It is possible that we as a world are facing the largest global threat to our ongoing human survival since the 1918 flu epidemic and WWII. COVID19 has been termed a pandemic, an unprecedented global emergency, and a war.
The threat is a protein that once it invades/infects its host, reproduces and causes illness and worryingly death. It is the death part which is indiscriminate and strikes down neighbourhood’s and nation states. I am reminded of documentary’s on WWII and buildings being blown apart and communities destroyed. We all have been unwillingly called up to fight, NOW.
Warning: this is a dive into a few associative ideas I have to support and manage the current crisis. The aim is to provide useful ideas and a brief overview of some media I have consumed that help me position this existential threat.
A theory of Schrödinger’s cat I shared with a client to support their accepting and reconstructing their ideas of the unknown that is the COVID19 strain of the flu currently turning the world on it’s head. Loosely I presented the theory of a dead/not dead cat in a box as a way to help assimilate a challenging awareness of the pandemic that is COVID19.
The virus reminds me of a fungus (David Attenborough presents entomopathogenic fungi) that affects insects. Over a period of days these insects become cadavers that help spread the fungi’s spores to other unsuspecting insects to create other fungi. Nature is ridiculously clever. In a similar way, an invisible assailant is causing all that we hold in our world experience as important and precious, being torn down and irreparably altered.
And so to the Theory of Schrödinger’s cat. The theory is that we imagine a domestic house cat. The tabby is placed into a box with a radioactive isotope. I should say that, at no point was this experiment ever carried out. This is a thought experiment, inviting our human minds to hold two opposing ideas at the same time. Like in quantum theory where light is made up of particles and acts as a wave at the same time. The radioactive isotope is wired with a timer that releases the poison at a specific but unknown time.
The question to be answered is, is the cat dead or alive? For a scientist or an inquisitive person like my client, questions are posed about the amount of radioactive isotope and the resilience of the cat? Other questions could also include whether the cat had food or water to sustain itself and how long the cat is in the box for? 24 hours is the length of time I gave as my answer. I think for the thought experiment the answer was an hour and yes there was enough food and water to sustain the cat for 24 hours in my example.
Now to answer the question and bring this level of questioning full circle. Point the question at the deadly virus that is irrevocably changing the world. Because we cannot determine the effectiveness of the radioactive isotope. Nor the resilience of the cat. The answer to the question about the wellbeing of the cat, is, that the cat is both dead and alive. Simultaneously. It is neither dead nor is it alive. We would have to open the box and see for ourselves. Up until that moment we are to hold both ideas as probable correct answers.
Is it quantum theory?
I went a little further with the example of Schrödinger’s Cat and COVID19 with my client. Globally we are in the boxes of Known Unknown’s and the box of Unknown Knowns simultaneously.
The threat for all of us is the factor of not knowing. Can we know what will happen along the continuum of getting the virus or evading the virus and not becoming unwell? No we cannot. Looking at the examples of nation states like China or Italy, we can observe the effectiveness of what these countries have done. Locking down an entire nation and restricting movement appears to have slowed the infection rates. China as a country is believed to be beyond the worst of the crisis. Italy is approaching the worst experience of the crisis: total numbers of people who were infected dieing from the illness reaching it’s daily/weekly peak. The rest of the world are 2-3 weeks behind Italy..
If we were to contract the virus we would move into the known and unknown boxes. We would know that we could potentially become unwell or seriously unwell. It is the extent of the unwellness that we would not know. The ‘what would happen next’ would also remain unclear. Uncertainty is the point of concern for nation states at the moment. The same concern also extends to families and individuals as of 28th Mar 2020 (date of writing this piece). It is possible that public hysteria, panic and paranoia begin knocking heavily on our rational thoughts door now. If we open this door we could be beset by many many concerns.
If we open the door and accept the state of unknowing, what then? If we keep the door shut and stay with what we know about the virus, would this for both the short and long term be better?
Here are 2 outcomes from many other possibilities that could cancel out panic hysteria and paranoia. We could learn to accept what is or deny what is.
Managing what can be controlled is moving into the 1st box of known knowns. Which feels comfortable and we are inherently confident with a certain future.
Inhabiting the 2nd 3rd and 4th boxes are unsettling, scary and invite destabilising ideas. These are the boxes of the Known Unknowns, Unknown Knowns and Unknown Unknowns.
All Better Now
Seeking information at this time can be seen as a wise move however there is an avalanche of confusing and conflicting information at this time. Pod Save the World share a new podcast that provides a bi weekly update on the Coronavirus.
If you can, reduce anxiety, reduce social media use, isolate, socially distance yourself when out, eat healthily, keep fluid intake up and aim at maintaining positive virtual connections with friends and family. One thing that is a known known, this experience of War will pass. Our world will change. It has to. Living from then on, in a changed world is a Schrödinger’s cat outcome: lying in the last box of the Unknown Unnowns – Exciting and yet Scary.
Open The Box!
Brené Brown Podcast FFT’s
Bill Gates – WWIII
Podsave The World Coronavirus Reality
Marios’ Video fwd
Title Photo by David East on Unsplash
Lake Matheson Photo by Jingwei Ke on Unsplash