Hope, Love, Kindness, Positivity, and Compassion / Humans + Tech - #22

The greatest acts of kindness, heroics, and sacrifice have come during times of great crisis.

Hello :)

If you had told me 4 months back that all the humans in the world would unite in a fight against a common enemy, I would have expected an alien invasion, not the coronavirus, a product of this earth.

☣️ This virus is an equal-opportunity infector [WIRED]. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, social status, economic status, culture, caste, or tribe. This sounds like part of a job advertisement written by HR. Except, that this virus practices these values that we aspire to, much better than us. We have a lot to learn from it.

⚖️ I believe that nature always seeks balance. And however much we humans try to think of ourselves as separate from nature and try to overcome it, we are an integral part of it. Whether we like it or not, we are players in this game of balance, not spectators. It’s like a see-saw. The bigger the calamity, the greater the good required to restore the balance.

We are capable of restoring balance. If you look in history, the greatest acts of kindness, heroics, and sacrifice have come during times of great crisis. We are right in the middle of one of the greatest crises we’ve faced collectively as a human species. When we all put our efforts towards a common cause, we will find the solutions needed. I am confident of that.

💗 What our world needs right now is Hope, Love, Kindness, Positivity, and Compassion. In this newsletter, I’m going to focus on all the positive, kind, inspirational, and selfless activities being conducted by humans worldwide. Work that is helping people manage the crisis better, and work that is helping to spread hope, love, and compassion — with a focus on technology, because that’s what this newsletter is all about — Humans + Tech :)

🎩 Hat tip to my friend Malini Morzaria, who helped me organize my thoughts for this newsletter, as well as for sharing various articles linked within. Malini has worked on conflicts, disasters, diseases, and environmental concerns for over two decades.

🙏 First, a note of gratitude to our superheroes wearing masks, but not capes

A sincere heartfelt Thank You! to all the doctors, nurses, medical personnel, scientists, service workers, retail outlets, drivers, journalists, delivery personnel, volunteers, utility workers, emergency workers, caregivers, security personnel, and all those who are sacrificing their health and well-being for the benefit of others during this crisis.

A Twitter campaign, #ClapForOurCarers has inspired people worldwide to cheer for the healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic at 8 p.m. every night, from their balconies or through their windows.

CNN has compiled a video showing people from 🇪🇸 Spain, 🇫🇷 France, 🇺🇸 United States, 🇮🇹 Italy, 🇩🇰 Denmark, 🇦🇷 Argentina, and 🇮🇳 India, all cheering their healthcare workers.

In an article about how the surging traffic is slowing down the internet [The New York Times], Enrique Blanco, the chief technology officer at Telefónica, a Spanish internet provider says:

In Spain, internet use drops only at 8 p.m., when people across the country go to their windows to cheer health workers and others who are helping to manage the crisis.

“Suddenly at 8 p.m. it goes down, then it goes back up,” Mr. Blanco said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

💨 The race for ventilators

Currently, the main treatment for severe cases is oxygen therapy, ventilators that help people breathe, and supportive care. In regions hit by large numbers of COVID-19 cases, there is an acute shortage of ventilators. Various companies and teams are working hard to solving the shortage - some with very creative solutions.

MIT is submitting a design for a low-cost respirator [MIT Technology Review], called E-Vent [MIT] to the FDA to be processed under rapid review. Once approved, they hope to publish them as open-source designs, with test results, and relevant medical information. Anyone with the manufacturing capacity can use the designs to produce reliable, safe, and affordable respirators.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk acquired 1,255 ventilators [USA Today] from China and shipped them to the USA. Elon is also planning to repurpose part of Tesla’s factory [TechCrunch] in Buffalo, New York, to manufacture ventilators. GM is also working with Ventec [The Motley Fool], a ventilator company to increase production. GM will help Ventec with its logistics network, purchasing power, and manufacturing expertise to increase the production of its ventilators.

Dyson developed a ventilator in only 10 days [Popular Mechanics] after being requested by the UK government to help with the shortage of ventilators. They are going to manufacture 15,000 out of which they will donate 5,000 worldwide.

When a hospital in Brescia, Italy urgently needed valves for an ICU, and the suppliers could not provide them in time, Cristian Fracassi, Founder & CEO of Isinnova, brought a 3D printer to the hospital [ZME Science]. In a few hours, he redesigned and produced the missing piece and built several valves. Isinnova is now working on a 3D printed adapter [3d Print Media Network] that could turn a snorkelling mask into a C-PAP mask for oxygen therapy — a crucial treatment for more severe COVID-19 cases.

📱 There’s an app (or a bot 🤖) for that

WHO has launched a dedicated messaging service on WhatsApp [WHO] to provide people with information and keep people safe from coronavirus. To enrol, send “Hi” to +41 79 893 18 92 on WhatsApp.

The CDC has launched an online bot [CDC] that people can use to decide what to do if they have potential coronavirus symptoms.

Apple has developed a dedicated COVID-19 screening tool [Apple] and resource guide to help people understand if they are at risk and what to do next about COVID-19.

In the UK, doctors and scientists at King's College London, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals working in partnership with ZOE Global Ltd have created the COVID symptom tracker app [ZOE] to study the symptoms of COVID-19 and track the spread of this virus. 

Google launched its COVID-19 information website, with a wealth of resources from other credible sources. Google’s sister company Verily also launched its website to expand access to COVID-19 screening and testing.

💓 Acts of kindness

🇨🇦 In Canada, a “caremonger” movement has emerged [The Washington Post] to help those struggling to keep themselves mentally and physically safe and stable.

Caremongering is cast as the antithesis in name and spirit to fearmongering. Instead of singing doomsday dirges, caremongers are coming together to form networks to support their communities, including people who are stuck at home, financially precarious or otherwise in distress. Groups have sprung up across the country, many organizing through social media platforms. They vary in form and size, from a handful of members to thousands. Some distribute food and supplies while others coordinate and run errands for those unable to do them. And some serve as a platform to organize volunteers.

🏍 Revel, a shared electric moped service in the USA, is offering free membership to healthcare workers.

📖 Amazon’s Audible is making its incredible collection of stories for kids, including titles across six different languages, free to stream on any device [Audible]. Apple Books is also offering a ‘stay at home’ collection of free books for kids, cozy mysteries, and audiobooks.

📺 Amazon is also opening up free streaming access [Variety] to more than 40 children’s shows to all customers worldwide.

🚗 Lyft, in the US, is offering delivery of critical medical supplies to the elderly and those living with chronic diseases [Lyft]. They will also be delivering meals to students who ordinarily get subsidized lunches through school, as well as seniors.

😷 Apple is donating 10 million masks [Yahoo Finance] to the medical community in the US as well as hard-hit communities in Europe. Facebook donated 720,000 masks and 1.5 million gloves [San Francisco Chronicle] that it had stockpiled during the wildfires in California. They are sourcing millions more to donate as well.

🏠 Airbnb announced [Airbnb] that it will provide “free or subsidized housing” for 100,000 people working as frontline healthcare professionals, relief workers, and first responders, worldwide.

🖥 GINA Software, a company in the Czech Republic, has created a system which contains a coordination platform for crisis centres, a mobile application used in the field, and GSM and satellite trackers with the possibility to interconnect the current systems of public safety agencies. They are providing their solution free of charge to any organisation involved in fighting the coronavirus.

🍀 Reasons for hope

📑 A new study from Italian researchers suggests that the coronavirus is relatively slow to mutate [TechCrunch]. This means that any vaccine developed will be effective over a relatively long period of time.

👨‍💻 Researchers from the Brunel University London, Lancaster University, and the University of Surrey in the UK have developed a hand-held device [Lancaster University] that costs around £100 and can provide COVID-19 detection in as little as 30 minutes using a smartphone application. This device could even be used at home. The team is currently working on testing their solution, regulatory approval, and ramping up production.

💧 Emergent Biosolutions is working on a plasma-based treatment [TechCrunch] to administer to patients who are hospitalized and showing severe symptoms, and also as protection for at-risk people such as frontline healthcare workers. Plasma-based treatments involve taking blood from a patient who has recovered from the virus, extracting the antibodies from their blood and transfuse them into a patient whose immune system is not as strong.

🔬 The collaboration amongst the scientific community during this outbreak has been immense. Over 24,000 coronavirus research papers are now available in one place [MIT Technology Review], with artificial intelligence converting all the papers into structured data that can easily be processed by algorithms. This is helping researchers efficiently mine the vast amount of information for insights. In the whole of 2019, 755 academic papers were published about the coronavirus. In less than three months this year, 1245 papers have been published already [The Economist] with contributions from 65 countries. Journals are fast-tracking the peer-review process so that research can be published sooner. Some journals are also removing their paywalls to make the research more available.

💟 Play your part

Show a little kindness to those around you. Even if it’s just a simple smile or clapping for the health workers from your balcony at 8 p.m. It all adds up. The world needs it now. More than ever.


Quote of the week

“I'm in the age group that has a one in seven mortality rate if I get it. If you're not worried, you're not paying attention. But I'm not scared. I firmly believe that the steps that we're taking will extend the time that it takes for the virus to make the rounds. I think that, in turn, will increase the likelihood that we will have a vaccine or we will have a prophylactic antiviral in time to cut off, reduce, or truncate the spread. Everybody needs to remember: This is not a zombie apocalypse. It's not a mass extinction event.”

— Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who helped defeat Smallpox.

I wish you a healthy and brilliant day ahead :)

Neeraj