Thursday, September 17, 2009

Swine flu update

One of my rules for interpreting the news is to be skeptical of sensational claims. Just look at the incentives at work. The media makes money by attracting readers and viewers, and telling people that things are actually a-ok isn't a great way of expanding your audience. It similarly pays to downplay talk by politicians that the sky is falling, since crises make people more likely to transfer power to government.

It's for this reason, among others, that I don't believe I am in any imminent danger of being blown up by an Al Qaeda terrorist, am not particularly worried about my backyard turning into a desert because of global warming, and don't cower in fear over swine flu.

In fact, today I decided to look up the death toll from swine flu "pandemic" and came across this figure from wikipedia:

Here's how that compares to notable flu epidemics as well as season flu outbreaks:

(click to enlarge)

Suffice to say, placed in this context swine flu is no big deal. You certainly wouldn't know that based on the media coverage and precautions taken by governments around the world, however.

Related thoughts here.

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