We Will Be Stronger for This.
I was fortunate enough to live in San Francisco during the summer of 2017. I was working at a coding bootcamp and I was surrounded by what felt like the pinnacle of optimism about the ability for Tech to improve our lives. It seemed like any smart person with a decent idea could get venture capital to launch a new and ambitious company.
However a lot of those companies were forced to reckon with the slow progress of cultural change. Though there were companies like Theranos and WeWork that were straightforwardly mismanaged and ineffective, there were so many more companies that had great ideas that could not take off because of restrictions on how much customers were willing to change their lives.
These companies addressed common problems with industries like education, work communication, healthcare, and food, but so many failed to become big. The coronavirus and the challenges that we will face in the coming year are going to force us into possible progress in so many domains of our Lives.
We already see it now. There are so many tweets and memes going around about people realizing that their meetings could have been emails and that the communication of the office could have been replaced by safe, remote work.
It’s hard to shake the status quo unless we are forced to. And now we are forced to. Here are some of the ways in which our world will certainly change.
Most of US higher education system has closed down for the year. Unfortunately, this crisis will likely go into the next school year. Many K-12 school districts have already chosen to close for at least the next 3 weeks. Some have closed till the end of the year. But all of them are going to be affected by many months of school closure in the next year.
Our education system is unbelievably stagnant and difficult to reform. This particular crisis is going to be one of the most important times in US education. The way we react to this will determine the new status quo of education for the decades to come.
This is both exciting and frightening. The main reform that this opens us up to, is going to be the use of remote, online education. We have had the research and the tools to effectively implement online education for many years, however, it has been slow and difficult to broadly implement it across the education system. The education system is extraordinarily invested in the status quo of 30-student-rooms that run by one teacher for 7-hours-a-day 5-days-a-week and 35-weeks-a-year.
Now we will be faced with the problem of how to maintain student growth even while schools are closed in order to prevent further community transmission.
This is the time to start investing more in education technology, and this is the time for teachers and school leaders to begin considering how we can better integrate online education in order to meet the needs of our students during this time. The tools are there, it is up for us to adapt.
Towards the end of his career the Nobel Prize winning Economist, John Maynard Keynes, predicted that by 2000 the average citizen would be able to work 15-hours-a-week and still make ends meet. There have been so many promises made about how technology could improve productivity and shorten the work week. However, the expectations have largely fell short.
We have gotten productivity innovations like the personal computer and the internet, but they have largely just added to the weight of work rather than the effectiveness of work. I think that a lot of this is due to the maintenance of the status quo, but now with the Coronavirus the status quo must change.
One of the best ways to prevent further community transmission is to work remotely. It will be difficult to maintain the economy, but we must do whatever we can to maintain the productivity of our companies while still largely working remotely from home.
We have had video conferencing and productivity tools that could have theoretically revolutionized remote work for the last decade, but we have never fully embraced them to the point where most people could effectively work from home. Coronavirus provides us with a situation where we will have to build a new economy that can rely on remote work. That means using the tools we already have, and building the tools we need.
UberEats and Postmates created a small revolution of food-based startups that never quite found a large foothold outside of the Bay Area. We saw so many different iterations of meal kits, prep services, food delivery, ghost restaurants, and grocery delivery. But the majority of us continued to go through our same habits without taking advantage of these innovations.
And now just like with work and school, we have to figure out how to eat without having to go to crowded places where community transmission of Coronavirus thrives.
For the next year, our food system is going to be tested more than it ever has. The startups that couldn’t quite have a foothold will now have the opportunity to literally save the lives of thousands by providing the logistics, the ideas, and the creativity necessary to provide delivered food to people who cannot safely be in public due to their age or health status.
And while we work to meet the needs of the average consumer, we are also given the opportunity to begin to build the infrastructure to solve things like food insecurity. Our government has been completely unhinged. With the right leadership on all levels of our society, we will be in a place where we could build a New Deal. A New Deal where our government is more open to building the services and infrastructure required to truly meet the issues of food inequity.
I’m personally terrified. I have been constantly stressed out and questioning my own health and whether I have the virus. But, at the same time, I am excited for how this country can come together with the world to meet the incredible challenges put forward by this pandemic. Our lives will be unhinged and completely changed for the next year.
We have no option to go back to the status quo, we have to deal with the problems or accept the death of many people. With this time of change, we now have the opportunity to progress. We must take every advantage to try and move forward into a better direction.