In The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society 1250-1600 (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Alfred W. Crosby summarized the arc of 350 years of development this way:
Beginning in the miraculous decades around the turn of the fourteenth century (decades unmatched in their radical changes in perception until the era of Einstein and Picasso), and continuing on for generations, * * * Western Europeans evolved a new way, more purely visual and quantitative than the old, of perceiving time, space and material environment. * * * In practical terms, the new approach was simply this: reduce what you are trying to think about to the minimum required by its definition; visualize it on paper, or at least in your mind, be it the fluctuation of wool prices at the Champagne fairs or the course of Mars through the heavens, and divide it, either in fact or in imagination, into equal quanta. Then you can measure it. * * * Then you posses a quantitative representation of your subject that is, however simplified, even in its errors and omissions, precise. You can think about it rigorously. You can manipulate it and experiment with it, as we do today with computer models. (Ibid., 227, 228-229)
COVID-19 has now exposed the extent to which those inversions have come fully to government at last. The pandemic has now exposed as well the way in the perception of politics and human organization, its reality is shaped, understood, and controlled through quantitative representation. CVID-19 has now also exposed the extent to which, whatever the lingering elements of the post 1945 era ancien regime intelligentsia suggest otherwise, the reality of politics is being manifested as the product of a perception of data that produces a managed simulation of the world in which it seeks to control. Modelling is the way we create these simulacra and through that creation creates for itself a more prominent role in the political management of human affairs. The character of that role is not as a tool of politics but as politics itself. That, in essence (and we deal almost entirely now in a world that operates by reducing objects to its essence and then layering those reduced essences into models of reality), is what COVID-19 has revealed in 2020.
What follows are short reflections of the implications revealed by an ascendancy of data driven Pandemic; likely the most important legacy of COVID-19. Its effects have touched virtually every aspect of collective life.