Shaded thinking

As you are being poured over with new information, conspiracies, case examples, and opinions about COVID-19, I want you to step back from the extremes and black and white thinking.

While the Coronavirus keeps spreading through the world, there have emerged mainly two groups:

  1. The group, which downplays COVID-19 as a less dangerous, common flu
  2. The group, which spreads hysteria and panic

Each party tries to put more weight on their side of the scale. They do that, however, in an ignorant way.

Take a look at the following graph. You probably have seen it before, it's the probability distribution function:

Standard deviation diagram
M. W. Toews / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)

To make their stand more valid, each of those parties will look for edge cases. Events, which are either highly improbable and portrait an extreme severity/mildness of the situation. On the graph, that's the area beyond -2σ and 2σ.

As such, I remember people collapsing on video. Recovered patients on television, describing it as a mild cold. Images of patients in ICUs, laying on their stomachs and being kept alive solely by breathing machines. Reinterpretations of data, implying the real mortality is below 0.2% due to thousands of silent, unreported cases, therefore lowering the mortality rate down to those of the common flu or less.

At this moment, people (and organizations) are just trying to bring their point across. They are downright engaged in a war.

The battlefield is wherever communication happens - television news, social media, work, and even dinner tables.

The agenda is to spread fear or ignorance, as they expect either to be beneficial for their personal world view.

The weapons are extreme examples, twisted perspectives, and outright predictions about possible outcomes (of which the latter gives almost limitless power to poor imagination). There are a million variables in this storyline, and they can be put together in a billion different ways, which will all result in a particular image. At the receiving end, so they hope, are you.

But next to the war, there still lays reality. A reality, which is different for everybody. What is true for Italy doesn't need to be true for every other country. What is true for your neighbor doesn't need to be true for you. You won't know until it has happened. But then it will be too late.

So please think of your own reality, and accept there are other realities in the society and your very community, which you need to respect and protect with your actions.

What should you do?

I am not asking much. Just increase your awareness of ill-placed information. Don't become the giving end of the extremes, after you've found yourself on the receiving end. There will always be enough opportunities for gossip, but skip it in this case.

Think compassionately and emphatically. Act thoughtfully, competently, and responsibly. Avoid news sources, which report on the extremes or predigest information on your behalf. Act and think in the more probable area of possibilities. Remember, the world is not black or white.

Disclaimer

I didn't write this article to either downplay the current Corona situation or to blow it up. My agenda is to remind you to think for yourself. I would like you to act more aligned with what's really going on in the world and be part of a solution.

Of course, everybody sees the same text, so I can't distinguish whether you are passing on - potentially unaware - fear or ignorance. If that's not you, please pass this message on to the right address. Judging by what's currently going on in the world, there are enough people who need to hear this message.

Discuss on Twitter · Published on March 19th, 2020