COVID-19, Futurologist and my Friend on 104th Floor

Most of my readers know about my friend who lives on the 104th floor in the tallest building in Mumbai. For those who don’t know, this friend of mine is the richest person in the world. His wealth is more than the wealth of Ambani’s (I mean Mukesh), Tatas (including Shapoorji’s), Birla’s and Mahindra’s, Agarwal’s and Mittal’s all put together. He pays income tax as much as the annual budget of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. But despite the financial power he holds, he is a very simple, friendly, well-meaning and a warm gentleman.

In these trying times of COVID-19 pandemic, it was not surprising that all heads of the State across the world were contacting my Friend for help. He was gallantly supporting the economy recovery packages in most of the countries being a kind-hearted and generous person.

I wasn’t surprised when me and my Professor friend reached his house for our usual Sunday breakfast, he was just closing conversation with Mr Donald Trump. “Don’t worry Donald, I will lend you a trillion dollars to tide over. And I am confident you will certainly win the elections” he said while closing the conversation. I wasn’t sure what exactly my Friend was funding, but I thought that this is his business and I shouldn’t be poking.

This time we saw a new person at the breakfast table. This gentleman had white hair, that were untidy (like Albert Einstein), a wrinkled face and sharp eyes underneath his bushy eyebrows that one wouldn’t miss.

Oh, meet Dr Watson, a futurologist of repute from the United States. My Friend introduced him with lots of praise. We did a Namaste to him with folded hands and didn’t venture to shake hands with this strange gentleman. I thought about his quarantine requirements since he travelled from the US. My Friend, as if he read my mind, explained that he had flown in Dr Watson in his super sky jet that had landed straight on the tower. This jet had a continuous air cleaning system using advanced nanotechnology that could “filter” any virus. Still, Dr Watson was tested for Corona using the 1 min advanced robot conducted testing procedure that used some sophisticated genetic algorithms. The results were negative.

“Enjoy the breakfast”, said my Friend while sipping a strong Columbian coffee

The subject of Futurology has always intrigued me. Futurology has evolved through knowledge painstakingly acquired by our ancient civilizations, where possibilities of the future were described covering some of the major catastrophes. In India’s Vedic literature, relative movements and positions of planets were considered as the scientific basis for the predictions. Nostradamus, 16th century physician and astrologer had also made prophetic predictions, many of these have come true. Some say that India’s ancient Vedic scriptures had already predicted the Corona pandemic.

If one wanted to not to trust the so called “empiricism” in the predictions made based on planets or intuition, then a rational and science-based approach is called – based on “world models”. Although, work began post World War II, this approach was brought to wide popular attention in 1972 when Dennis Meadows and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published The Limits to Growth, based on a study commissioned by the Club of Rome, an international assembly of business leaders.

This report focused on hypotheses derived from a computer model of the interaction of various global socioeconomic trends; it projected a Malthusian vision in which the collapse of world order would result if population growth, industrial expansion, and increased pollution, combined with insufficient food production and the depletion of natural resources, were to continue at current rates. These predictions at that time did not account climate change and pandemic we are facing today and yet painted a disastrous future for the mankind. This modelling approach was criticized mainly on the limitations of models and the subjective, interpretive nature of the predictions. Futurologists (a branch that emerged from social science)  acknowledged these limitations. These futurologists then increased sophistication of their analytic techniques, that drew from advanced mathematics, econometrics, environmental modelling and computer science apart from modelling social behaviour in the constrained world.

I thought that this was a good opportunity to ask Dr Watson whether any predictions were made on the COVID-19 pandemic.  And probably, Dr Watson was expecting this question.

“Dr Modak, there have been several “predictions” regarding the pandemic we all are facing.

The 1981 book by Dean Koontz called Eyes of Darkness referred to emergence of Wuhan-400 virus.”

Professor interrupted Dr Watson “That was more of a science fiction – based on a story of a kind of conspiracy. It wasn’t a prediction”

Professor was right. Koontz did some wild imagination that unfortunately came true.

Dr Watson continued.

“Virologist and Flu Expert Dr Webster in his book “Flu Hunter- Unlocking Secret of a Virus” speculated a possibility of virus pandemic.”

Professor retorted “But that was only an expert judgement, and not a classical prediction”

“In fact, you might have come across Scott Burn’s film Contagion that was based on a virus causing a global pandemic after a bat infected a pig” I added. This was again an imagination.

These were all coincidences. Professor supported me.

Dr Watson continued. He was now serious.

Do you know that in 2018 Bill Gates presented a simulation by the Institute for Disease Model  that found that a new  flu will emerge like the one that killed 50 million people in the 1918 and it is most likely to kill 30 million people within six months. He warned the world and asked to step up health infrastructure and services.

Oh, this was quite a prediction based on quantitative modelling – Professor exclaimed. But why wasn’t his observation taken seriously?

There was silence on the breakfast table.

My Friend explained that Dr Watson was deeply looking into this Disease model for quite a while now on his request. He had kind of perfected the work further and being an experienced futurologist, he provided some credible scenarios.

“Are you expecting Dr Watson that this Corona epidemic will stay on much longer or even recur? What does the prediction model say? And what’s the future?” I had lots of questions to ask.

Dr Watson smiled. Maybe he didn’t want to answer. Looked like he had signed a Nondisclosure Agreement with my Friend.

Just then my Friend received an urgent call.

Excuse me Gentleman, He apologized and walked across to the window with his handphone.

He was listening patiently to someone who must be important.

After some pause, we could hear him speak.

“Well, Good results. I had already told you that I will invest one trillion. So just go ahead”

He returned to the breakfast table and looked at us. He explained

“Well, I had funded a project last year for making vaccines for flu like diseases taking cue from work done by Dr Watson. The Team working on this project called me just now to say that they have cracked discovery of a vaccine for COVID-19. They wanted to confirm my investment in the business of large-scale vaccine manufacturing. I have agreed. A trillion here or there hardly makes a difference to me”.

I thought he was right, as a businessman.

After saying Namaste to Dr Watson, me and Professor left the breakfast room.

Before putting on the mask in the elevator, Professor stared at me and said

“No wonder why your Friend lives on the 104th floor. He can see the future

I pressed the plastic clad button of the elevator to reach the real world on the ground – a ground that is for mortals like you and me.

Do read article by Hillary Hoffower “Bill Gates has been warning of a global health threat for years. Here are 11 people who seemingly predicted the coronavirus pandemic”




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