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White swan event: Book on Covid chronicles a crisis foretold

NewsWhite swan event: Book on Covid chronicles a crisis foretold

We have arrived this far in the journey of humanity with many experiments, successes and failures. We have experimented with various political systems, economic ideologies, social contracts, governance structures and business models.

There have been many successes and some spectacular failures. Industry and globalization brought us growth and prosperity. Innovation and enterprise brought us medical advances and technological miracles. Welfare and education raised hundreds of millions from painful penury.

The spectacular failures are the destruction of the earth we inhabit. The terrible loss of biodiversity. Pollution of basic elements water and air that allow us to live. Rising inequality driven by thoughtless pursuit of profits.

Somehow many had begun to believe that humans are invincible. Not just superior to other species but invincible.

A modern-day pandemic was beyond our comprehension. Sure, there were warnings about a pandemic but so were alerts about a large meteor destroying earth. None of us ever imagined that we will spend the better part of 2020 holed up in our homes; living a lockdown; and wearing masks more keenly than slipping on shoes.

It took just six months of Covid-19 for the world to realise that humanity is vulnerable. It took six months of a pandemic for us to realise the worth of our lives. It took six months of an infectious illness for society to realise that our world is deeply fractured. Now the prospect of a continuing health crisis and perhaps waves of more is triggering questions which we never thought were important.

Covid-19: The Great Reset captures several questions while guiding us to the answers. The Great Reset is not just the first book about the impact of a pandemic, it is a manual which will help us evaluate our life choices. The choices we made till now and the choices we will make from here on. The choices we made as individuals and those that we made as institutions.

Prof Klaus Schwab, Founder & Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum and Thierry Malleret, Managing Partner of Monthly Barometer have written a book that captures the great pause in human development. As has been painfully experienced by now, almost no person, industry or government has remained unaffected by Covid-19.

The world came to a juddering stop for a few weeks. Our conversations about high growth curves, emerging markets, new investments, technological leaps shut down completely. We are trying to revive now. Faltering in our resumptions. Shaking with anxiety and perplexed with uncertainties.

The question that Schwab and Malleret ask is simple. What next? What path will we take now?

“One path will take us to a better world: more inclusive, more equitable, and more respectful of mother nature. The other will take us to a world that resembles the one we left behind—but worse and constantly dogged by nasty surprises.”

The book is itself an example of the changes that Covid-19 is driving. The book has been released in an electronic format and is available for free downloads. A self-described “hybrid between a light academic book and an essay,” The Great Reset is also a chronicle of a crisis foretold.

The signs were always there for a crisis, we neglected to read them. The pace at which we were destroying earth; creating economic inequalities; and technological divides meant that a crash was imminent.

There were warnings about a Covid like pandemic. We were too busy being global to realise the danger. This was not a Black Swan event which happens unannounced. It was a White Swan event which had been predicted by various institutions. We knew it would happen. We knew why it could happen. We knew how it would happen. We just didn’t know when it would happen. WEF and the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) had red flagged this.

In fact, CEPI had been founded in Davos in 2017 by Governments of India and Norway, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcom Trust and WEF.

The objective was “to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks”.

Structures to counter a pandemic were being created by those who knew a crisis was imminent. It was a matter of time. But the pandemic began before we could strengthen our defences.

While preparations for the crisis began before Covid-19, but prevention did not. Prevention required behavioral changes. It required governments and peoples to change their life and styles. “This failure is not the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) fault. The UN agency is merely the symptom, not the cause, of global governance failure. The WHO’s deferential posture towards donor countries reflects its complete dependence on states agreeing to cooperate with it. The UN organization has no power to compel information sharing or enforce pandemic preparedness,” say Schwab and Malleret.

This brings us back to the key question. What have we learnt from the crisis? What path will we take now? A great reset is happening already. We see it in the way we work and live. When we emerge from Covid-19, will we plunge into another such crisis a few years hence?

The book is structured to help us appreciate the path ahead. In the first part Schwab and Malleret offer well thought out assessment of the five macros of our lives: economic, societal, geopolitical, environmental and technological. Interdependence, velocity (of change) and complexity. In the second part, The Great Reset analyses the impact on micro issues around companies and industries. The third part is about us as individuals, as humans.

“The corona crisis may compel us to act faster by replacing failed ideas, institutions, processes and rules with new ones better suited to current and future needs. This is the essence of the Great Reset,” Schwab and Malleret say.

The world needs a renewed moral compass to reset. The authors help us identify and find the components which will form the compass to guide us.

At the annual summit of WEF in Davos in January 202, Prof Schwab urged global leaders to act on the concept of stakeholder capitalism. A model of capitalism where industry focuses on social good and not just corporate good. Stakeholder capitalism will be an important component of the moral compass which will shape our actions during the great reset.

There would be little question now that we must move from economic globalization to social globalization. From chasing profits and reduced costs to chasing sustainability and reduced inequalities. This would be the great reset. This would be the course correction in the continuing journey of humanity.

Pranjal Sharma is author of the book “India Automated”


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