Publications

- June 1, 2020: Vol. 14, Number 6

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Finding stability amid uncertainty: How we can look back at lessons from history to help us plot a way forward

by Jonathan Goldstein

Our way of life has changed immeasurably in recent weeks. How can we as individuals begin to comprehend the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our day-to-day lives? Perhaps more importantly, how do we think about what comes next?

Rightly or wrongly, numerous comparisons have been drawn by both politicians and the public between the impact of this pandemic and that of the Second World War on civilians. While the threat to our way of life is of a very different nature, and we can count on many privileges that previous generations could not, it is worth looking at historical events of a similar magnitude to understand how we can both recover and thrive. Look back to the First World War, the Spanish flu epidemic, the Great Depression and the Second World War, and it becomes apparent that so-called catastrophic events are a frequent part of history.

An outline of the impact of extreme events in terms of human psychology and economics is given in Nassim Taleb’s seminal wor

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