Part of the reason I moved to a full-time digital nomad lifestyle is that I expected something like the current situation to happen. Not like that though. I thought the system would slowly collapse under its own weight, but I didn’t expect such a violent crisis to hit all of it globally and expose all of its weaknesses at the same time.
Unfortunately, whether it is slow or violent, it doesn’t seem to make any difference when it comes to the resistance to change.
I just spoke with a recruiter, looking for a highly specialized profile involving corporate backend development and blockchain stuff, the kind of profile that is really hard to find, even in conditions where more and more people are going to lose their jobs and missions. And as soon as I told her I was fully remote, the conversation stopped almost instantly, because her client is looking for someone who can work remotely at first, but is expected to work on site quickly when all of this is over. Denial.
When will all of this be over? No one can say. How long can companies afford to make decisions based on the premise that it will all be over soon, and that everything will go back to the way they were? And even if the COVID-19 pandemic ends soon, when will the economic and social fabric of our world fully recover, if ever? No one can say that either. And perhaps more importantly, it was already hard for companies to find highly skilled software developers when everything was “normal”, do they really think it will get easier after this, when so many people will have been able to see that not only is remote work possible when you are a software engineer, but in most cases, it’s actually more productive and offers a better work-life balance across the board?
My point is the whole world, and especially the business world is going through the first stage of a process of grief right now: denial.
I’m convinced that there will be a before and an after COVID-19. That the world will never be the same. That some people and organizations will do everything in their power to try and put the cat back in the bag, but they will fail. Because the holes that this crisis is exposing in our system have been there for a long time.
Our nation states are simply unprepared for challenges like that, because they only think short term, pressured as they are by a capitalism and an electoralism without any vision. That’s why Trump’s administration dismantled the US’s NSC pandemic unit. That’s why the Belgian health minister destroyed a whole stockpile of expired protection equipments and never replaced it. That’s why all but a few countries now have to isolate entire populations because they don’t have the testing capacities to isolate only the infected ones.
Our nation states are slow to respond to any new challenge, because they are preoccupied by elections, and because they lost the trust and the education level of their populations a long time ago, so if they impose any drastic measure, people are defiant, they make up conspiracy theories and they take matters into their own hands as a way to cope with a situation they feel completely powerless about.
And finally our nation states don’t operate at the right scale, which makes them completely inconsistent. At a national scale, there is no way they can effectively tackle any challenge that, by essence, hits the entire planet. Whether it is climate change, business regulation, resource distribution or pandemics, they are completely incapable of handling these issues with any sort of consistency. And even if some countries try to do everything right, like New Zealand where I am stuck right now, where they went into full lockdown after hitting only their 100th case, with only 6 patients in the hospital, no death and after having closed their borders for a full week, they still pay the price for the absence of responsibility of other countries. How does it make any sense that as a citizen of France, being in New Zealand, I have to suffer the consequences of a decision I didn’t even take part in making, to elect a clown to the White House?
All of these things already didn’t make sense before this crisis, current events only make it more vivid. And yet, people still want to go back.
What’s the connection between the obsolescence of nation states and a company that wants to recruit onsite software developers? Everything! Because we are witnessing the most crucial transition the world has seen since the Renaissance. Because if it’s obvious at least to some of us that we cannot go back, that the old normal is completely broken to the core, then it follows that we have to invent a new one.
A new normal that is based on Globalism, this idea that whatever our different and rich cultures, languages, religions, histories and traditions, we are essentially all human beings, facing some of the same planet-wide challenges, born with the same fundamental Human rights, connected through the same global communication network, participating in the same global economy. And despite the vain hopes of a few protectionists, there is no going back on that, and that can be a good thing if we finally give up on one key concept: countries.
Countries are nothing natural or physical, they are just lines we drew on a map a few hundred years ago at most. They are a convention that served a purpose at a given point in history, to end the territory wars that created so much instability back in the days. But when a convention is obviously that flawed, and when the tools at our disposal have evolved that much, we must allow ourselves to invent a new one, or rather to adopt a more natural one, closer to the real world, in harmony with the planet we live on, as one species part of one global ecosystem.
Sure, that culture shift seems daunting, we have invested so much in the base structure of nation states, so much of our legal systems, of our currencies, of our cultures, of our belief systems are entangled with concepts like patriotism, nationality, limited international movements. Even more daunting is the fact that a lot of big organizations and governments are benefiting from this national division. Multinational corporations pit tax systems against each other, and exploit cheap labor in countries where people can’t leave anyway, forced to accept the conditions they are given. Banks thrive on the inconsistency of money regulation across different countries and totalitarian governments keep their power by blackmailing their population or using them as human shields. All of these have all the incentives in the world to keep us divided into abstract national units fighting against each other, trying to protect themselves.
In other words, to me, the problem is not the globalization of our economy, it’s the absence of globalization of governance that’s supposed to keep economy in check for the collective good of humanity.
What will currencies look like in the globalist world to come? What will companies look like? What will education and information look like? What will governance look like? It’s impossible to say at this point, but what is for certain, is that it won’t look like anything we already have.
We have to get over an economy based on credit-issued geographically-limited currencies. We have to get over pseudo-representative democracy as a means of governance. We have to get over corporations as a way to pull together financial resources to build stuff without any consideration for other forms of capital (environment, health, human rights, etc.). We have to get over old forms of education that gather 30 to 100 kids into a classroom for 20 years and then send them on their way after having shaped them into docile uncreative executors. We have to get over an information infrastructure that is so incapable of sustaining itself that it has become corrupted by greed and sensationalism instead of seeking and spreading the truth.
This is the sense of history, the transition started a few decades ago, but it just got a huge boost with this coronavirus. And there will be those who resist that change, either because they don’t believe it can happen, or because they don’t want it to. But their resistance is futile, because the cat is already out of the bag.
So I choose to embrace it. I embrace the uncertainty. I embrace having to develop new skills all the time. I embrace cultures from all around the world. I embrace moving all the time as if the entire world was my village. I embrace working as a freelance without any illusion of job security. I embrace thinking out of the box, dreaming of new systems, being flexible and open-minded to whatever comes next. Because this is a fascinating time to live in, and I invite everyone to embrace it too. Because you are in for a bumpy ride, whetever you do, so you might as well enjoy it.