You’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve hit rock bottom only to break out the shovels. After 9/11, the world lost its mind. Rights curtailed, industries overhauled, countries invaded. Now, Covid-19 causes one 9/11 a day in deaths, in the US alone, yet here we are.
On top of that, there is societal division, mounting US-China tensions, increasing violent conflicts around the world… the list goes on. In short: One could hardly imagine a more striking endorsement of cynicism than the year 2020.
The frustrating part is, though, that it doesn’t have to be this way. Because on paper, humankind is doing splendidly. To name but a few things at random: Global extreme poverty has been on the decline for decades. Our technological advancements are staggering, our economic growth mind-blowing – even in this year of the pandemic, which has also seen the incredible feat of pumping out not just one but several potential vaccines for a novel virus in an insanely short time.
Yes, there are tons of caveats to these things. While global poverty has declined, it has increased in Sub-Saharan Africa and may increase again because of the pandemic. Technological advances tend to not only empower but also control. And economic growth has turned rather lop-sided (K-shaped recovery, anyone?). How things will work out with the vaccine, particularly its distribution, remains to be seen.
But what is striking about these caveats is that all of them are 100% in our control. Poverty has long been not a problem of resource scarcity, but one of resource distribution. The same is true for economic recovery. How we use technology also depends on none but ourselves. This shows that how things continue from here on out is entirely and exclusively in our own hands. There are no external factors that constrain us in any meaningful way. The only thing holding us back – or propelling us forward – will be ourselves.