Bye Bye 2020 and Thanks for all the Lessons!

What a completely crazy year 2020 has been. Not just crazy, but also deeply challenging and painful for many people.

On an individual human and family level the answer to what we need now is fairly easy: especially those that have lost loved ones, suffered medically, lost employment, had to work at home in difficult circumstances, or not been able to travel and see loved ones. “Less of that” and back to some of the comfort and stability we had before the virus arrived would be welcome for pretty much everyone! The status quo pre-virus was also not that great for many, however.

Even though there are many things about 2020 that would be best forgotten at the bottom of a New Year’s Eve wine glass, at a society level there are a few things lessons the year taught us that perhaps we’ll remember and do something about in the years ahead:

Each of these changes provides opportunities to NOT go back to the status quo and make things better.

The biggest lesson of all though is that our economies are too tightly optimized for growth. Our economies and societies in most of the world were too fragile to deal with a shock like the Coronavirus. In some ways, this is the lesson I think ties all of the others and the story of the year together.

Whole sectors have been at a near standstill as behavior patterns necessarily changed, large groups of people suddenly found themselves without work or financial support. Especially in countries like the United States, with poor social safety nets, this created a tragic tension between health and the need to try to operate the economy. This in turn no doubt contributing to 100’s of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

It’s not a huge surprise that countries with more socialized care have in general done much better in keeping virus casualties down as well as looking after people in desperate situations. I strongly suspect they will also be the most effective at long term recovery.

In many ways, it looks like we may have a relatively lucky escape. If the virus has been just a bit faster at spreading, had higher mortality, and been more resistant to testing/treatment, then the number of deaths could have been orders of magnitude higher. The economic devastation could also have been far higher. It’s critical that we think through how to use what we learned to make society more robust against these types of shocks:

I wrote about a few of these things in June but they seem more in focus now. Here’s hoping that 2021 is kinder and gentler so that we get the chance to solve some of these bigger challenges and are in better shape for future surprises!

It would be a shame if we missed out on these lessons. It’s a good time to apply some Antifragile thinking.

Happy New Year!

Meme image made using Imgflip.

Senior Director at RedHat Inc. Ex. CEO of 3scale Inc. Concerned citizen of the world. View all posts by njyx


Originally published at on December 31, 2020.

Recovering ex-CEO. Thoughts are my own and don't represent my employer.

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