Scenarios for the impact of pandemics

A scenario matrix from my friend Nick Turner at Stratforma. His explanation below.

The framework is built on the axes of two critical uncertainties:

  1. The nature of global coordination; “slow and inadequate” vs. “fast and efficient”
  2. The nature of public response; “panicked” vs. “disciplined”

When placed in a 2×2 matrix, four scenarios unfold:

“Déjà Flu”a world where despite national governments and multi national agencies responding in a responsible and coordinated fashion, feed “too much” information, the public over-react, resulting in irrational consumption and even xenophobic outrage.

“Keep Calm & Carry On”: a world where the virus spreads but effective quarantining and treatment contain the epidemic and the public display unexpected resilience, as the media behave in a more retrained way.

“Plus ça Change”: a world of disparity in response across the globe between developed and developing economies, the population of latter, despite experiencing high mortality rates, shrug off as just another one life’s challenges to be faced.

“Me First”: a world of delay, opacity, incompetence and unpreparedness, leading to public panic, overreaction and selfishness, the after effects of which linger for years.

More on this in Nick’s post here.

Robots Vs. People

I attended a conference on AI at Cambridge University last week and one of the most interesting points was why we were developing robots to look after old people – why not just use people? The answer could be that we are running out of people, especially younger people, as is the case in Japan, but this simply begs another question. Why don’t we either educate younger people on the importance of looking after older people, especially one’s own relatives, or simply conscript younger people into the NHS for short periods (a wonderfully provocative idea proposed by Prof. Ian Maconochie at an Imperial College London lecture the other week).

All in the mind

There’s been quite a bit in the news recently (in the UK at least) about mental health. Lots of discussion about possible treatments and solutions but next to nothing asking the question “why?” In my book, Digital Vs. Human, I predict that a mental health epidemic will be one of the biggest – if not the biggest – major health issue this century.

One of the reasons is more people living and working alone. Specialisation at work might be another culprit as could the lack of secure employment. Global uncertainty could be another factor another. But the main cause, in my view, is connectivity and in particular our use of social media. In the past our identities were created internally and remained mostly private. This gave people a certain resilience. Increasing they are now created externally and publically, which creates tremendous vulnerability.

As I say in the book:

Susan Greenfield thinks that Facebook and sites like it create ‘ephemeral connections between imaginary identities’. This means that people are becoming increasingly fragile and less able to cope with anything remotely negative.

Ageing and the NHS

It’s not often that you’re in the car and have to pull over to write something down that you’ve just heard on the radio. A few days ago I did exactly this because someone said that a King’s Fund study had said that the average age of a patient in NHS hospitals in the UK was 80. Moreover, 2 out of 3 admissions are for people aged 65+

More here.

How we die

So here I am at 7.10 pm (I know, get off the computer) wondering what the heck to say today when an email from Bradley pops up. Consider it stolen I say. Bottom line seems to be to relax, watch what you eat and walk around a bit (“eat, a bit, mostly plants”). Interesting the difference between what we think could kill us (strangers, terrorists, planes, sharks, savage foxes) and what actually does.

Oh, btw, it’s from the Guardian.


There’s a good daily stat available from the Harvard Business Review. Here’s one that caught my eye last week. No doubt it will end up in brainmail at some point.

“Between 1985 and 2005, the number of Americans who said they definitely felt satisfied with the way their lives were going dropped by about 30%, and the ranks of the most dissatisfied rose by nearly 50%, according to a study involving thousands of people by Chris M. Herbst of Arizona State. The reasons appear to be related to Americans’ declining attachments to friends and family, lower participation in social and civic activities, and diminished trust in political institutions, Herbst says. The only good news: The rate of decline in satisfaction appears to have slowed during that two-decade period.”

Ref: ‘Paradoxical decline? Another look at the relative reduction in female happiness’ by Chris M. Herbst.