Innovating our way out of COVID: it’s not about vaccines
The race for the trillion dollar covid vaccine rages on. The world is looking towards scientific innovation to save the countries where policy has not. We just need to hold on until big pharma can cure the world, and everything will go back to normal. But this ignores two important points: that the world is never going back to the same normal, and that this can be an opportunity to make things better.
Why the world is not going back to normal.
After a year or more of social isolation, paranoia, and family nesting, people have learned new behaviors, discovered new hobbies, and things they can live without. It has hastened behavior change in a way many thought impossible and cemented it in the vast growth of services (like Zoom and delivery of goods) and the destruction of others (all those bars that closed won’t reopen quickly). Companies are learning that some amount of remote work can be more efficient (real estate and free cafes are expensive), while schools are being forced to embrace online tools. Additionally, there is no reason that a COVID vaccine will permanently end COVID (H1N1 is still around) or that another global pandemic (or other crisis) will not occur ever again. So it is unlikely that we’ll just be able to have a “redo” of 2020.
Why this can be good.
Change is scary, but it is also an immense opportunity to fix… everything. If we really look back at 2019, everything wasn’t actually perfect. There are many things we could improve upon that have nothing to do with covid. Now that the world is upside down, there is some wiggle room in the world. It is possible to topple the status quo in any industry or segment, not just out of necessity but out of self interest, greed, social consciousness, anything. This is the innovation that will make our new world not just tolerable but enjoyable once more. Anyone has a license to innovate in whatever industry they are in: travel, databases, retail, fashion, entertainment, sports, education, food, etc. For a limited time, people are willing to give your wild ideas a chance, so experiment with them now and don’t leave the work and rewards to just the drug makers.