Read about the new book by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret on the COVID impacts.

Article by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret*

The worst of the pandemic is yet to come. To date, only a few countries are effectively containing the virus, while in a majority of nations, COVID-19 is either raging or resurfacing with local outbreaks, limited or not so.

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged our world in its entirety—and each of us individually—into the most challenging times we’ve faced in generations. It is a defining moment—we will be dealing with its fallout for years, and many things will change forever. It has wrought (and will continue to do so) economic disruption of monumental proportions, creating risk and volatility on multiple fronts—political, social, geopolitical—while exacerbating deep concerns about the environment and also extending the reach (pernicious or otherwise) of technology into our lives.

No industry or business will be spared from the impact of these changes. Millions of companies risk disappearing and many industries face an uncertain future; a few will thrive. On an individual basis, for many, life as they’ve always known it is unravelling at alarming speed. This said, acute crises favour introspection and foster the potential for transformation. A new world could emerge, the contours of which it is incumbent on us to re-imagine and to re-draw.

The sudden and violent nature of the shock the pandemic is inflicting can make the scale of this challenge seem overwhelming. This impression is due in no small measure to the fact that in today’s interdependent and hyper-connected world, risks amplify each other: individual risks or issues harbour the potential to create ricochet effects by provoking others (like unemployment potentially fuelling social unrest and impoverishment triggering involuntary mass migration).

The defining feature of today’s world is systemic connectivity: in such a world, “silo-doing” and “silo-thinking” have no place because risks converge. All the macro issues that exert direct and daily impacts on our societies, the global economy, geopolitics, the environment and technology do not evolve in a linear fashion. They play out as complex adaptive systems, and as such share a fundamental attribute: susceptibility to matters cascading out of control and in so doing producing extreme consequences that often come as a surprise and for which we are ill prepared. COVID-19 has already given us a foretaste of this.

To a considerable extent, occurrences as different as the sharp and dramatic rise in unemployment (an economic risk), the global wave of social unrest unleashed by the Black Lives Matter protests (a societal issue) and the growing fracture between China and the US (a geopolitical risk) wouldn’t have taken place without the pandemic. At the very least, they were exacerbated by it.

The concurrence and severity of these fault lines mean that we are now at a critical juncture: the potential for change is unlimited and bound only by our imagination—for better or for worse. Societies could be poised to become either more equitable or the opposite; geared towards more solidarity or greater individualism; favouring the interests of the few or looking to the needs of the many; economies, when they recover, could be characterized by greater inclusivity and more attuned to our global commons, or they could simply return to business as usual—now revealed to be (in so many ways) an untenable status quo.

About the author(s)

*Klaus Schwab is Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum; Thierry Malleret is Co-Founder, Monthly Barometer.

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**COVID-19: The Great Reset can be ordered here, and you can leave a review here.