As the new normal takes hold, renowned journalist and author Fareed Zakaria has suggested that numerous facets of our previous way of life will be accelerated.
The perspective that technology will play a critical role in the reformation of society is widely shared. In fact, a survey by Pew Research, featuring the insights of 915 technologists, developers, executives from the corporate and policy realms, academics and activists, has predicted an augmented dependence on technology.
A recent poll indicated that 86% of respondents believe that the ongoing pandemic will catalyze alterations of some nature, with a majority acknowledging both positive and negative outcomes for digital existence.
As the pandemic reaches its conclusion, it is essential to contemplate the potential effects of our heightened dependence on digital technologies. What manner of society will we occupy once the situation has abated? Have measures been implemented to tackle any complications that may emerge?
Post-Pandemic: Envisioning the Future of Our World
Throughout history, public health emergencies and epidemic outbreaks have revitalised the necessity and application of nascent technologies. The influenza pandemic of 1918 and the SARS outbreak in China in 2003 remain noteworthy instances of this phenomenon. As we look ahead, individuals will sustain a considerable reliance on technological progress, expediting the rate of technological assimilation. This has already been evidenced, even as COVID-19 continues to pose a threat.
Based on the findings of research carried out by the Pew Research Center, it is anticipated that, by 2025, individuals will be progressively reliant on digital gadgets. This development holds the potential for both beneficial and detrimental outcomes, given that the research suggests it could result in heightened competition and internet connectivity, thereby accentuating the extremes of human behaviour.
Telemedicine, online learning, streaming services, e-commerce and intelligent systems are among the emerging technologies and platforms that assist in day-to-day tasks and processes.
The World of Work
With the advent of video conferencing, communication technologies and cloud computing, the job market has undergone a significant metamorphosis. These tools have enabled numerous companies to adopt remote or hybrid working models.
Investigations have exposed a mounting inclination towards remote work, as a substantial number of individuals would prefer to continue working in this fashion. Moreover, the proliferation of remote health and well-being programs, alongside the provision of collaboration tools, has assumed even greater significance.
Organisations that still maintain on-site staff can be certain that measures are in place to guarantee their well-being. These include screening procedures, temperature checks, traceability software, and surveillance equipment.
According to research by Gartner, the majority (82%) of companies, where feasible, will persist in utilising digital labour practices. This implies that remote working represents the preferred option for some employees for most firms.
Challenges Arising from the Emerging Norm
The shift towards a different mode of existence poses specific issues. The Pew Research Center has suggested that the proliferation of automation and the escalating dependence on digital technology could contribute to more significant economic inequalities, intensifying the chance of a wider power discrepancy between higher and lower-income individuals.
A prevailing concern exists concerning the possibility of misleading data being circulated via digital channels. Furthermore, problems surrounding privacy inconsistencies and insufficient security measures could pave the way for the “weaponisation” of technology, potentially subjecting both individuals and society to manipulation.
Regrettably, as our dependence on digital technology grows, we become increasingly vulnerable to various forms of cyber-attacks, such as hacking and other forms of exploitation. With the amount of personal data available online on the rise, the ease with which hackers can launch their attacks commensurately increases.
Challenges Presented by Technology and Ways to Surmount Them
Place Priority on Accessibility
Access to technology constitutes a critical governmental priority at every level. The clamour for the democratization of data and technology is growing. Such demands seek to enable everyone to benefit from the latest technological resources. To guarantee equitable access to technology, it is imperative to make significant changes to level the playing field.
Corporate executives are welcome to participate in these initiatives. They bear the responsibility of being accountable for their behaviour, as well as that of their employees and the broader society. Prioritising the provision of goods and services aimed at improving our quality of life should be an important focus. Employers ought to recognise that not all members of staff have equivalent technological prowess, and therefore, should offer reasonable support to those who may require it to fulfil their duties.
Employ a Diverse Range of Techniques to Improve Health, without Harming It
The advent of new and ground-breaking technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Storage, Internet of Things (IoT), and Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), among others, has the potential to revolutionise our existence. Thus, it becomes critical to use these innovations responsibly and ethically.
One instance of this would be how Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the capacity to contribute towards a fairer recruitment process by solely evaluating a resume’s content, instead of the applicant’s attributes, such as their background, race, or gender, which might result in an unfair appraisal. The Internet of Things (IoT) can help in forging enduring relationships, whereas cloud computing can enhance accessibility.
The health and wellbeing of individuals must receive paramount consideration. Introducing “offline hours” in which electronic devices and computers remain unused could be one way organisations promote a healthy work-life balance among their employees.
Make Cybersecurity a Priority
Cybersecurity is a crucial issue in the modern era. It is critical that users have trust in the solutions they utilise. Simultaneously, firms need to guarantee they are dependable.
Businesses and development teams must collaborate with relevant experts to secure their products and uphold privacy from the outset. This should not be considered an afterthought since it should be integrated into the product’s design.
As we embark on a new era, taking the lead in driving positive advancements becomes imperative. Technology presents both opportunities and risks, which, depending on how they are leveraged, could either bridge the digital divide or engender disorder. Therefore, everyone, be it individuals or businesses, needs to assume the responsibility to use technology in a responsible manner.