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05/24/2020

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Great presentation, Professor Wacziarg! Thank you for sharing. I very much agree with a point you made: “autocrats won’t let a crisis like this go to waste”. My mother just flew back to Russia where they strictly enforce the quarantine. They collected two or three signed statements from her on the plane and when she was crossing the border that she will strictly adhere to the 2-week quarantine. When she stepped out of the house for a brief while, she got a text message that she would be reported to the authorities if she did that again. Police called her on her home phone several times during the two-week quarantine to make sure she was inside. In addition to these strict measures that may arguably just be used short term, Russian government is investing into facial recognition technology, cameras and integration with telecommunications/cell phone technologies to detect and track people who do not comply with quarantine/isolation rules. Supposedly the facial recognition is even capable of identifying faces covered with masks (up to 40% covered). Telecommunications companies will be cooperating with government in its tracking efforts: they are turning over numbers (supposedly without names) of infected people and people who recently arrived from abroad. People can also only move around if they obtained a pass through the government online platform. Otherwise, they can be fined. They also cannot use the subway without such a pass. Public health interests during the quarantine seem to be a good excuse to collect data and establish surveillance methods that can be used even after the pandemic is over. This is also a great occasion to channel funds to certain contractors who sell and service this technology. In recent years in Russia there were quite a few confrontations between authorities and a younger generation that opposes harsh policing measures and increasing pressure against civil liberties. These steps and how this surveillance capabilities are to be used in the future are likely to escalate the conflict but also give the government more ammunition to subdue the resistance and any meaningful opposition. The authorities are definitely not letting this crisis go to waste as they are strengthening their position.

Great share, Professor. The Jonathan Haidt article was an interesting read in that the crisis had a unifying impact. However, having read on various social media the various comments on the government's attempt at social distancing, and people's reactions to being told to wear masks, I feel the country's ever more divided.

Having grown up in Taiwan, where we grew up learning about Enterovirus, Dengue fever, and eventually SARS, we were always taught to wash our hands, clear out standing aged water, and wear face masks. Everyone does It without question. However, this is not the same in the U.S.. At the early stage of COVID-19 crisis, we have yet to have good information on how the disease spread, yet I would think that for everyone's sake, staying away from each other, and wearing a mask make the most sense. However, we have seen ignorance and backlash to social distancing and face mask wearing on a scale that I simply do not comprehend. Even today, I witnessed a shopper argue with store security at Target about wearing face masks, screaming that the security cannot make him wear a mask "because the last time [he] checked, it is still a free country". Politics aside, I'm not sure which part of "freedom" entails ignorance of public health and safety.

Snippets like that is just a small part of the problem this country is facing. At the end of the day, this pandemic has, in my mind, divided us even greater. I am not sure I can ever bring myself to forgive this shopper I saw. In my mind, his argument for not wearing a mask is treasonous. However, I am sure that in his mind, I'm just a scared crazy person who is allowing the government to control my actions.

Thank you Professor for this post, and for including this within Module 10. A wonderful add for this quarter!

It is timely for us to study these broad global trends in midst of a worldwide for pandemic. The pandemic itself appears to function as an elucidating factor of specific global trends. To me the most clear is its reinforcement of retrenchment and nationalism. As a matter of public health and safety, each country is forced into preservation mode. We do this at the national, state, community, and family levels. The "save ourselves" mentality naturally lends itself to not consider the other, avoid contact with the other, and most of all do not travel to be with the other. While this may be as basic as avoiding physical contact with our friends and family, the macro effects on global travel, business, and broader global integration (via immigration, participation in international organizations, etc.) may be felt long after the pandemic has gone.

Thanks, Professor, for sharing this recorded discussion on the covid-19 pandemic.

One of your retrenchment slides touches on the belief (of some) that globalization is to blame for this epidemic. Your "never let a crisis go to waste" statement further highlights how these bad actors can use moments like these to push their agenda, claiming supply chain is bad and it should be kept in the U.S., reinforcing notions for building (Mexican) wall to keep Americans safe, and using "I told you so" messages to support unproven claims (i.e. growing tensions with China). My original thoughts on the matter centered around a skepticism behind science in some Americans when it conflicts with the civil liberties they've grown used to, perhaps due to a combination of ignorance, stubbornness, and simply cultural traits. Your perspective, however, adds another dimension that demonstrates very purposeful, and possibly premeditated, actions.

Secondly, another very interesting observation came from the unemployment data broken out by education level. Although the order of impact is somewhat intuitive, the magnitude of the differentials is surprisingly. This can lead to discussions regarding the role that government should play to make society more resilient to pandemics and other notable trends. The other one that comes to mind is technological advancements in the form of automation and artificial intelligence. While some have argued technology developments will lead to the eventual loss of jobs, I believe the more accurate perspective is that it will have a net positive effect of total jobs albeit they will be medium/high skilled (as opposed to low skilled). These arguments can be used to help support the need for improved accessibility of higher education for all in the interest of having a high-functioning workforce that is more adaptable to global events and trends.

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