The Atlantic: It Wasn’t Just Trump Who Got It Wrong

The purpose for sharing this article is not political, but is instead focused on encouraging all of us [ subject matter experts and lay leaders alike ] to remember that there is still a lot that we must all learn together going forward as we address COVID-19.   Listed below are excerpts from the article published by The Atlantic entitled ” It Wasn’t  Just Trump Who Got it Wrong” written by Zeynep Tufecki, a associate professor at the University of North Carolina, and a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.  She studies the interaction between digital technology, artificial intelligence, and society.


Many will be tempted to see the tragic coronavirus pandemic through a solely partisan lens: The Trump administration spectacularly failed in its response, by cutting funding from essential health services and research before the crisis, and later by denying its existence and its severity.  Those are both true, but they don’t fully explain the current global crisis that has engulfed countries of varying political persuasions.”

As it turns out, the reality-based, science-friendly communities and information sources many of us depend on also largely failed.  We had time to prepare for this pandemic at the state, local, and household level, even if the government was terribly lagging, but we squandered it because of widespread asystemic thinking: the inability to think about complex systems and their dynamics. We faltered because of our failure to consider risk in its full context, especially when dealing with coupled risk—when multiple things can go wrong together. We were hampered by our inability to think about second- and third-order effects and by our susceptibility to scientism—the false comfort of assuming that numbers and percentages give us a solid empirical basis.  We failed to understand that complex systems defy simplistic reductionism.”

Widespread asystemic thinking may have cost America the entire month of February, and much of what we’d normally consider credible media were part of that failure.”

In the United States and Europe, the die is mostly cast for the immediate future.  But understanding our failures leading up to this moment isn’t an abstract exercise.  Maybe we will muddle through the next few months, at great cost.   But we will still need all the systemic thinking we can muster to anticipate the second- and third-order effects that will follow this crisis. And if we hope to blunt the impact of others like it, let’s not forget, again, that all of our lives are, together, embedded in highly complex systems.”