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Mental Models For a Pandemic

The dynamics of a social response

As we watch the pandemic and its consequences unfold, we see that leadership and authority are not the same things.

Disasters expose the cracks in our leadership. We also see people that display strong leadership without needing any authority.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Mental Models For a Pandemic

Mental Models For a Pandemic

https://fs.blog/2020/05/pandemic/

fs.blog

7

Key Ideas

Understanding the world through mental models

A few months ago, the world seemed reliable, but now it is changing so fast and has so many unknown dimensions, it can be hard to try and keep up.

Mental models can help us understand the world better, especially during times of confusion. A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. It is a way to simplify complexity and provide direction for our choices.

Compounding

Compounding is exponential growth. We tend to see the immediate linear relationships in the situation, e.g., how one test diagnoses one person.

The compounding effect of that relationship means that increased testing can lead to an exponential decrease in disease transmission because one infected person can infect more than just one person.

Probabilistic thinking

In the absence of enough testing, we need to use probabilistic thinking to make decisions on what actions to take. Reasonable probability will impact your approach to physical distancing if you estimate the likelihood of transmission as being three people out of ten instead of one person out of one thousand.

When you have to make decisions with incomplete information, use inversion: Look at the problem backward. Ask yourself what you could do to make things worse, then avoid doing those things.

Models for society

Using mental models will help in understanding the dynamics of the large-scale social response.

We are currently seeing first-order negatives (closing businesses), and 2nd- and 3rd-order positives (reduced transmission, less stress on the healthcare system.)

We need to encourage the thinking, analysis, and decision-making that considers the effects of the effects of the decisions made. Then we need to use a feedback loop. This will give us a better chance of making good decisions.

The dynamics of a social response

As we watch the pandemic and its consequences unfold, we see that leadership and authority are not the same things.

Disasters expose the cracks in our leadership. We also see people that display strong leadership without needing any authority.

Ecosystems

One quality of an ecosystem is its resilience - the speed at which an ecosystem recovers after a disturbance.

  • One factor that interferes with our collective resilience is the thin buffer of our economy. The closing of shops and business has exposed the fragile supply chains. Individuals and businesses don't have enough money saved up.
  • The other is the social ecosystem. We don't have enough medical facilities and supplies. We optimized for a narrow range of possibilities and compromised the resilience of the system.

How to move forward

  • Cooperation is a powerful way to move forward both as individuals and societies. All of us have given up some independence for access to resources provided by others.
  • We can mitigate some negative effects by leveraging our community networks to create cooperative interactions that could fill the gaps in the government response. We can also create more resilient connections in the future.
  • Lastly, we need to consider how we can be less fragile. We can't just get "back to normal" as it proved to be too fragile. We need to ask how we can grow stronger so that we are better prepared and less vulnerable.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Risk Compensation

Risk Compensation

Risk protection is normally done to minimize the harm a particular activity can do to us. There are various things we do to reduce our risk, to make ourselves safer.

Behaviour scientists po...

Risk Compensation Effects

  • When automobile safety laws were introduced, the drivers started taking more risks while driving, leading to more pedestrian accidents.
  • Children (and even adults) take more physical risks while playing a sport with protective gear.
  • Safety features like Anti-lock brakes in vehicles ended up increasing the accidents for taxi drivers in Germany
  • Child-proof caps on medicine bottles made parents careless about their being opened by kids, including the ones which don’t have the safety feature.

The Carelessness Effect

Having a safety device in place, and armed with the knowledge that we can push the envelope a bit, the appetite for risk increases.

  • People who have an emergency fund in place tend to be less careful about their investments.
  • People wearing a face-mask in this global pandemic feel like they are safer in crowded places (It’s a face mask, not an Iron Man suit).

3 more ideas

Guru Madhavan

"The core of the engineering mind-set is what I call modular systems thinking. It’s not a singular talent, b..."

Guru Madhavan

Thinking in Systems

It means to be able to break down a big system into its sections and putting it back together. The target is to identify the strong and weak links: how the sections work, don’t work, or could potentially work and applying this knowledge to engineer useful outcomes.

There is no engineering method, so modular systems thinking varies with contexts.

Fundamental Properties of the Engineering Mind-Set

  • The ability to see a structure where there’s nothing apparent.
  • Adeptness at designing under constraints.
  • The capacity to hold alternative ideas in your head and make considered judgments.

Succumbing to the Availability Bias

Succumbing to the Availability Bias

After a particularly stressful event, most people prepare for a repeat of the same challenge they just faced. From the micro level to the macro level, we succumb to the availability bias and get re...

When Disaster Strikes

When a certain disaster or calamity happens, we work towards ensuring that the same calamity can be dealt with in the better way, the next time it happens. The pain or loss that we suffer motivates us to do so.

We forget in our preparation and resource allocation to the ‘last’ disaster, that we have neglected many other things that are more likely to happen.

Expect The Unexpected

  • Life has a tendency to surprise us, and we will be most likely smacked with something totally unforeseen and unrelated to the last disaster, that one was prepared for.
  • A better strategy is to realize that it is inevitable that life will hit us unexpectedly, and to grow and learn from the same.
  • Being adaptive, flexible and resilient would increase our adversity quotient, making us strengthen our inner resources, and enrich our experience.