Light in the Corona tunnel
Often times, a crisis necessitates huge changes, fueling stark renovation in the structures of the society. That’s why, I feel, crisis and change are the sides of the same coin. Throughout the history of the world, we have seen gut-wrenching disasters and how the human spirit came out of them with inventions and discoveries which later had positive impacts on the quality of lives.
I believe, we are in such a moment in our lifetime, with the pandemic casting a dark shadow and the collective human quintessence striving to put an end to it. History suggests that we may come out of this dark phase with new tools, ideas and philosophies which can bring a heightened quality of life. I don’t think is wishful thinking as I read across some of the below stories belonging to the past:
Italian Renaissance after the black death
The bubonic plague in the 14th century killed nearly 50 million people and swept away close to 40% of the European population. But this black death, as the historians claim, led the European society towards the famous renaissance.
It transformed Europe with social, economic and cultural changes. The labor force became short in supply which resulted in higher wages for the existing laborers and innovative forms of labor-saving farming. The social divide between feudal lords and their servants was narrowed as the dependence on the later section became higher. The huge health crisis made faith a questionable topic seeding secular thoughts in people. Awareness about the uncertainties of life was heightened that artists composed metaphysical constructs. The pandemic exposed the shortcomings of medicine and surgery as a medical technique gained more acceptance. In short, what resulted was a prosperous and resourceful age.
WW-II to trigger a tech revolution and a global peace movement
World War II was the deadliest of the wars killing almost 85 million people. As we painfully review the events in WWII, we cannot ignore certain technological marvels made by the armed forces as combative mechanisms, as well as the global social changes which later played a huge role in sustaining global peace.
Radar which uses radio waves to determine the position of objects, was developed and popularized for military use in the WW-II. The main development happened in the U.K. to fit into a well organized air defense system. The British air force actively used Radar to identify the incoming German attacks and do proper resource planning. After the war, the merits of Radar were acknowledged by including it as a component in aircraft, ships and automobiles to identify obstacles in the transit. Radar also found application in meteorology in gauging precipitation and wind. It became a chief ammunition for weather forecasting. The technology, in the recent past, has seen applications within human body signal monitoring.
Cryptography saw several advancements during WW-II as pioneers like Alan Turing worked for the British government to crack the German military codes. This was showed in the movie – “Imitation Game” which depicted Turing’s work for Britain at Bletchley Park. Turing went on to create the Automatic Computing Machine, the first version of a stored-program computer.
These were the same times, when other British scientists invented the first programmable electronic digital computer to perform Boolean and counting operations, as part of an army-project. This set of computers, named Colossus, was kept as a military secret, till the mid-1970s.
“League of Nations” which was set up after WW-I was transformed into “United Nations” after WW-II put forward the ideas of a global peace movement through international legal frameworks. The objective was not just to maintain world peace, but to ensure sustainable development and uphold humanitarianism. An organization for the globe is what UN has achieved and since WW-II, it has been playing a significant role in thwarting international crises.
None of these ‘positive side-effects’ might have happened unless for the intense yearning to put an end to the biggest man-made disaster. In a way, we can say that the war led to these inventions.
Corona times seem to be not different
Enough has been said and written about how devastating the present pandemic is. The rising cases and deaths seem to be just one side of the coin while there are lots of undocumented tolls on well-being which may unravel in due course. That being said, the pandemic is a crisis which has triggered the human spirit yet again. Though they will take time to unravel, some of the below are pools of glimmering hope.
- Governmental efforts (Operation Warp speed), like never before, to speed up vaccine development. This could set new standards for operating protocols in vaccine development.
- Collaboration between companies – Companies like Apple and Google collaborating to develop contact-tracing technology. This is one of those first kind of efforts where resources of multiple technology giants are mobilized for a single common objective. This could be a start for more similar efforts.
- Digital acceleration – E-commerce and e-learning have witnessed a massive adoption level in five months of 2020 which the major players expected to achieve only in a span of the next five years.
- Earth goes greener during the lock-down – There is documented evidence that the lockdown has led to better air-quality and cleaner waters. The pollution caused by urbanization and industrialization has dipped and non-human lives are reviving.
The above points are not intended to justify that a global crisis, by any means, is acceptable. But it is just to highlight the unwavering spirit of the human species to confront a crisis of any size.
I hope, we come out of the current crisis, as quickly as possible and relish the advancements we could make during these times.