There will be an epidemic, an outbreak of a deadly virus. The death toll will increase up to millions of people.
The rationale: The recent "scandal" about the Swine Flu brought this issue to attention. WHO is now being criticized for stirring up trouble when in fact there was little to be worried about, and that this created profit for the pharmaceuticals.
Individuals officers in WHO may or may not be corrupt, but this is irrelevant to the point I will make now. The problem with the nature of a pandemic is that it is chaotic in nature, and this is counter-intuitive, meaning that the average person has difficulty grasping and coming to terms with its nature.
A word about chaos: We all heard that phrase, where the wings of a butterfly on one ocean cause a storm on the other ocean. I always found it poetic and beautiful, but the fact is that chaos is not really beautiful. It really loses much of its appeal if you replace the butterfly with a virus.
The premise of the chaotic systems is that they have too many parameters affecting each other. The fact is that we do not really know:
1) Exactly why, when and how a regular virus mutates into a potentially dangerous virus.
2) Exactly what can make a virus potentially dangerous.
3) Exactly what happens during an outbreak.
The nature of an outbreak is chaotic: If you can take some simple measures, and everything goes according to plan, you prevent it. If something goes wrong - you may or may not know what it is - then you have an outbreak. The deadliness of a virus is another matter: These little buggers don't come with warning labels on them that the scientists can read on a microscope. The fact is that you cannot determine with accuracy the fatality rate of an epidemic during the initial period. By the time you find out about how deadly the virus is, you are already too late.
Therefore, no matter what we will do, we will have to make either one of the two mistakes:
1) Exercise Imprudence: Underestimate a virus and cause people to die.
2) Exercise Prudence: Overestimate a virus and cause public to spend money.
When you put it like that, everybody goes for option #1.
However, the problem is that nobody even attempts to put it like that. The main reason is that we want to believe, and we do believe, that the researchers at WHO somehow know all the necessary information about the epidemic. After all, if they don't, aren't we all in mortal danger? In fact, we are in such danger, and there is very little the researchers can do about it, and what they can do always comes with a price.
I just want to repeat myself, because the whole premise fascinates me: The nature of an epidemic is chaotic, and because chaotic systems are counter-intuitive, we (the masses) don't understand them. We like to believe that the researchers actually do know, that they have a chance to get it exactly right. We don't understand that it is really a choice between two mistakes. (underestimating and overestimating)
There will always be a grey area for "calling wolf" on a pandemic: And to tilt the scale in favour of the pharmaceuticals profit is also to act prudent. What makes the public better protected also makes the pharmaceuticals richer!
And this illusion is exacerbated because many of the public figures would not want to talk about this: Who would want to defend the "evil" pharmaceuticals?
What lies, then, in the future for us? Since we want to believe that there is a correct course of action, and we see now only the current mistake, (overestimating) we will ask our researchers to to correct this mistake. No researcher wants to be labelled as "a corrupt pharmaceutical puppet," and the rhetoric of the evil large company is too strong. Nobody will want to take the blame when the next epidemic risk arises, and they will make sure that they don't make the mistake of "overestimating" again. Since the system then leaves opportunity only for the other mistake, they will make that mistake: Underestimating.
We believe in our minds, our individual capacity to understand, and our democratic notions in an irrational way. The fact is that we cannot make rational decisions in areas we have little expertise in. It is better for us that those decisions are made by other people, for us. This is where our democratic notions fail.
What then, is going to be the scale of this epidemic? Since the current belief in "evil pharmaceuticals" and "corrupt doomsayer officers in WHO" cannot be dispelled without an event that would affect a significant portion of our population, this is how great it will have to be. Minor epidemics that come before will not be able to change this perception. The only event that can demonstrate the high price of not being prudent enough against an epidemic is the high-priced epidemic itself.
1) Let go of the illusion that an epidemic can be reliably forecast.
2) Get vaccinated every time.
3) Give credit to people's education. Don't take every decision yourself. Let others take some decisions for you, even if that means filling the pharmaceuticals' pockets with money.
Also, have a combination of pharmaceuticals in your stock portfolio.