Plain English with Derek Thompson - Curiosity Corner Monkeypox Myths, Millennial Facts, and Overpopulation Fears

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I’m Matt Bellamy founding partner of Puck news and I’m covering the inside conversation about money and power in Hollywood, with my new show, the town I’m going to take you inside Hollywood with exclusive inside on what people in Show, Business are actually talking about multiple times a week.


I’ll talk to some of the smartest people I know journalists insiders, all of whom can break down the hottest topics and entertainment.

Tell you what’s really going on.

Listen now, Today, we’ve got curiosity Corner, mail bag.


Number two.

You had questions about monkeypox and Millennial facts and over population versus underpopulation fears and we have answers for you.

Thank you so, so much for sending all of these questions.

And it’s it’s a huge honor to see all these people that are listening to the show and engaging with the show.


And really understand what I think this show is about that.

We’re trying to.


Have some episodes that are pivoting very directly.

Author of the new cycle in some episodes that just have absolutely nothing to do with the new cycle that are just things that I’m interested in things like the future of Science and Technology, what’s happening to music and pop-culture you guys get it and it’s just beautiful to see these emails.


So please keep them coming.

I’m sorry.

Of course to be can’t get to everyone’s email.

So what Devin and I try to do here is answer questions, where we’re getting a lot of emails around the same subject thinking that those are going to be the most relevant to the A audience.


So yeah, we got monkeypox.

We got Millennials, we got overpopulation.

Thanks, as always for writing, I’m Derek Thompson and this is plain English.


All right, let’s start with the mailbag.

Devon, what do you got?

Okay, Derek.

We got a lot of questions from listeners about monkey pox.

Here’s Jacob from Washington.


He writes.

Hi, Derek and Devon.

I was wondering if you would be able to do an episode on monkey box, there seems to be a lot of confusion about how serious the threat is, and what we can do, to prevent another covid type situation.

Jacob, thank you for this question.


Monkey pox is a very serious disease, but the relatively good news here is about severity and contagiousness.

So monkeypox spreads, much less easily than covid.

And the number of deaths remains pretty muted.


So the World Health organization’s, latest dashboard shows, records of 26,000 cases, worldwide compared to eight deaths, that’s one death in every thirty, two hundred cases, that’s pretty low.

It’s much lower than the the reported case fatality rate of covid and it’s much, much lower than the fatality rate that we saw from Monkey pox in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1980s during an outbreak.


There, the fatality rate there was about one in ten, so one in ten deaths.

So one death in every 10, monkeypox cases in Congo in the 1980s one death and every thirty two hundred cases in the world today.

I don’t think we have a full or perfect explanation of why the fatality rate is that low?


Might be about case measurement or Healthcare access something to do with this strain, maybe all three but we have a good news.

Bad news, bad news situation here.

The bad news is that monkey pox is a is a serious serious disease.

The good news is that the global fatality rate is for now, pretty low.


Let’s talk a little bit though, about how it spreads and where it’s spreading right now.

So, today, if you’re listening to this show from the US, the UK Europe, another CD country and other developed country.

The vast majority of cases around you are among men who have sex with men and again, going back to the World Health.


Organization’s data of the cases where we know the sex ninety-nine percent are male and of the cases, where we know the sexual orientation 98 percent, are men who sleep with men, and in terms of the mechanics, of the transmission of this disease, right?


There’s these rumors that monkey pox is spreading through the air.

That is Aerosolized so to speak, just like covid.

This seems to be mostly bullshit everything.

We know today suggests that monkey pox spreads most efficiently from prolonged skin-to-skin contact prolonged skin-to-skin contact.


So, you think, okay?

What kind of activities involve prolonged skin-to-skin contact business conferences?

Not really bars, no sex, you bet.

So that’s why the contagion profile of this disease I think.

Look so different than covid which of course, Reds very efficiently through the air at places like conferences at bars.


There’s also, by the way, some evidence that monkey pox the virus itself can live in semen and that might also go a little bit of the way toward explaining why 98% of the cases seem to be among men having sex with men.

Now there are public, health officials or public commentators have argued that it’s homophobic to say this disease.


Mostly affects men who have sex with men.

The idea I think Think, is that it’s stigmatizing to have people think of monkeypox like it’s a gay disease.

I can’t tell you how absurd and profoundly unhelpful, I find this argument.


It is not bigoted to say strictly true things about a disease, right?

It is not bigoted, to just say the truth.

I think about covid.

Covid has been still is Much more dangerous for very old people, then it is for children.


It’s not a gist to say that.

Like, can you imagine if in the early Innings of nursing home deaths in America that public health, commentator said we shouldn’t talk about all the nursing home death because it might stigmatize old people but what that’s ridiculous.

You defeat diseases with knowledge.


You do you defeat disease with knowledge, you convert the knowledge into action, right?

Like reduce the frequency of orgies and areas.

With lots of monkey pox or you convert it into technology like monkey pox vaccines and medicines, but you have to start either way with finding the truth and telling people the truth.


That’s what public health is.

And speaking of the truth, monkey pox is not a gay disease.

Monkey pox is not a gay disease.

That’s not a helpful way to think about.

This is actually a nonsensical way to think about it, like what does it even mean for a disease to be gay?


It doesn’t, it doesn’t make any sense.

Just tell the truth.

This virus spreads most efficiently through prolonged skin to skin contact and it is currently circulating overwhelmingly within the community of men having sex with men.

That’s it.

It’s a full truth and from that full Truth, by the way, I think you can easily derive other useful truths, right?


So just because a disease is currently spreading in one group.

Does it mean it’s impossible for other groups to get it?

Most obvious example.

Here is HIV and AIDS.

In the 1980s and early 1980s.

What later became known as HIV was called a gay cancer, a gay cancer because it presented to some doctors like a kind of cancer and it’s circulated overwhelmingly with engage communities but it makes no sense to think of HIV as a gay cancer or a gay disease.


In the biggest picture today in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is mostly spread through male female sex through Straight sex, In fact, women in sub-Saharan Africa account for more than 50% of infected adults.

So what we thought was a gay cancer with HIV/AIDS turned out to be neither gay nor cancer.


So the last thing I want to say that monkey pox is how disappointing it has been to see.

America replay so many of the mistakes of covid.

Like in Hyper Speed, you would have thought the going through a multi-year.

Pandemic would make us more sensitive to the Orton’s of pandemic preparedness.


You know, more flexible about building supply for Therapeutics more expert at Public Health Communications.

This is clearly not the case, right?

The public health Communications is as I’ve said has been surprisingly unwilling to State.

The blunt truth about the demographic that accounts for 98% of this diseases victims, right?


It’s been I think reluctant to be honest about who is getting sick for fear of stigmatizing gay men.

When in fact no gay men need to know if they are the group within which this disease, Reading most efficiently.

That’s a really important piece information when it comes to regulations, the situation is just as absurd.


So if you look, if you think back to 2020, the u.s. fell woefully behind in testing a passivity because the CDC and the FDA wouldn’t rapidly approve working test from other states.

Other countries.

This is happening again, the body ministration has for the last few weeks refused to accept hundreds of thousands of doses of monkey, pox from places like Denmark, because the FDA Jay couldn’t do a timely inspection of the plant will European authorities.


Did do a timely inspection of the plant and they approve the product for use.

If you listen to our episode about baby formula, you might be getting Déjà Vu.

There’s a lot of perfectly healthy baby formula that European countries are happy to export to the US except the FDA has said no it’s illegal because we haven’t sent are FDA approved.


Officials are FDA hired officials over there to whatever Amsterdam in order to check out the baby formula.

Same thing now with a monkey.


This is not the way that you do crisis though.

This is the opposite.

When you’re in a crisis, you want to have think of that.

As a counter-cyclical regulatory policy, when crisis goes up regulations, go down because it’s all about speed.


It’s all about speed responding to an exponentially spreading virus, you sometimes need to relax regulations.


Lest last last thing.

I monkeypox after 9/11, the u.s. spent one trillion dollars on war and security and we created an entirely new government department for Homeland Security.



That is now killed 100 times as many people as 911.

What have we done?

I’m not saying we need to like, you know, invade some country in order to you know, punish them for covid.

Know what have we done in the Homeland?

What departments have we built?


What laws have we passed would infrastructure or state capacity?

Have we constructed?

What have we learned?

This has been a theme of my writing more than of my podcasting last few months but the u.s. is really pathetic in this Century.


It outcome based policy, we do a lot of talking about problems and not a lot of common sense.

Solving them.

We just had the mother of all problems visit us in the last few years.


And the fact that our virus preparedness institutions are still this pathetic, it’s pretty depressing.

Okay, here is one from Jimmy.

He writes I’m a millennial I always see things but how Millennials got a bad deal with student loans.


I have these have less income compared to other Generations at the same ages.

Housing is an affordable and so on I’d love to hear the advantages My Generation has when compared to others.

Jimmy, thank you.

I love this question.


Let me start with the to be sure paragraph to be sure, Millennials have gotten completely hosed in a few very important ways.

Millions of them graduated into a shit labor market in the late 2000s and early 2010’s after the global financial crisis, millions of them paid out the nose for college and have been burdened with historic.


Just completely unprecedented levels of student debt, and a lot of them started looking to buy a house after the he tends, which is a decade when homebuilding per capita fell to its lowest rate in recorded history.

So they basically been besieged by this, Avalanche of affordability crisis, just like one affordability crisis after another education work, housing, that sucks.


But if you’re looking for Silver, Linings, I don’t think it’s very hard to find them, especially when you’re willing to look globally and within the realm of moral progress.

And so, I mean, ethically speaking, I think there’s, you know, nothing more valuable about a millennial life in Brooklyn that a millennial life in Bangladesh.


So let’s start with the global picture in the global picture, according to most of the statistics that we have including those from the World Health Organization worldwide.

There’s never been a generation in recorded history with a lower share of infant.

Mortality with a lower share of deep poverty or a longer average lifespan or a larger Global middle class.


Like sometimes when you point out, these sort of global elements of progress people, get a little mad.

They assume that, you know, this good news is being shared in the interest of getting people to calm down and stop complaining about the bad news.

I’m not saying that I’m saying these two things are happening at the same time, right?


The affordability crisis for Millennials, in America is happening.

Alongside This Global progress that to me is just totally unequivocal, but there’s also moral progress happening in the u.s. really Moral progress, especially if you go back to say the 1960s.


So the 1961 four percent of Americans approved of interracial marriage.

Today ninety-four percent approve of interracial marriage from for 294.

That’s incredible. 30 years ago less than 30 percent of Americans supported gay marriage.


Now More than 70% to, You look at something like inequality between male and female earners in 1980.

Women, aged 25 to 30 earned, thirty three percent less than their male counterparts.

In 2020, the pay Gap had shrunk to seven percent.


So 37 percent pay Gap, just 40 years ago.

Today, it’s a seven percent pay Gap.

Now a pay Gap is a pay Gap and racism exists and sexism exists, homophobia exists.

None of these things are dead and their eradication.

In fact, remains a really important Project for civilization.


But you know, by most measures racism, sexism homophobia are lower today than they’ve been, maybe in recorded history or at least near the lowest they’ve been in recorded history.

That’s also something that’s pretty good about this generation of being alive.

Finally, as a little bit of a murkier touchy-feely idea, but cultural abundance choice in culture is just completely Unlike anything that we’ve ever experienced, it is clearly a better time or an easier time to be a reader or a music listener or a movie Watcher and on this point.


I don’t think there’s really any debate even if you just listen to last episode that I did with Ted Gioia about how music listening is, Shifting toward older music rather than new music.

But like, even if you’re a purist who, you know, doesn’t like the choice offered by digital readers even if you hate Kindle, even if you hate the streaming platforms, I don’t think Trade this year, for any other year.


Because why would you give up all the things that have been created since that year that you’re picking right?

Artistic accomplishment is accumulative.

It gets better every year because we’ve, we’ve already recorded all the music and written all the books and made all the movies record in the past and that just that mountain keeps growing.


So think about like if you traded 2020 24 1991, right?

You had that you had a A machine, you’re an upset, Millennial, you’re a mad Millennial.

And you say, I want to get out of 2022.

I want to get back to 1991, okay?

Well, at least in the cultural domain, you’re giving up Taylor Swift, right?


Bye-bye Kendrick, bye-bye Kanye, bye-bye Shania, Twain, Radiohead gone, right?

You do not get to experience them in 1991, you’ll be giving up the Marvel movies.

You’ll be giving up Lord of the Rings.

You Michael Clayton First Wives Club, for Pete’s sake?


You realize you’re giving up First Wives Club, like what kind of an idiot are you?

It’s so obvious to me, that culture gets better over time because everything that’s wonderful that has been created is this mountain that by sheer definition by sheer, understanding of the passage of time that mountain cannot decline.


So returning to our problems, the biggest problem with the millennial generation in the u.s. is that we have this affordability crisis especially in the essentials of Housing and Healthcare.

And that’s because we’ve made decisions at the local and National level that make it harder to build houses and harder to become a doctor and harder to provide telemedicine, my response to this crisis of shortage and crisis of scarcity, is something that I’ve called the abundance agenda and maybe come across this and previous podcasts are in my written work at the Atlantic.


I think that we need new laws and new rules, and even a new map National mindset It’s required to increase the supply of the most important things in the economy.

We need a new philosophy of progress that combines technology and ethics to produce human abundance, in housing Health, Care, education, energy, all of these faces.


If you keep listening to the podcast, I think you’re going to hear a lot more of these ideas in the next few months, but rounding out this answer.

The 2020s have been kind of shit.

I think compared especially to what we thought they were going to.

Look like in 2019, but there’s just no freaking way.


I’m stepping into a time machine.

To go back to 1991, not for the global Millennial case, not for the moral progress case, and certainly not for losing all the incredible stuff that we’ve done in culture in the last 20, 30 years.

Okay, Tim rights Derek, I’m confused on what I should be more concerned about a overpopulation, too many people chasing too few resources or bee population collapse, birth rates are falling over most of the developed world.


And now, China and India’s are as well, given that most of the world.

And to some extent capitalism itself is set up as a Ponzi scheme.

Population collapse is a significant threat to our economic future.

This is a great question.

It’s actually sort of three great questions nested inside of one email.


So I’m going to try to disentangle those three questions.

I think they are.

Number one, why are birth rates declining?

Number two is capitalism, a Ponzi scheme.

That’s a fun one.

And number three is population, collapse worse than overpopulation.


So, let’s go one, two, three.

Number one.

Why our birth rates declining?

This is probably the easiest one in pretty much every region of the world.

Every country of the world where we see female empowerment rising and women’s education, increasing, and economies modernizing, we tend to see birth rates declining.


This is a truly Global phenomenon.

Now in the US and Europe, birth rates are declining below the replacement rate, which means that without immigration, you would expect all these countries to shrink eventually.

We’re gonna get to that in a second and there’s a lot of stories that would explain this.


You know, number one, there’s this big old centuries, long story, The Children Used to Be Free Labor on the Arm, which meant they were cheap but now they’re expensive.

Human capital Investments to put things incredibly unromantic lie.

So parents overall have fewer kids and they spend more time investing in each child.


You could say that the concept of Parenthood, the concept of childhood has changed a lot in the last 150 years.

As we’ve moved from a more agrarian economy to a more modern economy, work relationships between parents and children.

Have changed that I think is overall, why birth rates declining?


I should also say that, you know, we just It talked about high living costs for Millennials that I think might also at the margin be keeping parents from having as many babies as they want to be put all this together, Rising female empowerment.

High living costs changing values and that I think explains why birth rates are declining around the world.


So number two is is capitalism a Ponzi scheme?

No, I do not think it is.

I think it is the opposite of a Ponzi scheme and I’m excited to hear from the Socialist Anarchist listeners of the show about how impossibly wrong I am about this particular point.


So a Ponzi scheme is, I understand it and I have not done too many Ponzi schemes in my life, but a Ponzi, scheme is an investment deal.

We’re essentially nothing is created right.

Like no real work is done because the profits of the early investors are paid exclusively through the income of newer investors, right?


Like I’m like, I’m a look at Bernie Madoff.

I run like a wealth management.

Firm have a bunch of clients who, you know, have been investing with me since 1980s.

How do I you know, pay their pay into their accounts if they’re expecting a certain rate of return will?

If I’m not making any trades, remember Bernie Madoff wasn’t making any trades for the end.


All I’m doing is taking my clients in the last 18 months, taking their money and just giving it to my older clients.

That’s that’s the Ponzi scheme, and that’s why a Ponzi scheme requires more and more and more new clientele.

How, you know, Ponzi schemes, end up becoming sort of multi-level marketing campaigns capitalism is sort of the opposite, right?


Because capitalism is this economic system where private actors own the means of making stuff and earn a profit for selling it and one critique of capitalism, especially from the environmentalist left, is that capitalism creates too much, right?


It’s not the it’s not the Madoff phenomenon of not doing anything.

It’s actually making too much doing too much there, too many.


There’s too much energy were digging up too much oil.

There’s too much waste with all this stuff that were buying too much plastic, right?

So in a narrow sense, creating too many things that people value is the opposite of creating nothing and relying exclusively on newer investors now.


I guess maybe you could say it.


Well, you know, the consumer base itself is kind of Ponzi scheme mesh, but like, I actually don’t understand how this applies exclusively the capitalism.

Like, if you’re a communist society and your economy is just a bunch of state owned farms and oil fields.

I’m pretty sure.


A lot of people to run those fields, it’s not clear to me how like a sudden population implosion works out perfectly fine for a communist Society but is a problem for capitalism.

I think sudden population collapse is probably a huge problem to any system that requires the production of scarce and important goods.


So that leaves us a number three which is, you know, the most interesting question in this Trio here is population collapse worse than overpopulation.

This gets to a really important point, which I think of as a very important myth, when it comes to the malthusian concerns, that the world simply cannot keep growing.


I think there’s a fear of overpopulation that is born out of this idea that we simply can’t keep feeding everybody, right?

This was Thomas, Malthus is big idea that eventually the population of certain areas grows to be too high and So people starve and there’s a collapse then productivity increases in the population keeps growing again.


We’ve broken clean out of the mouth doozy entrap.

The global population has gone up significantly in the last 50 years.

But our capacity to make food has gone up even more some statistics here, the average person in Africa and Asia, it’s significantly more calories per year than he or she did in the 1990s or any decade before.


The number of people who died in famines Lower in the 2010s.

Then any decade on record in the 1870s one in every seven hundred.

People alive died in a famine last decade.

It was 1 in every 200 thousand.


So I realized, you know, Parts this podcast, you’re going to sound as some people like I’m just get Ali reading aloud from my, Steven Pinker volumes about how everything is just absolutely wonderful.

And no one has any cause for concern.

There are lots of causes for concern.

Everything is definitely not one.

Perfil global, pandemics global warming, not great, but a lot of fear in this particular zip code stems from myths about growths.


So let’s consider the opposite proposition here, which is not population growth population, collapse, Elon Musk is obsessed.

With this idea that population collapse is going to spell the end of human society.

He thinks the number one biggest risk to civilization is population decline.


I don’t agree with that.

I think that global warming.

Thing is a significantly bigger threat to the biosphere and to the Future civilization, then the prospect of population growth peaking, I get a population decline, presents economic, and cultural challenges, I think it makes growth harder.


I think it makes Innovation harder.

I think it probably hardens a sort of zero-sum mindset.

What one group earns is what another group loses because the groups are fixed.

And the pie isn’t growing.

I think it probably makes people a little worse off.

Off and they’d otherwise be, but look, Japan’s.


Population hasn’t been growing for like 15 years.


Japan is not a hellscape.


Pretty nice.

I then it was beautiful.

Tokyo is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited, but I also think that a part of what makes Tokyo great is how dense it is, right?


How many people there are the density and population of Tokyo gives birth to?

It’s just absolute riot of Choice and diversity and extraordinary culture and high Cuisine.

That’s all Downstream of density and population.

So if we want a world with more Tokyo’s, we should not be rooting for population decline, we should be rooting for density and population growth.


So the most honest answer to this question, is that the world and the u.s. specifically has neither an overpopulation crisis right now, nor some kind of catastrophic population decline.

So we can’t say for sure just by looking at the data which would be worse for us.


But what I can say is I like people and I’d like more of them.

I love Tokyo and I’d like more of those.

I’m not worried about feeding the world in a period where famines are at a historical low point.


I am not afraid of overpopulation and I would like a world with more people.

So, thank you guys for these questions.

They were hard, they were fun.

They were, I learned a lot researching, my answers to them.

We will see you next week.

Thanks for listening.