# Exponentiality Lessons on Corona by the board game Jump drive

By Taleweaver, Mar 22, 2020 at 4:54 PM

• It's an answer not many people know, even though the riddle isn't that hard:

a virus population grows to double its size in 24 hours. After establishment in a productive environment, it grows to half the size of the test-tube in 128 days. When does the test-tube overflows?

If it's a comfort: I didn't know the answer either. But it's simple:
Just after the next day

The other classic example is of the sultan/king/leader who loved this brand new board game (chess), and wanted to reward the creator. A reward he could chose, no less.
'Okay,' said the chessgame creator. 'Let's take the board. 64 spaces. For the first space, I want one pellet of grain. For every next one, I want double of the previous. So this next space is 2 grain, the third one 4 grain, and so on. Is that okay?'
The leader promptly agreed in the assumption that was a very fair reward for the game he loved. It was only later that he learned that he literally agreed to give away more grain than existed in the kingdom if not the world (1).

Both of these are examples of exponentiality. It's something we humans always underestimate because we're used to measuring in linearity. Exponential growth starts out smaller but unless it hits a boundary, it'll surprise everyone with the outcome.

Enter...jump drive. It's a simple card game where you and your opponents race to get to 50 or more points. How? By playing one or two cards on the table. You generally pay for them by discarding other cards from your hand. After that, all your cards score you points and/or let you draw new cards. While there's a bit more to the game to explain it fully, it's important to realise that most cards don't net you more than 2-3 points per turn. Still...even after about a dozen playthroughs I'm surprised how quickly this ramps up. Even games where I still had zero points on turn two suddenly caught up and went over the goal of fifty points by turn 7 or (when playing badly) turn 8. Again: exponentiality. You don't just get cards and points for your newly played cards but all previous cards as well, which ramps up faster than you'd expect. So the game isn't so much about accelerating income (it's even impossible NOT to achieve that) but to do it faster than your opponent(s).

Which, in turn, brings me to the corona virus. This has the extremely rare combination of being different enough from others for us not to have resistance to it (auch! ), being a pretty nasty disease (auch again!) AND having a high infection rate. And it's especially that last part that is causing the world so much trouble. Remember the chess problem? Well...it's worse in this case: after infection, an average corona patient infects THREE other persons (usually even before realising he's been caught to begin with). My local news station pointed out that because of this, it only takes thirteen "steps" for a single person to infect a million others. It's also the reason why so many countries takes such drastic measures: no healthcare system in the world can deal with this sort of combination (well...also in combination with a lack of medicine or vaccine, obviously). There's not enough medical personel, not enough beds and there aren't enough hospitals. It's simple math, really.

But if you're like most people and underestimated the chess problem or the average amount of turns in jump drive, you also fail to see why it's so important to follow these measurements. Sure, it seems like condescending meddling by the government. "stay indoors", "don't touch other people", "wash your hands"...I get it. You're a grown-up, so you make your own damn rules, right?

Wrong. Sorry to call it blunt, but this is above all the macho stuff, above politics and even above religion. The estimate mortality rate might be somewhere between 1 and 3%(2), but it's more than enough to stay indoors. You might otherwise accidentally become a mass murderer...

(1): for those curious: the amount of grain equals 18,446,744,073,709,551,615
(2): the 3.<something> procent is usually brought up as the amount of people who died in comparison to the total registered patients. But of course there are people who suffer mild or even no side effects, and therefore aren't in the statistics. That's why the TRUE mortality rate is a shot in the dark in the area of the 1% mark. But even so: that number only sounds small until you realise that you probably know more than 100 people...and that you therefore are likely to lose someone you know...
Henx, alexander1970 and Ev1l0rd like this.
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