Coronavirus will change human habits. Sociopathy in the world intensifies regardless of the outbreak of the virus. It is the desire for the “atomic nature of life”, for an autonomous existence, for the breakdown of a traditional family. The epidemic only stimulates these trends slightly. Sociologist Alexei Firsov stated that. According to him, the lifestyle in many countries due to the virus will change, but still not dramatically.
The Czech government on Friday announced a ban on entry into the republic from March 16 to all foreigners, except those who have a residence permit. At the same time, for Czech citizens, the ban on leaving the country applies. Recall that, the Italian government introduced earlier similar measures. True, Italians can still leave the country, but they are obliged to present to the border guards a document about the purpose of their trip (for example, an urgent trip).
Border control was restored by Slovakia, Austria (permanently closing the border with Italy), Estonia, and Norway. The Schengen countries, recently proud of the transparency of their internal borders, are rapidly fenced off from each other, as in medieval times.
Meanwhile, in Russia, top officials amid a global epidemic still find reasons for optimism. The head of the Ministry of Communications, Maksut Shadaev, said on the eve: for our country, coronavirus in a sense is a “window of opportunity” for the development of services related to distance education and health care. Russia is ready for online transfer of public administration, business and social systems – for example, there are all the technological resources needed to transfer meetings of government bodies online, the TASS minister quotes.
How wide can state as well as all our activities, in general, go online? Experts are already making predictions about how a pandemic will change the way of life around the world. Thus, political scientist Dmitry Drobnitsky predicted that the attitude to migration would radically change in the world. He says: “When in about thirty years students will be asked what ended globalization in the 1920s, the answer to the offset will be: COVID-19.
Political analyst Marat Bashirov in his Telegram channel predicts a redistribution of the foundations of the global economy. It recalls that the fourth industrial revolution has already begun in the world, an essential feature of which is the exclusion of a man from the decision-making process. These processes could cause social unrest, but in a panic, people themselves will give up what was previously dear to them, the political scientist believes. They will give up their rights, agree to restrict movement and consumption, Bashirov is sure.
In an interview with the newspaper LOOK, the head of the Platform Social Design Center, Alexey Firsov, discusses how the way of life of the planet’s inhabitants will change after a global blow inflicted by a coronavirus.
LOOK: Alexey Vladimirovich, the head of the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, believes that the coronavirus has opened a “window of opportunity” for digitalizing government, business and the social sphere, for distance education and healthcare. In your opinion, to what extent will such hopes come true?
Alexey Firsov: That is, to open the “window of opportunity”, we had to wait for the coronavirus? The question itself is curious. But, I believe, the virus will have a stimulating effect. If you try to find something positive in the situation, then the outbreak of the coronavirus begins to “cut off excess entities.” The enormous number of “events”, that is events of various kinds that have been carried out by humankind in recent years, arising from an excess of resources and time, from the need to channel the activity of overgrown company management somehow.
Now a lot of things may not happen, including, for example, the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. But this will not seriously change anything. As we lived without these forums, we will live.
As for universal digitalization, it is unlikely at the moment to altogether remove the need for human interaction. We studied whether online meetings and conferences can completely supplant offline meetings? No, this is not happening. People need a sense of presence. Many points are noticeable at the micro-level and slip away in the online format. It is a matter of trust and more flexible management of working time. Then, the human mind is conservative, adapts to specific forms. It needs triggers for change.
If there weren’t a coronavirus, we would continue to carry out a large volume of various familiar actions, partly already meaningless – those that had long been time to transfer to digital platforms.
Any crisis stimulates processes that are already ripe in society.
LOOK: That is, the coronavirus will still change the structure of life? Would it come to the point that humanity will transfer almost all of its activity to the Network, and people will have live communication only with close relatives? For example, only courier robots will deliver food soon?
Alexey Firsov: Food delivery home is a reasonably acceptable practice. But a lot of people usually go to the shops. And people will still go to the store. The virus stimulates some part of society to use digital platforms to order products. Probably, then it will become a habit for them. The same thing will happen with online meetings and other elements of our lives.
But a virus alone is not enough to create long-term patterns of behaviour. Coronavirus and the associated panic will pass sooner or later, and a vaccine will appear, immunity will develop. Humanity has a short historical memory. And it is getting shorter as the rate of change grows.
Therefore, it will not be such that all people go into sociopathy, clog home for a long time. Even now in Italy, from where I recently returned, where two hundred people die per day, where almost a curfew operates, cities live in the afternoon, people communicate. Until the last moment, people, as usual, are sitting in bars and cafes.
For some stressful period, human behaviour will change. We can go into self-isolation, but then back to the healthy balance.
It is another matter that the tendency of sociophobia in the world is intensifying regardless of the virus. The use of online services is also expanding. Generally speaking, this is a tendency toward the “atomic nature of life”, a desire for an autonomous existence. The collapse of the traditional family also fits here. Again, the epidemic only stimulates these trends slightly.
The same goes for expanding the power of artificial intelligence. Yes, we trust more and more robots. But we cannot say that in two months we will wake up in a new world. There is only a direction in which the world is moving.
LOOK: Is it true that coronavirus will “kill” globalization?
Alexey Firsov: In recent years, we have seen some new barriers to globalization. There was a surge of interest in local brands, in the localization of life, a return to traditional cultures. It is peculiar not only to us, but it can also be observed in the same USA, Great Britain, Austria, Germany. The virus stimulates the return of the concept of boundaries.
We can say that it has now got a “citizenship”: the outbreak is associated with China, Iran, Italy – although it is clear that the disease zone does not pass strictly along the borders of Italy itself. The memory that there are borders and they require closure came earlier, but an outbreak of the virus also accelerated this process.
LOOK: Will the virus change the balance of power in the global economy? Will China cease to be a global factory? Indeed, other countries are now afraid to depend too much on Chinese production.
Alexey Firsov: Unless the epidemic took on the scale of the medieval “black death” when a quarter of the European population died out of the plague, then there will not be a quick change in the alignment. China is now quickly recovering, if, of course, we believe their official statistics. The fact is that in Wuhan, as you know, most of the infectious cases have already been closed. Thanks to the mobilization model of society, which Europe does not have, China is quite effectively coping with the crisis that occurred it.
Another thing is that China is slowly losing the status of a global factory anyway. Production goes to India, Vietnam, to other countries with cheaper labour. The flow of investors to where more competitive hands, where conditions are more profitable is a natural process. But China, with its sturdy material base, is a player for the long term. It is unlikely that something will seriously undermine its position.