One Year On

This is a picture that tells a story. In fact, it is a picture of millions of stories. Some tragic. Some heroic. Most neither. This is a story of a system adapting to an unexpected and deadly challenge. Over 125,000 souls have been lost. Much has been learned. We cannot return to what was before. The world has changed.

There are three lines on this chart.

The dotted red line is the daily reported deaths, and the obvious pattern is the weekly oscillation. This is caused by the fact that for two days of the week many people do not sit at their computers processing data. These are called weekends. So, they have to catch up with the data backlog when they return to work on Monday.

The solid red line illustrates what actually happened … the actual number of souls lost per day … peaking at over 1000 in January 2021. The ups and downs show the effect of three drastic interventions to limit the spread of a merciless virus that was mutating, evolving and competing with itself to spread faster.

This is a picture of a system learning how the Universe works – the hard, painful way.

The blue line is a prediction of how many souls would be lost, and it is surprisingly accurate. The blue line was generated by a computer. Not a multi-million pound supercomputer like the ones used to predict the weather – but a laptop like those millions of people use every day. And the reason the prediction is so accurate is because epidemics follow simple mathematical rules – and these rules were worked out about 100 years ago.

The tricky bit is turning these simple mathematical formulae into an accurate prediction … in our heads … intuitively. And the reason it is so tricky is because our brains have not evolved to do that. It is not a matter of lack of intelligence … it is just that a human brain is the wrong tool for that job.

But, what our brains are superbly evolved to do is conceptualise, innovate and collaborate to create tools like computers and Excel spreadsheets.

And many have said that in one year we have achieved ten years worth of innovation. We had to. Our lives depended on it.

So, now we have seen what is possible with a burning platform pushing us. How about we keep going with burning ambition pulling us to innovate and improve further?

Our lives and livelihoods will depend on it.