Life after pandemic: How will coronavirus change us?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended day-to-day life. This has happened on an individual level, as our routines have been abandoned in favor of social distancing. It’s also occurring on larger societal, economic and political levels. 

Though no one knows how long it will last, the pandemic will eventually end. Many of the enormous changes that have happened in response to the virus will likely return to normal. Some things, however, may never go back to the way they were. The outbreak has affected so many parts of life, for so many people, that it stand as a pivotal point in history that fundamentally alters the way we live.  

Why there’s debate

Many of the predictions of permanent changes to come out of the pandemic concern relatively small adjustments to everyday life. For example, a lot of workers and businesses may choose to continue remote work after social distancing ends. If this happens at a large enough scale, it could lead to a migration away from big cities and a huge drop in commuting. The economic toll of the outbreak could make a lasting impact on a variety of businesses sectors, including increased dominance for major tech companies, the decline of the restaurant industry and the collapse of locally owned stores.  

Some experts believe the pandemic could be a major event of the century that radically alters the world in its aftermath. Others argue that the virus has exposed deep flaws in the way the world economy functions. Building a more stable structure for global trade could mean significant alterations in how supply chains work. Others see the possibility for a political revolution that would shift the balance of power in countless countries. This revolution could lead to a more equitable society, or, some fear, a rise in authoritarianism and violent upheaval. 

Perspectives

Our economic system will become more equitable

“There is hope that we might begin to see the world differently. Maybe we can view our problems as shared, and society as more than just a mass of individuals competing against each other for wealth and standing. Maybe, in short, we can understand that the logic of the market should not dominate as many spheres of human existence as we currently allow it to.”
— Peter C. Baker, The Guardian

Education will move online

“The pandemic is giving tech massive insights at scale as to what human development and learning looks like, allowing it to potentially shift from just content dissemination to augmenting relationships with teachers, personalization, and independence. But the way it is has been rolled out — overnight, with no training, and often not sufficient bandwidth — will leave many with a sour taste about the whole exercise.” — Jenny Anderson, Quartz

Previous crises have led to major political changes

“The Social Security check that arrives each month. The unemployment benefits that help tide workers over between jobs. The security lines snaking through airports, back when millions of Americans were still flying. They are so deeply embedded in today's society that we take them for granted. All were the product of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.”
— Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times

Working from home will become much more mainstream

“The traditional office was already fading into obsolescence. The coronavirus pandemic radically sped up the timeline.” — Matt Burr and Becca Endicott, Wall Street Journal

The service industry may never recover

“The pandemic is almost sure to leave a mark on the way people work, shop and socialize, perhaps permanently shifting the way many service industries operate.”
— Paul Wiseman and Anne D'Innocenzio, Associated Press

Fear of infection will linger long after the virus has been contained

“We will likely never live through a period again where people don't wonder about when the next pandemic could hit.” — Jeva Lange, The Week

The way the world economy functions will undergo fundamental change

“Businesses will be forced to rethink their global value chains. These chains were shaped to maximise efficiency and profits. And while just-in-time manufacturing may be the optimal way of producing a highly complex item such as a car, the disadvantages of a system that requires all of its elements to work like clockwork have now been exposed.” — Beata Javorcik, Financial Times

Many predictions of change are overstated

“Americans will never stop going to basketball games. They won’t stop going on vacation. They’ll meet to do business. No decentralizing technology so far — not telegrams, not telephones, not television, and not the internet — has dented that human desire to shake hands, despite technologists’ predictions to the contrary.” — Henry Grabar, Slate

Political stability in the developing world will collapse

“Fragile states will be pushed into chaos and anarchy, and there is a realistic chance that some regimes will not survive COVID-19 as mass dissidence towards the end of mass mortality will bring 100,000s to the street to overthrow regimes whose legitimacy will be undermined by their inability to manage the crisis.” — Andreas Krieg, Al Jazeera

The pandemic creates opportunity to address climate change

“Our response to this health crisis will shape the climate crisis for decades to come. The efforts to revive economic activity — the stimulus plans, bailouts and back-to-work programs being developed now — will help determine the shape of our economies and our lives for the foreseeable future, and they will have effects on carbon emissions that reverberate across the planet for thousands of years.” — Meehan Crist, New York Times

Telehealth is here to stay

“Technological platforms have been launched, providers trained, patients educated and appointments converted to video visits. ...It’s an extraordinarily useful tool: Long after the pandemic subsides, its adoption could mean good things for the delivery of health care.”
— Kimberly Gudzune and Heather Sateia, Washington Post

Authoritarianism will rise

“In short, COVID-19 will create a world that is less open, less prosperous, and less free. It did not have to be this way, but the combination of a deadly virus, inadequate planning, and incompetent leadership has placed humanity on a new and worrisome path.”
— Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy

Progressive political ideas will be more accessible 

“We will exit this pandemic with a new understanding of how both our government and society work. Formerly fringe ideas on the left, like universal basic income or universal health care are now household terms.” — Ryan Broderick, BuzzFeed News

People will begin to flee major urban centers

“The implications for big cities are immense. If proximity to one’s job is no longer a significant factor in deciding where to live, for example, then the appeal of the suburbs wanes; we could be heading towards a world in which existing city centres and far-flung “new villages” rise in prominence, while traditional commuter belts fade away.” — Jack Shenker, The Guardian

The pandemic will lead to a popular political revolution 

“The aftermath of the coronavirus is likely to include a new political uprising — an Occupy Wall Street 2.0, but this time much more massive and angrier.” — Cathy O’Neil, Politico

The pandemic won’t actually change anything

“I’m going to go out on a limb here: I don’t think much of anything will be changed forever and I wish people would stop saying so based on two whole weeks of practicing isolation and social distancing.” — Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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