If I guess the time, and get it right, do I know the time? No, says common sense, and nearly all theoretical and formal epistemology. If I guess that it will rain tomorrow, am I any better off? Presumably not. Yet we assess predictions almost entirely by whether they are right.
I do think Swedish predictive work was broadly accurate, compared to, for example, the models produced by Imperial College London. But more importantly, I think their stance was rational. They did what was right given the evidence. That isn’t the same as being right in the sense of landing on the truth. But there’s nothing either epistemically or morally significant about the latter. The former, however, is both. Sweden behaved more reasonably than any other country, or perhaps at least as reasonably as the most reasonable, given that there was room for reasonable disagreement.
The stance on Sweden is another version of the intellectual intolerance of the age. And it ignores the evidence. Sweden has done well: not perfectly, but no country has, that I can think of. Whether it comes out tops long-term is up in the air. But there is good reason to think it will – at least as good as the reasons to think it won’t.
Soon I’ll have an opinion piece out arguing several of these points. In particular, regulation is just the wrong idea in the first place: people need to be consulted. And that’s not a watery option, it’s the way to get effective solutions that are context-specific.
This is from last week but I don’t recall sharing it. A concise account of why people should not worry about school reopening. It is written for SA but applies also to the U.K. where timing is similar, as are the fears, including among people who consider themselves educated.
Steenhuisen (leader of the Opposition): “The state of disaster we are currently under, governed by the Disaster Management Act, has zero provision for parliamentary oversight. Which means this secretive NCC answers to no-one. Not even a state of emergency, which is a further step up from a state of disaster, has such sweeping powers with no parliamentary oversight.”
The Economist argues that hopes should not be pinned in tracing apps which might not work. Medicine is littered with medical interventions that failed, sometimes harmfully. What is different?
One difference is that this is not a biomedical intervention. However, public health is also littered with ineffective or harmful interventions with dangerous consequences (perhaps the effects of lockdown on mass migration being a case in point). It is interesting that governments should consider giving this potential solution a free pass, so to speak, without testing or an evidence base – perhaps because it hs a technological flavor?
It’s becoming hard to keep up with this stuff – there seem to be more and more voices suggesting that the costs of lockdown may exceed the costs of COVID-19, by some measure.
A lot depends what we compare lockdown to, and one bugbear of mine is the tendency to dichotomise the question: lockdown or bust. But the real comparison is between lockdown and some other measures, short of lockdown, but nonetheless somewhat effective. The cost/benefit ratio of these intermediate measures may be more favourable then lockdown for Low/Middle Income Countries, even if they are not in High Income Countries.