🌀🗞 The FLUX Review, Ep. 01

Episode 01 — May 6th, 2021 — Available at read.fluxcollective.org/p/01

We’re a ragtag band of systems thinkers who have been dedicating our early mornings to finding new lenses to help you make sense of the complex world we live in. This newsletter is a collection of patterns we’ve noticed in recent weeks.

“One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules... was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”

— Celeste Ng

🛣️🚩 Signposts 

Clues that point to where our changing world might lead us.

🚏🌏 India’s COVID-19 surge has spread to Southeast Asia

The brutal wave of infections that has swept over India has now reached Southeast Asia: Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia are all reporting huge COVID-19 surges, driven largely by the virulent strains coming out of South Asia.

🚏🎸 The UK ran a 5000-person live music festival to test COVID-19 spread

The UK government wanted to test if crowded outdoor events could spread COVID-19, so it invited 5000 volunteers who had all tested negative to a live music festival in Liverpool. Attendees ditched masks and social distancing to party for 6 hours, and the government plans to check if COVID-19 managed to spread in this environment.

🚏💉 States are shifting toward smaller vaccination sites

Massachusetts is shutting down some of its mass-vaccination sites because most people in its big cities have already gotten immunized. Instead, the state will pivot toward trying to vaccinate harder-to-reach and “vaccine hesitant” populations through smaller, more targeted campaigns.

Similar trends are appearing across the US, as shots are being reallocated away from heavily-vaccinated states that have seen demand drop.

🚏🦠 The US may never reach herd immunity against COVID-19

Originally, experts believed that the US could vaccinate 60-70% of its population, the estimated threshold to hit herd immunity. But the rise of more infectious COVID-19 strains has pushed the threshold north of 80%, and the persistence of vaccine hesitancy has led scientists to argue that the US may not hit the new threshold.

🚏🌳 A lumber shortage is gripping the US

Pandemic boredom has driven many Americans to pick up home improvement projects, and high housing prices are leading many people to build their own homes. The resulting run on wood has caused the price of lumber to more than double. Experts estimate that this price spike is adding $36,000 to the price of a typical newly-built home.

📖⏳ Worth your time

Some especially insightful pieces we’ve read, watched, and listened to recently.

  • The Next Pandemic (Last Week Tonight) — John Oliver uncovers the systemic factors that make pandemics almost inevitable in our modern world, from land development patterns to factory farming.

  • The Thermocline of Truth (Rob Miller) — Seeks to understand why higher-ups in an organization often have no idea that a project is fatally flawed until the very last second, when the truth suddenly becomes apparent.

  • Efficiency is the Enemy (Farnam Street) — Argues that “slack” is far from wasteful; rather, it’s essential to helping us adapt to changing situations, weather sudden shocks, reinvent ourselves, and be more productive.

  • The 4 Fallacies of Artificial Intelligence (Discover Magazine) — Reviews a new paper by complexity scientist Melanie Mitchell, which argues that we misjudge the power of AI because we don’t properly understand what “intelligence” means.