How the humble QR Code could foil an authoritarian power grab using the fear pandemic from coronavirus.

QR vs Dictator.001

This is the fourth in our series on how Coronavirus is changing our world. The first looked at how this is crashing legacy financial markets. This was the destructive part of creative destruction. The second in the series was a hopium dream of a positive post Coronavirus future in general terms – not business as usual but better. The third outlined 6 technology silver linings in the dark Coronavirus cloud. In this post we stray into geo politics to answer the question “what if authoritarians use the fear pandemic from coronavirus and technology from social media to AI to payments and 5G to grab more power?”

Technology is neutral; it can be used by authoritarians or by the people. The future can be dark or light depending on what we do. Those who want a light future may want to reach for help from a very boring technology called the QR code.

The fear derived from 911 was mostly spectator fear. Unless you lived in downtown NYC, you watched events on the media. The fear pandemic from coronavirus is more real and personal for almost everyone on the planet. We all face restrictions and threats to our health and the health of our loved ones.

Nearly 20 years after 911, count the cost in lives and money lost from endless wars and from our loss of personal freedoms. Imagine what authoritarian power grabbers around the world will do with the fear pandemic from coronavirus. 21st century authoritarians also have access to technology from social media to AI to payments and 5G that would have been the dream of 20th  century authoritarians.

China is embarking on a PR charm offensive, featuring their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Many are cynical about this and do not believe the data coming out of China. Sadly the politicized response from America is equally distrusted by many people. 

Authoritarians everywhere are figuring out how to use the fear pandemic from coronavirus and technology from social media to AI to payments and 5G to grab more power.

So should we all just give up and resign ourselves to a bleak future that  is mashup of 1984 and Brave New World?

Fortunately freedom loving people could get help from some humble technology called the QR Code.

We have featured QR code technology many times on Daily Fintech (see here for search on our archives). This post is a good intro.

This is how this relates to the fear pandemic from coronavirus. It now looks likely that some form of antibody testing is viable. This has three big benefits. Those who have been tested as having immunity can:

  • go to work, restarting the economy and putting food on the table
  • work or volunteer in hospitals
  • donate blood to help cure people who are already sick.

The less obvious benefit is reducing fear. Imagine seeing somebody show you their immunity card. You are not afraid to be around them. You can shake their hand, high five them, hug them all quite safely. Of course you have to trust that immunity card and it has to be visible, which is where the QR Code comes in. Let’s say your QR Code enables a QR Code scanner to see exactly what test they had and when and who administered the test;  full transparency generates trust.  The QR code showing your immunity is a kind of passport. QR Code scanners are cheap. Any shop/cafe/restaurant owner for example can have one. The QR code can also be embedded into paper and plastic cards issued by governments.

The key to this kind of people-powered technology is:

  • Consumers consciously decide if they want to wear the passport.
  • Anybody with a QR Code scanner can read your passport.

Now contrast that with fear-powered technology that authoritarians love:

  • Consumers legally sign up, but are not really conscious of the tradeoffs
  • The data is controlled by a few centralised institutions 

It is your technology and your choice.

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