The Weather Report on Coronavirus

Coronavirus

A lot of media people are sounding the alarm about a new strain of coronavirus, a pneumonia-like illness. They’re warning everyone to stock up on groceries, buy face masks, and avoid going outside.

To me, it seems like an over-reaction.

For sure, the new coronavirus is worse than the flu, but the flu also kills some people. And you’re a lot more likely to get the flu.

I can’t tell you what’s in the future. But I can tell you how televised weather forecasts are relevant to coronavirus reporting.

Did you ever wonder why storm forecasts are often wrong? Either the storm isn’t as bad as predicted, or it doesn’t happen at all.

The answer is obvious when you consider the options for a weather forecaster:

  • If you predict good weather and the weather is good, then nobody thanks you.
  • If you predict good weather and the weather is bad, then everyone is angry at you. You were wrong, and they got caught in a storm.
  • If you predict bad weather and the weather is bad, then nobody thanks you.
  • If you predict bad weather and the weather is good, then everyone is relieved and nobody complains that you were wrong.

The same logic applies to coronavirus reporting:

  • If you predict that everything will be fine and it is, then nobody thanks you.
  • If you predict that everything will be fine and it’s not, then everyone wants your head on a plate.
  • If you predict that everyone’s gonna die and they do, then nobody thanks you. There won’t be anyone left to do it.
  • If you predict that everyone’s gonna die and they don’t, then everyone is relieved and nobody complains that you were wrong.

For your personal self-interest, gloom-and-doom predictions are safer than realistic ones. So your incentive is to err on the side of alarmism.

Everyone will almost certainly die someday, of something. It probably won’t be coronavirus.

As for me, I’d choose to be shot by a jealous husband. A guy can dream.

Que sera, sera.

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
This entry was posted in Life, Psychology, Science, Society and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Weather Report on Coronavirus

  1. J P says:

    The corollary on weather reporting: Nobody tunes in for normal. People only tune in for impending disaster.

    Maybe I have not paid enough attention, but I have yet to hear someone report how lightly we are getting off now compared to the flu epidemic of 1918. Does nobody understand that our 100 year holiday from a major epidemic of some kind is a rare exception in human history?

    Like

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