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The future of humanity in the light of the corona virus: three scenarios

Lately we have been flooded with opinions about the future, and most of them, to put it mildly, are terrifying. A short search on the net brings up experts and 'experts' who threaten that the virus will stay with us forever, or undergo mutations that will wipe out human civilization.

The Corona epidemic. Illustration: shutterstock
The Corona epidemic. Illustration: shutterstock

The truth is that it is still impossible to know exactly what will happen, and this is exactly the situation in which the researchers of the future are turned. When there is uncertainty, we develop all kinds of scenarios to examine the problem from several different directions. This method is especially suitable now, when no one is yet sure how exactly the virus works, what other mutations it can undergo, and when (and in what form) it will return to us in the fall.

So yes, everything is still open. Therefore, I want to present to you in this record three scenarios: one very optimistic, one very pessimistic, and one in the middle. And he is probably the most reasonable of the three.

I do not pretend to know what will happen in the future. Reality will ultimately determine what will actually happen, but perhaps we can better understand the future if we start thinking about the possibilities now.

Let's start with the most pleasant scenario - the optimistic scenario.

Everything is awesome

In the optimistic scenario, a miraculous thing happens, and an antiviral drug is identified that already exists on the market today and that succeeds in doing two things: First, it is able to kill the virus in sick people and thereby dramatically reduce the number of people hospitalized. Second, it is prophylactic - that is, it can also be used for prevention. In this respect, it is similar to the 'day after' drugs against HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), which, if given a few hours after being infected with the virus, can prevent the infection.

Such a drug will have an immediate effect on the fight against the virus. The death rate has decreased significantly, and it will be possible to use the medicine on any person who comes into contact with a carrier, and in fact create a kind of protective circle around each person who is infected, thus preventing the virus from spreading further. The drug will not completely stop the virus, especially in countries where there are already tens - perhaps hundreds - of thousands of patients, but it may certainly delay its spread and reduce the damage it causes. About a year later, a safe vaccine will be developed and distributed in large quantities to citizens, and that will be the end of the disease, in practice. The virus may undergo mutations as it spreads across the globe, but these will not be enough to change its immune markers. Our immune systems will recognize it after the vaccine is administered, and eliminate it immediately.

This scenario is not impossible. One drug developed in Japan - Favipiravir - has already been identified as a way to deal with new strains of influenza. According to media reports in Japan, which are currently not supported by peer-reviewed studies, clinical studies conducted on 340 patients produced encouraging results. The medicine is supposed to be safe and effective. It shortens the time it takes for patients to clear the virus from their systems, from 11 days to just four. It also helps reduce the damage caused to the patients' lungs. But is this the panacea we wish for in the optimistic scenario? only time will tell.

Be that as it may, even in the most optimistic scenario, it cannot be ignored that after paralyzing some of the world's strongest economies for many weeks, we are about to experience a period of recession in the United States and Europe. Three and a half million people in the United States alone are going to lose their jobs in the coming year, and businesses in the fields of restaurants, tourism, hospitality and entertainment are already collapsing. The American government is preparing a plan to stimulate the economy, and the assumption is that in 2021 the global economy will indeed recover slowly. But until then - expect considerable difficulties.

The unemployment rate in the US following the corona epidemic. Data: US government
The unemployment rate in the USA following the corona epidemic. Data: US Govt

And that is the optimistic scenario.

Now that we have dedicated a few words to him, let's examine the most pessimistic scenario.

The pessimistic scenario

There are two types of pessimistic scenarios. The first is one that there isn't much we can do about or even effectively prepare against. This is the scenario in which the corona virus - which, as mentioned, is new and therefore we do not fully understand it - undergoes one or more mutations that produce a new, more infectious or more deadly strain. There is no theoretical prevention for this to happen: the measles virus is much more contagious, and one person carrying the virus infects an average of 18 others. We know that other viruses like MERS have been far more deadly, with a fatality rate of about thirty percent. There are even viruses that act slowly, such as the rabies virus, which takes a whole year to kill the carrier. Various viruses are endowed with these features, and there is a - theoretical - chance that the new corona virus can also develop them.

Fortunately, this is a very low chance. From what we know so far, this is a virus that mutates relatively slowly, so the chance of this horror scenario materializing is also low.

Unfortunately, I believe there is a higher possibility that the second pessimistic scenario will come true. In this scenario, the virus doesn't mutate as quickly, but it still spreads around the globe fast enough to produce new strains every year that our immune systems don't know how to deal with.

Even in this case, within a year and a half or so, the longed-for vaccine should arrive that can stop most of the new strains of the virus each year.

The problem is with what happens until then.

In our pessimistic scenario, the real problem is not only with the virus, but with the countries' response to it. In this scenario, European countries are hit hard by the virus, with tens of thousands of victims in each country. According to the worst-case scenario developed by the virus preparedness team at imperial college in England, almost 500,000 people could die from the virus in England in the next year and a half, and about 2.2 million people in the United States. This is almost one percent of the population of these countries, and one can expect a similar percentage of voids in Europe in the most extreme case.

The outlook of the Covid-19 Response Team at Imperial College, London.
The outlook of the Covid-19 Response Team at Imperial College, London.

This is a severe blow to any country, but the really big danger in this scenario is the disintegration of the supranational cohesion that humanity has begun to establish in recent centuries. The countries of the European Union, hurt and bleeding, will turn to each other for help - and find that each of them only cares about itself. They will close the borders between them - as is already starting to happen - and from there the road to closing in on themselves is short. It is not too much to guess that in this scenario, at least one more country will decide to withdraw from the EU. And if more than one or two countries decide to withdraw, it is quite possible that this huge experiment will be cut short.

In the most extreme case, a similar result could also be realized in the United States. The federal government has so far dealt with the spread of the virus at an embarrassing level, of third world countries. The governors in every state in the United States had to pick up the gauntlet, impose lockdowns in their states, and prepare the hospitals and laboratories. What will happen when one of the states in the United States fails to deal with the virus - and its citizens continue to spread it to all the other states? Countries will begin to close their borders even within the United States itself. And here, too, one can imagine an extreme situation in which one of the richest states - California, whose economy is larger than that of the whole of India, and only slightly smaller than that of Germany - will announce that the federal government has not fulfilled its duty to the nation, and will close its borders definitively.

Is it likely to happen? In any normal situation, the answer is absolutely not. But following a crisis reminiscent of World War III, many things can - and must - change.

We can continue with the pessimistic scenario on and on. In the countries of Africa and India, with weaker health systems than those in the Western world, and with less ability to impose a curfew on the citizens, everyone will be infected with the virus. Yes, everyone. The consequences for the economy of these countries will be devastating. The population lives in these areas in greater density than in the western world, the health systems are not developed, the sanitation conditions are low and it is difficult to regulate the population. The economy of these countries is also mainly based on manual labor, and less on white-collar professions that can be performed through the Internet, which means that any shutdown will lead to a complete collapse of the economy.

But let's leave the economy for a moment. The effects on the governments in those countries will be no less important. We are willing to accept a sovereign - a whale or an elected government - because we believe he will take care of us. Now think what happens when in every extended family in India you can find one person wheezing, coughing and choking to death - while the government can do nothing to help. Even a power like India could disintegrate in such a situation into separate countries, which would compete with each other for resources and territory.

This is the most pessimistic scenario I see for the next two years. Is there a high chance that it will come true? unequivocally no. Is it possible - plausible? I am afraid that in the event that the virus does spread successfully to all countries and cause great damage to the economy and human life, and to the extent that the governments fail to cooperate and help each other and choose instead to gather within themselves and take care of their citizens and nothing else, then the likelihood that the scenario will materialize will increase.

My friend Roy Kidar described this scenario as a kind of domino game, where each stone hits another and causes it to fall. The first stone represents the massive loss of life. The second stone is the economy. The third - society and the social fabric. The fourth - the subversion of governments, the disintegration of states, and in some cases the closing of borders and growing nationalism. And the fifth stone, which we should all hope does not fall, is the stage of armed conflict with advanced weapons. The one that could also lead to a third world war.

How do you stop the dominoes from falling? We need a well-coordinated response by all countries against the virus. Medical aid should be transferred to India, Africa and possibly South America as well. We need a leader on a global scale, who can coordinate all these actions.

Lucky for us, we have just one. His name is Donald. Donald Trump. And he will save us all.

I laugh. But one can hope, right?

But as mentioned, this scenario is also very unlikely. Therefore, it is worth examining the scenario 'in the middle' - the one that seems most likely at the moment - and its consequences for the world.

The scenario in the middle: Big Brother - for the benefit of humanity

Sometime between May and June, the State of Israel finally allowed citizens to leave their homes and return to the beach and offices. People took to the streets with a sigh of relief, knowing that we - as a country - managed to deal with the virus. The complete curfew that was imposed on the citizens and was strictly enforced, resulted in the fact that the hospitals were flooded with coughing and shortness of breath patients, but most of the people who were hospitalized managed to survive despite the enormous load. We lost a few dozen people, maybe hundreds, and in the worst case, a few thousand - and each of them was a whole world.

Still, compared to European countries and the United States, we came out cheap. The countries that did not close the borders in time and avoided imposing severe closures on the citizens, found that their hospitals quickly collapsed under the load. The mortality rates discovered in Italy - approximately six percent - also characterized the outbreaks in several European countries. In the countries of the European Union and the United Kingdom, many thousands died every day, and the United States suffered a similar blow.

It was a difficult, even terrible time, but when governments sobered up from their complacency and began to enforce strict curfews, the spread of the virus in their territory finally stopped. When people do not meet each other on the street, in kindergartens, in schools or at work, the virus has almost no possibility to continue infecting new victims. In just two weeks from the moment the closures were announced, the number of new patients began to decrease. It took at least one more month before people were allowed to take to the streets again, but the victory over the virus was already clear.

Then some idiot came from some unknown country in Africa where the virus continued to spread without stopping, and brought the epidemic back to Israel. and to Europe. and to the United States. Maybe he brought a new strain. Maybe not, since the majority of the population has not yet been affected by the virus and has not developed resistance yet. Either way, people started getting infected left and right, and governments realized they were in trouble.

And again, pause. And again, closed. This time the backlash was automatic and immediate. A few thousand patients still died all over the western world, and countries shut down their economies for a month or two, but everyone was used to it and no one was excited. When it was clear that they managed to deal with the current infection as well, everyone patted themselves on the back and prepared to go back to business as usual.

Want to guess what happened a few months after that? Another old-new breed, more innocent carriers from Africa and Asia - or perhaps from European countries that simply could not stop its spread in their territories. And again, closed. Again, paralysis. To remind you: every day of economic paralysis charged the Western countries tens of billions of dollars. No country could agree to that kind of threat. It was clear that a solution had to be found to prevent such cases from repeating themselves.

And so a new era in the history of mankind opened: the incessant monitoring.

Again, the forecast of the Imperial College researchers regarding the virus. They expect it to return every four months or so, and each time quarantine will be necessary.
Again, the forecast of the Imperial College researchers regarding the virus. They expect it to return every four months or so, and each time quarantine will be necessary.

How to stop a virus (and many other things)

The means for monitoring were already in the hands of the governments. Or rather, they were in the hands of the citizens. And to be even more precise: they were in their pockets, in their houses and in their cars. Each smartphone contained detailed information regarding the places visited by its owner, including the exact times. Many homes had digital assistants like Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant, which could gather information about the home from the inside. The monitoring means were already on the ground - all that was needed was the will to use them on the part of the governments, and the legal permission for that.

The first legal permission to track citizens was granted to the Israeli government back during the first wave of the virus. Other countries initially laughed at the crazy Israelis who let their democratic country spy on them, but even during the first attack, other countries in Europe also began to find legal justification for the surveillance of citizens, as a way to protect the population from the spread of the virus. During the first attack, the only information collected during the surveillance was about the location of the smartphone. This information was often enough to understand whether the owner of the phone crossed the path of another person who is suspected of being a carrier of the virus. With the end of the attack, the countries stopped tracking their citizens - as required by law - and destroyed the information they had collected.

In the second attack, they already realized that there was a fear that the virus would return every two to three months, and the surveillance permits became eternal, in practice.

The first carrier who crossed the country's borders bringing with him the new version of the virus, started to feel bad even before he got on the plane, but he didn't feel like reporting it to the authorities. He coughed a little, was a little dehydrated, so he bought cough syrup and swallowed an excessive amount of Dexamol-Colds, so that he would appear completely healthy. If the authorities were to follow his shopping, and cross the information with the coughs 'heard' by the smartphone, they would be able to understand that this is a person with a high risk of pregnancy. they didn't do it. They let that carrier enter the country - and from there the spread was rapid and predictable.

In order to protect the public, the governments decided that they needed information about the location of each citizen, information about their shopping patterns, and the frequency of coughing at home as picked up by the digital assistants. All this information is weighed and estimated by sophisticated algorithms that determined the level of chance of each person's pregnancy. Whoever crossed a certain threshold was asked to isolate himself - and the devices in his home and on his body reported to the authorities immediately if he violated the isolation. And in order to make sure that he doesn't leave his smartphone at home and go for a cheerful stroll down the street, the recluse is also required to take a deep look at the smartphone once an hour, and a facial recognition algorithm would verify his identity.

The positive part of the whole matter was that thanks to the sharing of information with the government, algorithms were also quickly developed to predict outbreaks, to manage risks and to develop medicines and vaccines based on the information coming in real time from the citizens. When such information made it possible to manage a wise public policy, the spread of the virus was stopped in most countries before it even started.

This meant that when the countries of Africa and India began to crumble from within, the West had already recovered enough to send them medical and financial aid. The global deterioration described in the pessimistic scenario did not come to fruition. Millions of lives were saved in the short term of one or two years. And in the long run, we managed to prevent the global conflicts that awaited us in the pessimistic scenario.

Even in this scenario humanity suffered a heavy blow, and was forced to change its ways in many countries. Governments have begun to monitor their citizens, and it is not clear whether they will be able to avoid abusing the enormous power given to them. Such power also carries a huge potential to corrupt morals and democracy, and threatens human rights in the long term.

But at least in the short term, he prevented masses of people from dying. That's something too.

And maybe, just maybe, in the middle scenario, another great opportunity will open up for humanity: the possibility of joining forces.

The Great Union

Say I'm crazy. It wouldn't be the first time I've heard that. But the corona virus can provide a one-time opportunity for all the countries of the world to cooperate to defeat one great enemy. There has never been such a threat to humanity. At the time of the Spanish flu, we did not understand at all who the enemy was that killed tens of millions of people. SARS came and went too quickly, and didn't have time to leave a real mark on the whole world. But the new corona virus has reached almost all the countries of the world and it is only going to continue to spread. This is a supra-political, global problem, which in the near term will lead to the closing of borders and extreme seclusion on a physical level, but to more advanced cooperation in any other respect. for unity and global agreements.

or not. Perhaps, instead, we will resort to closing borders and slandering foreign countries. Maybe a few months after the virus disappears, the situation will return to normal. That's probably more likely. But still, one can hope. To hope that for the first time all human beings will have a common enemy. An enemy who does not respond to prayers or supplications. He does not consider the color of your skin, the shape of your eyes, or the god you believe in. If you are human, he will attack you. And the meaning is that we can unite against him.

There are encouraging signs in this regard. The Chinese have already sent hundreds of thousands of test kits to the United States. International hacker groups have announced that they will not attack hospitals. There is a movement towards the joint association.

And on the other hand, we also see the President of the United States already preparing for the next election by blaming China for the outbreak of the virus, and refusing to let the ships unload infected passengers on the country's territory.

This virus will bring out the best in us - and the worst.

It is quite possible that if a few visionary statesmen rise up, then we can distill the best to forge peace and trade agreements between countries, create a sense of brotherhood and solidarity between peoples and between continents, cooperate together to eradicate this virus once and for all, and make sure that our children will not have to experience an outbreak Similar.

We started with three scenarios, and I told you there wasn't much you could do about the extreme two. But in the medium scenario we have freedom of action, and we can - and should - demand that our leaders abandon petty rivalries and cooperate for the greater good of the war. The fight against the corona virus and all other diseases.

Success for all of us.

More articles by Dr.Roey Tsezana, dealing with Corona on the Hidan website:

PhD in nanotechnology, researcher at the Yuval Na'eman workshop for science, technology and security, at Tel Aviv University, and lecturer at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion. A regular columnist in Scientific American-Israel, the Technion magazine and Laser. The host of the popular radio show Doctor Why lectures on science, history, the future and everything in between.

For the blog of Dr. Roi Tsezna another science
Dr.Roey Tsezana is the author of the books "The Guide to the Future" and "The Rulers of the Future"

13 תגובות

  1. The word "conspiracy",
    mentioned in the article,
    It is enough to generate ridicule and contempt
    To the "conspirators" each according to his honor!
    The writer would do well if he included in the equation the matter of engineering the "corona" by a man,
    (Just as the bird flu, Ebola, Sars, etc. were engineered.)
    Who are these "engineers" for us?
    Where are such greedy shenanigans?
    What is their interest?
    Is everything that the "conspirators" said really exist?
    I will recommend the author of the article about the book by Carroll Quigley
    "Tragedy and Hope",
    Aldous Huxley's book
    "Brave and wonderful world",
    and Plato's book
    (Not to mention
    1984, Animal Farm, and more...).
    The writer will do his own research on the Rio Conference held in 1992,
    and on the agenda 21 30 50!
    post Scriptum
    Tragedy and hope!
    Hope for the wheelchair users
    The "new order"!
    A tragedy for those left behind-
    50% of the planet's population!

  2. Deregulation = transfer of power to the tycoons, the regulators protect the citizen from exploitation. And besides, people are dying because of the corona virus, there are diabetics who died and could have lived for many more years.
    Too bad you are being influenced by extreme libertarian propaganda.

  3. We need to abolish regulation and abolish tenure in order to fight the corona, what's more, most people die from diseases

  4. In these three scenarios - the violence rises and rises and rises. Especially towards women.

    It's probably not important to you and not included in your scenarios. Not even the worst of them.

    Anyway, it was interesting to read.

    I wish they all had their own home and protection from cruel and violent attackers.

  5. The realistic scenario: this virus is a joke compared to what will happen if the pollution of the earth continues at today's rate without solutions

  6. Cenza:
    Regarding fortune telling and World War III.. it's nice to play Asimov, but you don't have large enough human masses to predict even a small war with 30% certainty.
    And you also don't have enough starting data of the chaotic system we live in this universe.
    The field is fascinating, but in my opinion it is science fiction and will remain so.

    PS: I cut off reading when you brought up Trump. The reaction of individuals cannot be predicted and I think it is very unprofessional to insert personal political opinions under the guise of science.

  7. We are in the optimistic scenario, except that the medicine will not also be a vaccine, but a vaccine will be developed a year later
    And in the meantime they will be treated with the pills that are on the market and another year and a half with a dedicated medicine for the disease
    And if there is a mutation, there will be one, but later, not so quickly, in such a way that we will have enough time to treat people, and if they come out of the quarantine, there will be at most one more wave of infection, but slowly people will be vaccinated against it and it will disappear

  8. The optimistic (and also reasonable) scenario is so lacking: the epidemic will spread throughout the world. Mortality will be much lower than expected (it is already clear today that most of the infected are not sick at all - asymptomatic).
    The populations in the countries where the virus will spread will indeed suffer from high morbidity (only a little more than the flu) and will develop a herd vaccine. The epidemic will disappear just as it came.

  9. We are probably closer to the optimistic scenario.
    There is something different when it comes to an attack on all humanity as a whole than harming a small group. Pay attention to the change that is taking place in the world, the virus has the potential to harm everyone in the world and therefore you can see the entire scientific community mobilizing to find solutions in any possible way. Information sharing today is much different than during the Spanish flu.
    I believe that the event will end in no more than one year, possibly a much bigger recession than in 2008, but we will not reach a state of disintegration of countries.

  10. The situation will be very sad if one of the scenarios Mr. Roy describes here happens, legal surveillance of everyone, cancellation of individual freedom, why did you have the flu? This virus is no different from others and maybe kills a little more, to throw away all the freedom and progress that millions of people died for and move to live in a dictatorship like in China, it will be a very dark world I really hope the writer is wrong.

  11. I wish!
    But how will we achieve union between nations, if we fail to achieve union within ourselves?

  12. A cliché worn but always true - there are things much worse than death.

  13. Thanks to Roy for an interesting article!
    You should also check the following options:-
    The possibility that the virus will behave like the flu, vaccines are developed every year for three or four mutations and everyone is required to be vaccinated every year.
    Another thing to pay attention to is the zero mortality of the young, maybe there lies the solution for a vaccine or medicine.
    It is also worth looking into another option for a drug or vaccine, and they are drugs that work to strengthen the body's immune system, perhaps from which salvation will come. These drugs such as the Keytruda are given to cancer patients and are in many cases effective. It is worth doing a review of how many of those who receive it have fallen ill with Corona (relative to the population}
    Good Day
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

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