«O wonder! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t!»(William Shakespeare, La tempesta, Act V, Scene I, v. 203–206)
We thought the outbreak was going to be a hiccup in the steady throb of life; we thought it’d be a missed beat that we would recover soon thereafter; we certainly did not think we were partaking in the End of the World.
Yet, that’s exactly what it was.
A tsunami, an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts (a cookie for those who recognize the citation) wreak havoc on a specific area killing people, devastating land, destroying buildings and economic activities; even Ebola, the poor stupid virus which kills its hosts so fast it cannot spread, is but a local calamity. The process of rebuilding houses and factories rests its legs on the untouched rest of the world and easily primes the restarting of the great engine.
But this will be different: imagine the 16th century plague or smallpox outbreaks with today’s speed of movement and population density; imagine their stealth version which infects way before and even without sickening.
This rebuild is going to be bigger than anything we have seen in the history of the world, way bigger than post-war reconstructions or any natural disaster recovery simply because nobody will escape: China and Asia were first, then Europe, then America and the rest of the World. If epidemiologists are correct, Africa may escape due to a virus-hostile climate.
The stock market has already priced the loss of over a third of the world’s economy value even though the U.S. are beginning only now to feel the pinch.
Those crying because their sector may be damaged beyond repair and lobbying governments for aid are not dissimilar to the passengers clambering to get at the top of the bridge when the whole ship is sinking.
For the first time in modern history, we’ll be rebooting our whole society, so the only intelligent question to ask is “How will Planet Earth 2.0 be different from the 1.0 version?”
Maybe it will be a younger world. the mortality curve steeply grows with age, so we can expect a significant portion of a generation to be wiped away. While the death toll is very unlikely to top the Holocaust, deaths will be far more concentrated in the 70+ age bracket, a concentration which is the flip side of what normally happens during a war, where the 20-40 yo generations pay the steepest human life price.
Maybe it will be a cleaner world. whether an association between particulate powders and virus diffusion is proved or not, the effect of the forced stop on air quality has been experienced already and it’s unlikely to go away when we emerge.
Maybe it will be a fairer world. perhaps this crisis has demonstrated the importance of universal public health systems, the importance of logistics and, before it will be over, the importance of not relying too much on technology. Maybe it will demonstrate that even the free-for-all social networks need policing, the importance of discipline, the trade-offs between profits, health and privacy.
Maybe it will be a more intelligent world. the demise of no-vax idiocy and perhaps also of the sovranist propaganda could spark a tendency to stop oversimplifying and favor an holistic vision of science rewarding those who dedicate their life to it. Populism fared very poorly in this crisis, flip-flopping on issues clearly proved they had no idea what to do. In the end, even flawed plans imperfectly executed proved to be better than no plan at all.
To be continued – Ce n’est qu’un début…..