23 May 2020

Masks have become a hot issue. Here’s my 2¢.

Summary #

I think everyone should wear a mask, unless they have a compelling medical reason not to.

Look at it this way: a mask will either help you and those around you, or it will do no harm—beyond a little social awkwardness. If we look at the trade-offs in a game-theory-style matrix, we get:

| | Masks Help | Masks don’t help | |——————-+————+——————| | Wear a mask | +100 | 0 | | Don’t wear a mask | -100 | 0 |

There is nothing to loose by wearing a mask, while there is the possibility of loosing a whole lot if we don’t. There’s some preliminary research showing that masks in fact help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

One way to think about wearing a mask is it’s like wearing a seat belt: seat belts save lives. Wearing seat belts is mandatory—rightly so!

But masks, unlike seat belts, not only help the wearer, but also protect others. True, cloth masks (home-made; surgical masks and N95 masks do much better of course) don’t seem to provide much protection for the wearers, but they do catch some non-negligible portion of the virus coming out of infected people. That one glob of saliva, if it lands right, could be the difference between life-and-death for someone else.

Wearing a mask shows respect and care for those around you. It shows solidarity: hundreds of thousands of people have died across the world—with over 100,000 in the US alone. We need to look out for each other.

Refusing to wear a mask is disrespectful. It’s more than just driving without a seat belt. It’s like driving drunk: you might be fine, but there are so many other people that you are endangering.

If you continue to not wear a mask just because you feel it restricts your freedom, then I think society is well within its rights to deny you access or services out of self-preservation: the ice cream licker faces prison time, and drunk drivers can have their licenses suspended.

Finally, think about the disrespect and selfishness you show by not wearing a mask. In essence you are saying, “I cannot be bothered to put up with mild discomfort in order to potentially save people’s lives.”

If you think I’m wrong about something or that there’s something I ought to understand better, please reach out to me via my Keybase. (My email is also in my résumé if Keybase isn’t working for you.) I prefer rational, one-to-one discussion; unfortunately the medium of the Internet makes that difficult.