It's a Design Problem


What we have before us today with the COVID-19 pandemic is a design problem. A human system design problem.

The virus exists independent of us, yes. But it spreads because of what we do and don’t do, and the economic world around us crumbles because of what we do and don’t do.

We designed the system in which no more than 1% of the people can get sick with any given thing at any given time without our entire healthcare system breaking and leaving the leftovers to fend for themselves until death.

We designed the system in which when more than 1% of the people who want their money from a bank go out and get their money from a bank, there is no more bank. The entire banking system quickly falls apart, and no bailout is big enough to work.

We designed the system in which the global supply chain is sprinkled all over the globe. With weak links everywhere, and critical failures of essential supplies and assistance are common at an important time like this.

We made it. And now we suffer for it.

Our predicament is not natural, it is entirely man-made — a design problem. A very acute and nasty design problem.

But it is not a permanent problem. Bad design can be fixed…by good design.

The good news in this slow moving human tragedy is that people are less attached to the old ways than they used to be. There is less momentum than usual, and a bad design could be replaced by a better one.

I believe it is time to seize the moment and meet our human design challenge! Let’s design something that works for us better. Previously we did not design for redundancy, or excess capacity, or safety from such a contagion.
  • What would a better design look like? How would we know if we had it?
  • What would this market make? What goods would actually do good? What services would truly serve our interests?
  • How could we organize our human activities toward the next higher level of organization?

How shall we design now so that what we make and how we make it, so how we behave and what we accept, so that the great social order that we decide to participate in actually functions for those of us who make it up. Because we’ve always been collectively making it up.

How shall we design next? How shall we as people form our future?

Because the past is behind us.
The present is a mess.
We choose what we do from here.

You can begin with your thoughts, added as a comment below. Like any good brainstorming session, keep your criticism quiet and ideas flowing…

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