Dark Ages: 2050
The signs were there. Looking back from 2050, the world was in a fragile state, even before the financial crisis of 2008, the pandemic of 2020-2023 and the long depression that followed.
The COVID-19 crisis exposed the fragility of a hyper-connected world and fuelled the descent into chaos. Millions were to become victims as the virus spread in successive waves. The economic depression that followed reverberated around the world for decades.
The crisis had deep roots: inequality, austerity, cultural division, escalating trade wars and economic stagnation. Geopolitical rivalries and mutual hostility, particularly between the US and China, created a global leadership vacuum, undermining attempts at unity at the very time it was vital.
Even before the outbreak, overstressed financial markets were already on edge, pervaded by hidden complexity and the looming risks of global warming to asset values and stability. The destructive power of state-backed propaganda, mass-scale media manipulation and secret cyberwar fuelled the fire.
One of the lessons was that despite progress in medical science, the systemic weaknesses were political and cultural. Amidst the uncertainty, few leadership demonstrated imaginative decision-making. Some regions and countries, like Taiwan, South Korea and New Zealand acted quickly, tracking, tracing, mass-testing and isolating suspected cases. They demonstrated that lockdowns alone were not enough. Integrated strategies were vital.
They created the initial conditions for relatively rapid post-pandemic recovery. In contrast, countries like the US, UK and Sweden, critically weakened by delay and failure to take bold decisions, were permanently scarred.
The full impact of global warming and the collapse of the biosphere that gathered pace throughout the 2020s accelerated the breakdown in civilisation. Terrorism and violent extremism, coupled with the pitiless sight of mass migration, crossed boundaries, driven by failing states and major coastal cities ravaged by global warming. By 2050, the vision of a coherent, multinational world order is long gone. The world is at war. The battle is now for survival.