The pandemic has forced us individually and collectively to embrace new technological solutions to enable us to continue functioning socially and economically. New-found reliance on the use of online meeting platforms for example, along with moves to online learning for schools, universities and colleges and the switch to e-commerce by businesses to help ensure survival. The ability of people and businesses to adapt (whether materially, financially or emotionally) has been dependent largely on their ability to exist in the online world (sometimes referred to grandly as the ‘metaverse’) and engage others within it. Good examples of creative adaptation are those entertainers/performers/actors who have embraced technology to enable them to continue to entertain through online platforms. Performers, whether actors or musicians, can now be booked to perform on Zoom calls for example. Public broadcasters are now producing shows with online audiences, no longer requiring the use of physical studio space. Pop-stars have resorted (highly profitably) to moving their presence into online gaming platforms where they ‘release’ new music and perform concerts in exclusively online forums. Conversely those businesses and individuals who have been impacted most adversely are those who were/are dependent on their real-world presence only, for example retail businesses with a weak or non-existent online presence, airlines, cruise-ship companies and so on. As a society we may be faced with future pandemics and so I believe we must act now to transpose our civil society institutions, our structures of governance and ourselves as individuals (think ‘avatar’!) into the metaverse. UK Plc, if you like – online. The time is ripe and the need is prescient. This is the challenge of our time; for both our physical existence and our digital presence to be brought into closer alignment, as a country and as a people based on share values and ideals.
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