Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Notations From the Grid (Special Tuesday Edition): On #LifeIntheTimeofCorona With a Window to the Future

Data Sheet

April 7, 2020

The economist Paul Romer is credited with the expression “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Apple seems to be taking the maxim to heart, using its massive balance sheet to go shopping at a time equity values are plummeting.

Last week, Apple said it would buy the popular weather app Dark Sky, an opportunity to beef up its map and meteorological offerings as well as deprive customers with Android phones from using the app. It also is buying Voysis, an artificial intelligence software company that makes voice-assistance tech, presumably to beef up the sometimes-maligned Siri. The Apple-focused (if anachronistically named) site 9to5Mac reports that Apple plans to buy an augmented reality company called NextVR too.

There’ve been recent reports that famously secretive and office-centric Apple hasn’t taken well to the working-from-home era. It also has begun throwing itself into pandemic aid by donating masks. But it’s clear that Apple is chugging along, especially in the dealmaking department.


I watched an inspiring coronavirus news conference Monday hosted by the mayor of San Francisco and top city officials. The mayor, London Breed, didn’t once criticize anyone. She didn’t offer medical advice of any kind. Her heads of health, public transportation, homeless services, and other departments calmly explained, with ample dollops of data, what the city is doing to confront the crisis.

Breed repeatedly made reference to an inevitable surge on local hospitals and explained how the city is preparing for it. She came under criticism for declaring an emergency in San Francisco on February 26, an act meant to trigger preparedness. Along with other Bay Area officials, she ordered residents to stay home on March 16, days before other cities and even before the rest of California. So far, however, there have been 583 Covid-19 cases in San Francisco and nine deaths. The city is widely believed to have flattened the curve of the disease.

I can’t pretend this news conference, available here, is good television. The time each official takes to disinfect the microphone and their hands alone is a ratings killer. How refreshing.


Mauro Guillen, the Wharton professor whose thoughts on technology and the coronavirus I mentioned Monday, has posted his presentation here.

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