Software in time of apocalypse

Software is healing the world

In the current moment, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, isolation and heavy reliance on software for work, communication, entertainment, wellbeing, information… life, it is increasingly hard to comprehend the evolution of perception of the software and software product engineering in the last 10-15 years.

Let me remind you that, only 9 years ago, Marc Andreessen wrote his forever quoted essay Why Software Is Eating the World, which was not that revolutionary at that point, but was defining a drive for most influential investment focus of Silicon Valley for years to come. At that time software was not yet eating the world, not fully, altho Netflix, Uber and Airbnb were already there with next wave coming up strong.

Software did eat the commercial world pretty fast afterwards, businesses got online shops, payment providers moved forward quickly, logistics became better, X as a service… Everything that you could sell more then anyone needed it got sold even more. Radios, tvs, even mp3s after them just went to the same place as vinyl, altho they are not as enjoyable as vinyl so we do not care. Sorry, they are not coming back!

Now, many years after, we are facing time of global pandemic, global physical isolation and time of need of a kind we did not understand for a long time - of need to persist, to sustain our lives in the best form, to be well above all.

Nowhere to run

Now that we have to sit at home, protect ourselves and our families, it is quickly coming to us that fast modern ways of living actually quite often distanced us mentally, from ourselves and the others (“we know, you hipster”). We were hurting, and we did not even know, it did not matter, it would not matter for as long as we could maintain it, but now it matters. Now, in this new normal, it is imperative to understand yourself properly, because there is nowhere to run. The great pause has come.

After long while, or even first time in, like, forever, we need stuff that will help us live slow. We are not ordering clothes and buying tickets for concerts, or riding uber somewhere, we are ordering furniture, flowers, food, kindle, a record player… There is shortage of exercise equipment (other day I have seen YT video “All rowing machines are sold out, what to do now”). But most wonderful of all - we connect, to ourselves and the others.

Of course it all started by everyone turning towards binge watching anything on Netflix and Disney+ but it quickly became lot more.

It is lovely! Despite everything around us, life is beautiful and people are so strong, and physical distancing brings us together.

New digital wave

Whole new wave of digital transformation is happening in front of us, and I do not know how aware you are of it, but it is wonderful, and chaotic.

Small businesses that were selling thousands of strawberry plants and millions of flowers on auctions during the season (which is now) are quickly getting web shops and pushing through all the marketing channels. In the Netherlands, one of those small businesses is actually asking people to not order flowers from them for a week so they can resolve all the orders - they have sold 2 million flowers in under 2 weeks…

We have an app to order stuff from the local green market now.

Literally all the museums and art galleries are getting virtual tours. You can get painting lessons online.

There are first online film festivals and theater plays are being streamed. Indie and mainstream musicians alike are having free live shows, sometimes every week, with amazing global audiences… and each artist, and each person in the hundreds of thousands of people audience is in their own home.

Everything we considered hard to digitalize, is digitalizing at astonishing rate.

Our daughter’s first grade teachers are wonderful content creators - and apart from multitude of school apps and learning systems we have accessible in the cloud, we are getting multiple Videos, texts and games daily. Wonderful people creating wonderful content daily so 4-5-6 year olds do not miss out on school or social interaction.

We had classmate’s birthday celebration over Zoom, class gathering and one on one with the teacher over Google Meet. Children got immersed in video calls immediately, chatting and laughing and showing toys… They love it and afterwards they talk about how much they miss each other.

And again it is all about software, it is all about that look into a screen, something that we are complaining about for years…

A proper wellness

During my wife’s remote yoga session our dog barked at her friend’s dog and other barked back in short but sweet dog conversation.

These sessions are not unusual for us because we now live far away from people we used to spend time with every day, so you compensate a bit by using technology for it.

Now, this is all conventional tooling being used more and more for interactions that were preferably direct. And people do not doubt it will work for a second.

Instagram live is now full of meaningful content, lessons, motivational talks, nice wellbeing challenges, guided meditations. Even therapists offering their services online (even free in some cases).

Infinite number of real cooking vlogs that can teach you to cook something at home, anyone?

These crazy times are opening so many possibilities, and setting the stage for amazing content production that would stay niche if it wasn’t for a great need to be well, present and connected in ways we almost forgot, as a society. The interesting thing about it is that it is forgotten for our way of life, and mainly because it actually is not marketable through the mainstream sneaky freudian methods, it is just a thing we need, we can’t need it more, and we can not need it less. It is hard sell, but with good steady market. Little damaged, but steady market. Ok… pretty damaged.

More we live in this moment, more we learn what we need to be better. The way to get there is software most of times.

All the things people used to actually get away from internet an technology now are brought ever closer to our homes - ancient meditations and modern fitness programs, dancing therapies and body building lessons, backyard crossfit live groups, virtual fitness challenges with real medals… it is all digital now and we love it, we live it now. It is great complementary activity to taking care of our mini vegetable gardens, zen gardens or hanging strawberry plants, which we learned how to do through virtual courses on YouTube.

After the great pause

Apocalypse comes in different shapes and magnitudes, and this one, what ever downfall of everything that is holding our world together it brings with it, is a welcome learning experience.

We learn about each other and about ourselves, we learn new things about stuff we thought we will never need again, but we are also learning a lot about our biggest inventions of modern age - we are learning the full potential of the software and digital transformation.

This great pause in modern living induces a change into a lifestyle of the world and is already shaping the next industrial revolution. Maybe mild in actual technology upgrade and with almost no changes to ways of working, its implications to digital and digital transformation are immense - it is rooted in world realizing it needs what it has been putting aside for so long.

I guess we realized that same products that we used to change the global mindset so we can sell everyone more and make everyone live faster, produce faster and live in constant sensory overload, can be used to heal the world of side effects of it. And you can also use it to find out how to grow your own avocados.

We finally realized that screens we are looking at are not the problem - we are the problem. Screens were not alienating us, it was us who were alienating us. We are now stuck to screens for many more things, but things that bring us closer - closer to ourselves and to others. We realized that software is there for us.