The Kovid pandemic is truly a global problem. The same virus strain is responsible for the spread of the disease in 188 countries. It does not behave differently depending on weather conditions or people’s eating habits. There are no reports of large mutations in the virus. Its features are consistent around the world. Global travel, a by-product of globalization, is the main reason for its spread.
Epidemic management has not happened globally. Different countries have different ways to solve this. People like Taiwan run it at the national level. India has some national level interventions like lockdown, but has handed over most of the management of the epidemic to the state governments. Then countries like the US did very little nationally. Responsibility for managing the epidemic was left to the state leadership.
The effort to develop the vaccine is a unique initiative that brings together teams of health professionals from various countries, pharmaceutical companies and universities around the world. These global teams are an excellent example of how to tackle this problem globally.
World Health Organization Chief Tedros Adhanam warned that Kovid was not the last in the epidemic we would face. So, the next time we face this kind of global curse, how differently should it be handled? This evaluation will not only help us to manage the next crisis more effectively, but also better manage our current problems.
For all problems there are four broad stages in their management. They are: Understanding the problem, developing solutions, implementing solutions and overseeing the same. Of these, there is no doubt that the last two phases of implementation and monitoring are always best managed locally. Often, the first two steps — understanding the problem and developing solutions — are also moved to the local level. There is a strong belief among policy makers that differences in local cultures play an important role in constructing the problem. But some recent developments in the field of cultural neuroscience have provoked a different opinion.
In his latest book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and Making of Cultures, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio states that unicellular organisms tend to “punish” individual cells that do not cooperate with a large group. In this regard, it is important to note that some signs of current human behavior were embedded in organisms billions of years ago. The nervous system that is the source of behavior has been in development for the last 600 million years. Culture as defined by the cultural anthropologist Edward Tyler “a complex sum of knowledge, beliefs, art, morality, law, custom, and other abilities and habits acquired by man (sic) as a member of society”, can be traced back only about 50,000 years. .
When studying the problem of human behavior, it makes sense to search for general signals that are relevant and embedded in the basic nature or form of life of the nervous system. This approach leads to a very basic and universal solution. Even when we consider culture, it makes sense to look for similarities and search for differences. The more we pay attention to where such boundaries are, the less attention we pay to the full picture of the problem.
Even during the Kovid crisis, there were many commonalities of behavior in countries. For example, people around the world are reluctant to adopt new social protocols such as wearing masks. Such common human responses are also found in other problems. For example, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman did not see an easy way to succeed on climate change because we as human beings are not ready to accept some short-term costs and compromises in our living standards to minimize much greater but uncertain risks in the future. . Also, road accidents around the world are caused by the same human behavior, which is the fastest.
The human brain underestimates the speed of large objects in the analysis of accidents experienced by railway-track offenders in Mumbai. The proposed solution to this problem is based on the insight that humans always use a reference point when determining the speed of an object. So, as part of the solution, a series of track sleepers on the railroad tracks were intermittently painted yellow to serve as a visual indication of its impending speed. Therefore, the understanding of the cause of the problem and its solution derives from the study of the basic structure of the human brain. This solution can be applied anywhere in the world, regardless of possible differences in culture.
One good thing about coming out of the Kovid crisis is that the universality of the virus has allowed the best talent in the world to work with one mind to create a vaccine that can be used as a universal solution. This approach works more effectively than each country trying to develop the vaccine to suit its own population based on the differences perceived. So, like the global vaccine development teams, can we form global teams that can take a more comprehensive approach to other global issues? When solving global problems, can we focus more on the similarities of the human brain that have emerged over hundreds of millennia, than on the differences of our relatively recent culture?
Biju Dominic is Chief Evangelist, Chairman of Fractal Analytics and Final Mile Consulting.