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Seeing through the market´s COVID fears
COVID is going to be around for a long time.
We are probably going to have to get shots every 6 months for years. We have the tech and the infrastructure to stay ahead of the virus.
Governments and traditional media have their own reward functions, which are different to that of the general population.
The different reward functions create distortions in the way we navigate the pandemic, which do not reflect the truth of the underlying reality. Hence, markets panic.
No reason to panic.
Since this autumn I have been studying biology and more specifically, genomics and proteomics. This is because I reached the conclusion over the last summer that these two fields are going to change our lives, in the same way that computers have done so over the last two decades. We can now read and edit genomes and we have a growing understanding of how proteins work - this is game changer for us biological pseudo monkeys and our world.
It´s beginning to look to me like COVID is more than just a pandemic. To me it´s looking more like us monkeys on a spinning rock vs virology/genomics/proteomics round 1. This is the first time we have a material level of agency against a virus, because we can read its genome and therefore, we can insert a specific genetic code into our body (vaccines), to produce a key protein that enables our cells to develop immunity to COVID. We have just grasped the necessary technologies over the last decade to do this. Vaccinations work. We are biological creatures and we have just begun to decode the language we and the materials we use are written in.
What does this imply? Firstly, that different organizations now are expected to take meaningful action, because they can. Secondly, the same technologies that enable us to read genomes also enable us to synthesize genomes, for example - which means that all these variants could be coming out of a lab somewhere with some dudes playing around. There is literally 0 evidence that this is not the case, so we could be in the middle of some sort of biological warfare. I do not necessarily believe that this is the case, but it serves to illustrate how clueless the general population is about what is going on.
Keep the above in mind and now consider what are the reward functions of two keys players, that are expected to take action by the general population:
Governments: their reward function is maximize votes.
Traditional media: their reward function is to maximize attention.
If you were any of the two key players above, how would you navigate the current situation? Govs have opted to scare people and implement restrictions. The more scared you get, the happier you are to be restricted. This serves to cover the government´s back, because not doing enough is way worse for votes than overdoing things, if you keep people scared enough. Media has obviously opted to keep everyone hooked with pseudo-truths, because they make more money like that. Neither are probably particularly evil- they just aim to optimize for their reward functions.
Simultaneously, the virus mutates, as all viruses do. No one knows where the mutations are going to take us, but so long as we can sequence the different mutations, we can track when we will need to get people new shots. COVID has a protein known as the S protein, which it uses to dock with our cells. When that protein changes shape sufficiently, the antibody cocktail vaccines or natural immunity enables us to produce no longer works. Today, we know what genomic sequence translates into proteins of what shape (Alphafold), so by keeping an eye on the mutations at the genomic level we can get ahead of the virus. We have the tech to do this and the infrastructure to deploy vaccines. The S protein is like to meaningfully change every 12-18+ months, so we can stay a head by getting new shots every 6.
The thing is that as the virus mutates and people continue to have no genomics / proteomics knowledge, governments and media have plenty of leg space to panic people up, which they will likely continue to do because it optimizes their reward functions. As the virus mutates, vaccinated people will likely get mild infections and this might be enough for people to get back into full panic mode, unless govs and media change their playbook, which could happen nonetheless. Any level of panic up to full panic mode can hurt the economy in the short term, but in the mid to long term we have what it takes to live with the virus and we are going to have do so, because it´s not going anywhere.
Don´t sell cheap, read about genomics/proteomics and look ahead!
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