A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 4, 2020

Yes, Of Course Santa Is On Zoom!

Children who've been going to school on Zoom since March may have an easier time accepting this than their nostalgic parents. JL

Chris Stokel-Walker reports in The Guardian:

Santa appearances this year will be “considerably down. Maybe 10% compared with normal.” Whether we will lose the magic over faltering wifi is up for debate. “You’re never going to make it the same, but this is as good as it gets this year." Digital meetings give virtual Santas longer with children. “Normally, after five minutes, there are other people waiting.”

Putin Orders Mass Covid Immunization To Begin Next Week In Russia

Russia claims the efficacy rate of its vaccine, called Sputnik V, is in the 95% range, rivaling Moderna and Pfizer. 

That has not been independently verified. This should be interesting. JL 

Lucian Kim reports in NPR:

Russia has more than 2.3 million coronavirus cases, the fourth-highest caseload in the world after the U.S., India and Brazil. The Kremlin is betting on a Russian-made vaccine called Sputnik V. Putin said one of his daughters tried it. The Kremlin says mass vaccination will be free of charge and carried out on a voluntary basis. In one recent poll of Russians, 22% of respondents said they were willing to get a Russian-made vaccine, while 44% were not. In another poll, conducted by the country's ruling United Russia party, 73% of respondents said they were not planning to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at all.

The Pandemic Has Taken Ecommerce To Highest Percentage of Retail Ever

The biggest news may be that physical retailers now account for half of online sales. 

The question is whether that will continue once widespread vaccination and return to a semblance of former patterns occurs. JL

Benedict Evans reports in his blog:

Every year, the share of retail taken by ecommerce rose a little higher, and physical retailers got a little more uncomfortable, but the growth in any given year was never dramatic enough to make headlines. Until 2020. Ecommerce was ~17% of addressable retail at the beginning of the year. It spiked 20% in Q3. Half of online sales now come from physical retailers’ online stores. They gained share in lockdown.

Pfizer Cuts Vaccine Expected Shipments 50% Due To Supply Chain Problems

Final approval came later than originally expected. Then supply chain and quality issues pushed anticipated volume back even further. 

Pfizer still expects to deliver a billion doses in 2021, but the reality is that this is a complicated roll out and all companies' vaccine delivery projections should be viewed as hopeful rather than guaranteed. JL

Costas Paris reports in the Wall Street Journal:

“Scaling up the raw material supply chain took longer than expected. And it’s important to highlight that the outcome of the clinical trial was later than the initial projection.” Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE had hoped to roll out 100 million vaccines world-wide by the end of this year, a plan that has now been reduced to 50 million. Pfizer still expects to roll out more than a billion doses in 2021 as originally planned. “Some early batches of the raw materials failed to meet standards. We fixed it, but ran out of time to meet this year’s projected shipments.”

Why There Will Be A Covid Vaccine Black Market For the Rich and Powerful

From fudging the definition of 'essential worker' to pressuring authorities, experts predict that the rich and powerful will find ways to jump to the front of the line for Covid vaccines.

And given the way the US healthcare system is currently designed, they may not even have to do anything illegal. JL

Olivia Goldhill and Nicholas St. Fleur report in Stat:

Athletes, politicians, and other wealthy or connected people have gotten special treatment throughout the pandemic, including preferential access to testing and therapies. Early access to coronavirus vaccines (will) be no different: fudging the definition of “essential workers” or “high-risk” conditions, lobbying by the influential, physicians caving to pressure, and bribery or theft. "Our system is designed to advantage people with means. They don’t have to do anything sinister, they access the system they are a part of.” (Access to) vaccines will never be completely protected from abuse.

How Tech And Big Data Is Transforming People Analytics, Hopefully For the Better

Data gleaned from work behavior is becoming ubiquitous and constantly replenished in real time. From keyboard strokes to Zoom call facial expressions to recorded phone interactions, enterprises have never had more information to analyze and apply, ostensibly for the betterment of the organization and the outcomes it seeks.  

But concerns are that the data, particularly that which professes to interpret psycho-social behavior, is less well developed than claims of its prowess may suggest, and that the uses to which the information is put may misinform or even abuse employees and customers, especially when there is no right of review or appeal. With the growth of greater power comes the obligation to wield it carefully and wisely - or risk losing it. JL

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Ian Bailie report in Harvard Business Review:

Successful corporations, such as Google and Microsoft, are recruiting Ph.D.’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, accelerating digital transformation by deploying smart technologies, AI and big data to improve talent management. Data is a digital record of employees’ behaviors, and people analytics a science that translates data into actionable insights that improve effectiveness; a systematic attempt to make organizations more evidence-based, talent-centric, and meritocratic. Frequent "pulse surveys” and employee listening can drive action. (While) digitization of work behaviors (can) monitor, predict, and understand employee behaviors at scale, deployed in an unethical way, also permit employers to manipulate employees.

Dec 3, 2020

How mRNA Went From Scientific Outlier To Covid Vaccine Savior

Both Moderna and Pfizer's partner BioNTech owe their mRNA vaccine to a Hungarian biochemist whom the University of Pennsylvania refused to promote because her research was not attracting enough funding. That was then...JL

David Cox reports in Wired:

mRNA molecules act like digital tape recorders, copying instructions from DNA in the cell nucleus, and carrying them to protein-making structures. Without this key role, DNA would be a useless string of chemicals. Artificial mRNA, designed and created in a petri dish and delivered to the cells of sick patients through nanoparticles, offer a way of instructing the body to heal itself. With the Covid-19 pandemic requiring vaccine development on an unprecedented scale, mRNA vaccine approaches held a clear advantage over the time consuming method of using a dead virus to create an immune response.