When I searched my blog for mentions of pandemic, one mention came up in a post I wrote in 2014 on Four scenarios for 2030.
One of the scenarios from that exercise may be enormously relevant today.
I had been engaged by the executive leadership team of one of the world’s largest infrastructure companies, who wanted to explore the long-term future to shape their current thinking.
In the opening session I took them through four very high-level scenarios for the future to 2030, at the time 16 years into the future.
Using a basic scenario framework matrix, the two critical uncertainties selected were:
RESOURCES AVAILABILITY: Resource Poverty TO Resource Affluence
Availability and real cost of key resources including energy, food, water, and environmental stability.
COHESION: Cohesion TO Fragmentation
Cohesion of society, government, nations, and institutions.
Together these dimensions yielded the following scenarios.
What is of immediate relevance here is the scenario combining Resource Poverty with Cohesion.
In short, what happens when we pull together in the face of deep challenges, environmental and otherwise, and lack of basic resources needed for health and prosperity?
In building scenarios, one of the most important factors is building plausible and coherent narratives that describe HOW the scenario could come to pass.
It seemed very likely that in order to build the cohesion needed to confront crisis, we would need to have a deep shock to wake us up. This would never happen in normal times.
As such this scenario described powerful global shocks, including a pandemic, and was named ‘Humanity Maturing’:
SCENARIO: HUMANITY MATURING
• Climate becomes extreme and volatile
• Food and water shortages, famine and pandemics
• Global coordinated action on climate
• Trade liberalisation accelerates, EU extends
• Corporate activity driven by triple bottom line
• Social entrepreneurs invest $100 billion and seed a billion enterprises
• Cities become compact and resource efficient
• Rise of public/ shared transport
Of course no scenario comes to pass as described. Their primary value is to sensitize us to the potential paths that could unfold.
Certainly a shock such as the current pandemic will not necessarily lead to global cohesion and concerted responses.
However arguably a major shock has been needed to wake us up and bring us to necessary responses.
Before this year, it certainly wasn’t looking like we would ever get to the cohesion and action needed to respond to enormous challenges such as climate change and rising wealth inequality.
The pandemic will not necessarily lead to the cohesion and responses we desperately need today, and will no doubt need for years and decades to come.
But it could, making it a trigger for humanity to finally mature.
Let’s all work to make this a time of transition, a time of coming of age for the human race. It just might be that.