English,  Gânduri

Corona Thoughts 2

March 23, 2020. After some time, we will be able to say when this post was written, relative to the duration of the corona virus. Now, only assumptions. We see lots of models, lots of experts estimate bell curves and statistical predictions. I can’t help wondering about Taleb’s black swan. This is a typical example in support of his perspectives. And the fundamental logic he shares, the core rationale he conveys, gravitates around his rejection of the statistical models based on time series. Humans, as scientific community, as homo sapiens, may be facing a logical contradiction: if this is a black swan, an out of ordinary, accidental and disruptive event, should we use the “classical” statistical modeling which is based on hypotheses of stability? I dare to say it is hard to conclude. I think we should continue to
build scenarios, because they help our faster reaction, as society and decisional units, it helps allocation of resources. Just be permissive and flexible with experts and predictions, as models may need regular adjustments, while things evolve.

Before it ends, because I do believe (and hope!) it will, I started to think about potential outcomes of this major challenge humanity is facing. How will the world look like afterwards? Many people ask themselves this question. Some say it will change dramatically. Others consider people will just resume their usual lives and it will all be back to “normal”. I think it will surely depend on the magnitude of this pandemic, on the social and economic impact it generates. Will it cease this spring or will we fight it all this year? Will it go away or does it find a way to survive and keep its pressure on humans? Will we find a cure or will we have another deadly enemy we can’t knock out?

I split my viewpoint in three categories: a broad perspective, regarding humanity as species; a mid layer, with focus mainly on business and economies; a basic layer, zooming-in on individuals, families and friends.

1.Reposition humanity in the ecosystem

We are billions, across the world. We are the dominant species, on our meant way to become Homo Deus, as Harari has worded it. We are undistructible, powerful, omnipotent. We have experts in all fields, driving growth and prosperity.

Still, there are thinkers telling us we are not so rationale. We have thinkers telling us about the knowledge illusion we live (see Sloan & Fernbach, 2017). We are told even in early school years that, today, it is impossible for humans to be academic personalities like Galileo, Da Vinci, etc. This is not because our brains are not performant, but because the volume of information in all areas of our lives has increased exponentially. In this context, knowledge and proficiency might not reside in the individual, but in the group synergies. In the way people and the tools we build work together for shared goals.

In this world, the World sends us a sign. Like a small test. Like a wake-up call, to wash our eyes with cold water and get a better view on our actual position against nature. Because Mother Nature has just sent us a very small sign. I don’t want to minimize the impact of covid-19, but it does not seem to be the ultimate weapon so far. Mortality rates are still relatively low, it impacts predominantly the weaker individuals and is just a slight variation around an existing virus, as doctors say. We don’t face major earthquakes, we don’t face meteorites striking the Earth, we don’t see simultaneous volcanic disasters. The world is not freezing, sending us back to glaciar era, nor is it warming up considerably (I don’t refer to the current global warming, just imagine a major event for us – absolutely insignificant for a planet in this Univers – to have the temperature increased by, say, just 100 degrees…). No, we luckily don’t face such events. We only face a “bug” that the rest of the living don’t even mind. Our pets, the birds, the worms, the rats, the fish, the trees and the flowers don’t even care for this virus. It is not at all a threat to the planet, while we, as humans, are in great global dispair. I hope once this is over, we will gain a more decent self image in this system we share with the living world. We should feel more like a part of it, not its ultimate leaders. We may feel more humble, show higher respect to Mother Nature and to our planet. Feel we are distructible. Enjoy what we have, preserve, work together towards a better balance. It sounds a bit utopian, I know, but there could be steps taken in this direction.


2.Rethink businesses

Grow, grow, grow. Increase objectives, higher revenues, higher shares. More money, more products, higher sales. More and more…

Well, as we are seriously shaken by a relatively minor event, look how things that were unimaginable, could actually happen. In a snapshot! In 2-3 weeks time, economies around the world turn off their engines. Will we survive, as economic systems, after this? As I said, it might depend on the magnitude, on the duration. It is possible that some businesses go out, that some categories reshape their flows, that some consumption patterns change (in B2C and B2B environments). Some may review the supply chains, their production capacities, their yearly objectives. Maybe more focus on what matters, on products and services we really need, on more flexible structures. 

This context we live these days gives a greenlight to thoughts that might have seemed out of wonder just weeks ago. Don’t we produce too much, at least in developed markets? How much do we actually consume and how much becomes waste? Do we need everything we consume, or are we more subjects of imaginary competitions, of who gets more, who has more, who owns more? What are the ultimate goals of businesses: to make as much money as possible or balance revenues and profits with life oriented purposes? Maybe this virus is not such a milestone as to fundamentaly change the current system, but it could be another strong hit at its base. I know we feel this economic system we have today is stable and it seems immuable, it looks the best, etc. I wonder if the ancient peoples did not feel exactly the same about theirs. Or the leaders of middle ages, or the politicians and industrialists of the 17th century, or even the recent communists of the 20th century…The corporations and businesses in general of the next decades or centuries may look and behave differently. When the big change comes, when we face the turning point, I don’t know. But, looking back in time, if we manage to resist on this planet, I would expect major system changes will continue to happen. It’s not a questions “if?”, it is “when?” and “how?”. 

3.Reorder our priorities

We, as individuals and small groups, may learn or (re)discover different facets of life. We are forced to stop, push the “pause” button, to a set of routines. We don’t go to work as we used to. It seemed the end of the Universe if one day we could not go and, now, we are asked, in several instances, to stay home for weeks. Will humanity survive? Let’s wait and see. So long, the Internet & the telecommunication systems we have built resist and keep us connected, irrespective the actual distances.

We may discover that our roles are not as life-death critical, that we could live at a different pace.  I am not talking about all sectors and businesses. For sure, there are critical areas where even one hour off means great damage to the whole system. But do we all work in such environments? One day, a friend told me that he sees traveling alone as a sign of self-confidence. It is about people who are comfortable with themselves, with their thoughts, with their inner selves. I guess this context challenges us to meet with our inner persons again. We are forced to look more around us, inside us, to spend more time with our close ones, to think if we have or if we need close ones. It’s a good opportunity (maybe opportunity is not the best term in such bad times, but we know that most major deadly wars came out with leaps in different areas of our lives) to rediscover ourselves. To think who we are, why we are here, who we care for and who cares for us. To rediscover spending time with ourselves, to dust off some passions, to focus on some things we love doing but never find the time to pursue. Maybe we spot some rays of light during these gloomy days we live. Maybe these mental state would also help us pass through this pandemic. Many argued about the profile of this century, being technologically or spiritually driven. Could we combine these two dimensions and live with the benefits of both?