Globalization and Pandemics

Saint Michael Fighting the Dragon, from The Apocalypse, Albrecht Dürer, 1498

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” –Paul Romer

In the book, The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History Of The Twenty-First Century, starting on page 544, the author, Friedman, discusses his thoughts on a 1919 flu-like situation if it were to happen in the future’s (really today’s) flattened world.  He calls it an “old-style pandemic in a flat world.”  Friedman makes a few key points which we are seeing with the COVID-19 pandemic:

The flat world would enable the virus to spread faster and wider thus infecting and killing more people.  The flat world would make the economic devastation so much greater and deeper especially as people would put up walls to globalization.  Supply chains would be weakened.  The inventories and stockpiles needed wouldn’t necessarily exist as Just-In-Time management would be a widespread practice.

However, the flat world and its ability to connect and collaborate in real time has contributed to the development of vaccines and the locating of PPE (personal protective equipment).  We are also able to see data in real time and listen to the experts and professionals to make quick and decisive decisions.  People are using connectivity to care for each other and create systems of support.  We are using the internet to get items delivered thus reducing the number of people that are out and about.  People who are quarantined can speak with each other and see faces, and many can work remotely.  This shows us the importance of digital infrastructure, net neutrality, and creating access for all.  And, we now can plainly see our everyday heroes that keep our society together. 

Yes, the devastation to life and the economy was been absolutely horrific; however, there has been a lot of good going around.  We will be able to recover and hopefully learn from this.  We will be able to see what other countries and states have done and what worked and did not; there is so much knowledge to be gained!  We can see the flaws in our systems and work to improve them.  Don’t let people to have died in vain.  Don’t let people to have lost their livelihoods in vain.  Honor them by rebuilding in a better way.  Remember that a crisis really is a terrible thing to waste.

Let me know your thoughts; please comment below!

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