The Value of Being Prepared

“Be prepared! That’s the Boy Scout’s marching song

Be prepared! As through life you march along

Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared.

Be prepared!” – Be Prepared by Tom Lehrer

If I’m going to take one thing away from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s this: the value of being prepared.

Very few people foresaw this pandemic. The early warnings from epidemiologists fell on deaf ears. Several people in the American tech industry (including Tim Ferriss, and the dozens of companies who pulled out of the SXSW conference early), and people in the online “rationalist” sphere were concerned about this long before anyone else. The US media? The US government? The majority of Americans? Governments and people around the world? The hospitals being overwhelmed around the world? All reacted to the pandemic rather than be proactive.


Maybe there are reasons for this lack of preparedness that only apply to your current government, or current media, but it doesn’t change the facts.

If you cannot fully rely on governments, media, hospitals, or your neighbors to prevent disasters before they happen, there is only one person you can truly rely on:


You need to be prepared for disaster, and already know how to react appropriately before it’s necessary. Better yet, you need to to be proactive, acting before disaster and giving yourself precious time.

While much of the modern world is dedicated to preventing disasters, you should prepare yourself for an Emergency. In a perfect world, you would never need to know how to survive in the wilderness or survive a natural disaster… but in a perfect world, pandemics wouldn’t happen.

While disasters can can be made less likely or unlikely, you still might be hit by a Black Swan. On a long enough timeline, unlikely events become inevitable, and the world can be transformed by these events in the blink of an eye. Most people are blind to these events, and only make sense of them in hindsight. You don’t have to be one of those people.

The sooner you can predict disasters beforehand, the better – but don’t just predict things: learn the art of Superforecasting. Make predictions, check your work, figure out where biases or lack of information prevents you from foreseeing the future, and improve your abilities. Your family and neighbors will thank you.

Get Prepared

Maybe the world will be relatively unaffected by COVID-19 in the long run – I doubt this, but stranger things have happened. If you (still?!) haven’t made any preparations for COVID-19, please get prepared. If the people worried about coronavirus are wrong, you’ll have some extra food, plus supplies for the next disaster. If the people worried about coronavirus are right… you’ll thank your good judgement that you were prepared.