Coronavirus: the good, the bad and the return of politics




OLBIOS: How would you describe the collective experience of the crisis in Serbia and what has struck you the most about it? 

Filip Milenkovic: Many interesting things started happening! For example, the world has become one in a very specific sense. Probably for the first time in human history the word, as the sum of individuals spread on all continents, ended up fully synched in terms of the ultimate topic: Corona.

Among the bad things, I would list the spread of conspiracy theories and polarization, followed with paranoia and surveillance trends. Our freedoms have become fragile.

What about positive things? A good example are massive effective crowdsourcing efforts and solidarity and empathy. There was a “take a step back and look at the bigger picture” sentiment, and some sort of strong creative imagination. 

Many brave experiments should, and I believe will follow. Raised awareness about things that matter the most and environment. Maybe we will become more agile and antifragile, as a society, in the future? I also believe governments will invest more in science in the future as a consequence. More investments in health are also definitely great!

O: On a social level, has this crisis been an eye-opener and an opportunity for important insights and significant changes and lessons to be learned in many domains? Could you give one or more examples? 

F. M. I believe that political philosophy is coming back in a big way. New challenges require and inspire new ways of thinking. The need is already really intense because of technological transformations we are experiencing. That need is, I believe, accelerating because of this big and unexpected pandemic shock.

Politics are definitely also back; it’s my impression that many people forgot about its importance and that this crisis explicitly showed that measures taken by governments have direct effects on life and death. One of the side-effects can be more #govtech? I believe it’s time for the government to be more disrupted, in a good, positive way.

It’s also interesting to think about existential crises. Corona was eye-opener in a sense that it suddenly became obvious that existential risks are real. Hopefully, this experience can accelerate the world’s climate actions as a consequence. Catastrophic risks, and risks as such, need to be approached more seriously and proactively.

O:  Tell us about your work and if you think it has or is likely to become more complex or even more relevant after the crisis.

F. M. I am doing many different things in parallel, not giving up many of my passions. These include thinking and writing, activism, community building, entrepreneurship and technology.

I am part of Data Science Conference team, a very ambitious conference project from Serbia that gathers more than thousands data science and AI people in Belgrade.

As a writer, I co-founded a Brave Content Writing, a company through which we try to support brave entrepreneurs and important social topics through writing. That’s why we did Corona Love Stories, a project to empower international long-distance relationship couples. Besides service oriented writing, we are working on establishing a second vertical – publishing – through which we want to promote great causes. Besides that I am trying to freelance writing on topics of my interest: AI policies.

I joined Techfugees few years ago and started a chapter in Serbia. As part of this incredible global community, at this point I am trying to start building a data visualization tool to fight misinformation about refugees in Serbia.  I am also part of a very interesting potential research project about hate speech on social media.

As a curious mind, I am lately extremely interested in long-term effects of exponential technologies. I used the crisis quarantine to sketch and write many different things and I will start publishing them soon.

O: On a personal level, has this crisis changed your focus on what really matters and on future plans and courses of action?

F. M. The crisis slowed me down a lot and I ended up focused more on writing and thinking. I wrote a lot and plan to publish really a lot in the next several months.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the future. I enjoy imagining different future scenarios and I plan to do a science fiction collaboration startup, a platform which would connect scientists and tech people with creatives. Probably this year. I believe we need to start imagining the future together much more proactively.

Filip Milenkovic is a (H)activist, researcher, entrepreneur and consultant.