The world you know and love is no more, even if it isn’t obvious to every one of you just yet. We will look back at this moment in time, the months we are currently living through, the weeks that will mark the line between the pre-virus and the post-virus world. One thing is clear: we are past the inflection point.
“There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” — Vladimir Lenin*
As the events around the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, the fragility of our global systems becomes painfully obvious. This health crisis is triggering a financial one, and if we don’t get our act together, things will go from bad to worse.
The Legacy System is Crumbling
Both our money and our financial system has fundamental issues. Ruled from the top down by unelected decision-makers, these structures are not equipped to handle complex problems. Even worse, trying to fix a complex system by heavily interfering with natural processes will turn an annoying mosquito problem into a deadly snake problem (with some frogs in-between).
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.” — Albert Einstein
Centralization is efficient until it isn’t. I’m afraid that most of us are going to learn this lesson the hard way: one by one, central points of failure will crumble under the pressure of current world events, and all we can do is watch our fragile legacy systems collapse (or turn into Orwellian nightmares).
I’m not suggesting that all “old” systems are obsolete — they aren’t. I’m suggesting that we are transitioning to a post-virus world, and it will be impossible to understand what is going on — and how problems might be solved — if you aren’t equipped to understand and use the tools of this new era.
A New Type of Thinking
The tools of the post-virus world need to be transparent, open, and freedom-enabling. Gatekeepers, censors, and arbitrary restrictions won’t help us to solve the problems we are facing — they will only make things worse. Information wants to be free, and we will need all the information out in the open to fight the battles yet to come.
I can’t tell you what kind of tools will emerge. Instead, let me list some things that are both of the utmost importance and difficult to understand/accept if you come from the legacy world:
- the internet
- social media
- citizen journalism
- memes and misinformation
- open-source and free (libre) software
Others aren’t as hard to understand, but equally important: encryption, open hardware, biohacking, DIY biology, 3d printing, and other forms of distributed manufacturing.
These tools and the new type of thinking that comes along with them will lead to different structures, a different way of doing things, different outcomes. It might seem strange and inefficient at times, and that’s okay. The important part is that we move away from fragile systems and central points of failure, building robust, and even anti-fragile systems for generations to come.
Fragile, Robust, and Anti-Fragile Systems
The world is a scary, complicated, and chaotic place. Our interconnectedness and interdependence have drastic and unforeseen consequences, as the current pandemic shows so clearly.
“Someone ate a bat in China and now you don’t get to retire. Funny how the world works.” — Jeremy Ross
Many systems got centralized over time, moving from robustness to fragility: the global financial system, various supply chains, large parts of our media apparatus, and even the money we use daily.
Complex, large-scale problems require organic, bottom-up, emergent solutions. We, as a society, need to make sure that robust solutions can emerge, which implies that we need to protect personal liberties and encourage personal responsibility more than ever.
It would be great if a benevolent ruler could step in and solve all our problems. Unfortunately, every benevolent ruler transforms into a totalitarian dictator given enough time. And I hope we can all agree that we don’t need any more of those.
I would love to end on an optimistic note, but the future ahead will be dark and bumpy, especially if the legacy world is all you know.