Vaccinating Humanity – a dose of optimism at the time of gloom and doom
3 September 2020
Tony Czarnecki, Managing Partner, Sustensis
Each of us has some sort of vision of at least the near future, say a decade from now. I go a bit further and my vision horizon extends over at least three decades. Some people call it a scenario planning, where you visualize what life may look like, say in 2050, based on a number of most probable developments in various spheres of life. You then need to go back to where you are now, and suddenly you can see much more clearly what is obviously wrong (or right) with the world around you and what actions should be taken now to achieve the best possible outcome in the future.
In my second book “Democracy for a Human Federation”, I call this decade 2020-2030 – the age of Immature Superintelligence. This is going to be, in my view, the most dangerous period in the history of humankind for various reasons. The prime one is the danger posed by some of the top ten existential risks (risk that would wipe out all humans), such as AI or natural and artificial pandemic. Some events may not be existential as such, but when combined with severe draught, massive migration, severe economic and political events, then we may face an existential threat. So, that is the bad news we have to deal with.
The good news is that if we survive relatively unscathed the next 10 years, then everything will start changing very rapidly towards, what I call, the world of unimaginable abundance in every domain of life. You will find plenty of arguments supporting this view on this website. However, the question is how do we survive this terrible decade. Here again, should you be interested, you will find a kind of a Roadmap on this website proposing some steps to minimize the catastrophic risks facing Humanity.
In a nutshell, to minimize such a risk materializing, what we would paradoxically need, is to have several quite severe global but not existential crises. That’s why I consider we have been very lucky because just now we have the first such an event – the Covid-19 pandemic. We needed something like that at least a decade ago, after the financial crisis, which really has not changed anything in how the politics, economy and the financial world work.
Why are we lucky? Because in relative terms this virus is really benign. Imagine if it had been a new strand of Ebola-type virus spread by air, (in 2014 the mortality rate was 50%). Direct effects of this virus are comparable to an ordinary flu (about 20,000 deaths in the UK every year). The virus will be extinct quite likely by the summer for three reasons.
- In China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia it is almost over, lasting about three months
- As of 19 March 2020, there are at least 20 different types of prototype vaccines against Coronavirus, some of them at the final clinical stage with 1,000 people being tested in the USA
- More importantly, there are at least 3 or 4 treatments (every day the number is growing) using currently available anti-viral drugs, which could be dispensed to a wider public within a month at the latest. The most advanced is Favipiravir (known as Avigan) manufactured by Fuji and tested in China and Japan on hundreds of people with positive results and minor side effects, if any.
However, indirect effects are going to be really severe and long-lasting. And that is bad news indeed. I am thinking about an average Joe Bloggs and his family. The system, by which I mean the politics and economics combined, is totally unprepared for such a sudden collapse. The problem is that the politicians always think about their own future first and only then about the nation. The more populist a politician is, the more important for him is the self-preservation (e.g. Trump). Therefore, the governments will exaggerate the expected number of deaths because it is a near certainty the actual number will be much lower. Then, after the event, politicians like Boris Johnson will be able to claim: look, our great NHS service, with the full support of this government (have you heard ‘whatever it takes’?) faced that incredible challenge and got us all relatively unscathed onto a safer shore.
But I hope this, and most other governments around the world, will be under immense pressure to make some fundamental changes in how we are governed and how capitalism works. There is no doubt that there will be millions of unemployed after the virus pandemic has passed. The world will no longer look as before. Many governments, like the proverbial king, will be naked – the fake news will be revealed as such to most people.
It may be too early to look into a crystal ball, because the image is too blurred. However, here are some quite plausible consequences of the current crisis:
- The so-called Technological Unemployment due to large scale robotization will come perhaps 2-3 years earlier, than experts had thought. With millions of people becoming unemployed in the next few years (which will paradoxically also help the business owners to recover some of their losses – that’s how capitalism works!) we may expect severe tensions between the governing and the governed. This may enforce some profound political changes. Populism may be in retreat for a while but it will be a small compensation for those in need.
- The sectors most impacted will be the government services, retail, travel, banking, white collar workers in general and education. For example, universities and schools may introduce on a big scale, a system of working from home. Students and pupils may visit a university or a school once a week (1/5 of the school children/students), suddenly enabling much smaller classes, smaller schools and perhaps even fewer of them. Probably the majority of employees in the banking, financial and legal profession will work from home. Who will then need those skyscrapers in the City, which are still being built! A typical Ponzi scheme, where those investors at the top will get their money back, but the future pensioners, as investors, will lose a lot
- On the plus side, we can expect a lot of ‘cuddling’ amongst the Europeans, with further EU integration made easier. That will also impact Brexit and it is very likely now that the negotiations with the EU will be extended till the end of next year. And that will open an entirely new game.
What should then the governments do AC (After Coronavirus) apart from better preparation for the next pandemic? Here are some suggestions:
- Introduce Universal Basic Income (proposed in the UK Parliament by the Scots on 18th March, but of course not acted on by the UK government). An amount of £6,000 for all adults, £11,000 for all pensioners and £3,000 for all children, taxable and p.a., would immediately reduce the anxiety of millions of people and would cost no more extra than about 3% of the budget, replacing most benefits and tax allowances
- Introduce a wide-scale job sharing to soften the impact of unemployment
- Form a government of the National Unity, where there is no coalition, like in most EU countries
- Tax all businesses at source, i.e. where they create products or services, i.e. Starbucks, Google, Amazon, Microsoft (G7 and G20 agreement needed – would cover over 90% of the world’s trade)
- Close all tax heavens, again G7 and G20 agreement needed, it has been proposed but not acted on
- Introduce the ‘Tobin’ tax, i.e. a tax on financial transactions, especially in micro-second share dealing (proposed originally by the EU but not introduced yet. This alone would offset a lot of governments’ future debt
- Make a deep reform of democracy, so that the lies of the populists such as Trump’s or Johnson’s (e.g. how well the UK NHS is prepared for fighting such a disease as Coronavirus) will not put nations into such a mess, in which we are right now.
Therefore, relax and treat the current experience as a shot in the arm – a Vaccination of Humanity.