Scott Adams Chats with Naval Ravikant About the Coronavirus

Key Takeaways

  • The coronavirus will push our society to do more of what it should already be doing (i.e., it’ll encourage better hygiene practices, facilitate more remote work, and cause us to increase basic preparedness for future outbreaks)
  • “Viruses have a very specific method in how they spread, and a human being is a much smarter entity than any given virus, so if each one of us takes care of ourselves, the problem takes care of itself”Naval Ravikant
  • Both Naval & Scott predict U.S. schools will shut down soon because of the coronavirus
  • To prepare for the coronavirus, Naval is:
    • Taking more vitamin D and vitamin C (high vitamin D levels are beneficial for the immune system)
    • No longer going to a gym; he’s working out outdoors
    • Avoiding any public gatherings
    • Working remotely
    • “I’m a paranoid person by nature. I’m washing my hands until they’re dry and raw. There’s hand sanitizer everywhere in the house—we even have ingredients to make our own. There’s food stockpiled for a couple of weeks. I have masks; I have gloves; I have all that stuff.” 
  • Naval predicts that warmer weather will slow the spread of the coronavirus, but a second—and much larger—wave of infections will follow in October/November

Intro

The Coronavirus Will Improve Hygiene Practices, Progress the Way We Work, & Increase Preparedness for Future Outbreaks

  • “The government is doing a great job of telling us what to do … but they’re not doing a good job of how to think and feel about the coronavirus” – Scott Adams
  • “The coronavirus is going to push us towards doing things we should probably already be doing as a society”Naval Ravikant
    • For example:
      • It’ll encourage better hygiene practices (this will further help reduce the spread of the flu and common colds)
      • “I think it’ll move us more towards the future faster. Robotics, automation, telepresence, VR, and remote work—all of those things that are coming anyway. Let’s face it; most white-collar jobs are just larping—people running around, attending meetings, and pretending like they’re doing work. I think this will expose a lot of that.” 
      • It’ll cause us to increase basic preparedness for future virus and bacterial outbreaks (after all, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing engineered viruses used as bioweapons)

The Last Boss

  • “Bacteria and viruses are our last major, remaining enemies”Naval Ravikant
    • (Since the advent of fire & tools/weapons, humans took over, driving every other species into extinction or domestication)

The Red Queen Hypothesis

  • According to the ‘Red Queen’ hypothesis, bacteria and viruses evolve to compete with & infest us, and we evolve in a way to escape them
    • Humans do this by creating offspring with genes best-adapted to resist the next generation of viruses
    • Viruses, on the other hand, mutate—they don’t intelligently select other viruses to mate with; they replicate mindlessly
      • Because of this, they’re less likely to “pick the right gene,” but they’re so short-lived that they experience an extremely high number of genetic mutations. In fact: “If you look at the amount of genetic variation that a bacteria or virus will get over 20 years, it’s roughly similar to what a human will get over 20 years [of course, a human won’t genetically mutate—Naval is referring to averages & what happens when a human reproduces]. A human will do it by wandering around and finding the proper mate to mix their genes with; the bacteria or virus does it through massive amounts of replication.”Naval Ravikant

Because of beneficial lifestyle changes, will the coronavirus end up saving lives long-term?

  • It’s certainly possible
    • For instance, in Hong Kong, social distancing practices put in place post-SARS allowed them to react to the coronavirus quickly 
      • As a side effect, they reduced the spread of other influenza strains as well as the common cold
    • “Viruses have a very specific method in how they spread, and a human being is a much smarter entity than any given virus, so if each one of us takes care of ourselves, the problem takes care of itself” Naval Ravikant

Is China giving us the straight scoop?

  • (As of early March, the Chinese government says they have the coronavirus under control)
  • “I do believe them … They don’t gain much by lying. If they lie, and the virus isn’t under control, and people start going back to business as usual, people will start dropping dead again, and that’ll be a disaster for them economically.” – Naval Ravikant

Given the increase in hygiene practices, is it possible we could drive the coronavirus’ death rate down to flu-like levels?

  • (For reference, the flu has a death rate of ~0.1%; that of the coronavirus is between 2-3%)
  • “I don’t think it goes down to ordinary flu levels. This thing is much worse than the ordinary flue. For one thing, it’s far more virulent. The r0—the spread factor—is multiples of the flu; the flu’s is 1.28, and this is a 3.0.”Naval Ravikant
  • The death and spread rates of the coronavirus can be lowered: “But I think it’s going to require a level of self-quarantine and hygiene that the American population isn’t engaged in” – Naval Ravikant

Children Are More Immune to the Coronavirus

  • Further:
    • Hardly any kids <10 have died from it 
    • Smptoms seem to be less severe in children
  • Any reason as to why children are less susceptible?
    • It’s possible that previously circulating coronaviruses caused common colds, and as children tend to get colds more often than adults, they have more of a natural immunity to this form of the coronavirus

Are we doomed?

  • “If this thing really does land 20% of people in the intensive care unit like some estimates say, it’ll easily overwhelm the hospital system” Naval Ravikant
  • “I don’t think we’re out of the woods. I think we’re actually just entering the time period in the U.S. where we’re going to have to take some measures—maybe not as extreme as China. We’re going to have to start incorporating social distancing practices to protect ourselves. I’m hoping the warm weather saves us.” – Naval Ravikant
    • In general, the more humid/warm a climate, the lower a virus’ spread factor

Scott Has an Interesting Hypothesis…

  • The countries with the worst air pollution have the most significant coronavirus outbreaks (e.g., Italy and South Korea)
    • Also, on cruise ships, the air quality is quite bad
  • Why might this be the case?
    • Pollution lowers a population’s vitamin D levels (less sun reaches the earth’s surface), and vitamin D improves immune system health
    • Perhaps pollution reduces resistance, in general
    • Maybe the virus becomes more easily airborne if it “hitches a ride”
  • One thing’s for sure: the denser a population, the more readily the coronavirus spreads
    • “If there’s a large group of people gathering indoors, that’s the perfect spot for a virus” Naval Ravikant

Be Cold in a Warm Climate

  • “Colds tend to occur during cold weather, and the people and cultures where they have a lot of cold weather tend to have cold behavior and cold attitudes” – Naval Ravikant
    • On using “cold” to refer to illness, weather, and behavior patterns: “That right there should clue you in on where these things replicate”
  • People in warmer climates worry more about waterborne diseases (whereas in cold weather climates, airborne disease are more common)
  • So…
    • “I think you need to have a cold personality and go to a warm climate if you want to avoid colds” – Naval Ravikant

Will schools close because of the coronavirus?

  • “If I had to predict, I’d have to say schools would shut down—maybe for a month … I don’t think there’s any chance it won’t happen in this country.” Scott Adams
  • “I think schools have to shut down and large public gatherings have to be canceled” – Naval Ravikant
    • “This is a huge boom for the homeschooling movement; this is your moment”

How will the coronavirus impact the economy?

  • “You could take 20% of any workforce, remove them from reality, and nothing would happen” Scott Adams
    • Naval agrees: “I think it’s more than 20%”
    • Think about it: this happens every summer/Christmas or when there’s a strike/government shutdown
  • “If you buy the creative destruction argument, we’re going to go through a shift, and the new industries that we shift to will be better for the economy longer-term” – Naval Ravikant
    • For instance, increases in remote work may lead to more productivity overall
  • “This is going to be a huge boom for Netflix and Slack—companies like that who rely on people staying indoors” – Naval Ravikant

Is there a genetic element as to who’s susceptible to the coronavirus?

  • Probably
    • The virus binds to ACE2 receptors in the lungs—these receptors are over-expressed in Asians and males

Is Naval doing anything to prepare for the coronavirus?

  • “I’m a paranoid person by nature. I’m washing my hands until they’re dry and raw. There’s hand sanitizer everywhere in the house—we even have ingredients to make our own. There’s food stockpiled for a couple of weeks. I have masks; I have gloves; I have all that stuff.” Naval Ravikant
  • Naval is also:
    • Taking more vitamin D and vitamin C
    • No longer going to a gym; he’s working out outdoors
    • Avoiding any public gatherings
    • Working remotely
  • “It’s worth watching the stats. If there’s an uncontrolled outbreak in your area, you want to be ahead of that game and not behind.” – Naval Ravikant

What about Scott? What’s he doing to prepare?

  • Taking daily walks to get sunshine/vitamin D (Naval does this as well)
  • Only doing light exercise (to avoid wearing himself out)

Looking Forward

  • “A vaccine is still 12-18 months away—possibly more. We’ve never successfully developed a vaccine for any of the six coronaviruses.” – Naval Ravikant
  • Naval predicts that warmer weather will slow the spread of the coronavirus, but a second—and much larger—wave of infections will result in October/November
  • “If I had to bet my personal money on it, I’d say it’s going to be painful, but we’ll be okay – Scott Adams
    • Naval agrees: “I think it could be somewhere between relatively painless to very painful, but I think we’ll be fine, long-term, regardless. A year and a half from now, this will be a blip.”

Additional Notes

  • “The cruise ship industry is dead—never to return, unfortunately” – Naval Ravikant
    • (Scott agrees)
  • If you’re worried about the awkwardness of not shaking hands, just say you’re getting over a cold
  • “Physical privacy is gone. There are cameras everywhere, and eventually, there will be gene surveillance networks everywhere.” – Naval Ravikant
  • Has Naval’s fame ever caused him a problem?
    • “It’s inconvenient at times, but I brought it on myself, so it’s not really a problem” – Naval Raviakant
4 Comments