Welcome to Axios Future, where rumors have reached us that it is no longer March, but we're waiting on confirmation.
Today's issue is 1,628 words, a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
COVID-19 has brought the arcane work of mathematical disease modelers to the forefront, as politicians search for ways to flatten the curve.
Why it matters: Models are the only way we can plan out effective steps now to prevent more deaths in the future. But modeling a disease in mid-pandemic isn't easy, and important nuance can be lost in the translation between academic modelers and policymakers.
Driving the news: During the White House briefing on Tuesday, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx displayed graphs showing government projections that even with mitigation, COVID-19 would kill as many as 240,000 people in the months ahead.
Yes, but: Any attempt to predict the future will be imperfect, and the less modelers know for certain, the more weight they need to put on their estimates. That's especially true for a new disease, so we've seen models spit out a wide range of potential outcomes for COVID-19 — sometimes by the same modelers.
The problem is that politicians and mathematical modelers don't speak the same language and don't move at the same pace, especially during an outbreak.
One possible solution is to try to bridge the gap between the mathematicians who model diseases and the politicians who respond to them.
"Right now with modeling the outbreak, it's as if we're building the plane as we're flying it. If it was already there, it would be much smoother and more effective.— Caitlin Rivers
The bottom line: Because there's so much we still don't know about COVID-19 — and because the field mostly remains an academic endeavor — the models that are being produced are likely flawed. But they remain the best intelligence we have in the war on the pandemic.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
We know COVID-19 will fundamentally alter the world, but those changes may not be the ones you expect.
The big picture: While much of the focus has been on the rush to remote work in the early stages of the pandemic, the longer-term consequences of COVID-19 may have more to do with how we keep ourselves healthy than how we work.
We're likely only in the early stages of the pandemic, but that hasn't stopped experts — including yours truly — from opining on how COVID-19 will change the post-disease world.
Be smart: Webb is the founder of the Future Today Institute and one of the sharpest people working on forecasting tomorrow. So she was a logical person to ask about what we're getting wrong — and right — about COVID-19's consequences
Wrong: The idea that remote work is here to stay.
Right: What will last is the shift to telemedicine and at-home diagnostics, as well as drone delivery.
The bottom line: The post-pandemic world will be one where more things come to us, whether via a screen or via a robot.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Artificial intelligence experts at Stanford University are calling for the creation of a task force to establish a National Research Cloud to aid American AI research.
Why it matters: Government support for basic science helped create the postwar American technological colossus. But the unique resource needs of advanced AI research demands a new approach to ensure the field isn't dominated by a few large, rich companies.
The research used to train advanced AI requires a great deal of two things: computational power and data.
How it works: The National Research Cloud would seek to even the playing field by providing academic researchers affordable access to high-powered computational resources as well as access to datasets held in government agencies like Medicare and the VA.
The bottom line: The only way to ensure the boons of AI research are spread widely is to eliminate the barriers to doing that work.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The coronavirus pandemic will leave its mark on urban centers long after the outbreak itself recedes, my Axios colleague Kim Hart writes.
Why it matters: The most densely populated cities are ground zero for the virus' rapid spread and highest death tolls — and they're also likely to be pioneers in making lasting changes to help prevent the same level of devastation in the future.
The big picture: The combination of urbanization, climate change and a hyper-connected society means infectious disease epidemics are likely to become more common, the World Economic Forum warns.
Reality check: In many cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will accelerate trends that were already underway. The new normal may, in fact, feel pretty normal.
This pandemic is exposing the futility of the national security state (Andrew Bacevich — The Nation)
This is not the apocalypse you were looking for (Laurie Penny — Wired)
How likely are you to die from the coronavirus? (Tom Chivers — UnHerd)
Pokémon, stay (James Poniewozik — New York Times)
A street in New York City emptied out by social distancing. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Social distancing measures around the world are so great they have actually caused the Earth to move less.
The big picture: There is no shortage of ways to measure how much responses to the pandemic have slowed human movement. But the idea that the planet itself has become stiller is truly mind-blowing.
In a story in Nature, Elizabeth Gibney reported that scientists are detecting a drop in seismic noise that could be due to the suspension of transportation and other forms of human movement.
Why it matters: Beyond giving us one more sign of just how frozen in place the world has become, the drop in background noise should help city-based seismic detectors pinpoint the location of earthquake aftershocks. Which is good, just in case the Earth throws us another curveball.