COVID19: Will the pandemic lead to deglobalization?

What will the world be like after restrictions are lifted and we return to our regular way of life? Is a return to the ‘old world’ possible at all, or will humanity become polarised? We asked experts and leaders of Asgardia, the world's first Space Nation.

To what extent is complete de-globalization realistic?

Igor Ashurbeyli, Asgardia's Head of Nation

Division in human minds has always been around. And borders have shifted as a result of interstate relations, at times turning into wars. Consequently, everything could turn out the other way around - current divisions can lead to a new level of unification.

Lembit Öpik, Asgardia’s Chair of Parliament

Humanity has achieved its remarkable technical and social advances through collective effort and specialization. No one person could ever have gone to the moon without the help of millions. This is true of any great advance. Unless we want to commit ourselves to a simple life where we grow our own food and never travel further than we can walk, globalization is essential. There are some meetings that just have to happen face to face. For example, to create spaceships you need personal communication. But the majority can be done remotely. But human software can work over great distances without the need for international travel. The same is true of life in space. If we can’t survive as a society with remote contact, we’ll never make it ‘off-earth.’ But I believe we can. So social deglobalization in a physical sense is essential if we are to ever reach for the stars.

Ricky Sickles, Member of Parliament

Deglobalization will never come to a reality. Too many corporations depend on minerals from other nations to make the products that they produce for sale to either the general public, or other companies who need or want the finished product. No nation has all of the materials it needs to achieve 100 percent sustainability in its manufacturing - for example, you have to buy titanium ore from Russia to make artificial limbs and such.

The US has to import over 80 percent of what it needs to manufacture most of its durable goods. The same goes for the EU and Britain, along with Japan and others. So in the manufacturing realm, deglobalization will not work - our societies are far too interdependent on one another. As for people in various nations, it’s far easier to generate a deglobalized mindset, which is more for political purposes. One small deglobalization effort is ‘Buy Local, Grow local’, which comes under the guise of sustainability or food safety. Another portrays an area of the world as unsafe, which some are. But others are said to be unsafe for travel because maybe that country's government won't play ball with the ruling powers that be, thus their people are hurt economically.

How will the Covid-19 crisis impact our world?

Igor Ashurbeyli, Asgardia's Head of Nation

Our globalized world has experienced many crises. And it will survive once more. People, in my opinion, do not change. Although now of all times it may be possible to move the collective unconscious to a new level amid the background of mental unity and the background of general difficulties. This can lead to the sudden realization that planet Earth is fragile, and is our only common home today.

With that in mind, Asgardia's motto (One Humanity - One Unity) and Asgardia itself, before our eyes, turns from a distant ideal into a very real nation, embodying truly cosmic freedoms of one humanity.

However, it’s more than likely that we’ll return to a long-forgotten social structure, in the form of effective slave ownership at a new technological level. Branding with a red-hot iron replaced with a QR code. Humane and painless.

Lembit Öpik, Asgardia’s Chair of Parliament

Many people say that in the ‘new normal’ everything will be different. I don’t believe that. Massive change can only occur if human nature changes too, and that hasn’t occurred for thousands of years. There may be some more digital meetings and businesses may rely more on digital conferencing and less on airlines, but most people will return to business as usual. The ‘new normal’ will be the same as the old normal. It takes proactive intervention to persuade people to live a different way.

I think those who are in the vulnerable groups will be careful about travelling, but most people will not be. Self-preservation will determine who travels and who stays at home. Over time, the fear will reduce because the sense of risk will go down. Even if there is more trouble with Covid-19, or some other disease, we will improvise. During wars cities carry on even though they are being bombed. The same is true with the threat of disease. It’s one of humanity’s strengths to keep calm and carry on.

Lena De Winne, Head of Administration to the Head of Nation

I hope that in the post-COVID world many production processes return to each continent, and that people start consuming predominantly local produce. I hope the next step will be to return and decentralize manufacturing, engage local personnel, regain technological skills and know-how equally in different parts of the world. Yes, it will most likely become more expensive in the Western world due to the costs of labor. But let's be honest. Right now we have too many material goods here. We can easily have a very comfortable life with significantly fewer things, and still there will be plenty. There will be additional societal benefits from developed local infrastructures and independence from numerous global supply chains.

Ricky Sickles, Member of Parliament

The only real economic victims are the shop and eatery owners worldwide, along with the farmers and food suppliers. Other victims are the elderly who can't be visited by their families or see their doctors for treatments, and the children who will fall behind in school even with video schooling, along with stunted social skills. That’s the immediate future for the world for at least the next number of months. I say that overall, either with or without a vaccine, the world will return to normal and business as usual, and people will start to travel.

Can humanity return to the manner of life that existed before December 2019? How can people change?

Igor Ashurbeyli, Asgardia's Head of Nation

It seems to me that humanity has never changed since the advent of Homo Sapiens. So why should it happen now, all of a sudden? It is a virus, not a plague, after all.

Lembit Öpik, Asgardia’s Chair of Parliament

Humanity will return to roughly the same as it was before December 2019. More people will wash their hands. More people will use facemasks. Fewer people will shake hands. But the fundamental things will remain the same. Across millennia none of this has changed and it won’t change now.

I sense that humanity accepts a degree of isolation when there’s a reason for it. But we can’t live like that for long. We need others in order to be ourselves. There’s a film called ‘Aniara’ about a spaceship that goes off course. It explores what happens when a small society is totally isolated for many, many years. It ends badly. Even if the closure of borders is intended to last for some time, by which I mean many months, these will not be sustainable. Public pressure will not tolerate it. Politicians will have to open those borders or face rejection at elections, or simple wide-scale civil disobedience.

Asgardia offers a better way of living in space, but not on the assumption that ‘better people’ will be doing the living. We have to build on the assumption that human nature is the same in orbit as it is on earth. Many revolutions have failed by naively thinking that a new society creates new kinds of people. It doesn’t. The secret is NOT to expect a fundamental change in us. Instead, we need to create a system of society that works with humans as we are, not as some would like us to be.