As a partner at True Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital group, Om Malik is easily able to work from home during the pandemic — a privilege he does not take lightly. In his ebook, The Longest Year, he reflects from his unique perspective on both the benefits technology has brought us, and the disparity it has created.
How often have you seen images of kids sitting in the parking lots of fast-food restaurants to access WiFi and attend their classes over Zoom? The Federal Communications Commission says that over 21 million people in the U.S. lack high-speed connectivity, though it should not be surprising that this is most likely a significant undercount.
Even from his more privileged position, Malik finds isolation hard, as he lives through not only the pandemic but the devastating wildfires that hit California, turning his home of San Francisco into a world where the “colors that one normally associates with movies such as Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner, Mad Max, and Dune are all around us …” In this ebook, Malik journals his thoughts throughout the year that was 2020, allowing us to see, and learn from, his personal struggles over hundreds of days of self-isolation.
I recently found myself on a beach off the California hamlet of Bolinas in the middle of a seasonal transition. For a couple of hours, I watched multiple whales frolicking in the waters as they dove for food. I am not enough of a nature expert to say for certain if these were the blue whales that have been making appearances in Northern California. I could see these with my naked eye. It was easy to find them, as well, because the ocean was relatively calm. A gigantic, ever-changing swarm of sea birds was also taking part in this alfresco dining.
The sight in front of me was a reminder of the gentle rotation of the planet, which will keep going long after I am gone. Similarly, these whales will migrate elsewhere.
Locked in my cave, as I have been for the last many months, I feel the passage of time. I don’t mean that in a rigid, mathematical sense. I feel its ebbs and flows. Time has fluidity and adaptability. It is fungible, only represented in the rhythms of the world around us. As I grow older, I realize that impermanence and time are part of the same journey. The biggest lesson of standing in place — especially during this pandemic — is the importance of listening to the heart’s rhythm and letting that define what time and life are.
Malik also thinks beyond his personal experience — considering the human psyche that quickly moved from selflessness at the start of the pandemic, to our social media “post-algorithmic reality,” where it is every man for himself. Malik goes on to share interesting reflections on the huge shift to humankind that the pandemic has fast-forwarded, and how “we are in a period of extreme, rapid change that will redefine how we interact with the world around us.”
Now as we prepare to welcome 2021, we are changed in many ways. Perhaps most significantly, the distinctions between our physical and digital worlds have largely disintegrated. We now work and we live online just as much, if not more, than we do offline. We may have always been heading this way, but this year significantly — and irreversibly — accelerated our pace. Transitioning to this new normal comes with tremendous opportunity, but we must remain aware that some will require assistance to make the adjustment.