What will happen after the coronavirus?

What will happen after the coronavirus?

14 October 2020 Off By Oscar Giacomin

/ Hypothesis for a new world /

Faced with the scale and power of the pandemic that is affecting our entire world, the models we have available to predict its long-term effects are inadequate, and this experience is therefore an opportunity to develop new and more effective ones. 

Often the most profound changes only come after dramatic events that force people to radically re-examine their way of living, and in this case we could benefit from the critical situation to device revolutionary solutions for the benefit of everyone. 

The economic consequences will be considerable and painful for many (although some people will profit greatly by taking advantage of the crisis), and this could be the input to revise certain systems that have now shown their fallibility and replace them with more sustainable and human processes. There are many hypotheses that I have heard about recently, and one of the most promising ones is described further on. 

Even in the best case scenario, this crisis will last for months and probably affect all parts of the planet. It is easy to imagine that the distribution chain of goods will suffer a major negative impact and, in particular for the food sector, certain foods will become scarce, supplies will be intermittent and trade between various countries may even be interrupted. This will inevitably lead to an increase in retail prices, at a time when many will find themselves in financial difficulty. There will certainly be episodes of looting by individuals and industrial sabotage. 

It would therefore be appropriate to start thinking seriously right now (something that we should have already started doing some time ago) about strengthening short supply chains, boosting local production, organic crops, the circular economy, various ways of becoming more autonomous in a healthier and more sustainable way. It would be an opportunity for change that, driven by necessity, could work, avoiding larger problems and providing better models that can be consolidated in the future. 

One element that for now seems largely ignored is the widespread consequences on mental health. We have in many ways been weakened, especially in rich countries, and the current situation will have a major effect on anxiety, depression and instability in many people. This is a fact that should not be underestimated and that we need to prepare for. The weight that social media has in the lives of modern people has been the subject of countless studies, but in a case like this, highly democratic in its near universal distribution, certain changes should be evident and essential to avoid falling into a dangerous trap of anthropological involution. 

I belong to that generation that worked on the initial developments of the Internet in the early 1990s, and I recognise, like many who were part of that revolution, our overwhelming naivety in believing that the development of the Internet would inevitably have contributed to creating a better society, providing access to knowledge, increasing people’s critical thinking and levelling social and cultural differences. What happened is exactly the opposite, and it is hard today to imagine how to regain control of a situation that has totally gotten out of hand. 

Jaron Lanier, one of the fathers of virtual reality and one of the pioneers of the Internet, has analysed this more clearly than others, and in his books, in particular “Who Owns The Future” (Simon & Schuster, 2013) he proposes some bold but sensible alternatives on how to reverse course, recover the powerful and positive elements of technology, stemming their deleterious effects and making it into the tool for socio-economic development that it was intended to be at the dawn of its history. In particular, Lanier hypothesises a model for using social media that involves remuneration for those who publish on the various platforms, thus becoming participants in the profits of web giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, which profit from the free contributions of users, while at the same time using block-chain type solutions to limit the proliferation of fake news, misinformation and the spread of hate speech, exercising control without becoming censorship. These are theories that deserve thorough analysis.

Oscar Giacomin  / General Manager, Facto Edizioni

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