Safety above freedom – Open economy
It turns out we moved too quickly and, after the Summer of 2020, the virus reared its head once more. People demanded the government to impose stricter measures for the sake of safety. Although the country remains in favour of open borders and free trade, certain companies are designated as ‘companies of national interest’, which means they cannot be allowed to be owned by foreigners. Vested interests and large (international) companies managed to prevent many other countries from instinctively closing their borders. Having said that, there is an international race between countries and large companies to develop vaccines, apps and other technologies and measures to safely restart the economy. Coordination is largely lacking.European international trade has resumed, but countries close their borders more easily when there are risks, selectively for certain (groups of) people, for certain countries and for a certain time period. It is impossible to move through Schengen without a health certificate, although it is a little easier for goods. In short, the borders are open, but they can be closed (selectively) quickly when the situation calls for it. All this is facilitated by strong international institutions like the UN, EU and WHO, which, after struggling initially to gain the citizens’ trust, have proven themselves and are widely accepted.
Apps keep track our health, movements and contacts more accurately than ever before. Due to those apps, tech companies have become important players in health-related issues and other social challenges. What is less visible is the role they play in ‘intelligence’, which has made a giant leap thanks to their data position. Citizens accept that ‘reopening’ the borders, society and the economy means sacrificing certain freedoms and privacy. We now accept that government is more in control and that control is a normal aspect of our everyday lives. Things are not like they were before. Fear is not an emotion to be ashamed of.
In particular (digital) technology plays an important role. Physical meetings at work, school or otherwise are highly regulated and ‘rationed’. What can be done digitally has to be done digitally as much as possible. Temperature checks before entering a store are considered as normal as being scanned at the airport. We’ve had to live a little more ‘slowly’, and we understand the reasons for that. We accepted that all the checks and measures create queues for stores and services. Although we accept that reluctantly, people can get ill-tempered and even aggressive. Usually without making a fuss, but occasionally tempers flare up. There is more violence towards first aid responders, which is at odds with the rigorous police intervention we expect from our government. The Dutch have become a little less exuberant, now that we do – and celebrate – so little together in a ‘non-digital’ way.
Climate change is also seen as a huge risk and we want our government to set up strict rules and punish violators. Technology is used to boost supervision, causing large companies to become sustainably more quickly. The government has also made large investments to become more sustainable and to innovate, in part to stimulate national employment. Under government leadership we are rebuilding the country in a sustainable way, is how we see it.
Bobbi (23), Expert Creative Data Visualisation
The well-known sounds of the news echo in the living room. After a brief summary, straight to the European news. Today, I am speaking with Bobbi, the Dutch expert in the area of Creative Data Visualisation”. The view switches to Brussels, where Bobbi is standing next to the Royal Academy for Fine Arts. “I am glad that my idea of introducing artificial intelligence in data visualisation has been rewarded. I have formed a multidisciplinary team with the students of the art school in front of which I am now standing and with a group of students from different European countries. Together, we will monitor hundreds of patients to uncover all kinds of unknown patterns in mental illnesses that emerged during the pandemic. We will start with a pilot in the Netherlands. Using special 3D visualisation, data like homes and objects in the street are represented. When you take a virtual walk through streets, alleys and neighbourhoods, you see data patterns all around you that you wouldn’t expect.”
The development of a European corona app has shown the people the importance of data gathering, which has led to a veritable deluge of people recording everything about themselves and sharing that information with their network. Education has also undergone a positive development as a result of data being recorded. Learning Analytics is expanded even further. Not only grades are stored in the databank, but also the number of keystrokes of students doing their homework, who has spoken to whom digitally, the length of the breaks and everybody’s Body Mass Indexes (BMI) during a school year. Artificial intelligence is trying to find connections between all these data and possible further education.
The high tech digitisation takes place ‘under the hood’ of society. Invisible digital measurements are being made everywhere to keep the people healthy and safe. Everything is connected. A bridge knows its own traffic flows, the school playground knows its own playing and non-playing children and their body temperatures, the petrol station knows who has bought how much energy, the pizza delivery service knows how much calories it has delivered, the government knowns who has been in the vicinity of whom. Due to the overall trust in technology and privacy, living with a digital connection has become part of everyday life. As long as digital technology provides more safety, people have no significant problems with sacrificing their privacy and personal freedom. Of course we haven’t suddenly turned into China, but many people understand that there’s no real alternative if we want to prevent the next pandemic or other kind of global crisis. The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) plays an important role and provides Europe with an excellent opportunity to retake it’s global ‘technology position’.
This is the time for geo-engineering: corona has shown us that we can solve a crisis with a combination of technology and control – which also goes for the climate and energy issue. CO2-emissions are solved through capturing and storage. And if CO2 isn’t captured immediately in the exhaust pipe, it is extracted from the air using new technology. Every company that markets ‘CO2-containing’ products is responsible for the entire carbon cycle, to make sure it won’t damage the climate and the environment: climate and energy crises are managed through circular thinking.
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