As 2020 is coming to a close, my thoughts are beginning to revolve around the future, around what’s coming next: Where am I heading? Where is the world heading? How will my and our collective future look? Exciting questions in confusing times.
And as I reflect on these questions, it’s becoming more and more obvious to me how significant and decisive these times truly are. Half a year ago, no one would have thought home office could replace regular office hours to such an extent without businesses collapsing and work being left undone. Half a year ago, no one would have thought that states would support their people and companies financially to such an extent (at least in some countries). Half a year ago, no one had probably fully realised really how easily we can get in touch with people via online platforms.
It is my hope that this year will become the stepping stone for several central changes.
Universal basic income
Disruptions like the pandemic are likely to happen on a more regular basis in the future. The speed at which the world is spinning and our growing interconnectedness increase the risk of catastrophes spreading further and faster. A global safety net is required to avoid millions of people losing the ground beneath their feet and falling into poverty. Universal basic income could be a definite solution to this challenge. It might still take some infrastructural changes for it to be possible to introduce it to all and everyone, but COVID-19 has brought us one step closer I believe. It would create more flexibility for companies and increase their survival rate, while maintaining a basic sense of security for citizens.
Discussions on how to avoid people exploiting such a systems might still need to be had, but considering the people I know who currently are unable to work and consequently are going crazy with boredom and meaninglessness, I doubt many people would. Instead it would foster more creativity, innovation and enterprise. We are hardwired for purpose. Inactivity might be attractive for a while, but at some point our boredom and restlessness will get most of us active. At least that is my experience and my strong belief.
With the rise of home office, companies have been forced to find ways to collaborate online, thereby enabling their employees to live in any part of the world. I think we will be less bound to a place with regular travelling and relocating possibily becoming the new normal in the future. There is no doubt that working together in a shared physical space makes for better collaboration, creates stronger bonds and increases team spirit. However, who knows that such technologies as AR is going to make possible in the near future? I wouldn’t be surprised if holograms will be introduced to many workplaces, thus enabling people from all over the world to work together like never before.
As a consequence of this, offers like AirBnB, shared-living and circular economy will probably experience a dramatic increase if we stop being bound to a certain place. Why invest in tons of furniture for an apartment where you will live for a year if you can just rent the stuff for the short period you’ll be living a certain place? Or maybe we will soon be able to 3D-print what we need from materials that we can decompose into the components needed for new printables.
The educational system was hit very hard by the pandemic and remote learning has probably become one of the greatest buzz words of the year. The situation has been tough for many students and educators, but it has also shown how many resources are out there on the internet, how resourceful we can be ourselves in order to learn new things, and how much more efficiently learning can be designed. The young people who received education during the pandemic will probably have a much more autonomous and independent approach to learning which will prove as an advantage for the rest of their lives. At least it has the potential to do so.
The Future starts Now
So apart from causing a global crisis and general chaos, COVID-19 has given us a taste of the future I think, and from what I see it is going to be quite exciting (if we don’t fuck it up until then, at least). Let’s see what 2021 has to offer. I’d love to say can’t get much worse than 2020, but I don’t want to provoke whoever/whatever caused the fun we’ve had this year.