A look into the future
COVID-19, a fight for survival and a catalyst for change. If you said to anyone in 2019 a global pandemic caused by what many health experts believe is a coronavirus originating in bats would shut down the world in a way that no generation has seen before in 2020. They’d laugh! The COVID experience so far has been mainly about isolation, similar to solitary confinement if you’re feeling pessimistic. To say that it’s been all doom and gloom; with the global death toll just above 600,000, countless individuals out of work; the world on the brink of potentially the deepest depression ever, you could be accused of being a doomsday believer. Or, you could take the outlook of believing humankind has always rallied in the face of adversity rising to the challenge to innovate itself a set of solutions for future survival.
The pandemic has, in essence, resulted in what is the most significant work from home experiment ever conducted in human history. What organisations and institutions resisted for so long has become the norm, the core of our survival and innovation. For most, the worst part of isolation has been; being cooped up inside our respective homes. With that in mind, what the world may see now is a migration to the ‘countrysides’, to more rural areas with grand spaces, grass and greenery. The ability to move around and not feel claustrophobic will become an essential part of what constitutes where to live. As a result, there is likely to be a gigantic shift in the housing market. Having large pieces of land will become the status symbol in society, a revert to the past. The need for ergonomic functional custom furniture will see a rise, a culture of investing in the home will begin in the short term as homeowners try to make the most of the assets they have.
While the traditional office might be around for the next 3–5 years, realistically the proof of concept of working from home has been a ‘baptism by fire’, it works with most digital-online businesses. In this transition period, with offices phasing out as more collaboratively optimised workspaces phase-in, key workers continue to be needed in their respective establishments. The rest of us will have to find new and remote ways to accommodate our new working patterns. In a potential future, the reorganisation of offices into custom workspaces where teams have safe collaboration workshops organised in customised hexagonal floor plans that facilitate group working and physical participation. A concept which will aid agile, collaborative working until we have mastered the VR world, like in Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Ready Player One’. Other challenges will include primary care towards teams who no longer meet; companies are looking for ways to understand the state of the team through on-line check-in tools to assess both their work state but more importantly their collective mood.
In the medium term, people will be looking for transportation that complies to reliable social distancing rules and conditions. Standard forms of commuting such as bikes, scooters and personal vehicles are the natural go-to at the moment. However, longer-term driverless cars and more individualised commuting will be the way forward. Space will be even more premium, and the policing of it will most likely be supported by new legislation, with a new form of criminal ‘Space-invaders’. You may laugh now, but if the act of invading your space could hospitalise an individual, someone is bound to sue at some point.
An even more extreme outlook on social behaviour could involve growth in the industry around clean air products. Individuals will look to recharge air tanks used to breath when travelling in public transport. While in households, we will start to install air-polishers as the norm to ensure the best quality air is available in the house. These insights through radical are based on the current trends and fears of our society today and are here to stay until we are sure that COVID-19 is under control.
The lasting effects of COIVD are yet to be seen; the real impact on society is hasn’t been unveiled. What can be guaranteed is the eventual monumental shift towards mental health, needs to be a major concern for us all. Our civilisation is in solidarity against a common enemy dealing with the grief and trauma of the collective trials and tribulations. Society is on the brink of developing a new level of empathy, a willingness to discuss each other’s mental states that have been taboo for so long. The loss of loved ones, the pain of loneliness, the toll it takes on the human mind will be shared. The knock-on effect of this being the breaking of the pattern of escalating cultural polarisation, ultimately, leading to the curation of constructive progress in our cultural dialogue. The evolution of technology will further expedite this; the newfound love for the internet will bring individuals evermore closer. This allows each one of us to develop deeper relationships, both offline and online as people take to solve their concerns and unleash their inner creative nature via online platforms.
COVID-19 has already created monumental shifts in people’s behaviour. Namastes and distant waves replacing the social norm of hugging, kissing and personalised handshakes are evidence of this. An ongoing University of Southern California study published its first round of results in March among the top findings: 85% of people reported washing their hands or using sanitiser more often than before. Each interaction by any individual has an intrinsic sense of doubt.
While fear-based behaviour modifications are not proven to be sustainable, some habits we’ve created during this period will follow us into the future, such as our new-found love for disinfecting. The obsessive nature will leak into other aspects of our lives. Individuals may find themselves in a culture of online gatherings as others become hyper-avoidant of the big bad world, not utilising public transport or any public venue unless proven to be 100% safe. With the coronavirus ripping apart the fabric of life, one can only wonder if there is any way back to the ‘good times’. The pandemic has shown a future that the world is not prepared for, one of suffering and pain, a destiny where mother nature takes back control. A state of hyper-individualism in the short term will arise. Though fueled by prospect theory, we will find ourselves becoming more isolated than ever before as our behaviour is moulded by the governments to reduce the risk of death.
We find ourselves at a delicate moment in the current era. People have realised the fragility of their mortality understanding at the same moment the reliance of the world on technology, with which we’ve knowingly intertwined our survival. Our trajectory is heading for a hands-off approach to living. The use of voice commands and augmented reality will become more prominent. The emergence of true Artificial Intelligence to take over the menial, labour intensive and data-rich work leads us to the singularity. The point at which the collective intellect of machines will surpass us, leaving us with the only option but to merge and evolve again. The continuation of ignoring the man was not meant to meddle medley.
Given the history of homo-sapiens, when the pandemic truly ends around the world, we’ll go out seeking carefree entertainment, with the same sense of relief and a search for the community as we always do.