Writing – and Forgetting – the World’s Pandemic Playbook



What happens when the Federal government’s transition goes awry and a highly contagious, lethal pandemic arises? Michael Lewis unfurls that narrative in his latest book, The Premonition, A Pandemic Story. The author of Undoing ProjectMoneyball, The Big Short, and so many others explains how the United States was the best prepared nation in the world for a pandemic, yet allowed a variety of its institutions to fail.

Deploying the patented approach that makes all of his books so readable, Lewis tells the story through quirky and fascinating characters: Charity Dean, the head of Public Health for Santa Barbara (and later, California); Carter Mescher, the Bush Administration alum who created the pandemic response playbook; Joe DeRisi, the MacArthur Fellow who heads the CZ Biohub research lab.

How the government manages a portfolio of existential risks as it transitions from one administration to the next is detailed in his prior book, The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy. After completing that book, Lewis said awaited for some disaster to occur. Over the next three years, the Administration fortunately avoided major snafus, but in 2020, their — and our — luck ran out.

His books are here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation on iTunesSpotifyStitcherGoogleBloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

For more background on our interview, as well as his 60 Minutes appearance, see this.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Danny Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. His empirical findings with Amos Tversky challenge the assumption of human rationality prevailing in modern economic theory, and established a cognitive basis for common human errors. His book, Thinking, Fast and Slow was a best-seller; His latest book is just out Noise: A flaw in human judgment cowritten with Oliver Sibony and Cass Sunstein.


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