The political writer David Runciman has said democracy is good at crisis situations, but there may be a hidden reason why the Covid-19 (Sars CV-2; second item in Sars' CV) pandemic is proving harder than some other crises.

Certain politicians urge us to use our 'common sense' over what to do in the pandemic, and not do. That leaves the root problem that we do not have a common sense in the form of a shared understanding about how far to let society be disrupted or closed, so as to save lives directly, as opposed to the lives which may be lost indirectly because of the disruption. The fans of artificial intelligence have struggled with enabling computers to mimic common sense because it contains implicit knowledge when computers have to be told everything explicitly. Common sense includes beliefs and knowledge we don't analyse, but in the case of social restrictions to deal with the pandemic we are having to do the analysis on the hoof because it turns out that we do not have the implicit knowledge or shared beliefs about what we should do.

A surprising outcome is that we might find ourselves (unwittingly) creating a common sense on social restriction in pandemics when we had none before. But we needed to do the analysis first to arrive at that.

Blog home Next Previous