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Adapting to Change Is the New World Order, Same as the Old World Order

The economy has taken quite a fall this year due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, with The New York Times recently reporting an estimated 66,000 businesses folding and U.S. unemployment exceeding the population of Canada ( Everyone in the world is waiting for a vaccine so we can all go back to “normal.” But the promise of a quick cure may be just so much science fiction, similar to the century-long promise of a cure for the common cold—which also happens to be the result of a series of different coronaviruses. Television news reports tell us every night that this is “the new normal,” but the more important question is centered on the level of restrictions and the pervasive viral fear that Western civilization will embrace.

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Rogue states and terrorists around the globe may well be considering whether the use of a hyper-contagious virus can actually cause the collapse of the economic system—a system that began after the plague that devastated Europe and Asia in the 1300s, was organized by Alexander Hamilton, and has created untold wealth for billions of people. Adapting to disaster is the new world order.

A New Way of Thinking

As Charles Darwin famously posited, it is not strength but rather the ability to adapt that is critical for survival. We see examples of this all around. It is evident when a local family restaurant puts out a giant banner proclaiming “takeout available,” allowing it to survive as a business—at least temporarily—or when a different restaurant, having access to extra property, erects a tent outside with picnic tables. That’s a great idea during the small percentage of the year that the weather cooperates. Some cities closed down streets so restaurants could put tables outside to serve customers, and, as long as the residents of that community are willing and the weather is decent, that approach can serve as a temporary Plan C. Others have placed Plexiglas dividers between tables. It is very awkward but it may work—for a while, at least.

It is an old cliché that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. These small businesses have realized that the world is in distress, and they have attempted to temporarily adapt.

The New Manhattan Project

When we wrote the article, “Pandemics Happen—AI and Machine Learning Can Provide the Cures” (, in April, we called for a modern Manhattan Project or Apollo 11 moon-landing-scale effort to bring together all the great minds of the companies of the six cities of Silicon Valley ( The mission of such a project would be to identify new uses for AI and machine learning, leveraging the incredible power of modern-day computers in order to discover a way to prevent diseases such as COVID-19.

The most daunting obstruction to the creation of any vaccine has been identified as “Phase 3” testing, which usually requires tens of thousands of paid participants being the subjects of a “double-blind” study (maybe more than one). These often take between 5 and 10 years. The big concern in developing a vaccine is often not whether it produces the desired outcome, which is to encourage the immune system to create antibodies to the targeted pathogen, but the unknown side effects. The 1976 swine flu vaccine, which was administered live on television to President Gerald Ford, for example, resulted in serious adverse reactions for many recipients, which was particularly disheartening since that predicted pandemic never materialized.

Can modern supercomputers be trained through machine learning techniques to mimic the human body so that AI algorithms can not only discover the degree of effectiveness for a given vaccine candidate but also the potential side effects? If so, then maybe the time to create a safe vaccine can be reduced from 10 years to 10 months, 10 weeks, or 10 days—or less. 

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