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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Our Digital Pandemic Yr – The New York Occasions

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This text is a part of the On Tech publication. You possibly can enroll right here to obtain it weekdays.

The pandemic, which formally hit the one-year mark on Thursday, confirmed how a lot we want know-how — but in addition that it’s in all probability not the answer to our greatest challenges.

Listed here are three issues that I’ve discovered previously 12 months: Expertise confirmed its utility by serving to folks and companies handle by a disaster. Our more and more digital lives have additionally created new issues that might be exhausting to repair. And an important issues don’t have anything to do with know-how.

Let’s discuss every of those.

First, I’m grateful that know-how helped many hundreds of thousands of us muddle by work, college and household life. It additionally stored us knowledgeable when little appeared to make sense.

I’m glad that my residence was in a position to grow to be On Tech’s headquarters. I entertained myself with digital books and streaming movies, and I stayed in contact by screens with family and friends. I selected to buy at native companies based mostly on whether or not I may place on-line orders and reserve a time for choose up. Expertise has helped many people retain shreds of normalcy in a pandemic.

One huge query, as my colleague Steve Lohr wrote this week, is how a lot this previous 12 months has completely modified work and consumption patterns. (Probably the most sincere reply: Who is aware of?)

Individuals who observe know-how and other people’s habits just about all say that the pandemic invented some digital behaviors out of the blue, however that principally it fast-forwarded digital tendencies that had already been percolating.

Extra folks discovered to order their groceries on-line, tried and favored restaurant supply providers, related with buddies over video video games, turned used to conferences over Zoom and had appointments with their docs by video name. Quite a lot of this was by necessity, however there have been useful elements to digital life. Shops, health studios and lots of different companies have been compelled to adapt sooner to what customers need.

I hope we will maintain the very best of those new behaviors and attitudes. I additionally fear that these advantages got here with profound downsides — and that the upsides haven’t been shared equally.

It’s my eternal fury that so many Individuals, notably Black and Latino folks and people dwelling in rural areas, can not entry the web from residence. And we don’t actually know precisely the dimensions of the issue.

And the know-how that promised to deliver restaurant house owners, product retailers and job seekers extra revenue throughout difficult instances additionally created new and unwelcome dependencies on the digital middlemen, equivalent to DoorDash, Amazon and Uber. The affect and financial may of the Huge Tech superpowers grow to be much more obtrusive. Will probably be a failure if the brand new digital economic system — just like the outdated economic system — doesn’t work for everybody.

And my lasting reminiscence of the previous 12 months is that know-how usually doesn’t matter very a lot.

People and human-run establishments pulled off final 12 months’s presidential election with few issues. People additionally had been largely chargeable for undermining credibility within the election consequence.

People looking for each other in addition to policymakers’ decisions had been an important components in preserving folks protected — or not — through the pandemic. And the magic of coronavirus vaccines and the protests that demanded a extra truthful nation had little to do with what we consider as know-how.

It’s been a protracted, terrible 12 months and let’s hope that the following 12 months might be brighter. And in addition allow us to maintain in our minds that individuals, not know-how, change the world.

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We wish to hear a couple of tech behavior that you just began through the pandemic. Share with On Tech the way it’s helped you handle the previous 12 months or unleash your creativity. What do you want (and hate) about your new digital conduct? Do you see your self preserving it?

Please embrace your full identify and the place you reside (metropolis or city and state or nation). We might publish a variety in an upcoming publication. You possibly can attain us at ontech@nytimes.com.


  • Attending to Fb’s core downside: An MIT Expertise Evaluation author puzzled why the Fb crew chargeable for equity in computerized choices wasn’t altering the automated rankings of posts that polarized folks. Her query led to this nuanced article concerning the root downside of Fb looking for to maximise our consideration.

  • China can’t get sufficient of Elon Musk: China’s know-how staff are feeling pessimistic about their business and disillusioned concerning the nation’s know-how tycoons. As an alternative, my colleague Raymond Zhong reported, Musk has grow to be the tech determine of the second in China.

  • Sure, Netflix is aware of that 10 pals share the identical password: The corporate hasn’t needed to mess with folks sharing passwords, however now it’s testing a method to nudge some folks to get their very own account, The Streamable reported.

“I informed him my identify is Tony, to which he replied sarcastically ‘like Tony Hawk haha.’”

Probably the most well-known skateboarder in historical past met a child at a skate park who didn’t acknowledge him. It was fantastic. (This occurred in 2019, however the whims of the web made Hawk’s Twitter thread standard once more this week.)


We wish to hear from you. Inform us what you consider this text and what else you’d like us to discover. You possibly can attain us at ontech@nytimes.com.

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