Harold Jarche rightly points to being able to judge and shape your information filters as a critical element in keeping yourself informed about emergent crises like Covid19. What Harold calls trusted filters is the primary reason I follow people not sources in my feeds, and all of those people are selected by myself, not by someone else’s algorithm. It is how I came across Harold’s post in the first place, because he’s been in my list of feeds for many years. Feedback across filters, so that what Harold shares might get commented here, which then gets shared back to my network which includes Harold, is how patterns emerge. This of course does mean you need to ensure your filter has enough variety and churn to avoid echo chambers. Which is why hand curating my list of people to follow is important, I know these people and what I know about them is an active part of the filtering I do. In my mind, the combination of my filtering and sharing, and Harold’s filtering and sharing as well as those of others I follow, constitute a LOFAR, which is able to spot small movements and emerging interests across my networks, and recognising which noises are actually signals to my interests and concerns. Keeping my LOFAR in good working order requires regular attention, and likely more than I already pay to it.

This doesn’t mean that institutional information isn’t valuable. It is actually invaluable. Institutions are the stock of info, the residue of years of knowledge, where my networks and filters are the flow, the reflection on, application, changing and emergence of knowledge. Such knowledge is critical for crap detection, also when it comes to the stuff my network shares with me. In times of emergent crises like Covid19, such institutional knowledge about how to deal with the specifics of e.g. a pandemic is crucial. So I keep an eye on the general statistics collected at John Hopkins, the advise and info of the RIVM (the Dutch national institute for health and environment, in charge of epidemic response) concerning the Netherlands specifically, and what e.g. the WHO says about pandemic response on a personal level and organisational level (e.g. business continuity). My LOFAR in turn allows me to sense what is going on across my networks in this context.

The LOFAR ‘superterp’ in Drenthe, which has hundreds of small antennas, combining with 47 other locations into a total of some 20.000 antennas for signal detection

David Orban highlights the inverse proportional relationship between efficiency and resilience. When you have a fully efficient process it won’t be able to cope with even small changes in surrounding conditions. Whereas a system with some redundancy built in to cope with changes in conditions is less efficient (because that redundancy means increased costs for the same output).

Resilience I think can be decoupled from efficiency sometimes, but then it is usually coupled with effectivity. When the input/output ratio isn’t impacted, but the quality and utility of the output temporarily diminishes. Resilience is a component in how I think about networked agency.

Processes and systems that have been slimmed down to high efficiency as a result are often very brittle. In current affairs Brexit and the Corona virus are colliding with that brittleness, the first is a slow speed collission hard to look away from and the second one a more high speed collision. Whether it is disruption of (JIT) production or transport processes, or whether it is overwhelming healthcare systems, or both. The biggest impact on you of e.g. Covid-19 is likely not that you individually might fall ill and die, but the brittleness of systems that are impacted by it (production, delivery, mobility, healthcare availability also for other things than Covid-19) and how it impacts your personal life (running out of your meds, opportunity loss, slowing down of business, goods not arriving). Cascading system failures because of all the interdependencies.

I for instance have 3 products to be delivered from China, and the factories involved have been closed for well over a month now. One factory is now allowed to re-open and will take 6 weeks to get back on track. For me that is a trivial issue, but if you run a company that sells these products, or produce things that depend on a specific part that comes from a now closed factory, it isn’t trivial but a real and present issue.
More directly a healthcare system overwhelmed or even just starting to get impacted by Covid can lead to higher fatality rates amongst Covid patients (visible in Wuhan at the moment) as well as others. Currently there are 20 Covid patients in the Netherlands, and already three different ICU’s are closed for new patients. Not because they can’t handle the numbers, but because they had a Covid patient without realising and are now closed until they are certain there is no more risk of infection. This directly impacts e.g. where other types critical patients can go and be treated.

In that light the following articles are worth reading, about numbers, the likelihood of a pandemic, and brittleness of systems.

On the spread and transmission of Covid-19: Coronavirus’s Genetics Reveal Its Global Travels
On the impact of numbers: Forget about mortality rate, this is why you should be worried about coronavirus
From a business continuity perspective: Coronavirus Predictions and Business Impact: How Fast It Will Spread, Creating a Business Continuity Plan, and What You Should Stock Up On

And then think about what you can do to increase your personal resilience. E.g. by ensuring you have a month worth of your regular meds, or by having larger stocks than usual. At worst you’ve done your shopping a few weeks early, at best you are all set should you be required to isolate yourself at home for two weeks or more. Tthere’s not much of a down-side to taking such measures, while it prevents a large potential down-side.

Bryan Alexander blogs a good overview of resources to track the spread of Covid-19. We’re not in pandemic territory yet, but given current statistics, it may end up where about 50% of a country’s population gets the virus (with ~2% fatalities). The coming weeks will tell how it plays out. Bryan links to a cool global dashboard by John Hopkins (screenshot below).

With two independent confirmed cases in the Netherlands in the last 24 hours (both having travelled to the Italian areas with an outbreak), it’s a good time to check preparedness, for the company (pdf) and personally. I am already encountering impacts like production cycles getting disrupted and deliveries of things I ordered getting postponed indefinitely because the Chinese factories aren’t running at their normal levels. I am also hearing the first companies in my network cancelling international travel of their employees to events.

In my company there’s not much to prepare really, as we can switch to fully remote work easily. There may be mid-term to longer term impact on landing new projects. Specifically some work in SE Asia, foreseen for June I think might be impacted. Other projects in the pipeline also may depend on how cautious clients will get in the coming weeks depending on developments.

At home we’ve checked our stocks to ensure we can take care of ourselves for about a month. This as if you happen to find yourself in an outbreak area, like Milan currently, you will likely encounter empty supermarket shelves within 3 days. Currently the most disruptive thing likely is if public spaces like Y’s daycare get shut down, meaning she’ll be at home 3 extra days. For now we’re not anywhere near that though.

Bookmarked Imagining a “smart city” that treats you as a sensor, not a thing to be sensed | Cory Doctorow's craphound.com (craphound.com)
the idea of an Internet of Things that treats people “as sensors, not things to be sensed” — a world where your devices never share your data with anyone else to get recommendations or advice, but rather, where all the inanimate objects stream data about how busy they are and whether they’re in good repair, and your device taps into those streams and makes private recommendations, without relaying anything about you or your choices to anyone else. As I’ve often written, the most important thing about technology isn’t what it does, but who it does it to, and who it does it for. The sizzle-reels for “smart cities” always feature a control room where wise technocrats monitor the city and everyone in it — all I’m asking is that we all get a seat in that control room.

Cory Doctorow formulates something that I think can go onto every list of principles organisations I work with formulate for smart cities, as well as the many data ethics discussions I sit in on.

Don’t track people, help people track the environment to feed their decisions. This flipping of perpective fits with what I posted yesterday about Peter Bihr’s approach to smart cities. It also fits with my main irritation at the state of debate about self driving cars, where all is centered on the car itself. Self driving cars will need to tap into a myriad of sensor streams from lamp posts, road pavement, and whatnot.

Cory’s approach provides agency, the standard smart city approaches tend to take it away.

The key insight I find I gained in the past months is that SDGs can be used to add a macroscope to most issues and challenges. So I think Peter Bihr definitely is on a useful track:

Peter Bihr posts about using the UN Human Right Charter, and more specifically the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a framing for responsible IoT and Smart Cities.

2019 12 Smart City Evaluation FrameworkImage Peter Bihr, license CC BY NC SA

I find using the SDGs a valuable notion to help balance any of your activities. A while ago I listened to a conversation with Taiwanese Minister Audrey Tang (唐凤), who explicitly formulates her entire job description in terms of SDGs, and that was a very useful nudge for me. I know my friend Henriette also formulates her activities in a similar way.

I currently work quite a bit with one client on policy monitoring, indicators and measurements. One of the elements I stress is that you need to be aware how indicators can create perverse impulses if used singularly, and that you need to look at any proposed set of measurements to see what they overlook and ignore. Unexpected consequences if they impact visible stakeholders probably will get incorporated over time, but externalised costs and effects (impacting people, places and systems outside your view) usually won’t. SDGs, because they cover a wide range of topics, and acknowledge the deep interconnectness and interdependencies between those varied topics, are a helpful starting point to find a balanced and nuanced approach. So that (taking a randomly imagined example) climate, poverty and equality related elements can be meaningfully incorporated into a mobility dashboard that would otherwise maybe just stick to zoomed in things like traffic density and average speed on a highway. It’s the type of zooming in and out, around a specific challenge, out to the surrounding system(s), and in to the constituent building blocks, that is a common approach in TRIZ innovation efforts, with in this case the SDGs providing a macroscope for the zooming out while maintaining local / zoomed in context.

Liked Wissenschaftliche Distanz und Aktivismus—Notizen zu Will Steffen und Hans Blumenberg by Heinz Wittenbrink Web teacher and blogger, living in Graz and sometimes in Dubrovnik.Heinz Wittenbrink Web teacher and blogger, living in Graz and sometimes in Dubrovnik. (wittenbrink.net)
Zur wissenschaftlichen Haltung gehört eine distanzierte Perspektive auf die Zeit—sowohl auf die erdgeschichtliche Zeit, mit der es die Erdsystemforschung zu tun hat, wie auf den zukünftigen Fortschritt der Forschung selbst, in der Erkenntnisse immer wieder revidiert und weiterentwickelt werden. Diese Perspektive unterscheidet sich von der lebensweltlichen Perspektive auf die Zeit und auf historische Ereignisse, die praktisch beeinflusst werden können. Wenn die Wissenschaft aber durch ihre eigene Entwicklung mit diesen lebensweltlichen Ereignissen, und zwar mit extrem bedrohlichen Entwicklungen konfrontiert ist, dann lässt sich die wissenschaftliche Distanz nur noch zynisch aufrechterhalten. Die homogene, neutralisierte und unendliche Zeit der von der Wissenschaft untersuchten Ereignisse und des wissenschaftlichen Fortschritts lässt sich nicht mehr von der endlichen Zeit der historischen Erfahrung und der politischen Praxis trennen. Angesichts apokalyptischer Ereignisse, deren hohe Wahrscheinlichkeit sich mit der überhaupt möglichen wissenschaftlichen Sicherheit voraussagen lässt, werden die Möglichkeiten, diese Ereignisse zu verhindern, zur wissenschaftlichen Priorität.

Herzlichen Dank, Heinz, das du uns im Blog mitnimmst in deiner Suche, und Gedanken über den eigenen und praktischen Umgang mit dem Thema Klimanotstand.