By Pauline Kerr
Although there is a strong move afoot to put the world back the way it was before COVID, most of us realize that particular genie is out of the bottle, permanently. The world has changed, and so have we.
COVID drop-kicked us into the 21st century technology-wise. Canada will no longer allow itself to be relegated to the status of a supplier of lumber, oil and other raw materials for the world’s more sophisticated nations.
During the pandemic, businesses large and small learned to compete on the world stage, not only surviving but thriving – and increasingly wary of the drive to out-source technology and manufacturing to places where labour is cheap, standards are flexible and ethics are questionable.
When foreign suppliers (including our neighbours south of the 49th) reneged on contracts for personal protective equipment and other important products early in the pandemic, local industries proved both flexible and highly ethical, with commendable standards of supporting their communities. Bravo to them!
Use of telecommuting and teleconferencing has proved to be much more than a desperation play to keep everything going, from education to municipal government, during lockdowns. Communications technology has enhanced what goes on in the classroom and council chamber, not to mention the corporate board room, office and retail shop.
Folks who once took pride in not being able to turn on a computer are now confidently “zooming” their way through life. They have turned in their luddite card and have no intention of reclaiming it.
There are small “mom and pop” shops that have developed a strong online presence. They treasure their local customers who stop in for a chat, but they also benefit from chatting via computer with new customers who live in a dozen different time zones.
Meetings now take place despite the fact some attendees are snowed in at their respective homes, a couple are away at the cottage and one is visiting relatives in Europe – and the guest speaker lives in Australia.
High-speed communications technology has shifted from being something with a lot of future potential, to what we do every day. The future is here.
As with other good things, this particular genie should have come with a caution label.
In many ways, the internet is still like the wild west, with gold in them thar’ hills, but also hazards to trap the unaware.
Even former card-carrying luddites can recognize that email from the Nigerian prince for what it is. However, they might fail to take precautions against other dangers. Good firewalls are important. Those unfamiliar with the term should learn the essentials – sooner rather than later.
One particularly aggravating post-COVID internet issue is the proliferation of useless or harmful information. Oddly, something as old-fashioned as good manners and common sense can solve it.
There is a huge amount of information available online, and it contains the good, the bad and the extremely ugly. There are informative articles written by people with a veritable alphabet after their names, and others written by Dorito-addicted cellar-dwellers whose academic accomplishments peaked at about Grade 3. The problem is, the internet gives equal billing to all of it.
When there is no authority advising on whether the information is of value, we need to do that job ourselves. Is it too weird to be true? Is it racist, sexist or hurtful? Was it provided by a reputable source? The internet has some valuable gold nuggets in those hills of iron pyrite. Those unable or unwilling to differentiate between the two will likely end up drinking aquarium cleaner at some point or worrying that COVID vaccine will make their genitalia fall off.
The right thing to do with questionable material is to delete or ignore it, not believe and share it.
By the same token, we might take a lesson from our Victorian ancestors on writing computer age letters of complaint. Letters were once an artform, and those of complaint doubly so. The writer would compose, peruse and revise, then stash it in a desk for some antique hunter to find over a century later.