Will there be a second or even more waves? This fearful question concerns billions of people, their states and their leaders. You just don’t know. A microscopic, very contagious virus is bringing the high-tech, globalized world economy and all of its international supply chains to their knees.
It would be a mistake to analyze the consequences of this sudden slowdown in the global economy only from a short-term pragmatic perspective, however important this short-term perspective may be and will be in the near future: combating the pandemic, the economic and social consequences for billions of People and also the shifts in power associated with the pandemic in the global political and economic system.
But the Covid 19 crisis goes far beyond that and has a much more fundamental dimension. In retrospect, this crisis in 2020 will perhaps be described as the beginning of the “great transformation” of global industrial society towards a society of sustainability and taking responsibility for what they do, insofar as they are organized in industrial societies.
The end of the all too naive idea of progress
If it goes well, the virus turns out to be a wake-up call at the right time, if not, it will mark the beginning of an unprecedented catastrophe for mankind.
In any case, the corona crisis sets an end point for a time of a naive idea of human progress, which believed that it could further suppress the unintended consequences of the growth of humanity and its industrial societies against all scientific facts and warnings.
We only control nature up to a certain point, defined by short-term human interests. Not more. All migration fantasies into space do not help.
Objectively, however – this is the lesson of the Covid 19 crisis – human civilization is required to have a much broader horizon of responsibility, which humanity subjectively recognizes, but from which to draw the responsible consequences and not to initiate the great transformation ( not yet?) is ready.
Humanity has entered a new era: the “Anthropocene”
Humanity today has more than seven billion individuals, and this goes hand in hand with the increasing satisfaction of fundamentally increasing human needs, which are increasing in number, based on the progress of science and the depletion of nature, which is our bad luck to theirs Relaxation follows completely different periods than we humans.
Humanity has entered a new age that already has a name: the “Anthropocene”. That is, the power of human industrial civilization around the globe is so powerful that its intended and unintended consequences will determine the progress of Earth’s history.
With this power of human civilization, humanity has an enormous responsibility for the future of our earth. Even more, in the past, especially until the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1800, the course of the earth’s history was beyond human influence. This time is over and this is a huge cut!
The dramatically growing number of people since about 1950 and the technical leaps in innovation in connection with the increasing mass consumption have melted the seemingly inexhaustible natural resources and heated the global atmosphere at breathtaking speed.
The Covid 19 virus as an “apocalyptic rider”
The alternative that opens up to humanity at the beginning of the 21st century is therefore to take responsibility, that is to say, out of simple self-preservation interests, to have the courage and foresight to make great transformations, or to see the return of the apocalyptic riders, that was believed to be overcome forever with the industrial-scientific modernity, to wait. With Covid-19, the first of them has already reappeared.
What will artificial intelligence and quantum computers actually need? For improved weapon technology? For even more refined consumer platforms? Or for an improved system analysis of the state of our global environment and the global climate?
We have learned to listen to scientific advice
The world food of the future will not work without crop protection. But will we continue to have the illusion of stopping scientific crop protection where it should actually start in the face of unprecedented species extinction, namely to prevent precisely this?
At Covid-19 we learned to listen to scientific advice. Why don’t we do this even with the much more dangerous developments that already determine our reality today, such as global warming and the climate crisis?
The most developed of the industrial societies will be in the first place in the transformation to a responsible society; because they have the know-how and the necessary capital, they set the development trends for the future.
And among these, Western societies are particularly in demand that are serious about freedom. Freedom and responsibility are terms that are closely intertwined. So if you want freedom, you mustn’t shirk responsibility. Given the experience with Covid-19, this will apply more than ever.
The geopolitical consequences are of great reach
And there is another lesson to consider: The United States and China are currently moving towards a sharp confrontation over the leadership role in tomorrow’s world. But what will this world look like? And will power continue to be defined above all by military superiority? Will it be what keeps the world together? Or will power in the 21st century be redefined and fundamentally different?
For old Europe there is an unexpected chance if it does not rely on the competition from the superpowers, but has the courage to strive for a leadership role in this great transformation.
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