Whenever there were skirmishes in satellite states during the Cold War, some wag would always crack the joke that, to compensate for being late for the first and second world wars, America was determined to be early for the third.
Now that the data starts to arrive from many locations around the world suggesting the infection fatality rate of the Kung Flu is a fraction of the first estimates, governments are demonstrating the sunk cost fallacy to compensate for their previous tardiness.
One example is the multiple “tracing” apps developed for mobile phones, ostensibly to enable the tracking of contacts once an individual has been diagnosed with the virus.
Both the UK and Australia have launched their versions of this, despite the now obvious fact that the health systems have not been overwhelmed and the less obvious but increasingly likely calculation that the death rate is only a little higher than seasonal ‘flu, a risk we have long since accepted as part of daily life.
This is a classic sunk cost fallacy – spending money on this development was possibly the right decision at the time given the contemporaneous information, but events have overtaken us in the meantime, yet we are still pressing ahead with the roll out.
The Australian app is particularly pointless; new cases have decreased to a trickle and happily, new deaths are in the single digits. An Australian resident currently has more chance of winning the lottery jackpot than meeting an infected person.
Yet, the app was launched yesterday to much fanfare and, frankly, virtue signalling by our media-political class. “Download this app and save lives“, is our generation’s “Dig for victory“, it would seem.
What is most remarkable is the cognitive dissonance required to accept the triple proposition that this app will, 1) be effective, 2), won’t be used maliciously or for a new purpose and 3) won’t be subject to the usual data leaks, cyber weaknesses and failures of every government IT project.
Some of us are old enough to remember when the Australian Federal government and all of its security and intelligence departments couldn’t prevent “a sophisticated state actor” from hacking the parliamentary email system.
Ah, those naive and simpler days back in, erm, February last year.
What is most remarkable though, are the loudest voices proclaiming their virtue regarding the questionable app.
The same people who recently were ascribing mendacity and duplicity as motives to the current governing political party with regards their actions on refugees, climate change, bush fires, Julian Assange, same sex marriage, etc. are now the loudest voices calling for absolute trust in both the motives and competency of the current administration.
You can find your own celebrity examples of this, I’m sure, but even the most cursory wander in the sewers of social media will provide evidence of this miraculous volte face by the government’s previously most vociferous critics.
I would like to offer a pertinent and relevant axiom;
Anyone who believes the government is benign and/or competent has either never met a politician or civil servant or has achieved an almost Jedi level of cognitive dissonance.