Covid-19 and the Question Concerning Technology

Covid-19 and the Question Concerning Technology, by Bruno Macaes.

The main question posed by the coronavirus pandemic may well turn out to be the one concerning technology. The responses adopted by governments around the world seem to fall into two main categories.

  • Those countries able to leverage new and emerging technologies to fight the virus have done better in limiting the number of cases and fatalities, while managing to keep most of their economies and societies operational.
  • The countries unable to use technology had to rely on lockdowns, quarantines, generalized closures, and other physical restrictions—the same methods used to fight the Spanish flu more than a century ago and, in many cases, with the same slow, painful results.

In Singapore and South Korea, individuals are digitally monitored, but life is almost normal. In Spain, they are not monitored — but they cannot leave home. The Spanish situation seems almost medieval.

The question becomes more interesting and more complicated after one realizes that the — allow me the term — Luddite group is predominantly located in Western Europe and North America. The virus outbreak has brought to the surface a fact that many of us have long suspected: the backlash against technology in the West has become the main threat to its security and prosperity, just as other regions are embracing technological progress. …

Speed is of the essence.

You can say that again, about speed being of the essence. Western governments were consistently a step too slow at all times, complacent and not paying attention until too late. For example, if we’d closed the borders earlier it would have been enormously cheaper — as advocated and predicted here in ample time.

While allowing us to fight the epidemic on a much more granular level, technology is also being used to stabilize the levels of social and economic activity. A shift to digital, remote technology helps eliminate contagion risk.