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With the Autumn rapidly taking its hold, many parts of the western world are now undergoing a second (or a third) wave of the COVID pandemic.

That second wave, apart from being MUCH more brutal and taking lives or more people – has caused less anxiety and has excited the preppers a tiny bit less. We have been through this, hence it’s not the “big one”.

As far as apocalyptic scenarios go, we are living it. We have been hit with a global threat, affecting not only health, but economies, and our way of life as well. According to my very scientific Google search, 1.31 million have died and 54 million people got infected, with many survivors reporting dangerous side effects.

And yet… We seem to be brushing this off to our detriment. Life feels a little bit more normal than in April, despite the hospitals being just plain full and even basic medical necessities rare commodities.

September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center have claimed the lives of 2977 people, but for COVID, with 500 times greater death toll and an immediate threat of infection, the emotional response around the world does not seem to match.

We are not built to prepare for the mundane.

If we were reasonable people (not that I am implying we are), we would prepare for the most likely scenarios – falling from a wonky chair while reaching the top shelf, a fire caused by that phone battery behind the couch, car accidents created by driving and texting.

But the fact that these scenarios are happening (because they are highly probable) is getting us habituated. Because we hear about it all the time, we are less likely to treat them seriously. When is the last time you checked the expiry date of a fire extinguisher in your car?

Our imagination is captivated by rare and extreme events, and prepper culture is focused on the Zombie Apocalypse AKA Mad Max scenario.

Doomsday prepping for Less Crazy Folk

In today’s issue, I highly recommend reading “Disaster Planning for Less Crazy Folk” by Michał. It offers a very balanced and practical approach to preparing:

Perhaps throwing out old junk, reorganizing the contents of kitchen cabinets, adding earthquake latches, or fixing a broken lock would be a better use of your time than ordering space-age prepper gadgets from Amazon.

He also advises against going deep into the amazon prepper rabbit hole:

Here’s my advice: keep the bulk of your savings in cash, stocks, and other assets you can easily liquidate or put to use today; even if you genuinely worry about the apocalypse, plan to spend no more than 2-4% of your money on essential prepper supplies.

If you need more convincing about validity of his advice, this post was last updated early 2018. Does this sound familiar in 2020?

When it comes to transmittable diseases, your best bet is avoiding exposure: if there’s something really nasty making rounds in your community, stay home – or at the very least, avoid public transport and other crowds. With that in mind, N95 masks ($2 a piece) probably provide adequate protection against most airborne diseases. The other major transmission vector is hand contact, so don’t touch other people, avoid public-use surfaces, wear gloves, and resist the instinct to touch your face without first washing or disinfecting your hands. We subconsciously touch our faces a lot more frequently than we suspect.

Here is what I put on my todo list:

  • Keep wearing that damn mask
  • Get fire extinguishers for my apartment, my mom’s place, and my car. Install smoke detectors.
  • Fill up my car. There is a downside to having your tank full and ready,
  • Stockpile flashlights, basic over the counter medicine, and water (5 gallons per family member)
  • Wear a damn helmet (which I never do) while biking (which I do often).
  • Download a copy of Simple English Wikipedia for offline use (250 MB, choose “pages-meta-current”)

The perils of prepping

I am sure there are many quotes about being prepared and the superiority of prevention over treatment. But all the good-hearted advice is usually missing one key point:

It’s just so damn tedious.

Fire extinguishers will need checkups (I opted for one with 20-year shelf life), batteries will leak (which can even spoil your electronics stash), mice will get into your flour stockpile. Prepping makes you accumulate more stuff. Stuff needs it’s own prepping. You want to have a life, so you opt-out of the prepper treadmill. It has worked out so far, hasn’t it?

On the other end of the spectrum, you have career preppers, who have optimized their lives around being prepared. But for them, the covid epidemic is a little disappointing, because they braced for the exciting future – Zombie Apocalypse and the total collapse of the market. They seem to even be hoping a little bit for the end-of-the-world, so they can feel validated.

Being a practical prepper requires you to do a bare minimum of mundane, common sense things you already know you should be doing.

All the details are there in Michał’s article.

As far as the tediousness goes, put your car oil checkups, fire alarm battery replacements, medicine, and fire extinguisher expiry dates, and all the rest of this mundane stuff on your calendar. And set a reminder.

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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.

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