Post-COVID world

Albert Bacelar
7 min readApr 5, 2020

We are living in a time of war that we don’t know for sure who is our enemy. The US Army War College used a concept to explain the world in the post-Cold War context. This concept is already well known in the world of management and business: the acronym VUCA. This concept involves Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. The clinical and economic effects of the coronavirus are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In the executive world, this is due to the exponentiality of everything that is happening, involving startups, health 4.0, industry 4.0, UX (User eXperience)… It was already known that non-exponential businesses were doomed to a bad future. This is the status quo of the moment. Halfway there was a stone. Coronavirus! A virus hitherto known, only now with a different behavior. It has become exponential. A great irony. In times of exponential being of companies survived, an exponential virus emerged. And a whole catastrophe of clinical, social, economic, ethical, social security and philosophical events has surfaced.

The concern with what is to come is immense. Each country or region has its own particular concern. Asians already have the habit of working at night, on holidays and on weekends, the economic return to the previous level will be less painful in fact. They will work mourning the death of friends, family and acquaintances, but they will work. In the West, especially for Latinos, it changes a little bit. Harari had also discussed this issue in the post-COVID world.

This pandemic serves to show the way we are and are inserted in local and globalized societies. The concept of conscience in medicine encompasses the perception of who we are before the environment, how the environment can influence us and how we react, so in any different circumstance there is an alteration of consciousness. Our consciousness of society will undergo changes. But each region in a different way.

Europe, contrary to what many thinks, has a very conservative side in terms of technology. Asia has always been ahead. If we analyze it from the point of view of technological preparation in all of this, really whoever has the greatest technological apparatus came out ahead. I’m not talking about equipment technology from the industrial revolution era, no! I’m talking about what technology represents these days, connection technology, wearables, Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence… So, China arrives in April with everything returning to normal, as well as some neighboring countries that have invested in the same direction, such as Japan and South Korea. These countries have an impressive data management. In Brazil, the health system has a lot of data in Word, Excel and relateds softwares. The Brazilian health system, as it exists, within a data management system, would be fantastic, not to say exponential. It was the opportunity they had to take the lead.

It is possible to see a mixture of the old and the new in Europe, but it is a new one related to what the industrial revolution provided. As for Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan specifically) it is possible to see what the digital revolution has provided. Those who know the region for the first time are glimpsed, as they discover that it is in a spoiler of Hannah Barbera’s Jetsons cartoon, as if seeing the future that awaits us here in the west. In Salvador, Bahia-Brazil, there is already facial recognition of revelers during the biggest event on the planet, Carnival. Similar payment systems already exist in China. In Europe they still request the PIN with reduced numbers on the cards. The lack of data (or rather: Europe’s lack of value for Asian data) is putting Europe in this situation. Brazil has a middle ground between the first two worlds, but in times of COVID, it positions health as an enemy of the economy. Has corruption purposely contributed to this?

The question about Europe arises when we see that they are agonizing over their own actions. Victim of a disproportionate self-confidence, of the lack of knowledge that there is a “rest” of the world that could help him. In fact, history repeats itself, after all, we know what that kind of feeling generated with the Axis countries in World War II. In this region, young people have the mind of “old people”, even though they are questioners of the State. In contrast, young Asians are afraid of the state. They assume different postures in a game of chess. In China the state does not ask what the population wants, whereas in Europe, plebiscites have been common since ancient Rome. Ford (the one of the American cars) had already stated that “if you asked what people really wanted, they would say that they wanted faster horses” and, thus, serial car manufacturing came about. A little bit of american way of life in today’s China?

Other epidemics will come. Worse? Less worse? Predictable? Unpredictable? I don’t know, but there is a certainty that we will need to be more prepared for the next one. Horizontal, vertical, transverse, intermittent insulation … it doesn’t matter. The data and form and speed of collection of these in the face of a new situation must be immediate and standardized. This virus is being exponential. Should the next ones be exponential? I don’t know either. But one thing is certain: our attitudes and changes must also be exponential. For that, we need to set a standard for immediate response, we need to change a lot.

The Latin people communicate by touching each other. In times when gel alcohol is a fashion item, will this habit be maintained? I have no doubt that yes! Perhaps the most constant hygiene habit will be a new standard. Given the current situation, if the epicenter of the cases were with latin people, the damage would be greater.

Data: The form of collection and standardization of data, crossing borders, will be a necessity. The same data that sustains health supports the economy. They are not ambiguous or opposers sectors, they are complementary and must be analyzed as such.

Politics: will new forms of power exist? Something between democracy and dictatorship? Social capitalism? Asians made mistakes when trying to soften what was happening but acted quickly when they realized the error. Italians, at the height of high self-confidence, did not want to learn from the mistakes of others. They would have paid a lower price. Does Europe change? I find it difficult, 100 years from now they will make mistakes again. I still bet in Estonia and Finland for a new political order, more digital and cleaner. The exception policy should not really prevail.

Economy: what can we expect in the short, medium and long terms? The USA and Europe will suffer a lot, they will have different rates of return. Then will we have a new global economy emerging? Does China take over in isolation? Another country? And Brazil? I have been working with the financial market for 12 years, the Bovespa Index already showed a downward trend before the virus arrived in the Americas (none of these judging traders blaming the coronavirus), and what made it fall even more was the fall of basic American interest rates and the decision of the OPEC with oil. The economy needs to be more transparent and less hysterical.

Health: people more concerned with health, prioritization of data, way and speed of viewing and analyzing health data, new gadgets … it was the reason that telemedicine needed. A boom of wearables and insedeables now. New health professionals: mathematicians, statisticians, health data scientist, health economist, health designer… Medical devices and materials will be a priority? Can car factories make mechanical ventilators? Can breweries make gel alcohol? In Brazil, ANVISA (National Health Surveillance Agency, like an FDA in USA) needs to review itself as a function. It does not serve much purpose, but spread fear and bureaucracy, without appropriate technical studies. Will the surveys be more or less rigorous?

Crowding: Is it a problem outside that moment? Bus (look at the uber helicopter here)? Shows (a famous singer was giving show at home on Youtube Live for everyone)? A famous television channel canceled soap operas, something that made her famous all over the world (what solution? Avatars?).

China: will we now live the export of the “Chinese way of life” (中国 人 的 生活方式), like a free trial version for 90 days of Chinese socialism? Will we have a race to learn Chinese? I already had this prediction, now I’m sure. In Greece, make like the Greeks, so learning a language would give you a greater insight and understanding of how the Chinese build and see things and what we can expect in the future.

If we leave only in the field of questions, politically obscure people will try to take the reins of this whole transformation, while the most sensitive ones will be mourning for a while. So it’s up to us to design part of that process, so that it has a safer and more comfortable path, without individual concerns. If we are facing a VUCA world, being exponential in the answers is law.

Also published in Portuguese at: https://medium.com/@abacelar/mundo-p%C3%B3s-covid-d01bf364f956

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Albert Bacelar

Health Data, Design Thinking, Critical Care Physician, Care Economy