The End of Social Isolation and the Shaping of a New World

In the book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, written by the philosopher Thomas Kuhn, the main argument is that scientific knowledge is pushed forward through the discovery and acceptance of “anomalies”: situations where the mainstream systematized theories and ways to know (“normal science”) are confronted by phenomena that simply cannot be explained following these parameters. While they are treated as simple exceptions, normal science is slowly weakened, until periods of “revolutionary science” comes and reorganizes all knowledge in a new way [1]. This “force to limit” movement through small issues is a good metaphor for how changes happen also in social life, and how they can shape society as a whole.

During the coronavirus pandemic, several existing contradictions became elucidated — while, on the other hand, some improvements that were made by a need of the moment seems to be here to stay. Like Amy Webb, professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, once said [2]:

Life after the virus will be different. We have a choice to make: do we want to confront our cherished beliefs and make meaningful changes for the future, or do we simply want to preserve the status quo?

This is why there are good reasons to believe that both public opinion and society as a whole might learn a lot of useful things with social isolation and the pandemic.

One of the things that should change is our relationship with technology, that tends to enhance. If it is true that computers, smartphones and the internet played an increasingly important role in human social life, it is easy to observe how it exponentially grew during the pandemic. Immersive digital cultural experiences, such as virtual museum tours and music shows livestreams, became very popular in the recent months. And so did home-office and e-learning experiences, and also online shopping, especially food delivery. With the importance of these platforms increased by the pandemic, it is possible to suppose that some online modalities should improve a lot over the next months, and these technological approaches will prevail and replace previous ones, shaping individual lives even more.

Following a political perspective, recently elected far-right politicians such as Bolsonaro, Trump and Boris Johnson suffered from an undermining of popularity due the pandemic. The main reason can be the anti-scientific rhetoric — that led to so many cases and deaths happening in Brazil and in the USA, and also in the UK in the first moment, even with an undernotification. The failure to deal with the virus properly accelerated the erosion of these public figures, and can play an important role in evidencing more centered politicians, draining authoritarian projects as a consequence.

The supposed effect, which is a cause at the same time, is a recovery of the faith in science. With a situation so serious, people tend to remember that only scientific knowledge can offer answers and safe recommendations to deal with the problem, and also a vaccine. This is very important, putting in jeopardy several unquestioned beliefs, or excessive faith in impressions and emotions — unplausible and, sometimes, supernatural views about the world. It is plausible to suppose that we may witness the rise of a slightly more rational era.

Far from promoting a “social revolution” (in parallel to Kuhn’s “scientific revolutions”), the rise of technology and the return of science by themselves are small steps to both recover a lost legacy and move forward to the future. Nevertheless, history walks carefully, and these are very important points to reach lighter times.

REFERENCES

[1] KUHN, Thomas S. A estrutura das revoluções científicas. 5. ed. São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva S.A, 1997.

[2] After the virus: More working at home, fewer but better friends. https://www.newsday.com/news/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-future-changes-futurists-1.43635849?utm_source=tw_nd.

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