A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 6, 2021

Anti-Vax Italian Man Tries To Evade Shot By Wearing Fake Arm

Not clear why he thought this might work - or why he went to all that trouble and expense, now compounded by fraud charges - just to avoid a shot. JL 

Angela Giuffrida reports in The Guardian:

An Italian man is facing charges of fraud after turning up for his Covid-19 vaccine wearing a fake arm. So determined was he to dodge the jab but still obtain a health pass, the anti-vaxxer may have paid hundreds of euros for the silicone prosthetic. Initially, the health worker did not notice anything odd, as the silicone looked similar to skin. But after taking a closer look and touching the arm, the medic asked the man to take off his shirt. The man then tried to persuade the health worker to turn a blind eye.

Can Bias Be Eliminated In Algorithms?

Yes, it is theoretically possible. The real question is whether the researchers, programmers and customers care enough to insist on it. JL

Roberta Kwok interviews Soheil Ghili in Yale School of Management Insights:

In their proposed system, sensitive features such as gender or race are included when the software is being “trained” to recognize patterns in older data. But when evaluating new cases, those attributes are masked. This approach “will reduce discrimination by a substantial amount without reducing accuracy too much.” The “train then mask” approach was nearly as accurate as an “unconstrained” algorithm, one that had not been modified to reduce unfairness. The unconstrained software correctly predicted income status 82.5% of the time, and the “train then mask” algorithm’s accuracy on that task was 82.3%.

How Covid Deaths Have Now Surpassed AIDS Deaths In the US, But Not Globally

Covid deaths exceed AIDS deaths in the US, but globally, AIDS deaths far exceed Covid deaths. 

The reason, in both cases, appears to be access to pharmaceuticals. In the US, the demographic most vulnerable to AIDS is the relatively affluent gay community and they were able to get access to antivirals early, whereas globally, the disease became more widespread in the general population, which had no access to those drugs for a decade after they became available. Covid is a more efficient killer and misinformation has been as much of a factor in its spread as drug access. JL

Steven Thrasher reports in Scientific American:

In late October, more people in the United States had died of COVID-19 in less than two years than the 700,000 who have died in the U.S. in the four decades of the AIDS pandemic. In terms of virology, the potential for the novel coronavirus to lead to human death much faster than HIV is (because) SARS-Co-V2 is a much more efficient virus than HIV, it transmits far more casually, and everything about it is faster than HIV. While COVID deaths are now about 110% of total AIDS deaths in the U.S., global COVID deaths are less than 20% of the 36 million people who have died of AIDS.

How Johnson and Johnson's Covid Vaccine Offers Important Advantage Now

The J&J vaccine may not be as initially powerful as the Moderna and Pfizer shots, but it appears to be more durable, meaning that its protection doesnt fade as quickly as theirs does. 

And in the long run, facing a pandemic that is becoming endemic, that may be a crucial advantage. JL

Katherine Wu reports in The Atlantic:

"There is a silver lining to this vaccine that a lot of people don’t see;” a trait called durability—the ability of a vaccine’s protection to persist, despite the ravages of time. In tracking the vaccine’s effectiveness, “there is no change, month over month over month.” The shot’s initial magnitude of protection against sickness might not match Moderna’s or Pfizer’s. But after they’re built, J&J’s defenses seem to stick around in a way that their mRNA-driven counterparts might not. Vaccines that are durable  change our relationship with a pathogen. Viruses and bacteria, starved of proper hosts, don’t circulate as much.

Why Leaders Increasingly Believe It's Time To Get Rid of the IT Department

Successful leaders today recognize that every company is a technology company. 

Isolating IT in a siloed organization thwarts the essential contribution that technology has to make for an organization to exist in the digital world, let alone prevail. That is why enterprises are dismantling the IT department (just as they once did for phones and cars) and making them an integral part of all core activities. JL 

Joe Peppard reports in the Wall Street Journal:

IT departments are ill-suited to the demands of a digital-first world. The problem is with the whole idea of IT departments, which sets up IT to fail. Corralling staff with knowledge and expertise to manage IT into one organizational unit no longer makes sense. Leaving IT decisions and activities to a department that is figuratively and physically far from the core business is a disaster. The value a business gets from technology doesn’t come from its possession, it's (about) the contribution technology is making to business outcomes. Companies have to figure out how to allocate and deploy IT resources in a decentralized world, when needs change from month to month. Senior executives need to acknowledge that when it comes to the digital world, many don’t know what they don’t know.

Dec 5, 2021

Omicron Appears To Spread Quickly But Hasn't Caused Any Deaths

It is still early in the evolution of this latest variant but a relatively mild alternative could be good news in mitigating impact given the number of unvaccinated people who remain. JL 

Daniel Politi reports in Slate:

As of Saturday morning, omicron cases had been reported in 12 U.S. states, pretty much all of which were among people who had traveled to South Africa recently. None of the cases so far in the U.S. have resulted in serious illness; and the World Health Organization has said that no omicron cases, which have been detected in at least 38 countries, have resulted in death. Scientists in South Africa report that Omicron appears to be spreading twice as fast as Delta there. Why omicron may be more transmissible is because it appears to have picked up genetic material from a virus that causes the common cold in humans.

Researchers Believe Omicron Likely Came From An Animal

The implication is that this virus, because of its promiscuity - finding almost any animal host attractive - is going to be especially hard to eradicate, though not necessarily hard to manage. JL

Helen Branswell reports in Stat:

The theory goes that some type of animal, potentially rodents, was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus sometime in mid-2020. In this new species, the virus evolved, accumulating roughly 50 mutations on the spike protein before spilling back over into people so may have acquired the unusual mutations that stud its spike protein which evolved in another species. It is a promiscuous virus; capable of infecting a number of species. Dogs and house cats. Large cats. Mink. White-tailed deer. Given how easily the virus seems to jump from species to species, this list will grow.