Has LessWrong been a good early alarm bell for the pandemic?

by AllAmericanBreakfast 1 min read3rd Apr 202019 comments


The S&P 500 began to crash on Feb. 20th.

On or prior to that date, there were 6 posts on LessWrong related to COVID-19 (thanks to habryka, who found 3 that I'd missed).

Jan 20 - Rationalist prepper thread

Jan 26 - Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Feb 5 - Some quick notes on hand hygiene

Feb 11 - Will nCoV survivors suffer lasting disability at a high rate?

Feb 14 - Please Help Metaculus Forecast COVID-19

Feb 20 - Making sense of coronavirus stats

As a bonus, Scott Alexander dropped a link in his Links 2/20 post saying "As of earlier this month, China’s coronavirus case numbers followed such a neat quadratic curve that they seem kind of like low-effort fakes. Not sure if this also applies to the current numbers."

Near-daily COVID posting began on Feb. 20th. After Feb. 27th, the number of LW COVID-19 posts has increased by about 4 posts per day to a total of nearly 200:

The New York Times has compiled a recent history of the pandemic.

Before Feb 20, what had happened?

  • The WHO had declared a global health emergency
  • The Trump administration had restricted travel from China
  • There had been hundreds of deaths, including some outside China
  • Almost 50,000 cases were reported in Hubei Province
  • Hundreds of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship were infected, the ship had been quarantined, and the passengers had finally been able to disembark

By Feb. 23, the S&P 500 had started to descend, and Italy was beginning to lock its cities down. It wasn't until around Feb. 27th, after Trump requested a big bailout from Congress, Iran reported over 60 deaths, and cases had spread to Latin America, that LessWrong began to see accelerated COVID posting. The number spiked from around 1 post per day to the average of 4-5 posts per day we've seen since then.

If the sheer volume of conversation is our alarm bell, this site seems to have lagged behind the stock market by about a week.