The true beginning of a new century, of a new era, is not produced by the simple and unavoidable change of dates in the calendar. With the perspective of time, the milestones occurred during the path traveled by humanity are fixed, these will serve to identify the true beginning and end of the stages of our history.
Without a doubt, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 and its consequences became a milestone marking the true end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. One consequence of this pandemic, which has also become a milestone in the modification of history, is the forced advent of virtuality.
Clearly, someone had to support the battered economic and social activities that the measures to contain the advance of the virus forced to be taken. Communication with technological means entered fully, without being completely prepared: in education, in health, in commerce, and practically in all social activities. Its penetration is of such magnitude that in a recent interview the Colombian Minister of Education, María Victoria Angulo, pointed out: "virtuality is here to stay".
In healthcare, the facts also confirm what the Colombian minister said. The biggest academic events in the world and regional medicine are taking place with the help of virtuality. The figures presented by the organizers indicate that success goes hand in hand with the new reality of global communication.
According to figures from the Colombian Association of Integral Medicine Companies (ACEMI), since March, nearly 9.5 million teleconsultations have been made. Surveys carried out in Brazil reveal that both doctors and patients are pleased with the use of virtual communication in the consultation. Virtuality in healthcare is also here to stay.
However, in the face of this seemingly inexorable fact, I must express my misgivings about this new reality before forgetting what life was like when COVID-19 and computer-mediated communication were only part of the movies or the adventures of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.
It is wise to make it very clear that I am not against taking on technological developments. I welcome all advances resulting from a technology that respects the timing of the process. The problem is that the dreaded pandemic has rushed things.
The confinement situation and the need to maintain the daily routine led to the adoption of a still raw virtuality. A technique hastily adopted in its development loses a fundamental aspect, the gradualness, that which allows polishing the defects, identifying the mistakes, fine-tuning the times, in short, that which gives the perfect finish.
Virtuality took over on the fly, without knowing how or where, most of the activities of a society at the turn of the century, birthdays, concerts, weddings, funerals, conferences, classes, medical consultations all moved to digital platforms without discrimination; without having previously solved aspects as elementary as the availability of appropriate equipment or broadband capacity or things as simple as etiquette.
In Latin America, a significant percentage of the population still does not have the necessary technological or communication elements to receive classes or attend virtual consultations; even worse, if they do have them, they do not know how to use them.
The time of individuals and families is also not taken into account; it is wrongly assumed that being confined and with some technological element at hand makes it easy to schedule activities at times that would be totally inappropriate without virtuality and confinement. Being at home with a computer at hand does not mean that we are always ready to attend to electronic tasks. Having a cell phone with good connectivity does not authorize us to make a medical teleconsultation from a bus or while carrying out a bank transaction.
Non-digital activities such as exercise, good reading, family relationships, rest and many others also require time to execute and must be respected. Balance is important and necessary, virtuality in life is an expected progress, but the technology to have a "virtual life" would be the worst consequence of this pandemic.