A traveler at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, March 2020  
Ann Wang / Reuters

The spread of the novel coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have provided a powerful test of social and governance systems. Neither of the world’s two leading powers, China and the United States, has been particularly distinguished in responding. In China, an initial bout of political denial allowed the virus to spread for weeks, first domestically and then globally, before a set of forceful measures proved reasonably effective. (The Chinese government also should have been better prepared, given that viruses have jumped from animal hosts to humans within its territory on multiple occasions in the past.) The United States underwent its own bout of political denial before adopting social-distancing policies; even now, its lack of investment in public health leaves it ill-equipped for this sort of emergency.

The response of the bureaucratic and often technophobic European Union may prove even worse: Italy, although far from the epicenter of the

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  • JARON LANIER is the author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and Office of the Chief Technology Officer Prime Unifying Scientist (OCTOPUS) at Microsoft.
  • E. GLEN WEYL is Founder and Chair of the RadicalxChange Foundation and Office of the Chief Technology Officer Political Economist and Social Technologist (OCTOPEST) at Microsoft.
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