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Circle of Competence Issue #102


"Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." - Oscar Wilde


The human mind doesn't comprehend exponential processes very well. We tend to project exponential processes as linear in the short term, but underestimate the long term effects of exponential growth rates. And the COVID-19 viral outbreak falls into the latter category.

There are 4 primary variables that will control the overall impact of the virus:

1. Daily growth rate of outstanding cases (first derivative of # outstanding cases, currently running around ~50% growth from last week)

2. Growth rate decay (second order derivative, # outstanding cases) - this is the most important variable

3. Starting # of present cases

4. Death rate, % of total cases

Bottom line, this is serious, and it would be better to overreact to ensure that the second derivative (#2, decay of the growth rate) is as negative as possible.

Said another way, we need to take coordinated action as a society so that the number of infections will grow by less and less each week.

Some believe that this is a massive media/crowd overreaction. But based on simple exponential math, it is not hard to see how this outbreak becomes truly unmanageable in size if not appropriately handled.