Wishing you all the best for 2021. Short end of year thoughts.
2020 has been a difficult year for the obvious COVID-related reasons. However the pandemic disaster and 2020 may have sown some of the innovation seeds that we will need long term.
Projects for 2021:
Finishing my performance-lecture on How We Die.
UnConference on Climate
Video Chats on innovation/progress/sustainability/arts.
Reply if any of that gives you an idea, or you'd like to have a chat.
One holiday season blog to read is Anoushka's reflections on our near miss in Thailand. I happened to have been in New York City over 9/11 and various other near misses but it does bring home the amount of chance and luck in life. "....It was probably ten or fifteen minutes before we understood that a tsunami had struck the Andaman coast of Thailand. Krabi was hit at 10.30am. We had left our beachfront hotel there some time between 8.30 or 9am. We sat on the sofa with our hosts and watched the horror unfolding on the news channel...."
And here is our Christmas goose (only need 45 minutes cooking time) with our new idea of fried potato peelings!
I have chat with my friend Doris about her new book, fiction v. non-fiction, life and juggling a writing life with being a psychiatrist. Video and blog here.
"....I would say that I was probably trying to avoid writing about grief just because it's painful and I didn't necessarily want to dwell on it myself or kind of pull other people through stories of grief so these stories emerged as I was actually working on other projects. So I was working on a longer project but in between working on that project, I found myself turning to these stories that would pop into my head. So I lost my own husband, I think you know when I was 40. So he was quite young. I was quite young. And once that happens, first of all, obviously it's a very life-defining experience but what starts to happen is people introduce you to other people who've been through similar experiences, who've lost a spouse or lost someone else who's very close to them and over time I became aware that the experience of grieving is both very universal and then also very particular. So although we may feel we know what another person is going through and I felt like I could understand what especially other widows were going through and in some ways I could, and in some ways I really couldn't. So the experience was different for different people and then also had these common features. And I found that I became interested in the differences and how different people handle grief and how sometimes there's an idea that there's one way to grieve, which is absolutely not true and that really anything goes when it comes to grief. So it can look quite different for different people and at different points in our life. And certainly, I also have experience with grief as a clinician and watching patients go through very painful losses. I do think that being open to thinking about and writing about grief has made me a better clinician and more able to sit with my patient's grief and loss experiences. ..."
Why do I think 2020 may be a rare turning point year?
I still think there’s a decent chance that COVID will fade from memory and we will have learnt little (this would make it like Swine flu). But, I think that chance sits around 30% and moving lower. This is partly due to the length of time COVID will be affecting us and partly due to our response both innovation-wise and public health wise.
On the positive front we have had many science innovations not least on the vaccine and biomedical front: mRNA technology looks set to prove long-term robust to make many kinds of vaccine. We have a malaria vaccine in late stage testing, Deepmind/AI has made advances in protein folding modelling, and new molecular entity drug approvals (excluding vaccines) was c. 51 this year in the US, which is in line with the last few years in terms of therapeutic innovations. With gene-editing technology and our increasing knowledge and comptuting power, biomedical advances for the next 10-20 years look promising to me.
Environment-wise: We’ve had China, Japan, South Korea commited to carbon net zero. Battery technology has continued to improve. Solar power is the cheapest form of energy in many places. Even Nuclear (mini) and fusion technology has continued to improve. Apple has joined the electric vehicle / driverless car race.
Governance-wise: We had fiercely contested US elections that have essentially been peaceful and robustly managed given that over 161 million Americans voted. UK and EU managed to agree a Brexit trade deal.
My guess is that certain people will be inspired by science and innovation as having some answers to our challenges that will make them place more bets here and invent more valuable things that will improve human welfare and the environment. That COVID has triggered an enhanced ability to work out of the office should help bring more productivity and people to work and develop and, hopefully, this should also bring about better welfare.
Many of these improvements are slow-moving - like our overall improvements in human life expectancy and welfare. Many of us both misjudge how far we have come, and perhaps if we understand our progress we misjudge the challenges which are still great.
But we will need both parts. To understand where we have made progress, where we still have challenges and to use the opportunities COVID has given us to do better while trying to defeat its catastrophic impact.
That's not to downplay the awfulness of COVID. That's with us. But how we react is still up to us.
I remain more worried about creative arts practitioners. While over the long-term creative industries have typically bounced back from hard times, I think 2021 will continue to be hard and I see many brilliant creatives having to leave the arts and related work. It’s hard to measure the value of arts and the financial rewards are low for the majority. There is little joy in a future generation of creative work when this generation is so hit.
I would speculate that the end chapters of the COVID experience has vaccines and technology as major characters in the story.
I chat with Rebecca Giggs on her new book looking at humanity through the lens of the whale. There is video and a transcript. Self-recommending.
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Archive and repeat words below. Stay well, Stay safe, Ben
Micro-grants. £10K for positive impact people.