I Think Opinions

What to Think of the Pandemic?

by Marco C. Janssen, UTInnovation, the Netherlands

How do you write a column in the middle of a pandemic? In a time when many people are in quarantine, fearing for, or lost their job, are confined to small a space, are facing hunger and worst of all, when there is still no clarity on when this will all end.

Lots of questions are going through my mind fighting for answers. Was this an accident? Was this planned? Are we overreacting? Why are children less affected? Should we be willing to sacrifice our society for a relatively small amount of, mostly, older people? Is it really as bad as some say or is it a hoax as others state? Many questions and no real answers.

Since World War II a large part of the world has lived in relative peace and our societies have flourished and economies have grown. This with the occasional outburst of violence in specific parts of the world, which is something that we can easily isolate from our minds. There are several theories that suggest that if a state of relative peace is maintained for too long, fear and suspicion are removed from our society, making us susceptible to manipulation, populism and propaganda. This can then be used to create possible false problems, which allows certain people to take control and provide a desired solution to the problem.

For now, we have been ordered into quarantine, businesses are closed, and applications are forced into our society to closely monitor our every move and who we come in touch with. This may all be done with the intention to protect us, yet it does raise a few ethical questions as to how far we are willing to let a few control the masses.

The many can only be controlled by the few if the masses allow themselves to be, and the power the few have is the power the people give them. So, is the virus an accident or a means to control us and to shift the powers that run the world?

To me it is clear that the quarantine is not sustainable. Large amounts of people are literally starving at home as they are living day to day from what they make on the streets. With that being taken away from them, the psychological and safety layers in the Maslow pyramid are activated as hunger and fear take over. I therefore think that it is very likely that we will see people all around the world starting to protest, rebel against the restrictions, and even take up arms and revolt.

In the meantime, we are stuck with a diabolical dilemma, do we follow the orders of the few to (maybe) protect a specific and relatively small group of people and up to what cost are we willing to do so? I am still struggling to find my way in all the information that is floating around. What is fake and what is real?

My logical engineering mind tells me that the simplest of explanations are the correct ones, but what is the simplest explanation? There seems to be consensus in the media that the Chinese government has been systematically lying to the rest of the world about the severity of the infections, the infection rate and the transfer mechanism. There are also serious concerns about the actual number of affected and dead people reported. It is also clear to me that there are people benefitting from this situation. As stocks tumble, companies go belly up, countries see their economies fail and demand hits rock bottom, there are clever people that know how to take advantage of this situation. This may very well lead to the new world order I mentioned before.

On the positive side, the pandemic has shown us that climate change is very real and that we humans have a major impact on our planet. The air is cleaner than it has been for a long time, the amount of waste is decreasing, and nature is responding abundantly to the absence of humans in its natural environment. In that sense the pandemic is a blessing as it is way more effective than several summits and agreements between humans. There are even people that have suggested to repeat this quarantine every year for 2 months to help save the planet.

Fortunately, we have also, very quickly, understood that many tasks can be done in a virtual environment. We do meetings online as if we have never done it differently and have accepted that we do not need to travel or be physically in the same place to conduct business. At the same time, we are all longing to leave this quarantine and get back to seeing our friends, enjoying a good meal in a restaurant, have a professional haircut and being able to go wherever and whenever we want.

Governments are telling us the new normal will be the 1.5-meter (5 feet) society, but I truly hope that we can go back to being close to the people we care about and socialize.

For now, please stay safe and share your opinions, experiences, thoughts, evidence and stories so that we as humans can start combining facts and eliminate fiction, start answering the pending questions and take well informed decisions on what to do next.


Marco C. Janssen is the CEO of UTInnovation LLC and the former Director of the Smart Grid PMO at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. He received his BSc degree in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic in Arnhem, Netherlands and has worked for over 27 years in the field of Smart Grid, Protection, Control, Monitoring, Advanced Metering Infrastructures, Distribution and Substation Automation. He was a member of IEC TC57 WG 10, 17, 18, 19, the IEEE PES PSRC and CIGRE B5 and D2 WGs. He was the convenor of D2.35 and editor of the Quality Assurance Program for the Testing Subcommittee of the UCA International Users Group. He holds one patent, has authored more than 58 papers, is co-author of four Cigre Technical Brochures and two books on Smart Grids and Electrical Power Substations Engineering and is the author of the “I Think” column in the PAC World magazine.