A systems analysis uncovering the light at the end of the tunnel
Five years ago, the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future, an independent panel of distinguished scientists, issued a landmark report warning that over the next century, the world would inevitably experience at least one pandemic. The report identified a 20 percent chance that the world would go through as many as four or more pandemics in this time-frame.
Shortly after, I advised Ubisoft on the authenticity of its pandemic-based video-game The Division. The game is set in a post-collapse New York, where a fictional virus, Variola Chimera, spreads rapidly across the city. At the time I was a visiting research fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, developing a new scientific framework to understand the dynamics of social collapse. Ubisoft asked me to assess, as an independent expert on social crisis, how realistic their scenario was.
Given the extraordinary assumptions of The Division scenario — the fictional virus was a weaponized version of smallpox created by terrorists with a faster seven-day incubation time and a 90 percent mortality rate — the ultra-rapid collapse process it envisaged across multiple critical systems was plausible. But only given those fictional assumptions.
So it’s important to remember that the coronavirus is nowhere near as deadly as this fictional virus, and will have nothing like that impact.
Across the corners of the internet, you may find speculation about how the coronavirus will lead to an apocalyptic breakdown of civilization. On the opposite end, you will hear assurances that everything’s pretty much going to be fine except for, perhaps, an economic downturn and disruption to our normal routines. While it’s important to be aware of the range of possibilities, it’s also important to recognize that we are still very far from major civilizational collapse, but not immune to more specific crises.
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