Distance is the key word

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous”.

Edward Osborne Wilson.

The changes in the human behaviour – social, cultural and economic – took place, according to historic evidence in an “almost mandatory” way. Our species is reluctant to abandon the “comfort zone”, we tend to have atavist conducts, and we “hate” uncertainty as well. We need to live permanently with the feeling of having everything “under control”. We count on continuity, normality and, deeply inside, we want everything as it was before “something”. Wars, plagues and crises always become the “accelerator” for changes, a kind of “forced” step forward.

The pandemic caused by the “coronavirus” and the “forced” confinement has started to act as a spur for an unavoidable and necessary change. Among other issues, the pandemic and the confinement “exposed” all the weaknesses of our society, a fragile society built on shifting hands which is now “threatened” by such a simple organism that cannot even reproduce without invading other living species. In summary, a bitter blow to our “arrogance” of being a divine unbeatable species. All these “frozen” working activities will derive in social and economic consequences, and they will show their worst side sooner than later.

Definitively, the time has come to take a step forward, despite the emotional drag of the melancholics of the “normality”. If we want education, administrative work, and other services and developments to continue their process creating value, we must “turn” to distance working, distance learning, distance procedures, distance shopping and other distance activities and services. Because of that, we will create a new way of expressing our personal relationships remotely. It is mandatory to assume that this process is not optional, it is an unavoidable rule. Even if for a period of time, still uncertain, we try again to get part of the on-site life back. The new rule, not the new normality, the distance activities, are ineluctable. Please notice that I intentionally do not use here the words “remote activities”, “tele-working” or “remote education” and I emphasize the word “distance”.


Although, apparently, “distance”, “remote” and “tele-activity” may have the same meaning. From my point of view, it is not really like that. “Tele-activity” and “remote”, refer to the specific use of some technological processes, which involve software and hardware, to establish the necessary connections to fulfil the specific objectives of the task to be done. The “distance activity”, besides this connectivity process, involves many other aspects which go from purely technical – online skills – to cultural aspects such as the use of e-books, MOOCs for education, collaborative platforms more integrated with “virtual working or education rooms”, physical adaption (technology and furniture), of all what we considered until now our rest space and social life. Our future homes will include a home office but also jobs will need to establish new compensations, salaries and performance measurements, due to the impossibility of verifying and quantifying the total working time. We will need to switch to objective-based scenarios. In the same way, deep cultural changes in the perception of knowledge and learning, must be done in formal education.

This process is, in my opinion, unstoppable but will have steps forward and backward, which will unnecessarily elongate the agony. However, this is how it is usually. Universities, schools, working places and others will have to discuss new methodologies, organizational procedures, and cultural aptitudes. Thousands of questions will not find quick and easy answers and it will be a long dramatic process. For instance, analysing the selection of the right software and hardware, security and privacy issues in personal and professional data, will become vital decisions. Choosing a “data center” to store all our data will not be an easy task while avoiding the use of commercial software as a “black box”. In other words, acquisition of sovereignty and/or self-reliance will be critical.

Considering what was expressed above, the developments based on free software – programs and operating systems – will be essential to audit all the created code, which makes a guarantee in terms of security and it is an act of transparency. Without doubt, those unavoidable changes will “force” us to move from a passive attitude when buying products and services, towards a process of integration which is necessary for the technology’s self-reliance. Opposing this concept, makes people, companies and institutions vulnerable to many risks.


Daniel Mery

Co-organizer in Madrid Haskell Users Group and Co-founder in Planet Linux Caffe .

Translation by Santiago Moreira 

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