America 5.0: The Post COVID – 19 World


First of all, I’d like to thank those of you who took the time and expended the effort to send me feedback on my COVID – 19 posts, including those who objected to the positions I’ve taken. We need more genuine dialogue about critical issues our society is dealing with even when they get heated. I’m saddened by those few responses that engaged in personal, ad hominem attacks, but that seems to be an aspect of our culture that turns positions and points of view into crusades, instead of platforms for debate.

Nothing has changed about my view of the way we have responded to the pandemic. I still consider it a massive overreaction and ill-conceived strategy, driven by a short-sighted panicky need to try and eradicate all pain, suffering and fear from a phenomenon that is beyond our control and which has surpassed our limits to end it on our terms. The pandemic has taken, and will continue to take, an enormous toll on our citizenry, and our inability and unwillingness to come to terms with that fact, has lead us to abandon an analysis of the long-term implications of our short term interventions. It is a given that we should do whatever we can to protect and take care of the most vulnerable amongst us. But it is foolhardy and extremely self-destructive to shut down the economy, and prevent the majority of people from working and contributing to the maintenance of a viable economy. (Some “experts” are even floating the idea that portions of the workforce be allowed to return to their jobs; and two countries – Sweden and Australia – have lifted restrictions on large numbers of workers.) Hopefully we will come to our senses, in the not too distant future, but the damage already done will push back our recovery by many years.

The economic carnage created by our short-sightedness is only part of the price we are paying, and will continue to pay for a significant period of time. There is a profound psychosocial cost. The devastation of being prevented from working injects a corrosive lack of productivity and impact into the lives of those fired and “furloughed.” People want to work; to do something meaningful; and to have an impact on the world they live in. In addition to the economic angst, doing nothing is damaging to physical and emotional health, as well as important relationships. Chronic health conditions flare up, and domestic violence and child abuse increase. The pandemic is already inflicting damage on people; it is inconceivable that we are adding more suffering through our “solution.”
In an unintended and unpredictable way, the COVID – 19 pandemic has provided the catalyst for a cultural transformation in our country that few people alive today have ever experienced. It will end up forcing us to enter into what I call America 5.0. Toffler and others have written about the evolution of our society, in terms of “waves.” The waves represent major transitions from one form of human organization to another. The first wave involved the shift from nomadic life to the agrarian way of life. The second involved the shift to the industrial way of life, and the third, to the culture of information. And our embrace of the ability to produce and disseminate massive amounts of information spawned the culture of digitization – compacting overwhelming amounts of information into digestible chunks. All these shifts required us to adapt, over time, to new ways of conducting communal and individual life. The COVID – 19 pandemic presents us with no such luxury. It has hit us like a meteor and has created the next cultural shift of deep and gargantuan proportions – America 5.0.

There has been much discussion recently of a “new normal” and how life will be different, given how many people are working remotely and how many families are experiencing a new “togetherness.” None of this discussion captures, from my perspective, the enormity of the changes to come.

America 5.0 will incorporate the following shifts in our culture: Learning will replace education: Schools, both public and private, will vanish.

Free agents will replace employees: Labor and management will interface very differently

24/7 Workspace will replace office buildings

Multi-dimensional, flexible personal living space will replace traditional housing

Health consultants and high accountability will replace many healthcare professionals

Learning pods and content repositories will replace the University

It is important to note, that we have seen the need to make these shifts, but have failed to act, because the dislocation and pain that would be involved, has seemed to be too much – until COVID – 19. In subsequent posts I’ll discuss in detail, each of these shifts. In the meantime, keep the pressure on, to return people to work. I see signs that momentum is building.

Morrie Shechtman

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