Turning Covid-19 Into An Opportunity

Source: New York Times

It’s June 26, 2020. The United States just witnessed the highest number of Covid-19 infections in a day, months after the coronavirus first broke out. There are 2.4 million confirmed infections and more than 120,000 deaths, with no slowdown expected any time soon. If anything, we are trying to reopen as fast as possible. It may not be wrong to say that we have surrendered without a fight, cowardly agreeing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of the weakest members of our species to a viral deity. Many countries are already preparing to mask this modern human sacrifice as best they can, so the picture is grim, but there is still time to change course. We are capable of better thinking. How can we make the best of this situation?

At a time of their own choosing, each country should fully embrace the lockdown for at least three months, and use that time to equip their population with the skills and tools that they need to be happier, more productive members of society through an extensive and curated learning program. People who can work from home should continue working from home, but the private and public sector, at every level, along with members of society, should take collective responsibility for ensuring food is delivered to the poor. Lack of compassion seems to be the only reason we are refusing to temporarily take that responsibility. But it may be worth it, for every stakeholder involved.

Billions of people across the world suffer from mental health issues without knowing what they are, how they are linked to trauma and injustice, how they can be managed, etc. Billions of people across the world struggle to pursue careers that can significantly improve not only their lives but the lives of all those around them. Billions of people struggle to take a few weeks for themselves, to do the healing and reflection needed to overcome the kind of challenges they face.

A three month lockdown can be a blessing that more than compensates for any short term loss of economic activity. Three months is enough for a human being to learn basic English. Three months is enough for a human being to learn web development. Three months is enough for someone to learn how to work remotely. Three months is enough for someone to start a food delivery business. Three months is enough for someone to learn how to manage household finances. Three months is enough to learn how to meditate, why it works, and how it is so deeply connected to all religions. Three months is enough to write essays about innovations that can uplift billions of people out of poverty. Three months is enough to learn about systemic racism and the history of human cruelty, and feel more compassion towards those who have been treated unfairly. Three months is enough to get better at using spreadsheets, or to learn data science if you are a university student who likes statistics. Three months is enough to learn to surf the vicious tides of injustice and inequality.

As great as that may seem on paper, it is unrealistic to expect governments across the world to lean into it, what with them promoting an entirely different narrative. But perhaps any one country could pursue this experiment and set an example for the rest. If we miss the opportunity, though, it would be a depressing indicator of the smallness of our species.

Technology entrepreneur based in New York. Interested in art, music, philosophy, psychology, machine learning, neuroscience, physics, and nature.