Wednesday 8 April, 2020

First, something old — and new. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as you’ve never heard it before

Find it here

I found it in a nice piece in the Washington Post, Donald Trump’s second-favourite newspaper.

The economic consequences of the virus

The inhabitant of New York could order by computer, sipping his morning coffee in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend. He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate with passport or other formality and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing just a credit card upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved by the TSA but otherwise much surprised at the least interference. But, most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, exclusion and of pandemics which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily twitter feed, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.

This is Alex Tabbarok’s slight adaptation of a famous passage in John Maynard Keynes’s pamphlet, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, in which he evokes the world that was destroyed by the First World War. To see how clever this is, just compare it with the original.

New app collects the sounds of COVID-19

Amazing piece of research by Celicia Mascolo and her Cambridge colleagues. They’ve created an app which will be used to collect data to develop machine learning algorithms that may be able automatically to detect whether a person is suffering from COVID-19 based on the sound of their voice, their breathing and coughing.

“Having spoken to doctors”, Cecilia said,

“one of the most common things they have noticed about patients with the virus is the way they catch their breath when they’re speaking, as well as a dry cough, and the intervals of their breathing patterns. There are very few large datasets of respiratory sounds, so to make better algorithms that could be used for early detection, we need as many samples from as many participants as we can get. Even if we don’t get many positive cases of coronavirus, we could find links with other health conditions.”

Quarantine diary — Day 18