5 Signs we are we about to enter another Renaissance in the wake of COVID-19
One historical fact that has been keeping me going during this entire pandemic, is the idea that we just may be in the midst of a new cultural shift after this is all over.
During the Black Death in 1347–1350, an enormous pandemic swept across all of Europe and Asia. This plague absolutely decimated populations, yet born from the ashes of this dark time was a great period of art, advancements in science, and a disregard for royalty or the old ways. This new era of philosophy also included many free-thinking minds that had an indifference to religion. Born out of the aftermath of the Middle Ages, The Renaissance ushered in a new era of great change, and I believe we’re heading on a similar path.
According to DailyHistory.org in reference to The Complete History of the Black Death by Ole J Benedictow,
“The plague disrupted society to an unprecedented state. It overturned the existing social structure. Previous to the outbreak of the plague, Italy was a rigid and stratified society. The Black Death changed everything. Increasingly, because of the plague’s demographic disaster, they were able to take advantage of the opportunities caused by the high death rate.
In the period after the Black Death, an unprecedented amount of social mobility took place. Laborers became merchants, and merchants become members of the nobility. No longer was a person’s destiny to be fixed by their birth. Previously, people assumed that one’s station was fixed at one’s birth and that one had to remain a member of the class you were born into.”
It was during this time that we saw the birth of Botticelli, Da Vinci, Donatello Michelangelo, Raphael, and all those Ninja Turtles. The emergence of these great minds comes at no surprise. No global shift of that magnitude comes without a change in the culture surrounding these events.
In the aftermath of the Spanish Flu from 1918–1919, we entered into the Roaring Twenties, with a great period of prosperity in Western Culture, including seeing the invention of the television, vacuum cleaners, blenders, and other marvels of modern science.
Is it possible, that global pandemics force the world to pause for a moment, giving humanity the appropriate time needed to generate new ideas, shift our philosophies, and break the mould of how we once were? Do pandemics give birth to great art and science that changes our culture forever? Perhaps.
So what will this new Cultural Renaissance look like? We have some signs already we’re not paying close enough attention to:
1. The James Webb Space Telescope
If you don’t know about this new telescope, you need to stop what you’re doing right now and get very, very excited.
Named after NASA administrator, James E. Webb, who was active in the 1960s and an integral part of the success of the Apollo Missions, The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched on Christmas Day, and is a marvel of modern astrological science.
In comparison to its predecessor The Hubble Space Telescope, the JWST will likely grant us insights into the cosmos unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. When you compare the size of the primary reflective mirror from Hubble to the JWST, you can see that this is like comparing a Polaroid camera to a modern DSLR.
What wonders will this new telescope reveal about our place in the universe? Only time will tell. According to Forbes.com:
“NASA estimates that it could take up to 120 days after launch for Webb’s mirror alignment work to be complete. Given that Webb launched on December 25, 2021 that’s April 24, 2022. So Webb will likely be pointing at stars and seeing its “first light” six weeks before that — around mid-March. However, NASA says not to expect the first “showpiece” photos from Webb until about five months after launch, once commissioning ends. That’s about May 24, 2022.”
Will our new eyes in the sky discover a new habitable world? Will we find proof of organic life outside our world? The origins of the universe?
… The implications of these discoveries may change our world forever.
2. The Metaverse | Not just for Zuckerbergs (We hope.)
Virtual reality isn’t a new concept, however, the concept of a Metaverse certainly gives us a new school of thought. Mark Zuckerberg believes The Metaverse is the future of how we interact socially and he believes this so much he even shifted the branding concept of Facebook to Meta in 2021.
Their new mission statement on Facebook.com should be an indication that the Metaverse is not only here to stay, but will continue to evolve over the next few decades:
“The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company’s vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future.” Source: https://about.facebook.com/meta/
Authors like Ernest Cline who wrote Ready Player One, later adapted by Steven Spielberg for the screen, is a great indication where we may be headed as a society.
In it, Cline describes a society shut inside and tapped into the Oasis, a wondrous virtual universe filled with games, films, virtual venues, school, and anything you can possibly think of. It’s also filled with fantastic 80s film and video game references, and features an admonition tale we should all be paying attention to: Should a Metaverse be free for everyone to use, or is it something that is reserved for private corporate profiteering?
Considering the evolution of Facebook as a “pioneer” of this new frontier, we should perhaps take a moment to think about what a future would look like with an organization like this in control of our social spaces. When it comes to the future, Science Fiction is a fantastic indicator of the potential shift in our culture. From Tron to The Matrix, digital worlds or realities can come in many forms, and we should think for a moment about what kind of digital world we want to build for ourselves.
The Metaverse proves to be an interesting new frontier for entrepreneurs and the future of humanity. We’re already seeing this cultural shift first-hand. Movies have premiered entirely online instead of theatres. Offices have shifted their workspaces entirely online. Schools have shifted their education online. Humanity may be destined to shift all of our social interactions into the Digital World forever.
Whether we like it or not, The Metaverse is here to stay.
3. The Dawn of Digital Currency and NFTs
For countries that rely a great deal on digital payments, it’s likely that we are headed into a cashless existence sooner than we think.
More and more people nowadays rely e-transfers, cashless payment options, and the elimination of cash for hygienic or safety purposes.
Despite the rocky economical shifts on the stock market, Cryptocurrencies are still on the rise, from Bitcoin to the meme-inspired Dogecoin, the concept of digital money has investors of all levels monitoring their exchanges closely.
Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs are also on the rise. These digital data ledgers that give proof of authenticity to anything from photographs, logos, digital art, or audio/video might prove to be more commonplace than we think. As we shift toward a digital existence, it only makes sense that we shift to digital authentication and legalization of the content we see and use online.
Will we shift into a society driven entirely from digital investments? Perhaps not too soon, however, I can’t remember the last time I used cash for a transaction. Can you?
4. Meatless Manufacturing.
With Global Warming and Climate Change reaching critical levels, we may soon be forced to change the way we think about how we eat, specifically how we farm livestock. If you go into any supermarket, the sections for meat-substitute ingredients are getting larger every year, with new options like breakfast sausages, meatballs, and faux-chicken cutlets.
Brands like Beyond Meat, LightLife and Impossible Food are changing the cultural landscape around animal byproducts. Other companies like Disney Parks, Burger King, KFC, and A&W are all providing plant-based options, if even for a short period of time. Some companies are also doing plant/meat mixtures to reduce their carbon footprint. Ultimately, this may be part of our future as meat prices, and carbon footprint taxes skyrocket on goods.
5. Diversity, Inclusivity, and the Decline of Traditional Institutions
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin while in police custody over the suspected use of a counterfeit $20 bill. His death, along with countless others gave global movement to the Black Lives Matter cause, and ignited a renewed mistrust in law enforcement.
The website, Say Every Name, is a helpful resource in remembering the names of Black Americans killed by U.S. Law Enforcement, citizens, and others documenting back from 2012 onward. A recent study and statistical date from Gallup.com is quite telling on how Americans have shown an increased mistrust in law enforcement services, dropping to 48% Confidence in 2020.
Other data collected by Gallup.com is also extremely telling of cultural trends in recent years.
Another survey tells us that American’s Self-Identification and LGBT is on the rise in the 2020s. With a new culture of inclusivity and diversity, more and more people are feeling comfortable with their sexual identity and orientation.
Unfortunately, hate crimes are also on the rise for both BIPOC and people in the LGBTQ2IA+ communities. According to a 2019 study by the FBI, a majority of hate crimes were committed based on biases of race, sexual orientation, and equally disturbing hate crimes prompted by religion bias.
“Single-bias incidents (Based on Table 1.)
Analysis of the 7,103 single-bias incidents reported in 2019 revealed that:
55.8 percent were motivated by a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.
21.4 percent were prompted by religious bias.
16.8 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias.
2.8 percent were motivated by gender-identity bias.
2.2 percent were prompted by disability bias.
1.0 percent were motivated by gender bias.”
Perhaps with more people speaking out about the Black Lives Matter movement, and more people identifying as part of the LGBTQ2IA+ communities, one can assume that race and gender issues are going to continue to take a foothold in our culture in the coming years, enacting a new era of social change.
Declining Church Attendance and Mistrust in Religion
With COVID-19 putting the world to a halt, the issue has polarized some communities, including those in religious communities. Not surprising, is a declining trend in church attendance in the 21st century. According to Gallup.com, church attendance has reached an all-time low at 47% of US Adults.
From child molestation charges, to out-of-touch leadership, the Catholic Church has seen a large population loss in recent years, which in no doubt can be attributed to its tradition of coverups and secrecy regarding their faults. Just as many steered away from traditions during the Renaissance, it seems we are headed in a similar direction in the 21st century.
What will our new Renaissance look like?
It would be nice to see a world centered around a culture of healing. Our goals should be united, focusing on healing our climate, correcting race and gender biases, and recognizing the scars on the world branded by our forefathers institutions.
A diverse, inclusive generation ahead of us might prove to be the foundation of this new era, but only time will tell.
What kind of world do you want to build?