An unfortunate fact about life is that it does not go on forever. Rather, life does not go on long enough for some of us to learn the ultimate outcome of intriguing circumstances swirling around us. Take the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, for example. I predict the global pandemic will have enormous, long-term, far-reaching consequences for:
- the global and, especially, the U.S. economy;
- the ways in which education is conducted;
- traditional ways in which business is conducted;
- the demand for commercial real estate;
- trends toward (or away from) the geographic dispersal of the extended family;
- the manner in which groceries and other household goods are purchased and delivered to the home;
- medical care, especially for routine and non-urgent care;
- commercial building design and construction;
- restaurant design and layout;
- mass transportation schedules and design;
- the airline industry;
- food prices;
- reliance on animal products as part of the food supply;
- immigration policies, especially visa requirements for “essential” workers;
- practices relating to voter registration, absentee voting, and voting by mail or electronically;
- the delivery of mail (and possibly the structure of, and continued existence of, the U.S. Postal Service;
- the design of the urban core of cities (a very long-term consequence);
- United States government budget priorities;
- theories about how economies function and how they respond to stress, both internal and external;
- considerations of governmental-guarantees of annual incomes;
- laws and regulations relating to requirements for vaccinations;
- the potential (frightening) merger of the missions of the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
- and on and on and on and on and on.
With only a few exceptions, most of these items focus primarily on the United States. The global consequences are apt to be even more far-reaching. Alas, I will not live long enough to see them all play out, even if I were to live another thirty years (which is highly unlikely). Many of the consequences of COVID-19 will not even be traced back to the pandemic, except by intrepid historians who will examine every factor that led to each change that, ultimately, brought about the societal shifts I list above. I would like to know which of my predictions come to pass. I suspect most of them will, but many will not be measurable, nor their outcomes assured, during my lifetime. And it is worth noting that some of the “consequences” are not consequences at all but, rather, ominous predictions that major changes will befall an entire industry; the airline industry, for example. The specific changes that will take place are, in many categories, impossible to accurately predict. The practical results of chaos theory, which I mentioned in my post entitled “Attractive Definitions” a couple of days ago, will contribute to innumerable unintended consequences of actions that will be assumed, when taken, to be minor.
I have neither the time this morning nor the inclination to expound on the list of consequences I predict, but I may, over time, dedicate some space on this blog to many of them. For now, I’ll say a few words about “trends toward (or away from) the geographic dispersal of the extended family.” What possible consequence of COVID-19 could lead to changes in trends toward geographic dispersal of the extended family? My thinking is this: the pandemic’s imposition of social distancing kept many, many, many families apart during a time that has traditionally been “family time:” Easter. Couple that with the inadvisability of travel, especially by air, during that time and the dramatic decline in the availability of hotel and motel rooms (lots of vacancies, but many places were closed), and the ease of family visits across country or even across town declined precipitously. My contention is that many people will think seriously about this inability to spend time with family and will, over time, cause family members who might otherwise spread their wings and move away for adventure, jobs, etc. to rethink such decisions. The value of familial cohesion and its effect on one’s emotional well-being may, I think, cause our society to reverse course in an attempt to recover the comfort that extended families gave our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. Okay, it’s pure conjecture, but I think it makes sense and has the potential to come about. I just wish I would like long enough to see whether my prediction is validated.
Thinking about such things always give rebirth to my intense interest in sociology. I could spend days and days and days thinking about each of these predictions, contemplating what sorts of triggers might cause them to commence and how other circumstances in society might derail them or change their course. It’s all such fascinating stuff. But I’m not an academician, so it’s really an avocational interest; I’ve never had enough discipline to make it my life’s work.
I suppose there are little pockets of desire inside my head that sometimes make me want to live forever just to see “how things turn out.” I know I won’t, I can’t, and I usually don’t want to. But if I could just view a quick playback of a tape of the future… Yeah, I can’t do that either. I just have to be satisfied to live as long as I do. The rest will be an untold story.