The COVID19 outbreak dominates the news feed all around the world.
We are all scrambling to understand its causes, implementing rescue and containment measures. Closures, lock downs and quarantines have driven many adjustments and inconveniences.
Life came to a standstill in many parts of China, and many major cities around the world are advising their inhabitants to stay at home if this continues to spread.
Many pray and hope for the time when the dust settles so that life can get back to normal.
As of now, it looks like we are in for a long run with prolonged fights against the virus, and it would be a while before the dust settles.
A new “normal”
Undoubtedly, the outbreak puts COVID19 on the pedestal as an unexpected change agent. I suspect that life can never be the same again, at least not the “normal” that we expect.
In the past weeks, we have learnt to cope and survive by adapting and changing the way we live. What if these became permanent and irreversible?
In the movie, the “Day after Tomorrow”, a sudden worldwide storm plunged the entire planet into a new ice age. Similarly, many aspects of our way of life are forced to take on a plan B.
For a start at an individual level, we will condition our mind to embrace change. The initial panic will turn into resignation, and eventually acceptance. That process has already been set in motion.
In a future under plan B, we will see new behaviors as well as new life norms.
The dynamics between citizens and government is changing.
Lack of transparency from the governments and leadership drove desperate citizens to create their own intelligence. While this is not unique to China, the recent development has certainly amplified this effect.
I believe we will see emergences of more deep web networks for those wanting to escape the surveillance and take matters into their own hands.
Ready to question and act
With the increased influx of unfiltered and sometimes unverified information, we will start to raise more question so as to self-guide our own interests. Critical thinking as a life skill will be a new focus for education, as with agility towards problem solving.
Value of humanity
COVID19 outbreak is serving as a dividing line to reevaluate the value of humanity.
In the past week, we witnessed humanity at its best with unsung heroes braving the perils at the front lines. We have also seen ugly behaviors such as the hoarding of emergency supplies and daily essentials. More stories of community discriminations are stretching our already fragile social fabric.
This COVID19 crisis uncovers condition of human hearts and distinguishes men from the boys, composed and the confused, selfless and the selfish.
Imagineering a plan B
Over the past week, I have been thinking about the potential impacts and how life would change for good.
Here are some initial thoughts:
Our ways of living
To control further spread of the virus, businesses have been urging employers to use video conferencing rather than face-to-face meetings. Remote working, online learning, online meetings that currently exist as alternative ways of running business may well become the norm.
Physical gatherings going virtual
Mass participation events like sports events, religious gathering and concerts are being put on hold to limit “close contacts” and rapid infections.
I have just read that the Singer 2020 singing competition in China was exploring a cloud-based operation model. Under this model, contestants will perform from different locations, with judging being done by audience online instead of live.
Virtual conferences and webinars already working in similar modes.
Healthcare monitoring going corporate
The prolonged existence of the pandemic will overwhelm the health care systems, and their focus will eventually shift from curative to defensive modes. We need to get more real-time health status across population both during preventive and pandemic outbreaks.
Currently, we are already freely sharing fitness and health tracking information through our wearable devices. Would there be a day where these tracking are more comprehensive, legislated and mandated?
What would be the implication for GDPA which currently governs medical and health data between doctor and patients, not data shared using IoT?
Smart clothing is still to go mainstream since it first surfaced in 2015, but we’re slowly seeing more companies play around with the concept of connected garments.
I wonder if masks and goggles will be integrated and fashioned as part of daily wear. After all, if we have to live with these environmental threats, we might as well look good fighting these battles.
Business model rethink
Travel restrictions and border closures have already disrupted the world’s factory in China. This presents significant impact on the supplies of essential goods and disruptions in supply chains. The current events would certainly alter ongoing trade conversations and raise the need for contingency infrastructure.
As most shoppers choose to stay in-door, online retail takes over as the preference. There are reports of sizable declines in physical patronage on retail as well as businesses with physical operations like tourism, hospitality, etc.
They would probably need to redesign their operation models, customer experience and value chains to stay relevant, address concerns and anxiety at hands.
Innovations and technology
Drastic and sudden changes in our world will put to test more experimental ideas and practices. They will also speed up the adoption of new technology and concepts currently on trial.
As individuals and businesses pivot, new innovations and technology are needed as enablers for the shifts in living and business norms
With things moving virtual and online, cybersecurity will also take on a whole new level.
The day after tomorrow
The concept of a new normal is not unconceivable as we have other issues like pollution, climate change, gradual extinction of species.
These projections are by no means exhaustive – The list can go on. As we continue to deep dive and explore, we will unearth more ideas.
Invisible things will become visible
Visible things will be become invisible
Things that were once hidden will coming into light, such as health data, citizen intelligence. Our life in physical meeting, school, commerce and working space, will increasing move virtual.
While we should do what we can to stop and reverse the damage in our world, we need to start building new infrastructures and eco-systems to support the “new normal”.
In the book “Stay Alive: The Psychology of Human Survival“, Dr. Roger Walsh discusses how to overcome the psychological barriers to the solution of world problems such as pollution, poverty, and nuclear weapons.
The conversation during his 2011 interview, paraphrased here, really inspires me:
All the problems around the world are man-made, we have to wake up, we have to be enlightened we have to change it’s a matter of survival. But people are not going to wake up unless that a big drastic external change and crisis that force us to recalibrate our risks.
These threats have strong effect on us.
We can deny or oppress what we want but we can never escape the effect or the fact that our lives hang by a thread. There are no guarantee that any of us, our loved ones and culture will be here tomorrow.
What that means is that we can go two ways:
- on one hand, the very threats that we have created could exacerbate the fear, paranoia and defensiveness that got us here in the first place, or
- on the other hand, if a sufficient number of us are willing to face these honestly and act appropriately, then we might be able to reverse the situation, and maybe learn and grow in the process.
It’s going to take a new level of individual and collective responsibilities, maturity, growth, and collective actions.
It is possible that the very threat we have created might just act as catalyst to pull us out of this situation.
Indeed, this is a time that call for reflection, to rethink and act. Change is no longer an option.
The road ahead looks tough but I believe that with strong faith, optimism for the future and empathy for our fellow human, we can make it.