What’s Good About the Covid-19 Panic?
The tornado that is Covid-19 is blowing through our world. After this whirlwind winds down, everything will be rearranged. Let’s look at just a few implications in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.
One of the forgotten consequences of the Black Death in 13th century Europe was that the incredible death toll brought many countries close to social collapse, weakened medieval feudal social structures, and opened the way for the social and economic restructuring of the Renaissance. Certainly, single-celled viruses do not consider their impact on the evolution of human society. It’s a bit ironic that they even have such an impact. Yet, Covid-19 might do the same for us.
Once this passes, it’s likely the death toll (in the grand scheme of life and death) will be minor. But the economic and social consequences might be enormous. I don’t claim to be prophetic. I don’t have a crystal ball. But here are just a few ideas to ponder.
New Work Paradigms
This will massively spur the transition to new technologies, new ways of working and living. The possibility of working from home, from the beach, from the ski hill, has existed for years. The technology for doing so improves constantly. With Covid-19, many people are being spurred to do just this. I’m finishing up this post from the ski hill. It’s been a great day of skiing in the sunshine and I can get several hours of work done as well.
People will find out that much more work can be done from home and ultimately reduce automobile traffic and congestion. All the anti-oil folks will happily find this might even change the world’s trajectory of fossil fuel usage. We don’t need to commute nearly as much as we have been. On the other hand, we may find that suburban electrical networks don’t have nearly the necessary capacity, which could make us look at electricity use very differently.
Teachers and students will find out that we don’t really need to go to school so much to learn. Maybe students will take on more responsibility for their own learning. That would be a good thing. Maybe this will finally spur changes to the way we deliver education to our kids. The personal computer revolution (starting in the 1980s) has brought massive efficiencies to almost every industry except education. It’s high time for a new model of education delivery that is less expensive because the cost of education is becoming unbearable for our modern economies.
There are so many ironies in our present situation that it’s hard to even think of them all. And many of us are not yet ready to think about our situation in terms of irony. It’s ironic that all of us who have uprooted our lives in order to save lives may have inadvertently disrupted our whole economy so dramatically that more people end up dying because of the economic disruption than from the virus. It’s ironic that we may have given governments so much power to control our lives that our leaders end up being more destructive than helpful—not from a lack of goodwill, but from our human inability to foresee the future consequences of our actions. Time will tell.
I’d love to hear your ideas about how we might change the ways we have organized our work and our society. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.
God Bless You!
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