Mean-reversion is an enormously powerful force — and all the more so for being so drastically underrated.

It’s why new-year’s resolutions don’t stick, habits are hard to change, and the status quo wins as much as it does.

A couple of weeks ago, I was musing about what it might look like to return to “normal,” and I realized (again) that we’re still not far enough into the new. “Normal” still brings up images of office buildings, ubiquitous air travel, and pretty much limitless energy consumption.

Of course we’re all sick and tired of being sick and masked and tired, and of course we’re all looking forward to enjoying the freedoms and opportunities we used to take more or less for granted.


For one thing, taking the climate emergency seriously will require adaptations much wider in scope and longer in duration than anything we’ve experienced thus far with Covid. Five months into really living with Covid, this story still isn’t getting enough play.

For another, what if we’re not looking at the right means in the right ways? More than 75 years of unprecedented global peace and prosperity, if truly unprecedented, means we might have some much bigger and tougher long-term mean-reversions on the horizon.

Fear-mongering or facile historical analogies won’t help us prevent or prepare for the possibility, but neither will willful ignorance. More connected and more prosperous isn’t necessarily normal. Still less more prosperous because more connected.

Not every generation lives through something like this, but the decisions we make now will surely shape what’s normal for generations to come.