“It is an easy thing for one whose foot is on the outside of calamity to give advice and to rebuke the sufferer.”
Aeschylus (c.523 BC - c.456 BC), Ancient Greek tragedian
Every so often, the world experiences an event so major that it causes an inflection point in its wake, triggering a series of significant changes in the undercurrents which end up transforming our lives in such profound, lasting ways that we forget what life was like before1. Amongst the greatest of such events over the past century are the two World Wars, and without diminishing the horrific cost in lives and suffering they caused, the major inflection points that arose from them have led to such far-reaching social, political and economic changes that it is difficult to fathom how different the world would have been if those events had never taken place. Multilateralism and global trade, the welfare state, antibiotics, targeted cancer therapies and the internet to name a few have origins that can be directly traced to activities during the war periods.
Inflection points can be triggered by two main types of events. There are those caused by nature (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteoric crashes, pandemics, solar flares) and the ones that are entirely man-made (nuclear, EMP or biological warfare and, soon to come, weaponized sentient AI). Humans have had experience with most forms of both categories of events, that have caused varying degrees of destructiveness across history. Some of these events have led to revolutions, upheavals or other major political and social changes, whilst others have brought about the development of wondrous technologies that have upended our lives in unimaginable ways. Thankfully, none of them have driven our kind to extinction: catastrophic events caused by nature are exceedingly rare, whilst for those created by mankind, credit should be given to our need for self-preservation, our instinct for survival and resilience in face of adversity.
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1 See our July newsletter entitled “The Before Time” for more on this.