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The Road Ahead

Actualizado: 28 abr 2021

We humans tend to have a short memory when it comes to how we go about overcoming a major hurdle.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the U.S. president, has become widely famous over the last months for his leadership in the handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and has even been impersonated by none other than Brad Pitt!

But before becoming this popular, back in 1947, this child living in New York City was vaccinated for smallpox. The city had been infected with the virus after a man had gone to Mexico on vacation.

The city of New York reacted swiftly and vaccinated 6 million people – the entire city – in just 2-and-a-half weeks, preventing a serious outbreak. Instead there were just 12 hospitalizations and two deaths.

This extraordinary public health measure helped with the eradication of smallpox, which the World Health Assembly declared eliminated in 1980.

At the start of January 2021, some 74 years later, the U.S. did not have a credible vaccination plan in place for Covid-19 and most of its strategy in dealing with the pandemic seemed to be failing, with new infection rates surpassing 300,000 cases per day.

But this dire situation saw a drastic change for the better in just 58 days.

During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden, promised to have achieved 100 million vaccine shots during his first 100 days in office. And it has taken his administration only 58 days to reach this historic milestone.

President Biden understood that winning the battle against this virus was not only dependent on having a good number of highly efficacious vaccines available, but also on successfully implementing a highly efficacious vaccination plan. And he has more than delivered on this.

His next milestone is to have all Americans eligible for the vaccine by April 19th and all of them vaccinated before July 4th. Given his record so far, experts believe this is achievable, and that Americans can be not only hopeful, but certain that this pandemic is coming to an end.

Unfortunately, the process of vaccination is not going as smoothly in other parts of the World, but this example of an unlikely success in the U.S. shows us that once good solutions are designed and implemented, the situation can quickly improve. This gives us all hope for a better future ahead.

And while vaccinating society and trying to maintain the healthy habits acquired during the pandemic will be a great step forward, this will not be sufficient to keep global society safe.

This crisis has affected society in many different ways, and while billionaires’ net worth has gone from $1.9 trillion to $4 trillion, the harsh reality is that this pandemic has left economies and livelihoods in shatters.

In response to this crisis, the U.S. and the EU have approved extraordinary economic stimulus packages:

the Recovery Plan for Europe ($2.2 trillion), which will make Europe greener, more digital and more resilient, and

the American Rescue Plan ($1.9 trillion), which will reduce the number of Americans living in poverty by a third and reduce child poverty by half.

These eye-watering figures seem unparalleled, but they are not. For instance, the U.S. has spent $1.7 trillion in the F-35 jet fighter, a combat plane that has proven to be a dismal failure.

This was an investment in defense, but jet fighters are no longer the main way in which society defends itself from the menaces of today. Threats now have more to do with technology and the role it plays in today´s society.

On January 14th, Twitter banned the then president of the U.S. from its platform, and Jack Dorsey, the founder and CEO of Twitter, wrote the following about this unprecedented measure:

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.

This raises the question of whether the public administration is adequately ensuring that the global conversation can be held in a free, fair and responsible way.

And while this is only an example, the way in which technology and tech companies are impacting advanced economies, raises many more questions about how they are shaping advanced societies:

Ø Would society be safer if a large part of taxpayers’ money spent on combat planes, like the F-35, were spent on cyber-security instead?

Ø Should social media platforms be held accountable if they are responsible for dividing and enraging society, altering societal behavior and making people feel worse about themselves?

Ø Should measures be put in place to ensure that the use of technological devices and platforms does not lead to addiction, divisiveness and lack of self-esteem?

Ø Is society safe if one single company controls more than 90% of the responses that people receive to the questions they type on the internet? Noting, as way of example, the radical impact to society that potential responses may have to the question of “how to change a government?”

And while these questions need to be addressed quickly and thoughtfully by the relevant public offices, there is a large part of the world that would remain impervious to these issues.

This is because, as of today, around 50% of the world population still does not have access to the internet – this is both a consequence of poverty and a cause of further poverty and social disfranchisement.

The essence of these problems and challenges is not new. The way to go about addressing them together is. Back in 1967, while addressing poverty and inequality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, famously said:

Social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals.”

Let´s solve our problems, not go to Mars. Let´s make Earth work.

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