The next ‘anything’? We’re not ready.
We were not ready for COVID-19. Will we be ready for our next test as a society?
“The problem wasn’t that there was a system that didn’t work well enough. The problem was that we didn’t have a system at all.”
We’ll probably read a similar statement in a post-analysis of the current coronavirus pandemic. Yet, it was said in a 2015 Ted Talk by Bill Gates, analyzing the ebola virus epidemic.
Bill Gates’ Ted Talk was titled “The next outbreak? We’re not ready”.
“We can build a very good response system”, Bill Gates continued, in 2015.
The problem, of course, is that we did not. We did not build a very good response system. It could wait tomorrow. It won’t happen today.
And that is the story of our modern society, isn’t it? Today. What’s good for me, now.
As long as we remain obsessed with short-term results, we will never be ready for what comes down the road.
“In politics the dominant time frame is a term of office, in fashion and culture it’s a season, for corporations it’s a quarter, on the internet it’s minutes, and on the financial markets mere milliseconds.” ~BBC article on the perils of sort-termism, January 9, 2019.
Corporate executives are rewarded on this quarter’s financial results. Elected government officials are anxious about the number of votes they’ll get at the next election. And people are concerned about how many likes they’ll get on Instagram today.
All of these rewards have a numeric value. They are visible.
To be ready for ‘the next anything’, we need to put a value on the future. We need to put an explicit value on health, social wellbeing, the environment, the quality of life, and so on — for us and future generations.
In the last few years, there’s been a timid trend toward taking ‘future generations’ into account in political decision-making processes. We need to accelerate this trend.
A lot of these ‘future generations’ discussions have been around the topic of sustainability.
“We treat the future like a distant colonial outpost devoid of people, where we can freely dump ecological degradation, technological risk, nuclear waste and public debt, and that we feel at liberty to plunder as we please.” ~BBC article on the need to reinvent democracy for the long-term, March 18, 2019.
But it goes beyond sustainability. As we see today, actions that were not taken in 2015 mean that we were not ready for this current coronavirus pandemic.
We must find a way to provide rewards on the long-term value of current activities. Until we do that, we will never be ready for the next anything.
It will require a re-thinking of our democracy and financial systems. Starting yesterday.