2020 will always be remembered as the year that changed the course of human history forever. It is not that human beings never came across major transformations before. In fact, the whole human history is full of such transformations.
A quick overview of these major transformations in human history spans across—from being hunters and gatherers to erecting monuments in order to live in clusters (now known as cities), to reshaping the world with agricultural revolution, then saving the humanity in the name of industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution paved the way for our scattered civilizations to enter the era of modernization and post-modernization on the foundations of mass production and mass consumption of goods, products, ideas such as basic human rights.
Such a massive change in the society contributed to implement the universal concept of what is right and wrong and how their fellow human beings should live and function in a synchronous manner throughout the globe (once again, thanks to the industrial model for paving the way of such a monotonous world that we have lived in until 2019).
One important aspect of all these transformations that should not be overlooked is the fact that such milestones that changed the way we, as homo sapiens, learned to live and practice our lives did not occur overnight, rather these were the outcomes of hundreds of years of human struggles in the form of wars, miseries, cruelty, kindness, hard work and religious believes, to name a few.
Our ancestral history taught us how to interact with other, how to make and break social bonds, how to preserve and transfer the collective memories of our experiences to our future generations, how to associate tremendous amount of power with a colorful piece of paper (commonly referred to as money) and standardize trade of goods, products, ideas and services within the seven continents of this globe.
We invented schools and educational institutions to make sure that our younger generations think and act in a certain way; we gave institutional authority to our worship places and erected monuments that should last longer than our average lifespans. Think of pyramids of Giza, Egypt, for example.
Likewise, we invented ways and means to entertain ourselves. Such entertainment also went through massive transformations from cheering during gladiatorial contests and fights in colosseums to singing “We Will Rock You” songs during head-to-head contests in our football stadiums.
Such a transformation of human entertainment—from enjoying the acts of butchering of real human beings in amphitheaters of monarchs and kings to cheering and shouting for their favorite teams in big stadiums—took hundreds and thousands of years to get materialized.
It is only natural that these transformations require decades and centuries to alter human habits from being bloodthirsty to becoming civilized spectacles of Ballard dancing completions.
In other words, the entire human transformation is founded upon the factor of time. There were no shortcuts! Never before has it ever occurred to the human being that you go to bed for a goodnight sleep and wake up in an entirely transformed world the next morning.
However, with the dawn of 2020, we, as human beings, witnessed another remarkable shift in the course of human history. This transformation was brought to us by the so-called coronavirus (also referred to as COVID-19). The news about the arrival of this novel virus spread more faster on virtual media platforms than the virus itself.
If human history is full of transformations, then why is this one so unique and is worth discussing here? The simplest answer to this puzzle is the factor of timing and pace with which this remarkable shift has occurred in changing, rather transforming our lives.
This rapid transformation that we are witnessing during the time of Corona is because of the fact that unlike our ancestors, we have already invented a remarkable new world for us to live in. We commonly refer to this new planet as the “virtual” world of ours.
Long before COVID-19 hit us, an overwhelming majority of the human population was already living two parallel lives: one face-t0-face and the other on our virtual profiles (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter, to name a few).
Even then, all of our virtual “reality” of life was still predominantly dependent upon our face-to-face interactions and transactions. In other words, we still had a choice whether to opt for the virtual planet or keep on clinging to our traditional ways of life.
However, in a matter of less than two months (the duration that we took shelter in place to save ourselves from the pandemic), human beings essentially tossed away their existing lifestyle that this creature had acquired as a result of the tireless journey that spans over hundreds and thousands of years.
We started to witness that almost every individual and every institution started to migrate to this new planet by converting themselves to become virtually present. In other words, for some, it was like a leap of faith that they took to save themselves and to save humanity, while for others, they had no choice, but to join the virtual world for the sake of their survival. Thus, “virtual” started to become the new “real.”
Human being started to look past the ways and norms the industrialization and modernization had taught him/her to live, dress up, work, communicate, practice religion, learn, seek healthcare and entertain him/herself, may it be watching or participating in sports, or going to the bars to hangout with friends, peers and colleagues.
While the pandemic that we are confronted with right now is still unfolding, the human lifestyle has already changed for good. Such a transformation is already visible even though we are still waiting in our cozy couches to get past this virus and get “back to work.” In fact, there is no “getting back” in the post-COVID-19 world. There is only “moving forward.”
When we end the lockdown and start opening up, we will find out the “work” might still be there, but it is not the same work that we used to do; religion might still be there, but it’s not the same way that we used to practice our faith systems; restaurants and bars might still be there, but it’s not the way we used to hangout in those places.
Think of virtual hangouts that most of us are already having via Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp video chat and Facebook’s Messenger App. It was because of this rapid change in human behavior that Facebook introduced a new function that allowed its virtual hangout to chat with 50 people simultaneously.
Likewise, universities and educational institutions might still be there, but it’s not the way that we used to impart and seek education; stock markets might still be there, but there might not be the same companies that we used to think as kings and queens of investment; planes and public transportations might still be running on fossil fuels, but may not greet us the same way as we used to commute.
Even our healthcare professionals, bankers, priests, social media influencers and grocery shopping will not satiate us with the same experience that we were used to during the pre-COVID-19 world. They all have no choice, but to go virtual.
And for all these reasons, it is imperative for us to pause for a moment and look at from where we as human beings are coming from, in order to better understand where we will be headed in the post-COVID-19 world.
This article is, in fact, not aimed at providing conclusions regarding what has changed, rather it is an effort to explore and document these sudden, yet everlasting, changes and transformations that we are about to witness when we head out to find our way “back” (or “forward”) to work!
In this context, there will be a series of follow up articles, which will discuss religion, education, economy, healthcare, politics and communication aspects of our everyday lives in the post-COVID-19 world. I will discuss how information and communication technologies are going to transform every walk of our lives within days, not decades or centuries. While I write this piece, it is already happening. Stay tuned!