by Jesmond Saliba
A crisis is rarely welcome, but the coronavirus emergency may be just what the doctor ordered at this juncture in history. That the pandemic pushed the world into an ‘unprecedented period’ has been repeated enough times already and, indeed, never before has a disruptive force spread so rapidly and so broadly. However, this could only happen because we forged conditions that were themselves without precedent: deep-seated international ties powered by a break from analogue electronic technologies.
Before the pandemic, governments, businesses, and societies were speeding towards a fourth industrial revolution that some will argue is already here. The digitalisation of life thanks to advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, materials science, or quantum computing put humanity on the cusp of a completely new era.
The Covid-19 outbreak is perhaps the decisive nudge that will bring about this impending paradigm shift.
The disease has altered every aspect of life – healthcare to leisure, governance to activism – and many of the changes have been made for good. The emergency measures introduced in practically every country, have provided the opportunity to re-evaluate human contact and the void created by social distancing has quickly been filled by digital solutions there were waiting in the wings.
Trade and the economy, sport, services, education, strategy and leadership, even warfare will have to adapt to an increasingly contactless environment. The worth of personal touch can only be expected to grow, but human interaction across all fields will likely transition into the digisphere without looking back.
Communities will find their ways through the new age, as they always have, but business, the media, authorities, and other major stakeholders have a pivotal role in building new norms, standards, and values in the emerging social system. Global cooperation will be redefined; international trade will open new paths; social and ecological justice will demand different approaches; jobs will address fresh challenges.
Once we cross the Covid-19 bridge we shall discover the full extent of the change that has been going on over the recent decades. For the first time in history, the definitive shift will have had a clear demarcation line.