New Year’s Resolution 2021: A plan to change plans | Sunday Observer

New Year’s Resolution 2021: A plan to change plans

3 January, 2021

“The more precisely the position (of some particle) is determined, the less precisely the momentum (of that particle) is known in this instant, and vice versa.” – Werner Heisenberg

Based on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for sub-atomic particles in Quantum Mechanics, social scientists have postulated an Uncertainty Principle as follows: “Any generalisation in the social sciences cannot be both popular and continue to yield accurate predictions. In other words, the more popular a particular generalisation in the social sciences, the less accurate will be the predictions it yields”.

It is the beginning of another year according to the Gregorian calendar. Making New Year’s resolutions is a common practice of people as well as organisations. People may have their personal goals such as quitting smoking, losing weight, changing careers and starting businesses. Even though they may not be categorised as New Year’s resolutions, organisations may also be planning to implement new cost cutting measures, recruiting new people, launching new products and or new marketing strategies while governments may be planning for new policies coinciding with the beginning of the year.

Most of the countries plan their economic and political activities according to the Gregorian calendar to make it easier to participate in global activities although they have their own calendars based on their cultural, religious and astrological beliefs. The most difficult challenge when one thinks about resolutions and or pre-planning for year 2021 is, the unpredictability of the effects of the pandemic.

Personal goals

Other than the personal goals that do not involve any of the factors outside one’s own will power and their way of thinking, any other goal would have some environmental factors that are affected directly or indirectly by the pandemic. Some of the personal goals even would have to be adjusted if one gets infected with the virus and or if a family member or a co-worker gets infected.

According to WHO information, there are about eighty one million families worldwide dealing with the infection of which, about two million are dealing with deaths in their families due to Covid-19 at present. Therefore, it is safe to assume that even the personal goals of those people may have been affected by the pandemic.

People are having a hard time even remembering how some industries and businesses were during this time last year. Consultants, CEOs and finance teams who developed short-term and long-term strategies for year 2020 and beyond are looking for new theories and or crystal balls that can help them plan especially for the next two to three years ahead.

Experts are suggesting that businesses should not only plan for the possible continuation of the pandemic for the next two years but also have plans A, B, C and even a plan D to cover some of the possible scenarios that have been predicted by different models tracking the spread of the disease.

Mathematical models take different parameters affecting the process to be modelled into account and incorporate the behavioural patterns of those parameters. It is a reduction of reality with the aim of reconstructing a picture of truth where the uncertainties play a major role in shaping different assumptions.

Curse of dimensionality

If the number of parameters is limited, it will be just a theoretical model, far from the real-life situation. At the same time increasing the number of parametres will increase the level of uncertainties and thus reduce the accuracy of the model.This trade-off sometimes is referred to as the “curse of dimensionality”. The Uncertainty Principle of Social Sciences can easily be noticed in the process of modelling the effects of different public health campaigns on the spread of Covid-19 around the world. Some models take the time it takes for herd immunity to take effect and vaccine availability of some parts of the world.

Antibody tests that were supposed to help guide reopening plans have brought more confusion than clarity. A worst case scenario is the major resurgence of the virus with different mutations but with no clear pattern. Scientists say that the future is still highly unpredictable and any predictions made by good astrologers may be as good as any of these existing models due to all the uncertainties that cannot be formulated.

One of the main misunderstandings is the idea that if you control the epidemic once, then you are done. So far all the evidence shows that Covid-19 does not follow any such pattern, though some researchers use data available from the Spanish flu in 1918.

With countries being knee-deep in the second wave, the world is waiting for the vaccines to put an end to this. Even though there are several vaccines already approved by the respective countries, the receivers of those vaccines and the quantity in which they will receive them are issues which do not have clear answers.

So, some kind of gatekeeping is much needed. While most countries seem to be generous, trying to share the vaccines with others many of them are vehemently trying to prevent the rest of the world from getting them. One of the reports of the INGO Oxfam says that a small group of rich nations have bought up more than half the future supply of leading vaccines for Covid-19 already.


It may not be just the rich nations that are in the competition, we are likely to see that rich individuals or organisations getting the vaccine ahead of their position in the line too.

These reports show that either as an individual, an organisation or even as a government it is important to understand the big picture in fighting a pandemic of this nature within the context of existing world politics.

Therefore, resolutions to become knowledgeable about facts, to select concerned and capable people who can take decisions based on their knowledge and experience to run organisations and or countries should to be the order of the day. It may be easier said than done but the process will certainly teach us about ourselves, our neighbours, society in general and fellow citizens of the world.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and can be contacted at [email protected]