May 29, 2020

Joseph Coughlin writes: Everyone wants an answer to one question — and they want it now. When do we get back to normal? It has been three months. Politicians and pundits argue. Experts debate. Still no answer. Everyone wants an answer to one question — and they want it now. When do we get back to normal? It has been three months. Politicians and pundits argue. Experts debate. Still no answer. Get over it. There is no getting back to normal. There is only a new normal — one that has been coming long before COVID-19.

Observers have described the pandemic as transformative to society. Not exactly. Instead, COVID-19 fanned the gale of creative destruction that was already underway and has served as a propellant accelerating economic and social change.

Nearly 80 years ago, Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter described change, particularly economic change, as the result of a “gale of creative destruction.” Where technology, new processes, and entrepreneurs lead to the destruction of ‘normal’ and to the creation of a new economic and social equilibrium.

We’ve already possessed the paradigm-shifting technology for a long time. The Internet has grown into an all-encompassing force, capable of fulfilling nearly any emergent want or need with new technologies and services — if not always well, nor completely. But much of its vast potential had yet to be realized until the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic has created a virtual black hole of new demands, accelerating the introduction of technology and tech-enabled services into key areas of life — from education to work to satisfying basic needs — that were already on the trajectory toward change.

Here are four elements of life that the pandemic has helped to move faster into an inevitable future.