The coronavirus pandemic has and will continue to have catastrophic effects not only in terms of physical health and mortality, but also in the areas of mental health and the economy, with social, political and cultural consequences that are difficult to calculate. Already it can be said that the scale of suffering and destruction is approaching that of a world war.

If there was still need, we are progressing in the awareness of the unity and physical continuity of a planetary human population sharing a common environment. The public space has shifted to the virtual and everyone is participating in communication through social media. Major web platforms and online services have seen a considerable increase in their use and digital communication infrastructures are at the limit of their capacity. Distance medicine, education, work and commerce have become commonplace, heralding a profound change in habits and skills, but also the possibility of limiting pollution and carbon emissions. The Internet is more than ever a part of essential services and even human rights. To provide solutions to this multifaceted crisis, new forms of collective intelligence are bypassing official institutions and national barriers, particularly in the scientific and health fields.

At the same time, conflicts of interpretation, information wars and propaganda battles are intensifying. False news – also viral – is pouring in from all sides, adding to the confusion and panic. Shameful or malicious manipulation of data accompanies ideological, cultural or national disputes in the midst of a global geopolitical reorganization. Global and local exchanges are rebalancing in favour of the latter. Political power is increasing at all levels of government with a remarkable merging of intelligence, police and medical services instrumented by digital communications and artificial intelligence. In the interests of public health and national security, the universal geolocation of individuals by mobile phone, bracelet or ring is on the horizon. Automatic identification by facial recognition or heartbeat will do the rest. 

To balance these trends, we need greater transparency of scientific, political and economic powers. The automatic analysis of data flows must become an essential skill taught in schools because it now conditions the understanding of the world. Learning and analytical resources must be shared and open to all free of charge. An international and cross-linguistic harmonization of semantic metadata systems would help to process and compare data and support more powerful forms of collective intelligence than those we know today.

With a crown of thorns on his bloody skull, humanity enters a new era.