12 Apr

How will SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) change our future?

A friend of mine posed a question in a private WhatsApp group:

Predict one big game changer impact in the next ten years, courtesy corona

There were many interesting answers (e.g. China will disintegrate over the next 10 years). To help me clear my thoughts, I wrote this blog post. This is what, I think, COVID will do to our 2030:

By 2030, we would have traded our freedom and privacy for hyper-connected, hyper-wealthy, hyper-healthy and hyper-hedonistic lives.

First, some sources that helped me form my opinion.

CIDRAP and Dr. Osterholm

Dr. Micheal Osterholm (right) in Joe Rogan’s podcast

The world took notice of the virus when the American stock market tumbled. The tumbling was the consequence of announcement by the CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) at University of Minnesota, particularly by its Professor Dr. Michael Osterholm.

He wrote a book in 2017, titled the Deadliest Enemy, about how the world is unprepared for an oncoming pandemic. COV-2 pandemic played close to what he warned us about in the book.

One of those books that are sitting in my Kindle, waiting to be opened.

He got the trajectory of the disease dead right and that made all the difference. He went on to appear on Joe Rogan podcast (15 million views as of this writing) and started his own weekly podcast about COVID-19.

He seem sincere, trying to be as truthful as his knowledge would permit, devoid of hubris and extremely aware of the fact that the models predicting the spread of the disease are not yet rock-solid.

He is convinced that about 1.5m people will die due to the virus only in the US, over the next 12 to 18 months, if drastic measures are not taken. And he keeps lamenting that we don’t realize that what we have seen till now (as of April 2020) is just a warm up. As the social distancing and lock down are eventually removed, he thinks, the virus will come back to take its toll.

If I say that Dr. Osterholm was the key figure behind the current opinion the world has about CoV-2, it won’t be a long stretch.

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, a doctor for all the doctors

There was a time in my past where wrong medical diagnosis and consequent treatment screwed up my hormones. I read many book to figure out what went wrong. One author’s work stood heads and shoulders above everyone else: Dr. Thiery Hertoghe.

He is a third generation Belgian doctor, who has always been way ahead of his time. Around the year 2000, he wrote a text book on hormone balancing. Ever since, it has been the Bible for doctors around the world, working on hormone replacement. There are two people I hold to demigod status. He is one of them.

He put out a video, outlining what we could do to improve our immunity so that we can protect ourselves from this virus. Dr. Hertoghe suggests that we use a regular anti-viral protocol against CoV-2. So, “I infer” that Dr. Hertoghe treats CoV-2 to be nothing more than a common flu. Same as I do.

Dr. Siva Ayyadurai

Siva Ayyadurai is threatening to become the next Alex Jones. That is what it looks like when you listen to his allegations that the virus scare is being blown up by the deep state (and the big pharma). But there is one critical detail that will stop you from brushing him off so easily: He holds a PhD in Systems Biology from MIT. Before his PhD, he obtained four other engineering degrees, also from MIT.

Dr. Siva has been vociferous about how strengthening the immunity using common nutrition (Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Lugol’s Iodine) can prevent and cure you from viral infections.

Because I know him only for a the last few weeks, I do not have an opinion of his integrity, competence or motivations. I am putting him in the “watch more before making an opinion” list.

As eccentric as his conspiracy theory (COVID scare is stoked by the deep state) may sound, reflect on this for a bit: If you run the CIA, will you be sitting at home, being locked down, watching NetFlix? Or will you be busy calling your CIA buddies, trying to make the best out of what the wind brought you. My guess is the later.

No spook worth his or her salt, anywhere in the world, is going to refrain from squeezing some juice out of this God sent opportunity. Only question is, “how much juice will they squeeze”. Not “will they squeeze”.

Cathy Wood of Ark Invest

Cathy Wood, Founder and CEO, Ark Invest

There is this American company called Ark Invest, who specialize in investing in exponential technologies (value investing is so boring, I know). When Tesla stocks were bleeding in 2018, Ark Invest boldly said that Tesla will reach $7,000 (gasp) per share at conservative estimate (double gasp). In 2018, the Founder of Ark Invest, Cathy Wood, was the lone voice in most TV interviews, touting how the market is wrong about Tesla. The financial channels were using her confidence as comic relief. Come 2019, they rushed to add her to the list of go-to geniuses.

I have huge respect for Cathy and the analysis Ark does. On the March 3rd, Ark put out a blog post, predicting how the innovation will flourish after the COVID-19 disaster. I can’t agree more.

VCs of India

Just after India announced the lock down, VCs of India came together and drafted out a guidance to the companies they have invested in. The message was obvious:

  • On the immediate term, stay alive for next 18 to 24 months. At least for the next 12 to 18 months, you cannot mobilize additional funds.
  • On the long run, be aware that the world you were building for doesn’t exist anymore. Everything changed. Go back to drawing board, rework everything.

Yashish Dahiya of PolicyBazaar

Yashish Dhahia, Founder and CEO, Policy Bazaar

I saw him first in an online panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19, organized by AWS and YourStory. Yashish came across as a guy who is so laser focused and objective that he could give the creeps on any first date. But we just want his data. Which he is good at doling out.

  • PolicyBazaar has 17 business units. 12 of them were ready to become fully digital. These 12 units were prepared for WFH (work from home). In these units, WFH drove up the productivity by 20%.
  • Whereas, 5 of their 17 business units were not prepared for the switch to WFH. In all these 5 cases, the business came down to anywhere between 10% to 0%. That is 90% to 100% revenue short fall.
  • Because the productivity went up sharply among a large chunk of their staff, they now have 4,000 extra seats, without adding people.
  • They are now trying to sell this extra capacity and WFH processes to banks and insurance companies.
  • Before the lockdown, PolicyBazaar was operating from 12 buildings. With lock down, they had given notice (for vacating the building) to 3 of them.

Note: I know of another company, UI path, a Romanian RPA unicorn with substantial presence in India, that made a decision to shift all their work force to WFH and vacated every building they are occupying.

When I was searchign for Yashish’s panel discussion, I came across another video he did, after the panel discussions, with Shradhdha Sharma of YourStory. Here are the relevant bits from the second video:

  • The traffic is less (people are pre-occupied with other things), but the conversion (for health insurance products) is better. Health insurance is growing.
    • Interpretation: People are more conscious of their health, at least for now
  • Salary-based-lending and Sub-prime lending businesses have gone for the next 12 to 18 months. Lending as a sector is suffering. If you lend money in this situation, you can’t expect it to come back.
    • Interpretation: The people/businesses who are affected the most are in the bottom of the pyramid.
  • Commercial rental will go down. Home rental “may” go up.
    • Interpretation: Who is going to carry the resultant bad loans you think? Banks, of course. And what do you think it is going to do to the economy? Anybody’s guess.
  • PolicyBazaar has enough cash reserves that we can operate without generating any revenue for up to 5 years. WFT!.

Girish Mathrubootham of FreshWorks

Girish Mathrubootham, Founder and CEO, FreshWorks

When I met Girish Mathrubootham last, he advised me about how it is important to have sufficient liquidity at hand (I always run super-tight).

Girish told me, in his gentle way, that I was not being very smart about planning my liquidity. He told me how he had to dilute his stocks, mobilize some cash he doesn’t need for day to day operations, and put it in a bank account as buffer against the unexpected. This conversation happened in February 2020. I didn’t understand its significance back then. Barely a month later, I am like “oh…jesus….I…can…see….I….can….see”!

But to build a financial buffer for 5 years like Yashish said, what…the…bloody…f*ck! I probably need to face 5 more COVIDs before I understand where is he coming from!

But I digress. Going forward, companies are going to build bigger war chest. At least for the next few years, the investors are going to park their money with companies that are strong enough to weather a calamity.

Update on 16th April 2020: Reliance just announced that they are going to mop up Rs 10,000cr from the debt market.

Implication: Money helicopters are going to make the rich even richer.

Work from Home, Take-2

Suresh Sambandam, CEO, Kissflow

Edit on 20th April: Remember Yashish sharing the big revelation that WFH increases the productivity by at least 20%? This was just when the crisis started and he was talking about telemarketing staff.

More than a month of the lock down, Suresh Sambandam of KissFlow made this observation in a webinar organized by TiE:

WFH was always bad for productivity, before COVID. People would want to stay at home to meet some personal demands and most of the day would be a wash off. However, when they are locked down for several continuous days, it is different. The productivity has gone up by 20% to 30%. This was completely unanticipated. We are now even considering moving our entire product team to WFH!

Corporations of the world are discovering the advantage of WFH. Few months into WFH, most employees will start to think like business owners or professional service providers. They will be much more responsible to delivering on their promises than they have ever been.

This will be a big factor that contributes to the V-shaped recovery the world is hoping for.

American Corporate Media

High resolution image is here

Till the virus struck, it was a given that the next American presidential election was going to Trump.

Note: I think Trump has been a much better president than Obama or Bush W. could ever be.

Virus gave one last opportunity for the American corporate media (and Trump’s opposition) to bring Trump down. They already have their strategy drawn up. Their strategy is to press alarm as hard as possible, while Trump is trying to salvage the economy. If people die, they can chop off Trump’s head for it. If people don’t die, they can take the credit for pressurizing Trump into action.

I don’t care for the American politics. But I care that what the American media is doing now is going to have an impact on rest of the world for years to come.

Big Pharma, Big Food and Big Bill

Bill Gates, pro-vax, pro-big-food, anti-real-food, anti-animal-products

If they are bed fellows, it makes the strangest bed fellows indeed.

We all have come to believe, right or wrong, that the big pharma readily sacrifices public good at the alter of corporate profits. I am appalled at how no one in the the US of A, other than lone voices like Dr. Siva Ayyadurai or Dr. Mercola, are talking about using nutrition to bolster everyone’s immunity, so people can escape the virus. The entire pharmaceutical machinery is gearing up to vaccinate the world against the “Wuhan Virus”.

The pro-vax movement presided by none other than Bill Gates.

Bill earned tremendous amount of goodwill through his Gates Foundation. This, after two decade-long ruthless monopolistic practices, where he destroyed everything on his way to build his trillion dollar organization.

Bill has been making investment into mega-projects that could seriously jeopardize public health.

  • Vaccine for CoV-2: Bill Gates has announced billions of dollars of funding into factories that make CoV-2 vaccines. I suspect that the world is going to be over-vaccinated, even before we fully understand the lethality of this virus. Or before we give a chance to other low-hanging possibilities like nutrition therapy.
  • Pushing GMOs: There are three problems with the GMOs
    • Well known: Many experts believe that productivity can be increased by using available farming technologies, applied judiciously. Doing this doesn’t involve the risks of GMO.
    • Also well known: GMOs are not adequately tested and they are not yet safe for mass consumption, despite what a 100 Nobel laureates would tell you.
    • Not well known: Almost 90% of the world population is insulin resistant. People get insulin resistance by eating too much. The world is eating itself to death. To remain healthy, we all must 30% less than what we eat now. World needs a project to help us consume less. Launching an unsafe project like GMO, to stave off the hunger that doesn’t exist, is a red herring.
  • Pushing Veganism: Man-made-meat project pushed by Bill Gates is unnecessary and dangerous. Here are the reasons why:
    • The argument that plant food is better than animal food doesn’t hold to close scrutiny. With all the recent real science that are coming out of the labs, lectins in plants may cause harm that animal foods cannot (this and this videos).
    • That animal farming produces large amount of green houses gases is a technology problem. That technology problem is being solved by animal farms in the US, who have shown that their farm can be a net carbon sinks! Oh, did I mention that the green house gas emission from animal industry is largely overstated?
    • During the beginning of the 20th century, Procter & Gamble took cotton seed oil (which was an industrial waste product), refined it, packaged it and sold it to the general public as food product (this video). A century later, we now know that it set us up for a public health disaster all over the world. Making plants taste like meat is going to involve even more processing than refined cotton seed oil. When we look back 50 years from now, there is no telling how it will affect the public health.

May be Bill Gates has wrong set of advisors. May be he is erring by designing an engineering solution for a medical problem. May be Bill Gates is planning on making his trillions, walking on our corpses. I. Don’t. Know.

He will go about with his methodical and ruthless way to get to his goal. We like it or not. Now that he set his mind of CoV-2 vaccination, man-made-meat and GMOs, we are going to have all of them put into our body.

Corona Myths

If you aren’t astute follower of the COVID-19 developments, you would have missed at least some of the following subtleties:

  • Lock down is not going to eradicate the virus. It will only save the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by many of us getting sick at the same time.
  • This virus is here to stay, waiting for us to come out of our hiding. When we do, it will get us.
  • Different estimates tell us that about 50% to 70% of us will get the virus, some day in the future. I think the number will be larger than 70%.
  • If you are reading this blog, you are more likely to be in the population that will get the virus. The population who escape the virus most likely won’t live in the cities, won’t travel or commute, don’t meet strangers often, don’t visit crowded pubs, restaurants or conferences. These are people who live in small villages, cut off from rest of the civilization. We are not it.
  • Till now, no one has any idea about what percentage of people affected by this virus die. The 1% figure that Antony Fauci of CDC came up with was a work of fiction. Stanford is initiating a study to get us this number. If everything goes well, we will have it by end of April, 2020.
    Edit on 16th April: Preliminary results for a proposed German study a few days ago suggests that COVID’s death rate could be about 0.37%
    Edit on 20th April: 1st result of the Stanford study has come out (2 more are on the way). Result? COVID-19 is probably just as bad as common flu. Nothing much more. The mortality seem to be around 0.1% to 0.2%. Period. W.T.B.F!!
  • For the same reason, no one has any credible evidence about how contagious this virus is. R-naught being bandied is just a work of fiction.
  • Till now, there is no credible evidence to tell us that COVID-19 has worse outcome than common flu.
  • Till now, there is no credible evidence that nutrition therapy that works against common flu doesn’t work against CoV-2.
  • Many brilliant doctors, who have spent their life pushing the envelop of medical science, think that CoV-2 is just another flu, “more or less”
  • For reasons that I do not understand, common flu kills lot more people in the West than it kills in India. I have never, ever heard of someone dying of flu in India. I am 54 and I live in healthcare.
  • No one knows for sure if CoV-2 came from the wet markets of China or because people are eating bats. The idea that meat eaters of the world are bringing this upon us is just a nice propaganda piece for the anti-meat lobby.

My prediction for 2030

I like it or not, the following are here to stay:

  • WFH is here to stay
    • Businesses have discovered that WFH works
    • Businesses are discovering that WFH is saves money
    • Everyone will enter or will want to enter the gig economy
    • Loyalty between employees and employers will diminish
    • Employees will become much more mobile
    • As a result, companies that are not ultra-efficient will shut down more quickly
    • Companies will chuck dead-weight employees more readily. After all, they will have many more options to do their bidding.
    • Anyone who wants to remain employable must keep themselves updated continuously. This will bring tremendous business opportunities to vocational training using better teaching methods.
    • Gig economy workers need a safety net. Now that there is going to be sufficient number of them for some entrepreneur to build a multi-billion dollar business out of the opportunity.
    • Personal mobility businesses will take a hit. If they want to stay in business, Uber must come up super-sanitized, self-driving pods.
  • Brick and Mortar will shrink
    • We will be hesitant to go to public places for many years to come
    • Physical retail will take a big hit.
    • Silly contraptions will be invented and installed in the mall entrances as a vain effort to give confidence to people.
    • It is going to be years before travel makes up for what it lost.
  • Health will become little bit more of a priority
    • When the truth slowly sinks on the high-risk population, selling preventive health services to the public will become a bit easier
  • Attention economy gets a boost
    • Time saved form commute and water coolers is available to be spent on screens. Supply of attention-minutes just increased.
    • FANG (Apple excluded) are going to make a killing by encouraing us to fritter away our lives minute by another minute.
      • Note: While apple can’t sell more ads, it will more than make up for it from health sensors they are trying to build into Apple Watch.
  • Economy of Nations
    • American media is going to sacrifice the economic future of their country in order to hunt down Trump. My guess is that they are going to win the former, but lose the later.
    • China is going to use the opportunity to tighten its grips on world dominance
    • Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about an Indian come-back. We lost our plot a few years ago and there are no signs of us ever getting it back again. The best I can hope for the country is that it doesn’t slip into dictatorship.
  • Big pharma meets bit food meets big Bill
    • Plat-meat will become common place. Bill Gates will own a large chuck of this industry.
    • Americans will get vaccinated for CoV-2. So will the Africans. Before 2030, big pharma will make anywhere between $1t and $2t from these vaccines. Of course, Mr. Gates will have most of this market too.
  • Bio-terrorism is on its way
    • Enthused by how easily CoV-2 shut down the world, and how ill prepared the West was, at least a few out there are working on building a biological weapon rightnow. It is just a matter of time before that someone succeeds.
    • Humanity survived nuclear annihilation by forcing countries to shut down their nuclear labs. That won’t work with the biological weapons. Microbiology lab can run out of any laptop or a garage. Producing the next nasty bug is just a whisker away from legit microbiology work.
    • The only option the world has against the next pandemic (which could be man made) is to build capability to react swiftly, after we catch a new bug. You can see lots of money going in to this.
  • Time for a world coalition
    • World governments will begin to work together to handle future pandemic threats.
    • In different planet, this could have been the perfect opportunity to forge the first system of global governance.
    • But we are not a different planet. We are more likely to squander the opportunity the way we crippled the UN.
  • Individual freedom will be gone
    • Using this opportunity, Spooks (aka deep state) will take away some of our freedom. The sad part is we are going to willingly give it away.
    • Facial recognition and movement tracking will become the norm. In the West, it will be used only at salient locations. But that would be good enough to put you inside a Panopticon.
    • You are fucked. You just don’t know it yet.
    • Ten years from now, you will never be able to do all the silly things we did thirty year ago.
  • Polarization of Power
    • Money power and political power are interchangeable. One can buy the other.
    • There are, may be, 3,000 billionaires in the world (I am including the billionaires with unaccounted wealth). May be 30 of them have enough clout to buy real power.
    • There about 200 countries around the world. May be 5 of those countries have leadership that matter.
    • This is already tremendous polarization of power. AI and super-longevity will only make it worse (when people die, their grip on the system dies with them).
    • When this small group of people start to walk all over the rest of us, many of us will want to escape the Panopticon.
    • Unfortunately, we cannot. Some of us will become the jailers. Some of us will becoming the jailer’s concubine. But build a jail cell around us they will.
    • At least some of us will start talking about leaving the planet for a space settlement (which will be just another Panopticon). We will succeed in the late 30s, me suspects.
  • Coming AI
    • We like it or not, AI is going to make the rich very, very richer.
    • The rest of us will be happy to take UBI (Universal Basic Income) and relish our work/life balance.
  • Coming super-longevity (and super-health)
    • When productive people get to live longer, get to upgrade their wetware before the rest of us, they will pull ahead much faster than we could catch up as they will accumulate wealth at exponential pace.
    • This is only going to exacerbate the already existing polarization between rich and the poor.
  • Human beings are social animals
    • For several decades, we were giving up social connection for economic prosperity. By 2030, we won’t need to be worried about our economic future anymore.
    • I am predicting that before 2030, some innovative entrepreneur is going to come up with a new way for us to connect with other human beings in a more satisfying way and build a trillion dollar business out of it.
    • Only, I am hoping that this is not goign to be some kind of sex/friendship robot. Hey, a guy can hope, can’t he!

Let me distill all the above into this single prediction for 2030, so that I can share it with my friend:

By 2030, we would have traded our freedom and privacy for hyper-connected, hyper-wealthy, hyper-healthy, hyper-hedonistic and hyper-artificial lives.

The world would have become a Singapore on steroids. Come to think of it, it doesn’t look like a bad deal. Does it?

Oh, before I forget, most of us would have turned man-made-meat eating vegans. Sure, it will wreak a havoc on our health. But we would probably have technology to quickly invent a fix for all the mess we are going be in due all this vegan-meat crap. Then a fix for the fix. And a fix for the fix for the fix…

2020 changed the world for ever. And we are never going back.

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