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Can we keep the American Dream alive during COVID-19?

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2020 has brought the American people painful realities, massive change, and hope. Millions worldwide are being forced to face difficult decisions about their future. The “new normal” permeates regular conversations, and reinvention has become synonymous with daily life. The spirit of the American dream has seemingly been crushed with historic unemployment rates and decimated industries. And yet, despite economic ruin, digital innovators have arisen, leveraging this chaotic time of reinvention in order to develop novel solutions and technologies to fight back, repair and uplift the American spirit –– to keep the dreams that built this nation alive.

Whether or not the American Dream exists today is a contentious topic. American billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio claims the dream is dead right now. Leading economist Michael Strain, however, states otherwise in his New York Times op ed, arguing that emphasizing inequity paves a road to socialism and jealousy: “Capitalism isn’t broken. The game isn’t rigged. Hard work does pay off. Workers do enjoy the fruits of their labor.” As it turns out, the facts play to Strain’s favor. Before the pandemic, a 2019 Gallup poll indicated that 70 percent of Americans believed the American dream is achievable. Another pre-pandemic poll indicated that a majority of Americans were optimistic about the next generation’s future — and many believed that society benefits from a rich class of people.

Is it possible to reinvigorate this American spirit during this trying time? Billionaire Tesla Founder Elon Musk recently expressed his enthusiasm, “America is still the land of opportunity more than any other place, for sure.”

One thing is for certain –– COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to reimagine the American Dream. We must reinvent ourselves and undertake serious digital changes in order to once again define America as a nation of real opportunity.

Digital entrepreneurs and innovators to the rescue

Who remembers the 2008 Great Recession, when the economy was in shambles and all hope was lost? Just over a decade ago, we experienced a similar need to innovate digitally and reinvent in order to survive and transform our society. Almost immediately, swaths of startups jumped to implement digital solutions, most of which we couldn’t imagine living without today — WhatsApp, Uber, Slack, Venmo, and Instagram. The idea-makers of the U.S. succeeded in uplifting the economy thanks to the pressing realization of the need for digital transformation — and we have now been forced into that position again. Coronavirus has destroyed countless jobs, some of which may never reappear. This is why we need to focus on developing new, dynamic skill sets in areas that will power the future economy, including AI, machine learning and data science. Thankfully, the digital innovators of today have come to embody this mindset of change and have given our society a necessary wakeup call to go digital.

A McKinsey study last year found that even in advanced economies like the U.S., just 20 percent of full digital potential has been achieved. There’s plenty more work to be done. America has experienced a boom in AI investments, which are forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 38.05 percent from 2020–2028. In fact, more capital has poured into artificial intelligence in order to combat the Coronavirus crisis, prompting new startups to flood the market. According to Axios, “Y Combinator, the famed startup accelerator program, is seeing 15-20 percent more applicants for its summer program.” And Coronavirus hasn’t stopped hungry entrepreneurs from raising capital –– if anything, it’s motivated them further. The massive push towards digital solutions has caused numerous investment firms to launch online pitching to provide idea makers with a proper channel to fundraise.

It turns out even a pandemic lacks the power to repress the American Dream. 

Rebooting the American Dream means that we must focus on our youth. We must leverage technologies like AI and powerful 5G online communication in order to reinvent education and equip the next generation with advanced digital resources to experience success in the new economy.

We must emphasize a paradigm shift, whereby the worlds of government, business and education genuinely embrace the concepts of corporate social responsibility, governance and global citizenship.

We must do a better job in exposing Americans to world culture and provide positive reinforcement that we are all one global family. In motion, these elements have the potential to inspire the next generation of innovators and re-awaken the American Spirit.

Americans deserve the American Dream

The free world still depends on the U.S. to lead the way.

Every American deserves the chance and opportunity to experience the American Dream, and we can do this if we embrace the digital future. By reinventing our economy to reflect AI and advanced digital technologies, we should be confident as ever that the American Dream and our best days lie ahead.

In the words of President Ronald Reagan: “After two hundred years, two centuries, [America] still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

Angelica Sirotin (@GenZ_Angelica) — a Gen Z digitalization expert, venture entrepreneur, startup advisor and mentor and executive producer of the Digital Pioneers Dialogue Podcast — contributed to this op-ed.

Mark Minevich is president of Going Global Ventures. He is a global digital cognitive strategist and artificial intelligence expert and venture capitalist. He serves as a senior fellow of U.S. Council on Competitiveness, digital fellow to CEO of IPsoft and was appointed as member of the B20 digital economy taskforce in the G20 Presidency. He was also recently appointed Chair of AI Policy at the International Research Centre for AI, under the auspices of UNESCO. Follow him on Twitter @MMinevich.

Tags American Dream Artificial intelligence Coronavirus COVID-19 Digital transformation Elon Musk Pandemic Startups Technology

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