Prophets from the ancient fairs and castles have moved to social media today: “Amen I tell you, the pandemic will completely and forever transform us, work from home will become the norm of the day, remote meetings will be predominant, and we will all become digital avatars that will work with other digital avatars”.
I’m not saying that we are not already some kind of digital avatars, at least partially, under the pressure of technology and the pandemic context. And I’m not saying that technological evolution hasn’t always been a little scary. Let’s remember, for example… the train. Back in that time, people thought they were going to die using it; they believed that after 100km/h they would hit the sonic bang and be unbearable by the human body. But they got over it, and we were not affected. Today we go on trains at 350 km/h and prepare for Hyperloop. And we still keep the vast majority of our human traits.
Similarly, I believe that we will remain human after the digital revolution, even accelerated by the current pandemic.
I believe that after the pandemic we will return to our previous habits and we might experience even a pendulum effect, in the sense that we will socialize more, appreciate more our offices, direct human contact, travel more, want to meet and talk directly more, and so on.
I believe that all these characteristics of behaviour are profoundly contained in our human being and in support of my statement I leave two arguments, one coming from 2,500 years ago, from ancient Greece — Aristotle — and another from the scientific journal Nature, from a few months ago.
In Politics (1), Aristotle tells us:
“It follows that the fortress (fortress = polis = society — a/n) — is natural and man is naturally a social animal (Zoon Politikon a/n), whereas the one devoid of the fortress, natural and not by accident, is either above or below man”. Then — continues Aristotle — “it is obvious why man is a social animal” because “nature creates nothing without purpose” and continues by arguing that our ability to communicate, to evaluate good and evil, causes us — among other things — to form in families, communities, societies and states.
And somehow in the confirmation of what Aristotle said, that man is a ”Zoon Politikon” comes modern research using non-invasive imaging.
A few months ago, the journal Nature (2) published in the Section Neuroscience the summary of scientific research that states that social isolation determines a biological response at the median brain level, a response similar to that of the body when it is deprived of food — meaning we need human society just as we need food — while other sections of the brain in the neocortex also differentiate between the two types of deprivation, social and food, and produce a reaction of rejection of social deprivation, creating a kind of “social hunger” that the brain distinctly individualizes from food hunger.
It indeed impresses to see how the most advanced imaging investigation results come to confirm Aristotle’s thesis. The human being is a social animal, and it has a natural social hunger which, I believe, is deeply rooted in its human condition.
So I venture to prophesy:
“Amen I say to you, post-pandemic we will quickly and intensively return to our old habits of social animals, and our human traits will always prevail, regardless of the degree of digitization of life and profession”.
Moreover, I think that those companies and societies that understand that we will remain human and will be designing digital solutions centred around our human essence will be the ones that will win in the long term economic and social sustainability competition.
1. Aristotle, Politics, (Πολιτικά) — 4th century b.C.
2. Livia Tomova, Kimberly L. Wang, Todd Thompson et all, Nature Neuroscience, November 2020