With everything that's happening around us, here's an attempt to jot down some half-baked thoughts for possible silver-linings that might emerge when the dust from COVID-19 settles.
All outlier events tend to have some hysteresis effect. I suspect though that the shock-wave from COVID-19 would permanently alter human society, perhaps in ways we can't yet foresee.
Some things that I'm hopeful about:
?️ ? Remote work.
Companies of all shapes and sizes, and indeed entire industries have had to learn out how to work 100% remotely. For many, this would be their first experience working from home. A lot of people will likely come out of this experience wondering why they shouldn't do this more often, corona or not.
Zoom has gone from an enterprise SaaS company to a household name in a matter of days. A new generation of tools and businesses to facilitate this burgeoning remote workforce will emerge.
Obviously, working remotely simply isn't an option for many, esp. in the service and health care sectors.
? Home schooling.
The New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) went from keeping schools open and insisting school closures were a drastic measure they were not contemplating, to ordering a shutdown of all schools (it's the largest school district in the US with over 1.1 million students) literally over a weekend.
Staff and teachers scrambled to get trained on remote teaching and preparing learn-at-home resources. Parents got thrown into an uncertain journey that started like a vacation for some, but after a week of homeschooling, reality hits you.
A lot of parents are overwhelmed, and have renewed appreciation for the difficult job teachers and educators have (and how little they get paid for it). At the same time, I suspect for many parents (myself included) this entire experience has given them an intimate view into their child's learning and a perspective on what's working (or not working) for them and their child in our mostly legacy education system. Perhaps most importantly, I think it would have shown that when push comes to shove, home schooling is a viable option for many many more kids and families that previously wouldn't even have considered it an option.
And this, I hope, will eventually translate into an education renaissance (or at least a homeschooling revolution). Home schooling is already on the rise, but unless you can pay for a tutor, it still takes a lot of time, energy, attention and yes, screens, to create an engaging curriculum at home. There is a ton of opportunity in this space.
This crisis has reminded the whole world how critical a well-functioning, well-equipped health infrastructure is for society. I hope those on the front lines – care givers, nurses, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, doctors, physicians, epidemiologists and so on – (continue to) get the recognition and the resources they need well after COVID-19 is behind us.
But critically, I hope the United States finally gets it's act together to deliver quality healthcare that's accessible to EVERYONE. That includes politicians, insurance companies, lobbyists, hospitals and all the different actors who each compete for their own vested interest (and not for the health of the public) in this atrociously complex mess of a system!
I'm also optimistic about renewed industry enthusiasm around speeding up drug discovery / testing. Right now bringing a new drug to market is an extremely time and capital intensive process (~10 yrs, ~$1B USD for mass market drugs), which means the barrier to entry is ridiculously high, made worse only by the poor regulatory environment and lobbyists who've over the decades become very effective at stifling innovation. Of course, sound regulation has a role to play too – one need only to look at the opioid epidemic in the US, and the role of Purdue Pharma (and other large drug companies) for a cautionary tale.
? ? ? ?? Global action.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that when faced with a truly global crisis, we are indeed capable of global action in response, however imperfect it may have been.
I'm hopeful that all societies, countries will look back on this crisis and reflect on what other global crises humanity must face, together. Top of the list, I presume, will be climate change.
?? Better politics, Better leaders.
Of course, effectively global action relies on effective governance, competent leadership and a positive-sum mindset. Citizens must demand more from their elected officials, we deserve better policies and easier co-operation globally to tackle these global challenges.
I hope people the world over will emerge from this shared trauma with a higher degree of kinship with their fellow human; that we'll be able to turn back the tidal wave of all of the divisive "-isms" – isolationism, nationalism, racism, communalism etc etc – that has been rising across so many countries, India included.
I hope ??.