Updated: Apr 4
Humans have no natural immunity to the new coronavirus as of April, 2020. A vaccine likely will take 12 - 18 months. Left unchecked, the virus would infect a large proportion of the world's population. The virus is more deadly than the seasonal flu. The lives of billions of people would be disrupted for many months. Economies and individuals would suffer. Millions upon millions would die.
But it doesn't have to be this way. We don't live in the Middle Ages when people had no idea what caused plagues. Science already knows enough for us to easily defeat this virus. We can end the pandemic -- not in years or months, but in a matter of weeks. How?
When we wash our hands with soap and water, we destroy the virus. When we keep enough physical distance between people so the virus can't hop from person to person, the virus eventually decays. If we all kept physical distance AT THE SAME TIME, the number of cases would be knocked way down in a matter of weeks. At the reduced level, the current health system which has been rapidly ramping up both testing and care, could easily handle the remaining cases. Most of us could go back to work in several weeks. The remaining sick and infected people would get excellent care. Millions upon millions of lives would be saved globally.
So why aren't we doing it?
Most people would try to move heaven and earth to save their own lives or the life of a family member or friend. And with a mortality rate in the neighborhood of 1%, most of us might lose someone we love. The motivation is there... to the max. The focus of attention is there. Never in my lifetime have I seen the media so relentlessly focused on one topic -- and with good reason. Our very survival is at stake.
But we are unfamiliar with how to get millions of people to work together, worldwide in a coordinated way. We think it is impossible, or a job for governments. And so we hunker down and have our Zoom meetings and wait for the storm to pass. All the while, we are unaware that it is completely within our collective control to defeat this pandemic.
Maybe that's where I can help. As a scientist and businessman, I've spent the last 30 years researching and building system to solve extremely hard problems with collective intelligence. I have experience with both the wisdom and madness of crowds. I understand why the first reaction of most people is to think that we'll never get billions of people on the planet to act together to defeat the coronavirus. But I'm here to tell you that is just not true.
Actually, I would rate the difficulty of the coronavirus pandemic for our current collective intelligence at about the pre-school level. Think about it. The simple actions required to defeat this pandemic are for everyone to wash their hands religiously, stop touching their faces, and stay home for 2-3 weeks. A pre-school kid could understand and (with a little support) follow those instructions. All we are asking of our collective intelligence is that we all agree to do these simple things AT THE SAME TIME. And sooner rather than later.
"AT THE SAME TIME" is crucially important. If I self-quarantine while you are out shopping and socializing, and you self-quarantine later, when I am out shopping and socializing, we nullify each other's efforts. The virus keeps spreading.
So the key is for all of us to work together, AT THE SAME TIME, to wash hands and quarantine / distance ourselves physically. We have to do this all together until the virus is knocked down enough for the testing and health system to contain the remaining infection. Then, with a little collective vigilance and care, most of us would be able to return to a more normal lifestyle until the vaccine ultimately arrives.
It's a simple plan that begins with all of us recognizing the awesome power of our collective intelligence compared to the unintelligent virus. With that awareness, we can coordinate the very simple actions needed -- washing hands and keeping physical distance. We defeat this pandemic when millions of humans do a couple very simple things in a spirit of love for themselves and others. Collective intelligence in action. That is how we defeat Covid-19.