Coronavirus

Balaji Srinivasan: Coronavirus Will Shape This Decade Like 9/11 Shaped the 2000s

The biotech entrepreneur and Silicon Valley visionary wants mandatory quarantines and a "digital Dunkirk" rescue operation.

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How should the United States government and the rest of us respond to the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has just declared a global pandemic?

Balaji Srinivasan, who was on a short list to run Donald Trump's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has some strong opinions on the matter. Srinivasan is a former venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz and a serial entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. The genetic testing company he co-founded, Counsyl, helped change the way millions of people prepare for parenthood; his cryptocurrency startup, Earn.com, was acquired by Coinbase, where he served as chief technology officer. 

In his prescient and lively Twitter feed, Srinivasan has been ahead of the curve in noting the coronavirus's potential to cause a global public health crisis and to disrupt our economic and social lives. During a conversation conducted via Skype, he talked about why he thinks the coronavirus may have as big an impact on our way of life as the 9/11 attacks, how the United States government—especially the FDA he once might have headed—has fumbled its response, and why we're likely looking at mandatory quarantines at the national level.

At the same time, Srinivasan believes that private-sector and nonprofit actors are conducting a "digital Dunkirk" rescue operation that could not just save countless lives but accelerate positive forms of decentralization in our political, economic, and personal lives.

 

Edited by Austin Bragg

Music: Brittle Rille by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license

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  1. Whenever I hear “entrepreneur and silicon valley visionary” I find my shoulders tightening up.

    1. word. bow to the superiority in title!

      1. I always enjoy seeing the title “Senior X Consultant/Analyst” or “Democrat/Republican Strategist”.

      1. More Gavin Belson, but you’re on the right track.

  2. In his prescient and lively Twitter feed, Srinivasan has been ahead of the curve in noting the coronavirus’s potential to cause a global public health crisis and to disrupt our economic and social lives.

    Define “prescient”.

    1. I believe it means “onset of adolescence”.

  3. Another thing to do is to figure out how to mitigate or even arrest the small business armageddon that may hit America if every retail outlet sees demand flatline during quarantines.

    Delivery services could help here if they can solve the hygiene issue. Maybe go full autonomous?

    Dude, full autonomous services are not going to be ready to go live in the scope of this epidemic. Maybe one 50 years down the road.

  4. Don’t take this the wrong way but if you were a young, hardline environmentalist looking for the ultimate weapon against climate change, you could hardly design anything better than coronavirus.
    Unlike most other such diseases, it kills mostly the old who, let’s face it, are more likely to be climate sceptics. It spares the young. Most of all, it stymies the forces that have been generating greenhouse gases for decades. Deadly enough to terrify; containable enough that aggressive quarantine measures can prevent it from spreading. The rational response for any country determined to prevent loss of life is to follow China’s lead and lock down their economy to stem its spread.
    And so airlines are cancelling flights; companies are scrapping travel. Factories in China and, presumably soon in Europe, are being mothballed. The chimneys which once belched smog into the skies of Beijing and Shenzhen are smoking no more. Perhaps you saw the satellite map produced by Nasa showing that pollution across China, usually visible in dense patches blanketing the country, has almost entirely gone.
    Hardcore climate activists have long railed against economic growth and in the months ahead they may have their wish granted as GDP growth from China to Europe and the US is hammered by coronavirus.

    1. yeah and the Tom Hanks thing is straight out of the Simpsons Movie.

    2. Factories in China and, presumably soon in Europe, are being mothballed.

      Factories in China were already mothballed but have come back online… with a large number of precautionary measures.

    3. “Don’t take this the wrong way but if you were a young, hardline environmentalist looking for the ultimate weapon against climate change, you could hardly design anything better than coronavirus.”

      It’s good for the Ruling Reptiles. Kill off the old, the human widgets who are now net *costs* to global production.

      If you were going to design a virus to cure demographic issues to the economy, this is about what you’d design.

      And Wuhan does have China’s top bioresearch lab. I’m just saying.

  5. Does that mean I’ll have to take my shoes off at the doctor’s office?
    The government get’s to collect and analyze your medical data?

    Anyone who rationalizes this as the next 9-11 should stay the hell away from government. The knee jerk response allowed all sorts of non-liberty things to take place.

  6. What if this turns out as the next Y2K?

    1. Then we have 9,980 years until we need to concern ourselves with it.

  7. Sadly a once libertarian magazine is promoting fear mongering and excessive government intervention.

  8. Digital Dunkirk – Thousands of computers and memory devices trapped on a small piece of beach, while the Wehrmacht closes in on all sides.

    1. Only to be saved by thousands of phishing bots

      1. *applause*

  9. The next 9/11? I thought it was “Trump’s Chenobyl,” or the next “Katrina.” What gives? Why are we getting such confusing messages? I need a solid, stationary metric to be able to assess how I feel about all of these obviously apocalyptic developments.

    “Trump’s Holocaust”

    Now THAT has a nice ring to it. I’m sure a COVID-19 victim has to have been cremated, at least once. Just look. We got the death. We got the fire. BOOM! We got the headline! And, for the legal busybodies, a “holocaust” is technically mass death by fire so we are on firm footing to use our artistic licenses in the name of journalism!

  10. Still want open borders, Reason?
    Of course you do. Leftists, i.e. most of the writing staff here, are willing to catch diseases, get mugged, get raped, or killed rather than acknowledging the reality that their ideologies are based of false narratives. All of them.

    1. They’re certainly willing for others to get mugged, raped, or killed

      1. They don’t know how lucky they are
        They could have run into that tree
        Got struck by a bolt of lightning
        And raped by a minority

        h/t John Prine

  11. No, this is how the coronavirus is the next 9/11.

    While it is true that 9/11 “changed everything”, it wouldn’t have if the American public hadn’t been stupid and weak and frightened enough to allow it. The government is always a greater danger than terrorists or epidemics and they’re always watching and waiting for any opportunity to swoop in and seize more power in the name of keeping you safe – you’re an idiot for asking them to.

    1. I can’t agree more. Now that the real panic seems to be setting in, the response is starting to scare me more than the virus.

      1. People are losing their shit and the whole “we have to do something fucking crazy” attitude that is emerging is like giving Charlie Sheen a harem and millions of dollars to party with, no strings attached. We all know how that turned out. Our government has no problem being Charlie Sheen.

      2. And it’s going to do more damage to us mentally, physically, and economically than the virus will.

        In times of crisis we always reveal ourselves to be such a silly species.

  12. Someone you never heard of makes crazy predictions for attention. Part 885 of an infinite series.

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  15. I have a feeling that, a year from now we’re all going to feel a little silly over the panic that we’ve succumbed to.
    This could be Y2K redux.

  16. Wait a minute:

    . . . Srinivasan believes that private-sector and nonprofit actors are conducting a “digital Dunkirk” rescue operation that could not just save countless lives but accelerate positive forms of decentralization in our political, economic, and personal lives.

    And yet he wants mandatory quarantines, which could only be possible with centralization and militarization?

    Bet he also thinks it’s possible to be a little bit pregnant, too.

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  18. He makes the distinction between “principled and pragmatic” libertarians.

    My distinction is better. Deontologists vs. consequentialists.

    Consequentialists don’t lack principles. They just connect them to reality, not just their feelings.

  19. It is terrible, hope that the pandemic will pass quickly

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