Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 11 Oct update

IT’S CLEAR NOW THAT INDIA PEAKED IN SEPTEMBER.
FROM 1.07 LAKH REPORTED DEATHS AS OF NOW, WE WOULD REACH AROUND 1.4 TO 1.6 LAKH BY YEAR END.
IT’S QUITE POSSIBLE THAT EVENTUALLY INDIA FLATS OUT AT MAX 2 LAKH TOTAL REPORTED DEATHS.


I have been looking at the India Covid figures since few months now. I update my projections every Sunday. This is how things look as of today.

The actual Covid death toll could be as high as twice the ‘reported’ figures, for various reasons documented here but what’s clear is that the avg daily death has been going down for three weeks now. This suggests India peaked by 4th week of September.

Graph plotted by Amrit Vatsa on 11 Oct 2020, based on publicly available data

The total reported Covid death toll for India right now is 1.07 lakh that basically translates to roughly 78 deaths per million.

In comparison, Brazil has over 700 per million dead, US & UK over 600 and Canada over 250.

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing rate of week-on-week growth / decline in deaths.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 11 Oct 2020 from publicly available data

For three consecutive weeks, total weekly deaths in India has continued to decline.

For future, -8% (baseline), -12% (better case) and -4% (worse case) assumption for decline rate sounds good?

Below is how the forecast looks like, for those three scenarios.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 04 Oct 2020 from publicly available data

The total death toll will reach somewhere around 1.4 to 1.6 lakh by 2020 end and it’s quite likely that Covid in India will be more or less over once around 2 lakh are dead. That will take many more months in 2021 given that growth is on decline.

Fingers crossed.

Let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths that requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

Like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the rate of week-on-week growth / decline, we can get some idea of how it’s probably going to unfold in the next few weeks.

5.05 lakh total positive cases were detected this week – that’s 11% lower than the total cases detected the week before (~5.7 lakh).

Let’s call this w-o-w rate of growth / decline in cases – ‘X’. X was -4% last week and -8% the week before (see the above chart). X=-11% this week. For my projection, I think I will assume a range of zero to -10% for X in the coming weeks.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before (just a basic assumption). Do we have some idea of what %age of such cases die? We do actually.

6,574 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.2% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.2%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1.1% to 1.3%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=-5%, Y=1.2% (baseline)
  • X=-10%, Y=1.1% (optimistic: cases decline faster + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=0%, Y=1.3% (worse: cases don’t decline + higher death %age )

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

This gives a similar estimate.

India’s reported Covid deaths would be around 1.4 to 1.6 lakh by year end.

It was interesting to see the New York Times report on the spread of Covid in rural India in pretty grim ways. This is their article from Friday (behind paywall). Number-wise things are actually getting better!

Before I end, below is a new Covid insight that you all should be aware of!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (19 Oct). Stay safe.

Categories
Gyaan

This is why trying to learn by ‘reasoning’ and ‘logic’ on social media typically doesn’t work.

“Rape / rape-culture is a big problem in India? Sure, we can ‘discuss’ it over comments and come up with a way that can definitely solve it”.
“Caste issues? No problem. ‘Solution’ should be the focus; what’s the point in ranting about the problem”?
“I don’t know the problem enough? Then educate me no? Tell me what is wrong in my ‘reasoning’? I am here to learn – teach me, educate me”.

We Indians love to reason. We also love to offer solutions – to every problem that we spot (especially if we are men). In fact we loving offering / talking about solutions so much that we never have the time to learn – by reading / consulting experts – about the underlying issues. We want to take the short-cut of learning by reasoning and logic.

Now if you are in a class and a teacher is teaching something, you should definitely ask questions. You should reason and try to understand the logic of what is being proposed and taught (unless obvious). You will learn better that way.

Even in case of peer-to-peer learning, say when you have missed a class and want a friend to explain the topic that you missed, you will learn better if you ask questions and get into reasoning and logic. For a short time-period this friend has essentially taken over the role of a ‘teacher’ and the nature of this relationship is well understood. And that is why reasoning works.

But that’s not usually the case with most social media conversations. There is no clear teacher-student role allocation. By default, both parties act like teachers (or so I have generally observed). And that’s why nobody ends up learning anything by reasoning and logic in most social media conversations.

The possible learning scenarios provided both parties accept their respective role in the conversation

When persons with limited knowledge (or even some knowledge) acknowledge that they are the student in a conversation, they can definitely benefit by reasoning, but only if they engage in a conversation with an expert. Such conversations rarely happen.

I often find myself in the “some knowledge” category and get turned off when it becomes obvious that the person I am conversing with has limited knowledge on the same subject. A – it is not my job to teach (it takes time and effort), B – I may not be able to do a good job of teaching them because I am not an expert yet (and possibly will never become one) and C – the time and energy that I will save from avoiding to converse with the person, can be devoted to actually learn something useful (by researching / reading more on the subject I already have some knowledge in).

When a person with limited knowledge in a subject claims that s/he is genuinely interested in learning more, I often cite point B and try to make them read good books directly (in short making them access ‘experts’). But you’d be surprised what I am often told – ‘oh I would love to learn but I don’t have time to read books and all that’.

I am of course talking about subjects / topics where a lot of research and theorizing has already been done and books after books have been written. This includes caste and gender topics. For a totally new subject, every one would essentially have ‘limited knowledge’ and reasoning and logic with a mutual learning spirit could possibly be helpful. But for well known and well researched subjects, it is usually a waste of time in most scenarios, if ‘learning’ really is the objective.

When I (with ‘some knowledge’) am conversing with someone who also has ‘some knowledge’, at times reasoning and logic is useful. This is especially true when the tone of conversation is on the lines of – ‘hey these insights that you shared are useful, and I have some more complimentary / contradictory insights to add if you are interested”.

Such tone eventually encourages both parties to go back and study specific things in more detail (source could be books but it could also be shorter stuff like blogs / podcasts / videos).

But such learning usually does not happen when the discussion is simply on the line of logic and reasoning – which often is the case when one party has ‘some knowledge’ and the other party has limited knowledge.

The language of the jackal

One of the reasons conversations on social media (where typically it’s not clear who is the teacher and who the student is) creates more conflict than learning, is because both parties end up using the language of the jackal.

(c) 2020 – Amrit Vatsa

This language theory comes from Marshall B. Rosenberg (I read about it in a beautiful short book called “The Communication Book – 44 Ideas for Better Conversations Every Day” that I had randomly picked up at an airport one day; it is part of my must-read book-list).

The language of the jackal causes the speaker to feel superior and the person being addressed to feel bad. Typical examples of jackal language are:

  • Analysis: ‘That’s wrong, because…’
  • Criticism: ‘The mistake you made was that you…’
  • Interpretations: ‘You do that because…’
  • Appraisals: ‘You are smart / lazy, you’re right wrong…’
  • Threats

The use of jackal language (aggressive) leads to counter-aggression and you can imagine how much ‘learning’ really happens once a conversation goes down that path.

By the way, the reason Rosenberg labelled the other kind of language (where one observes without evaluating, acknowledges feelings etc.) – language of the giraffe is because giraffes apparently have the biggest heart in any land animal! I had no idea; did you?

Anyway, this brings me to the last part of this blog-post.

If reasoning and logic is often pointless on social media and nobody learns much anyway, why do so many people still indulge in it?

In my observation, it’s mostly men who love debating on topics where they have limited knowledge. This could have something to do with their systemizing abilities being more than empathizing abilities (about which I have written separately). In such a scenario, men want to quickly jump to ‘solving things’ or finding a ‘net net conclusion’. The rush is so much that there is little patience to spend time in self-researching the subject at large. Logic and reasoning are mistaken as sufficient tools to extract enough knowledge from anyone so that some solution / overall conclusion can be discussed ASAP.

When a person ends up indulging in this reasoning-based learning again and again, he often ends up believing that he now ‘broadly’ knows all the ‘key things’ there are to know in the subject. With this attitude (and false confidence), his subsequent conversations with others become even more arrogant and jackal-ish (in spite of no real knowledge – just reasoning).

The worst lot take it upon themselves to ‘educate’ everyone else. It’s mind-boggling – the confidence of these reasoning-based pseudo learners – especially if the person happens to be an upper caste male in India. What has gender and caste to do with the person’s confidence? See the figure below (another communication theory from the same book).

Mikael Krogerus, Roman Tschappeler – The Communication Book

So yeah, that’s all for this post. The next time someone asks me to educate them on a topic because I know so much, I will just make them read this piece! Good idea? 🙂 Or that would be too jackal-like? 😀

Categories
general

Why men often assume that when a woman shares a problem, she’s asking him to propose a solution?

If you are a woman, you would have observed it yourself. If you are a man, it is more than likely that you are wondering ‘what is even wrong in that’? Before I explain why men do this (or what is wrong about it), let me add that it has indeed been shown through various ways (lab observations / studies / surveys etc.) that women in general are better at empathizing and men in general are better at systemizing.

Empathizing Vs. Systemizing

Empathizing is the drive to identify another person’s emotions and thoughts, and to respond to them with an appropriate emotion. It occurs when we feel an appropriate emotional reaction, an emotion triggered by the other person’s emotion. And it is done in order to understand another person, to predict their behavior, and to connect or resonate with them emotionally.

Systemizing on the other hand is the drive to analyze, explore, and construct a system. The systemizer intuitively figures out how things work, or extracts the underlying rules that govern the behavior of a system. This is done in order to understand and predict the system, or to invent a new one.

I have borrowed the above explanation from Simon Cohen’s “The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain”. Simon shares his own studies on this difference between men and women.

Males score less than females on empathizing skills
Females score less than males on systemizing skills

Just to be clear, not every man is poorer at empathizing than every woman. Most men are. Likewise, not every man is better at systemizing than every woman. Most men are.

And now, before we explore the ‘why’ of it (which to be honest is not that important in my opinion), let me share the problem with this urge to offer solutions (which you would do when you have lower empathy skills and higher systemizing skills; E < S).

There are three kinds of conversations that we have –

  • the “what happened” conversation – on things like who did what, what cane be done about it, who should take up the job etc.
  • the feeling conversation – how is one feeling (angry / hurt / disgusted / unsafe / loved etc.), is it okay to feel like that? and so on and so forth; and
  • the identity conversation – where we discuss about the implication of a given situation on us – are we being good? are we doing the right thing? are we competent? and other such things.

I borrow this classification from a wonderful book called “Difficult Conversations” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen that I think everyone should read.

Since most men are not as good empathizers as women, they are not able to realize when a particular conversation is a “feeling conversation”.

When a woman is having a “feeling conversation”, she wants you to acknowledge that she has been heard. She does *not* want you to offer solutions. But that’s exactly what men end up doing – treating every conversation / discussion like a “what happened” conversation where the objective, for the man, immediately shifts to doing something about the situation. This upsets the women and the man wonders – how can she get upset when I was offering a solution to the problem she just described? I was trying to help! Some men even want to have a ‘logical’ argument about it so that they can see the issue in their ‘reasoning’.

See the thing is, ultimately, everyone does want their problems addressed. But when you move to “what happened” before spending enough time in acknowledging the emotions, the conversations go nowhere and in spite of your great intention of doing something for the other person, you make it worse.

Alright, now that you are aware of this issue, I hope that if you are a man, you will henceforth try harder to listen and try to control the urge to offer solutions. Listening is not as simple as it sounds and if you really want to get better at it (for your own good), I urge you to pick up the “Difficult Conversations” book that I recommended earlier. It’s an eye opener. Not just for men, but for women too.

And now the last part – the ‘why’ bit. Why are men like this? The answer is what you would expect – a bit of biology and a bit of social / cultural setup.

The biology

Let me tell you the story from a psychology experiment (borrowing again from the ‘Essential Difference’ book that I earlier mentioned).

In the Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge, England, two researchers (Jennifer and Anna) videotaped over 100 babies who were just one day old.

The babies were shown Jennifer’s face, smiling over their crib. Her face moved in the natural way that faces do. The babies were also shown a ball the same size as Jennifer’s head, with the same coloring but with her features rearranged, so that the overall impression was no longer face-like. Let’s call this ball a ‘mobile’ face.

The idea was to compare the baby’s interest in a social object (a face) and a mechanical object (a mobile).

In order for the experimenters to remain unbiased, mothers were asked not to tell the researchers the sex of her baby. This information was only checked after the videotapes had been coded for how long each baby looked at each type of object.

So the question was, would babies look longer at Jennifer’s face, or at the mobile?

When the videotapes were analyzed, it was found that girls looked for longer at the face, and that boys looked for longer at the mobile. And this sex difference in social interest was on the first day of life!

This difference at birth echoes a pattern we have seen right across the human lifespan. For example, on average, women engage in more “consistent” social smiling and “maintained” eye contact than does the average man. The fact that this difference is present at birth strongly suggests that biology plays a role.

Simon Baron-Cohen, The Essential Difference

And if biology is at work, there will be evolutionary theories to explain why women and men ended up happening different kinds of brains. I don’t want to go there (read the quoted book if you are interested) because this makes it easy for a man to just say ‘that’s how we men are’ – which then becomes an excuse to continue acting like an asshole! And in any case, biology is just one way to understand the difference.

The social / cultural influence

With or without the knowledge of the biological difference, most parents typically hold in their mind some notion that boys are wilder or greater risk-takers and therefore need more restrictions. This leads to boys growing up in ways where empathy matters less and systemizing matters more.

Growing up, it has been found that more men choose to work (when choice is there) in “dominance-oriented” occupations (i.e., those emphasizing social hierarchies and the control over others), while more women choose to work in “dominance-attenuating jobs (i.e., working in a team of equals with others, and / or working with disadvantaged people). In essence, more men end up getting socially / culturally influenced and encouraged to let a skill that they are already likely bad at since birth, further deteriorate.

So yeah, that’s the explanation. But what I believe is more important is for men to try to become better after acknowledging this problem of lower empathy. Not only will it help you in general in all conversations, it will be immensely helpful in your relationship with your girl-friend / partner.

The most romantic gift: to listen to another’s anxieties for one hour, without judgement or “solutions”, as an analyst might.

Alain de Botton

Systemizing is a great skill to have (and useful in many things), but it gets you almost nowhere in most day-to-day social interaction. I especially want to encourage all the ‘good intentioned’ men out there, who ‘genuinely’ want to offer solutions to problems that predominantly impact women. Please learn to listen more than you think is necessary. There is no other way for you to really understand the problem (that you so earnestly want to solve) because unlike women, you don’t have access to the lived-experience they have! And when you don’t understand the problem well, all your systemizing will be useless in bringing in any real change.

All the best, men.

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 04 Oct update

REPORTED DEATH TOLL HAS CROSSED 1 LAKH BUT INDIA SEEMS TO BE APPROACHING THE PEAKING POINT NOW. ABOUT 50,000 MORE WILL DIE BY NOVEMBER AND AFTER THAT, WE WOULD MOSTLY FLAT OUT! THIS IS GOOD.


My big question every week (since May) has been, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? It happened this week.

The actual Covid death toll could be as high as twice the ‘reported’ figures, for various reasons documented here.

On a global level, if you just look at total number of reported Covid deaths, you will find that India is at no. 3. But the moment you adjust for population (which makes more sense), you realize that India is in a much better position (the pink line; US is dark blue, Brazil green, UK light blue and Canada red).

Source – FT – Plot generated and screenshot taken on 04 Oct 2020

1 lakh total deaths for India translates to 73 deaths per million (Brazil is 900% higher than India’s per million deaths).

It will take many months for India to reach the kind of deaths per million figures that Brazil or US have already seen (if it ever does). After looking at data from the present and previous weeks, it doesn’t look like things will ever get that bad in India.

In any case, there are many countries doing better then India and there are many others that are doing worse (once you adjust for population and compare).

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in deaths.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 04 Oct 2020 from publicly available data

For two consecutive weeks, total weekly deaths in India has continued to decline. This never happened before! And this is great news!

For future growth / decline estimate, -2% (baseline), -4% (better case) and +2% (worse case) assumption sounds good?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the following three scenarios.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 04 Oct 2020 from publicly available data

It is quite possible now that India’s total death toll may not cross 2 lakh (145 deaths per million) this year. Both US and Brazil are already over 600 per million dead.

If what I am saying happens, chances are we will flat out below 200 deaths per million (similar to Canada that peaked after crossing 200 – if you scroll up and check the FT chart I put up).

Fingers crossed.

Let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths that requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

At a global level, when adjusted for population – total reported cases for India (pink in the below chart) are low when compared to the worst performers (US – dark blue, Brazil – green) but already higher than Canada (red) and could cross UK (light blue) soon.

Source – FT – Plot generated and screenshot taken on 04 Oct 2020

Anyway so like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the week-on-week growth, we can have some idea of how it’s probably going to grow / decline in the next few weeks.

~5.7 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 4% lower than the total cases detected the week before (~6 lakh).

I am aware of the issues with low testing but I am not sure that’s the only explanation for decline in weekly cases.

I think India is now approaching the peaking point.

Let’s call this w-o-w growth in cases – ‘X’. X was -8% last week and +2% the week before (see the above chart). X=-4% this week. For my projection, I think I will assume a range of -2 to +2% for X in the coming weeks.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before (just a basic assumption). Do we have some idea of what %age of such cases die? We do actually.

7,463 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.3%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1.2% to 1.4%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=0%, Y=1.3% (baseline)
  • X=-2%, Y=1.2% (optimistic: growth in cases declines + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=+2%, Y=1.4% (worse: cases grow + higher death %age )

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

We will see around 50,000 more deaths by November, but once India crosses 2 lakh, the toll would not increase much beyond that.

Before I end, below is a new Covid insight that you all should be aware of!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (11 Oct). Stay safe.

Categories
VATSANALYSIS

The myth of the paid subscription model for news.

If you are not paying for the product, you are the product, right? The newspapers / publications / independent bloggers that want their content behind a paywall, definitely want you to believe so.

The proposed logic is simple – when you pay, the publishers / writers don’t have to rely on ad money (or the money from rich businessmen / trusts). This we are told, leads to two things – a) freedom and b) quality.

Freedom of press refers to the freedom of the journalist / publication to pursue and put out whatever story they feel is important, without any political / commercial pressure. Quality is a broad term that I am using to refer to the many aspects of the coverage itself – how well researched the content is, how unbiased it is, insights, verification level, professionalism etc.

I took an insta poll last week asking my followers that if they had to choose between freedom and quality, what would they choose. I received about 40 responses. 60% voted for freedom, 40% for quality.

A. Freedom of Press – does ‘paid subscription’ model have a positive impact?

Without freedom of press, how will stories about atrocities / wrongdoings of the powerful come out? A Modi or an Ambani should not be able to influence what stories are put out and what buried.

It should be kept in mind that criticizing those in power is only one of the many journalistic objectives (also called playing the role of a detached investigative watchdog). Over the years, in various countries, journalists have played other roles too (and continue to). These other roles include:

  • bringing out facts (with objectivity) for the public (with some context but minimum opinion);
  • analyzing facts underpinning key issues;
  • being critical change agents (by influencing public opinion and advocating for social change – this is going beyond just being a ‘detached watchdog’ and may include actively encouraging citizen involvement); and
  • acting as opportunist facilitators (i.e. supporting those in power – which is a good thing only when a disturbed nation is seeking some stability and a new government has typically just come in power).

Anyway, so freedom of press is a big problem in our country right now. India ranks 140th in the World Press Freedom Index (of total 180 countries that are included). There is a detailed NY Times article (unfortunately behind a paywall) on this topic, if you want to read more.

Will a subscription based model really solve this freedom problem? How about we look at the top performers in the World Press Freedom (WPF) rankings and dissect them a little?

Source: rsf.org

So the Nordic countries are on the top. Is news mostly free in these countries or the freedom comes from paid subscriptions?

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020 – link

42% of Norwegians pay for their news. That’s great – the more people pay for news, the better freedom of press, right?

But wait, look at Finland and Denmark (no. 2 and no. 2 on WPF). Less than 20% pay for news and yet US which is slightly better than them in terms of paid news subscribers, does not even rank in top ten! In fact, US ranks 45th! What’s really happening here?

In Portugal (no. 10 in WPF ranking) only 10% pay for news (same as Germany which ranks just below Portugal at no. 11).

Freedom of press and paid-subscription doesn’t seem to have any correlation.

While it is possible that if you take money from Ambani / Adani, you may find it difficult to talk against them, to make this scenario sound like the only possible scenario is a bit much. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013. But it does not mean that the publication by default remains silent when it comes to criticizing Bezos.

In any case, even if you don’t take any money from Ambai / Adani / Amazon, if there is an overall culture where journalists are labelled ‘prestitutes‘, targeted and killed (the way it frequently happens in India – one of the main reasons why it ranks so bad in the freedom index), subscription model is not necessarily going to ensure much freedom. Arnab Goswami does not necessarily lick the BJP government’s ass because poor Arnab has no way to get subscription money. Arnab does it because that’s what he wants to do and he has access to the business model that works for him. The intent of the publication / journalist / media house comes first; the enablers and business models come later.

Let’s also for a moment think of one of the benefits of a free press – the publication / journalists can report on all important issues without pressure. Is Climate Change an important issue? I hope most of you say yes.

So say between Sweden (press freedom rank 4) and US (press freedom rank 45), if we did a poll of its citizens to check which populace took Climate Change more seriously, what do you think would the result be?

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020 – link

40% in US believe that Climate Change is an extremely serious problem but less than 20% of Swedes think so!

Being ‘free’ does not automatically equate to making use of that freedom as some media houses / journalists would like to believe! And in any case, you do not necessarily have to get away from ad money to exercise your freedom. Quint does a fabulous job of putting out stories that matter – 95% of its revenue comes from advertisement!

By the way, it’s not that we Indians don’t pay for our news. ~25% of the English language, internet using respondents for example, said in a Reuters survey that they have paid in some form, for some kind of digital news in the last year. [Source]

Of the respondents who do not currently pay, almost 40% said they are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to pay for news in the next year (much more than users in the United States).

Source

It is okay if some publications / writers get the subscription model going for them. Whatever works! I myself pay for one Indian publication (Business Standard), one US publication (NY Times) and one UK publication (The Economist). But I do not necessarily do so because the free ad-based news that I also consume, has no freedom and can no way put out stories that those behind paywalls can!

There are many reasons why people pay for news – supporting independence of press is at best a justification from those who pay, than any proven positive impact on freedom.

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020 – link

B. Quality of news – does subscription model have an impact?

When you pay for a product, the makers have an incentive to make the product better. But is news really a product? No.

Journalism is not simply the aggregation of content. It is not a product, but a process, a way to search for truth and a conversation, not a lecture.

Richard M. Perloff, The Dynamics of News: Journalism in the 21st-Century Media Milieu

And what this means is, taking care of market economics is simply not enough (or the most important criteria) for good journalism.

If paying for news meant better news, most people who paid for news would have rated their consumption better and more reliable, right? But look at the reality.

The above chart shows us that the average trust is independent of whether something is behind a paywall or not! Below is how we Indians trust our news sources.

Source

Most of the Indian brands listed above make money primarily from ads! The business model of a news publication and the quality does not have a proven correlation. But generally if a publication is running ads of big brands, it is unlikely for the quality to be low. So as far as quality goes, ad-model >> subscription model.

Early American newspapers like Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette and Alexander Hamilton’s Gazette of the United States were unashamedly partisan. … As they sought wider audiences in the 19th century, newspapers became more concerned with what they called “realism”. … And advertisers wanted less partisan coverage to sit alongside their messages.

The Economist, Jul 2020

Ad-money lead to news quality getting better – getting more objective.

Another way to think of why paying customers do not necessarily lead to the ‘product’ getting better is to think of mainstream Bollywood / Hollywood films – truck load of shitty movies in spite of paying customers. What about shitty Bollywood music of the 90s when we were still buying audio cassettes? When a business model depends upon a buying customer, the producer just ends up optimizing the cost of production and the sales-volume. Journalism should never work like that.

Why is everyone really talking about paid subscriptions then?

It is the failure of most media houses to retain the ad-money flow that they once had, that’s behind the push to make the ‘paid subscription based model’ work. It is not driven by a noble cause of freedom of press or quality of reportage – although both can definitely be achieved in this model too.

In fact, on the question of who should be primarily responsible for solving a key quality aspect of news – the misinformation problem – over 60% Indians think it is the government’s job.

Source

I earlier showed how other than Norway, the other Nordic countries in the top ten World Press Freedom list have lesser paid subscriber %age compared to US. The reason they have such higher freedom of press in spite of low paid subscribers is because of their governments!

In the Nordic countries, the states have played a key role by giving the press a high degree of operational freedom and helping it financially through subsidies.

The strong position of public service media fit with the welfare ideal where the media – supported by the state – are judged to play an important role in citizens’ well being alongside other public institutions and the societal responsibility of the journalists is emphasized.

A Welfare State of Mind? – Journalism Studies, Vol 18 2017

If you read the above cited paper (behind paywall) – you will also note that the most independent press in the world (in these Nordic countries) typically restricts its role to being detached watchdogs. They generally refrain from taking on the role of ‘critical change agents’ (that I explained in the beginning, involves influencing public opinion and advocating for social change).

Irrespective of whether you make money from ads or paid subscribers, if the governments comes after journalists, would there be enough freedom? Unlikely. We need a truly free media and yet paid subscriptions doesn’t necessarily ensure it.

Anyway, so now we know that the potential benefits of the subscription model are pretty debatable (even when logically, they sound so perfect, no)?

The follow-up question is: are there any problems that the paid subscription model itself creates? Plenty!

Paywall problems

#1 Readers love opinions

Theoretically, you have the freedom to put out whatever story that you desire. But can you? When you have paying readers, you have to cater to their tastes. And unlike advertisers, readers love opinions.

The incentive to keep readers happy – and the penalty for failing – are greater than ever.

The Economist, Jul 2020

I love the below observation by an IIT senior who has been a writer for many years now.

It’s interesting that back when the New York Times was [just] a dead-tree periodical, it had a tagline that went “all the news that’s fit to print”. Now that it’s gone online, got a paywall and had to get into real time news, it’s become an outrage machine.”

Pertinent Observations, 30 Sep 2020

#2 Information inequality

Not everyone can afford paid subscriptions, so those with less money get left out from accessing it. Who do they rely on for great quality news?

We saw earlier that in US, ~20% pay for access to pay-walled news. 24% of them are also concerned about others missing out on what they read.

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism / Digital News Report 2020

#3 Subscription fatigue

Even those who have subscriptions, soon run into a subscription fatigue – how many publications can you really subscribe to? And then you have other subscriptions to take care of as well, like Netflix.

When everything goes behind paywall, you would most likely miss out on a diverse coverage at the cost of a hypothetical freedom of press / better quality.

Although the number of readers paying for online news has increased in many countries, this trend is driven by a ‘winner-take-most’ trend in which large national news brands draw the highest proportion of subscribers. Around half of those that subscribe to any online or combined package in the United States use the New York Times or the Washington Post and a similar proportion subscribe to either The Times or the Telegraph in the UK.

The average (median) number of news subscriptions per person – among those that pay – is just ‘one’ even in high-income households in the US.

To sum up, a journalist can have freedom both in a subscription model and an ad-driven model (or a mix of both, with varying ratio) or even in a charity / donation model (that say Wikipedia deploys). Indians are indeed willing to support donation models too. In a survey, 37% showed support.

Source

In fact this is the model I advocate for my own writing – I want my wiring to be open to all, but ‘patrons’ are always welcome. If you want to fund my work, feel free. I would be grateful.

Likewise, freedom of press can be exercised both in ad-driven model and in a subscription model. There are way more factors at play than just the economics here. What matters at the end of the day is that journalists get to do a good job (and not just view their content as a product) and get paid one way or another.

I want to leave you with the following parting commentary, borrowed from here.

Journalism is facing stiff competition for attention and its connection with the public is threatened by news avoidance, low trust, and the perception that news does not help people live the lives they want to live. But in many ways, the best journalism today is better than ever – more accessible, more timely, more informative, more interactive, more engaged with its audience.

REUTERS INSTITUTE REPORTJANUARY2019

That will be all for this blog. Hope you learnt something.

Categories
Gyaan VATSANALYSIS

Explained – why ‘be proud of Hindu culture’ pages / accounts really exist.

Let me introduce you to this beautiful insta account with 122k+ followers.

Alright let’s get going. Can’t wait to know my Bharat more. What can be as harmless as a page that is just about making one aware about ancient science?

OK. So this ‘ancient’ trivia wants us Hindus to feel ashamed that a temple was taken away from an Indian currency note?

The year ‘1954’ makes me wonder – was Nehru the fake Hindu behind it?

No wait, here’s the reality – this currency was very much in circulation all the way till 1978 when it was finally demonetized by the most anti Congress Government ever – the Janata Party. Morarji Desai of Janata Party was the first non-Congress prime minister in independent modern India’s history (there was no BJP then).

While the 1,000 rupees note was at least real, the above are fake coins! These are not currency coins but “temple tokens”!

One of the objectives of such accounts / sites is to make Hindus feel that the past was so much better for them and that the present represses their freedom.

Many of you will be surprised to note that this literally is like the fist rule of fascism – “build a mythic past”.

How fascism works!

Below is the table of content from a book that I read recently (How fascism works). Note the name of the first chapter.

Alright, let’s get back to the “ancient_science” account now…

When the mythic past is being built, a language is not just that – it is so much more – something that facilitates ‘unfoldment of higher awareness’! A language is not just a means to express ideas and discoveries (like this blog) but something that ’emulates the mantric sounds of the cosmic mind’!

Is it by any chance possible that the Vedas were written in Sanskrit because that was the *only* language that the authors knew to write in?

I crosschecked some of the above quotes and guess what, they are legit. But there are two issues with the post. First, the headline – “Influenced by Hindu Dharma”.

All these guys read some Hindu texts (like Gita). And there is a reason. They were all trying to find the connection between physics and philosophy and that meant they had to read up the well known philosophies (including eastern and Hindu philosophy of which Swami Vivekananda was a great spreader of, during this time). This explains the quotes – not endorsement of Hindu dharma.

The word dharma encompasses duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and “right way of living” – none of these scientists have ever proclaimed that the Hindu / Sanatana dharma influenced them. But of course that shouldn’t come in the way of evoking the pride that we must attach to being Hindus.

The second issue with this post is that it makes use of what’s called the halo effect to fool one’s brain. I have written about the halo effect in another blog, but in short – it is our instinctive disability that makes us believe that if someone is good in some aspects, that person is good in all aspects (and vice-versa).

For example, Tesla (quoted above) disagreed with the theory of atoms being composed of smaller subatomic particles, stating there was no such thing as an electron creating an electric charge! Today, any school student will tell that Tesla was wrong. This doesn’t necessarily make Tesla a fool. And yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that every single quote of Tesla is of value! Same goes with others.

Yes. Just like below is the beauty of Islam?

And what about this? Beauty of Sikhism?

Let’s get to the beauty of temples now…

Posts like these try to make you feel proud of the kind of amazing temples Hindus built centuries ago. Except that the construction of this ‘ancient’ structure was started in 1990!

There is a much older ancient temple (not so instagram-worthy) in the same place too. But the Gopuram that you see in the image is not that. It’s common for Gopurams to be added to older temples. Both the Gopuram and a Shiva statue were funded by NRI business tycoon B R Shetty. And it’s a great thing if religious rich folks build grand Gopurams or temples. I have nothing against them really. I am only trying to show you the overall motivation of insta accounts that put together posts like these. They don’t care about B R Shetty or the great work that he did. What do they care about? You will see for yourself. Just read on!

Is there any reason for us H for Hindus to be not super proud of such glorious past? Tell me. What else did our ancestors have in mind other than to make a ‘fashion statement’? Apparently, a lot!

This 12th-century Hindu temple was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE, on the banks of the Yagachi River in Belur (then Velapura – an early Hoysala Empire capital). The temple was built over three generations and took over hundred years to finish. It was repeatedly damaged and plundered during wars and repeatedly rebuilt and repaired over its history.

In 1774, Haidar Ali was the de facto ruler on behalf of the Wadiyar dynasty. Ali got the temple repaired (a Hindu officer was given the task). In 1935, parts of the temple was cleaned and restored with financing by the Mysore government and grants by the Wadiyar dynasty. [source]

Now here’s an interesting bit that some of you proud Hindus may find rather offensive – the temple artwork depicts scenes of secular life in the 12th century, dancers and musicians. It is a Vaishnava temple that reverentially includes many themes from Shaivism and Shaktism, as well as images of a Jina from Jainism and the Buddha from Buddhism.

One more illustrious insight? The Vijayanagara Empire sponsored the addition of smaller shrines in the temple complex, dedicated to goddesses and the Naganayakana mandapa that were constructed by collecting the war ruins of other demolished temples in Belur area and reusing them!

Posts from accounts like “ancient_science” remain silent on all such details, by design. These accounts don’t exist to teach you history. They just want to use selective / distorted and if needed, fake history to help create a mythical past for you.

If one can convince a population that they are rightfully exceptional, that they are destined by nature or by religious fate to rule other populations, one has already convinced them of a monstrous lie.

In a glorious past that fascism aims to create, members of the chosen community had their ‘rightful’ place at the top that set the cultural and economic agenda for everyone else.

“Now” this is a masjid. There are only two minor issues. “Now” = 15th century! Yes this has been a mosque since 15th century! And the second minor issue – the claim that this was once a temple is unverified! Of course. Just don’t take it to the Supreme Court because you know what happens in the end.

The photograph is real and not photoshopped if that’s what you are wondering. It is Daitya Sudan temple situated in Lonar, Maharashtra.

There is no record as such of how one of the gates has this Islamic architecture looking upper half thingy but let’s just assume an Islamic invasion it must have been. What lazy invaders, then?

It’s interesting that this insta account teaches us nothing about temple demolition beyond an Islamic war against Hinduism. So let me talk about it then. Learning some more history is not harmful, is it?

Recorded instances of Indian kings attacking the temples of their political rivals date from at least the eighth century, when Bengali troops destroyed what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, Kashmir’s state deity under King Lalitaditya (r. 724–60).

This is from the book India in the Persianage Age 1000-1765.

  • In the early tenth century, the Rashtrakuta monarch Indra III not only demolished the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpi near the Jamuna River), patronized by the Rashtrakutas’ deadly enemies the Pratiharas, but took special delight in recording the fact;
  • In the late eleventh century, the Kashmiri King Harsha raised the plundering of enemy temples to an institutionalized activity;
  • In the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, kings of the Paramara dynasty attacked and plundered Jain temples in Gujarat.

And you know what, I am not going to judge them. The way temples and religions and Hindus and Muslims are talked about in the present was NOT how they were viewed and talked about in the past. And therefore, using selected real / fake stories from past to influence the present thinking is nothing but a means to manipulate into imagining things a certain way!

Austrians are the biggest shiv-bhakts you see. And Shivji must have one day accidentally gone to Alps instead of Himalayas.

Every cylindrical ling / phallus shaped thing in the world is a proof of the spread of our culture. What is the lie in this? Leaning tower of Pisa? Shiv ling. The Qutab Minar? Shivling. You have to be blind to not see it.

The Eisriesenwelt (German for “World of the Ice Giants”) is a natural limestone and ice cave located in Werfen, Austria, about 40 km south of Salzburg. The cave is inside the Hochkogel mountain in the Tennengebirge section of the Alps. It is the largest ice cave in the world, extending more than 42 km and visited by about 200,000 tourists every year.

At least the ice-cave photo from Austria was factually correct. But see that “Sudhwara – Africa – 6000 years” image in the above grid? That is not even from Africa! I did a reverse image search and it turns out that structure is in Ireland!

The understanding of and the respect for our own mythological past and our own history will form the first condition for more firmly anchoring the coming generation in the soil of Europe’s original homeland.

Alfred Rosenberg – a leading Nazi ideologue and editor of the prominent Nazi newspaper the Völkischer Beobachter (1924)

Yay. Victim. But wait, not really?

India Today Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found the claim to be false. Pakistani Hindus celebrated the Shivratri festival in Karachi between February 21 and 23, 2020.

India Today

In a 1922 speech at the Fascist Congress in Naples, Benito Mussolini declared – “we have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality. Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything”.

Of course!

Fascist leaders appeal to history to replace the actual historical record with a glorious mythic replacement that, in its specifics, can serve their political ends and their ultimate goal of replacing facts with power.

Such pride inducing ancient science! Could it possibly be untrue?

The astrolabe was invented in Hellenistic Greece around the second century, but it was the Islamic world which preserved this Greek knowledge, elaborated upon it and then disseminated it eastwards up to India and westwards up to England.

In his India, Al Biruni claims to have composed a manual on the astrolabe in Sanskrit verse. The work does not survive, but it is quite probable that Al Biruni had brought the astrolabe with him and taught its working principles to his Hindu interlocutors at Multan in the first quarter of the eleventh century.

Proceedings of the 13th World Sanskrit Conference

OK, one last example and then I am done.

Aww – so beautiful. Let me quote something from a renowned Dalit activist and writer – Kancha Illaiah.

Hinduism has been claiming that the Dalitbahujans are Hindus, but at the same time their very Gods are openly against them. As a result, this religion, from its very inception, has a fascist nature, which can be experienced and understood only by the Dalitbahujans, not by Brahmins who regard the manipulation and exploitation as systemic and not as part of their own individual consciousness.

…unless one examines in detail how all the main Hindu Gods are only killers and oppressors of the Dalitbahujans, and how the Dalitbahujan castes have built a cultural tradition of their own, and Gods and Goddesses of their own (who have never been respected by the brahminical castes), one cannot open up the minds of the Dalitbahujans to reality.

Why I Am Not a Hindu – Kancha Illaiah

The dangers of fascist politics come from the particular way in which it dehumanizes segments of the population. It aims to limit your capacity for empathy, leading to the justification of inhumane treatment, from repression of freedom, mass imprisonment, and expulsion to, in extreme cases, mass extermination. Go check out the kind of comments the account attracts and you will see what is true intended outcome of running such accounts – it’s succeeding in its job. In the mean time that I wrote this blog, it added 2,000 more followers.

So now you know why accounts like “ancient_science” exist – they play their role in promoting fascism. Let someone else know too?

Categories
Covid-times Gyaan

‘Invisible women’ in the Covid times

Thalidomide is a medication used to treat a number of cancers and skin conditions including complications of leprosy. The developers of the drug claimed that they “could not find a dose high enough to kill a rat” and so thalidomide was freely available since 1950s in stores as a mild over-the counter medication in many countries.In 1960, doctors began prescribing it to pregnant women who suffered from morning sickness.

It turned out that while the drug didn’t kill rats, it did affect foetal development. Before it was finally taken off the market in 1962, over 10,000 children had been born around the world with thalidomide-related disabilities! You can read a detailed story by NY Times.

Because of this scandal, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued guidelines in 1977 excluding women of childbearing potential from drug trials!

But what happens when you exclude a certain group from clinical trial? Be it pregnant women or women altogether?

Over the last few weeks I have been reading a super insightful book – Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. Actually, I had started to read it long back (last year I think), but then got overwhelmed by the data / insights and had to take a break. I am glad I resumed. It is still overwhelming but one must read as much as one can.

Caroline essentially quotes examples after examples of how almost everything that is made / designed in the ‘man’-made world, miserably fails to take into account the specific needs of women. This reflects in design of roads to malls to phones to piano to drugs to vaccines.

Just because something works for men in a certain way does not mean it will necessarily work the same way for women. And that’s a problem when women are not represented adequately in any kind of user impact study.

In 2000 for example, the FDA had to force drug manufacturers to remove phenyl-propanolamine, a component of many over-the-counter medications, from all products because of a reported increased risk of bleeding into the brain or into tissue around the brain in women, but not in men.

To understand the difference between male and female bodies, at the most basic level you need to realize that women typically tend to have a higher body-fat percentage than men. This, along with the fact that blood-flow to fat tissue is greater in women, affects how women metabolise certain drugs. Also, male gut transit times are about half the length of women’s! This means women may need to wait for longer after eating before taking medications that need to be absorbed on an empty stomach.

When it comes to vaccine, it is well proven that women develop higher antibody responses and have more frequent and severe adverse reactions to vaccines.

The mechanisms leading to these differences can be:

  • hormonal (i.e. the different effects of testosterone, oestrogens or progesterone);
  • genetic (biological females have two X chromosomes while males have only one); or
  • related to differences in intestinal bacteria.

And yet, most phase 1 clinical trials – a) don’t bother to study sex specific results and b) don’t enroll women in adequate numbers in the first place! How many drugs that would work for women are being ruled out at phase 1 trials just because they don’t work in men? Nobody knows!

Sex matters even in animal trials. In a 2007 analysis of animal studies where rats of both sexes were identified, it was observed that in over half the studies, the drug-effect depended upon the sex of the animal! And yet, most animal tests don’t bother to sex-tag the results (if they at all get enough of male and female animals in the first place).

By the way sex and gender have different implications – and to those not clear on the difference between the two terms, the below figure is self explanatory.

Source

So how are we doing gender / sex wise in terms of analyzing Covid’s effect or vaccine development?

Most states are doing a bad job of reporting sex / gender aggregated data.

Bad quality of sex / gender aggregated data = a vaccine / drug that is designed mostly for men.

Source

In a still to be peer-reviewed study, researchers have found that only 416 of the 2,484 Covid-19 clinical trials mention sex / gender as a recruitment criterion on the ClinicalTrials.gov database. [Source]

During the time of ancient Greeks, the female body was seen as a ‘mutilated male’ body – ovaries were female testicles and didn’t have a name for themselves till the 17th century! For millennia, medicine has functioned on the assumption that male bodies can represent humanity as a whole. A 2008 analysis of a range of textbooks recommended by ‘twenty of the most prestigious universities in Europe, US and Canada’ revealed that across 16,000+ images, male bodies were used three times as often as female!

For things to change in the future, we all need to be at least aware of the implicit data bias that exists in every single aspect of our lives – before enough people can even begin to make noticeable noise about it. I can only hope that happens sooner than later.

If you found the insights in this blog fascinating and yet reading an entire book on this topic is a bit much, at least check out this Guardian article that has a lot more examples of data bias for women and how it affects them, even kills them.

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 27 Sep update

FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE TOTAL NEW CASES REPORTED IN A WEEK WERE LESS THAN THAT IN THE PREVIOUS WEEK!
HAS INDIA PEAKED ALREADY?
IN ANY CASE, INDIA WILL CROSS 1 LAKH REPORTED COVID DEATHS THIS WEEK (93K+ DEATHS PRESENTLY).


My big question every week (since May) is, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? It will happen this week as we enter October.

Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday (26 Sep) stands at 93k+ (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here).

On a global level, if you just look at total number of reported Covid deaths, you will find that India is at no. 3. But the moment you adjust for population (which makes more sense), you realize that India is in a much better position (the pink line; US is dark blue, Brazil green, UK light blue and Canada red).

93k total deaths means ~68 deaths per million (Brazil is almost ten times that figure). It will take many months for India to reach the kind of deaths per million figures that Brazil or US have already seen (if it does).

The reason I just compared India with literally the worst performers is not so that like Modi, I can claim it’s all good – I am just making sure you see things for how they are. There are many countries doing better then India and there are many others that are doing worse (once you adjust for population and compare).

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in deaths.

Chart created by Amrit Vatsa on 27 Sep 2020 from publicly available data

This is the first time that weekly death growth in India went significantly below zero percent!

Only once earlier, the growth had been negative (just shy of zero – in the 23-29 Aug week). For future average weekly growth estimate, 2% to 10% growth range sounds good?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the following three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths this week and then will touch 2 lakh by early December (2 lakh total deaths for India would be equivalent to 144 deaths per million; both US and Brazil are already over 590 per million dead). Even a relatively better performer Canada peaked only after crossing 200 deaths per million.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths. This requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

At a global level, when adjusted for population – total reported cases for India (pink in the below chart) are low when compared to the worst performers (US – dark blue, Brazil – green) but already higher than Canada (red) and will cross UK (light blue) soon.

Anyway so like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the week-on-week growth, we can have some idea of how it’s probably going to grow in the next few weeks.

~6 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 8% lower than the total cases detected the week before (6.5 lakh)

I will not conclude that India has peaked already unless total cases continue to be negative week after week. This week could just have been an anomaly.

Let’s call this w-o-w growth in cases – ‘X’. X was 2% last week and 14% the week before (see the above chart). X=-8% this week. For my projection, I think I can assume a range of 2 to 10% for X in the coming weeks.

Let me also make sure you understand how growth works – when something grows at 10% every week, it means it will double in less than two months. But if it grows at 2%, it would take almost nine months for it to double!

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before (just a basic assumption). Do we have some idea of what %age of such cases die? We do actually.

7,760 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.2% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.2%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1% to 1.2%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=5%, Y=1.1% (baseline)
  • X=2%, Y=1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

What’s going to happen this week doesn’t change (crossing 1 lakh) but this indirect estimate for deaths tells us that only in the worse case scenario will we cross 2 lakh in 1st week of December.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths this week and will probably touch 2 lakh in December.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are at 68 per million Covid deaths).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up – before it flattens / peaks?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less no. of deaths than that. Let’s look at some of our cities / small states.

Y axis represents weeks; 1= the week when the city / state first reached ~10 deaths per million

Pune for example, has crossed 800 deaths per million.

The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (04 Oct). Stay safe.

Categories
Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Sep 20 Newsletter

Every Sunday, I share with you my creations, weekly discoveries and analysis of how the world works. Subscribe here.


Do things get easier or harder for me in the second phase of my Myanmar shoot?

This is my ongoing BTS video-series that I had finished shooting in Feb. In case you have not yet seen the earlier episodes, here is the link to part 1 and 2. Watch these – you will have fun.

Did you know that when you just watch someone having fun, your own brain registers the same activity as it would do, when you yourself are having fun?

That’s the magic of mirror neurons – that are used to study empathy. Talking about empathy, let me ask you something.

If everyone had friends from minority groups, would there be less bigotry overall?

I explore the answer to this question in my new blog. I also introduce a very interesting 2019 book called ’The War For Kindness’.

Some people don’t think bigotry can be brought down by ‘friendships’ (because friendship is easily faked / can be just superficial). But then, there actually is enough evidence to suggest that bringing people together, does work (CONTACT HYPOTHESIS). Read my blog – there are some very interesting experimental data that I have shared. It’s a short insightful read.

You can also listen to this Contact Hypothesis topic on my podcast. Search for VATSANALYSIS on your favourite podcast-platform and do subscribe.

Not all bigotry is natural of course.

View this post on Instagram

Why you so predictable Arnab?

A post shared by Vatsap? (@amritvatsa) on

What Arnab does in his show for example, is by design. A performance. I had fun this week creating music to bring out how predictable this asshole is. Watch the above 1 minuter. If you want a more ‘melodic’ take on Arnab’s by-design stupidity, Mayur never disappoints.

Irrespective of what other drama is happening in our country, Covid is still around and only getting stronger. Once again, I do have my weekly death projection updates ready.

Reported death count now stands at over 85k. We will cross 1 lakh deaths in just two more weeks (as per my estimates – that I have explained in my blog). And if the growth continues the way it has been, another 1 lakh will be dead just in October and November!

Check out my full analysis to see how we have no other option but to live under the shadow of Covid for many more months to come. Not all shadows suck this much though.

When shadow becomes art…

While you cannot have a tree inside your room, you can definitely have plants. If you’ve been discouraged from getting plants because your room doesn’t get plenty of sunlight, check out this super useful Twitter thread by @batonthemoon where she shares a wonderful list of plants that you can easily grow in a window-less room! You are almost towards the end of this newsletter now.

Oh by the way, you should also check out what my friend Shweta creates on her @amillionforestdotcom insta channel. Below is a photo I recently took of Princy (my wife), with one of Shweta’s creations – some very cool planty stuff.

Now that we are on the theme of plants and nature, let’s look at what’s happening in one particular rice field and as we watch, let’s exclaim together…

WHAT THE DUCK!!

That’s all for this week. Stay safe, consume less, create more, make this world a better place and I will get back to you next Sunday!

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 20 Sep update

85K+ HAVE REPORTEDLY DIED ALREADY.
WE WILL CROSS 1 LAKH DEATHS IN 2 MORE WEEKS AND AT THE PRESENT RATE, ANOTHER ONE LAKH WOULD BE DEAD BY NOV END.


My big question every week (since May) is, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths?

Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday (19 Sep) stands at 85k+ (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here). Remember that this number was just over forty thousand in first week of August.

On a global level, if you just look at total number of reported Covid deaths, you will find that India is at no. 3. But the moment you adjust for population (which makes more sense), you realize that India is in a much better position (the pink line; US is blue, Brazil green).

85k total deaths means just over 60 deaths per million (Brazil is ten times that figure). It will take many months for India to reach the kind of deaths per million figures that Brazil or US have already seen. The reason I just compared India with literally the worst performers is not so that like Modi, I can claim it’s all good – I am just making sure you see things for how they are. There are many countries doing better then India and there are many others that are doing worse (once you adjust for population and compare).

One could try forecasting the future Covid deaths in India by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in deaths.

Yes there are many ups and downs in the weekly growth of Covid deaths but if one has to extrapolate, a 5% to 15% growth range seems to be a good guess?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the following three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths in like two weeks and then will touch 2 lakh sometime in November (2 lakh total deaths for India would be equivalent to 144 deaths per million; both US and Brazil are already over 550 per million dead).

There is another way to forecast future deaths, but let me take a quick light break first.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project future deaths. This requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected seems to have its own issues.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

At a global level, when adjusted for population – total reported cases for India, as of now are much low. But they are growing – so would they remain low forever?

Anyway so like deaths, for cases too, if we look at the week-on-week growth, we can have some idea of how it’s probably going to grow in the next few weeks.

6.5 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is only 2% higher than the total cases detected the week before (6.4 lakh)

Let’s call this w-o-w growth in cases – ‘X’. X was 14% last week and 15% the week before (see the above chart). X=2% this week, possibly because of not enough increase in testing capacity?

Anyway, for my projection, I think I can assume a range of 5 to 15% for X in the coming weeks.

Let me also make sure you understand how growth works – when something grows at 10% every week, it means it will double in a little less than two months (7-8 weeks). But if it grows at 15%, it will double in just five weeks. On the slower end, if something grows at 5%, it would take almost 4 months for it to double!

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before (just a basic assumption). Do we have some idea of what %age of such cases die? We do actually.

8,147 Covid deaths were recorded this week, which is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

Let’s call this %age Y; Y= 1.3%.

For the future, let’s assume a range of 1% to 1.3%?

So we can forecast now – I am going with the following 3 scenarios:

  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (baseline)
  • X=5%, Y=1.1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=15%, Y=1.3% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart shows the future cumulative death count.

The indirect method more or less gives a similar estimate as the direct death projection.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths in two weeks and by Nov end, the figure is likely to cross 2 lakh (i.e. 1 lakh more deaths will happen just in Oct-Nov).

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are at 62 per million Covid deaths).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up – before it flattens / peaks?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less no. of deaths than that. Let’s look at some of our cities.

Y axis represents weeks; 1= the week when the city first reached ~10 deaths per million

Pune for example, crossed 700 deaths per million last week itself.

The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (27 Sep). Stay safe.