By Greg G Satell
At this point, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and cost trillions of dollars. We didn’t get here by accident. Our present situation is the result of choices that we made. We put our faith in technology, globalization and markets and each has failed us. We’ve become a global village, with all the petty animosities that village life can inspire, but a true global community has yet to emerge.
It’s time to ask ourselves some hard questions.
The period between 1920 and 1970 was undoubtedly the most successful in human history. Productivity and incomes increased like never before. After two horrific world wars, we built a peaceful global order. We learned to cure disease and feed the world.
Looking back at the past 50 years however, it’s hard to see how significant progress has been made (at least in so-called developed countries). Productivity growth has been sluggish. Incomes for most people have not grown. Climate change threatens the planet and the global order has fallen apart. Mental health has declined precipitously as depression and anxiety have risen to epidemic levels.
We need to see the pandemic in the context of our larger failures. If it wasn’t a COVID-19, it would have been something else—a computer virus, a terror attack, a climate event… something.
So I think the best way forward is to ask some basic questions:
How did we get here?
Why did we make the choices that got us here? (assuming those choices were made in good faith). What was the basis for making those choices?
What are the future crises we face? Where are the time bombs ticking?
What have we learned? What can form the basis for a better approach moving forward?
How can we build more resiliency into the system?
It is only by asking ourselves basic questions that we can start to build a consensus on a path forward.