Heroes in times of panic

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When Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in in March 1933, one of his collaborators described the situation in the country in a few words, “panic in the air.” The new president was facing a catastrophic situation after three years of depression. He did it with resolution, surrounded by people willing to innovate, taking full responsibility, with tireless work and surprising creativity, projecting confidence and always telling the truth to citizens.

An example of transformational leadership in the opposite direction of what we see these days in the White House: a president who is looking for culprits of the coronavirus inside and outside his country, overwhelmed by the speed and magnitude of the economic crisis. Ten million citizens have lost their jobs in two weeks. The aid package approved by Congress is not intended to provide liquidity to keep businesses open, but to subsidize the unemployed, an equally costly and potentially fatal decision.

In return, the initiative of a Spanish, Darío Gil, executive director of IBM Research, stands out in North American civil society. This young and renowned scientist took the initiative a few days ago to create the largest public-private consortium to mobilize computing in the fight against the coronavirus, data and artificial intelligence at the service of the common good.

The network it has created brings together universities, technology companies and public agencies, which aggregate the world’s most powerful supercomputers for a single purpose, increasing the speed with which to discover solutions. After a call to the White House of the hero of this story, he put the project on its feet in five days and without having to sign a single contract.

As Darío Gil explains, the simulations in progress on the evolution of the virus and what type of molecules can deactivate it are already being carried out in forty-eight hours, instead of taking several months. Just as it happened at the end of the Great Depression or the Second World War, we need new institutions and ways to collaborate so that the destruction caused by a virus never returns. .

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