What has been made very clear by the chaos that the news of the rapidly spreading coronavirus has caused around the world, is that humanity is very poorly equipped to understand or contextualise the complexity and uncertainty that our modern world presents us with.
Even though the National Intelligence Council of the United States, along with numerous other think tanks, have been calling for more of an awareness and preparedness for a global pandemic - governments and healthcare systems appear ill-equipped to deal with the outbreak of the virus. Co-ordinated action is non-existent and - from an outsider's perspective at least - most governments and institutions appear totally dismayed that this outbreak is even possible.
Quoting from the 2017 NIC 'Paradox of Progress' report - and looking at the global trends that will affect the future of the world:
'Health. Human and animal health will increasingly be interconnected. Increasing global connectivity and changing environmental conditions will affect the geographic distribution of pathogens and their hosts, and, in turn, the emergence, transmission, and spread of many human and animal infectious diseases. Unaddressed deficiencies in national and global health systems for disease control will make infectious disease outbreaks more difficult to detect and manage, increasing the potential for epidemics to break out far beyond their points of origin.'
Technology has amplified our interconnectedness exponentially, but we are still blissfully still making sense of the world with simple, linear, reductionist thinking that leaves all of us painfully exposed when the realities of our interconnectedness suddenly reveal themselves to us, like a spectre stepping out of the shadows - taking our collective breath away.
The world that almost everyone 'sees' is a dangerously limited and constricted version of what is really going on. We used to call subscribing to just one type of news source 'burying your head in an echo-chamber'
The problem is that we have become far too comfortable with the simple way in which we see the world - and reality is starting to shows that this laziness and the complex systems that we insist on creating do not mix well.
‘We do not simply perceive the world that we see, we see the world that we perceive’ - Jay Forrester
So what can we do to expand our minds to be more aware and understanding of the interconnected, uncertain, ambiguous world that we live in?
Systems thinking, complexity theory, chaos theory - are all methods of thinking that encourage us to think holistically about the world, to understand how systems might be connected to one another and to get a better grip of the relationships that exist between the elements of systems, rather then simply paying attention to the analysis and optimisation of the elements themselves.
If one of the good things that comes about as a result of this pandemic is that people start to develop an urgent appetite to re-examine their methods of thinking - or to even develop the awareness that there are different thinking methodologies to choose from - then perhaps we will all be on a better footing to navigate the future from here on.