Small grants for student work on coronavirus

The highly intelligent Michael Gibson emails me:

Not sure if it’s worth an assorted link link, but we’re giving out $1k grants to students home from campus who want to work on ideas to mitigate the effects of the crisis. People can pitch ideas here:


Several ideas for students to work on:

1. At some point, we will get tired of sitting at home and doing work from home, or we will want to circulate more, or businesses and their trade associations will say: this is killing us and the number of cases has declined.

At what point should be decide to lift restrictions and guidance to come out of the house. What are the objective criteria we can establish now, not that we choose bad criteria later because trade associations will have a louder voice or we get tired of staying at home with the spouse or kids.

What are the objective measures that should guide us; and if we do not follow the objective measures, will we go through another cycle.

2. There will be disparate spread across the country based on population density, etc. Should there be different rules based on geography, and should that require different treatment.

3. What social activities did students engage in during the shutdown and did they become better video game players?

For law students confined to their home, find out what crimes you could commit that would give you the same house confinement upon conviction you are likely to experience under current guidance.

Should you commit the crime quickly and confess. It would seem to be a twofer: the benefit of the crime and the benefit of doing something you would be doing otherwise.

Explain why this is a bad idea even if you may come out ahead.

1. Yes, which is why shutting down most everything now is not necessarily the optimal strategy if it must continue for an extended period (since the U.S. government is not a communist dictatorship like China's).

Anon, Whether something is a good policy or not is not dependent on whether it must continue for an extended period. In fact, you could argue that if you did not start now, the period would be longer. Do you think that if the death toll mounts from not acting that there will be any support later. Of course there will. But, then many people have already died that need not have died.

This is not a hard math problem. If you want to see a visual, go here:

I predict that Trump will claim that it was the large city's fault, and not his, for the slow response.

Wanna bet. He already said he is not responsible.

Are you responsible. Don't be dangerous to yourself or others.

Finally, communist dictatorship or democracy, there are policies that work and there are one's that do not, or do not work when it is too late.

It is a hard math problem because of human behavior, which is why the UK's GCSA Vallance warned of the dangers of starting a lockdown too early that cannot be maintained over an extended period. France and Italy are already having trouble enforcing their current lockdown, let alone one that lasts for an extended period, so policy effectiveness is likely to vary depending on how authoritarian the government is.

And, no, I will not be taking personal advice on what I should do from some finger-wagging commenter on MR.

Well, why don't you take the advice of a finger-wagging epidemiologist:

Apparently you will not take the advice of an epidemiologist. Not CDC

You can call me whatever names you want, or use whatever florid description you want, but that only discloses your argument's weakness.

You're not going to stop me from speaking, and every time I do I will list links and provide more information to the readers.

Thank you for your encouragement.

Charitable take: You’re talking past each other.

Bill’s point: If the expert advice is a (for arguments sake) 14 week shutdown, then that’s the ideal policy.

Anon’s point: What if the state capacity in the US limits us to an 8 week shutdown max?

Both of those could easily be true.

Simpler classification

Your money
Your life.

I am more confident in the economy than Anon and think it will be worse off with the loss of human capital.

You're not addressing the state/societal capacity point at all though.

France has a 'not very severe' containment policy and it's already being flouted at will by the general public.

Best outcome 200,000 upper limit is 1.7 million die in the US, most recent estimate by infectious disease estimate by Dr. Michael Osterholm.

Which do you choose: 200,000 or 2 million.

Your money or your life.

Here is a link
I am trying to find the link to the most recent statement with numbers and will post when I find it.

Here is the link to the Center for Infectious Disease website:

The site above has a section devoted exclusively to covid-19 and aggregates data, from all over, including the CDC.

Get informed,

Don't spread disinformation if it will lead to others causing damage to themselves or others.

Skeptical is correct. You (and your links) do not address my point at all. It's about the difficulty of imposing major, sustained changes in behavior (which is what effective policy requires). Instead of sanctimoniously bloviating, go back and listen to the presentation by the UK government scientists (@31:50):

I am not going to use words like bloviating, because it is a signal of weakness. I am not going to use the word sanctimonious, because it would single weakness of argument.

I will let you do that.

Anyone can read the material above for themselves.

Apparently you must be in the UK. Good luck. We'll soon be comparing you to Italy.

Arrive derci.

Why a small grant for students when you could give billion dollar bailouts to big corporations? First, cruises, then oil, now airlines and casinos! Crony capitalism at its best

How about real time audio editing to create the Good Place effect that replaces phrases like

100% perfect
Never been done before
Great leadership
Very very early
Very well

Most could be replaced by my Good Place fav, "forked up", ideally using Eleanor's voice (Kristen Bell).

The biggest reason we have a crisis is Trump refuses to see anything as a simple repeat of things that have occurred many times in the past, and furthermore were predicted often by many in an effort to actually quickly respond to these repeats.

We are social creatures, it keeps us alive.

In a time of purposeful or mandated social isolation, what aspects of social contact keep us alive, and how can they be provided during times of isolation?

A few:
Response to injury, falling, choking.
Reminders to eat, take medications.
Personal hygiene. Why wash if no one can smell you?
Schedules; an ordered life keeps many people alive and out of self destructive behaviors.
Exercise and physical activity. Staying home sitting on your couch eating isn't healthy.

Any others?

The tragic trend toward living as hikikomori preceeded coronavirus and will out last it.

Is “highly intelligent” higher on the scale than “excellent”? Or is merely around “pretty damn good”?

Can't help with this, and no offense, God, but if you were highly intelligent you would not have to ask the question.

All kidding aside, I do not often understand some of the classifications and recommendations, and it could be explained by the fact that I, myself, may not be highly intelligent or it could be that he is just complimenting his friends. Who knows. Or, he could be self-complementing, as in, I only association with highly intelligent folks, which, given the content of some of the comments, I doubt seriously.

Thanks Bill, your answer on the coding system used here at MR is self recommending!

Was just reading this:

I thought it was a good piece expressing concern over rapid growth of state power during this virus pandemic.

If you think of government as an organization of people, what would you expect during a health crisis? Libertarian paradise and death?

But isn't "flattening the peak" an admission that Libertarians are right, and, if you buy that thesis, that Ben Cole the internet poster here is right when he says "do nothing" will cure the virus via herd immunity? BTW this is controversial (if you've followed this paragraph so far, and that's hard to do unless you've been reading up on Covid-19) because some scientists claim--implausibly IMO--that Covid-19 has no herd immunity, but that's not believable since apparently it's a common type coronavirus that has in the past shown to immunize victims who've had it before.

In short: the libertarian 'do nothing' and 'let people self-quarantine' is not that bad a strategy, since while more old people will die (but they can self-quarantine) the economy will remain robust, which is the best defense to catastrophe. I bet many old people die from the effects of a bad economy due to lockdown than from a 'do nothing' (UK) strategy.

@myself- the prior in the above is that China did NOT cure Covid-19 from a lockdown, that the 'new cases' have not nor will not go to zero in China, and that eventually China will only defeat Covid-19 when and if people get herd immunity in Wuhan and elsewhere in China, and that means at least 60% of Chinese have caught or been exposed to nCoV19 virus and lived. Solve for the equilibrium! As not seen on TV, CNN, mainstream media or elsewhere. HT: Benjamin Cole among others.


Look at the death rates from various approaches. You will find that the Libertarian proposal--l kills more people. Also, I don't know how you can have a self isolation model where there are no social or governmental controls to minimize interaction to a voluntary basis.

Please read the article and look at the various models, for your health and the safety of others.

I expect labs and testing companies to proceed with development of tests in spite of cease and desist orders from the FDA. Which seems to have happened, thankfully.

Yes, a good read. Also, for a reminder on how compressed the time scales are on corona-virus compared to swine flu. This outbreak compressed the national emergency timeline from 6 months to days, and directed 10 times more money.

We went from "0" to "11" almost overnight on this.

Thanks Tyler, very kind words.

Just as an example, our first grant is going to a team are working on a product to allow any small businesses to sell gift cards or take direct cash gifts from their loyal customers during coronavirus shutdowns

So, corporate welfare. How awesome of you to support that.

So with 500 million Americans going without health insurance (source: the Sanders campaign) and 150 million Americans getting killed by guns last year (source: Joe Biden)..... you want to make it easier for massive corporations like Chick-fil-A to profit?

What the hell is wrong with you???

And yeah, I know you claim you are only helping "small businesses"...

How the hell are you defining that? Does this "product" somehow filter out corporations based on number of employees? Or does it assume that any S-corp is "small," no matter how many people it employs? Or does it somehow check federal records to determine annual revenue?

Does it check on the diversity of the company's Board? Or do you just hate women and minorities, so it doesn't matter?

I deserve that award. I mentioned this earlier as a way to help restaurants--purchase prepaid cards from your restaurants.

OK, I see this was not Tyler's program. Keep your money.

Here's another question for the students:

How will or should census takers take the census in person.
Could they become a vector of transmission.
From wiki: Census takers will typically be employed for about six weeks, with the majority of the work occurring from May to July 2020.

What's going on with landlords in all this, residential, commercial, etc.? When all these minimum wage service industry types can't pay rent, what's going to happen?

Bailout or eviction ban. Or, give people unemployment insurance so they can pay the rent.

I think monetary policy is the wrong response to the crisis. We don't want an undifferentiated increase in economic activity. That could even make things worse. We want to prevent a domino effect where staying home from your job means rent can't get paid means landlords default on their mortgages means a slip in investor confidence. Universal basic income ("helicopter money") seems like a better tool for the job.

Another thought: Someone should come up with a financial instrument which lets you borrow money which only needs to get repaid when a vaccine is discovered. If the government doesn't provide UBI, this could be a great opportunity for an agile fintech firm to prevent the sort of domino effect I described.

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