The Lessons of Covid-19 for a Digital Decade
Sr. Fintech Consultant, BTC, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence
As we struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are also learning some valuable lessons, and not only about how to handle an outbreak on this scale. We can also learn from the ‘success’ of the virus to build a new economic model that is robust enough to withstand another crisis, as well as creating a dynamic digital finance system to carry us through into the next decade and beyond.
In his opinion piece for Coindesk, Michael J. Casey points his readers to the field of biomimetics, which is “the study and imitation of nature to find solutions to complex human problems.” This is not some new-fangled science; it has been around for some time, and is well respected. Christa Avampato in her article for the Biomimicry Institute suggests a number of ways in which we could look to nature for many possible solutions to future pandemics and existing viruses, and she addresses the international PPE shortage by claiming that we urgently need to produce “better materials (and more of them) to create these lifesaving products, and we need faster, easier, cheaper, and more efficient ways to manufacture them.” One of her solutions is the development of biodegradable materials to replace the high use of plastic in PPE.
There are other areas in which the Covid-19 virus should kickstart more innovation, not just in the healthcare system.
Why the virus has been so ‘successful’
Societies need stability, and they need to be able to adapt. In living systems, we call the adapting ‘evolution’. As Casey says, “The survivors of a disruptive change will be those members of a species with mutations that resist the threat.” Resistance is then passed on by reproduction, and this is also seen in economic models. Now is our moment to innovate and adopt new models for global economies.
Casey makes a great point when he says that the Covid-19 virus has been so successful because it affects many of the ‘social’ aspects of our existence. He says,
“Two traits in particular have enabled it both to overcome millions of people’s immune systems and to disarm our most valuable disease-fighting weapon: our collective brain power.”
The virus’s first ‘success’ trait is that it is highly contagious, and its second one is that the outcome of an infection is unpredictable, leaving us wondering what to do.
One person is infected but has no symptoms, while another person dies. That has stymied scientific thinking. As Casey remarks:
“In occupying the middle ground between harmless and lethal, it outwitted our collective decision-making systems. It’s as if COVID-19 ran a highly effective disinformation campaign.”
Is blockchain the evolutionary answer?
Since the beginning of the year, but even more urgently since March, economists and others have been wondering how we can improve our economic and social systems to adapt in case of another devastating pandemic.
Casey suggests we consider Nassem Taleb’s Antifragile philosophy:
"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better."
What Casey is saying that we need a “quick-action economic immune system with agility, backups, alternative paths to delivery and capacity to rapidly pivot.” How do we do that? The answer lies in an open, decentralised, permissionless system. As we head into the era of Web 3.0 with its blockchain and cryptocurrency, we have a glimmer of adaptation, that is once governments relinquish their need for centralised control.
“As the COVID-19 crisis accelerates the arrival of digital, programmable currency and open blockchain solutions, the economic advantages of permissionless systems deserve a sound hearing.”
There is also talk of digital fiat currencies and ‘programmable money’ as discussed by Antony Lewis in The Basics of Blockchain, while China’s recently launched Blockchain Services Network is a considerable achievement, “with its use of Hyperledger and Cosmos technology to build an interoperable framework and toolkit for companies and cities to cheaply and easily build and interlock their operations,” even if it isn’t the ‘permissionless’ ideal of blockchain enthusiasts.
It may even point the way to a more robust and flexible future post-Covid-19, although no doubt the fact that it is from China will no doubt irk some world leaders.
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