Previously published on Medium.
With many organizations (and countries) going on lockdown, it may be seem unconventional to be talking about anything positive. Yet, I cannot help but think, that humanity might come out of this far better off than before. That is, if humanity gets through this crisis at all.
For now, in our immediate financial interests, most of us should resort to home office for work. Those who can’t… well, won’t, or will find a way to minimize human-to-human contact. As a software engineer, I can work from anywhere, on my own already, so I’ve got less concern about my job. But not so much for other industries, such as the service sector and maintenance jobs like plumbing. This is why all of our robotics and AI experts, will need to begin rolling out the progress they have made so far, to perform as many of these jobs as possible.
In fact, if there ever was a time for them to explode onto the scene, it is now. And if they don’t, there will not doubt be bloom in this industry in the near future.
Nevertheless, this might have to wait. Research does not seem to be far enough ahead to make a robot world a wide spread reality. With this virus being a nasty combination of fast mutations, low to no symptoms for over half a month after infection however, the crisis might go on for long enough to begin considering new forms of goods.
What new services and branches of industry will emerge from a non-interacting populace? What will people want to buy, if they are stuck in their homes, how will we deal with loneliness and how do we manage all the other problems that are facing us, at the same time?
Such extreme isolationism will no doubt spring up entirely new companies, which means that we might be at the beginning of a forced industrial implosion. At least for a short period of time, we will be living restless lives until these needs are filled. And this, I believe, might be enough to rewire our basic priorities.
As you hopefully know by now, the market is fucked. Because of this, as well as travel restrictions, airlines won’t fly, factories won’t produce, and we will all be poorer off. Yet, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we are all trapped in our homes, and only consuming internet goods and food, there is little reason to believe that this won’t spark an environmental renaissance as well.
With a lack of production, we will learn to go without today’s luxury goods, and inadvertently save the environment from our exploitation of it. But we will still desire… something… to keep us entertained. And perhaps this longing for something worthwhile, will point our attention to the future, and our own large scale survival. Flora and fauna creates free enjoyment and appreciation, and even just being around them has genuine health benefits.
With a turning off of many industries, these more subtle aspects of our lives will become amplified and in time, maybe, we might find our way back to nature. In this crisis, we have already made a huge step in trying to meet our climate goals, even if you just consider that each transatlantic flight releases 2 tons of CO² per person (on a fully booked flight). At this point, we might ask ourselves, why not go all the way and save our environment?
Beyond that, with nature showing its “ugly”, unexpected face to the world, perhaps we will begin to listen to scientists more, and listen to what experts have to say. In this respect, we might be in a better position to act against our self-imposed climate disaster, and save us from ourselves.
Will any of this happen? I think most readers would say no. But note, that the same way we redefine ourselves by letting friend- and relationships die, the same way humanity ought to leave behind the destruction of our environment, to come out of it stronger, wiser and more resilient. We don’t know if the current situation will change anything about the climate, this is clear.
But it is better to be uncertain about what will happen, than knowingly heading towards disaster, which is why I welcome the uncertainty that COVID-19 has given us. For better, or for worse.