Monkey Whisperers

Nowcasting COVID-19 second-order effects

I was particularly struck by this image of ravenous monkeys fighting over a scrap of food in Lopburi Thailand that made the rounds on social media a few weeks back.

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.worldofbuzz.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2020%2F03%2Fhundreds-of-starving-monkeys-raid-thai-town-after-covid-19-drives-tourists-who-feed-them-away-world-of-buzz.png&f=1&nofb=1

We call these second-order effects — the rippling consequences of the pandemic and government interventions to contain it, as opposed to the direct manifestations of the pandemic and related interventions.

So how do we forecast the second-order effects of the pandemic?

Maybe forecasting in this highly volatile black-swan territory is too ambitious. How do we even “nowcast” these second-order effects?

Answer: Consult with domain experts. Who could have told us that monkeys in Thailand would be going ape-sh*t, even before they overran the streets? People who tend the monkeys could have told us had we thought to ask.

Monkey Man - Picture of Monkey Temple (Galta Ji), Jaipur ...

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be Zoom-calling a bunch of quantitatively inclined folks working in various domains to get their insights into what the heck is happening (a maybe even what will happen).

Tomorrow I start with Thomas Wiecki, VP of Data Science at Quantopian.

AI in Banking Summit | Virtual Event July 17th - 19th

Specifically, I’m asking him about his probabilistic model of the COVID-19 epidemic’s spread.

You can register and watch at 11 AM EDT tomorrow. As VP of data science at a quantitative finance company, perhaps he can help you feel a bit saner about your portfolio (doubtful).

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Have you any insights to share or know someone who does? Please reach out. It need not be as formal as a webinar; casual chats are fine. The social interaction would be good for you!