The pandemic will pass. In any event. With greater or less loss. Sooner or later. But will the world really change, and even for the better? Changes are inevitable. But which ones?
Oddly enough, on the whole, humanity is optimistic. Anxious, envious, often very vicious and cruel, but optimistic. However, there are reasons for optimism. But it would be unreasonable to deny that there is a basis for pessimism.
In many of today’s discussions about the influence of the coronavirus, the idea can be heard that the destructiveness of the coronavirus also contains what can be called creative destruction. Every crisis breaks the old and clears the way for the new, paving the way for the solidarity and cooperation of people.
It is assumed that because of the forced decline in traditional forms of activity – travel and other forms of mobility, personal contacts, and countless gatherings, from prayers and concerts to political meetings and demonstrations and the like, forms of online interaction will develop where there will be no need for physical, personal contact. It will affect all areas of life. Education, trade, science, medicine and much more will move to a large extent into a new virtual space. And this will push new technologies to the foreground. A new labour philosophy and ethics, new principles of doing business will take shape. New business models will develop, the nature of resource consumption will change, and much more.
Therefore, coronavirus began to be perceived as a kind of trigger to defuse people’s vague fears of the future through their concentration on one, common, universally shared problem. Therefore, the assumption is made that after coronavirus, it will be easier for people to reorganise world self-government and the world order in general. It seems like the time has come. And the price of this will be, some note, great, but not excessive. Just right, so to speak.
But the optimistic view expressed above is, firstly, just a hypothesis and, secondly, there is clearly a pessimistic approach.
And its foundations, alas, are quite obvious. First of all, this is an extremely complex, contradictory composition of the colossal modern mankind. Seven and a half billion people live very differently, in conditions of incredible social, economic, technological and cultural inequality. Moreover, this inequality exists not only between countries, but also within the countries themselves. To imagine that all this mass will be able to transform relatively quickly and adapt to new forms of life is very difficult. More importantly, so far there is not so much new prosperity on the horizon as a new crisis and the threat of impoverishment due to the fact that entire sectors of the economy are virtually disappearing. And in an interdependent world, this means certain damage to other industries.
Oddly enough, the main problem is that the political elites of the world, so far, at best, are only thinking about how to systematically respond to what is happening as it unfolds. Alas, the logic of the fight against the epidemic involves separation, a decrease in the level of contacts, and in extreme cases, absolute isolation. Despite all the possibilities of online communication, this isolation means a permanent deterioration of the economic situation. But the pandemic will not end quickly; it will have to be chewed at for a long time. Or so the powers that be and the media decided as they predated and parasitized upon public panic, and nothing can be done about it.
In fact, the main question today remains: is there a plan to overcome the crisis? How long can we continue to isolate ourselves and how can we escape? If the optimists are right, and there is creative destruction in the current history of the coronavirus, then the main manifestation of this new creativity should be a plan for the restoration of the whole world; in this best of all worlds, it would yield renewal and improvement. However, in the absence of broad interaction, we may expect an even greater division of the world. As the richness of human interconnection is replaced by its online facsimile, we in fact become more primitive; people regress, aggression festers, and conflicts arise precisely because of deepening contradictions and the gulf between different groups in terms of their standards of living.
This requires the broadest international cooperation, the creation of new institutions of world regulation and strengthening of old ones, and the expansion of their functions, if possible. The current crisis has shown that neither UN, nor the World Health Organization, nor the World Bank, nor other institutions have either the resources or the authority to implement global regulation. All resources belong to the states. They, in fact, control the ball. They rule as they know how. As it turns out, incidentally, this is different for everyone. But this is not the point; these same states have the ability to develop rules and mechanisms for world regulation. And this, in my opinion, is extremely important.
The world will truly and inevitably change. But the form of this inevitability is not obvious. Purely theoretically, it’s time to think about a new Marshall Plan, if you will.
Isaac Asimov wrote a novel, The Caves of Steel, about a world in which everything happens online. All live in their steel caves and communicate using various technical means of communication (it was written, by the way, before the Internet). But how sad this world is. The nature of man cannot be changed, although it can be enriched with new and wonderful opportunities. We need to communicate normally. And this is inevitable, while we live.