4 Ways Exorde Will Be Essential During the Next Pandemic

May 16, 2024
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It feels a bit dark to start talking about the next pandemic, as if it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be another one, but pandemics have always been a part of the human experience. Unless science discovers a way to kill all viruses once and for all, another pandemic will show up eventually.

Hopefully, it’s a long way off, but Metabiota predicts “a 47–57 percent chance of another global pandemic as deadly as COVID in the next 25 years” so we probably shouldn’t get too comfortable.

But the question we’re asking today is…

When the next pandemic strikes, how will a fully operational Exorde protocol help doctors, scientists, the media and the general public?

The easiest way to answer such a theoretical question is to look back to the COVID-19 pandemic and consider how Exorde could have helped if the technology had existed. We’ve identified four areas in which Exorde could have made a difference, and thus will hopefully make a real difference in the future.

1. Tracking symptoms of a virus across borders

Do you remember when the symptoms of COVID-19 were primarily described as a cough, breathlessness and a fever? Now there are around a dozen recognized symptoms, including loss of taste and smell, a sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea.

The reason the list of officially recognized symptoms of a virus gets longer over a time is because, as the virus spreads through the population, the less common symptoms are seen frequently enough to warrant adding them to official health guidelines.

Additionally, as variants of a virus appear, the symptoms begin to change. The symptoms of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, for instance, are primarily a runny nose, headaches, fatigue, sneezing and a sore throat. Whereas the earlier Delta variant is more commonly characterized by loss of taste and smell, a persistent cough, high temperatures and sneezing.

Recognizing all of the possible symptoms, as well as how they are changing, is critical information, especially when you’re asking people to take precautions if they show symptoms of the virus.

The official method of recording and tracking symptoms of a virus is self-reporting by people who have a confirmed case. The COVID-19 pandemic was able to call on modern technology by making an app available through which people could record their symptoms.

There are, however, limitations even with this advanced technology. For a start the app is only as effective as the percentage of the population that use it. Public knowledge of the app started out with word of mouth, followed closely by the media, followed eventually by partnerships with charities. Which means, its effectiveness at discovering and confirming new symptoms was weaker during the early period of the pandemic.

Self-reporting in this way is also trickier in parts of the world where the spread of the app was harder to arrange, and where media options were restricted or limited.

How Exorde Can Help…

Anecdotal reports of COVID-19 symptoms were always out in front of official guidelines, and unsurprisingly most of this information was being spread across social media. It seems that people, when experiencing symptoms, were much more likely to talk about it with their social media friends than they were to download and use an official app.

What Exorde can do in this scenario is search social platforms around the world and discover all posts and comments related to the symptoms of a specific virus. This would theoretically be faster than waiting for the mass adoption of an official app.

Health officials and governments could use the Exorde protocol to target this information and gather huge quantities of data on what the average person is saying about the symptoms of their illness.

Exorde would have the additional advantage of being able to gather data in countries where official information is hard to gather but where social media platforms are active.

Being able to sort the reporting of symptoms by country and region would also offer some potentially valuable insights. For example, if the same symptoms are being seen, simultaneously, in multiple regions, this would help to confirm that a symptom is common enough to be officially connected to the virus.

And if one country or area reports a unique symptom that the rest of the world isn’t, this could suggest that either the symptom is unrelated to the virus behind the pandemic, or that a new variant is emerging.

Either way, this is critical information for the authorities to track and Exorde would allow them to do so as soon as a new virus emerges.

2. Monitoring the spread of conspiracy theories relating to the cause of the virus and how to treat it.

For conspiracy theories to take hold, you typically need two things…

  • A significant news event that scares people into looking for a simple, easy-to-understand root cause (even when one doesn’t exist).
  • A medium through which the conspiracy theory can quickly spread.

Which makes the COVID-19 pandemic and the popularity of social media a perfect storm for the creation and propagation of conspiracy theories.

There are real-world consequences to conspiracies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. From abuse of people who are perceived to be of an ethnicity connected to ground zero of the pandemic, to virus outbreaks caused by people rejecting recommended health protocols, to the continued spread of the virus even while an effective vaccine is available. Consequently, many organizations are spending considerable time and money investigating the sources and distribution of conspiracy theories, as well as the possible predictors of whether an individual is likely to be convinced and affected by them.

Another effect of COVID-19 conspiracies is increased pressure on social media companies to deplatform popular conspiracy theorists and either flag or remove content that contradicts official medical advice. On the one hand, this seems like a sensible measure, especially when lives are at stake. However, some are concerned that censoring information could run the risk of developing into authoritarianism or result in the obscuring of information that eventually turns out to be true. Additionally, by removing this information, it moves the conversation to less-popular platforms, making it harder for researchers to track.

How Exorde Can Help…

By searching for conspiracy theories as they come to light, the Exorde protocol could provide clues to their origins by uncovering where in the world the theory is most prevalent.

Comparisons could also potentially be made between similar-sounding conspiracy theories appearing in different countries, where the main text of a story remains the same and only small details are changed to fit the location.

It’s easy to see how this facility would be a boon to researchers, especially when you consider that current projects in this area tend to rely on surveys. Research publisher, Frontiers, for example studied conspiracy beliefs across 13 countries, but only gathered data from 5,779 people. While this is large enough to draw useful conclusions, by their own admission, there is a risk that bias could be introduced.

By contrast, Exorde has the potential to gather conspiracy belief social postings and comments across all the major platforms, right across the world. This should allow researchers to dig deeper and produce more substantial results.

This should be possible even if social platforms remove conspiracy theories because, when running at peak efficiency, Exorde should be able to record the data before it’s erased.

This may be considered the best of both worlds, since the information isn’t left to spread unchecked, but is still recorded in machine-readable form on the blockchain so researchers can carry out their studies.

3. Tracking vaccine side-effects across borders, without relying on self-reporting

If you think tracking the symptoms of a virus is difficult, tracking the side-effects of a vaccine is an order of magnitude more complicated.

If you contract COVID-19, it’s reasonable to conclude that most, if not all, of the symptoms are a result of the virus. However, vaccine side-effects are much trickier to judge. Some people who receive a vaccine will experience no side-effects, others will feel quite unwell for days afterwards, and others will be totally unsure whether the headache or fatigue they’re feeling is connected to the vaccine or is just coincidence.

This is no small challenge. Correlation does not mean causation and it’s incredibly complicated to separate medical events caused by a vaccine with medical events that would have occurred anyway. Most of the time researchers are relying on statistical studies to try to understand whether an illness is increasing in frequency in line with vaccine take-up (suggesting it is a legitimate side-effect) or whether it’s remaining mostly static (suggesting that it’s coincidence).

This is complicated further because, like virus symptoms, vaccine side-effect reporting is spontaneous and relies on people taking the time to visit a website or download an app.

And finally, you have the nocebo effect, in which people experience side-effects to the vaccine, merely because they’ve been told that they might.

How Exorde Can Help…

Although many people don’t have the time or patience to record suspected vaccine side-effects to the authorities, they have far less resistance to dropping a post on social media. During April 2020, Twitter reported that a COVID-19 tweet was made every 45 milliseconds (that’s just over 22 tweets per second).

If Exorde soaks up this mass of data during future pandemics, researchers will have amazing insights available to them. They should be able to compare feedback in different regions, correlate this with the vaccines used in this area, and start to get an understanding of how different vaccines are affecting different people.

Additionally, there are an infinite number of deeper studies that could be performed by adjusting the content that the Exorde protocol is seeking. For example, it would be fascinating to look into what percentage of social media posts about vaccine side-effects are people complaining about effects they are personally experiencing, and what percentage are people merely repeating stories they’ve “heard”.

4. Understanding vaccine objections so they can be addressed directly

Vaccines have a medical history that can be traced back to the 18th century. They’ve been monumental in severely reducing the spread or even eliminating diseases such as rabies, typhoid, cholera, TB, measles, polio… and the list goes on.

However, even though COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be effective in reducing the spread and the severity of the virus, the uptake of the vaccine in many countries is too low to completely halt the spread.

The core reason for vaccine skepticism is the proliferation of myths about the side-effects of the vaccine, as well as conspiracy theories implying that governments or private companies are using the vaccines to carry out a nefarious agenda.

However, researchers have discovered that people’s reluctance to obtain the vaccine is the result of a wide variety of factors, not all of which can be blamed on conspiracy theories. In some cases, vaccine anxiety is related to a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the virus or how effective the vaccine is. In some instances, the rejection can be put down to a simple fear of needles.

How Exorde Can Help…

Exorde could be tasked with locating social posts and comments relating to vaccine rejection and categorizing the reasons why individuals are making their choice. In this way, it could be shown which objections and anxieties are most common, allowing the authorities to make informed decisions about what information needs to be shared to have the best chance of changing peoples’ minds.

Exorde could also show how objections differ in various parts of the world so that authorities can adjust the approach accordingly.

Nothing in this article is meant to denigrate the amazing work that the medical and science community are doing regarding the pandemic and the accompanying vaccine. However, we believe that Exorde is going to create an opportunity for these people and the organizations they work for to access much greater, and therefore potentially much more accurate, data pools.

And this, of course, is just one example of how Exorde could be used by researchers to investigate cultural and social trends. The results of which, we sincerely hope, can be used to improve people’s lives.

If you have questions about the Exorde protocol, please feel free to contact us or visit our Discord: https://discord.gg/AgRdQaMz5d

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