TECHNOLOGY and PANDEMIC: TWO SIDES of the SAME COIN?
We are currently witnessing a global hackathon to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This event has subverted all political, economic, and even cultural expectations regarding how this sort of project is carried out.
We live in a world where, in theory, we can connect with thousands of people simultaneously, but in practice we feel more alone than ever before. A world where “likes” abound but hugs are scarce, a world appearing to go crazy on the surface, but where there are even more complex goings-on behind the scenes. In this world, organizational structuring and leadership have shifted radically.
In the middle of a pandemic, we are also facing an infodemic, an oversaturation of information that requires its own separate considerations.
Technology has been a key factor in combatting the pandemic across economical, epidemiological, and social spheres. Efforts from the technological sector operate from two distinct standpoints, one more apocalyptic and the other more optimistic, one more cynical and the other more desperate.
Through all of this, society must worry about privacy concerns regarding personal data, as well as the potential distribution of a vaccine created with unprecedented speed. For what might be the first time in human history, the entire globe is focused on the same problem. It was in these circumstances that a global hackathon began, with the express purpose of combating the pandemic.
For what might be the
first time in human history, the entire globe is focused on the same problem. It was in these
circumstances that a global hackathon began, with the express purpose of combating the
Technological evolution has been spurred onward. Many sectors have been forced to incorporate previously unseen technological elements, and many of our parents have had to improve their digital literacy as a result. The intergenerational digital divide has narrowed.
Hundreds of thousands of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have survived thanks to e-commerce platforms allowing them to dramatically change their business model.
A large portion of the human race currently lives in a state of 24/7 connection and constant contact, on one level or another. But we may be approaching a paradigm shift toward a desire to disconnect. In the current reality, it is easy to feel as though we have lost the right to remain disconnected. The nature of the connected world has gotten out of hand. Is disconnection even possible anymore? Or has a disconnected state of being become inconceivable? Levels of anxiety are on the rise, to such an extent that deaths due to depression outnumber deaths due to obesity.
What would the ideal Teleworking Act look like? Is the home office the new normal? There is no doubt that companies will carry on teleworking into 2021. Are our homes prepared for that? Do we have the tools and the space?
Technology simulates physical presence so closely that we can no longer tell whether we are actually present or not. More and more of our interactions occur through an electronic wall. Zoom birthdays? Videoconference weddings? Funerals over Skype? Are we really there, or are we merely simulating presence?
Over the last 20 years, a debate has raged, especially in academic circles, regarding the need to reassess STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines and their relative importance versus humanitarian disciplines, including the arts and social sciences. Are we generating that debate about new forms of leadership, colored by 21st century technological and social advancements?
COVID-19 is a technological catalyst. That is to say, the pandemic accelerated
processes that we as a society had been putting off.
One could say COVID-19 is a technological catalyst. That is to say, the pandemic accelerated processes that we, as a society, had been putting off. I propose we hold fast to that path, learn from our mistakes, stop waiting for the crisis to end, and transform our processes for good. We should create prototypes to improve processes for the future. We should stop resisting forward motion.
I personally believe that leading society into the future will require top-notch critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Cognitive skills must be incentivized, skills far beyond the scope of technological tools. A multidisciplinary approach will prove key.
At the end of this crisis, we will all have antibodies (so to speak). Surviving this moment will teach us lessons that previous generations never had the opportunity to learn. We will find ourselves more united in so many ways. The age of individualism has ended, and a time of teamwork is beginning.
With all that in mind, I propose that our goal should be a compromise. Our lives can be significantly improved by technology without sacrificing all that which makes us happy, such as dinner with friends or meetings with real, not simulated, eye contact.
There are many lenses through which one can view any situation. I believe that this pandemic has given us an opportunity. And you? Through what lens will you choose to observe?