Most people I talk to knew a global pandemic was possible but they didn't believe it could happen to them. I knew it was possible, because I've studied risks of global catastrophes, but I didn't *really* believe it could happen to me.
Back in 2017 when I was studying the history of bioweapon programs and pandemic risk, I bought N95 masks and gloves to go into my disaster kit, but I still didn't at a gut level believe it would happen.
This is the way we think. Our intuitions don't prepare us for events that only happen once every few generations.

When there's a nuclear war, whether in our time our childen's/grandchildren's time, it will be much the same.
The risk from nuclear war is even harder to grasp because only two cities in the world have have faced it. There are still survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they're remote, a mere historical curiosity.
We are not in denial about the chances of a nuclear war, because the thought has not occurred to us.

There has never been a nuclear war, with two sides and hydrogen bombs. It's very hard to believe in your gut that one could happen.
The world will believe it when it happens. Instantly, for directly affected by it. For those whose cities burn and whose refugees crowd every surviving town in all directions. And the whole world will remember afterwards, for at least a while.
This might sound morbid but that's not how it feels to me. It's tragic and uncomfortable. There are many actions we could take to make war less likely, or less severe. There may even be mechanisms of government or international coordination that prevent future wars...
However, it's naive to think it is likely to see an end to war before a single nuclear weapon is used again. So that tragedy is already with us. It lives in our silos and in our submarines and in the launch codes carried at all times by leaders around the world.
I have wept at the thought of losing cities. I will weep again if I live to see their actual destruction. Death takes us all in the end, but I do not believe a nuclear war will spell the death of civilization.
We've not reached the end of history. If you play with fire enough, you will get burned. We're not just playing with fire, we're building flame throwers. But when you get burned, you learn to handle fire better. You figure it out and you improve. That's my hope for humanity.
That in the next few hundred years, we'll put together systems--of sensemaking, governance, long-term planning--that will learn from mistakes and course-correct.
But to do this we have to start building the informal and formal structures that can learn from our mistakes. It's the right time for this. COVID is a warning shot, a small burst of flame that singes the eyebrows.
You can follow @JeffLadish.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: