Finding Comfort in Predictions

On March 11 I wrote the following notes in my personal journal:

The coronavirus is currently in outbreak mode around the world. There are 125,865 known infections worldwide, with almost 81K in China. In the USA there are already 1281 infections, 7 of them in Nevada. But that’s largely due to severe under-testing.

I think the USA is in for a big reckoning, especially with Donald Trump being a complete idiot in his response to this, clearly caring more about the economy and his own self-interests than about people’s lives.

The death rate of this virus seems to be about 3-4%, a lot deadlier than the flu. There’s a good chance I’ll get infected at some point, but I’ll probably be fine. Many people won’t be fine though.

Within a matter of weeks, hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients since about 15-20% of the infected require hospitalization – for about 2 weeks. When the virus kills, the average is about 17 days till death.

This is a big deal for the planet. It’s about to become a really big deal for the USA and for Las Vegas. I doubt that enough people see this yet though.

In that same entry, I also made the following predictions as a way of wrapping my head around what I thought could be coming up:

  • The virus will spread quickly because the government response is severely lacking.
  • It will hit Las Vegas hard, especially because the Mayor is behaving cluelessly, attacking the media and defending the economics of the city more than aligning with the truth.
  • Within about 3 months, if not addressed massively and intelligently, around 1M Americans could be infected… and 100M within 4 months. But if serious countermeasures are taken soon, those numbers could be curtailed a lot.
  • Hospitals will be overwhelmed with serious cases sometime within the next month or two.
  • Many more live events and conferences of all sizes will be canceled, including sporting events, music festivals, and really anything with a substantial audience.
  • Large parts of the country (and many other countries) will go on lockdown, prohibiting unnecessary travel or public gatherings.
  • We won’t be able to go to our new fitness center at some point.
  • Lots more people will wear face masks and gloves and practice social distancing.
  • More and more people will get a clue about this with each passing week, realizing that this is real and serious.
  • Many doctors and medical staff will become overworked, and many will get sick themselves. Some will die.
  • Some people that I know will pass away this year, killed by this virus or its complications.

I often use my journal for writing down my personal predictions. I do this for a number of reasons:

  • Predictions help me wrap my head around what’s happening. It’s a way to get aligned with truth.
  • Sometimes my predictions are accurate, and sometimes they aren’t. Most of the time they’re mixed. By recording what I’m predicting, I can go back and review my predictions later to see how accurate I was and to ponder why. When I’m wrong, this helps me identify biases or mistakes and to accept that sometimes the future is unpredictable.
  • Even when predictions seem disconcerting, they’re actually comforting. They help me relax into acceptance and surrender regarding some possible futures.
  • Predictions are often actionable. If I gain some clarity about what may be coming up, I can better prepare for it, and I can help other people prepare too.
  • Predictions help me separate truth from power. I like to take a step back and consider what’s unfolding, separating from this from concerns about what I might be able to do about it. This helps keep me away from the trap of denial. It’s so easy to fall into denial when we merge truth and power, refusing to even look at truths when we’re worried about whether or not we can handle them; that’s when we fudge the data to fool ourselves.
  • Predictions help me discover when my mental models are good enough, too complicated, or too simplistic to be reliable and useful.
  • Predictions give me a base for assigning meaning intelligently, so that I can preserve and even improve my relationship with reality without resisting reality.

I felt that my third prediction from the top list was inaccurate since it was too much of an off the cuff estimate. So four days ago I went over the actual growth rate of reported cases in the USA, and I made more a detailed prediction of how I thought these numbers would unfold.

I shared the following post in Conscious Growth Club’s forums on March 20:

The USA is currently reporting 16,796 coronavirus cases. Based on the growth curve I’m seeing, I predict we’ll pass 100,000 cases in about 1 week. And I predict that we’ll pass 1,000,000 cases in about 2 weeks (from today).

If we move to total countrywide lockdown immediately, we can slow this, and we must. Each day we wait is a huge mistake.

Note that 1 week ago we were at 2247 cases, and 2 weeks ago we were at 319 cases.

Where we are today is still early, early, early game for the virus. If we don’t lock down right away, we’re looking at tens of millions of infected within a month.

Here’s a shorter prediction: I predict that we’ll pass 50,000 reported cases for the USA in just 4 days, sometime on Tuesday, March 24. This could happen sooner though if there’s a significant increase in testing.

Here’s the formula I’m using:

Infected on Day N = (Infected today) x e^( 0.288 x N )

So if we use today as the baseline, then this becomes:

Infected on Day N = 16,796 x e ^ ( 0.288 x N )

Hence our infected for the days ahead:

16,796 (today)
126,108 (March 27)

946,850 (April 3)
1,262,868 (April 4)

You can also plug in negative numbers for N to go backwards in time, which will show you that this tracks the historical data with decent accuracy.

This formula will be more accurate when the numbers of infected are still low relative to the total population. And of course a total lockdown can slow it down significantly.

Also note that these numbers work only for the USA since the growth rate for other countries is different. I think the UK rate is really close to ours though, so if you want to try some projections there, you could potentially use the same formula.

It’s been noted that the death rate may be more reliable for predictions than the reported infections, and I agree that’s true. I did this mainly as an exercise to help wrap my mind around what could be coming up.

So far the first three predictions were right on target, and we’re set to reach today’s prediction of passing 53,151 cases as predicted. At the time of writing this, we’re at 50,860.

While there may be a certain morbidness to this practice under the circumstances, I still find it useful and even comforting. It helps me see what’s coming up, so I can mentally and emotionally prepare for it as best I can. This includes going into personal lockdown two weeks ago, mainly to reduce the risk of further spreading the infection.

Sometimes I do this sort of practice in business. I make predictions for the months or years ahead based on trends that I can see today. Many people are doing this now by looking for business opportunities within the current crisis. While I do think it’s possible to take this too far, such as by buying hand sanitizer or medical masks and then reselling them for more, others are looking to provide genuine value in ways that people would appreciate during this time.

For instance, we can predict that many people will be spending more time at home in the weeks ahead. So they’ll be doing more cooking than usual since they won’t be going out to eat. So there will likely be extra opportunities for people teaching online cooking classes. Moreover, since veganism has been trending upwards as well, the combo of veganism and cooking classes could be especially good. Many people are free of the social influences that could otherwise prevent them from making such a lifestyle shift, so I would expect that a lot more people will experiment with veganism and vegan meals during this time. The opportunity is there. The time is there. And the objections are significantly reduced for many people.

I’ll make some current predictions regarding the coronavirus situation:

  • Veganism will increase during lockdown at a faster rate than it was previously increasing. More people will have time to make this kind of lifestyle change. More people are growing concerned about their health and immunity. And more people will have time to research this online.
  • Within 30 days, India will have the most coronavirus deaths of any country in the world. They’re currently ranked 31 with only 10 deaths right now. Italy, China, and Spain are 1, 2, and 3 right now. Partly I’m basing this prediction on India’s population size and population density, partly on their healthcare system, partly on their culture, and partly on their government.
  • Some well-known celebrities will die from coronavirus in the next 30 days, and there will be news stories about each one.
  • Someone I know personally will pass away from coronavirus by the end of May, possibly by the end of April.
  • The Vegas Strip casinos will still be closed 30 days from now. (This is longer than the planned closure.)
  • The USA will have rolling waves of coronavirus infections and deaths surging in different cities and states at different times throughout the year. Some individual states’ lockdowns will suppress it locally for a while, and they’ll eventually get it under control, but not long after they ease up their restrictions, they’ll have to deal with other waves and fresh surges, especially as people travel from other states and countries and bring the infections right back in. The countrywide response will be inconsistent for a while, a patchwork of different states applying different strategies.
  • Among Democrats and Republicans, the virus will infect and kill more Democrats first because it’s spreading in the bigger cities faster and sooner, and those places tend to have more Democrats. But in the long run, it will kill a higher percentage of Republicans as the infection inevitably spreads to more rural areas. Those rural areas typically have worse healthcare than the bigger cities, especially with respect to ICU beds, ventilators, and transit time to hospitals with ICU beds. Republicans tend to be older, and the virus is more deadly for older people. Women lean more Democrat than men, and the virus is much deadlier for men. Polling has shown that a much higher percentage of Republicans still don’t take the virus seriously and aren’t practicing social distancing, so it’s more likely to decimate their communities when it arrives. When you add it all up, there are a lot of factors suggesting that COVID-19 will be more deadly for Republicans than Democrats. One advantage for Republicans is that many Republican bulwark states will see this virus surge later in their communities, but if they’re wasting time on denial, that’s going to whittle away their head start and could negate this advantage.
  • Some lawyers will see a booming business in coronavirus related lawsuits. I expect there will be lots of lawsuits against businesses like Amazon or Costco as some of their employees get infected and die due to work-related activities. I imagine that Fox News will likely get seriously sued over this as well.

Time will tell. Under the circumstances, I would truly love to be wrong about the above.

What are your predictions about what’s coming up? You don’t have to share them, but I encourage you to just make some predictions for yourself in your own private journal. It can help you come to terms with your own thinking.

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Read Finding Comfort in Predictions by Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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