Updated: Aug 11, 2020
We are witnessing a very important coming-of-age event, the rise of the internet into a mature technology.
I don’t imagine our lives will ever be the same after this pandemic threat has passed, and it will pass. It will be the beginning of a new awareness in public health, and I imagine it will birth an untold amount of new policies and standards.
It’s always interested me to see where the communal consciousness defaults to in times of crisis. What do we rely on? What do we trust?
Over the past month, this answer seems abundantly clear, perhaps for the first time in history. We turn to the internet.
What Is a Mature Technology?
I define a mature technology not as one that is done evolving, but as a technology that’s evolved to the point of assumed and necessary dependability.
When our schools needed to shut down in March, the immediate answer was online learning.
When our governments wanted to communicate quickly and effectively, they held LIVE events over multiple social media platforms.
When our families needed goods and services, we've turned to online retailers.
When healthcare wanted to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases, they began offering deductible-free diagnoses over virtual appointments.
When organizations wanted to stay operational while mitigating health risks, they turned to remote offices and meetings.
We didn’t invent new things. We turned to things that already existed and began adapting them to solve our new problems.
And here’s the interesting thing about our adaptive leaps as human beings. Once we make a move, we historically hardly ever go back to the old way of doing things. Once we learn a thing, we keep it. We use it. We perfect it.
The previously impossible will always become completely viable when the economics of scale demand it.
In the past month, I have watched businesses and organizations find new and creative ways to communicate with their audiences, including a mass adoption of social videos and LIVE feeds.
I have watched artists, writers, and performers find ways to digitally leverage their audiences.
And most interestingly, I have watched video conferencing go from a niche industry utilized by remote startups and businesses widely criticized for, “ … catering to millennial snowflakes,” to being creatively implemented across almost every sector, from counselors and teachers to cubicle farm offices and call centers.
What Does a Digitally Mature Internet Mean for Me?
I don’t think the end of this will be like the end of a war, where people pour into the streets, the specter of uncertainty suddenly and firmly in the rear view mirror. It seems the history of pandemics shows that they come in waves. I have to assume that we’re going to have plenty of time to evolve in our use of technology to communicate and operate effectively.
I don’t think our economy will collapse. It just needs to calibrate to a new, unexplored gravity.
So here are three things I've been thinking.
I THINK we’re witnessing a mass awakening to the idea that high speed internet access is no longer a nice thing to have. The internet is not a recreational endeavor. It is a vital piece of infrastructure, the same as electricity and indoor plumbing. It is an integral part of our life. Furthermore, If we’re going to use the internet for public education and governmental communication in our communication, I think you’ll see increased high speed connectivity for areas where it was not available in the past. And while I don’t think we’re here yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see internet bandwidth treated more like network television than cable television.
I THINK you’ll see an increased evolution of the way social media is leveraged by communities and organizations alike. You’ll see more people creating content and finding ways to leverage their audiences online to build digital communities that translate into more tight-knit offline communities instead of the other way around. I think you’ll still see the internet trolls out and about, but as the general population increases its digital literacy, we will get a lot better at policing our online communities in the same ways we do our offline communities.
I THINK you’ll see a lot of growth in the digital sector as new companies and nonprofits step up to solve the unique problems that our new world creates but won’t fully find their place and footing in the market until things settle down and go back to what will be a brand new normal.
I, for one, believe that the world can be better than the one we left behind, because I know so many people working hard to make sure that it is.
Make a difference. Find the opportunities. Help the helpers.