EA should wargame Coronavirus

What if a pan­demic ca­pa­ble of kil­ling mil­lions of peo­ple ap­peared? How would we re­act? How early would we be able to un­der­stand the true level of the threat? The dan­ger posed by Coron­avirus is quite un­clear at this time and the is­sue hardly seems ne­glected, yet it is ex­tremely im­por­tant to be pre­pared for the next pan­demic. It’s one thing to pre­pare plans in the ab­stract, against imag­i­nary sce­nar­ios, quite an­other to go up against a real, un­known threat.

What if this was a real catas­trophic or even ex­is­ten­tial threat? Or, what if the threat wasn’t at the level, but it had the po­ten­tial to dec­i­mate an EA hub? What if Coron­avirus turns out to be as deadly as some peo­ple fear? Th­ese are im­por­tant ques­tions to have the an­swers to and peo­ple will be more mo­ti­vated to an­swer these ques­tions when there is a real event mo­ti­vat­ing ac­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, be­ing pre­sented with a solid tar­get is a good way to spur cre­ativity.

What kind of ac­tivi­ties could be pro­duc­tive here?

  • Run­ning or par­ti­ci­pat­ing in a pre­dic­tion market

  • Mak­ing a small dona­tion to a rele­vant non-profit and re­view­ing the choice at some point in the future

  • Work­ing on AI to pre­dict the spread of the virus

  • Build­ing tools to help spread in­for­ma­tion both among the EA com­mu­nity and to the pub­lic in general

    • Alerts re­lated to the virus

    • Web­page on per­sonal precautions

    • Iden­ti­fy­ing and col­lat­ing the best sources of information

  • Anal­y­sis of policy re­sponses and po­ten­tially lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment par­tic­u­lar policies

Or ba­si­cally any­thing else we’d ac­tu­ally do if our worst fears came true. Ad­mit­tedly it could be a dis­trac­tion for those who are do­ing the most im­por­tant work, but the time of a lot of the rest of us (like me) isn’t nearly as valuable.

To this end, I’ve cre­ated a Face­book Group—Effec­tive Altru­ism Coron­avirus Dis­cus­sion.