The digital world will never be able to help people create antibodies to fight COVID-19 infections. That enormous challenge is for the brightest medical scientist. Out of all the things they need time the most. So far we have bought this time by isolating ourselves as much as possible from each other, causing social and economic disruption of unprecedented scale. It’s the ugliest, roughest and sadly only solution we had at our disposal for half a year, until now.
The two most powerful digital technology companies in the world, Apple and Google, launched their contact tracing API. It allows designated app developers to write applications that can log, without compromising our privacy, the people we have been nearby too. All over the world, corona apps are launched to support the work of health authorities that are working furiously to track the spread of the virus throughout our societies. The promise of this critical development is that we can start isolating the virus instead of ourselves, restoring social and economic life and buying the needed time for our scientists to get the right vaccine distributed under the right circumstances to all people all over the world. All we have to do is trust each other, our governments and the technologies that are made available for us. Of course, that is a lot harder than it sounds, if not impossible in today’s highly individualised and divided society.
The ironic problem we are facing is that the novel Coronavirus requires us to operate as a highly connected collective that thrives on trust and empathy. In contrast, in the last century, we have been drilled to become highly connected individuals that thrive on consumption and wealth. The last decade, seen as the prelude to the pandemic, testifies as to the pinnacle of this development. It exposed the vulnerable position we are in as an individual. First of all, the smartphone gave every individual access to the unlimited content of the internet, 24/7, everywhere we went. Secondly, the companies that created applications and other digital services for us for free abused the trust we had in their good intentions. They built extravagantly rich empires on our data. Now that they have been exposed and trialled by the European Commission and other justice departments all over the world, we find ourselves in the position of having lost our trust in technology as a tool for good. Now we live in a world where there is never enough trust in technology to adopt and use it as a collective to fight social, healthy and economic injustice.
We all know, after being betrayed, it’s not easy to learn how to trust again. Still, that is exactly what we need to be doing. We have to build up trust. In ourselves, in each other, in our governments and in our technologies. We at Smartup Zero are in the business of the latter: building up trust in technologies and through those technologies, building up trust in each other and our governments. You can help us by joining our experimental organization where we are collectively owning, building and governing Onlive, a novel platform for groups of people that live, work and play together in their communities that are all subjected to fast-changing rules and regulations due to the pandemic.