Bad Advice Is Worse Than No Advice At All
The problem with experts is that they don’t know what they don’t know. The problem is not that the world is far, far more complicated than we think. The problem is that most of us don’t know but insist on acting as if we understand it.
In the preceding weeks of mid-January, after a series of investigations into the genesis of the Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19), on January 9th 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) praised China for identifying a new virus in what it called “a short space of time”.
It further reiterated what it had affirmed on 5th January 2020, that the “virus could not transmit readily” between people.
On 14th January 2020, the WHO said that there was “no clear evidence of human to human transmission” in China but later clarified that there may have been “limited transmission via family members”.
I’ve not written that brief timeline of information we’ve received from the WHO to castigate them but rather to demonstrate an endemic delusion among humans that they understand how the world works.
As demonstrated by that shaky relay of information from the WHO, human beings are at the helm of over estimating what they know and underestimating what they don’t know, and the experts don’t know what they don’t know.
It turns out that the humans at the frontline of fighting COVID-19 in the WHO are not exempted from this innate flaw of humankind.
As if the erroneous information about the mode of spread of the virus wasn’t enough, the WHO went ahead to discourage wearing of face masks.
It dubbed them unnecessary since there was no evidence of aerosol existence of the virus until it went back on its word to recommend them.
This back and forth, dangerously loose grip on information demonstrates yet another flaw endemic to mankind, that human beings certainly know a lot but have a built-in tendency to think that they know a little bit more than they actually do, enough of that little bit to get them into trouble.
As is the case with all endemic human flaws, it is not easy to overcome the one of inflated confidence gained from what we know.
So, a few days ago, the WHO made another somewhat arrogant communication that Africa was to be the next epicenter of the virus in the next 3-6 months. The forecast was purportedly generated from predictive mathematical models.
They reinforced their confidence in their forecast using statistics of our dilapidated health facilities and the extensive lack of clean water supply on the continent.
My answer to their claim is that, unless they are not telling us the whole story about the virus, there will not be the projected deaths on the continent.
If the preventive measures the WHO has globally communicated and we’ve collectively accepted as reliable, are anything to go by, then Africans will not be decimated as anticipated.
These preventive measures as stipulated by WHO are more behaviorally oriented than technologically oriented and Africans have exhibited unprecedented will and might to go out of their comfort zones to change their behaviors so as to protect themselves.
If the bizarre proclamations of doom on the continent by WHO come to pass, then it will likely be because of something we weren’t timely told but not because of the virus.
Head Image Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Some excerpts in main body from Daily Mail News and the book: The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb