For humanity there are many turning points, but no turning back. Humans as a species have a unique ability to imagine and then make the future happen; Covid-19 is a crisis which we must overcome and from which we can create a better, more positive future. How? Let me explain.
We cannot change the human tragedy or the financial cost of the coronavirus pandemic; what we can do is drive positive change as a tribute to those lives that we have lost. We are endlessly exposed to the negativity, doom and gloom of mass media hysteria. As individuals, however, we are in general much more positive. This is partly because the stories of suffering are mostly those of others, combined with an innate biological optimism that bad things happen to other people and not to us.
I am an eternal optimist – because helping create a better future is fun and inspiring. Below, I highlight just a few of the positive mega trends I see as we emerge from this crisis; from a new wave of innovation, to new concepts in localised production.
Working remotely and from home has, and is, driving deeper and wider internet infrastructure investment. Over the last months, Musk to Amazon have announced ambitious plans to make internet access and 5G connectivity truly global. From stratospheric balloon systems to low orbit satellite alternatives, we are about to bring the internet to the 4 billion people that do not yet have access. How many new minds will this bring to help tackle the world’s challenges and shape a new future? How many geniuses are amongst that half of humanity that has little access to the educational and communication possibilities that the connected masses take for granted? The Black Death made way for the end of serfdom and ignited the renaissance – we should embrace the ingenuity and creativity that is likely post Covid.
Shortening global supply chains and bringing production nearer the points of consumption will be a mega trend that some fear could drive inflation. It could, however, unleash a new era of incredible productivity – new, more efficient and automated factories that do away with exploiting cheap labour in Asia to make cheap goods for the West. As we accelerate 3D printing of everything, we can reduce the carbon footprint, production waste and cost of a whole new range of goods – not just laptops, but medical implant devices and made-to-measure clothing. The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; globalisation benefits should not end because we re-localise – we should embrace this change with more efficient and environmentally friendly onshore production of consumer goods.
Our global food production systems are complex and fragile, but they held up incredibly well over the last months. The only real consumer shortages reported anywhere were for pasta and some tinned products – all induced by hoarding. This does not mean that the system cannot be improved, localised and made better to reduce the horrific waste of 1/3 of all the food we produce. We have already seen massive investment announced in the vertical and closed loop farming of everything from vegetables, to algae and now even fish. The drive for sustainably produced local food has swept the urban world as a greater appreciation for food and where it comes from has emerged as people have stayed at home and cooked more for themselves. This is a remarkable chance to permanently change to support local food supply chains and reduce food miles.
Most importantly, climate change remains the biggest risk to life that not enough people are talking about; it is stalking us as a silent killer as opposed to delivering the full-frontal assault of a virus. Let us hope that more of the world has had time to reflect during lockdown about this and the other challenges we face.
Lets get busy repairing the future.