Pondering the Imponderables

In recent briefings on the British government’s approach to the coronavirus we have seen the full vacuity of civil service thinking and solution by bureaucracy on display. Until now, I’d been vacillating somewhere between those who think it’s all a scam (it isn’t) and those who think it’s a terrible plague (it isn’t). My view is essentially that it is a real event that requires reaction, but the reactions have been mad and driven by hysteria and agenda. Hysteria from the media, and agenda increasingly from those who want to USE the pandemic to reshape society (that is where the scam element becomes real).

Much has been said about the hysteria and the agenda, but I haven’t seen anything much about the third great force in play here: Bureaucracy.

The State now employs a vast number of people who make lists and plot graphs, who run projections and model futures based on algorithms on computers. These people are trained to reduce reality to statistics, lines, numbers and what are essentially partially informed guesses. University types love this force as it employs them, feeds them, and elevates their social status – they become ‘experts.’

Only, none of them are experts, in reality. None of them are experts in human behaviour. They are expert at feeding a limited data set into a limited algorithm that spits out reports only as valuable as the stuff fed in at the beginning. This then becomes a substitute for the real world.

Think of it as weather forecasters who read the data printed off yesterday about today, even if looking out the window contradicts what it says. Nobody is employed to look out the window. It doesn’t occur to anyone in such a bureaucracy that windows, direct experience of reality, still exist. Their job is to analyse the data.

The last briefing given by Boris nailed this. We had little graphs showing the peak and the curve. We had little images on the graph showing graduated responses. Here’s a little cyclist, look, and here’s a little train. You see? Everyone can ride a bicycle to work. It’s quite clearly shown here on my graph, in this little aquamarine cyclist. A graduated response is actually logical and makes sense. It accounts for different circumstances. It’s like putting ‘x’ in an equation. You can get it to balance on paper.

But there’s no reality there, no knowledge of human nature, no looking out the window. Even a passing familiarity with real people would say ‘this won’t work, it’s too self contradicting and complicated… I can do this then, but not then, and I should do this if A is happening but not if B is happening? WTF? Can I go outdoors or not? Can I go to work or not? Give me a real fucking answer!’.

This is not stupidity in the part of those asking. It’s stupidity on the part of those making the rules. A graduated response simply cannot work because there are billions of imponderables. Take five people and every one of them will have a different mileage to work, a different degree of interaction with others at work, different sized corridors to deal with. You cannot model that effectively. Modelling is the greatest con in the modern world. It is the modern world’s pseudo scientific, deeply bureaucratic version of inspecting the entrails of a goat or casting the runes.

Look at every inaccurate or poor response to reality and you will see the result of someone staring at a screen and printing out graphs without ever looking out the window. That is the result of everyone in power being steeped in the numbing waters of Bureaucracy their entire lives, pickled in it, and not even knowing what a cloud or a street or a car or a human being are. Their wives could be rutting with a line of strangers before their eyes and if it wasn’t reduced to a graph they wouldn’t see it.