There are photographs and videos of survivor testimonies of the 1918 Spanish flu. It was taught in U.S. history courses. And yet it seemed like the world was completely blindsided by the coronavirus pandemic. Why was the threat downplayed? Why didn’t people understand the risks?

Sean Donahue, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of Southern California, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, explains why, once living memory of a disaster fades, it becomes so difficult to grasp the risk of another one happening. For reasons both psychological and technological, memorializing the current pandemic will be particularly challenging.

Also today:

Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

Top story

It takes roughly 90 years for the living memory of an event to disappear. Anurag Papolu/The Conversation via AP Images

As collective memory fades, so will our ability to prepare for the next pandemic

Sean Donahue, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

A global pandemic might be at the forefront of everyone's minds. But we can't assume that future threats will get the attention they deserve from people living in an information-saturated world.

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

Science + Technology


Ethics + Religion

Most read on site