A Glance Forward – The World After Coronavirus

How will the near future look like? In how far will the Covid-19 pandemic affect our ways of living, working and interacting? In our new blog-series “A Glance Forward – The World After Coronavirus” we will deal with possible consequences and opportunities that may appear in the future. In this first post we want to provide an overview of possible scenarios that we might have to face after this pandemic.

The corona virus has shaken the foundations of our social and economic coexistence – indefinitely. We experience an uncontrollable collapse of our everyday life and the world as we knew it. Governments have turned to proven public health measures, such as social distancing, to physically disrupt the contagion. Yet, doing so has severed the flow of goods and people, stalled economies, and is in the process of delivering a global recession. Economic contagion is now spreading as fast as the disease itself. Now, the first thing we all need to do is to come to terms with this new exceptional situation – as the first step to overcoming this crisis. But what will happen afterwards?

The paper “The Corona Effect – Four Future Scenarios” by the Zukunftsinstitut (Institute of Future) suggests four possible scenarios that might appear in some ways after overcoming this crisis:

  • Total Isolation: Everyone against everyone
  • System Crash: Permanent crisis mode
  • Neo-Tribes: The retreat into the private sphere
  • Adaption: The resilient society

All four scenarios differ in terms of acting globally or locally and being optimistic or pessimistic.

The first pessimistic scenario “Total Isolation: Everyone against everyone” describes a locally oriented society.

Countries are all focused on themselves and nationalism is flourishing. Governments use all available measures to protect their citizens – even if that means stirring up deep-rooted fears or artificially scarifying foreign food. People therefore use all possible open spaces to grow their own fruit and vegetables. De-Urbanization results from the need of people to harvest their own food and supplying cities for good money. Agriculture and the manufacturing industry have experienced an enormous upswing, nearshoring has been put into practice.

The Germophobia we are experiencing right now will be even more distinctive. Food is disinfected and public gatherings with more than 10 people are not common anymore. Events are experienced with friends via everyone sitting at home in front of screens connected by virtual chatrooms – maybe with the help of VR technology.

The second pessimistic scenario “System Crash: Permanent crisis mode” is characterized by a high amount of uncertainty and distrust between countries. Neo-nationalism is uprising and nearshoring becomes a political-ideological premise. At the same time however, dependence on international trade relations and commodity flows remain. Glocalization is more common than ever.

The use of Big Data becomes an essential tool. Collecting huge amounts of data and analyzing it with the help of artificial intelligence is being intensified especially for the simulation of crisis scenarios. Cybercrime therefore is also increasing. Data privacy is reduced tremendously in order to meet the needs of federal and global measures in data analysis. More and more people are relying on personal health responsibility, digital health, continuous self-tracking and the monitoring of their vital signs by smart devices that feed personal health data into government databases at any time.

The third scenario “Neo-Tribes: The retreat into the private sphere” is more optimistic and focused on individuality. People no longer trust state actors and supranational alliances. The turning away from the global world community leads to a particularized we-culture and the increased formation of neo-tribes.

The fear of infection has spurred a retreat into the private sphere and the rediscovery of domesticity. There are practically no major events where people are gathering anymore. Streaming and experiencing events via VR while sitting on the sofa is the way to go.

Neighborhood help is a top priority, and there are fixed structures for helping each other in a crisis. Supplies are shared or exchanged, special attention is paid to the old and weak. De-Urbanization is also trending. Concepts such as Cradle to Cradle or post-growthare naturally embedded in people’s everyday lives. The regional economy functions completely autonomously.

Also, working has changed since the pandemic. Home office became an essential part of every corporate culture. Meeting and conferences are held via VR and contracts are concluded via blockchain technology.

The fourth and last scenario “Adaption: The resilient society” describes a globally society that has learned from the past and has developed resilient, adaptive systems to overcome future crises.

The Corona virus has triggered a self-purification of the markets. A new pattern of consumption arose which is oriented towards stationary trade and regional products. Not only has a sensible balance between offline and online been achieved but also local and global trade are balanced out.

The pandemic has caused that health no longer is seen as something that concerns only the individual body and behavior. Rather, health is now viewed more holistically: Environment, city, politics, global community became more focused-on factors for maintaining a healthy society.

Glocalization is triggered by the need of quick problem solving: Local problems can be solved quickly and creatively, and global risks can be identified more quickly and tackled cooperatively. Overall, since the pandemic, humanity has perceived itself more strongly as a global community that must solve challenges together. Also, climate change is tackled in this way.

Big data and artificial intelligence will be used to predict and analyze future crises and challenges as well as providing suitable measures to contain them. Everyone is equipped with health tracking devices because the global exchange of up-to-date health data allows risks to be detected early on. The continuous learning from each other in a multitude of functioning networks creates global resilience. This new way of thinking also shapes the media landscape: Spreading alarmism and fake news are neglected and yield to constructive journalism focused on solutions.

We are aware that those scenarios might sound like extracted from science fiction novels. But when looking at single components such as VR-meetings, home office as a common way of working, AI and big data, Glocalization, individual health monitoring community-building and many more, one can recognize that we already are using these today. How the future after the corona crisis will look like surely nobody can tell at this moment, however, thinking about speculative scenarios like the four above might trigger innovations and give us a first taste of what could happen down the road.

Links to the other Parts: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Sources: Harvard Business Review, Zukunftsinstitut

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