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The Empire of Uncertainty

The Empire of Uncertainty

Anyone claiming they can project the trajectory of the U.S. and global economy is deluding themselves.

Normalcy depends entirely on everyday life being predictable. To be predictable, life must be stable, which means that there is a high level of certainty in every aspect of life.

The world has entered an era of profound uncertainty, an uncertainty that will only increase as self-reinforcing feedbacks strengthen disrupting dynamics and perverse incentives drive unintended consequences.

It may be more accurate to say that we’ve entered the Empire of Uncertainty, an empire of ambiguous borders and treacherous topology.

A key driver of uncertainty is the Covid-19 virus, which is a slippery little beast. Nine months after its emergence on the world stage, discoveries are still being made about its fundamental nature.

Humans crave certainty, as ambiguity and uncertainty create unbearable anxiety. This desire to return to a predictable “normal” drives us to grasp onto whatever is being touted as a certainty: a cure, a vaccine, a fiscal policy to restore the “Old Normal” economy, etc.

But none of these proposed certainties is actually certain, and those touting these certainties are non-experts who latch onto an “expert” opinion that resolves their need for certainty and predictability.

What we want, of course, is a return to old certainties that we’re familiar with. In the context of pandemic, the model most people are working from is a conventional flu pandemic: a certain number of people get the virus and become ill, a certain number of then die, and those who survive resume their old life.

But there is mounting evidence that Covid-19 doesn’t follow this neat pattern of “the dead are gone and everyone else picks up where they left off.” Counting the dead as the key statistic completely ignores the long-term consequences of Covid-19 that include permanent organ damage.

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