The Postnormal Perfect Storm Part 3

Jordi Serra del Pino, Christopher Jones, & Liam Mayo

CPPFS

12 May, 2020
Micrograph of SARS-Cov-2 Virus
SARS-CoV-2 in all her glory!

The Covid Chronicles:

The Postnormal Perfect Storm - In Three Parts

Part 3: Scenarios for Covid-19

We analysed the postnormal characteristics and implications of Covid-19 crisis in the previous two parts of our exposition and devote Part 3 to an exploration of how the global Covid-19 pandemic might evolve in the future. We explore just some of its possible contours and a few critical secondary and tertiary impacts. But, to make sense of the conflicting and converging trends and emerging SARS-CoV-2 issues, is there an optimal or best-fit method or approach to put those trends in an alternative futures context? We argue, in alignment with the broader analysis of postnormal phenomenon, that it makes sense to apply the Three Tomorrows (3Ts) approach, originally conceived by Sardar and Sweeney.

The 3Ts is an approach rather than a specific method for building scenarios. They describe distinctly different tomorrows and, as such, effectively constitute a postnormal strategy: that is, they offer a framework in which different methods and techniques can be used to build scenarios within a postnormal perspective. And, by doing so, the 3Ts do something much more relevant; they allow for a more integrated or holistic application of futures. One assumption of futures studies is that there is not a singular future, but many possible alternative futures. A common approach to characterize possible futures is to generate scenarios or use imagined alternative futures. The beauty and elegance of this approach is that it is much more open-ended as a conceptual framework, while still accounting for the influence of postnormal phenomena on the unfolding of the present into the future. As a futures studies approach, the 3Ts can accommodate any number of more traditional or cutting-edge futures tools or scenario-building techniques. In other words, different methods can be used to build scenarios from within a postnormal framework and allow for a more integrated, holistic and synergistic application of futures tools during postnormal times.

Postnormal times theory implies that we have to commit ourselves both to upgrade our capacity to understand the rapidly unfolding and changing reality, and to improve our capacity to process and analyse this reality. We have to engage in intellectual ping pong: we have to grasp what is unfolding in the material world, and then assess the suitability of the cognitive processes we use to understand change in our world; we have to be mindful of our manufactured normalcy field as we already explained in Part 2. The 3Ts provide an effective way to incorporate different inputs and iteratively refine our futures analysis.

 

In Part 2, an unanswered question lingered: How will this crisis evolve? We will explore this by examining each tomorrow one by one. 

The First Tomorrow, Extended Present

The first tomorrow is the doorway to the initial analysis and anticipation of future possibilities. It begins in the present moment and extends a short distance into the future; it reflects our default mode in conceptualizing the future, based on our experience that informs how we perceive the future. In the 3Ts framework, it is called the Extended Present because it refers to anticipations or scenarios that we construct on the basis of past and present experience. The Extended Present is linear in nature and is solidly entangled in the current global crises and conjunctures. It may be understood as our mental projection of the present on to the future. It is the most widespread image of the future in foresight analysis, to the point that some call it the official future. It is a tomorrow based on empirical evidence and requires us to carefully and critically select the key variables as well as gather all relevant information. We need to learn as much as we can from past developments  to be able to grasp how they may evolve in the future.

Here is an example of a scenario built to fit the Extended Present of Covid-19

New Old Normal

The world is trapped in a short-term feedback loop. It appears that humanity has lost the capacity to engage in long-term visioning or planning. At best, our anticipatory abilities seem to extend only 5 minutes into the future. The dominant strategy of the post-Covid-19 world could be described as “focus on today’s problems and let tomorrow take care of itself.” This rather short-sighted approach may get people bread today but will leave them hungry tomorrow.

This should come as no surprise. The signs were there, even before the Covid-19 crisis, that many of the underlying assumptions of the international market system/liberal democracies were flawed or ill-suited to the post-industrial era. The pandemic simply created the opportunity for capitalist mythology to dominate the social and political narrative and resist reform or restructure. The growth and jobs paradigm rooted even deeper into our being in (ontology) and ways of knowing (epistemology) about the world. Although the official global priority was to deal with the public health crisis, it soon became clear that the real priority was to get the economy going; to get back to business as soon as possible. The trend was led by governments that were more dependent on (or connected to) economic power - particularly fossil fuels and natural resource extraction. The pressure to reopen business was enormous and some countries opened prematurely, only to experience a second wave of hospitalizations after social distancing was relaxed. At that time, we knew too little about the mutation, nature, and behaviour of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Early Covid-19 testing was not 100% accurate, and some people did not appear to gain immunity after recovering from the illness.  All-in-all, it remained difficult to know for sure how many infected people there are given the number of asymptomatic infections. One of the clear contradictions of global capitalism was the troubling fact that Covid-19 test kits, produced by major biotech and pharmaceutical companies, remained beyond an accessible price point for most governments. Even more problematic for the long-haul was the lack of affordable antibody tests and support for contact tracing. Thus, the ability to regularly and effectively test citizens has remained beyond the capacity of governments in much of the developing world. Similarly, even though there was eventual success developing better antiviral treatments and a vaccine, only the top 10-20% of the world’s population benefited from the breakthroughs. Costs, corruption, and fake news/misinformation prevented universal access to the vaccine. We have had to learn to live with Covid-19 (or as we call it now the “global flu”) and a patchwork of restrictive and open strategies (Sweden was the first country to close borders, and attempt to establish domestic “herd immunity”) continue as the bug exhibits seasonal and cluster infection eruptions sporadically.

Covid-19 Is Coming! T Shirt
The Covid-19 top selling T-shirt ©JSerra

Life has become a series of peaks and troughs. There are times when people are able to move freely in their community, across the globe when and where borders are open, and there are long periods of forced social isolation. It is ironic that the top selling T-shirt displays the motto “Covid-19 is coming”. Normal as a concept has lost any currency, because there is no normal old or new that provides any solace.

However, a second trend that is far more troublesome: the rise of authoritarianism. Again, this is a trend that started well before the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been no shortage of indicators: the growth of fascist or far-right parties in many countries; the erosion of civil rights almost everywhere; the increasing challenges to representative, liberal democracy and human rights campaigns; and, the rampant hypocrisy and fundamental corruption of governments all over the world. Fears of immigration, job loss, and cultural diffusion were exacerbated by lockdown and economic contraction and created fertile ground for demagogues and ultra-right-wing populists to push fear-mongering narratives that encouraged the acceptance of seductive, simple reactionary solutions. Escalating uncertainty became an accelerant to stoke the fire of extremism that burned explosively. People were scared and were eager to give up privacy, freedom of movement, and civil rights in order to ease their uncertainty. Who wouldn’t make those sacrifices when people’s very lives were at stake? Deep public distrust in virtually all social and political institutions became fertile ground for the rise of strongman leaders whom people turned to during this time of retrenchment. People hoped for visionary leadership but got authoritarian rule instead.

The global situation is not good, and all indications are that it will get even worse. Climate change alarmists, Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future have disappeared from news headlines and public discourse. While clearly the biosphere “catches a break” every time there is limited local or global confinement, CO2 emissions quickly snap back to previous levels or higher. The number of extreme climate events continues to grow, and, in some places, they are extremely destructive and devastating. Crippled UN agencies and international institutions are less and less capable of providing either resources or leadership at the global level as China, the EU, and the USA become increasingly isolationist. Contradictions and paradoxes mount: despite the monumental effort to mitigate global outbreaks, it was more and more evident that global devolution left each country to look out for itself. We now see a pendulum swing back and forth between globalization and tribalism, between integration and parochialism. The best example of this is the EU, now a ghost of its former institutional self. The devolution of the economic union paralleled its growing internal contradictions; while its mismanagement of the 2008 crisis was appalling, its handling of the Covid-19 crisis was a disaster. Although the union still exists in treaty and on paper, the reality is that the collapse of the Italian and Spanish economies resulted in a collapse of any semblance to cooperation between central banks and national finance ministries. Subsequently, the EU has been unable to make any binding or effective decisions; member contributions have shrunk drastically and the European Parliament struggles to stay in session physically or virtually.

The Covid-19 crisis, it was repeatedly said, is an opportunity for change. It is painfully obvious, however, that Covid-19 was a missed opportunity; and humanity abandoned the choice to skilfully navigate the changes set in motion. Will we respond any better in confronting the next crisis?

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Despite its immediate appeal, the Extended Present possesses one trait that is problematic — an assumption that the overall contours of change are stable, and that they will maintain the pace and direction that they followed in the past. Experience teaches us that this simply does not happen. Even the most familiar and “dependable” trends accelerate, slow down, or change suddenly. While we can assume a certain degree of continuity, especially in the short term, the further we move away from the present, the more we need to factor in discontinuities and disruptive changes with respect to historical expectations. The Covid-19 crisis showed how abrupt and discontinuous change can be.

The Extended Present does provide a framework to make it easier to extrapolate the implications of the Covid-19 physical, social, political, and economic consequences. But as we have explained, we are dealing with a complex, chaotic, and contradictory situation, changing in an accelerated, expansive, and simultaneous way; attempting to simplify our response to the phenomena increases the probability that we will get it wrong. It is therefore necessary to anticipate where trends may reach breaking points, turning points, or transformations so that we can better anticipate them, but also consider what new elements or contradictory trends may alter them.

We need to move to the next tomorrow to better integrate the essence of postnormal events.

The Second Tomorrow, Familiar Futures

As a species, we are not very comfortable with change. It has proved difficult to accept alterations in our values, worldviews, or socio-economic systems. We offer serious resistance individually, as well as societally. However, we are quite good at imagining novel situations. Science fiction literature and film have generated a rich and diverse body of alternative possibilities for our collective imagination. Further, it is important to recognize that painters, poets, philosophers, writers, and artists have often been among the first to identify the emerging issues of change precisely because of the ways they see reality in variance with the “mainstream”. While some critics may question the reliability of science fiction as a source of images for foresight methods, the use of and scholarship around counterfactual histories and alternative histories demonstrate the heuristic value of exploring alternative pasts, presents, and futures to better understand the basic assumptions and ontologies of postnormal times.

That is simply to say that we need to be very open regarding the inspiration and sources to spot change or innovation. We don’t even have to worry about the likelihood or probability of that transformation happening. Here what matters is to understand the kind of impact that change may cause. Black swans have shown that small probability events may have a big impact and, therefore, it just does not make any sense to analyse them according to their likelihood. We need to think about their potential impact. For example, the recent stock market decline may not have been anticipated on the basis of market fundamentals, but it could easily have been imagined as an outcome of a global pandemic with impacts on industrial production in China and global supply chains. We need to provide communities and leaders with a space to conjecture about the potential impact of more extreme, yet still plausible, futures. When we were totally blind and ignorant about SARS-CoV-2, we could have benefitted from speculative analysis that would have prepared us for emergencies and provided some guidance on its potential impact and how to deal with it.

Our Familiar Futures scenario.

The Normal Games

The hopes of getting a good (or good enough) vaccine began to fade by the end of 2020. It was not that the first vaccines were ineffective; they were like seasonal flu vaccines, their effectiveness ranged between 40-65%. But many people, and the Powers That Be, were counting on the vaccine to return life to normal. The public received a crash course on Covid-19 growth curves, flattening, and other models of change. We were introduced to models of economic recovery, the “V” recovery — a fast dip and equally fast rebound. Or: the “U” recovery — a slower, more gradual recovery. The greatest fear was for an “L” recovery – basically, no recovery at all. The best-case scenario became a U-shaped recovery with a longer recession; but increasingly the worst-case L non-recovery became the lived experience of most individuals and families across the planet.

It took some time to muddle through. But the scientific facts became clear: anti-viral drugs and vaccines alone would not solve the health crisis. More was needed. By 2021 vast amounts of money and resources were poured into best practices to combine social distancing and diverse modes of social separation to support economic activity. Of course, there were many things that could be done remotely using the internet as we learned during the first peak of the pandemic. Many jobs required people on site, however. And then there are all those human activities where we interact and socialise. It was necessary to find ways for people to physically interact and, to determine the best way to do it. Some people immediately saw the opportunity to profit from the situation but, fortunately before greed ran rampant, three combined elements made governments realise that it had to be a coordinated and regulated effort.

The first element was the persistence of large segments of the population who refused to take vaccines. The first large protest movements against confinement were partially instigated by anti-vaccine agitators. Having large groups unable or unwilling to follow a vaccine strategy entirely undercut its effectiveness. The solution to SARS-CoV-2 infection could not be a medical one alone.

Second, the pandemic took a higher toll on the most vulnerable populations that experienced higher mortality rates -these people had to endure tighter confinement. High density impoverished neighbourhoods and refugee camps, especially, were at greater risk than more affluent areas and suburbs. It became obvious to many governments that the risks of social unrest needed to be avoided. Central banks and tax refunds were the primary tools governments used to mitigate the social and economic cost of the waves and peaks of the pandemic.

Third, not all developments were negative. Many communities took social and economic recovery into their own hands and used both new and old technology to do so. The pandemic and resulting economic crisis often brought out the best in people, ways to support the elderly and less fortunate, and sparked creativity and innovation across an array of extremely diverse initiatives. The circumstances were different in each place and resulted in unique and distinctly different designs. Some common features are highlighted:

  • The emergence of and widespread use of alternative currencies, whether social credits, crypto or hybrid currencies – all of which represented efforts to escape the framework of traditional currencies and orthodox accounting. People needed cash and it was not available, so many communities decided to generate their own means of exchange for local goods and services. Some communities developed a cooperative contract that pooled risk and debt; others used new currency for the distribution of goods and services to support the poorest; but some communities and regions went so far as to replace official currencies in favour of communitarian exchanges.
  • The Normal Games
    The Normal Games Logo ©JSerra
    The distribution of coinage and paper money was an added challenge, particularly to avoid risks from physical contact or proximity. Fortunately, mobile phones were the most widely-used technologies at the start of the pandemic. People could receive money, transfer it, and buy supplies or pay bills remotely. Some countries relied on mobile banking structures that were already in use; other countries adopted or adapted, blockchain technology. Thus, many means emerged to provide security and reliability to these alternative exchange transactions without using traditional banking.
  • Finally, all these alternative economies encouraged debate about ways to transform the economic paradigm and allow a new one to bloom. One call-to-arms was the manifesto by 170 Dutch economists to use the Covid-19 crisis as a catalyst to fundamentally change economic assumptions. Radical ideas and proposals that had been previously viewed as utopian suddenly seemed sensible and even necessary. The need for basic change was felt more viscerally than ever before. The emergence and success of alternative currencies and exchanges showed that it was possible to go from communitarian theory to praxis without unleashing havoc. During the transition out of industrial capitalism, the traditional economy was often more chaotic compared to relatively stable local exchanges.

All these elements, by themselves, were quite small and hard to see in the aggregate. But together suggested that another economic paradigm was possible: big business and governments got scared. Governments and international institutions conceived a plan to coordinate the transition to the new normal. They called it the International Agreement for the Covid-19 Transition, IACT for short. But very soon everybody began to call it the Normal Games. The agreement was based on four principles:

  1. Everyone is entitled to go outdoors provided that they do not risk the health of other people.
  2. Infectivity must be constantly monitored to avoid relapses.
  3. Social activities are only allowed under controlled conditions.
  4. It is the duty of national governments to ensure that every citizen has an equal opportunity to participate in outdoor activities.

To implement these principles, a complex system was enacted:

First, a massive global contact tracing and testing system was deployed. Originally conceived to allow for weekly tests, 70% of the world’s population are now tested daily and the remainder are tested every 3 to 4 days. Testing and monitoring are linked with systems to alert people by phone or other means so that they are isolated or quarantined if they show positive tests or symptoms. Many locales have established hospital isolation wards or housing facilities for self-isolation.

Large gatherings, such as for sporting events and concerts, are still considered too risky given testing inaccuracies and non-compliant behaviour. Therefore, a second policy was enacted: social downsizing. Using complex algorithms, the optimal number of citizens and their proximity outdoors was determined to balance health and economic activity. Large city dwellers had very few opportunities to escape their confinement, yet rural people had fewer outdoor activity restrictions. The solution was to promote relocation. Some countries used positive incentives while others resorted to coercion.

To reduce potential conflict, it was obvious that everybody, regardless of their wealth or social status should have equal access to leisure and outdoors activities. Therefore, a global lottery was established allowing every citizen a rotating system of access to the outdoors and sanctioned social events. A sophisticated AI application allocates a range of different optional activities: from strolling in a neighbourhood park, to a hike in the country side; from a beer in the nearby pub, to a meal in any world-class restaurant; from participating in a town hall meeting, to being a guest speaker in a UN General Assembly session; from voluntary work in a day care centre and nursing homes, to joining a research expedition in Antarctica. The AI application has coded every single activity according to different criteria (level of enjoyment, gratification, cost, availability, difficulty) the most simple, accessible and needed have a higher probability and this probability goes down as the activity is more selective, complex or elitist. But every citizen is guaranteed a minimum number of outside the home activities if they stay free of infection. The lottery became a huge hit, not only because of the personal attachment each person has to the outcome, but the top prize awards and “vacations” were coveted. The Normal Show lottery became a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year reality show, and the ratings have been phenomenal since the beginning. Profits from the show’s advertising have been significant and contribute to awards for the world’s poorest citizens.

How did the rich cope with IACT? All of them had big houses with yards or large apartments to begin with, so their level of need for outdoor activity was not as high. Given that the lottery gave everyone an equal chance to be outside, many of them invested in virtual, augmented and alternative reality technology, to the extent that some no longer need to leave their homes. Others have joined Elon Musk’s plan to colonize Mars making huge investments in SpaceX and related companies. The irony is that outdoor activity on Mars is still not likely for a few decades.

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Before moving on to the next tomorrow, it should be acknowledged that Familiar Futures do pose a risk: we may succumb to our cognitive biases and implicit assumptions. Unlike the first tomorrow, where everything has to be evidence based, in familiar futures we roam the epistemological domain, are influenced by dominant images and metaphors, and thus have to be cautious to ensure that we are not fooled by our manufactured normalcy field.

Here, then, is our scenario for the third tomorrow.

The Third Tomorrow, Unthought Futures

Across time, our species has developed sophisticated cognitive processes to better understand our societies and the world which we live in. These processes allow us, as individuals, to better comprehend the reality around us and help us analyse how things may evolve in the future. However, what is overlooked is that these systems not only describe and explain reality, they shape it as well. This paradox can be summarized in a double question:

Do we think what we think because of what we see? Or, do we see what we see because of what we think?

It sounds like a trick question, but it isn’t. It is an honest inquiry into the way we generate knowledge. We know of all kinds of biases that can affect our reasoning: Hindsight bias, confirmation bias, anchoring, the halo effect, bandwagon effect, ad hominem and other sorts of prejudices that can cloud our analysis. In general, it is advisable to be wary of such problems; but when doing futures research and analysis, these biases must be problematised. Even in the first tomorrow, it is easy to confuse one’s own preference with a forecast or underestimate the impact of hidden assumptions. We need to be especially vigilant. For this reason, the CPPFS developed the postnormal menagerie to help us weed out our biases and expectations.

The Menagarie
The Postnormal Menagerie © CPPFS

To build new scenarios for Unthought Futures,  we must go one step further. We need to question what alternative futures we are ignoring, either consciously or unconsciously. It turns out that, very often, what falls outside our analysis of the future is what the French-Algerian philosopher Mohammed Arkoun calls the unthought. The unthought refers to what is outside the assumptions and axioms of our worldview. It’s not that it is truly unthinkable, but rather, it is difficult for us to grasp precisely because it is beyond the scope of what we consider imaginable. We are rarely aware that our imagination is also constrained by our cosmology. The economist Mark Fisher wondered in his book Capitalist Realism why it is harder for us to imagine the end of capitalism than it is to picture the end of the world. Indeed, for Covid-19, it would appear easier to visualize the end of the world than the end of capitalism. If once the collapse of capitalism was our unthought future, it is not anymore. Even some world leaders are beginning to realise that we need to explore these previously neglected futures. French president Emmanuel Macron has said that it is time to think the unthinkable.

This is our unthought futures scenario.

Transnormal

The sudden application of lockdown and confinement measures made people realise how dependent they have been on the labour of low-wage workers. The backbone of our communities were people working in often undignified conditions for minimum wages: cleaners, cashiers and clerks, logistic and delivery staff, nurses, farmers, and civil defence workers. Less obvious workers provided essentials: weavers produced masks and protection gear; industrial workers produced ventilators, disinfectants, gloves, and screens. Front line workers included: medics and ambulance drivers, nurses, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, teachers, psychologists, social workers, journalists, cooks, and many others. Many took or accepted very long shifts, some without pay, many volunteering without hesitation. It has been truly a community effort.

Confined for long periods of time, but with instant access to news, social media, and all sorts of input, people spent a lot of time checking “the latest.” Of course, fake news, alternative facts, misinformation and deception were widespread, but nevertheless, the evidence that some places were doing better became clear and some certainties began to stand out:

  • Capitalism was not, could not be, the solution. Not only had market logic played a significant role in the spreading of the waves of the pandemic, with its global production chains, but it was making it harder to deal with the post-pandemic recovery crisis.
  • Heteropatriarchy needed to be transcended. There were many examples but two were particularly poignant. First, while confinement had caused crime rates to drop, gender violence had risen significantly; that is, the number of men harassing, beating, abusing and making confinement living hell for many women escalated. And second, was the fact that six of the countries doing better were governed by women: Finland, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Taiwan and New Zealand. Women leaders seem to be better suited to a public health crisis, with greater empathy, ability to listen, avoidance of dogmatism, and greater honesty about the realities facing women particularly and the marginalized in general. On the other hand, men generally resorted to an alpha male stance: in order to show confidence issued rushed and half-cooked measures; projected resolution by adopting a militaristic language (in a few cases deployed their armies); put other priorities over health (like the economy or “unity”); and, looked for political gain at the expense of people’s well-being. Examples of what should not be done included: USA, Brazil, Spain, Hungary, and the UK. Actually, it is worth noting that one of the most striking exceptions, Canada, had a PM praised for having a feminine attitude!
  • Communities had to be rebuilt and strengthened. Even in confinement people reached out and networked in new ways; many that did not have the luxury of being able to confine themselves had to rely in their community networks anyway. The notion of the individual was an essential myth for the modern project. But as modernity expired, it was becoming clear that we had to reconnect because, isolated, we would not survive as a civilization.
  • And yet we could not go back to the old normal. For instance, the need to reconsider social space, particularly in cities, was undeniable. The shift in art, architecture and urban planning was almost immediate. The main attractions of urban life were disrupted and the virtual and real were transformed by social distancing technologies, customs, and regulations. What industrial society had previously required - concentration, synchronicity, and uniformity  - were all risk factors. The return of diaspora from large urban areas back to villages and rural areas became a global megatrend.
  • The nation state framework had to be revamped. States were too big to manage their territories adequately, but too small to fight the pandemic effectively. The need to coordinate global responses was more and more urgent. By late April 2020 there were already 115 research projects working on the Covid-19 vaccine. The fiasco with personal protection equipment (PPE) – masks, ventilators, and gowns -- showed that the global response could not be left solely to the private sector. If we were to guarantee that the best vaccine (or combination of vaccines) would reach the whole of human population as fast as possible, it would require a public-private partnership of global scale and scope.

All these developments paved the way for a new Transnormal model. Originally conceived by Ziauddin Sardar, the prefix ‘trans’ in transnormal suggests that it is ‘over’ and ‘above’ anything we could possibly imagine as ‘normal’ or the ‘new normal’ in the dominant paradigms: it’s a profoundly new ethical synthesis that is ‘beyond’ existing paradigms.  The question emerged: how do we move forward to transnormal futures? Global visioning efforts, such as SenseMaker, called for, collected, catalogued, and analysed thousands of post-Covid-19 scenarios. Combining these stories and scenarios with data analytics, a Consortium of SenseMakers (CSM) offered visions of people’s preferred and optimistic futures. Their ongoing follow-up project explores the futures of wisdom and posthuman synthesis with our flora and fauna.

And here we are, engaged in the biggest, more comprehensive global effort in history to empower humanity to decide collectively what kind of a future we want to create. Thousands of proposals and best practices are being reviewed and tested but, so far, some principles have emerged:

  • Diversity. It is not a question of tolerating or celebrating diversity; it must be actively cherished and promoted at all levels and aspects of life. Moreover, it has transformed as a concept, in the sense that is less about difference and more about inclusion of difference in society.
  • Critical honesty. While truth can be complex and multifaceted, lies and deception only hurt our chances of successfully transcending the present crisis. The economic transformation encouraged critical assessment of the value of basic assumptions and a postmodern critique of industrial civilisational and growth assumptions.
  • Future guardianship. This was, no doubt, the most controversial principle. Seven generational principles, that are required to think forward and ensure the survival and property of up to seven future generations, were integrated in all decision-making, from basic local decision-making about infrastructure, all the way up to the global level. In practice, this has become an area of great debate and conflict, but certainly among the least expected outcomes from a pre-Covid-19 perspective. 
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These, then, are our scenarios for the three potential tomorrows. It should be emphasized that different tomorrows do not necessarily entail different time horizons. While it may seem logical that the third tomorrow would require a longer time period, all three tomorrows can occur simultaneously. What Covid-19 has made clear is that they all can happen equally rapidly. Indeed, it has shown us that all can occur at the same time!

We believe that all these scenarios, and many variations of them, are possible. The odds of moving from one to another depend on the decisions we take now: on the policies we endorse, on the political options we voice, on the new lifestyles we choose to adopt, on the consumer decisions we make, and so on. But they also hinge very much on what we choose to believe, accept, and ignore.

Thank you for following our exposition on the postnormal aspects of the novel coronavirus and it’s impacts on human existence. It is perhaps ironic that the microorganism that has had such a dramatic impact on our species is not even considered by some biologist to be a form of life at all. Yet, our species’ biology and genetics will likely be forever intertwined. We argued that the virus is a prime example of a postnormal phenomenon. We explored postnormal tools and methods to navigate the crisis and beyond. Finally, we explored the postnormal tomorrows that may lie ahead of us. Futures studies is the missing link to build our capacity, to not only anticipate postnormal change, but to envision, create, and realize positive, preferred, and resilient futures.

Now it is your turn.

You don’t have to accept or like our scenarios. Please come up with your own. We would love to hear, see, or read them.

Come back next week for the next installment of the Covid Chronicles

Timeline

I think therefore I am
I progress therefore I am
I shop therefore I am
I share therefore I am
Defined
Monolithic
Relative
Contradictory
I am tradition and culture
I am science and technology
I am what I buy
I am online
Simple, Closed
Complicated, Closed
Complex, Open
Open, Interconnected, Chaotic
Conquest, Supremacy, Progress
Progress, Efficiency, Modernization
Relativism, Plurality, Individuality
Complexity, Chaos, Contradictions