COVID-19 has transformed modern society into a network society, which will determine the future of humanity.
Black Death wiped out half of England’s population in the 18th century but it also laid the foundation for the industrial revolution. Japan, after the World War II, changed its social hierarchy and followed the technological-based social structure to rescue its economy.
Catastrophic events collapse economic systems but they also bring about social structural changes. Will the current pandemic change the world's social structure?
The capitalist and absolute societies have failed to answer the question raised by the COVID-19. More than 3,00,000 people died worldwide and many are suffering from the COVID-19. In Nepal, infection rate is growing and death has started.
Lockdown has affected people adversely. Many are struggling for food. Others have serious mental and emotional issues. Ram Bahadur (name changed), a student from Kathmandu University, says he is not able to meet his family and cannot concentrate on anything. He complains that the government has done nothing for the common people. Millions of Nepalis think like Ram Bahadur at the moment.
But he praised the rapid development in telecommunication technology. Ram Bahadur said, “At least I could see my father’s and mother’s face, all thanks to internet technology”.
COVID-19 has exposed how incompetent governments can be how vulnerable the whole of the societies could be but it also opened the debate on technological transformation of the society. With networks and technologies an individual can earn for daily lives without barriers. It sets a new mode of communication without hierarchical boundaries based on interconnected nodes. Each individual is interconnected with nodes, which form a structure and govern people’s activities. The new social structure is called a network society. The culture of working from home, online study, and virtual health consultation has already started. Every bit of human activity is guided by technology.
Networks become the most powerful mechanism that can adopt changes and resist any forms of harmful attacks. The task which takes years to complete can be accomplished in a few hours. People can connect with doctors in a millisecond and discuss their health issues. Now people can consult doctors from their homes. Universities are also using virtual learning platforms where students can continue reading, writing, and learning with the help of internet technology. The new variable of network has become the primary unit of social structure. Technology has become the source of power and wealth.
The COVID-19 has transformed modern society into a network society, which will determine the future of humanity. Network society focuses on the informational exchange and introduces different cultures to shape production to consumption. The current situation also demands changes in the overall social system without human intervention.
In the network society, the main political arena is now online media. The power distribution of society has started shifting to a new social circle. Every human action depends on technology and those actions have an impact on other people.
Future is going to be much different. A child born today will be an active citizen by 2050. He/she will be equipped with new knowledge for survival and that knowledge will be based on technological advancement. He/she will have social status based on technological know-how. The traditional social thoughts may not find any role in the society.
Network society provides every possible opportunity to perform any activities and have a global connection. Our upcoming generation will have a different social structure. Post COVID 19 society will be largely ruled by Artificial Intelligence.
The author is an MPhil student at Department of Development Education, Kathmandu University