deliberately inflammatory for centuries. Humans have a difficult time processing small likelihoods that carry huge penalties and humans don’t process exponential growth well. Both of which applies here. So we need the information presented differently in order to understand it. I like information like this. Change the framing of the idea.

        I think Covid-19 is simultaneously 1)not that big a deal and 2)super critical to be taken seriously and must be gotten right. I also think the same thing about nuclear power– it is both extremely dangerous and super safe. Right at this moment, Covid is still not as dangerous as driving. If we treat Covid very very seriously, it will be nothing. If we treat it flippantly, it will cause a meltdown. It is still all potential. It could go either way.

        China got it under control. Regardless of any previous lies, the truth is that it is definitely under control in China now. What it took is shutting everything down. Exactly like North America is doing now. Just keep in mind that the news is designed at its core to increase your anxiety and to factor that in.

        Imagine there is an ice storm. Don’t go outside. And if you have to, just be super careful.

        1. Boobah says:

          Generally agree, Steve, but:

          Regardless of any previous lies, the truth is that it is definitely under control in China now.

          That’s certainly what the numbers put forward by the aforementioned liars say, but… well… known liars.

          1. Thomas says:

            I assume whatever the lies China must have it under control to a large extent. If they didn’t, they would have gone well past a million cases by now and hospitals should be swamped nation wide. They failed to hide the outbreak when it was small and in one region. I doubt even their ability to cover it up that much.

        2. Abnaxis says:

          I feel like the real problem is baked into your statement right here:

          Right at this moment, Covid is still not as dangerous as driving.

          COVID isn’t dangerous assuming you have proper medical attention. When you’re “severe patient #11,279 who needs an attending pulmonologist and a ventilator” in an area that only has 5000 ICU beds, your survival odds drop by a substantial amount.

          Despite this, all coverage hones in on the death rate in places that still have plenty of doctors to spare and still have plenty of medical equipment, and because people are people the only way anyone ever examines the faults of their assumptions is to be overly optimistic (“well, that death rate is too high because you only measure people who go into the hospital”)

          Speaking as the spouse of a researcher working on COVID: we know a hell of a lot less about how serious COVID as than any coverage about it lets you believe. That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous, we just don’t know how it’s going to act in the real world.

          1. Steve C says:

            Actually no. What was baked into my statement was statistics and outcomes.

            IE ~102 people die from traffic fatalities each day in the USA. COVID has not reached that level. People do not freak out about how dangerous driving is. Nor did parents freak out in the 1980s when they put their kids into cars with a much higher fatality rate. It is important to put the current crisis into perspective. To not confuse actual danger with perceived danger. COVID is extremely serious and a real danger. Still it needs to be contrasted against other real dangers. The anxiety and fear is a problem.

            It’s a bad idea to go driving in an ice storm, or a hurricane etc. The thing to do is to batten down and stay at home. If you do that the risk is negligible. Wait out the storm. It’s just inconvenient and costly.

            It’s a bad idea to go out socializing in a pandemic. The thing to do is to batten down and stay at home. If you do that the risk is negligible. Wait out the virus. It’s just inconvenient and costly.

    3. Joshua says:

      There are also numerous instances of government forces all around the US having to remove basketball rims and nets from backboards because younger people are not taking it seriously and keep playing pick-up games. The neighborhood park we walk to and from to get our exercise frequently has games in session.

      A friend of mine in Ohio was complaining about having to remain working (apparently a flooring store is “essential”) and how the customers were not maintaining proper distance and all complaining to each other in line about how much of a hoax this all was.

    4. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Based on my personal observations:

      I’ve only been going out to go to the store or to go running/biking. The store is still fairly crowded. The park/levee is actually even more crowded that usual, often with idiots who are blocking the path. So, yeah, I’ve seen a lot of grandparents with their grandkids having picnics.

      But when I went to the office yesterday to pick up some stuff that I needed from my cube, the Central Business District was a ghost town.

      1. Scampi says:

        Well, I’m not a US citizen, but I have a similar experience. Since the lockdown (if that’s what you’d call it) hit us, there are more people outside than I ever saw before. A few years ago we moved out to a farm a mile from the next neighbor, specifically to have less people around. When I come home from work now (I still have to work, since I get paid by the hour and my job is considered essential), people look at me disparaging because I’m driving down a field road. Some day I’ll have to go tell someone: “Well, I actually live here. What’s your excuse for loitering on my doorstep?”

    5. Higher_Peanut says:

      NZ just started its lockdown and there’s already been a few arrests for it. People are stretching “you can go outside to exercise” well beyond intended limits. Large parties have been broken up and the PM had to chastise people for caravaning down the desert road (main highway). From what I hear from friends in smaller towns or rural areas it’s worse than the cities as there’s just no way to police it all. We have distorted infection stats with a very large bump of people in their 20’s who have been taking transmission lightly.

    6. Fizban says:

      Suffice to say: I work at a grocery store where people are staying slightly further apart, but not a full 6′, and the aisles won’t allow that distance anyway, more but not all people are washing their hands more but not enough and oh the cell phones, one co-worker actually gave me the “I’ll take the risk” line, and I had to chase 8 fucking people away from the house the other day because someone doesn’t fucking get it (bonus points for being even worse during the pandemic at the bullshit they’d been told to stop before it).

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’m hoping one thing that comes out of this situation, is better regulations for aisle widths at grocery and other stores. Right now, they’re fairly tight to try and squeeze past people, and there’s often bins placed randomly in aisles, which makes further traffic jams.

    7. AngryHiro says:

      I work at a grocery store that has locations across most of the US. Based on what I’m hearing from other stores, there are extreme regional variations in how seriously people are taking the situation. In some places people are respecting the safety guidelines we’re implementing, in others people are grumbling about ‘hoaxes’ and coming to the store for a single bag of almonds. It doesn’t seem to solely correspond to where the virus is most common, either. In my own city which is just at the start of the inexorable curve upwards, we have two locations. The one on the east side which is younger and more progressive is seeing a lot better behavior than the west side which is suburban, significantly older, and further to the right.

      Witnessed with my own eyes a mid 60s or 70s couple mocking someone who appeared to be in their 20s for trying to maintain safe distance. While manning the door I had one guy trying to explain to me that it was unconstitutional to have him wait in line to go into the store. There’s also not a lot of coherence to the decisions people are making. Seeing people in masks and gloves (assuming this means they take the situation seriously) coming into the store for a single bouquet of flowers and nothing else really confuses me. From my viewpoint of seeing many hundreds of people across a broad social, but not geographic, cross section each day, there are more people than not that are following guidelines and behaving well, but it’s absolutely not a strong majority.

      1. Maryam says:

        With so many sick and numbers of dead creeping up, I can honestly understand the impulse to go out and buy a bunch of flowers for sickbeds or memorials. It’s still not a smart thing to do, but you’ve got such a strong history of emotional response to this sort of thing that is difficult to fight against.

        My husband’s grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago (from old age, not the virus), and the family had to make the decision not to have a funeral. It was really hard. We can’t even go visit her grave while maintaining social distance, because she lived several states away. Even though you know that sensible people understand and that the one who has passed wouldn’t have wanted you to risk it, you feel like the most colossal hard-hearted jerk to make that decision.

    8. Nimrandir says:

      I’m going to contribute some more anecdata. I live in a town with a reputation for being arty and progressive, and people here look like they’re on board. I had to make a grocery run yesterday (for things I couldn’t find on Sunday), and I experienced far less douchebaggery than I reported in the podcast comments. As has been noted, though, aisles aren’t really designed for the safe space allowance.

      On the other hand, I called my parents on Friday to see how they were handling things . . . and they were out visiting my sister, who is a friggin’ nurse. My wife has reported her mother doing similar stuff, with her almost-90 aunt in tow.

      1. Syal says:

        I’ll put this one here: people talking about how the elderly shouldn’t be out and about are forgetting that time kills far more consistently. A 90-year old woman may not be there anymore when this blows over, and would be losing her last chances to see family. Quality over quantity.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          To be clear, I don’t particularly care how old the people in my stories (or anyone else’s) are. My mother is still under 70. I take umbrage with people being irresponsible, particularly in cases where they’re violating a public ordinance.

          I see your quality over quantity and raise you freedom with responsibility.

        2. Richard says:

          Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter (Professor of Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge) recently realised that the risk of a given individual dying after contracting covid-19 is almost exactly the same as the risk of that same person dying from any cause in the next year.

          So catching the disease is basically packing an entire year of risk into two weeks or so.

          Which is interesting – our societies all cope with X people dying each year, but there’s no way we’d cope with the same number of people dying in the next two weeks.

    9. lkw says:

      Here in Australia people did exactly that and crowded at least one beach.
      Lifeguards are now required to check and enforce limits on the number of people.

      Our infection count is not as high as the US, so maybe it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. On the other hand, you’d think people would see what’s happened in other countries and act accordingly.

    10. Sven says:

      I don’t know, around here (Seattle-area in the US), I’m kind of surprised of how many people you still see outside. Going to the grocery store, restaurant take-out, or walking/running outside. People seem to be keeping their distance, which is good, but I’m still surprised at how many people aren’t just staying home.

      One particular egregious example, in my opinion, is flight schools. I’m a pilot, and the flight school that I usually rent from is still open by some language in the shutdown-order that allows them to say they’re “essential.” That means people are still sitting in a tiny Cessna cockpit, shoulder-to-shoulder with an instructor who’s been shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of other students, touching all the controls, knobs and switches that dozens of other people have also touched. I’m sure they’re trying to be careful and wipe stuff down, but I do have to wonder how essential they actually are.

    11. Agammamon says:

      This is really going to depend on where you are.

      For example, I live in Yuma county in Arizona. If you live in Maricopa county or in Imperial (CA), you’re probably barricading the doors right now. Yuma though has about 15 confirmed cases, no hospitalization, and no deaths. so far.

      The closest exposure dangers are basically 2-3 hours car travel away. So it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for us to just shut down everything and lock ourselves in. It might make sense to block the interstate though. In effect, the whole county is ‘socially isolated’ from the rest of the state. Most of the Southwest is like that – if you don’t live in the couple of major cities in these states, you’re living in counties that are larger – but less populous – than most states in the NE.

    12. defaultex says:

      It somewhat a mixed bag here in a large city. We have people that are sane and sensible, keeping distance, not touching anything they don’t have to and all the things we know will help throw a wrench into the spread. Then we have the panic bunch wearing masks, cross contaminating surfaces by wiping everything they touch with the same sanitize wipe and generally being a nuisance with their selfish BS. Then we have the morons that have our police so overloaded with calls about violations that they have requested we do not call in such violations so that 911 responders are available for actual emergencies. Then there’s the darwin award crowd running across busy intersections, pulling out into intersections out of turn, running people off the road and generally making already bad traffic conditions incredibly dangerous.

      Of course this traffic nonsense got worse right after buying my supervisor’s old truck from him. He took good care of it, so the thing is as close to new as you’ll get for a late-90s S10. It’s also got our company logo all over and not a scratch in sight. I feel doomed.

  3. Asdasd says:

    My concern is that there’s an economic tsunami on the horizon which will in turn wipe out whatever new normal the immediate effects of the virus might have brought about. We were told for decades it was impossible for any economy to sustain public spending increases that were of an order magnitude or more smaller than the ones being put into place in response to corona.

    I know I’m flirting with no politics, but without making a value judgement, we’re through the looking glass one way or the other here; there will either be an economic shockwave in response to all the unsustainable spending and disruption to businesses, or a social shockwave as people realise that the way we were always told things had to be was not, in fact, the way things had to be.

    1. Beep Beep, I'm a Jeep says:

      This is also a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” sort of situation. The economy is absolutely going to suffer (and is suffering) due to our attempts to mitigate this virus.

      However, there is still going to be an economic shock if we let the virus run rampant and suddenly lose a percent or so of our population.

      1. Richard says:

        Back in medieval times, most economic activity was tied to physical land (farming, mining etc).
        So fewer people meant more money per person – and plagues brought an economic boom for the survivors.

        These days, nearly all of our economic activity is based on people buying services from each other. Most of us don’t actually ‘produce’ anything tangible, we spend our time doing something to help, entertain, etc other people.
        So the size of the economy is directly related to the number of people.

        Aside from all that, if a ‘lockdown’ continues for very long without some form of financial relief a huge number of people will lose their homes because they can’t pay rent/mortgage and their landlord can’t pay their mortgage, which would of course look very much like what happened just over a decade ago.

        And others will be on the brink of starvation because they have no liquid assets to buy food with.
        At the end of the day, if you are forced to choose between “starve to death” and “risk dying of a disease”, you’ll choose the risk of disease every time.

        So it’s important not to put anyone in that situation.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          Another big economic aspect to consider is that a lot of people will need medical care. For people like me who live in countries with socialized medicine, this is manageable. There will be more of a burden on the system but social distancing, gradual increases in herd immunity and increased knowledge in how to treat the disease will help.

          However, in America you’re going to see a lot of people saddled with expensive medical bills that they can’t pay, as nobody is going to insure anyone right now and a contagion doesn’t care about your financial circumstances. So there will be a spike in medical debt, and more importantly, a spike in defaults as many people fail to pay them back.

          Forgive me but my layman’s take on debt is this: if you lend 10 people £10 and charge £3 interest, if one person doesn’t pay you back you’ve still made £17 of profit. If 2 people don’t, you’re still making money as the profit from the interest of those who do pay you back is enough to absorb the losses of those who don’t. If 5 or 6 people don’t pay you back, you’re losing a lot of money, and like any business once you lose enough money you go bankrupt. Except when it’s credit, it’s an entire industry that goes bankrupt, and last time we saw that it itself was enough to cause a global recession, never mind all of this occuring alongside the recession caused by the disruption of anti-COVID measures.

        2. Beep Beep, I'm a Jeep says:

          I get what you’re saying here, and I agree. At a certain point people are going to want to get back to earning a living because they aren’t going to be willing to starve or freeze to death.

          But that’s exactly why the government needs to step up and actually do its job. This is the equivalent of a hundred-year storm; we need to treat this as a natural disaster that is inevitably going to bring down the economy.

          We have to mitigate the damage and recover how we can. In the interim we need big Keynesian fiscal policies to keep people from reaching those desperate places where their only option is to risk themselves and others to keep a roof over their head and food on their table.

  4. ivan says:

    Hmm. Would you recommend Graveyard Keeper? It’s on GoG, which is usually the first point of failure for new games, for me, so now I have to actually consider it.

    1. mdqp says:

      If you want the personal opinion of a random bystander who didn’t play too much before getting bored, the game feels more grindy than many of the “Harvest Moon clones”, without being charming and well-structured. Any task you’d think should be a 1 or 2 steps process in most games becomes a 5-8 steps process. You can see and learn about things you can do that you won’t be able to tackle until much later on, and I never felt any of the tasks were too satisfying to complete.

      If you like the grind itself, than maybe I can recommend it, as it looks like there is plenty to do, but that’s about it.

    2. baud says:

      What do you mean “first point of failure for new games”? In the context of your post I would have used ‘first port of call’, but point of failure would mean that gog doesn’t work for games

      1. ivan says:

        I said it is on GoG, which is where most games I am new to fail. Ie: by not being on GoG.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          That is the most awkward way of phrasing something… “Usually games don’t end up on GOG, but luckily they have it!” or pretty much anything else, would have made your point. ^^;

        2. Zeta Kai says:

          Okay, you’ve tried to say what you mean twice now, but I still don’t get it. What are you trying to say about GOG? Or about the game? Or about the game being on GOG?

          I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your idioms. I don’t care about GOG one way or the other; I just want to understand you.

          1. CBob says:

            He’s saying being available on GoG is the first essential test a game has to pass in order for him to consider buying it. The first essential box it has to check. The first hurdle it has to clear, etc.

            If it’s not on GoG, it has already failed right out of the gate, and he won’t even look at it.

            I understood what he meant, but I agree it was an unusual and perhaps poorly worded idiom. I understood it not because it was familiar or intuitive, but because I had to stop and think about it.

    3. Shamus says:

      I had fun with it. Didn’t get to the end. I’d recommend it, with the caution that you really need to have the wiki open to progress. If you’re cool with that, it’s not a bad way to spend the time.

      1. Haha2339 says:

        Hey Shamus, have you tried Oxygen Not Included? It’s the one game that has come closest to scratching my Factorio itch!

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Too much grinding! Poorly optimized! Mealworms are still OP!

          1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

            That game gives me anxiety attacks just by thinking about it. It seems a very different playstyle from Factorio, much more oriented to a makeshift survivalist race than developing a steady and well-designed machine.

        2. Chris says:

          I do think that Paul mentioned it a couple of times in the past.

    4. Syal says:

      I liked the aesthetic quite a bit, but didn’t get too far into the automation phase. There’s no failstate, but there are a lot of roadblocks if you do things out of order (which the game doesn’t tell you beforehand), and the game is blatantly unfinished; multiple quests direct you to a location that doesn’t exist.

      Still, I had fun; it’s the only farming game I’ve spent any length of time on. I bailed on Stardew Valley in minutes.

      1. Retsam says:

        and the game is blatantly unfinished; multiple quests direct you to a location that doesn’t exist.

        The game lacks polish and has some UI quirks and some poor explanations, but it’s not “blatantly unfinished”.

        I’m guessing you’re referring to the Town, as the “location that doesn’t exist”, but I’m pretty sure the Town was never meant to be part of the game. You never need to go into the Town for any quest in the game.

        1. Syal says:

          You have to craft a Town Pass to find out it doesn’t exist, and the last quest I started told me I should buy an ingredient in the Town or alternately make one myself. If it’s supposed to not exist don’t make quests that tell me to go there. Instead it feels like they planned around having it and then cut it for time.

          1. Retsam says:

            Characters in the game will sometimes point you into town, but that’s because they aren’t aware that there’s some magical force keeping you out of the town. Maybe this is one of those “trust in the storyteller” things, but I don’t think the developers ever intended to include it.

            I can see where it’s a potentially frustrating development choice to tease the existence of the town and then have it not exist, but I definitely don’t think the non-existence of town makes the game “blatantly unfinished”.

            1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

              That still sounds like it got cut though. The devs just tried to wallpaper over it by the declaring the whole thing intentional.

              I definitely got the feeling that part of the game was missing. A lot of quest chains just kinda… end. Without any real conclusion or clearly defined ending.

    5. Dreadjaws says:

      I liked the game well enough to play 30 hours of it, but it got so grindy that I lost all interest before finishing it. And this seems to be the consensus, even between those who like the game. You get your money’s worth, and you’re definitely entertained for quite a while, but it really depends if you’re iffy on not finishing games.

  5. Thomas says:

    I’m quite excited for all the research that will come out of this. Most humans will have frozen their relationships for several months and then rejoin them. What will that look like? What will it change?

    We’re also going to see a burst of innovation. A lot of the dead wood businesses won’t survive, and they’re going to leave space for new businesses to fill.

    Politically this might help unite everyone and I suspect we’ll see a strong ‘Lets focus on the important things moment’, but there’s also a darker path to fear. In the same way there will be a lot of opportunity for some individuals to gain money and power unscrupulously.

    The whole world is also going to be incredibly unfit! There’s going to be an explosion of people going to the gym, followed by a lot of gasping and creaking.

    Potentially, housing pressure is going to be relieved. It’s not nice thinking about this attacking the elderly, but in the aftermath there will be some houses and jobs available. Healthcare might be a little easier and less expensive.

    Every film, book, game and political event is going to be continually and annoyingly talked about in terms of a ‘post-corona’ world. And the impact on the generation of 14-25 year olds will probably be felt for decades. In contrast the people being born now might benefit from being part of a baby boom.

    1. Joshua says:

      The current younger generation has been fairly cool to the idea of many kids, for reasons ranging from economic to lack of time to not being good for our world, etc. Very few of my friends and family in their 20s and 30s have more than two children, and most have none at all. It would be quite the change to have them suddenly want more children, especially if there is a recession for awhile.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        It may be less a function of wanting kids and more a function of an overwhelming urge to have sex. A fraction (ovulating women) of a fraction (protection failure) can still be substantial if you start with a big enough sample size.

      2. Dalisclock says:

        I suspect Thomas was talking more about a mini-baby boom over the next year or so, starting in about 6-7 months, just due to people being cooped up with not much else to do but watch netflix, etc.

        I doubt it will boost the overall pop growth much beyond a small bump. I say this as someone with one child and no plans to have any more(if we decide for a 2nd we’ll try to adopt).

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Don’t most of the elderly already not live in houses? Condos, apartments, etc might be freed up slightly, but a lot of the housing market in the last decade, has been people in their 40s-60s, holding onto their houses as investments. Much of that in turn, was driven by outside investors (at least in Canada), rather than the local markets, which would keep the housing market more vacant / priced for purchasing.

    3. Ed Weatherup says:

      I’m going to be fitter, because instead of taking an hour to drive my children to school and then to going on to work, I use that time to walk the dog, and already I’ve cut a third of my time on the same route. I’m back at my PC working at 8.30

  6. Daimbert says:

    I’m not as convinced as you about the increase in working from home and adopting less social hobbies and the like. The reason is that at least the way things are now people are struggling with those and so aren’t enjoying the changes, which likely will cause them to reject them once we can “get back to normal”. For example, at work I was probably the person in my group who liked working from home the least. I did it when we got snow — because a big part of my commute is across a straight stretch with an open field where when it’s snowing at best you get snow covering the road no matter how much they plowed it and at worst you get whiteouts — but I’d even come into work when I was working on the weekends — 20 minutes one way — because I didn’t like working from home. But so far, from the meetings I’ve had with my team now that we’re all working from home, I seem to be handling it the best, and lots of people are complaining about the details and talking about how much they hate it. Sure, as this drags on they might get used to it, and a big part of the issue is that a lot of them are doing it with their kids at home, but in my experience if you keep thinking about how nice it would be to get back to working from work you’re not going to adopt working from home going forward.

    I think the same thing might apply to shopping and the like. While lots of people may be discovering online shopping for the first time, there are a lot of people who are missing the ability to go out to a store, buy stuff, browse, and so on. Again, when things open up again they are likely to go back to that and maybe over-correct, doing much MORE social things to “make up for” what they lost.

    I think it’s going to come down to this: are most people the sort who will actually enjoy the less social and more online world that they are being forced into now? I think that if this was less forced and rushed, people might, but being forced into it and so dramatically into it will always generate resentment at anything that isn’t as it was and at what they used to be able to do that they are now missing, which is more likely to generate an overcorrection to “normal”, especially if any kind of patriotism is attached to getting back to normal.

    1. Joshua says:

      True, but how much of it is an overlap with “Wish there were other places I could go!”? I’m working from home, which is just fine, but now I’m here about 23.5 hours out of each da, so it gets really, really old. I miss going out to restaurants (to dine in) not because I like being waited upon, but because it brings a change of scenery.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Some if it is that, but some of it is related to, as noted below, many people noticing just how small their rooms actually are for when they’re working at home. Some have said that they’re getting used to it, but we’ll have to see what happens as things go along.

    2. GEAGF says:

      Have to agree here. A lot of these predictions seem to be coming from dedicated introverts projecting their aspirations. ‘I already work form home and it’s fine, of course other people will be fine with it once they try it’ sort of thing. But I don’t buy it. Humans are social creatures and online relationships are not a like for like replacement for meatspace relationships (very much speaking from experience here).

      Frankly, the biggest concern with this crisis should be the decline in privacy, introduction of tracking apps and the like. Most of the current measures, lockdowns etc. are clearly temporary measures and impositions. They’re unlikely to result in sweeping social change because people resent impositions. It’s what comes next, what more permanent measures may be passed in fear, that should be worrying.

      For an analogy that I hope is on the right side of the ‘no politics’ rule (very sorry if I’m misjudging), 9/11. Immediately after the attacks, there was chaos, confusion and worry. All flights in the US were highly disrupted/shut down (analogous to the current situation). I can’t remember if anyone predicted that this would be a paradigm shift and hurt the air travel industry in some lasting way, but that isn’t what happened. It was always going to be temporary, and people went straight back to flying once they were able to. But what did change? Stuff like the TSA and Patriot Act were introduced, freedoms were sacrificed arguably unnecessarily and now everyone has to gets scanned, fingerprinted frisked etc. when they fly (plus the whole ‘war on terror business’). That’s what should be concerning people, not the current state of emergency, but what dangerous legislation and measures might be approved by an ‘Anti COVID Act’ passed by scared people and politicians desperate to be seen as ‘taking action’.

      1. Asdasd says:

        I scoffed at it at the time, but Ion Storm’s speculated use of FEMA as a vehicle for political control seems eerily prescient now.

        1. Corsair says:

          Not Ion Storm’s prediction – FEMA as agent of authoritarian takeover is/was a mainstay of conspiracy theory for some time. Deus Ex is a grab-bag of old conspiracy tropes.

      2. Richard says:

        Call your extroverted friends and family often, because they are most definitely not ok.

        I’m already seeing my extrovert friends and family suffering, and we’re not even halfway into this crisis.

        I’ve also noticed that I’m definitely drinking more than I used to, which is not a good thing.

        1. aradinfinity says:

          My girlfriend’s an extrovert, and she’s already starting to get cabin fever. I’m a little worried about her because of that.

  7. tmtvl says:

    Eh, in a years time everything will be business as usual.
    The Wuhan Coronavirus has less of a fatality rate than some of the worse things out there at the moment (Ebola being the most obvious comparison), and there are already various potential cures being tested. According to data found by the Coronavirus COVID-19 Observer, the virus has killed 42,000 people worldwide so far. According to data from the CDC, influenza and pneumonia (I don’t know why they group those two together), killed 341,000 people in the USA in 2018.
    As long as we keep our heads cool, use common sense, and don’t do anything we’ll regret later, the damage caused by COVID-19 will remain limited in scale and given a few years it’ll be as forgotten as the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968-69.

    1. Codesections says:

      , the virus has killed 42,000 people worldwide so far. According to data from the CDC, influenza and pneumonia… killed 341,000 people in the USA in 2018.

      But 42,000 is barely more than three doublings away from 341,000. And, once it reaches that level, it’s (obviously) only one doubling away from twice that level.

      (I recognize that one number is global and the other is U.S. only. But the point remains that, with the exponential growth we’re seeing, experiencing millions of global deaths is pretty much certain—and millions just within the U.S. is very possible.)

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        The problem with that logic is that, assuming constant exponential growth, you’ll have killed several times the population of the entire Earth in no time.

        The truth is that the “containment” strategy is already lost, and was probably hopeless to begin with. Not only is it highly transmittable, but there’s clear evidence that most of the people who catch it suffer from minimal symptoms, making it far too difficult to figure out who has it in time to quarantine them.

        But the good news here is that the death rate is looking to be well below 1%, and possibly below 0.1%. Since we don’t have wide-spread antibody testing (which can tell whether someone was infected in the past, and never showed symptoms) we really have no idea how many people have been infected, and so the higher death rates that were reported came from looking at people who were already from the subgroup of people who were showing enough symptoms to get tested.

        So the “millions within the US” just doesn’t look very plausible. Itally, which seems to be a worst-case scenario, is still nowhere close to that (proportional to population) number of deaths. Their deaths stopped growing exponentially a long time ago, plateaued, and now they’re seeing a reduction in new cases.

        1. Thomas says:

          The 0.1% mortality theory is very unlikely. That would mean at least 12 million people in Italy were infected by around 15th March (as it takes about two weeks to die). But the testing since then in Italy hasn’t shown anything like 1 in 5 people having it.

          Similarly in the UK Oxford modelled a 0.1% mortality rate and the results just didn’t fit the observed data at all.

          Italy is in lockdown. That’s why the cases are curving off. Imperial College research suggest the lockdowns are reducing the R value to close to 1 (which is good news for us all)

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            As I noted, testing has been extremely flawed and limited. That the lockdown has been what has reduced cases in Italy is just an assumption. Also, you’re assuming that Italy is representative not just in terms of infections, but deaths as well. Italy has a very large population of people in the most vulnerable age group for the virus. They also have a high population density and a lot of people living with their (elderly) parents. Italy is, again, our worst-case scenario, and they’re still under 20,000 deaths.

            Let’s be very clear about this: The data from around the world is simply too limited with too many wildly divergent outcomes to support the assumptions that the models like the Imperial College are making. Testing has not been widespread enough. Countries like South Korea have avoided being hit as hard as Italy without a lockdown. All we really know is that the worst-case projections are failing to materialize anywhere in the world.

            1. Thomas says:

              We don’t know that bit about the worst case projections, because the worst case projections project the peak is still ages off – they also assume no mitigation strategy. There’s a difference between a 1% mortality rate and 1% of the population dying – the latter isn’t projected to happen even in the very worst case.

              We also really do have enough evidence to strongly support the conclusion that the mortality rate is above 0.1%. Too many people have died so far and those deaths have been too clustered. If you don’t believe Italy, then a 0.1% mortality rate would imply 1.7 million people in New York were actively infected on March 15th – a fifth of the population – at a time when only 700 cases had been confirmed and only 3 people had died. That would require about 1/5th of the population not only to have it, but to be infected in the same 2 week time span, because if they had got infected earlier New York would have seen more deaths earlier.

              1. Bloodsquirrel says:

                We don’t know that bit about the worst case projections, because the worst case projections project the peak is still ages off

                Well, no. Several countries have already hit peak. As I noted, Italy is seeing a reduction in new cases. Any projections based on the peak being “ages off” are, by our most reliable current data, simply wrong at this point.

                f you don’t believe Italy, then a 0.1% mortality rate would imply 1.7 million people in New York were actively infected on March 15th – a fifth of the population – at a time when only 700 cases had been confirmed and only 3 people had died.

                First off, this isn’t strictly true. You’re assuming a uniform time span in which the virus kills. You’re also just asserting that 1/5 of the population being infected is absurd without a clear justification, and then forgetting your own assumption about how long it takes to kill to say that “only 3 people had died”.

                Simply put, we do not have the data to make those assumptions. The models are based on highly incomplete testing.

                To sum up: We cannot simply ignore the current number of Covid-19 deaths because “lol, exponential growth!”. It’s far more rational to look at the countries where Covid-19 has peaked and base our projections off of those places.

                1. The Puzzler says:

                  If Italy has hit a peak, that’s probably because they’ve been in full lockdown for a while, not because they’ve all already become immune.

                  1. Bloodsquirrel says:

                    Again, that’s just an assumption.

                    To put this into perspective: In the very briefing in which Dr. Anthony Fauci gave the “100,000-200,000 deaths” estimate he also admitted to what I’ve been saying, which is that it’s based on poor data and that the number could be a lot lower. Government officials are being very cautious not to give a lowball estimate, both to avoid being embarrassed just in case it does get worse and to try to keep everybody scared enough to comply with the lockdown measures, but you need to take all of these projections and models with a few spoonfuls of salt.

                    1. Richard says:

                      Check your biases. Humans are really bad at understanding exponential growth.

                      All the confirmed case numbers are very much underestimates, and in some regions are a better indicator of the the number of tests done than the actual numbers of cases.

                      So, looking at reported deaths only (as those are more reliable):
                      – The USA is still in on the exponential curve as of today – doubling the deaths per day in around 3-4 days.
                      – Italy and Spain are becoming linear, with a similar number of deaths per day over the last three-four days.
                      – World total is also still exponential, doubling in around 6 days

                      This data is an underestimate, because not everyone who dies of covid-19 has been tested for the virus.
                      It’s also delayed as tests and reporting take some time.

                      At the current rate (stable since March 11th), the USA will have had 100,000 deaths in 20 days, and 200,000 deaths in 24 days. That is not very long at all.

                      Current estimates of the death rate are around 1-2% overall, but are higher in more developed countries as older have much higher risk (14-15% for the over 80).

                      The actual death rate per illness is not going to be known until the antibody test is ready. At the moment most of the estimates are at the higher end of the error bars.

                      However, if we do assume it’s actually 0.1% as you suggested earlier and half the country gets infected, then the USA final death toll would be 160,000 – right in the middle of the estimate you quote.

                      A lot of experienced doctors and statisticians have been studying and modelling potential pandemics for a very long time.

                      And this is getting very close to politics, so we should probably stop here.

                      (Source: Our World in Data, primarily ECDC with WHO backup)

              2. jpuroila says:

                In worst case scenarios that assume no mitigations the peak happens very quickly, about 80% of the population gets infected(most at the same time) and the medical system essentially collapses, causing a lot of people who could have been treated to die. It’s very clear that THOSE, at least, are not happening. “Worst case scenario with mitigations” is another matter entirely.

          2. Thomas says:

            Just to say, I do agree with your point below about putting this into context of other large increases in deaths, and the number of people who die anyway.

            It is horrific, but even the worst case scenario will become a blip in what’s humans deal with and adjust to. A lot of people won’t have anyone in their personal social network die, and even for those who do, it might be just one very distant friend. That’s tragic, but not a tragedy people haven’t experienced before.

            1. Kyle Haight says:

              True. If memory serves me correctly the current population of the United States is about 330 million. If, say, 3.3 million people were to die of COVID-19 (a number I just pulled out of the air, but which would be a 1% mortality rate assuming everyone got the disease), that would be horrible for the dead, their families and loved ones. It would be the largest mass death event in American history in absolute terms. (The death toll in the Civil War was higher in percentage terms.)

              Still… I’m old enough to remember when the US population was 327 million, and it wasn’t that bad. People will adjust, mourn the dead and life will go on.

        2. Steve C says:

          The truth is that the “containment” strategy is already lost, and was probably hopeless to begin with.

          Oh it was definitely a good idea. It containment worked with SARS, MERS, the bird flu, the pig flu and Ebola. Containment was not hopeless. It simply failed to work this time. Make no mistake, those would have been pandemics too if not for containment.

          And containment worked for COVID-19 too. South Korea took an aggressive approach to containment. It straight up worked. If every country responded the same way that South Korea did, then it would have already been over by now.

    2. Thomas says:

      I’m not going to get into this too much, but your numbers are badly wrong. If you got this from a news source, I would treat that news source with a high degree of suspicion.

      In 2017 the US saw 55,000 deaths combined from flu and pneumonia. In 2018 this increased fractionally, from 14.3 deaths per 100,000 to 14.9 per 100,000

      1. tmtvl says:

        I looked into it, and you’re right. I don’t know how my source got 300k+, but that’s 6 times what it should be. I’ve reported the error.

    3. Higher_Peanut says:

      The virus may have low reported deaths so far but we haven’t even figured out the extent of infection yet, countries are still testing. We don’t know where we sit on the exponential curve at the moment.

      A potential cure is likely months away and converting to an industrial scale production method for a lab synthesised chemical could easily be months more again to reach the final distribution points.

      Even if we get a cure rapidly I don’t think this will drop out of public consciousness that rapidly. Entire countries are on lockdown and it’s all many people are seeing and discussing in an era of mass media. Once a cure is made and it’s “over”, here in NZ the borders are still going to be tightly controlled for a long time after and I’d expect other primary production economies to do the same where possible. It’s going to leave a long lasting cultural impact with what it’s done already.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        The virus may have low reported deaths so far but we haven’t even figured out the extent of infection yet, countries are still testing. We don’t know where we sit on the exponential curve at the moment.

        As I noted above, that means the opposite of what you imply that it does. We know how many people have died of Covid-19 because (at least in first world countries) we pay close attention to each death. Anyone who has died of Covid-19 like symptoms is going to be tested and included in that total. It’s extremely unlikely that the US has a bunch of unrecorded Covid-19 deaths.

        The fact that infections are far more widespread that our testing directly indicates doesn’t mean that we’re in worse shape than we thought. It means that we’re in better shape- the mortality rate is lower than just comparing the confirmed cases to deaths would indicate, and it means that we’re already farther along and closer to the peak of the curve than we thought.

        Think of it this way- if it turned out that 100% of the people in the US had been infected, that would be tremendously good news. It would mean that everybody who was likely to develop actual symptoms already has, and the current number of deaths we’re seeing is the peak, as is about to go down.

        1. Daimbert says:

          And the real numbers are complicated by the fact that the virus can often produce symptoms that are very mild, and also that look a lot like a cold or a flu. How many people got a little sick and brushed it off without ever thinking that they had it?

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          In addition to this excellent point (that herd immunity is building up silently), I’d like to add another data point. The company I work for has a manufacturing facility in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China. There are hundreds of people working there, and not one of them has tested positive for covid 19. Not only that, but none of them even know someone who has had it. They are now back to full capacity, only a month after a two-week lockdown. It’s not official, but it does provide a point of sanity for me. This isn’t some supernatural force, and even in a country as populous as China, quarantine measures are effective.

    4. AllanH says:

      I am pretty sure most Italians would disagree with you. As would most medical professionals. Your comment is very “China” circa Jan 15, 2019.

  8. Adam says:

    Its the work remote thing that I’m most looking forward too. Ironically, I am starting a job which I managed to negotiate to 3 days/week remote – and now everyone in the company is 100% remote. So I expect a lot of companies & employees will simply not got back into the office ever again on a 5 day/week basis. This will be encouraged because starting the lockdowns has general bean a one-off hard line, leaving them will be a much more gradual process with multiple reemergent waves of restrictions coming and going.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Agreed. As shamus says,”This shift has been a long time in coming.” and I for one am really happy to see it come to pass. Nearly every job I’ve had could have easily been worked from home, but it wasn’t allowed. Now that everyone who can is being forced to try it, I’m sanguine that it will be much more acceptable in the future. Or, at the very least, there will be less superstition around working from home.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        In a few more years, I think working remotely might at least be viewed as unusual, but workable. Something like, more companies offer more work-from-home days in addition to sick days, or at least something you can negotiate in your contract morre easily.

        1. Daimbert says:

          It’s a technology company, but my company has already been leaning that way for a few years now. But the reason was less to make things convenient for employees — although it can work as a reward or recruitment tool — but more that it allows for people to be able to work hours they wouldn’t have otherwise.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            That’s kind of my worry. It feels like many people were already struggling with work-life balance; the problem can only get worse if work and life are in the same place. I know I felt almost obligated to look at my school e-mail constantly for most of last week, and my wife finally told me that I had to step away for both of our sanities.

  9. Vertette says:

    “How much privacy are we willing to give up to work from home? Are people willing to allow their employer to see a live feed at all times, or to see what applications are running? Is eating okay during a meeting?”

    I’ve actually heard of some tech companies requiring freelancers to install software like WorkSmart that allows for turning on your webcam, counting keystrokes etcetera. In practice it comes down to mashing gibberish at the keyboard just to fill your quota and having to get to the bathroom and out in one minute lest you get reduced pay. It’s more than a little terrifying.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Even a year or two ago, there was a USA company that made employee-tracking badges, that monitored every conversation, position, and even posture, to better control employees. I imagine we’ll see increased amounts of things like this, unfortunately.

  10. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Even the lowest, most optimistic projections predict that COVID-19 will kill 30× more people than 9/11[2]. And yet there are still large numbers of people out there who think this is no big deal.

    Well, historically speaking, it’s not. Especially once you factor in that most of the deaths are of the elderly or people with pre-existing illnesses. By contrast, the Spanish Flu killed over half a million people in the United States, back when we had a much smaller population, and killed far more people who were in their prime. This year, it’s projected that 600,000 people will die of cancer. The total number of deaths in the US in 2019 was 2,813,503.

    So a disease that kills 200,000 people in one year is bad, but it’s not even going to be the leading cause of deaths this year, let alone the apocalypse.

    The really scary thing is the response to the virus. There’s a lot of thoughtless acceptance right now of some rather totalitarian measures that the government is taking, and history shows us that liberties and government restraints that are lost in times of crisis have a nasty habit of never being fully restored. The idea that the government can just order businesses to shut down and people to not leave their houses without even a vote should be deeply worrying to people.

    How many aspects of your life right now are impacted by the deaths caused by the Spanish Flu? How many cultural scars can you point to that it created? Probably not many- but I can point to a lot of ways in which government power in the US was centralized and strengthened in the Civil War, WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII which still have a deep impact on politics and culture today.

    So, yeah, Covid-19 is going to kill a to represent a statistically significant increase in the US death rate this year, but we should all be thinking much more carefully about what we do in response to it, because there are some serious consequences here that will outlive the virus by centuries.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Also, 9/11 was 3 planes attempting to crash into 3 buildings. Compared to a virus that infects millions of households globally there’s no comparison. It’s like saying that the sun is giant compared to Earth. Yes it is, but you’re comparing a planet (small) to a star (big).

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Point of clarification: it was four planes. Otherwise, carry on.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      You don’t even need to go back to past wars – 9/11 is itself recent enough to be remembered by many, although they don’t seem to have learned the lesson. But I can always get away from the craziness in North America, and go visit England where they have the civility and dignity, to simply put cameras in every street.

  11. notethecode says:

    Regarding fitness, interestingly here in France jogging is one of the reason people can leave their home, so I’ve never see so many joggers, especially during weekdays.

    Working from home is not for everyone, at least not for me. Before the lockdown, I had a 10 min long commute on foot, but right now I’d be ready to go back to one hour in the subway if it meant being back in the workplace; I just can’t get to be efficient at home and I miss a lot the social contact with my colleagues.

    Regarding changes, the company where I’m working had a no-WFH policy, with exceptions for a few people who had been with the company for years and had WFH in their original contracts. But with everyone working from home right now and looking like it’s going all right, I think we’re going to see a change there, with maybe the possibility for some remote working.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m very hopeful that the company I work in, will also see a change in it’s “we don’t do remote work” policy. Long-term, I think we would be very capable of doing at least a few days per week remotely, for all employees, and that could give us a less crowded office. :)

  12. Bloodsquirrel says:

    …the media is actually right this time, despite their long history of making mountains out of molehills.

    In fairness, the media has still been a consistent source of misinformation, up to and including telling people that chloroquine- which the FDA is currently testing and appears to be an at least somewhat effective treatment- is basically poison because of two idiots that drank fish tank cleaner because it had a chemical in it that sounded similar, killing one of them.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Canada’s got less of a problem with the news chasing headlines and feeding frenzies, I think in large part, because we’ve got a (partly) government-funded news organization. Popularity and advertisement dollars, don’t align very well with delivering dry facts. :)

    2. trevalyan says:

      That particular case has a number of very suspicious facts about it. When a woman taking at least half a dozen different prescription drugs pretends that drinking fish cleaner killed her husband and not her, you may be looking at murder charges.

  13. djingdjan says:

    Everyone here worrying about the virus and Im just sitting in my house disappointed that the Resident Evil 3 remake is a rushed mess.

  14. Christopher Wolf says:

    Not sure about the telecommuting thing, if anything the impact will show why it is not as efficient for most things and how much a company would have to invest to try to make it as efficient.

    I am a teacher, and distance learning seems to work best for students who were already doing well in the classroom, and that was before we scaled up to the entire district doing it. Scaling up also puts enormous strain on the digital platforms we are using for student learning, and that is with 20% of students not even logging in once during “distance learning”.

    My wife works in the health care profession with processing insurance so people can get their procedures covered. Because of HIPPA its a mess and technical snags abound making sure she gets what she needs to do. Her boss was on the phone with IT for over 3 hours just to be able to send work to the staff, which would take 1-2 to do once that process was working.

    But what about making games, where you would expect people to have technical expertise and a desire to be there in the first place? Wasteland 3 is being delayed because of the challenges of having a team work at home. I don’t know what those challenges are specifically, but I don’t think the steps we are taking to social distance are going to last long enough for companies to find the “secret sauce” of making working at home as efficient as working in person for a wide range of staff. This may very well be possible in some industries with enough time and thought but I don’t see them getting there as a result of this crisis.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Face-to-face communication is very easy to recover from, if you don’t have any skill in communication. Rants and rambles can be interrupted easily with a tap on the shoulder or a wave, but I’d rather not have those in the first place. :)

    2. CloverMan-88 says:

      I’m working at a video game studio, and we switched to full home-office mode really easily. A lot of people already had their home PC set up with proper version control and VPN, most managerial task were already being done via web apps
      ,and we hire some freelance contractors that always worked from home. The whole switch took 2-3 days to execute, and now we’re working full throttle. Yes, we’re a small studio (13 people) but at least for us game making suits remote work very well. Hell, I have way easier time communicating with my two programmers over chat than I did in person, they seem more comfortable and I try to be more descriptive and use more visual aids.

      1. Naota says:

        It’s the same thing at the studio where I work. We’re a triple A with over 600 people just at our location, and everyone but a few members of the IT staff and some security guards are working from home, remoting into their workstations over the VPN.

        As a former internet-based indie this is basically just a return to the usual… but with less work to do and dramatically higher pay.

    3. Naota says:

      Almost guaranteed, the biggest hurdle for game studios working remotely is one or both of these two things:

      -The requirements for working on the game are too high for even good home PC’s. For instance, at my studio our aging editor tech will cache the entire open world, and must do so in order to perform certain tasks… so our art/level design workstations require 64GB of RAM. In this situation, the only option is to keep the office PC’s running and remote desktop in over a private VPN. All hundreds of developers at once.

      -Confidentiality and security systems to prevent leaks and keep information within the studio now need to handle every employee accessing full information from outside the studio.

      A lot of internal sites, repositories, tools, and systems in a game studio are designed so that you can only access them from your desk, inside the office. This is good practice normally, as it makes outside interference basically impossible… but it all has to be torn down and opened up to the wider internet if your whole staff is staying at home for potentially several months.

  15. Geebs says:

    I kinda wish the increased risk would encourage people to stop smoking, but I don’t see much sign of that happening. Plenty of people with facemasks on top of their heads, puffing away.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      We’re living in the year 20XX, but we still don’t have futuristic drug delivery methods in widespread use. Vaporizers were becoming popular, but because of poor manufacturing, studies, etc, we got a bunch of pneumonia cases. Nicotine comes in arm-patches, but nothing else. Stim packs for all! Cigarettes give -1 health!

  16. Draklaw says:

    I can share some of my experience about working from home as a programmer. My previous job was 100% WFH and I’ve been there for 2.5 years. I’ve also been working from home the last 1.5 month due to health issues (unrelated to the Covid) in my new company.

    One assumption you seem to do and which is wrong from my experience is the use of video conference. In my previous job, some people switched their camera on, but it was a minority and not at all mandatory. I almost never did it. In my current job, nobody does it (but we use a lot of screen-sharing). So most of your questions about dress code and such are irrelevant. Also, I have a long record of taking my breakfast during the daily “standup”, so eating during a meeting is fine. However I sure things would be different if the call included clients and not only coworkers.

    About privacy, it’s a bit more complicated. Both jobs provided me with a laptop. They came pre-installed with plenty of stuff, including a VPN, mandatory to access some resources. So my employer can certainly spy on most of my internet traffic while I work, and it’s technically possible they installed some spy software. I doubt it though, my managers have always been very trusting. Note that as a programmer, they can still check my activity through my commits, so they probably don’t need spy software, but I pretty sure they are not bothering doing this (I guess they would if they suspected I was goofing off though).

    Anyway, that’s my experience. I realize it’s probably quite specific, most people don’t work in a high-tech company that provides laptops pre-configured for working from home and where it is a longtime accepted practice. But I’m pretty sure that a lot of people will quickly turn their camera off. Visio-conference is quite invasive, eat a lot of bandwidth and is mostly useless.

    1. Daimbert says:

      On the privacy thing, since you were always using company hardware, they could have always monitored you (and probably did). Getting on the VPN is like getting back onto the network, so all of that surveillance would still happen. For at least programming positions, for the most part productivity is measured by what you get done/checked in/submitted, so if that’s still churning along they probably won’t bother to check up in any more detail, and if it isn’t they won’t bother trying to find out what you’re doing but will instead simply tell you to be more productive. So in that field, there’s not much difference from at home to at work.

      1. Joshua says:

        I work in Accounting, not programming, but the philosophy here is “We don’t pay you to work, we pay you to get work done”. So, if any of us are finishing up early and surfing the net or whatever, no one cares because it’s about results, not effort. I can’t imagine why they would bother snooping on us to see if we were keeping busy.

        1. CBob says:

          TBH, I don’t understand why most workplaces don’t work this way.

          Seriously: what’s all these increasingly Orwellian ways of tracking employee time, when the only one that actually matters is throughput, and that can be measured directly and non-invasively? Spending so much time, effort, money, and not to mention employee goodwill, on things that at best only indirectly correlate to productivity seems like a weirdly cargo-cultish form of management.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Eating during a meeting depends on how much involvement is needed. If you’re required to participate in a discussion, then eating interferes with your ability to speak, and would just waste other people’s time waiting for you to finish. If the meeting is mostly just listening to someone else’s report, with some questions at the end, then yeah, you can probably sneak some food in during the beginning. Alternatively – how little attention does this meeting need, that you can give it half attention while you eat? Does the meeting need to happen at all? Low-value meetings kill productivity, before you even start with things like eating, etc.

      1. Syal says:

        Alternatively – how little attention does this meeting need, that you can give it half attention while you eat?

        That one’s double-edged, hunger makes it harder to concentrate.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          There’s this fancy new invention, called eating breakfast before you get to work. I’d bet even your doctor would agree it’s a healthy option. ;)

      2. CBob says:

        On the rare occasion this has come up for me, my solution has been a protein smoothie*. Drinking doesn’t take your concentration away like eating. Half or more of the other people at the meeting going to be drinking coffee anyway, so it makes no difference, practical or social, if what’s in your cup is different from what’s in theirs (I mean, so long as it isn’t booze).

        *Not to be confused with a protein shake. A protein shake is just a delivery system for protein powder, with little other nutritional content. A smoothie is anything you can justify combining in a blender, so it can be a proper meal.

        Could be argued that’s getting close to the whole Soylent “YoU cAn WoRk EvEn MoRe If YoU dOn’T hAvE tO eAt” weirdness, but IMO that’s a toxic management problem, not a food problem, and should be addressed accordingly.

        Having to eat at meetings (or while working in general) is sort of like crunch hours: having to do it occasionally is fine: it’s just a normal byproduct of no plan surviving contact with the enemy. Having to do it regularly means either you suck at time management, or your manager sucks at his/her job.

  17. Gunther says:

    In terms of living human experience, this has never happened before[5]. It’s a very odd quirk, but people – particularly young people – sort of take the current status quo for granted.

    Very strange, my experience has been exactly the opposite: I’m seeing constant posts on social media from others in my peer group (roughly mid-30s) complaining that our parents not taking this anywhere near as seriously as we are. I’m begging my mom to stop visiting friends or going to the supermarket every other day, and my dad seems to believe the whole thing is just a bunch of media fearmongering.

    I even independently came up with the exact inverse explanation as you – older people take the current status quo for granted (because age has made them suspicious of change).

    1. Christopher Wolf says:

      I am in Los Angeles. The only groups I see where people cluster are teenagers. This is when I am going to the grocery store. Everyone who looks above 18 is spread out, teens are right on top of each other.

    2. Shep says:

      It seems to be more a generational thing than directly an age thing – boomers and zoomers seem to be taking it the least seriously, whilst Gen Xers and Milennials are taking it the most seriously, which is probably related to the fact that these groups are the biggest consumers of media. The media are pushing it as a very serious emergency and most people of a similar age to me (early 30s) are treating this like the end of the world. The people I mostly see out on the streets these days are either kids or pensioners. I’m in Britain, so we have a “soft lockdown” situation already.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        You dang old people, get off of the streets and back onto your lawns! (Actually, your houses, but I’m terrible at jokes. :P )

  18. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

    I would take the opposite side of almost all these bets. I think there is likely to be very little change in the behavior of most people unless this drags on for years. I think there will be some changes on the margin, and it will mostly accelerate existing trends, but no major changes.

    American metropols have been getting less dense with three exceptions: New York, Chicago, LA. I expect those may cease to be exceptions as a lot of people decide that actually, they have the money to live in the suburbs after all. But that trend has been going on for 70 years. Businesses will move out to the suburbs to follow people fleeing the density of central cities -but that trend has been going on for 40 years.

    Telecommuting will become a tool for facilitating that less dense style of living, but all the problems of telecommuting still exist (I teach -I can tell you dozens of ways that in-person classes are better than online classes) so we will not see a sudden upswing in telecommuting -it will remain a method used when the better methods are unavailable for practical reasons. For this reason while people might get marginally better at remote collaboration, they won’t use it much more than they always did.

    The almost all is the closing of retail -though not the way you think. Amazon isn’t going to replace retailers because people get used to ordering stuff online. Retailers serve an important purpose for fashions and for browsing that the updating and shipping times of retailers can’t replicate. However, those retailers also rely on a very efficient supply train that can swap out their styles by the season. That supply train is currently derailed, and I’m unsure if it can be gotten back onto the track. This might make our fashion seasons a little longer -or it might not. Who knows. But I think a lot of retailers and boutiques will close and not re-open. The winners will be the bigger companies that can absorb the hit and buy up the losers -so more Macy’s, Dillards, and Nordstroms. (Maybe, Macy’s is laying off workers, too.)

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You mention longer fashion seasons[1], but I’m actually hopeful this impacts other products as well. If we rely less on immediate purchases, with shipping times from a totally working infrastructure, maybe we’ll get more products that last longer? I assume you meant “clothing fashions” from your phrasing and the use of “boutique”, but appliances are year by year, becoming more fashionable, disposable goods.

  19. Alecw says:

    Here’s the thing – I hope not a lot does change, because although unprecedented in an Information Age, this infection really isn’t a big deal.
    If it runs rampant and the dead line the streets, it will burn through its host pool in weeks and …about 5-10% of the population dies. – And they’re mostly old people, harshly, at the end of their working lives and living off pension or savings.
    The largest demographic effect will be a wealth shift into more productive parts of the economy, which is probably good in the long run. Personally I’m very close to my elderly family and this would be emotionally devastating – but rationally I realise that it probably improves the health of the economy long term.
    Big BUT.
    If our response includes creating an artificial depression and destroying millions of businesses, we will be far behind where we were and the true death toll will be in the billlions over the years due to a poorer world.
    If negative changes like bad habits like social
    Cohesion being broken and government growth / overreach set in, we are that much more cyberpunk dystopia and that much less nice world to live in.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      On the other hand, poorer people tend to have more children, so a depression might lead to another population boom.

      1. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

        Probably not a baby boom. The relationship is more complicated than the correlation implies -and what is actually picked up is marital status. Poor people who are unmarried have high rates of unmarried childbaring -which is associated with fewer children -income held constant. That is, married people have more children than unmarried people holding everything else constant. Married people are also richer than unmarried people if we measure household income (2 earners, though it turns out married people are also richer in per capita terms).

        Much of what drives declining birthrates in the US is delayed marriage -and therefore delayed first conception. While a majority of first births are to unmarried mothers, a majority of all births are to married mothers -but if married mothers start having children later they have fewer children.

        The most likely result of a depression is that marriage will be delayed further for women, and so fewer children will be born. This is what happened in the Great Depression (though it was already happening in the Roaring Twenties -again, income isn’t the key point -it’s age of marriage).

        Also, hurricanes and floods and other natural disasters tend to decrease conceptions -so both indicators are pushing that way.

    2. Dragmire says:

      There is a huuuuge amount of infrastructure, systems and trained people behind caring for the elderly. The jobs in this area will collapse if a large percentage of old people die in a short period of time. This will strain other markets as people try to find jobs elsewhere.

  20. Matt says:

    I think this will be a temporary disruption before things return to the normal. Anecdotally, most of the my friends and colleagues are looking forward to when we can get back to regular business. I think the factors that result in the status quo Shamus mentions haven’t changed much. Bosses still want to be able to personally oversee their employees. People still like going out to the market and for entertainment.

  21. Duoae says:

    The thing for me is how the pandemic is both over- and under-respected by the majority of the population. The measures I’m seeing put in place from governments are later than i would have liked and less targeted. At the same time, I’m seeing overreaction from the general populace in terms of PPE wearing (ineffective, especially when you’re not trained to wear them and actually pointless if you’re healthy and practicing proper hygiene) and fear of the virus and underreaction in terms of adhering to the protocols put in place.

    If there are two things I’d love to come put of this, long term, is forcing students to continue science/logic lessons for longer in their schooling (in order to better understand things like published numbers and research figures) and increased personal hygiene (not to crazy amounts but stupid stuff like just washing your freaking hands after going to the toilet or eating).

    I agree that retail is really likely to change.

    The other stuff i don’t much see happening, depending on the environment. Living space has gotten a lot smaller over the years in many countries and most housing is not set up for working from home. I am lucky i have a room that i use for pc gaming/ office work but my partner started working from home first so i set her up there. Now i have to work from the kitchen table which is not comfortable because I’m using a chair which is designed to be sat on during meals and not for long term office work. If we had kids then things would be unworkable.

    Added to that, internet costs way too much and is not classed as a utility in most countries, has ridiculous caps and other restrictions. Companies do not generally factor in these costs when telecommuniting.

    I also think that a large portion of people do not work as hard when there’s no separation of work/ home spaces and that has a knock on effect on productivity. It also has a negative effect on many people’s mental health as they no longer have a safe space to retreat to (either away from or to home :) ). It’s already bad enough with phone access to emails and IMs, it would only get worse when working from home.

    Cold callers and door to door sales would see a huge uptick in this new regime too, providing many further distractions.

    On a plus note, buying things would be easier and you can just have them shipped to your home address…

    1. Joshua says:

      Plus side: You don’t have to take as much personal time to handle things like waiting for the cable guy, or staying home with a sick child.

      Minus side: Some companies will realize this, and may downsize their personal time allowances accordingly.

      1. jpuroila says:

        Fortunately outside US most of those “personal time allowances” are enshrined in law.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Wash your hands after using the washroom? What are we, a bunch of nerds? Rinsing them with water for a few seconds is already good enough, if you need the extra safety. /sarcasm

      1. Duoae says:

        Haha! And here i was thinking you were going to pull me up on my tangled sentence where it seems like i was endorsing washing hands after eating :)

  22. Joshua says:

    Good topic for discussion. I’ve wondered about these things.

    #1 My paternal grandparents were very much like this. They were both born around 1920, thus experiencing the Great Depression in their adolescence and early adulthood, and all of the years I knew them they were incredibly frugal. They wore the same clothes they got from thrift shops for decades, my grandmother would save every piece of food from going out to eat (wrapping up rolls in napkins and putting in her purse), and when she died in 2001 and my parents had to go through all of their belongings, they had to throw out jars and boxes filled with screws, nails, and everything else because they were loathe to throw away anything. Wrapping paper for presents was typically newspaper instead of specialty wrapping paper.

    The kicker? Their estate nearly 20 years ago in 2001 was worth about a million USD, so there was no reason they would have had to live this frugally.

    That being said, the Great Depression lasted about ten years, so that probably has more of a personality-changing effect than what we’re experiencing.

    #2. I’m really curious about how this will affect remote work as well. One thing to keep in mind though is that people now working remotely are also pretty much people who have experience with their job. Today marks four years at my job, and I’ve been here the shortest at my office. I would imagine it’s much harder to hire and train someone from a purely remote standpoint for many jobs. I do think there will be increased training and preparation for jobs in the remote sense.

  23. Christopher Wolf says:

    I literally cannot grade my students’ work right now. Just like yesterday, the learning managment system my district has crashed again. It doesn’t help that the district also has trainings using the same platform that they want staff to use.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Solidarity, friend!

      I’ve been fortunate that most of our students’ work was already digital, but I’m not looking forward to institutional assessment time, since most of our department’s data for said assessment is sitting in my office.

  24. Topher Corbett says:

    People distrust the media because the media is untrustworthy. They had the same hysteria over swine flu. Their interest is not in accurate reporting, it’s in political sniping (as usual.)

    1. Steve C says:

      The swine flu was dangerous. Except it was contained. It makes a huge huge difference.

  25. Echo Tango says:

    our faces are on a grid and we’re no longer having a meeting around a table

    This is one of those features that meeting software needs to develop. At work, we’ve used Google Hangouts, plus some video-conferencing stuff from other companies[1], and that’s one thing I’ve noticed several times. We can all hear who’s talking, but two people will jump in during a pause and talk over each other until they realize what’s happening, or too many people will stay silent to avoid that and nobody knows who should talk next. Even something simple like a cartoon round-table, with an arrow pointing to who “has the floor” (or microphone) so to speak, would help a lot. :)

    I wonder if handshakes aren’t going to be phased out

    I default to just waving at people. It’s only because I work in an office with the “average” person, that I have accepted this type of greeting. I used to wave with a “sorry I’m a bit sick today” if I had a meeting I couldn’t miss, but after this whole situation, I think I’ll try again to make waving an accepted greeting. (Photons can’t give you a disease!)

    [1] Set up a few trials/demos, since we want to see if we can improve our video-call tech-stack during these times.

  26. Dreadjaws says:

    You have more faith in people than I do. A few months after the cure for this is found and the virus is stopped people will go back to acting like they’re invincible. Those who never got infected in the first place will think that the whole quarantine thing was an unnecessary exaggeration. You see it everyday, Shamus: people who aren’t directly affected by something tend to believe it just can’t affect them in the first place (“Why are people complaining about Arkham Knight being a bad PC port? It works perfectly for me!”). Hell, sometimes they’re actually affected and still refuse to accept it (“What? You got cancer from smoking? Ridiculous! I’ve been smoking for years and it hasn’t affected me in the slightest. COUGH, COUGH! COUGH!”).

    One thing I’m certain is going to change, whether we like it or not, is cinema. Not sure if streaming is going to get more popular than going to the theater (unlikely, unless they do away with the whole regional restriction they keep pulling), but we’re about to see a resurgence of movies about epidemics. I haven’t seen one yet and I’m already tired of them.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m just hoping people don’t hoard toilet-paper next time… ^^;

      1. Syal says:

        That’s what they should be making movies about.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Something bad happens. “Why didn’t the council of elders do anything?”
      The council of elders does something to prevent something bad from happening. “Nothing happened, why did they do something?”

      1. Echo Tango says:

        You could solve this by just having a well-informed populace, that knows how to read a historical chart and knows what probabilities are. Come on, it’s like, totally easy to fix this!

  27. methermeneus says:

    I work as a mechanic, which means I’m considered essential (my shop specifically does a lot of work for local police fleets), and I’ve gotta say, while business in general is crazy slow, I’m seeing a fair number of people coming in not for emergency repairs so they can keep commuting to the hospital, but for basic maintenance they just want to get out of the way. Things like state inspections (which cops are not currently stopping people for, and some are even coming in early), oil changes (you’ve generally got a couple thousand miles leeway for that, especially if you don’t make a habit of being late), tune-ups (if your engine isn’t missing, it’s not something you can’t put off), etc. Worse, I’ve noticed it’s mostly elderly retirees, which means people in the most vulnerable population who also don’t actually drive very much, which means they have zero urgency to get the work done. We had one lady in her 80s yesterday come in for an oil change just because her last one was three months ago, and somehow she didn’t realize she had over 5000 miles left even though oil changes have been recommended based solely on milage (or engine cycles for some automatic reminders) for over four decades now.

    The majority are taking things seriously, but those who aren’t are a relatively large and noticeable minority.

    On the subject of the right sorts of things to buy for extended isolation without panicking, as well as some analysis of how major events like the Great Depression and the 1918 flu changed people, Corisanna on tumblr has an interesting post. Also, I’ve heard that people who are using their new free time and energy flour supplies to bake bread for the first time are running out of yeast, so here’s a biologist telling people how to obtain yeast without the packets. My own addition: if you do exactly the same thing except you don’t bother with the fruit, you get a sourdough starter, which is basically the same thing except using lactobacilli instead of yeast.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You don’t need yeast if you want flat breads! :)

  28. Ed Weatherup says:

    Over here in the UK I think our already fractured population, thanks to Brexit, is going to be split in two again: Those who want to put everything back as it was before, and those who want to continue and expand the changes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a close correlation between the Brexit sides, just as there is — I think — with climate change deniers and climate change activists.

    My worry, from too many disaster movies, is this just the first act: the second act is where it looks to be all over and then … “Oh, you thought that was bad? Try this ….!” and I hope we survive to get to Act 5.

  29. Binary Toast says:

    A side note on your comments about retailers starving? This might be what finally kills Gamestop (and similar stores).

    So obviously, in an era where (decently) fast internet is becoming the norm, and everybody is trying to put out their own online storefronts (with varying degrees of success), brick and mortar game stores have been suffering for years. But I’m talking about Gamestop, because it’s the one I’ve been hearing about the past month.

    I’m honestly having a hard time figuring out where to start, the stupid just blurs together, so I guess let’s start with the stupidest part! Gamestop trying to paint themselves as essential business, in order to keep their doors open. Highlights of that include a company-wide memo sent to every store, that they were to show law enforcement when (not if) they showed up asking them to close, basically requesting the police contact their corporate offices, all while publicly claiming to comply with local government directives (like closing non-essential businesses). I imagine any law enforcement that were actually faced with this memo were unimpressed.

    And then, part of the pressure to close their doors was coming from their own employees, because all their corporate speak about ensuring cleaning supplies would be available was varying degrees of blatant lies. And ya know, concerns for their own health, the fact that their average costumers tended to be in the risk groups, little things like that.

    And after finally closing their stores nation-wide, they’ve quietly announced that a few hundred of them won’t be opening back up.

  30. PhoenixUltima says:

    The final thing that’s tripping people up is that this pandemic requires us to take the media seriously. The problem is that the media is ALWAYS making dire predictions and gravitating towards far-out worst-case predictions.

    I’m ashamed to admit this was my initial reaction to this whole covid-19 thing. “They said that SARS was gonna be a huge pandemic, and nothing came of it [here in the states, I mean. I know it was a fairly big deal in the east]. They said the same thing about the swine flu, and nothing came of THAT. This is just more over-reactionary bullshit to get people scared so they’ll watch more news. No big deal.”

    But no. Turns out covid-19 is the Real Damn Deal. And I’m now livid at the news agencies for creating this atmosphere of distrust, where people like me can read about something on the news, supposedly the main source of information about what’s going on in the world, and come away with “welp, looks like Chicken Little is raving about the sky again!”

    I’d like to think they’ll learn a lesson from this, and be more level-headed about new outbreaks and disasters and such. But honestly, they’ll probably respond to the next disease with something like “this new outbreak MIGHT be the next covid-19! Sit through our commercials to find out more!”

    1. Fizban says:

      I’m not taking myself to task for it- in the end the main problem is just that it’s a new strain of flu with all the initial impact that entails. So I was like “yup, keep washing my hands and avoiding anyone who coughs like I usually do.” The parts that got me more worried were hearing that we’d blown right through the chance to actually contain the thing, and that apparently the symptoms can vary wildly in intensity. Diseases you don’t even realize you have are one of my major freak outs, but in this case not because it’ll get me, but because I could hit my mom with it without having any warning.

      1. Tuck says:

        It is not a new strain of flu. It has flu-like symptoms, but it is a completely separate form of virus.

  31. Rack says:

    I don’t want to get into how things might change but as far as people taking this seriously goes it’s a little reminiscent of the Millennium bug. If this is handled well and things don’t get out of control then for a lot of people the impact is going to be that one of their acquaintance’s grandmothers died. 300,000 deaths is a tragedy but it’s not apocalyptic. Some people are inevitably going to say the response was an overreaction precisely because it worked.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      One of my coworkers used this exact same comparison to justify her attitude that this is all overblown and it’s “just the flu.” I countered that there was a reason companies were waving millions of dollars at my father for knowing the likes of COBOL in 1999, and it wasn’t because they were dumb.

  32. parkenf says:

    This was a bad idea and I’m bad at cheering people up.

    Well it made me laugh.

  33. Jimmy Bennett says:

    Predicting the future is very challenging even in the best of times so I’m not going to pretend that I’m predicting the future here. I’m just going to talk about some positive changes that I hope will come about once this pandemic is over.

    First, it would be great if we could give up using the handshake as a default greeting for meeting new people. Ideally, we would adopt some form of no-contact greeting, but tapping elbows would also be a significant improvement. When we shake hands we’re basically saying, “Hey I just met you, please expose me to all of your communicable diseases.” If we could do this, we could slow the spread of ordinary diseases like the flu or the common cold, and we’d be also make it harder for any future pandemics to spread widely before they’re detected.

    Second, it would be nice if we changed our attitude towards service industry jobs. People act like those jobs aren’t important and that people working those jobs don’t deserve to have a living wage. Now that we’re going through this crisis a lot of service industry jobs are being classified as “essential.” Service workers are going out in public and risking exposure to a deadly disease so that our whole society doesn’t grind to a halt. I just hope that people appreciate the fact that these people are performing a vital service. Just because their job doesn’t pay very well and they don’t have College degrees doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable or that the work they do isn’t important.

    Third, I want to echo your sentiment that I hope more companies realize that remote work can be done effectively and that hiring remote workers can be cheaper and more efficient than forcing everyone to come into the Office. If nothing else, for the next few months a lot of industries are going to be forced to work remotely. Companies that already know how to work remotely are going to have a big competitive advantage during this time. If nothing else, this competitive edge might cause a lot of companies that are currently leery of remote work to give it another look.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Waving at each other works just fine – germs can’t be transmitted by photons! :)

  34. Angie says:

    As a data point, neither I nor my husband drive, and we’ve gotten groceries delivered for as long as it was possible, which is like 15 years, maybe a bit more. We still shop for fresh produce (I like picking my own, although we have it delivered sometimes) or for things we’ve run out of that aren’t enough to be worth putting in a delivery order, but we’ve been getting refrigerated and frozen food delivered for over a decade. We’ve never had anything go bad; I assume the delivery vans are insulated, or have insulated storage for crates with cold/frozen stuff in them. At any rate, it does work, and it’s not a reason not to order your perishable groceries.


  35. RFS-81 says:

    I hope that wearing surgical masks becomes socially acceptable in the Western world. (If and when the shortages in hospitals are over, of course.) When I saw pictures from Japan or China with lots of people wearing masks (before the COVID-19 crisis), I assumed that’s some sort of societal germaphobia, but it was really about not spreading your cold or flu to others.

    So, if you insist on demonstrating your work ethic by infecting your coworkers, at least do some damage control!

    1. jpuroila says:

      To be fair, I believe in China wearing masks is at least as much about air pollution as it is about not spreading whatever disease you might have.

  36. evileeyore says:

    “What will the new normal look like?”

    Just like 6 months ago with slightly less people* and a slightly greater propensity for Americans to wear masks when sick in public spaces.

    Unless this thing has no vaccine. Then my prediction is “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay less people, everyone wearing masks. Possible Road Warriorism.”

    * I think the current model is for the population to be decimated. That’s “one in ten dead” for those that don’t know the historical definition.

    1. jpuroila says:

      The HIGHEST estimates for mortality rate are around 4%(and that’s of those who catch the virus – not everyone will). More realistically and when you account for people who catch the virus but get very mild or no symptoms and so aren’t tested(and thus counted), it’s more like 0.4%.

  37. As someone who has worked from home for Amazon doing customer service, my experience might have some relevance here.

    1.) It’s actually not that difficult to determine whether your employees are working or not, and it doesn’t require monitoring them on video. It just means switching to a task-based approach with definite assignments, deadlines rather than a “you better look busy” approach. As long as your assigned WORK is getting done and your quality is to spec, who cares if you LOOK like you’re working or not?

    2.) while I was working there Amazon switched to supplying all of their offsite employees with a purpose-built Chromebook running their own OS. This device had EVERYTHING you needed to do your job, from time clock to messaging your boss to training classes, and it was basically built to be plug-and-go. Your activity *on that device* was monitored, but your *personal* activity was NOT.

    Some goods will be safe from this, of course. Shipping frozen and refrigerated goods to residential locations is still really expensive, so we’ll probably still go to the store for milk, meat, veggies, etc. Likewise, really big purchases (furniture and appliances) are probably better suited to the old showroom paradigm. Shopping for kids still requires trying stuff on because the little runts grow so dang fast, so clothing retail ought to be mostly okay.

    *Snerk* Amazon literally delivers fresh groceries NOW to pretty much any part of the country that can realistically be called “suburbs” instead of flat out “rural” . . . and you don’t have to have a special “Amazon Fresh” account costing an extra $300 a year, either! I get it just as part of my regular Prime membership! I use them most often specifically to get MILK.

    Also there are services like Shipt that are basically Uber for groceries. They are sometimes a little annoying (and useless right at the moment) because they’re not 100% accurate at keeping track of what the stores have in stock. But keep in mind that Amazon is in the process of rolling out brick-and-mortar retail locations to supplement their online stores. I don’t think people appreciate just how *much* infrastructure Amazon has built up over the past decade. Most people know there’s quite a bit, but Amazon has *dozens* of little sub-services that most people only know about if they actually use them. I use a lot of them because, well, I worked for them so I had to learn about them.

    They’re even fixing that whole clothing thing . . . they launched a new service as part of Prime where you can order a ton of clothes, try them for 2 weeks, and send back anything you don’t want to keep for free, it’s called Prime Wardrobe. Granted, I won’t buy clothes on Amazon because they simply don’t have an acceptable database searching solution for size–if you search “plus size” you get stuff that’s not remotely plus size. There’s no decent way to filter the clothing offerings so shopping for clothes on Amazon is a pain for completely different reasons . . . so I do all of my clothes shopping online on a DIFFERENT website.

    We buy all of our furniture online, too.

    One change I think will happen that you didn’t mention exactly is that people will be a LOT less forgiving of the whole Office Plague bullshit. This is my feeling, anyway, but there may be a bit of a sea change where people start getting seriously annoyed when someone comes in to work coughing and sneezing and gets the entire office sick. Everyone saw their workplace forcibly disrupted for a month or two or however many it ends up being. They’re going to have zero tolerance for people saying “but I just HAVE to come to work sick”.

    That and I suspect a lot more people will get flu shots going forward and as a silver lining we might start seeing a major decrease in flu deaths, a REGULAR killer.

    1. Asdasd says:

      As long as your assigned WORK is getting done and your quality is to spec, who cares if you LOOK like you’re working or not?

      In an ideal world I’d agree (and I’m sure in some companies this is how it goes), but I’ve worked in a few places where the answer is, the bosses care. One of the reasons for a culture of ‘looking busy’ at work comes from a distrust on the workers’ part that the bosses will keep to their assignments.

      At the start of the day the worker envisages three scenarios:

      * They don’t finish their assigned work for the day. They get chewed out or even shitcanned by the bosses.
      * They finish their assigned work by the end of the day. The bosses are satisfied.
      * They finish their assigned work before the end of the day. The bosses notice them sitting around with no work to do, and make a note to increase the assigned work tomorrow.

      The worker has to assume this works like a ratchet – the bosses will never reduce work when an assignment can’t be met. So on a good day, a worker who finishes early risks making their life harder for the remainder of their employment. This results in a form of Parkinson’s Law, not out of laziness but an intuited self-preservation.

      1. This is also exacerbated by the concept of paying people by the hour instead of paying them to complete tasks when they have a task-oriented job instead of an hourly job.

        The job I had for Amazon was an hourly job . . . you were basically expected to be online and available to accept contacts (calls, emails, chats–whatever you were doing that day) during the entire time that you were scheduled to be at work (with scheduled time off for breaks and training and stuff). If you weren’t taking calls your boss could see it and they’d want to know why immediately. Their scheduling system was a work of art.

        But they also had people working tasks who used the same system with modifications, and it all worked really well without unnecessarily intruding on anyone’s life. I’d frankly hold Amazon up as the gold standard for that kind of thing.

        Heck, one of the first things they had you do when you started work there was to watch a cute music video entitled “workin’ in my PJ’s”.

  38. pseudonym says:

    The Netherlands are the third hardest hit country in Europe, after Spain and Italy in terms of deaths per capita. No hard choices on the IC yet, but all non-essential health care has been postponed until further notice. We all hope our health care capacity will be able to cope, and that the implemented measures will prevent a capacity overflow from happening. When a overflow does happen we will get the same as Spain and Italy, and I am not looking forward to that.

    My wife and I are doing fine. No family hit yet. A colleague had to be hospitalized, but luckily she recovered.

    I work in the public sector and my wife as well, which means our income is assured. I realize we are really lucky. My work (data analysis, programming) can continue from home without problems. I do miss my colleagues. I also miss the exercise that comes with cycling the first part of the commute. I also miss the work place with ergonomic chair and desk set up to my body proportions. For me working from home is not a real time saver. The commuting time is spent elsewhere. Mostly on having a walk to compensate for the lack of exercise.

    A great exercise tip is this 7-minute workout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECxYJcnvyMw. I think this is one of the habits I will keep after this crisis. It really works well with computer work, where sometimes you take a small break.

    1. Glad to hear you’re doing fine. May it continue.

      The worst thing I know about here actually has nothing to do with the virus . . . one of my housemate’s close work colleagues just found out she has advanced, aggressive pancreatic cancer with an estimated 4 months to live.

      Then this shit happened.

      He’s been struggling with what to do (and what CAN he do?!) to help her out.

  39. Tuck says:

    In terms of living human experience, this has never happened before[5].

    One of the recent deaths from Covid-19 that made the news was a 108-year-old woman who had survived the Spanish flu epidemic. :(

  40. C__ says:

    “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

    1. Nimrandir says:

      As much as I love this Tolkien quote, I must admit I’m sad about the number of times I’ve felt the need to invoke it.

  41. silver Harloe says:

    A cure will take months to make, months to test, months to get into production, months to get distributed. But when a cure is *announced*, a ridiculous number of people will just assume it’s available over the counter at the corner store tomorrow and stop caring about protection, mitigation, or containment altogether. The moment a vaccine is announced, a ridiculous number of people will just assume the problem is solved and wonder why anyone is still doing anything preventative.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Come now, if playing Plague Inc. has taught me anything it’s that the moment a cure is completed it can be delivered to every last person on Earth (whom it cures instantly) in a week, tops. ;)

  42. Redrock says:

    The thing about the coronavirus is that long-term it will likely be seen merely as a prelude to the absolutely devastating global recession we’re headed for. Consider the Spanish flu, which killed millions, but is barely remembered eclipsed by the Great War that preceded it and by the Great Depression that came a decade later. The “normal” will probably change, but not so much because of the coronavirus, but because of the major socio-economic shifts the new recession will likely bring. We’re looking at whole industries hurting beyond imagining. The political implications are even more troubling. Without going into detail and breaking the “no politics” rule, I’ll just give one example: the basic concept of the EU and the shared Shengen agreement basically died this month. The long-term repercussions for european politics could be monumental. And that’s just one aspect.

    Since I’m working for the information wing of my country’s coronavirus response center I feel pretty confident in saying that the people in charge are completely clueless and baffled by the whole situation, and I think that’s universal across the globe. And once the public catches on… well, let’s just say that we’re gonna see some interesting election campaigns in various countries, as well as emergency powers being granted and abused in surprising ways. Or maybe not so surprising, depending on who you ask.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I really hope the economy / stock markets / etc all recover relatively quickly. I already had to live through the 2008-ish recession. There were college-graduates lining up outside of Starbucks for jobs! :S

  43. Nimrandir says:

    So, weird story.

    Either at the beginning of this fall or the one before, I read an article discussing the lack of face-to-face interaction teenagers were getting. There were jesting quotes about beds with their owners’ bodies imprinted on them, and stories about the prevalence of social media taking the place of physically hanging out with friends.

    I didn’t take it too seriously, but it got my creative side thinking about the late-stage effects of this. I started messing around with a worldbuilding exercise in which a plague had driven humanity into total isolation — like, exactly one person per structure. Relationships only existed online, and a caste of naturally immune ‘outsiders’ were responsible for all courier activity. I never put anything to paper, since I couldn’t come up with a plot beyond ‘some schlub ends up having to leave the house.’

    I’d have looked like some sort of prophetic genius. Oh well.

    1. Dalisclock says:

      Sounds a lot like Death Stranding.

      You know, without all the weird Kojima Wanking he’s fond of. I should be ashamed of my words and deeds, but I’m not.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Hold up — does this make me an auteur?

        Seriously, though, I wasn’t interested enough in Death Stranding to dig into its backstory. Now I almost feel like I should play it to find out what I could have done plot-wise.

        Then I remember hearing about its movie-length final scene, and I’m suddenly okay with not knowing.

        1. Dalisclock says:

          I haven’t played it but I decided “It’s a Kojima game and I’ve seen his work in the past few years. I’m not going to worry about Spoilers.”.

          And the story is very Kojima, and probably owes not a small debt to Neon Genesis Evangelion in broad stokes.

          Though the moment to moment gameplay is apparently pretty good, much like MGSV before it. And like MGSV, the plot makes little sense beyond the base premise.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      Also sounds a lot like “The Naked Sun” by Isaac Asimov, except it wasn’t a plague, it just sort of … happened … over the ages in one of the colonies. (And then a detective from Earth and his robot buddy are sent there to solve an impossible murder mystery.)

      And now I also have to share the ridiculous cover of the edition I have. Looks like it should be called “Robot Strippers from Mars” or something.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Yeah, Robot Buddy’s core processor is working pretty hard there.

  44. Rosseloh says:

    You stay safe too, man. You’re a good guy and I haven’t been reading your blog since 2008 just to have you die on me.

    Personally I’m not worried about the virus itself. Yeah I might catch it….I also might not, I live in a very low density state and we’re taking measures (not good enough measures by any means, but it’s something)…plus personally I’m going nowhere but work, the grocery store, and home until probably June at minimum. I’m already a traditional loner and internet denizen so this doesn’t bother me, apart from not being able to make my traditional Friday pub visit. Going to work is the worst part, followed closely by grocery shopping since a lot of the people there don’t appear to be taking anything seriously.

    If I do get it, oh well. I can’t know what will happen until it happens. Precautions are taken and that’s the best I can do.

    I’m more worried about afterward. I still have a credit card from my college years to pay off and definitely don’t have the “six months of savings” everyone on the internet says you should have – because I’ve been paying off my debt instead, like the internet *also* says. I could manage a month of my current expenses without income. So I have no idea what’s going to happen there. And that scares me. I don’t work in food service but if it gets as bad as a lot of people think, even computer repair/IT service is going to take a hit because people and companies won’t be able to afford it. And even if I keep my job, what happens if food skyrockets? I should be fine on housing (my parents own their house outright in the worst case scenario, even if my dad was to lose his job for some reason) but it’s just too many unknown variables for my tiny brain to handle.

    So I am trying to….avoid too much information. I check the daily report from the WHO to see how it’s going, but otherwise I am trying not to read much, and especially not doom and gloom stuff. It’s for my own sanity.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I don’t think food prices would raise dramatically, since farmers and truckers are already fairly isolated as part of their jobs. Butchers, people working in canneries, etc, all already wear gloves and masks, so that’s unlikely to be affected much either. It sounds like you’ve got a good family support network, all I think you’ll be OK on the long term. :)

    2. Joshua says:

      Well, debt is like negative savings. If you could put $1,000 into a savings account to earn 1% interest, or pay down your credit card which has a 15% (or more!) interest rate, it makes more sense to reduce your debt.

      I’ve been gradually increasing our savings account for awhile, but nowhere near 6 months* just yet. Paying off interest-bearing debt and investing into a more profitable retirement (well, normally) were better than throwing a ton of money into savings.

      *And I’ve heard six months of wages vs. six months of expenses. The latter makes much more sense, but might still be too high for a lot of people.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        The real issue is that most savings accounts lose ground versus inflation. I was under the impression that money market accounts were usually the better home for an emergency fund.

  45. Dalisclock says:

    This was a bad idea and I’m bad at cheering people up

    If it makes you feel better, Shamus, I’ve been stuck on the final boss of Sekiro for the past month(and since everyone being stuck at home has cut down on my game time, I’m still stuck on Sekiro) and I’ve been making awful jokes along the lines of “I’m dying way too much in Sekiro and now everyone has the plague”.

  46. AllanH says:

    This virus is going to infect almost everyone eventually. It was engineered to do so. What is scary, and I mean really scary, is what happens when people have blown their “stimulus” on xbox’s and drugs (the grocery stores will be empty anyways) and become hungry. That is going to reshape “normal” into something no one can predict. The government knows this and are slow boiling us frogs for the inevitable …

    1. RFS-81 says:

      It was not engineered, and the grocery stores won’t be empty after the panic buyers are done and they’ve restocked. COVID-19 isn’t going to kill all the farmers and delivery truck drivers. Don’t get me wrong, this is bad, but not apocalypticaly bad.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        It may be the cabin fever, but I couldn’t tell if the comment was joking, trolling, or a legitimate conspiracy theory.

  47. RCN says:

    People who’ve played Plague Inc have been taking this seriously from the start, including noticing how the virus took the main strategy of the game (“spread out, THEN kill”, like the old gold “pillage, THEN burn”, though viruses don’t really have an objective of killing people, it is just a product of what they do… rambling… damn). And it just showed to be as effective in the real world as it was in the game (maybe more so, we are just lucky the virus is not more lethal and slower because if it was…).

    As for the handshake it is a thing of the western culture we’ve inherited from Greek and then Roman merchants and diplomats (might be off here, feel free to correct me anyone), who’d offer their hands to show they have no hidden stuff up their sleeves. The rest of the world (save Africa and a few other places) always used non-contact greetings, like lowering the head, raising a hand, etc… I believe each cultural group will adopt one and stay with it. I’ve mastered the Vulcan salute, how about you?

    My country is currently the worst one at combating it because president still thinks it is a communist plot. Thank the Gods we have more sensible governors, who 26 out of 27 decided to actually do something about it in varying degrees of restrictions, but actually increasing them with time as things get worse. We are one month behind the curve of the US but here the popular consensus is that it is still nothing to worry about… and every time the president urges people to go out, a bunch are happy to oblige.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’d prefer a simple wave, but anything’s better than handshakes. Germs? Weird power-dynamics with salesmen trying to crush your hand? No thanks! :)

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Personally, I’m hoping for forearm bumps, like baseball’s “Bash Brothers” used to do in the 1980’s.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          That still involves germs! ^^;

        2. Syal says:

          Three Stooges eye pokes would be ideal.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            We could go with Dusty Rhodes’ Bionic Elbow.

    2. C__ says:

      A personal favorite of mine: “So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.” – Genesis 24:9

      Grabbing tights is TIGHT!

  48. stratigo says:

    HIV was experienced in the west. Quite keenly for some communities. Those communities were seen as undesirable and only when things spread from there was there an effort taken to control and treat it. And, well, be prepared for politically weaponized epidemic management. It’s already started.

  49. Vi says:

    I’m glad to hear you’re doing okay, and it’s always interesting to hear how someone outside my house is doing!

    My own family and social circle haven’t been affected by the virus itself, but it’s still kind of a scary and confusing time for me personally due to all the societal changes.
    -I’m the only one in my household to have been laid off from work. I’m so grateful to have financially stable relatives to keep a roof over my head and buy groceries! But now I feel even more like a sponge than usual, and that’s never fun. I was planning on changing jobs soon anyway, but the company I actually hoped to work for isn’t hiring right now. I don’t know when or where the workforce is going to let me rejoin, and that’s scary.
    -REALLY? I’m the one who got laid off? My company did medical-ish stuff, and my relatives work in a store and a factory! Sure, they make/sell important things, but I always THOUGHT my company’s services were essential! That’s the impression they always tried to instill in us!
    -Unemployment red-tape is confusing! I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve messed up all the badly-worded forms somehow and will never get unemployment insurance. I hope if it goes wrong and I can’t get the money, my family will be able to absorb the strain of my leachery. They’d probably be ticked off anyway.
    -I’m extra upset about my health insurance situation. I hate going to the doctor, but having coverage and a nagging family for years on end finally convinced me to let them poke at my body. (It’s as unpleasant as I expected, but I know everyone just wants me to be healthy and stuff.) Less than an hour before getting abruptly laid off, I scheduled my last and most extensive doctor visit. Before I went, I checked with my ex?-employer, my insurance company, and the hospital to make sure the appointment would be covered. I went, OUCH, also there’s a permanent metal bead under my skin which I am assured was medically necessary but was never told about ahead of time, and then I got conflicting letters about whether my insurance was cancelled before or after the doctor visit. I contacted all three parties again and nobody knows what they heck is going on. YOU EEDIOTS!!! If I had known there was a risk of getting charged some ridiculous amount of money, I would have cancelled the appointment until further notice! If I do get billed, I swear I am going to want to kick somebody’s butt, but I can’t even tell who’s at fault here.
    -Also, this C.O.B.R.A. thing looks expensive and doesn’t even appear to cover the date my appointment was. I wish I could just ignore insurance and doctors for the rest of my life, but if I get the coronavirus that obviously wouldn’t be an option.
    -Theoretically, self-quarantining is easy when you already have no life; my relatives keep joking that because they stayed at home so much already, they aren’t feeling the difference very much at all. But after several years in our new city and household income bracket, I had been finally getting comfortable leaving the house by myself, driving, and even spending money. I felt like I was on a really positive trajectory as a pseudo-grownup! I had several stores I liked to check for interesting clearance items every couple of weeks (despite accusations of “hoarding” things I was usually too burned out from work to use), and had even bought my first-ever gym membership (shortly before getting crippled by a normal-flu for two months, but I finally recovered enough to go back one last time before it closed). The head of the household has been telling me since I started job-searching last year that it’s silly to look for an outdoor job since I never go outside, but it really was a long-term life goal all this time. I just don’t like being alone in remote areas, and I have never been taught any outdoor hobbies for grownups. Sure, it’s nice that instead of getting burned out from work every day I am slowly google-learning how to use this storage-tub-full of discount yarn I had hoarded, but I am still left feeling like this pandemic is not being supportive of my long term goals!
    -This year the extended family finally started playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time, but our third session had to be streamed through a mess of mobile devices, computers, microphones, and So.Many.Cords. It took forever for the dungeon master to set up correctly, and if I hadn’t impulse-bought a fancy computer microphone for the nonexistent music career Shamus accidentally provoked me to try several years ago, we may never have been able to pull it off. Thank you, Shamus! I also feel extra fortunate that the DM has his own 3D printer, so we can have new figurines even without the gaming stores open.
    -I’m still shocked all these news sources were right about a thing. Maybe if I had been paying attention sooner, none of these changes would have seemed as sudden. It seems like we’re all getting updates through the grapevine, and it’s probably breaking down like a game of telephone at some points. After we get through this, am I allowed to hate on shifty media companies again?
    -It really doesn’t seem like anyone else at the local level knows what’s happening, either. When we walk through the grocery store, sure there are barriers dividing up the entrances and a few markings on the floor, but nobody knows how to navigate through the aisles correctly and maybe 1/3 are wearing masks or gloves of some kind. I don’t even know how we are supposed to interact with the grocery store itself. If we go there because we really do need essential items, am I also allowed to impulse-buy non-essentials, like candy to share in front of the TV, or a shirt from the clearance rack that clearly the store wanted some shopper to get rid of? Is my coffee essential? If my hand accidentally touches the cashier’s, how many people have we doomed?
    -I’ve been coughing and sneezing for YEARS because I’m low-grade allergic to indoor air, the animals that sleep on my pillow, and probably lots of other things. If I do catch this new plague, how will I know?

    It would be amazing to have some certainty about the world’s long-term future, but certainty about just our own recent past and present would also be really handy.

    1. Syal says:

      After we get through this, am I allowed to hate on shifty media companies again?

      Oh, you can hate on them right now. I saw a Youtube video titled something like “Coronavirus death toll reaches it highest point so far.” Really, media? Because I was convinced the DEATH TOLL would be LOWERING over time.

      If my hand accidentally touches the cashier’s, how many people have we doomed?

      Only the hearts of all romantics.
      Although the grocery stores here seem to be taking things pretty seriously; they might end up cutting off that employee’s hand.

  50. Taxi says:

    My take on why some people don’t care or ‘take it seriously’ is because they simply really don’t care. There are family people like you who are mostly doing fine, but so many people (feel like) they have no future, noone to care about/care about them, stuck in insanely dead end jobs with mountain of debts, all of which tends to get even worse now.

    If you try to get into that mindset, you can’t wonder that some people just go ‘fuck it, at least I’ll go to an empty beach one last time’.

    That’s why I also think that once this blows over, rather than people becoming more careful, I rather expect even more excess, sort of like the boomer generation started after WWII.

  51. Christopher Wolf says:

    Ahead of the curve Shamus.

    Here is CNN’s take if you want.


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