My Letter to the Rector of My University About the Epidemic
There is a principle that I am particularly fond of: the majority is more often wrong than the minority.
This principle is what casinos are built on: you see, when the dealer deals cards at the Black Jack against one person, his chances to win are 50/50, and so are the chances of the customer.
As soon as someone else joins the table, the chances of the customer are split in half, while the chances of the dealer remain the same.
Ok, I don’t know if mathematically, it makes sense, but practically, it does.
Customers are not playing against each other nor with each other, but against the dealer which is playing against the customers.
It is therefore logical that the dealer has higher chances to win. And if it wasn’t the case, there wouldn’t be any casinos.
Based on this principle, I have often observed that extraordinary situations (situations that fundamentally change the setting and environment) happen when we least expect them, precisely because we least expect them: WW1, the 2008 financial crisis, the Arab Spring, the French Revolution, finding a partner (lol).
No one or very few people managed to predict these events and when they did, no one listened (Bill Gates, among all people, has been talking about the risk of a virus for years without anyone listening).
This is why, faced with the immobility of pretty much everyone in my university, I have written a letter to the rector, asking for a quarantine to be established.
The next day, I got a very polite answer telling me that they understood how scared I was because of the media, but that there was no reason to panic.
So I mobilized my classmates and two students told me they’d also write letters. History doesn’t say if they did, but a week later…the university closed for good, until at least September 2020.
When you are on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.
Find the letter I wrote below.
In light of the recent developments regarding the virus, I’d like to introduce a proposition to close university for the time being, which I motivate below.
As you know, the virus originated from Wuhan, China, which was placed under quarantine rather rapidly.
Despite that, the virus managed to leave the city and is now present in more than 85 countries.
There is no reason to think that what happened in China (despite the drastic measures taken to slow down the virus) will not happen in Brussels, Belgium, or Europe. In fact, the opposite is to be feared.
History has shown that during the Spanish flu epidemic a century ago, cities that took preventive measures had much fewer cases of infections and deaths than cities that did not.
Furthermore, social sciences teach us that democracies are less likely to take extraordinary measures of travel restrictions due to the freedom of movement principle.
Finally, I have always had this impression that human societies have a general tendency to downplay and underestimate the risks before surges a catastrophic situation at a time where of course, the majority expects it the least.
Biases are powerful and this is something we must take into account.
I like to think that the worse happens always when we expect it the least because we expect it the least.
Regarding the disastrous management and total lack of responsibility from the government, we have no choice but to take the initiatives on our own.
I’d also like to add that Google, Twitter, and JP Morgan, among others, have whether moved their employees or asked them to work from home.
I find it particularly interesting as these companies are in the business of data and possess technological and human resources to plan, measure, and predict more powerful than what most governments can do.
Furthermore, I believe that due to their size and business models, these companies have much more to lose taking these measures than probably anyone else concerned.
I understand there is no reason to panic, but I’d rather not play with fire. “Mieux vaut prévenir, que guérir” and as such, I believe it’d be wise to draw lessons from what happened in Italy and Korea and take measures before, to avoid having to take them after.
While we may be judged to overreact now, we’ll at least be ready if the events turn for the worse.
Please understand that asking 15 000 people to stay home is a small price to pay if it can save only one life.
However, the virus is not an excuse to just go on holiday. This is why I’d like to propose that the classes be given online, through Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube live where students can still ask questions and interact with the teachers.
While safety must always be welcome, laziness must be fought.
I am aware I am only a student and that you have much more knowledge, experience, and insights than I have.
I hope though, that my message will not be left unheard.