In 1995 I wrote a book about my expectations of a developing revolution: the internet. This article was written about it by a journalist, 21 years later. Many of the developments I anticipated became fact.
What was my secret?
I noticed that others were mainly focused on a single predictor when making anticipating the future, rather than a combination of factors that also influence each other.
Yesterday I saw the same mistake being made again by the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) presenting their expectations of social and economic developments resulting from the Corona crisis. We have a tendency to look at isolated factors rather than seeing the interactions between the factors.
It is a complete illusion to think that economic and social life would revert back to normal when the Netherlands reverses the measures taken the last couple of days.
Firstly, social behaviour will be different. Many will behave in a more reserved way when meeting others than they would have before the crisis. When can we feel safe again to go to a restaurant, the cinema, a busy shopping centre, the market or on holiday?
Secondly, many companies responsible for no small part of current employment will have disappeared. And even if the situation in the Netherlands would normalize again, this is no guarantee that the same is true for other nations. This will have grave consequences for exports and imports.
Thankfully the coffers of the Dutch state go deep enough to provide support for most of those who will get hit by the crisis. But, again, this a position of privilege compared to those of other countries.
All things considered, we should prepare for a social and economic earthquake of massive proportions. The consequences will be far more dire than we currently anticipate.
However, this instills less fear in me than another development reflected in history.
Up until now, most citizens understand the measures taken by their governments because they realize the importance of them for their own health and that of their loved ones. But at the same time, all around the world, these far-reaching measures are creating problems. People are losing their jobs. Some, already stricken by poverty, will face even more pressure than they were already facing. Economic inequality will sooner rise than fall.
It’s not hard to imagine that a previous fear of hunger or illness will be amplified by COVID-19. This could lead to people rising up in different ways. Such as protests, civil disobedience, looting etc.
The government will no doubt try to suppress these forms of protest which risks further escalation. These could lead to more than just local conflicts. This presents a genuine and severe risk.
Of course, I don’t hope this will happen. But I fear that, as the current situation persists, these risks will keep growing. International tension might rise to an uncomfortable level during this process.
If this happens, we truly have reached scenarios previously only restricted to movies. There usually is a hero or event that delivers a happy ending in these stories, but I’m afraid that this is the only part that will remain fictional.
All things considered, I must conclude that both the severe, early measures designed to contain the virus as well as premature measures taken to reduce the pain and start recovery may lead to severe negative consequences.
In this process, we can be sure that the necessary popular support and unity necessary for far-reaching measures will not always exist, further inflaming tensions.
I hope, not only our policymakers, but for ordinary citizens as well, that they can find strength and wisdom in these trying times.
In this blog I will keep sharing my thoughts and findings. I hope this will help sharpen the mind of others who are thinking about this and trying to find their responsibility.
Try following the links that I present. But make sure to also pay attention to the arguments and perspectives of those who disagree with me.
Last but not least: I once more urge our government to do more research into the relationship of high air humidity and the speed of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. An investment in this research might be one of the best the government could make right now.
And make sure to involve ordinary citizens in the deliberations concerning our exit strategy. Sooner or later, this will need to happen.
These 6 blogs form a coherent whole:
How great is the danger of the COVID-19 virus really?
The influence of humidity on the spread of the COVID-19 virus
What is happening in the (sub)tropical areas with the spread of COVID-19?
How do we respond to the positive effect of a higher specific humidity?
What if the diffusion rate of COVID-19 has dropped to -near-zero?
The enormous economic and social consequences of this pandemic (This blog)