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If it had not been Corona, it would have been something else

  • 12. March 2020

It’s had to think about anything else these days and, given my mind is single-core, I can only write about what I think. So, I write about the Corona virus.

Globalization has brought us many benefits: we are able to travel further, faster, more often that any other time in human history. We are able to enjoy far-away places, as well as products coming from far away. Same goes for the European Union: traveling and making business across borders with ease helped use grow economically and provided one of the longest periods without wars in European history.

However, as it is the case with any technological advance, there is a downside to it. As we travel further and faster, so do viruses. They travel with greater speed and are able to reach all places on Earth where humans are able to travel with ease. Yet, our speed in adapting to new viruses is pretty much the same as it was thousands or years ago. This means a lot more people will die when a new virus evolves, until we develop natural resistance or a vaccine that would help us become resistant to it. We cannot prevent this: no matter what we do, viruses will evolve and, in some cases, the results of their evolution will affect us. That’s why I say, in the title, that if it had not been Corona, it would have been some other virus, sooner or later, that would have created the pandemic which we experience today. And other pandemics will happen in the future, too.

This pandemic underlined one very important aspect: the most important resource on this planet is the capability of allowing humans to live and work together. Not access to raw materials, not money, not computing power etc. We may work remotely and live isolated, for a while, but not permanently. There is still a very long way to go until technology will be able to replace the “human touch” – if ever. Science fiction books like “The Naked Sun”, by Isaac Asimov, try to present such a future, in which direct human interaction was non-existent and even the idea was considered disgusting. I do not believe we are headed in that direction.

So, how shall we cope with such future cases? How will our society evolve?

In many areas, manual processes will be replaced with automated processes with much greater speed than today. Think supermarkets where RFID technology will allow us to go in an out without scanning any products and typing any PIN. Or online ordering of groceries with delivery by drone or robots (classic supermarkets might become, soon, a thing of the past). Production processes will also become highly automated, with little human intervention – possibly only remote.

Production of medical materials needed to prevent contamination will be considered strategical and will be localized.

R&D will focus on creating devices that will protect us from contamination: nasal micro-filters (this is not my idea, it is mentioned in Asimov’s book), devices that sterilize surfaces and objects quickly, faster computers that may help create a vaccine in a shorter time.

For sure we shall not revert to the situation before globalization.