-- A blog maintained by a pessimistic over-confident High-School kid.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Making a case - COVID-19 - the unpopular opinion

*Comments in hindsight: While I still agree with what I have written, a new perspective I am considering is "We don't trade lives, captain". While deciding both ways against the virus is, to a certain extent, playing God. Not giving up on any individual no matter the cost is a commendable action, not that I have any credibility. (just sharing my thoughts)

"Better to be safe than sorry", I think this mindset sums up a lot about the forefront of our society. Through our experience with disasters and genocides, we have developed caution and counter-measures to deal with potential accidents. These measures that aim to prevent recurrences include airport security, buildings' resistance to natural disasters, and lately, the topic of this post, quarantine. The former two listed are done to prevent the 1% or even 0.1%, and we strive to use them to provide people as much safety as we possibly can. And while saving any human life is worth a million, practicalists such as Elon Musk are less concerned about that 1%, and instead are more interested in multiplying the current state by 2 or 3 times. Elon Musk had famously addressed the artificially boosted fatality of the Coronavirus, and while he still thinks social distancing is essential in lowering the risks, he believes that it should not come at the cost of disrupting the economy.

The Dorment Problem

We all understand the danger of a virus experiencing exponential growth, but there might be more demanding issues that we may have overlooked. Our society, and specifically the US, have built a store of surplus through the years, and without dealing with the specifics, have been relying upon it lately. The situation of the Coronavirus only exacerbated our1 reliance upon surpluses as governments hand out checks to keep the cycle of the economy afloat. While society and the economy seem to keep on running, throwing money at the problem is only a temporary solution. Problems of manufacturing cannot be solved by legislating the movement of money, and there needs to be practical work for a meaningful output. Our industry as a whole is not yet totally replaced by robots, and labor is still being used. The food that we have access to are all processed at different levels, and as long as there were people needed for the processing before, someone has to do that processing now. The need for labor cannot be solved through the dollar, and work cannot be replaced by money alone. The effects of the lockdown, although are already showing, are still not in full effect. Normally, there are delays between the situation and its observable outcome. But even so, the price of food had already shown its initial blow: “The index price of fresh vegetables is now predicted to increase between 2.0 and 3.0 percent in 2020… Meat is now predicted to increase in price between 7.0 and 8.0 percent in 2020” (USDA). The lack of labor for processing food is imminent, and continued quarantine at the same degree could be seen as detrimental. As modern societies, we have our own stock of surplus as said before, but surpluses are finite and could be used up. If no adequate actions are taken, the situation now is heading toward a food shortage.
Our economy is still not run entirely by robots, and the lack of labor due to lockdown is the source of the problem. To prove my point, experts have said that the bottleneck to food unavailability is in the processing and not in the production (which had already been heavily automated): “Food prices are rising not because we don’t have enough food, but mainly due to the fact that the agri-food supply chain is currently unable to deliver when and where food is needed due to the shortage of labor, particularly at farm level” (TODAY). Instead of bulk selling food to restaurants with little packaging, the small portions that are needed to be separated into for individual consumers takes labor, and people are needed to chop up the meat into packets. Lockdown and too severe levels of quarantine are detrimental and unsustainable. We shouldn’t need to do an experiment in which we know the outcome. And if the increasing food prices is not a good enough indication, logic should convince: someone has to be doing the labor that we had relied on previously.

The Dilemma

This all is the dilemma of saving every person we possibly can from the virus or sustaining our economy. While the answer to the problem seems straightforward: save the human lives that are each so precious, we cannot overlook the effects of not tending our economy. Economic depression has the potential to leave mass amounts of people with empty stomachs and be evicted from their homes. To make matters worse, these effects have already been showing in our society currently, and people are seriously suffering from unemployment (low living standards, being evicted). As we are keeping the number of corona infections low, we are putting others in suffering. While we are saving lives relating to covid, we are putting 11M people4 out of jobs. And if we do not reopen the economy, the effects will only worsen.
The US government is advising homeowners to not evict their tenants, the US government is sending money to citizens, the US government is bailing out businesses to stimulate the economy. All the actions by the US are short-term fixes, and they are spending more and more money while receiving less tax. While the US government is definitely confident that their manipulation of money would not stimulate inflation, and I totally believe in their ability2, there is the reality of the shrink in the supply of goods. And as supply shrinks, the price would go up despite not having inflation, it is basic economics: rare things cost more. Goods don't exist without people making them, and not reasserting the labor force is, I cannot stress enough, extremely detrimental. If we could accept that the economy has to restart at one point, then we should evaluate what effects it would bring if we do reopen.

Re-evaluating the Mortality rate of COVID-19

Yes, 240,000 deaths3 is unfathomable, and no words can communicate the degree of spite for deaths at this magnitude. But we have to understand the number being presented, we cannot be swayed by numbers alone. There were 2,839,205 deaths in 2018, and while that number is soul-crushing, it does not mean much when out of context. As hard as it is, we have to look at the reported numbers in context.

The first context we have to count in is what COVID deaths are tied with other causes. We have to consider whether the people already affected are representative of the current population. Out of the 240,000 deaths, 109,000 are also caused by Pneumonia which can be life-threatening on its own. The Coronavirus is a catalyst to those deaths and has its own effect, but the difficult question to ask is whether the mass population of the US is with Pneumonia. After that, the subsequent question would be how about the other 131,000 COVID deaths. And because of the inaccuracy of data, numbers for COVID deaths with COVID as not the underlying cause ranges from 7.8% to 28.8% (CEBM), meaning these lives are likely to pass away with or without COVID. There are limits in data, but the limited conclusion is that in the condition of partial lockdown, COVID had been a catalyst in destroying health for 240,000 people, and that is out of 13M that got COVID. And that 13M is out of a population of 331M. This uncertainty in numbers is added upon the faulty recording of data. According to the CDC, COVID deaths contributing to the numbers are determined “with or without laboratory confirmation”. Putting into context, it is uncertain that COVID deaths do have COVID. Part of the number of COVID deaths can be counted just because someone has symptoms of COVID, which are fever, cough, fatigue, etc. These are common symptoms across most sicknesses, and counting COVID deaths because of symptoms that might originate from non-COVID only adds to the uncertainty in the data. Given the numbers, one of the last questions is what is the bottom line. The controversial statement is that COVID will become something similar to cancer, but only contagious. To throw numbers like a heartless animal again, there are 609,640 cancer deaths in 2018 ( Death is part of life, and while we do our best to avoid it, it is undeniably eventually unavoidable. The level of lethality of COVID-19 is uncertain, and the data is in all sorts of ways influenced by a lot of factors that make it applicable or non-applicable to the mass population. And while there is uncertainty in the fatality of COVID-19, there is a concrete and imminent problem in the economy. The 240,000 deaths with some level of uncertainty are put against the 11M who have lost jobs and partially have faced eviction. I think the numbers at least ask for a reconsideration for some degree of reopening the economy.

Our Supposed Action

What we should do is what everyone is arguing about, but let's lay down the undisputable, and state-wide testing is not one of the musts. Our first course of action should be getting more reliable data, and classifying COVID death without laboratory equipment cannot be tolerated. As we are racing for a vaccine, we do not even know about the full nature of the virus itself. And testing although is desirable to be rapid, cannot generate both false-positive and false-negative results. You are not supposed to be able to answer a yes-no question both wrongly positive and wrongly negative, that is like saying “it could be yes, but it also could be no”. No matter how rapid the test is, it is useless if it is in no degree certain. You can have one or the other: false-positive or false-negative, and counter-measures can be taken, but not both at the same time.

And whether to reopen the economy should not be ruled out of the window. Without reopening the economy, food prices will only get higher and higher, and rent will only be continued being pushed off. There should at least be a serious consideration to reopening the economy. And of course, with more reliable data for COVID-19, we would be able to decide with much more certainty. Although the numbers are all skewed and misrepresented, for now, we are suppressing a questionable 240,000 deaths for 11M unemployed. And if this post hasn't convinced you of the idea of reopening the economy more, at least I have made you reconsider it. While the exponential growth of the virus is bad, the ever-increasing food prices and unpaid rent might be equally deadly. If we act too late, we might suffer the consequences of both.

1: I’m not American, but for the sake of fluency, I will use “our”

2: If there’s inflation, I would be positive that it isn’t because of the printing of money by the US

3: This number is in the US alone, at the time of writing, which is 11/27. The “precise” number is 240,213

4: 331,000,000[US population] x (6.9%[oct unemployment] - 3.5%[feb unemployment]) = 11,254,000 (

Saturday, November 7, 2020


I want to write like Joan Didion and write each sentence with intent, but I still remembered how much friction it puts on writing and my past learning of "write bad". This desire might be stored in the back of my subconscious, but I doubt my ability to address this desire of mine anytime soon. Over the last 2 weeks, I have noticed my inefficiency in daily work. While I had just noticed it now, it is more so of a continuing phenomenon since July, since the second half of my summer vacation. The only correlation I can draw to my inefficiency is my lack of sleep. Because of my madman attitude on finishing projects despite the friction during summer, I had imposed a lot of arbitrary deadlines that although are perfectly feasible, disregarded my well-being and relaxation. Throughout the past 3 months, sleep had been the missing piece of the formula to being able that I overlooked as the effects took time to settle in.

Intentional sleep is a weird term, and I use it to describe sleep that you allowed yourself to have. For me, intentional sleep had become a luxury since my developed loathe for sleep. During the summer vacation, I prevent myself from falling asleep for as long as possible, and most of my sleep is unintentional, and they start with me not being able to hold on to consciousness. Whenever I drift off to sleep and unintentionally slept, I would feel bad as it was replacing my original schedule of finishing a part of a program. To me at the time, sleep was an obstacle and presents itself as a time-wasting activity. Since then, being able to lie in bed and await sleep to overtake consciousness is the most satisfying thing on Earth. Insomnia to others is an annoyance, but to me is a luxury. When I have a hard time going to sleep, I get to stare into my pitch-black room, empty my mind, do nothing, and just enter into "Slowtown".

A picture for my website that I didn't have time to color in

Quality sleep is another thing I overlooked. Overwhelmed with my ambitious goals that hinder my ability more than it motivates, during the summer, I so often sleep by the numbers: "I haven't slept a single second last night, so I just need 6 hours today", "It takes 11 days of bad sleep to hallucinate, and I have slept 3 hours avg. for the last 4 days, I can still fight for one more night before having an 8-hour sleep day". It all becomes worse when I account for how most of my sleep is with the lights on as I hadn't intended for it (When I sleep with the lights on, I wake up feeling as tired as I was before). There is such a chaotic cycle that I subscribed to, and honestly, apart from tiredness, I was not suffering any consequences for the first month.

Sleep deprivation had been an old friend of mine since childhood, and I have been accustomed and adapted to it. When I was around 10, the game addict in me drove me to keep myself awake till one o'clock at night to bypass my parent's ban from computers. When I went to Shanghai, my dedication to turn in homework I deemed worthy of submission drove me to work till 2 past midnight regularly. Stretching my limits, it had become a game for me to not mention my 0-sleep night the next day despite my hallucinating inside. And even after consecutive sleepless nights, I functioned normally on the outside and in regards to my outputs. But now, my habit of trying to detach myself from reality broke the bottom line.

Being well accustomed to sleep deprivation, I always understood its most significant effect of decreased efficiency. I am aware of that infamous inability to focus on a task1, but I had always been able to justify it. On any particular day, getting 8 more hours than normal is a 50% increase in time available, and tiredness (inability to focus) only takes away ~10-20%. In past situations, the worst net total is still a 20% increase, and I naturally took the trade. For the past 3 months, what I have not accounted for is the accumulation of being tired. From what I have experienced, it seems to me that tiredness cannot be rid of just because I had taken 3 days to become sleeping beauty. I knew this in the past, but I had only understood that it is not a 1:1 amending process when trying to catch up on sleep. But not only is catching up on sleep not with a direct ratio, it is only a "pain-reliever" in that it only fixes tiredness in the short-term.  

Since last summer, I have been spending more time on tasks, but ironically, have been getting less done. I was stretching my limits too much. I was doing less and less while also having less and less sleep. As tasks pile on and their significance increase, my ability to receive them gradually and chaotically decreases. Leveraging sleep throughout my life had been a godsend, and it is integral to my current personality and what I have achieved. The extra time I have gained had helped me combat my late start in academics, expanded my interest2, and made me diverse in my skillset3. But leveraging on it too much4 had proven to be extremely detrimental to my ability, and the math that had always justified sleep deprivation becomes non-applicable in extreme conditions. 

While I haven't connected this issue to my past blog posts here, everything I have been experiencing is becoming more and more interconnected. It overwhelms me as the cause and effect of every little detail becomes more and more apparent. Lately, I am strung to lyrics by Tyler Joseph (, relating to them with extremely altered meanings):

I don't know why I just feel I'm better off
Stayin' in the same room I was born in
I look outside and see a whole world better off
Without me in it tryin' to transform it

Oh he is falling
And though he knows it's not
The world looks down and frowns.
Get up Johnny boy, get up Johnny boy

Hey, hey, wouldn't it be great, great,
If we could just lay down and wake up in Slowtown,

I can't take them on my own, my own
Oh, I'm not the one you know, you know
I have killed a man and all I know
Is I am on the run and go

1: When you are sleep deprived, it is super super easy to find yourself on useless things, for me it's youtube. Because of my constant tiredness, youtube and relaxation seeps in during the daytime, and nighttime was able to impose enough tension and limitation for me to do efficient work. And because of this attribute for nighttimes, I fell in love with doing work at night, sometimes even trying to eliminate light during the daytime to get myself to work. Sleep that originally put into midnight is replaced by programming, and I thought my body could handle it, and in fact, it did handle for the duration of the summer vacation. 

2: Although I shouldn't be proud of this, I like to always hide at least one side of me or an interest of mine from everyone*. (and that includes my parents... umm..... lol, I should choose my words more wisely in a blog that only my parents read.... ummm..... My blog is a pandora box, it's not the creator's fault that the pandora is opened, it is the people's own choice to do it. I'm not dissing anyone, just that I can type what I want :)  , oh no.....)

3: While some might argue that being a specialist is better than being sub-par at a number of things, I would say there are benefits to both.  

4: Same thing with deadlines. I really cannot leverage on deadlines that much. [facepalm with depressed face and shaking head] I am not going to write a blog post about it because it is a known fact, and people don't need to know my justification for procrastination, nor do I have the need to ventilate about it.

I finished the redesign of my website. Now, I cross
my fingers for the wish of having colleges see it and be impressed by it