Information Pandemic

Section from mega-trends map

It’s interesting to me to see how the media, and hence the public, are responding to Coronavirus (I think that’s the correct way around, but it’s hard to say who’s leading who sometimes). The risk of death is remote (a mortality rate of between 0.7% and 3.0% currently depending on circumstances and location), which is almost nothing. Ebola had a mortality rate of 60%, SARS 10%. The numbers 0.7-3.0 are still significant if applied across a while population, but the response of the media, and hence governments and people, generally seems over the top.

I think that perhaps the reason for this might be the current narrative, which is doomsday apocalyse (think of climate change and species extinction in particular). It’s also got something to do with how we think about the future generally, which is logical but hugely unhelpful (we simply extrapolate from current data or conditions in a linear manner) and perhaps the fact that people are generally dreadful at working out real probabilities or understanding the impact of feedback loops, counter-trends or unexpected events.

And, of course, connectivity is fuelling everything. It’s spreading the virus, but it’s also spreading panic about the virus. News is travelling to fast to be properly analysed, fact checked or placed in proper context.

Anyway, as they say, my particular interest at the moment is how the current panic about Coronovirus might work with other anxities to create some kind of super-anxiety or mental collapse (shades of Future Shock – see After Shock). I eluded to this somewhat when I created my risk radar and spoke of unseen combinations of events and put Global pandemic alongside Loss of antibiotic efficacy, Mental health epidemic and Global financial system collapse. The thought was repeated on the list of global gamechagers on my map of mega-trends.

Section from risk radar

So what to do? I think the Stoics have it nailed. Worry about or do something about what you can influence, or control, and don’t worry or try to control about what you can’t. In the words of Seneca, “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs on tomorrow and loses today.” Or, as he also put it, “You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours.” It will be what it will be.

An age of anxiety

The Shock of the Few

I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand it’s just clickbait, a way to get dumb people to visit Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website and part with crazy amounts of money for utter rubbish (shades of Reggie Perrin’s Grot shop). On the other hand, it’s perhaps representative of the strange times in which we live, times in which people feel they can say, do or be anything, but become incandescent with rage if someone else says, does, or is something they don’t like. Times in which there are increasingly no rules and boundaries, and simultaneously dozens of new ones every day.

Just out of interest, would the reaction be the same if Jeremy Clarkson brought out a car air freshener called, I don’t know, something like This Smells Like My ……

Hedonistic sustainability

I’m not sure this is a trend as such, but the concept is certainly interesting. On top of the Copenhill power plant in Copenhagen the architect has placed a dry ski-slope. Why? Why not? The architect uses the term “hedonistic sustainability”.

Time to Think

I’ve started buying old watches, notably old diver’s watches from the 1960s and 1970s.

They are generally cheap as chips, unless you pick a big brand. The one in the picture is a fairly obscure Sicura from the 1960s (probably). It’s rather worn, which is why I like it.

It cost me £110, so if it gets lost I wouldn’t lose sleep over it, although the more I wear it the more attached to it I become. If only I knew it’s history. Who wore it and where?

One of the best bits about the watch is it isn’t that great at telling the time. This one gains about 40-minutes a day, unless I wear it to bed, in which case the loss drops to 10-minutes depending upon how much I toss and turn in bed (it’s self-winding). The point is I always know roughly what time it is, and if it’s absolutely essential that I do something bang on time I can always look at the clock on my phone.

Anyway, I think there is something loosely liberating about not knowing the exact time.

What’s this got to do with the future? Nothing, except that if pushed I suppose one might start to ponder the nature of time and the relationship of past, present and future. And when is ‘future’ exactly? I was speaking with a friend and sci-fi writer Lavie Tidhar a while back and his working definition of ‘future’ was when things got weird. But that’s now surely? My own ‘future’ tends to be 10-15 years out, but personally I’m more focussed on the present these days. Anyway, the future was always a bit of an excuse to get people to engage more with the present.

As for clock watching, I think the purpose of clocks generally is to be prepared for future events. That’s possibly the worst load of mumbo jumbo I’ve ever muttered in a blog post.

How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

I should perhaps point out that this isn’t photoshop, it’s an actual fire globe in Austria. Can’t help but think that Sydney fireworks missed a trick. Perhaps they should have asked everyone around the harbour to simply turn they phone flash lights on instead and given the cost of the fireworks to the rural fire service.