“Rob Pegoraro on Tech and the Coronavirus” (Two Think Minimum)

“Rob Pegoraro on Tech and the Coronavirus” (Two Think Minimum)

Scott Wallsten: Hi and welcome back to the Technology Policy Institutes podcast’s Two Think Minimum. Today is Monday, March 23rd, 2020. I’m Scott Wallsten, president and senior fellow at TPI, joined by my cohost TPI senior fellow Sarah Oh. And today we are honored to be joined by journalist Rob Pegoraro. Rob covers tech policy at Yahoo Finance, writes a tech help column for USAToday.com, offers telecom and gadget guidance at Wirecutter and contributes to Fast Company, Consumer Reports, Arstechnica, pcmag.com, boingboing, venturebeat and Discovery News. Welcome Rob.

Rob Pegoraro: Hello, nice to be here, virtually speaking.

Scott: Yes, right, so of course we’re doing this by Zoom like most business seems to be happening these days. At least it’s a good setup for a podcast. So how’s working from home going?

Rob: Well, it’s been like everyday reality since 2011 so in that respect, not too bad. The differences until two weeks ago it was a solitary experience and instead now my wife is downstairs on a call because she’s working from home as well. Our kid is, I hope she is, doing her homework right now. Adequate parenting is a really good phrase to keep in mind for everybody right now. 

Scott: Yes. I have the same hopes for my kids and I have a strong suspicion that they’re doing something else. 

Rob: So of course, as you all can see, I’m growing a plague beard because yeah, you know it’s five minutes I don’t have to spend each day shaving.

Scott: Right. Well that’s true. We could also ask whoever was wearing pants to raise their hands. You can’t tell right now. So before we get into the things we want to talk about, about tech, but I just want to also ask, how is it different reporting when it’s harder to meet people in person? Cause that’s always such a big part of it. 

Rob: The direct effect it’s had for me is I’ve now wiped off, Mobile World Congress, South by Southwest, Mobile Carriers show, seven or eight different conferences have now wiped off my schedule. So in essence, I count on going to events, both in DC and in the rest of the world, to connect with people who know what they’re talking about and who will be good sources for stories. So it sort of freezes my pool of people that know what they’re talking about. I’m lucky in that so much of what I do, the reporting is already in the form of speaking to people, whether it’s on the phone or zoom or an email, not necessarily, man on the street interviews have never been a huge staple of my coverage. But certainly, I’ve done stories in the past where I’ve gone into a neighborhood and okay, which of these houses has definitely got a fiber connection. They’ve got that skinny line in front of the utility pole, I’ll knock on the door. That’s not happening anymore.

Scott: Right. Interesting. All right, so just over the weekend you wrote a story about data caps and the fact that we no longer have them for the most part, why don’t you tell us about that a little bit.

Rob: So this is one I actually, sort of like in a good freelancer I tried to sell the story twice. I first did a piece for USA Today that ran the last weekend about all the steps various telecom companies have taken to make it easier for Americans to work from home. And it started when Carl Bode, a journalist who writes at Vice’s Motherboard, among others, called out ISP is for retaining data caps when people are being forced to retreat to home, to work from home, to have their kids learn from home, Hey this is really not helpful. That one terabyte limit that you had might’ve seemed reasonable when it was just Netflix and the occasional game, and then everyone was away from the house during the day, lift those caps. And AT&T responded later that afternoon. So Carl deserves some credit for making things happen. And then things snowballed. Comcast said the next day they were going to lift their caps, then so did Centurylink. By, I think, the monday the week after, Cox did the same. And so I revisited this and checked them on the list of the 10 biggest ISP as judged by Lightman[?] research group and all the ones that had had data caps had lifted them. So there are two conclusions I draw from that. Number one is you could sort of justify data caps. It’s like, well, some people just use their connection more than others. We should monetize that. But in this case you’ve got the serious need for people to be able to do as much as they can online and saying, we should monetize this because we can, it’s not going to hold up. Essentially data caps in the context of wired broadband were artificial scarcity and charging money based on artificial scarcity looks different in this context too. Two, I talked to a few different analysts and they all said, you’re not going to be able to bring these back. Once you take it away and you show that your system doesn’t actually break down in this situation of national and international crisis, how are you gonna charge for later on?

Scott: How many households do you think it affects?

Rob: It’s unclear. Back when Comcast’s data cap was only 300 gigs, which at the time seemed a huge amount, I knew somebody who blew through it. He was testing a bunch of different online backup services. Now the odds are much higher. It does depend on what you’re doing. We’re using Zoom right now and I think I looked this up for Fast Company. The amount of data used for that, it’s not that much. If you want to put a dent in your data cap, the biggest thing you can do is streaming a lot of 4K video on Netflix or Amazon. That’s good for 25 megabits per second. Zoom, their requirements top out at three megabits per second for group HD calling. So we’re doing that right now. But it’s all these little things. And fundamentally, one of my biggest complaints with ISP data caps is even if you want to do the right thing and play by the rules and whatever, it’s hard because none of these ISP give you tools to say, oh you went over the cap because your kid was on Minecraft too much or you binge watched a lot of 4K stuff. That’s what constituted it, that’s the measurement can only take at the router level. Looking at how much data your iPad used up tells you nothing useful. There aren’t great tools to evaluate on a computer by computer basis, much less on your connected TV. So we may never know really how many people avoided having to pay a data cap because this limit was raised. Those people may never really know what would have put them over that line. So in essence we’ve seen something that reasonable people would a hard time complying with, lifted. And if that goes away, that’s okay. There are plenty of other ways for a telecom company providing on broadband to make a little extra money off the top. Charging people for this, one, it’s fundamentally not a real scarcity and the country examples, what we’re seeing in the European Union right now, where a bunch of stream providers have said we will limit the resolution to our services. If you do get into capacity limits. It’s not because people use so much data from March 1st to March 31st it’s because everyone was watching the same thing. Everyone was watching the president’s press conference. Listeners, please do not do that. 

Scott: There are no benefits to that

Rob: and that causes a temporary log jam and data caps don’t solve that problem. Especially not when you don’t even know how much data you’ve used at the time and if this event that captures the world’s interest happens a week into the billing cycle, no one’s going to be near hitting their data caps if it were still around. 

Scott: I mean that raises several issues. As you pointed out that in Europe, the EU as Netflix and YouTube and probably other streaming platforms

Rob: Disney+ has said they’ll constrain their resolution.

Scott: Disney+ too. So like you said, they’re lowering the resolution because presumably at least some European networks are becoming congested. What do we, is there a takeaway from that about the article, our networks versus theirs, whether we’re over-provisioned, whether we’re provisioned properly, what do we learn from that?

Rob: This is one where fundamentally I would like more data points. What I know from certainly talking to Comcast and some analysts around here, US ISPs had decided years ago that, you know, Netflix is too big to fail in the context. They can’t have a crummy Netflix experience. Verizon had a crummy Netflix experience several years ago. It was fixed with a lot of back end deals. So they built their systems to ensure that everyone can stream and have the video not buffer at night. And all those applications use more data at once than any of the productivity stuff we’re doing now. So in that sense, we’re okay. There is more traffic, much more usage during the day time. That’s okay. The system is built for that and it can manage that. I don’t know what’s the case in the EU. I did just see one of the analysts I talked to, Roger Ander with Recon Analytics post a data point that showed it, I guess one EU internet exchange, the traffic peak still at 9:00 PM so I assume we’re seeing more streaming going on at night cause people can’t go to the movies. You can’t go to a restaurant, can’t go to a bar. People are doing virtual happy hours, which I guess is just a little more data to throw in the pile. And that’s a situation. Who would have built out your network for that use case six months ago? Nobody be thought we’d be in this position.

Scott: But presumably the peaks are happening at the same time, relatively the same time in the US.

Rob: Yeah, and it’s definitely weird in that the US you had people saying we can’t have the net neutrality rules, we need to let people do network management, although reasonable network management was part of the proposition, even under a lot of net neutrality proposals and the EU, where you do have those protections, we now have the situations where streaming sites are voluntarily reducing their content. I think some of that is probably, once Netflix says, we’ll do it. You can’t be the jerk who’s like, no, we’re good. We’re going to keep on letting people streaming 4K, we don’t care what it does to everybody else. 

Scott: Yeah. Those are the people in Fort Lauderdale. They would do that on the beach. Of course there’s voluntary and there’s voluntary.

Sarah Oh: Were they voluntold to reduce?

Rob: Voluntold is a very good a verb. I like that a lot. It’s something where, when we get out of this, it’s something to look back and see how this worked. To what extent did high bandwidth sites constraining the usage of their own apps help things out overall, and it’s important to remember what we’re talking about net neutrality, so much of this discussion started when you had executives at US telecoms saying, these people are using my bandwidth, Ed Whitaker at SBC, they’re using my pipes. I want to charge them. As if he had been in a bucket truck, running cable from pole to pole himself. Basically wanting to create a two sided market, which is not how the internet has historically worked. Not, oh, our network is straining. It’s I want to charge yahoo for better placements so that their searches load faster. 

Scott: That was just a stupid way to start off this. I mean that was never, well, at least for economist, that was never a reason. It’s just ridiculous. It was all about covering fixed costs and so on. But yeah, no, that’s really set the tone for the debate.

Rob: So I don’t know. We’re going to learn a lot of things about how our networks work and what puts them under strain, what doesn’t and wireless, one interesting thing has been to see that Sprint/T-Mobile said, in time to make that first USA Today piece I wrote, we’re going to give everybody 20 gigs of mobile hotspot data, which is a good and useful thing to accommodate the fact that a lot of Americans decided on their own, or maybe they just didn’t have any great residential broadband, they’ve been relying only on smartphone services. Something like 27%, I think, in a Pew research study done last year. And you know, that’s fine if you’re just watching Netflix on your phone or your tablet, but distance learning, telework, a lot of those applications, you just cannot use them on a phone. And so in that case, how are these folks getting connected? I think it’s really helpful as well that the major cable providers have opened their wifi hotspot networks to the public. These networks are so extensive, Comcast and Altice, they use them to backstop the wireless service they resell from companies like Verizon. So that’s doing a lot to make broadband more widely available.

Scott: One thing you said was that of course it’s the 4K video streaming, HD to a lesser extent, that puts the big bandwidth demand, at least downstream, on networks. And one of the last things that’s kept mobile for being a perfect substitute for home broadband is of course the inability to just stream it to your television, to a big screen, because then you would run through your data cap and you would go through a slower, even on an unlimited plan, you would go to a speed that’s not good enough for it for that. Are they getting closer to it actually being something where you could connect your TV to your phone, you’d use the mobile hotspot from your phone, because that would change the market.

Rob: Right. And that would definitely put a huge dent into the mobile hotspot cap because normally on Sprint’s cheapest plan you have 500 megs of mobile hotspot use. Which if you occasionally need to tether your tablet to your laptop, that’s fine. I’ve checked the consumption of my own phone cause I will do that if the wifi network at an event is crummy or they don’t post the wifi password, which too many conference organizers do. Why do people do this? I’ll tether up my phone 

Scott: cause there’s a network management to keep people off it.

Rob: But you know sustained streaming will put a huge dent in it. The cheapest unlimited plans at the other three don’t include mobile hotspot use it all, I guess now they do now, and the normal quotas you have are just not going to let you stream Netflix from your phone to your TV every night. So I don’t think that’s going to change. The 4K/8K part that’s interesting to me because I fundamentally don’t see the value of those two resolutions to a lot of people. 4K, if your TV is under 50 inches, you’re going to have to sit as close as I am to my desktop monitor right now to see a lot of that resolution. And there are people really trying to make 8K happen. And you know, a few months ago they were saying, well, you know, it’ll get there through streaming. Really? I don’t think so. No.

Scott: Yeah, I agree. I don’t see, I mean even 4K on most people’s TVs, you can’t tell. Lot of people, more more people on TVs that where you can see 4k a little bit, but 8K

Rob: It’s such a boondoggle

Scott: I remember several years ago they were trying to push 3D TV. That was horrible

Rob: I think my Blue-Ray player does support 3D TV, the 3D standard for Blu-ray discs, so if it ever comes back, I’m prepared. 

Scott: You’re ready, do you have also laser discs? Remember those?

Rob: I do somewhere. I have a small museum of obsolete technology. It doesn’t include any laser discs. It does include the digital compact cassette. It’s actually on that bookshelf back there. I think I have a zip disk in that pile as well. 

Scott: Actually, I have sitting over on the wall there a about of 12 inch in diameter thing that looks like a laser disc, but it’s a five megabyte hard drive. 

Rob: Ooh, wow. Like a cyclist. I remember using those.

Scott: It’s from my wife’s college actually. She had it ripped it out of her computer.

Rob: Outstanding.

Sarah: Five megabytes, one photograph on Google.

Scott: Yeah. Right. Let’s stay on the networking for a second because wireless networks also got more bandwidth to use. Sorry, more spectrum to use. And so that seems good and appropriate. There’s more demand at all the networks and the spectrums there, it should be used. What’s gonna happen afterwards? Are they gonna try to keep it?

Rob: Yeah, it’s a little confusing to see because suddenly a bunch of Dish Network’s extra 600 megahertz spectrum got handed to, is T-Mobile using that now.

Scott: I think T-mobile, yeah.

Rob: Like I need an actual flowchart to see which has gone where. Yeah, I honestly didn’t know we can actually free up spectrum and put it into use that quickly.

Scott: I didn’t either.

Rob: Impressive agility, which is a word that’s been short supplied to describe the U S economy right now. 

Scott: Well and apparently our phones can use it, which is not something I expected either.

Rob: You know that is, you know one tech tip to listeners if your phone, if you’ve had it for a while, you probably can’t use this. There were a lot of phones that if you’re on T-Mobile you’re not using that 600 megahertz spectrum cause that was added to phones relatively recently. You would have had to fall one in the last two years I think to support band 71 I think. My friend Sascha Sagan at pcmag.com if you have any interest at all in spectrum and wireless carriers, follow him on Twitter. That’s S. A. S. C. H. A. S. E. G. A. N. his name, as well as mine. 

Scott: Great, that’s a good tip. So what do you think’s going to happen? When, hopefully, this is all, are they going to make a case to somehow keep using that spectrum? 

Rob: You know, Dish is supposed to be launching, spinning up a whole 5G network. There’s a lot of people I’ve talked to in the industry who are like, yeah, it’s not going to happen. The theory I’ve heard most often is they will start, but the cap ex is going to break them. What will happen is a cable company or consortium of them will move to buy them, which would not be a crazy thing for cable to do given that, you know, one part of Comcast business that’s really growing, it’s not pay TV, it’s wireless phone service. 

Scott: Although that would be a little bit ironic given their push for more spectrum for unlicensed for them, to suddenly move into licensed spectrum.

Rob: Yeah. You know, everyone has a plan until, what’s that quote? Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth and we’re all getting punched in the face right now. I’m a little sore actually. 

Scott: It’s true. It’s the same as the expression, I was a great parent until I had kids.

Rob: Yeah, yes, I resemble that remark.

Scott: So how would you grade the FCC’s performance?

Rob: They’ve actually been pretty good. Given that they don’t have a huge amount of tools, the things you could have done by mandate under title II you can’t anymore. But Ajit Pai in this case has led by example pretty well. The industry has moved rapidly. So I think that they’ve done pretty well, I really cannot fault how they’ve responded to this. It will be interesting to see, there’s a lot of proposals as to how can we use the fact that we have all these tracking devices in our pockets, smart phones, will that allow for sort of tracing the spread of infections the way it’s been done in places like Hong Kong and South Korea. And that’s going to run head on into the fact that we don’t have any great way to address privacy issues except hoping companies do the right thing. And we could have passed some sort of law or framework to do anything about that over the past three years easily. And now it’s definitely going to get done, so we’re just going to have to improvise your way through it.

Scott: Do you think that necessarily would have helped? The example I used to give was in artificial intelligence where you end up with our preferences sort of conflicted in different ways but here it might too, that tracking people who test positive was an incredibly useful tool but our preference is here. We may not like that, we may not be comfortable with that and so on the one hand we would definitely wouldn’t want to do that because the idea of government surveillance is abhorrent but the cost is less control over how this disease progresses. How do we, how would we balance those two?

Rob: Yeah, I mean there’s a couple of ways you could see it getting played out. One is the fact, the wireless carriers, say whatever you want about Google and Facebook and tracking your location in the background, the wireless carriers have had that information all along and they don’t even publicly document how long they keep it. Unless it’s changed, for everybody’s reference, Verizon keeps its, I’ll say location information, for one year. Sprint is 18 months. T-Mobile is two years. AT&T is five years. Clearly they can’t all need that, that much data to run their networks since Verizon seems to do a pretty good job of running their network with only one year of CSLI. 

Scott: That’s a huge amount of data, where do they store that. I mean that’s billions and billions of pings…

Rob: It’s on a laptop in somebody’s car out there. Remember to lock it.


Rob: So on the one hand you could see that given that until the Supreme Court’s Carpenter ruling two years ago, that was information police departments could just ask nicely. Now you needed a court order to provide that. But even that has a lot of emergency exemption grants. You could see people requesting that and that would give you pretty accurate information. On the other hand, I actually do find Google’s location history, that only I can look at, useful. And if I were diagnosed tomorrow with the coronavirus, FYI I have been taking my temperature every day. So for perfectly normal, I do have a dry cough from a cold I had last month. So really, who knows. The first thing I would do would be to pull up my location history and think Where was I? At what point did I interact with other people? and I would want to write that down so I could share that with whoever would need to know it. And that is a store of data that I wouldn’t have had 10 years ago. And given that I can’t actually log into my T-Mobile account and say, Hey, show me your location history, let me download this. That’s one sort of way I could be helpful to determine where I’ve been. 

Scott: That’s a good point because that kind of data exists for almost everybody, from the wireless carriers, like you said, and from Google and everybody, all of these things that have upset many people for maybe good reasons. It’s there. I mean, is it conceivable that the government could just demand that, I don’t even know if that’s legal. Sarah is that legal, could they do that?

Sarah: Well, I don’t know. I think under national emergency they might be able to. But what’s interesting about South Korea is I read that they started building the apps, the tracking apps back when there was a MERS outbreak. So it’s not like that they just turned it on. They’ve been building it for five, 10 years in preparation for another pandemic. So maybe this round of coronavirus will mean like we’re going to start building one. So you know, I don’t think they can just turn it on right now, but it might be an idea that starts percolating. And I’ve seen on Twitter some like San Francisco people trying to get the hashtag test and trace going. So using technology to trace the virus. So it might be an idea that the West gets more comfortable with.

Rob: I think South Korea, we have a lot to learn from that. And you can talk all you want about how China first denied this was a problem. Then they mobilized at incredible speed. But South Korea is a democracy, it’s an industrialized country. They have human rights in place there. And so what did they do that we can adopt? Cause it’s not like there there’s some secrets that we can’t possibly do it. It wasn’t invented here. We can’t borrow anything from any other country. No, we should borrow a lot because we’ve screwed up things immensely and no good ideas should be ignored because it didn’t start up on this side of the Atlantic or the Pacific.

Scott: Are you hearing people, policy people starting to talk about this? Think about it?

Rob: A little bit. I mean I think this is going to be a great opportunity. People have been, privacy researchers have been looking for years at how could we use techniques like differential privacy or federated learning to find some way to taking information that’s already getting collected by the devices we carry, extract the useful stuff from it and then share it in a way that’s privacy preserving but still yields useful insights. And so to that I would say Apple and Google, this is your chance to put these learnings into action. Apple’s big thing is, we inject just enough noise in the sample results so that we can’t identify you and data connected for through our healthkit framework. Google talks about federated learning, which for instance when you see Google maps say this restaurant is busy at this time. See how I just dated myself right there. This restaurant is busy at no time for the future. There’s differential privacy built into that as well. Federated learning is when your smartphones processes the data locally and sends the useful stuff, anonymized, upstream, all of those techniques, we should be using them to get actionable insight on where people have been, if they had the virus, and do that without putting everybody’s location history into gigantic government database.

Scott: It kind of seems surprising that tech companies wouldn’t be working on that already.

Rob: The thing is that the tech companies are generally not great at talking about this. Apple has made privacy part of their selling products, so they will discuss that. Google, over the last year you started seeing them, at the Google IO developer conference last year, privacy was a big theme of it and it was kind of an unusual site at a google conference, but they have a lot of smart people. They realize this is something that people are concerned about and from the ex-Googlers I’ve talked to, this is something that people do take seriously there.

Scott: You mentioned that you worked at a polling place for the March 3rd election, so electronic voting or distance voting, somehow some other kinds of voting maybe is going to be more important. What did you learn from your experience? What did you learn, what did you think?

Rob: So this was really fascinating stuff. I’ve been writing about the security of elections probably since I guess the mid early two thousands and part of it was this, spent a lot of time voting on some really horribly insecure electronic voting machines and with votes terminals that everything you could have done to make them easy to hack was done. And the Commonwealth of Virginia finally de-certified them a few years ago. And in the course of learning about this, I kept seeing election security experts say, if you really want to know what’s going on, be a poll worker, anybody can do it, if you’re a registered voter, you will learn a lot about how this works in practice. It’s a long day, but they’ll pay you. And I finally realized I’m going to be in town for super Tuesday. I can do this. I’m self employed, I can take the whole day off. I did sort of pause when I realized that they specified polls in Virginia for that election open at 6:00 AM closed at 7:00 PM so they said your workday starts at 5:00 AM and ends at 9:00 PM but I’m like, you know what, when else am I’m gonna do this. I should do it. So number one, people should know that the people who work elections, at least in Arlington County, Virginia, really sweat the details. Everything, every record was done in duplicate. Every hour the precinct chief did a count, do the number of people who’ve checked in at the poll book stations matched the number of votes cast in person. At the end of the day, the statement of results had the signatures of eight different election officials. Everyone’s swap places. I spent the first three hours working the ballot scanner. I was the scanner officer. It’s a title off the Starship enterprise I think, which meant I got to give out stickers. That’s the best part of working an election, for sure. 

Scott: That’s what everybody wants, that’s why they vote. 

Rob: Yeah. Then I was checking in people. Then I was working the poll books, software. Paper ballots, work. People know how to use them. They know how to fill them in. The one question I got was, is it okay if I only filled in part of the little circle? If it’s a check mark versus filling it in completely. 

Scott: What’s the answer?

Rob: The scanning machine, if it thinks she didn’t vote, it will just reject it. If it thinks she voted twice, it’ll reject it. Otherwise put the paper in. Right side up, upside down, forwards, backwards. As long as it’s not sideways, it’ll work. So make the technology fit with what people know how to use. My take on that for remote voting, and also based on writing about one company that developed a blockchain based system via a smartphone app that the West Virginia used last year, paper ballots really work. If you have to vote remotely, do it by mail. We know how to do that. Certain states like Washington have been doing it for years. There is an infrastructure to spin up. There’s things you have to do. The other thing you can do if you want to spread out voting is just make absentee voting and voting in advance easy, at a lot of different places. So here in Virginia, fortunately, for reasons unrelated to pandemics, the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly passed a lot of moves that will allow just that. You used to have to provide an excuse for absentee voting, you know, I will be out of town for work or whatever. Now, no reason, just I want to vote absentee. Now that turns out to be some thoughtful policy making for reasons that people didn’t really have in mind back in January. I don’t think voting by app is the way to do it. The one area where we might need to look at that is Congress, since right now we have at least one Senator, Rand Paul, who tested positive and before getting his result, but after getting the test, he went to the Senate gym, what was he thinking? We got a bunch of representatives of Congress. That’s a defined universe. It’s a much smaller number of people. You can lock that down. Plus, of course, you know, votes are recorded. Doing remote voting with a secret ballot, while still making the system auditable afterwards is really, really hard and paper’s one way to allow you to check afterwards and not just accept that what is in the memory of this machine is what actually happened.

Scott: It is amazing that that’s not allowed in Congress. I mean, if this is something that Norman Ornstein, that AEI has been writing about for years, that basically if the Congress people can’t get to Congress, there is no legislative branch.

Rob: I guess if any more Republicans in the Senate self-quarantine it will be a democratic majority. So that might be my guess, quick adoption of remote voting for the Senate.

Scott: Or we’ll get them a bunch of hazmat suits and they’ll walk in that way. 

Rob: Yes. Right. And be a lot of bubble boys and girls in the Senate chamber. 

Scott: So we’re almost out of time. But what do you think we’re going to learn for the future? What we learned that we can do at home, we can do remotely? What things will we miss in person that we’re gonna come back to and not want to give up.

Rob: So I think on the one hand this is showing we do kind of have a brittle healthcare system in the US and I’m really understating this, given that testing right now is still so slow and there are lots of people who feel sick and can’t get tested and it’s taken weeks to decide that you know, we actually shouldn’t charge people for this. Then once you get a thousand dollar bill for getting a public health necessary test. Work from home, a lot of people discover that it is possible, that it’s actually a good thing. And in normal times I appreciated the fact that I can look out my window here, I can hear birds chirping. I can see the trees starting to bud. It’s really nice. I appreciate that a lot. At the same time, I also like human contact and it’s been really short of that. Our kids’ first words to us this morning where I miss my friends, I do miss my friends. And I think the whole idea that we’re not going to go back to in person interaction and meeting at conferences is crazy. We’re social animals. We need to get that back. We just need to figure out how to do, what do we need to do to not be surprised? Viruses do happen. We can’t have the next one start with weeks or months of denial in a country with no freedom of speech followed by denial in countries that do have freedom of speech, but governments just don’t want to accept the unpleasant reality.

Scott: You think this was just a uniquely unfortunate period of time for this to happen in when we had countries that fit both categories?

Rob: Yeah. We had a bunch of numbers come up bad in this particular slot machine and it could’ve been worse. We have a virus that does spread rapidly, spreads before people know they have it, but from what we know, it still doesn’t actually kill most people who get it. You can construct scenarios in which this could have gone much worse, but as it is we’re going to lose a lot of lives. We’re already losing a lot of money. I’m not looking at my 401k. I would like to tell my mom not to do that as well, but she actually does need that money. 

Scott: It’s harder when you’re living off of it. 

Rob: Yeah

Scott: Well, thank you for joining us. 

Rob: Thanks for having me.

Scott: I hope we talk again and I hope we’ll be looking back and see what did we learn rather than what will we learn. Maybe we can do it in person.

Rob: I look forward to having conversations that we’re not bunkered at home.

Scott: Yes, likewise. So, good. 

Sarah: Thanks so much, Rob. 

Rob: Really appreciate it.

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