Most of us couldn’t have even imagined a pandemic was a possible threat to our way of life, but here we are, engrossed in a crazy new chapter of Sapiens. Governments are imposing “draconian” measures on their citizens.
What if I told you 3 weeks ago that bars & restaurants would be closed indefinitely? What if I told you that we can only watch sports and take classes online? Is this the beginning of the matrix? Or just a momentary glitch?
We are at an acceleration point. Things are about to speed up dramatically. Our only defense against Corona is to evolve exponentially to keep up with its growth. In 1918, the Spanish Flu exponentially crushed us… we simply couldn’t contain it. Now we have the prospects of vaccines and anti-viral treatments combined with internet and surveillance technologies. Despite all of this, COVID-19 is already a catastrophe, and will be viewed as a historical calamity no matter how quickly and effectively we manage it from this point onwards. Thankfully we have tools and technologies that can limit its damage, and myriad new constraints that will force us to learn new, useful skills that will improve our quality of life and (hopefully) prevent future meltdowns.
Let’s take just a moment and be grateful that we have the internet. We can go live and play music to billions all through the internet. The amount of infrastructure that humanity put into play over the last fifty years to enable this complete and utter miracle is astonishing. The ability to have remote conversations without losing facial expressions and body language, not to mention those ridiculous face filters that can lead to some of the hardest laughter you’ve ever experienced… this is a huge gift in times like these.
These physical-turned-virtual and augmented reality experiences will only get more photorealistic and spatially satisfying over time. We will soon be sitting next to holograms of our friends, family, and coworkers. We will understand that two hours of commuting and polluting can be replaced by two hours of play time with your kids, two hours of exercise and meditation, or two hours of productive work. Even just WFH’ing once a week will reduce our collective emissions, accidents, and anger / road rage.
The Remote Economy is just beginning. Telehealth is going to be huge. The amount of stuff we do at the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office that can be done at home is growing rapidly, forced by the limited availability of medical workers, a contagious and potentially lethal virus, and the needs of an aging population. Teletherapy has blown up the past few weeks.
People need people to be happy. Social interactions are so deep in our biology that without them we wither. Why do we go nuts in social isolation? We can’t handle our own minds without external stimulus and we need love and physical affection. The UK hired a Chief Loneliness Officer to combat loneliness which leads to depression and anxiety… well before any of this Corona business.
Now we’re asking people to stay indoors, sometimes alone, sometimes with people they might not want to be around a full 12–24 hours a day, indefinitely, and we’re doing this to protect the weak and vulnerable in our society. We are the only species who does this, as we have the most advanced moral code in the animal kingdom. Making sacrifices for ideas is uniquely human, and in this case it’s especially noble, since many of our elderly and immunocompromised are still critically important members of society.
Those who were alone during the Spanish Flu may have gone insane. Those who are alone today are at a lower risk thanks to video games and video chat. But all of us are going to face a test to our mental health during this period. Our ancestors mentally survived much scarier and deadly enemies, so I think we are up to the challenge — but this is a special one because modern conditions have changed our psychology substantially, and the global mental health crisis is relatively new. Social isolation compounds it.
I recently listened to Sam Harris claim that the key tool we have against the Pandemic panic is meditation. It’s definitely a “key” tool, but maybe I just underestimate its power because I haven’t fully mastered it. We are going to be more alone with our thoughts than ever before. Now is the time to build a meditation practice… all of us. Meditation may be the best way to unify globally and build global solidarity.
I divide meditation into two categories. Concentration and observation. Concentration means you focus on one thing and one thing only. Your breath. A mantra. A picture. A visualization. Try not to lose focus for a certain period of time. Observation means you watch what is happening in your mind from a distance.
Observation is a way to get to know yourself. How do you react to certain scenarios? What patterns do you keep repeating? What do you do well naturally? What do you do poorly? But most difficult / important is to observe your thoughts as they arise and fade. Once you observe your thoughts enough, you understand how they are connected to sensations in the body. I’m going to go deeper on this topic on another post but the important thing to realize is that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts pass through the mind as different parts of your brain send each other electrical signals.
That we are aware of our own consciousness itself is a mind-blowing miracle. But it can become a curse if not managed properly. Meditation allows us to manage and coach our consciousness, the way we would manage and coach a sports team.
Sometimes we need help — a third-party. There have been an explosion of “coaches and experts” online, each touting their specific recipe for success. This explosion is about to grow 100x as we spend more time on the internet and less time outside for the next few months. The Coaching Cloud — first coined by Emergence Capital — is going vertical. Fitness, therapy, cooking, meditation, language, music, gaming, coding, and then health, education, media, finance — every industry/skill has experts that can teach virtually. The Conversational Economy. We pay each other to learn different skills over video chat on the internet. It’s beautiful, but let the buyer beware. There will be more than a few charlatans and unsatisfied customers. I think Zoom will get acquired by Microsoft or Facebook, for at least a 50% premium over whatever it trades at.
Quarantine will unlock human creativity. Quarantine will stream the essence of humanity through social media. Global shared experiences like quarantine / virus fighting will raise our collective empathy and ability to rewrite the story of humanity towards global patriotism rather than national patriotism. This virus can help us transcend religion and race. Sing more songs together (virtually), discuss global issues (virtually), and learn new skills from one another (virtually). But we must lead each other through these unchartered waters. Wait and see isn’t an option.
What about government’s role to play in this madness? How much power / competence do our governments have to manage this crisis? Should they follow China’s successful strategy of mass lockdown, despite the fact Italy hasn’t succeeded? How do they enforce lockdown without surveillance technology? Without surveillance technology and law enforcement will the health system collapse leading to millions of deaths that could have been avoided had we followed instructions?
Like many of my streams of consciousness, this one ends with more questions than answers. Share this if you enjoyed and check out Just A Moment :)