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by Prof. Mark K. Smith, Founder and CEO of ContactEngine  

Recently I have found myself comparing COVID-19 to 410AD, but not because it was the prelude to a new Dark Age, but rather the reverse, that we have been sleepwalking for decades into an apocalyptic future, with no regard for what we are damaging in the process. In fact, COVID-19 might lead to a new age of enlightenment, where we accept that post-COVID-19 we are all in this together, we need to look after the planet better, and we will be nicer, and better people for it.

So, here are my five post-COVID-19 predictions:

1. Working from home

COVID-19 has necessitated home-based working. It turns out that working from home can, at times, be more beneficial – take call centres for example. Enabling agents to work from home not only makes sense from a business continuity point of view, but it could also open up access to a new and geographically unconstrained workforce with the desired skills and experience to handle complex queries. What’s more, with no time wasted on tiresome commuting, likely a more productive one. Read our latest whitepaper to find out more.

2. No-growth economies will become the norm

We have just the one planet, we have just the one atmosphere, we have just the one set of natural resources to use. The economic madness of continuous growth will stop. It does not make sense. An economy should seek zero growth, not up, not down – but enough.

3. Local power production

The power needed to work from home is minimal – a laptop uses about 50 watts of electricity, the equivalent of 0.05 kWh. Using it for a day costs about 5p. I predict that governments will stop building massive infrastructure projects – like railways, airports, motorways, and the like, and turn to renewable power – wind, wave, and solar. Planning laws will make for zero carbon new builds.

4. New non-profit corporations will emerge

I predict that new non-profit organisations will emerge through technology – whereby technology is the ‘people’. So the technology, with human oversight, of course, makes the profit and the profit is used to develop the technology. If you want to know what I mean ask me – I have one lined right up and you never know it might help save the world.

5. Biodiversity will rise up the agenda

David Attenborough has shown us the incredible beauty of the planet that we share with loads of other beings. But over that 100 years, we have smashed this fragile museum up. Worse than an ancient asteroid, we have driven at least 680 vertebrate species to extinction in the blink of a celestial eye. We kill things before we even name them. So with the canals of Venice clear and the pollution maps of the world showing clean air, maybe, just maybe, we will realise that we are part of an ecosystem and if we set fire to it, we set fire to ourselves.

This post-COVID-19 world will change us forever – in the US, pre-COVID-19, 3.6% of people worked from home, however, next year estimates suggest that 25-30% of the workforce will be doing so. Any technology that makes this and life tangibly better, be that proactive communications like my company, or AI that optimises energy usage, or works out the best way to tackle say a virus… they will win. But more importantly, I hope that we will move into a nicer, better, safer, and less angry world.

Mark is a serial entrepreneur who IPOd his first business on the London Stock Exchange in his early 30s. He is credited with inventing online conferencing in the 1990s, built the first Content Management System for blind people in the 2000s, built ‘Parasport’ to help talent spot disabled athletes in the run-up to the London 2012 games, and invented a live streaming audio product that allowed commentary from anywhere in the world via phone. Mark is now CEO of ContactEngine, a conversational AI technology used by large corporates to automate customer communications. The company employs linguists, behavioural scientists, mathematicians and software engineers to design machine-learning algorithms that automate human-like conversations. The company began as an idea in Mark’s head 10 years ago and is now a multi-£million company. Throughout his career, Mark has relentlessly applied science over instinct and believes technologies like AI can be a force for good.  

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