So we meet again, in the next S-Curve Post-COVID-19. Faster than we thought possible, right?
The year is 2050, and we are blooming in a new Renaissance. The pandemic back in 2020 took its toll—with lockdowns not only delivering a devastating economic impact but also a huge social impact that none could foresee. The virus mutated several times, and it is still around in various guises. But we have learned to live with it, and in its wake: social adoption and a deeper understanding of the interaction between the different systems that form the global ecosystem. In this new era of enlightenment and rethinking, we started to restore the planet and create a constructive civilization. At least for now.
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The history of pandemics pushing the S-Curves
The pattern and the S-Curve are the same as it was after the Black Death, which was followed by the Renaissance. Then unsustainable industrialization, urbanization, and transportation triggered outbreaks of cholera, which were eliminated through massive improvements to sanitation and access to clean water. We entered a new era of good health. Life expectancy in 1800 was twenty-nine years, which almost doubled in the following one hundred years. One hundred years after cholera, the Spanish Flu hit the world with devastating consequences. One world war later, we entered the most expansive period in human history, an era during which we increased production and consumption so much that we almost killed the planet. And then COVID-19 struck, a hundred years after the Spanish Flu, two hundred years after the cholera outbreak, and three hundred years after the last great wave of the plague, reminding us that we must start to live sustainably by taking care of nature’s balance and our finite resources.
What did we learn in on our S-Curve?
So what did we learn from the outbreak in 2020 and all the previous pandemics? We learned that pandemics are just one symptom of a broken planet and that global warming, rising sea levels, conflicts over rare earth metals (which are needed for our electronic devices), increased frequency of flooding, storms, and wildfires will result in protectionism and calls for strong leaders, even dictators. Or does it? Is this a parallel, imaginary universe that we are talking about here, like the one we learned about in the chapter about the quant physicist? If so, can we push the undo button we talked about earlier? Well, honestly, I do not know.
The Year 2050
I argue that by the 2050s, the beginning of the next global S-Curve, we will have found ways to recycle waste, get energy sustainably, feed carbon back into the earth, and restore the planet. We have regulated our use of outer space and banned colonialization and exploitation. We will have figured out how to live in harmony with nature. We avoid large crowds, keep our distance, and practice good hygiene. We don’t go to the World Cup, the Olympics, pop festivals, political rallies, or large celebrations. Manhattan was the first major metropolis to ban private cars and that in its wake saw efficiency gains in traffic and increased life quality. Green parks and outdoor cafés replaced the borough’s parking spots and collaborating on its new high-speed public transportation system swapped places for cussing by yourself in snail-speed, gridlocked streets. Technology has turned us into partners and collaborators that are thankful for what we have instead of haters constantly envious of what we don’t. We did not inherit the planet, and we will be regarded as exceptionally mindful people, albeit a bit tedious, by later generations in the upcoming major global S-Curves.
Collaborate. If we grow the pie instead of shrinking it, then we are all better off. When the pie is bigger, we can fight for it. But it does not make any sense to kill all our consumers and customers by destroying the planet.
Believe. The higher purpose, the raison d’être. That is what makes us survive and takes us from one S-Curve to the next. Shit will always happen, but you can plan for it.
Set and break down goals. There has, from time to time, especially in good times, been a historical pattern for us not to plan ahead. We don’t turn goals into actions because it is uncomfortable and hard. This is the first lesson in avoiding failing big. It is hard to be a human, but hiding away and getting hit by the blow later does not make it any better.
Do not fear failure, especially when everything is good, and life is fantastic. We avoid doing anything that might jeopardize what we have. But in reality, this is the biggest risk. There is nothing that stands still. Change is the only constant and recreating yesterday and believing that everyone else will do the same and that things will end up the same is naive. We are in a constant struggle, driven by our free will.
Accept uncertainty. To ask for a crystal ball is insane. There is no crystal ball, and this whole epilogue will be judged by people in 2050. However, there are good tools, as we learned in the book, for managing and planning for many possible futures and for showing us how to cope and act. Only a fool will ask for an answer when there is no answer, and this has been obvious in each of the cyclic pandemics that have hit our Mother Earth every hundred years or so.
See you in next S-Curve…in 2100. Maybe, time travel is now possible, so I am not sure when in time I wrote this (the present version or a future version of me). But I know one thing: bold people will use technology and innovation to survive, restore, and reimage the world as we see it; at least if we look to the historical patterns of S-curves.