The path forward from the pandemic is looking brighter every day, but what will be the biggest challenges to recovery? The Institute For The Future gave us some answers (Spoiler: It's not all bad!)
MARINA GORBIS: I think some people are realizing that we don't need to be in the office all the time. So I think that's going to continue. Although, I do think that in many ways the pandemic also showed us the importance of being together. And a lot of people are really anxious to be together, because, you know, we're social beings, and we want to be working together. So I think there's going to be kind of a mixed reconsideration of what can we do online and what do we need to do to be together.
The pandemic has been an accelerant and a polarizer. So whatever income inequalities and wealth inequalities existed before, they have been accelerated. If you were a billionaire, you'd probably increase your wealth tremendously. And on the other side of the scale, people have lost jobs, they have lost incomes, probably had to go into debt. So that kind of polarization has increased. And that's really something that can only be corrected through policy innovations. You know, it's reconfiguring our social safety net, health care, all of these other dimensions of work.
It depends on what kind of education. You know with this polarization, it's clear that some colleges-- top tier colleges-- have been horribly affected by this. And in fact, have done really well. I think the college of the community and state colleges are more accessible ones. You know, they're facing financial challenges that they will have to overcome. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the colleges and universities-- we're going to see sort of closures, we're going to see more sort of debt, need for support, for public support that has been lacking in many areas.
Some of the technologies and platforms have been developed. A lot more people have been experimenting that. So I think we're going to see a lot more hybrid kind of learning environments. And hopefully, better ones.
I think one of the big challenges is obviously people who have had COVID and have long COVID, we don't fully understand how this will impact them coming out and how long this is going to last and what it all means. For decades now we've been talking about telehealth. But the uptake was very, very low.
So all of a sudden we have this huge uptake of millions of people doing televisits. And telehealth is just growing and expanding. And I think that the longer this pandemic has lasted and now it's been a year, or over a year, the more it becomes the norm, right? So I don't think that we're going to go back to necessarily doing all the visits in person.
What we're seeing is most people are no longer working a 9 to 5 job. Most people are patching together pieces of work and tasks to make a living. These are very, very difficult working conditions. And I hope that with this administration, and here in California, we can change that. It's really needing to figure out a new social contract for work. And what it looks like in this age of these kinds of technologies that make it possible for people to work on demand.
We're a consumer-driven economy. At least we've been for a while now. So unless we allow more people to have the kinds of incomes that allows them to consume, that allows them to purchase goods that we are producing, you know we're not going to be able to get back to growth.
You look at any domain of our lives, whether it's health, or wealth, or income, or education. There is a race dimension to that that we're just beginning to realize, that basically there are huge inequalities related to race in all of those areas of our lives everywhere, right? And we haven't paid enough attention to that. But it's impossible not to pay attention to it now.
I'm afraid to be too hopeful. But the demographics themselves are giving me hope, because we have a lot more, you know, we have a lot more racial diversity among the young people. We have a lot more sort of awareness of that issue. So to me, the demographics themselves are giving me hope.