COVID-19: Both Accelerant And Obstacle

As we peer into the Looking Glass, we know that uncertainty is staring back. Our exponential world and all its building blocks and scenarios has created this looking glass phenomenon – something I explored in this Leadership Course back in 2017. COVID-19 underscores this uncertainty, serving as both an accelerant and an obstacle. A good example is explored in this Article on automation. COVID-19 - Accelerant or ObstacleWill the pandemic serve as an automation accelerant, as businesses replace laid off employees via automation? Or is it an obstacle to the capital investment required to enable automation?

The article above argues that the pandemic will lead to an automation boom. An Automated Society is a future scenario that I have explored in detail. As with each scenario, timing is a big unknown. In the case of automation, several Societal Factors were already acting as accelerants: for example, a fall in the working age population is projected to drive aggressive automation. Authors Hayden Field and Mike Murphy state that automation trends that were already on the horizon will happen faster now. Regarding a possible hesitation in making capital investments in a crisis, Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director who researches automation at the Brookings Institution, said: That’s wrong. “Economic literature over the last decade shows that these investments are made especially during a crisis.”

The article explores five industries where automation is most in demand and found that the coronavirus crisis is already radically changing just about everything. Here is a summary:


Experts approached by the authors expect a sudden uptick in trends that were already happening. Accelerated installation of kiosk ordering systems and the basic automation of checkout functions. Automation will play the greatest role in tasks that few want to do; repetitive tasks that are dull, dirty and dangerous.


Although the pandemic has created a bit of paralysis right now, experts agree, this crisis will catalyze more investment in automating the supply chain. Executives in the supply chain automation space are hearing from customers that budgets have been frozen except for budgets for automation; how can robots enable us to continue manufacturing while keeping social distancing? Some see the pandemic leading to an existential shift in the way products are manufactured and shipped around the world, with automation enabling processes to move closer to home.


Robots can perform tasks like securely delivering medications, transporting linens and meals, disposing of trash and biohazardous waste, and cleaning hospitals; significant in a setting where spreading germs must be minimized. Aethon’s TUG autonomous mobile robots are able to service quarantine areas, pick up trash and bring medications to patients — all tasks that don’t need to be performed by someone potentially carrying infection. “The robot is essentially acting as a piece of PPE by not having people come into close contact with each other,” Aethon CEO Peter Seiff said.


Demand is rising for robots to help deliver everything from groceries to medicine. Government agencies like FEMA are interested in how drone deliveries could help during this crisis. Hospitals can use technology to deliver medicine, food, water and test kits to people who are either in self-isolation or are known to be infected and in quarantine. Matt Sweeney, the founder of drone delivery company Flirtey said this: “I think that this is a catalyst for governments all around the world to prioritize regulatory approval for technologies that enable automated and contactless delivery like drone delivery,” Sweeney said.

Read the full Article for a deeper analysis of each industry. As I have with every post, I’m including links to my previous COVID-19 posts.

FEATUREDA Post Pandemic Society

Mid-Pandemic Impact on Supply Chains
Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Scenarios
Is The Canary Dead?
How Will The Corona Virus Impact Globalization?
The Corona Virus Serves As A Catalyst For Change
Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Scenarios
COVID-19 Monday Morning News
Anatomy Of An Outbreak
Discussing A Post-Pandemic Society on Salem Radio Network
The COVID-19 Economic Impact On China and a Glimpse Of The Future
Assessing A Post Pandemic Future: A Video
Coronavirus: Permanent Change? 34 Big Thinkers Explore the Possibilities
Futurist Gerd Leonhard Looks Back From The Near Future

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