Truth has been having a hard time lately, as witnessed in recent Words of the Year in the world’s leading dictionaries.
Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 – post truth
Collins Word of the Year 2017 – fake news
Dictionary.com Word of the Year 2018 – misinformation
COVID–19 represents a full–frontal attack on our post–truth, fake–news–riven, misinformed world.
It confronts us with the overwhelming power of fact, of reality as it actually is.
It is unyielding in its stamina, uninterested in nations and borders and unapologetic for its inconvenience.
It can’t be communications managed.
It can’t be spun.
And it doesn’t align with the WHO, China or any particular government.
It is firstly a medical emergency and secondly a humanitarian crisis.
How we emerge from this depends on a simple chain of logic:
Quality of global political leadership
which must be founded upon
Data and insight; historic, present and projected
Population behaviour and compliance
Lifesaving outcomes for millions of humans
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” said Jesus.
“The truth will set you free” US President James A. Garfield agreed, “but first it will make you miserable.”
Navigating our way through this feels like the largest scientific method, design–thinking and human–factors project that humans have undertaken in centuries.
This approach inspired John Snow to develop a cholera map in London in 1854, thus identifying the source of the outbreak (a water pump) and shortening the outbreak by years.
These principles summarise the reason that COVID–19 is being brought under control in South Korea, in southern China, and latterly in some European countries.
It reminds us too that at a personal level (the human–factors bit), design–thinking and the scientific method are all we’ve got to get through this.
As Churchill put it “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”