Coronavirus Accelerates the Rise of the Digital Citizen

March 9, 2020

Coronavirus is spreading around the world. First in China, then in Italy and South Korea, and now the world. Global financial markets have been in turmoil for weeks, Saudi Arabia announces it intends to initiate a price ware with Russia over oil. As we see governments begin to take measures to combat the virus and calm financial markets it’s a good time to assess what will result from this global dynamic.

An unfortunate reality of the fear, panic and probably cost of life from the virus is the accelerated rise of the digital citizen. Measures like social distancing and the more draconian quarantines are being implemented on wide scale. As individuals become physically distant, they are none the less social beings that require human contact. This innate drive for social contact is furthering the exploration of how we can immerse our lives into digital environments.

It’s unclear where the tipping point will be. How bad does the outbreak and resulting counteracting measures have to be to instill permanent societal change? How much systemic fear is required to rewrite the DNA of our societies norms and mores?

Immediate Society Level Changes:

Work From Home & Home Schooling – to prevent the spread of an outbreak more people will be able to perform there work at home. We will craft future businesses to support this decentralized structure. This was already underway from the WFH side and there is no reason to assume that it won’t simply accelerate under current conditions and stay that way. The challenge will be in understanding what type of job functions simply cannot convert to WFH. Will they become automated by AI and Robotics leading to a displaced workforce? Or will this workforce be required to work under seemingly more harsh work environments. Will they qualify for hazard pay or be deemed socially undesirable for working physical jobs? (I doubt that)

Side Jobs & a New Creative Class – displacement from physically oriented jobs will force many people in need of money to find unique ways to profit digitally. We saw it as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, most people are resilient and entrepreneurial when put in a bind. Expect nothing less from this crisis. In fact, the tools for digital entrepreneurship have never been more accessible. As such, we will see the rise of new money making projects online. Games, writings, and videos to entertain the quarantined, educational workshops for stay at home children, and a general proliferation of creative production.

Social Democracy – Do not conflate this as socialism. The fundamental components of capitalism will still be intertwined with our western governmental style of you eat what you kill. Yet the massive displacement of workers to digital life will require support measures from the government to make the transition. This will come in the form of a restrictive Universal Basic Income (UBI). Restrictive in the sense that the money can only be spent on essentials such as food, shelter and re-skilling initiatives.

At Home Medicine – There will be a rise in technological breakthroughs promoting at home medicine. In support of Telemedicine initiatives, a golden age of at home diagnostic IoT tools will hit the market. From blood testing to urinalysis, doctors will be able to assess and diagnose patients remotely with new DIY tools. This will promote the societal level push for norms around avoiding public contamination. As remote diagnostic tools proliferate we can also expect to see at home treatments rise through drone delivery of medicines.

We are still in the early stages of this global crisis. It’s fascinating to experience how the media cycle can seemingly stretch how the crisis into feeling eternal. Regardless of the feelings we have from inside an ongoing financial and health oriented crisis it is clear from the long arc of history that society will move forward but in an altered state. We benefit from keeping an eyes towards the future mentality.

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