I find it useful to keep constructing a future even as the immediate moment changes according to government command, so I thought I’d give it a go for us. We’ll need to keep thinking through this and adjust.
Last week Politico speculated on how this virus might alter society. The potential changes are profound.
How We Communicate
Our practises of the hongi, the French bis-bis, shaking hands, and hugs with people you love – maybe that really winds down. This is likely to hit older people and young children hardest because that’s how they reconnect and show care. It’s a world with real communicative reserve and it will feel emotionally cold for a while.
But on the upside, Facebook and Baidu and all the other social networks really win: analogue communication is downgraded for the foreseeable future. We rely far more on regulated networks with great editors as our safe spaces. More virtual headsets!
We’re going to expect more from our government and we will let it control more of every part of our lives … even as it has less tax cash to deal with these expectations. Maybe we will give thanks to the medical staff who saved us, and to the agricultural workers and businesses who are now sustaining our remaining export economy.
Skeptics who dismiss official science and the science of vaccines – and the health warnings which derive from that advice – they are going to be increasingly classed as a danger to actual civilisation.
The increase in hyper-nationalism will continue as states become the primary defensive organising principle for identity and protection. The centre – in some states at least – has held.
With the amount of severe sickness and death we are about to go through, older people will be an even greater focus of social care. But we will have really, really low tolerance for anyone who is foreign or flouts social behaviour rules or threatens our station in life any more. Hospitality will be a socially awkward instinct and practise to navigate.
It’s not too hard to see checkout staff at supermarkets pretty much evaporate in years not decades, with a permanent spike in home deliveries. The recycled markets are going to just boom – so long as they don’t have to deal with crowded places. Mechatronics is the game in town to be in, not malls. Ebay and Amazon and Trademe are all on.
Everyone who before this crisis thought Chinese were weird for wearing face masks – will be preparing to change their mind. Without face masks and hand hygiene and health sloppiness you’re in for a growling after this. We’re going to have the tidiest and cleanest houses we’ve had in a while. My guess on fertility is that it declines for about a year.
More holidays at home in your own town, and air travel permanently decreased per capita – I think that’s a given.
Team sports and communal worship will continue their decline – it’s pretty hard to see Super Rugby, and evangelical worship regaining their footing. Come back Scrabble, Backgammon, and long distance running and tramping!
Visiting pubs and bars will decline even faster than they have already. Social gatherings will be organised much more at home rather than at venues.
We’re going to tighten our circle of trust until the world allows us to trust again. But we’re also going to massively multiply the social networks we have. Our anxiety levels will plateau for quite some time.
Many of us will have taken catastrophic falls from employment which will devastate us and the industries we belonged to and our actual social means. I’m not doing an economic forecast yet though.
As we head for Level 4, we’re not going to be the same.