There is much we can learn from the great societal shifts of the Industrial Revolution, not least of which is how to avoid repeating its mistakes. So many of the behaviours and practices it brought about have been damaging to the planet, but it’s hard to think of another time when society was revolutionised at such speed. In our post-industrial, software-driven age of dwindling resources, we need to learn lessons and take action faster than ever before.
Before 2020, the necessary pace of this change might have seemed impossible to all but the most steadfast optimists, but if a positive lesson can be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that we’re capable of redesigning enormous facets of our world very quickly in order to adapt. We’ve already had to redesign the way we engage with public spaces, purchase staple goods and services, and enjoy our leisure time. We’re redesigning the way we work, we’re redesigning how we think about travel, and we’re going to have to redesign our public health systems because they’re proving inadequate to deal with moments like this. All of these changes have happened in weeks and months, not years.
The only difference between a global pandemic and climate breakdown, ecosystem collapse, exploitative capitalism, commercially based globalisation, unchecked technological development and the many other problems we face is how we choose to conceptualise them. We have chosen to think of Covid-19 as a common enemy and deal with it accordingly. Perhaps now is the time to do the same to the rest of the world’s complex problems so that we might build more resilient, lasting systems in their place. To do so will, I think, require the confluence of three different strategies, the first of which Weapons of Reason is already beginning to address.
We must learn to think long term again. What might be the impact if we can successfully apply our collective effort to the truly wicked problems of the 21st century? How might we design organisations, education, civic engagement, industrial systems, markets, healthcare, transportation, taxation, faith, work, communities both physical and virtual, to be fit for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, our grandchildren’s grandchildren? These, I would argue, are worthy challenges for the whole of society to engage with. These are the challenges we all must face.
The Weapons of Reason book is available to order via its Kickstarter campaign.