One of the core motivations for our work at Mechanomy is the belief that many of today’s systems are too complex. While complexity is inherent in every system, a significant portion is incidental to the core problem, added to the system by inefficient business, development, and production processes.
And it is this incidental complexity that the ongoing COVID2019 pandemic is particularly revealing: anecdotes abound of situations that, while defensible in normal times, appear unwise under today’s more trying circumstances.
Take, for instance, CDC’s notice that some ‘expired’ N95 masks remain usable. While only the manufacturer and the CDC know what actually limits the usability of a mask, it is likely not the critical element of the filter, but rather that the rubber gasket becomes less soft with age and seals less effectively. Sealing is a critical aspect of a mask, but it is one that might be remedied by tightening the face straps, etc.
When we look at the requirement to wear masks, then, we see that the requirement’s sensitivity is not expressed, modeled, or known (publicly). We don’t appear to know how the masks’ effectiveness degrades with time: I would expect that, when new, a N95 mask (95% of particles are filtered out) actually filters, say, 98.5% of particles and that the 95% is only reached at the designated expiration date (the design life of the mask). That’s a slow degradation curve, 3.5% reduction over, say, 3 years; if the alternative is no mask at all, that expired mask is still useful. Continue reading “Rethinking Disposables”