Phase two of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be about choosing solution A or B for recovery. The modern economy is far too complex for an either-or quick fix. Luckily, we have a booming AI industry with countless dimensions of possibility.
Countless dimensions…just like in physics.
It is a popular theory in physics that our universe has multiple dimensions. So why don’t we notice them all around us? The brief answer is that we can only see one facet (as Stephen Hawking explained) and three types of space (as introduced by Giotto de Bondone’s convergent perspective).
The daily impact of COVID-19 similarly limits our perception. We can see the struggling economy, the forced quarantine, the frustrating social behavior, and the tragic casualties. But how do we look beyond these things?
The answer lies in AI.
In the pre-coronavirus world, seemingly infinite competitors built their strategies around cost, differentiation, etc. These all used the same data to try to get different outcomes. Moving forward, the huge amount of new data from quarantine users will make all the difference. This data, creatively processed by future leaders, will leverage AI as never before.
That is to say, known customer needs are unchanged with COVID-19, but the way to respond to them will evolve with new dimensions of AI, thanks to data collection.
This will be how companies enable themselves to answer three major questions facing the uncertainty of COVID-19 phase two.
Question 1: What is the new shape of globalization?
High productivity is an essential ingredient for global competitiveness. With the pandemic bringing such heavy productivity losses, we are left to question globalization itself. Japan has already committed to becoming less reliant on China. It’s probably only the first to think of this move.
But can any country stop relying on others and still hope to export?
Let’s think again about dimensions. Because goods are not the only dimension of exports.
As a 1923 newspaper ad put it, “When you buy a razor, you buy a smooth chin.” Sometimes, too much focus on the product distracts from what a company is actually selling. Technology helps providers keep their eyes on the ball because it serves human needs chronologically. Individual suppliers connect with individual users through ever-evolving transactions.
Airbnb connected travelers and homeowners.
Uber linked drivers and commuters.
Now China, the champion of exports, has set a goal for 100% of its school graduates to be trained as data scientists. This will connect future consumers with yet another evolution of transactions.
Consider, for example, the disruptive technology of 3D printing.
AI applied to 3D printing can reduce average 3D print speed from 30 minutes to just 5 seconds. This means that the ones controlling the manufacture of tangible goods will have increasingly less importance in global business. China may be the king of manufacturing now, but in just a few years, automation will negate the need for people to sit at conveyer belts and forklifts in factories. What will we need instead? Data scientists to design 3D printers, create printing designs, and perform other such tasks.
Data scientists will manage not only 3D printing, but all the incoming dimensions opened up by AI in COVID-19 phase two. Their expertise will be one new type of currency for future exports and globalization.
Question 2: Where will we land on health care?
Another outcome of this pandemic is how basic health infrastructure can now be seen as an investment for both countries and companies.
People have always wanted to be healthy. But now, the availability of a doctor to see patients in person is not a great service indicator—even less is the idea of home visits, which run the risk of having an infection delivered to the home.
Enter the AI alternative.
Companies like Babylon Health are booming by offering telemedicine in cooperation with providers like the United Kingdom National Health Service. Telemedicine has proven to be reliable, safe, and advanced. What’s more, AI gives it the extra edge to find behavioral and disease patterns.
The theory of everything, combining all the multiple dimensions needed to stay healthy, is getting closer. AI in COVID-19 phase two will be fed by the constant monitoring of electronics like smart watches and apps to track exercise and food intake.
Question 3: What business model will serve COVID-19 customer needs?
In phase two, where almost everything will be online, companies are much more open to remote work—some forever, as Twitter recently announced.
And that will inevitably mean a new business model.
Companies will need to find new ways to serve customers without a vast HQ employee base or salespeople visiting clients. This is an easy option through digital platforms, AI business strategies, and new forms of collaboration. In fact, any provider who strategically connects to the customer will be able to succeed.
In other words, we’re looking at a new ecosystem where not only major players like Amazon will be the winners.
But what does it mean to strategically connect?
It means deciding what to do and what not to do. It means embracing technology to analyze every customer, but only fully serving one (or a small group of similar ones). Really, it means giving them everything, to help them see beyond single facets and limited perspectives. In a COVID-19 world, the possibilities of AI have countless dimensions.
Just like in physics.