Five reflections from 2020.

Without a single mention of you-know-what.

Matthew Boutte
8 min readDec 31, 2020


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As one of the most tumultuous years on the books draws to a close, it’s natural to look back for lessons that we can take forward with us into the new year. Based on the year that we all collectively experienced, those lessons are probably bigger and more important than ever before. But it’s easy for you-know-what to overshadow everything else and to become the lesson of 2020. But you-know-what isn’t the lesson of 2020 — it’s the lessons that lie behind you-know-what that we need to reflect on and carry forward into next year and the years to come. This is an attempt to tease out some of those lessons without directly addressing you-know-what.

Science is amazing and worth the time and effort and resources.

Just over 100 years ago there was another you-know-what. The difference between 1918 and 2020 is that 100 years ago people had to sit back and wait it out as tens of millions of lives were wiped out. In 2020, our collective scientific knowledge and technological abilities are orders of magnitude greater than they were 100 years ago. All of that science and technology sprang into action in the early days of you-know-what and developed multiple highly effective vaccines in record time using brand new technologies. The development of these vaccines was so rapid that it beat even the most optimistic of predictions.

It’s hard to overstate how impressive the development of these vaccines has been.

2020 has clearly demonstrated what the scientific process is capable of. It can address intractable problems in nearly miraculous ways when there is focused attention and when resources and incentives are provided.

When the history of 2020 is written, we will not point to individual lifestyle adjustments and sorting into ideological camps as the solutions that ended you-know-what. We will point to science and vaccines.

There are other intractable collective problems that we face that are at least as significant as you-know-what. Examining how we might press technology into the service of solving…



Matthew Boutte

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