Sustaining life – a series of quarantined thoughts

For six weeks, the world was kind of locked down for each and everyone of us. In a weekly series of thoughts I wrote down my experience connected to Covid19. These views circled around data, trust, and how humanity won and technology failed to sustain life in that one of a kind critical atmosphere.

Quarantined – Sustaining life. #1
So, Bavaria is in quarantine as of Covid19… like so many other regions in Europe. A challenge and opportunity for parents, kids and collaboration at the same time. A first review after just sunny quarantine days…

Family 24/7 is funny.
Once smartphones and tablets are banned from kids’ access. Creative caves evolved in their rooms. Kids grouped and listened to CDs under impenetrable walls of pillows and blankets. A globe spends comfortable light inside. And, believe it or not: Books become their beloved time-thieves. A sustainable change? Parents’ hope dies at last, but… to be seen.

Business is crazy.
Maybe not – once everybody else in our village is in bed. Internet connection kills sustainability efforts when everybody is at home. Thanks @ Deutsche Telekom. Apart from that? Home office? Complex or cool?! Hey, we have made it to the “No-Commuting-Days”. Smile everybody, you got at least two hours more to work and you help sustaining (and improving) the quality of nature. How sustainable these days change business life after Covid19? To be seen…

Stress is relaxed.
Inhouse? Kids’ emotions sometimes explode now and then – yet incredibly quiet overall. Hurray! Outside? Where is the noise gone? No cars. No planes. No traffic jams. Empty streets let kids rollerblade or play ball on country roads. After the quarantine disruption, kids won’t be able to sustain this outstanding freedom. Sustain stressless days? To be seen…

Yuval Harari writes in Homo Deus, A History of Tomorrow: “The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.”
Let’s hope, we all learn from these quarantine days, and crave for more sustainability, life quality and conscious time together.

Quarantine days are not easy. However, they bring reflections. Covid19 reminds me of a former sensor garment project. Many stages at professional Champions League clubs, health companies, governmental organizations, insurance teams, and other EU stakeholders became an option for me to raise awareness around such innovation. Covid19 brings their “challengers” back to my mind: gatekeeper, data and trust. The concepts were similar: sustain life and prevent (or even predict) serious diseases.

Gatekeeper is changing.
Imagine the European Union (EU) cross-border monitors personal health around #Covid19 like Singapore does with their TraceTogether app. The EU could analyze the virus movement and warn people on distance measure or prevent further virus spreading by immediate personal advice messaging. It might become the future gatekeeper for virus prevention – a big empowerment for a real unified EU that doesn’t leave e.g. Italy and Spain alone. But it needs a long-term strategy, data dashboard capacities, and fast digital execution – but is the EU prepared for health gatekeeping, or just slowly transforming country-to-country gatekeeping? Evolution demands revolution.

Data is challenging.
People value individual health data a very sensitive topic. Once the EU has access to personal data, the commitment for a common EU health system asks for broader health or virus outbreak prevention systems. The EU might become the leading source in health data exchange for the sake of longer or “safer” lives. However, people fear that it enables the EU to also track other unique data, personal movement and individual habits that bypass health prevention in favor of future EU tax, health insurance regulation or EU financials and economics. In the end, the population needs to decide which insights to open up and which data to trust. No allowance pain, no prevention gain.

Trust is charging.
Technology has lost trust. Politicians are attempting to regain it (Edelman Trust Barometer 2020). Overcoming this mistrust level in a crisis with emerging data-driven Internet-of-Things technology (arm bracelets, censored shirts, smart watches, etc.) might train (the EU) population on technology opportunities on a broad scale. Trust batteries can be charged, once apps or sensor technologies drive prevention forward. The EU might take over the prevention driver’s seat – and may outshine the trust in WHO or other sources. The strength the EU could showcase today is that cross border exchange in Europe is more accurate than in Asia and the US. Today, fear is overwhelming hope. Tomorrow, hope is charging trust.

Technology might end quarantine days faster and regain life quality. The question is: Who is brave enough to take the driver seat? The EU, the countries, the individual?

The lockdown is fading into a long-term slow down. Two weeks down empty roads and shops, humanity is people show some real personality. Quarantine is disclosing the keys to our mindset, desires and empathy.

In a globalized world of emerging humanity, we set up walls, restrict travel, limit trade. A virus de-globalizes humanity, only if… yes, only if we don’t collaborate: Governments cheat on nationwide figures for elections’ sake. Countries “hide” masks from other nations. Politicians selfishly negotiate on vaccine access. Millennials party against social distancing, taking the elderly’s hope and health. Humanity dropped the mask. The virus pulls on it’s strings, which fight to keep the hope for human collaboration. The virus erases borders, but borders need to collaborate.

Mistrust and disunity is not the way forward if humans want to succeed against the virus. Neither Corona nor any other upcoming global challenge will be defeated through country-by-country activity, siloed approaches, or piece-by-piece defense. If humans are looking for a sustainable result, we cannot let Italy, Spain, US, or any other country’s beings be tackled as it will become domino effect affecting us. Company leaders talking about strategy governance that politicians seem to be missing. The virus is laughing at humans, but collaborative response will be killing it.

Humans’ strength is to unite against emperors, terrorists and viruses. The EU or the UN could have been leading forces. The agility of the WHO does not convince the global mindset so far. They all seem to have failed on their mission. Maybe like in the motor and travel industry, it is time for a sustainable new movement – some global organization, less dependent on donations, less country-sliced, less political, but supported from a united human will and wish. The virus is a chance for some modern united approach of humanity.

Somehow, the Covid19 epidemic spreads hope that humans realize and rethink the status of the current global conditions, and we all transform the world of “Me first!”.

The Coronavirus changes physical interaction in business relationships and between friends. Some will say for the good, some will say for the bad. Some will just rethink with whom they will sustain physical interaction at events, at meetings or at normal dinners and lunches in the future. Why?

Slight tapping.
Some days prior quarantine, I had a dinner with a good customer. We have had many meetings in Paris and Munich the years before. Every time we met, we gave us a friendly hug among longtime business partners. Still, when she came in that night, we both hesitated. Are we allowed to embrace each other as usual? Can we? Shall we? Dare we? Anyway, the human impulse was strong, and positive. We did. Maybe more a shoulder tapping. And, we both were lucky. No negative test chased us the days after. Will humans still behave accordingly after quarantine?

Soft embracing.
Well, thinking about it again, probably our social distancing that evening ended with a soft embracing. In principle, far too close for the quarantine ahead of us, which already had announced itself in the news. How often did we give business partners, friends and peers a soft embrace, and if we are honest… How often was this a bit too much, over the top, not really honest, not massively coming from an inner voice, more a self-staging and foolish sign of advanced business closeness? Will humans be more authentic in their physical closeness offering after …?

Stylish “pecking”.
You may have guessed it. My business dinner was French and female. The typical stylish peck was a tradition; not only between her and me, but with many people in the digital industry. All over the world, “pecking” was in fashion. Italy, Spain, New York, and many other scene capitals loved it. Physical closeness had dropped its traditional distancing mask over the last decade. Who cared about a peck here and there? Did anyone expect problems with those? And, how often may it have helped people getting closer, ending in a love relationship? Wondering if superficial pecks will sustain…?

All of the above physical closeness is gone. Gone for now. But not gone forever. Still, physical distancing rules. Hugging trees is recommended in Iceland. Maybe good for short reflection. Physical closeness will celebrate its renaissance. Will it come back even more intense after Coronavirus’ social and physical distancing? Who knows?!

In a virtual meeting last week (virtual hugs and pecks were replaced by emojis), a smart gentleman summarized his learnings from quarantine: “In the future, I will be more authentic, more realistic, more me, when I dedicate time to people – whether physical or social.” Think about it. How do you want to sustain your hugs and pecks after quarantine…?

The basis for communication, collaboration and relationships between humans is trust. Trust lets humans look behind masks of content, data and knowledge. These masks have been blurring, changing, and vanishing over the lockdown. These days feel like Carnival of human honesty. Some thoughts…

Trust – Data leads.
Many talks and discussions (also many I participated as a digital speaker and moderator) in the last decade focussed on “data fueling the modern world like oil”. Not only Covid19 contradicts many arguments we had and unveils data as a much broader spectrum. Data gets spread in a rash and careless manner these days. Data is fueling the opportunity of conversations, it leads the development of context – but in the end, nothing more. The human hope is that data leverages trust. Seeing all the Coronavirus tables, graphs, infographics, and concluding algorithms, too often this data visualization is a unclassified standalone, a blank opinion, some uncommented truth. How can such data assets really help building trust in communication these days? When humans accelerate the speed of data, it leaves huge black wholes of understanding levels. Without trusted authorities, frameworks, backbones or sources, how can data be in the lead?

Distrust – Content seeds.
Networks of humans -whether offline or online- have evolved in the last decade as of three levers of relationship building: individual desire for recognition, global human interactivity and machine-learning connectivity. Despite different underlying motivations of these levers, humans have simply forgotten to question the seeds of networking: content. Thus, reality gets blurry. In our human ambition for awareness and recognition -paired with limited time resources- we handed out trust like chocolate by unconsidered liking and sharing. In the days of Corona lockdown, people told me they have massively decreased their networks as they mistrust or discredit the content of peers, business connections, or allegedly trustworthy people from past days. When humans taste the freedom of reflection and inspiration anew, many opinions vanish in distrust – in our own view and in others’ views. Fake news, invaluable connections and opaque algorithms (or as of those…) have redefined trust. How can we not distrust seeded content?

Intersubjective trust – Knowledge exceeds.
Knowledge is power, we got told. With knowledge we hope to exceed the constrains of trust, distrust and intersubjective trust. Detecting this third type of trust proves challenging in Covid19 times, where we have more experts in virus knowledge than real virologists, more data specialists than specific health logicians, and more Coronavirus “over-sharing” than substantial virus insights, research findings or correct news flow. Intersubjectivity stands between the barriers between hopes and wishes. What kind of power is knowledge in a world where data is vague, content is manipulative or at best subjective-fitted, and where AI knowledge is guiding bias to bias? Are algorithms (as the defining masses) the intersubjective trust backbone in the future for humans believing in the myths of data knowledge? Will humans’ hope in data be the intersubjective trust concept of the future? Or do we want to continue living in times of “Leadership Carnival”?

This post’s pictures leaves space for interpretation: Seas of data clouds intermingle. Light and shadow. Black and white. Fading to grey. Like human clusters searching for trust. But trust and distrust often ends in an intersubjective trust – the more we discuss, the more we agree on a story, a myth or an agreement that is a common truth. Truth is what the masses, respectively algorithms, trust in. Maybe true, maybe not, data finds…

Trust and data. Data and trust. Two twins that challenge the world when moving from sustaining to restarting life. Since May 2018 companies had to get used to the EU’s GDPR regulation. Loosening Corona lockdown turns GDPR into a complete chaos, and it seems not many people realize.

Trust – Data needed.
In order to ease lockdown, restaurants and beer-gardens have got to provide registration formulas where guests sign-in when accessing the location. Surname, name, address and mobile number (whatever the reason…) need to be given to the location owner, obviously with the idea to track down and follow up on Corona outbreaks and to inform the past visitors – just in case. Building trust is essential for any food location owner.

However, what if you visit a McDonalds restaurant and nobody takes care of filled out forms, the registrations remain at the table, and everybody can see and copy your full address details? Is this conform with GDPR?

Distrust – Insights seeded.
Although McDonalds provided single paper snippets for registration (one per person), many other locations we tested just handed out paper lists for 20-50 registrations. We could see the full reach of a beer-garden at Lake Constance on a Saturday. We noticed that predominantly women fill out the registration (probably as men had to get the beer), that more people came for other countries (although borders are still under intense control), that most people came between 1pm and 2.30pm (afternoon was not even 50% of registrations), and that not many people have got traditional Telekom (0171…) or Vodafone (0172…) numbers anymore.

However, what if you have a snack in a beer-garden and the owner has a list where you sign-in with many other guests – open for everyone to be copied, available to be photographed, and no word about how they will use the registration data? The EU wanted to work against distrust. Corona came. Checkmate GDPR!

Intersubjective trust – You count.
Obviously, with every regulation smart entrepreneurs see an opportunity, even behind a crisis registration process. When we were hiking in the Bavarian mountains on Sunday, a small sandwich kiosk just put a “Newsletter” tickbox after the Corona registration process. If that’s allowed? Well, some lawyer will have their own view on this tactical marketing approach. Not my turf. Still, my mailbox will tell the truth if this kiosk’s tactic shall materialize.

However, what if you get some newsletter, some promotions, or some discount voucher next week from one of the locations you have been to? Will you act against the restaurant, beer-garden or location that has suffered for some months as of lockdown. Is the value of GDPR locked down?

The last weekend has shown one fact around the twins data and trust to me: Loosening the Corona lockdown has been loosening the GDPR lockdown.

Germany has launched their Covid19 tracing app, developed by Deutsche Telekom and SAP (no tender, not much app experience, much discussed already). Will it help? We will see. Bloomberg is critical and sees Singapore far ahead. Make up your own mind here. We will sustainable this app life will be.