Crisis, the perfect intersection between danger and opportunity. We have been learning everything about the changes, the danger and the suffering that the coronavirus brings to this world for many weeks. But it is good to know that in the midst of all this pain there are also possible positive developments. It is not a question of minimizing the gravity of the situation, but of returning to the root of the word crisis and its original meaning of "choice". From what is happening we must derive the reason for the next choices we will make. This brutal challenge to humanity and our social systems could open new windows to an expected transformation.
Here is a list of 14 positive changes that this tremendous coronavirus emergency could bring in addition to the pain of these days.
1 The benefits of self-reliance will be reassessed.
Hydroponic crops, vertical urban gardens, plant-based diets, desktop 3D printers. This situation will show many of us the benefits of relying on locally sourced food and goods, rather than on products that require long and distant supply chains. We have made it a question of sustainability for years, but self-sufficiency is a question of power. It's about putting yourself in a position where, instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that government leaders protect you, you can maintain some control over your fate and that of your loved ones.
2 We will adopt more quickly i solar panels
So far, no region has experienced a power outage due to the systemic consequences of this pandemic. However, it is naïve to think that it cannot happen in some places. Whether it is this emergency or others, solar panels mark the transition from a more or less centralized system to an independent or interdependent one. The advantage of decentralized systems is, in a nutshell, that they have no weak points. Again, solar panels have been sold as a way to do the right thing for the planet, but coronaviruses tell us that it will be a matter of personal safety.
3 Drones will help us out
Our species now has the technology to deliver all kinds of products directly to the home of any quarantined person. Until now, drones are known as an offensive weapon and surveillance system. But they are like any tool, and they can help us meet positive needs too.
There are already examples of NGOs using drones to transport medicines to remote locations with impressive accuracy. Now that the ability to procure goods without human contact is a more attractive quality than ever, the adoption of these solutions could be pushed forward by an immense increase in demand for delivery drones.
4 Universal basic income.
Martin Luther King, Bertrand Russell, Milton Friedman and many others agreed that a civil society should provide its citizens with money for basic needs. To guarantee above all that no one should ever live in a state of indecent despair.
Automation has brought this topic up to date. During the current block, many jobs around the world will disappear and will already be gone overnight. Stock market losses reflect concern about how big a change in consumption might be. In light of this, Hong Kong has already approved a sort of "Emergency Income", giving each citizen 10.000 Hong Kong dollars (about 1.200 euros). Proposals to grant a monthly income to all citizens during the pandemic they were supported by liberals and conservatives alike. The tests, those already in progress and those that will follow, will produce a remarkable new knowledge and will help complete the picture that Rutger Bregman has cleverly described on previous universal income experiments in his book "Utopia for Realists".
5 A healthy reawakening of the rejection of blind trust in leaders.
Citizens of the world right now have a front row seat to see how leaders around the world are managing the same disease.
When this catastrophe ends we will be able to see what worked and what didn't. But more than that, we will have a strong example of how arbitrary the choices leaders can make can be. Many people have already died because such or such a leader took the wrong approach at the wrong time. This does not mean that citizens will no longer trust anyone. They will simply take many steps from leaders in terms of listening and building trust.
6 We will love the minimal.
What do we need? How many of the activities we were involved in each day did we really need? Doing less has its benefits, for the climate and the environment as a whole, as well as for our levels of stress and tranquility.
The coronavirus around the world, at least for some time, will lead to an extreme decline in productivity. This will also give us a new basis for dealing with our "normal" lives. When we find ourselves forced to stop for a while, what do we really miss and what will we not miss at all? Pressing the Pause button gives us the opportunity to take stock of what really deserves our commitment among the thousands of activities that always took away time for everything.
7 We will adopt decentralized Internet protocols.
Quarantine may be an unsocial's dream until the Internet stops working. Maybe it won't happen, but the heavy load on the Net is a fact.
Of course, if we were running decentralized Internet protocols we could go from hope to certainty.
The Internet was built to withstand times of crisis. Over time, however, a small number of companies have become the owners of large numbers of servers that route traffic. This reduces the functionality of the Internet. Amazon Web Services, for example, manages one-third of the total servers on which the cloud runs. We could adopt other protocols to make Internet more peer-to-peer, and have a better equipped network for a crisis.
8 We will enter the world of post-post-truth.
We are all imagining a range of possible scenarios, from mild to frankly catastrophic ones, and now it is an urgent and collective need: we want to know the facts.
Is everything under control or should we stock up on food and water at home? We want to know. Don't guess, but know. And even as scientific doubt has grown more and more in recent years, there aren't that many people left who would reject the thought of a vaccine now.
9 We will increase the telepresence
Social distancing is happening at a terrible time, but it at least offers us the opportunity to eliminate unnecessary meetings. What could have been teleconferencing quickly turned into teleconferencing. There are even virtual stages. The fact that meetings and concerts are finding digital interactions is great news for a world that relies on air travel far more than carbon budgets allow. Large telepresence services could help make the world much less polluted after the coronavirus.
10 We can repay "our heroes" with more than just applause.
The true value of work that keeps society (and our mental health) afloat is now being felt deeply. People who have their children at home are finally enjoying teachers more. The ecological operators, the delivery clerks, the cashiers finally receive the adequate thanks for the services they have always rendered. And health workers who risk their health for the sake of others now receive tremendous support and gratitude. We are learning what is essential. Now, instead of paying the heroes of this crisis with nothing but cheers, could this sudden appreciation finally take a monetary form and translate into better pay for our most crucial professions?
11 We will get a gigantic inspiration from it
And that's right, someone will have time to finish their novel. The same goes for a myriad of artists, currently stuck, many of whom will perhaps create their most inspired pieces. Shakespeare is famous for writing King Lear during his quarantine period. From the existential motives of serious filmmakers to escapism, and extraordinary memes: even a pandemic, in all its brutality, can be a muse.
12 We will update our emergency protocols.
As bad as Covid-19 is, we know there are far worse scenarios and we can improve a lot in preparing a global response. We could use this situation to become more sensitive and more resilient in the face of larger problems. Large-scale repository development, underground mushroom farms, even bacteria-based food to survive a potential nuclear winter or super volcanic eruption (I told you it gets worse) don't seem so eccentric anymore. The phrase "hope for the best, plan for the worst" is making sense.
13 We will reinvent longevity.
The condition and suffering of the elderly are generally snubbed. Before this pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people died of diseases directly related to old age every single day. As the Covid-19 coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the older part of the population in the world, this problem should see strong momentum.
Intergenerational solidarity could become more important when we come to fully realize that a condition of good health is always so precarious. The extension of health and life span is an issue we could take more seriously. We must embrace those who argue that aging should be classified as a disease.
14 The common enemy will unite us
In the 90s, some globalization skeptics (for me they were right) they claimed that our shared global village was turning into a "McWorld", with consumer culture as its common denominator.
Come to think of it, there's something much healthier to keep in common for all humans: we all want a safe tomorrow.
In Covid-19 we found the common enemy, as in "Independence Day". An enemy who attacks people regardless of their appearance or passport. Today it hit the British premier, so to speak.
In conclusion, on the impact of the coronavirus in the world
This brings us back to the original meaning of crisis: the current situation offers a choice. Either we try to recompose the world as it was before this catastrophic event, or we can use this shared event as the founding moment of a new global history.
A new story that recognizes that under our membership badges we are all vulnerable, dependent on each other.
We have already seen in the beginning the lack of global coordination to control the spread of the coronavirus around the world. We are now seeing how each state's government is transforming this shared global event into so many unique and nationally defined experiences. All of this tells the story of an interconnected world, clinging to a model that pretends not to be.
This can change. I want to repeat it, we can tell another story.
Global risks require a global response, some problems are so important that they are above all partisanship. A virus like the coronavirus can spread rapidly around the world and change us profoundly. But even an idea can spread like this.