How Technological Innovation and Automation Can be Beneficial in Times of Crisis
How Universal Basic Income (UBI) provides food on the table and bills to be paid
For several weeks now, the number one discussed topic online and offline is the coronavirus
(SARS-CoV-2). The exponential growth curve of the amount of people infected with the virus has to be stopped, in order to control the virus. Patient 0 is still unknown and data research shows that the virus has been among us
since at least the 17th of November 2019
(initiating in Wuhan, China). Not knowing the origin of the virus, as well as
no vaccine available to treat the disease, prevents specialists from containing the virus.
Research shows that people can get infected with coronavirus, through close person-to-person contact (within 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The World
Health Organization (WHO) states
that countries need to act now, drastically and fast to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
Medical researchers from all over the world are trying to find an antidote, but until this is created and proven to be working, the world needs to manage without and try to slow down the virus. The help of every human and some robots are much needed to fight COVID-19.
The emergence of the 4th industrial revolution brings us new innovative ways to battle the coronavirus, in ways we could not have imagined a few decades ago. Every job a robot or a drone can take over from a government official, care-giver or medical assistant means less
exposure to the virus for the people that we now need the most.
In the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, China, a new hospital ward opened, fully operational by robots
. This way, hospital staff reduces the exposure to the coronavirus. Approximately 200 patients were taken ware off by robots. This temporary solution enabled robotic care of the patients that showed mild symptoms of the virus, relieving hospital staff from their busy duties.
A telepresence robot
is being used to communicate with a coronavirus infected patient in a medical center in Everett, Washington. The patient is being treated by medical staff and a robot. The robot is equipped with a stethoscope to take the patients’ vitals.
In Hong Kong, train stations cleaners are getting help from a new vaporizing hydrogen peroxide robot
. The robot that’s manufactured though a collaboration between MTR Corporation and Avalon Biomedical Limited is specialized in cleaning small gaps and other hard to reach surfaces. The robot is programmed for deep cleansing and decontamination in train compartment as well as train stations. The plan is
to deploy a total of 20 robots in the near future.
To keep elderly citizens company in times of social isolation, these so called companion robots
have been developed. Besides doing light household chores, these robots can also be utilized to educate children.
Drones, often thought of as a delivery device, a weapon of mass-destruction or a competitive racing gadget, can be greatly beneficial in times of crisis.
One of the countries that is heavily hit with Coronavirus infections, Spain, are using drones to inform it’s citizens to abide by the nationwide lockdown
. The drones are operated by human officers that relay warnings via radio. This way people are informed and police officers do not need to have physical contact with citizens. Following the news of Spanish police deploying drones for public awareness, Belgian authorities
also use drones as a way to inform its citizens about the necessary measures they need to take.
Drones are being used to disinfect a Chinese village
called Heze, suffering from COVID-19 disease. A local farmer with multiple plant spraying drones, offered them to be used as a disinfecting spray.
In Xinhua, China, officers have deployed drones to check the temperature of its residents
. A drone with an infrared thermal imaging lens and loudspeaker can detect people with a fever. The loudspeaker
informs them about the protective measures that are taken.
Drones can also be utilized in a number of other ways, as a blood and medicine delivery vehicle, an AED, for food and basic necessities and to transfer passengers from one location to another. When a
countrywide lock down occurs, you can always have your drone walk the dog. This is what happened in Israel.
A few days ago, an Italian hospital ran out of valves for respirators that are
being used to treat patients suffering from COVID-19. They got help out of a somewhat unsuspecting corner. An Italian startup company, called Isinnova
, offered their 3D printer to help fabricate new valves. A valve that usually costs $11,000, could now be manufactured for only $1. The original manufacturer is now suing the volunteers that printed the valves, for copyright infringement.
, a couple that have a company in selling custom 3D printers have been making 3D face masks for the workers on a Coronavirus test site . They have already made 50 pieces and are currently using 16 printers to make another 250 shields.
Belgian based, Materialized
, made a 3D printed hands-free door handle, specifically designed to open a door without touching the knob. They are sharing the design for free to anyone wanting to use it for 3D printing.
These past few weeks, more-and-more retailers and central banking outlets
urge customers to pay with their card instead of in cash. Cash enables the coronavirus to spread between the people handling it. A
cashless society, where cash transfers are processed digitally, with no hand-to-hand contact prevent spreading of bacteria. Now would be a great time to further assess the implementation of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
A CBDC is just like fiat currency, with the exception that it is a digital form of legal tender. It is not tangible, like cash, but this does not make it less valuable.
Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency and it is probably best knows for its flagship currency, Bitcoin. The benefits to using cryptocurrency are that, with international payments you are not dependent on a banks’ opening times, it is transparent, (almost) instantly confirmed, and the transaction fees are usually low. Drawbacks are that the prices can be quite volatile, the way to transfer funds initially need some practicing
for new users, and the fiat to crypto gateway might need some additional verification dependent on the country you live in.
Cryptocurrency is held in a digital wallet. There are different grades of safekeeping your coins. Holding your cryptocurrency balance on a digital asset exchange is not recommended for long term holding. U can use a paper-, software- or hardware wallet. Wallets need to be updated once in a while, even a hardware wallet. Reputable hardware wallets are Ledger
Mobile cryptocurrency wallets, like ZenGo
, enable everyone to instantly transfer funds in a safe and transparent way, from one wallet to another, without having physical contact, all while using your smartphone.
I am a big fan of implementing a Universal Basic Income (UBI). Now that independent contractors that cannot work from home, store owners or self-employed professionals reliant on job contracts are all in a rocky situation, not knowing how long these (nationwide) shut-downs will last. All while not receiving any income. In my country alone (The Netherlands), employers have already asked for financial assistance for 390,000
of its employees
(population of 17 million). These are all people with contracts that supposed to be guaranteed a monthly salary.
I cannot even begin to imagine how many people will be left, with no income, the coming months and no buffer to pay rent, mortgage or even basic necessities like food.
Providing all citizens (or just the ones that opt for it) with a Universal Basic Income can solve the devastating economic meltdown, amidst this fearful virus.
What is UBI?
Former presidential candidate, for the democratic party, Andrew Yang, is an ardent advocate of universal basic income as is historian and author Rutger Bregman
. Yang based his primary election campaign around one central proposal implementing UBI whereas Bregman made his, well received, point of the importance of UBI at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos. Billionaire tech moguls, Mark Zuckerberg
are also avid UBI supporters.
Job absolution by automation, flexibility in the job market, no more long-term job contracts, but independent contractors working variable hours.
UBI basically provides every citizen with a no questions asked, no conditions needed, steady monthly base income. US state Alaska already has a similar program, the Alaska Permanent Fund (APF)
, where it provides its residents with an annual income.
US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin recently said
‘Americans need cash now’. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said
‘We need to send emergency cash payments of $2,000 to every American as long as this crisis continues’.
While there are a lot of pros and cons to UBI, my believe is that in a future of accelerating automation, where a projected 50% of total manual labor jobs
will be replaced by robots, a universal basic income for every individual is a good solution.
As long as the origin of the virus has not been uncovered, and a working anti-virus has been released there is no telling what will happen to our day-to-day life in the meantime. For things to progress in a positive manor, by going back to normal, we need to go through some uncertain times. This situation can proceed to take months before a resolution has been found.
Forced to stay at home, with no day job, you could learn a new skill, through online learning platforms, like Coursera
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