Questions From the Audience

I received some questions about my recent essay, How Will Tech Evolve After A Pandemic. They are great questions so I decided to answer them publicly for all to benefit.

Electronic door opener and closers will be very expensive for developing countries. Do you think manual ones which fit for existing door handles will be a better and cheaper solution for all ? This may even apply for developed countries because you can’t have access control doors everywhere without heavy investment.

This is an interesting question that I have 2 answers for.

The first is based on a well studied theory called the diffusion of information theory. It’s an explanation for how new technologies and ideas are introduced through society. It’s best represented by the bell curve chart below.

Technology is invented by someone or a small group of innovators. They account for a very small amount of the population and are passionate about the product, service, or change they are developing. In the beginning, it’s only the innovators that experience the technology. In time, with luck and some capital, the innovators are able to expand production and begin a sales process.

At this phase, they are able to attract early adopters. Early adopters represent a new technologies biggest and most passionate fanbase. At this phase of the adoption cycle, the technology has fewer features and a lot of bugs. It’s not until some time has passed, multiple iterations have taken place, and word of mouth has spread the idea of a new technology before mainstream adoption takes place. This is the early majority phase of the innovation adoption cycle.

As for remote door locking mechanisms in developed countries, they too are subject to the diffusion of innovation adoption cycle. The developing world typically falls in the late majority bucket.

With that said, as the early majority and late majority subsets of the global population begin to adopt this technology economies of scale come into play. This means that because there are so many customers willing to buy the mechanisms, the businesses can batch large orders of components to drive down the costs of production. This provides an opportunity for developing world nations to get preferential pricing.

The second point that I think is important to understand is that a Pandemic environment throws all that out the window. Entire countries are shifting their private sector production capacity to manufacture technologies required to combat COVID-19. They are shifting to a total war footing by deploying the entirety of the economy behind battling the Pandemic. Examples include the manufacturing of ventilators, masks and hand sanitizers.

This changes everything about the diffusion of innovation. Governments have the ability to deploy massive amounts of capital to develop and reduce the costs of production for critical technologies. I see hands free technologies as one such example that may receive massive government funding once the outbreak is controlled. This would benefit the developing world.

Finally, having travelled to several different developing world countries I am confident that this technology has a home there. I believe developing world countries produce the most savvy entrepreneurs in the world and someone will adapt pre-existing tech to the needs of their communities.

What is your view on Remote Healthcare diagnosis? How do you think this will be done effectively? Eg. Apple watches can do your ECG. What more could be possible? Maybe thermometers built into phones? What else would be possible?

Telemedicine is the future of diagnostic healthcare. There are several converging technologies that will create the ideal environment for telemedicine.

IoT devices such as wearable watches capable of monitoring sleep and heart rate are already showing their value as diagnostic tools. Heart rate and sleep quality tracking have been shown to act as an early warning system to illness such as the flu.

As the pandemic expands globally, I expect to see a major push to decentralize many services to reduce person to person contact exposures. In diagnostic medicine, the most straightforward way of doing this is through the digitization of diagnostic tools. I expect to see the development of at home medical diagnostic tools that an individual would experience at a regular doctors check up. Basic blood work, urinalysis and blood pressure measurement. A working version of Theranos. As demand for these types of services increases, entrepreneurs will adapt to meet the demand.

Additionally, I expect to see the proliferation of AI Chatbots in support of medical practices. I wrote an essay on the topic here. In summary, chatbots can be trained as a frontline diagnostic tool to gather basic patient symptoms, categorize illnesses and escalate to human resources as necessary. Most importantly, chatbots are massively scalable and represent an opportunity to get care to developing world communities that may not have access to quality medical care.

None of this will be possible without the adoption of 5G network infrastructure. 5G will provide up to 100x upload and downloading speeds, increase the network capacity for the total number of devices that can be connected, and reduce network latency. This is a critical step in supporting IoT diagnostic equipment.

In general, I am very excited for telemedicine. It will greatly improve the quality of life for many people.

Countries like South Korea are planning to have apps where people report their temperature daily upon arrival after international travel. And if not reported there will be fines imposed. Do you think this should / would be done in other nations as well after such a pandemic ? The numerous possibilities of transmission and spread again are very high.

China has regularly monitored temperatures since the SARS outbreak. They have thermal cameras everywhere, especially at major country entry and exit points. People tend to be willing to sacrifice personal freedoms after experiencing a catastrophic event. In the US, that was 9/11 and the subsequent Patriot Act.

In the US, I do not see the temperature checking happening unless there is major increase in the number of deaths and economic damage. If the outbreak lasts through May and the economy is halted for that duration, it would absolutely lead to what I think of as “never again” legislation. This could include regular temperature monitoring.

It’s clear that the US was fundamentally unprepared to address a pandemic from a government institutional perspective. There will absolutely be legislative adjustments once we move past the event.

Remote work although necessary does not allow people to collaborate and work like how it is possible when they meet in person. The digital communication via email itself creates so many barriers and the need of the hour for business I feel is that people meet and interact. Do you think that with time since AI will be very strong and not need people to meet at all?What are your views on efficacy while working from home? Can this really be monitored effectively via an app?

I’ve experienced a considerable amount of working from home in my career. When I’m working by myself (and for myself) as I’ve done recently, I find it to be enjoyable. However, I don’t love remote collaboration with preexisting technologies.

Like telemedicine, I do believe that we are experiencing a convergence of technologies that will make remote work better and even enjoyable. I already mentioned 5G network infrastructure upgrades. This should take several years to rollout in developed worlds and is relatively unclear the timeline for developing nations. It’s safe to say there will be a multi year delay on top of that.

In addition to 5G, we are about to experience a major renaissance in VR technology. Going back to the diffusion of innovation cycle, we are quickly approaching the early majority phase of the adoption cycle. As more people begin to use VR you can expect to see collaborative work from home applications appear. Imagine being able to take an “in person” meeting from home.

Ultimately, remote work is inevitable. Our lives are becoming increasingly digital and our level of comfort with digital interactions is increasing. As this takes place you will see more applications developed to make digital interactions more seamless and valuable.

Further Reading:

Using IoT to Optimize Your Sleep

What To Expect From A Post-Pandemic Digital Society

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