How COVID-19 will Fuel the Greatest Innovation Explosion in the History of Mankind

Do you know what people do when they find themselves with an overabundance of alone time?

They think.

A lot.

And they think some more.

For those who allow their thoughts to wander to dark places, thinking can be a curse.

But, for others, thinking is truly a blessing.

It is a chance to reflect and recharge.

To explore the depths of our imagination and birth new ideas.

To create.

And then to create some more.

A surplus of “me time” provides the optimal environment for musicians to compose new songs.

For writers to pen new books.

For artists to paint masterpieces.

And, for innovators to invent.

I recently learned that William Shakespeare wrote some of his best works while in quarantine during the 1605–1606 bubonic plague.

Indeed, the world may never have met King Lear, Macbeth, Antony or Cleopatra had it not been for a pandemic.

During the great plague of London in 1665, Isaac Newton used his time in quarantine to discover calculus, the genesis of numerous scientific advancements in economics, medicine and engineering.

Newton’s time in isolation, thanks to a pandemic, enabled mankind to ultimately build bridges, explore space as well as invent products such as the television and cell phone.

During my 4th week of “coronatine”, I found myself thinking about the 1982 film, Trading Places. The plot is based on a wager between two brothers — both with the power to manipulate other people’s lives for their own amusement and morbid curiosity.

In the movie, a one dollar bet over nature versus nurture had the brothers removing the wealth and social status from a man born into privilege and giving it to a street hustler born into poverty — just to see whether the newly-destitute man resorts to a life a crime and if the nouveau riche con man turns legit.

With too much time on my obsessively clean hands, I started wondering if Mortimer and Randolph Duke are up to their old tricks again and whether this pandemic was just another one of their grotesque social experiments.

Have the Dukes wagered another dollar to see how humans will react when a deadly virus uproots society by stymying economic growth and confining the populace to their homes?

Are the Dukes waiting to see if their jobless quarantined subjects resort to a life a crime? If anger and frustration turn isolated people against one another?

Or, are the Dukes merely testing to see how civilization makes use of this rare gift of time? Is the real study aimed at discovering whether mankind will squander their hours venting on social media or maximize these precious moments by breeding and cultivating new ideas?

Although I see a significant amount of rage on social media, I constantly remind myself that venting is made for a public forum whereas innovation always takes place in private.

For every one person who is wasting his time inciting hate, I guarantee you that there are at least ten others who are using their “me time” to foster new ideas, to create, to compose, to write, to paint and to invent.

Ideas are far more contagious that any virus. Each one has the power to multiply by inspiring more. All it takes is just one to fuel an endlessly proliferating pool of ideas.

The Dukes will soon learn that ideas will always overpower anger.

And, history will reveal that the COVID-19 experiment ultimately led humanity to a renaissance of creativity that fueled the greatest innovation explosion in the history of mankind.

I will bet my last dollar on it.

Recognized author, thought provoker & frequent speaker on how technological & regulatory innovation are transforming global finance.

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