While the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic will result in thousands of lost lives and billions in lost revenue, not to mention upending our lives as we know them, there may be a brighter light at the end of this tunnel. If you’re to look back in history and at other pandemics experienced throughout civilisation, there is a real correlation between these outbreaks and increases in innovation going forward.
Even if you think about the 2008 global financial crisis, there were some life changing start ups that were launched during the GFC:
- Whats App
Just to name a few.
The more an event alters or affects society, the larger the innovation wave it creates. Looking back to the earliest known pandemic in history, the Plague of Athens in 429 BC which took over 100,000 lives, we can see just how innovation is sparked through these tragedies. After this plague, society began looking at life and infections disease differently, using their knowledge in science going forward. The Plague of Athens isn’t the only known instance of innovation coming from pandemic and resulting tragedy.
Some other examples of this type of innovation includes:
The Great Plague – The Great Plague, or the Black Plague, of the 14th century eliminated as much as 30 to 60% of Europe’s population through the years 1331 to 1353. Considered the most impactful pandemic in all of history, this event is also responsible for ushering in many of the ways of modern society. Wages rose, today’s work style was born, literacy rates rose, and education became a priority to those of all classes in society.
The Boston Small Box Epidemic – In 1721, half of Boston’s population was infected with a strain of Small Pox. An innovative treatment very similar to today’s vaccines was born, and with it plenty of opinions. The sharing of these opinions welcomed the birth of the Free Press and was a catalyst in creating what we know as newspapers today.
SARS – Quite similar to Coronavirus was SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. In 2002, SARS appeared in China and quickly spread throughout the region placing the globe on high alert. Tourism came to a halt, the global travel industry took a billions of dollars hit, and individuals were asked to stay home. Patrons weren’t going to restaurants, children weren’t going to school, and shopping malls were empty of their usual customers. This lead to the rise of eCommerce, something that has completely taken over the world today.
While it’s too early to be seen what innovation will come out of the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s likely to be something that impacts our lives dramatically and positively going forward if history is any indication.