Strange Days

“These are unprecedented times.”

Everyone likes to say this, lately. Unprecedented. A fine word, but hardly anyone used it. Now they say it a lot. Usually, in any Zoom meeting, someone throws out unprecedented. In just a few weeks it has become as overused as giving you a heads up or let’s circle back, phrases that make us think about doing mean things to project managers.

People used to make smalltalk about the weather. A safe topic, easy to find common ground, but also entirely redundant – no one disagrees when it’s cold out. Now they discuss the global pandemic and how we live in “unprecedented times”. Equally bland and just as redundant.

Because of course things are unprecedented. Twenty years ago we barely had a functioning internet. Now my smartphone has enough processing power to plot the trajectories of comets. With the rate things are advancing, isn’t every day unprecedented? By comparison the pandemic is barely unprecedented at all. When it comes to pandemics, humanity has endured much worse.

This is true: the world is changing faster today than we’ve ever seen – and perhaps will never again move as slowly. The rate of change has become so normalized, it takes a global health crisis to surprise us.

It shouldn’t. These are strange, incredible days, and the pandemic is the least of it.