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Everyone shares the same sentiment right now: the desire for things to return to normal as quickly as possible. But realistically it’s highly unlikely that things will normalize anytime soon.  It’ll likely be a slow burn, a gradual shift that takes place over weeks and months and maybe even years.  And some aspects of life may never return to normal at all.  Nor should they.  For the normal way of doing things is in some regards part of the problem.

That’s why trying to imagine what the future will look like in a post COVID-19 world is a challenging exercise.  There are a lot of variables at play.  Either everything will change or nothing will.  Either lessons will be learned or it’ll be a return to business as usual.

But my gut is telling me that various industries and walks of life will be influenced by this historic event in significant and profound ways.  It may even mark a turning point for mankind, one that ushers in new technologies and a new way of looking at things; new ways of doing business and new ways of living.  In short, the Dawn of a New Era as the Future of Everything changes.

With that in mind I thought I would get into a futurist’s mindset and take a look at a few thought-provoking things that could happen in the near or far future from the subtle to the profound.  Some of these may seem obvious, others far-fetched.  But they all have one thing in common: the sudden likelihood that they could come to fruition.  For better or for worse.

  • Senior only shopping hours at grocery stores become a permanent arrangement as society prioritizes taking care of high risk populations.
  • The return of full service gas stations.  One of many examples of a concerted effort to reduce the number of shared surfaces that people interact with.
  • Bringing back brass door knobs or using naturally antimicrobial Copper in other architectural ways.
  • Social distancing practices and stringent hygiene guidelines stick around and become standard design principles.
  • The rise in popularity of tools/gadgets such as the Hygiene Hand that enable you to complete tasks without having to touch anything.
  • The emergence of Touchless Technology services from food pickup arrangements to retail shopping experiences that enable people to get what they want without ever having to touch a surface or interact directly with another person.
  • A rise in popularity for biohacking schemes with people waving their hands to open doors thanks to the power of embedded microchips.
  • The Internet of Things inevitably comes into full effect as everything gets further automated/controlled by voice commands/motion sensors.  Homes become entirely automated.
  • Robot maids get brought in to do chores and constantly clean/disinfect households.
  • A rise in popularity for 3-D printers, handy in emergencies when they can be used to print out replacement ventilator parts or new masks.  Every household will want to have one on hand.
  • More widespread and socially acceptable Work From Home policies for those industries that proved that their work could be completed remotely without interruption during the Shelter in Place orders.
  • More lenient sick leave policies as well with workers encouraged to stay home for so much as a sniffle.
  • It will also become standard practice to self quarantine for two weeks after returning from traveling.  Regardless of where you traveled to.
  • Video chat apps like Zoom will get loaded with gimmicky features i.e. various backgrounds, avatars, sound effects, and the like as they replace Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc. as the new battle ground for tech companies.
  • Interpersonal relationships will undergo a profound shift.  Birthrates will increase around the world.  Divorce rates too.  Single people, unable to date, will invest the time getting to know one another through video chats and texting and will invariably form more meaningful connections once they do meet up.  Eventually hook up apps like Tinder will go out of style, replaced by apps that cater to this new desire for significant meaning and true connection.
  • AI infused apps that let people communicate with digitized versions of deceased friends and family members will proliferate.  These replacement versions will be hyper-realistic using the same natural language, syntax, logic and reasoning that our loved ones would have used.  It does so by analyzing their digital footprints – the thousands of texts, emails, and social media posts that they’ve sent throughout their lifetimes.
  • Most major companies will go out of business and the few that remain will consolidate their resources by merging together.  These mega companies will dwarf Amazon and Google in breadth and scope and become nearly as powerful as nation-states leading to a new era in society where these powerful corporations essentially rule the land.
  • Masks become popular as fashion statements; designers and brands competing to create the most fashionable and/or practical ones.
  • Eventually entire face guards that cover people’s mouths and eyes rise to prominence.  These enhanced masks accomplish what Google Glass and Magic Leap tried to do but failed – overlaying key information into your field of vision.  While also keeping you healthy.
  • The end of fake news as the media and social media companies, backed by the World Health Organization, fight back against corrupt politicians making false claims and spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and possible cures.
  • Annual “hibernation” periods during flu season become commonplace as people come to the realization that significant loss of life is never acceptable.
  • A rise in pay for teachers as weeks/months of home schooling make everyone finally realize how important teachers really are.
  • A long-term continuation with the practice of keeping six feet apart from one another while waiting in lines, with official markers getting placed on the floor in most stores.
  • A new Hollywood business model is born as movies shown in theaters get streamed simultaneously for those who prefer to stay home.
  • Streaming services also buy up all the films that would have been shown at now defunct film festivals to give them a chance to still be seen by audiences.
  • Virtual concerts will be performed by holograms as celebrities travel less.
  • Virtual reality may even become ubiquitous similar to life in The Stacks in Ready Player One.
  • A rise in popularity for Driverless Cars.  With more people working from home traffic is less of an issue making it easier and less risky for these vehicles to navigate city streets.  They even operate entirely on their own to pick up/deliver food.
  • Similarly, an increased reliance on drones to make deliveries.  Especially of medical supplies in rural areas.
  • The creation of a new standard for IP addresses or possibly even the creation of an entirely new decentralized Internet to ease broadband burdens caused by everyone suddenly working from home and using the Internet significantly more.
  • An impetus to shift to 5G and eventually 6G standards across the board for that very reason.
  • In fact, there will be even more of a push than ever before to blanket the entire world with Wi-Fi to ensure internet connectivity for all.  Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite network will be celebrated at first until there is significant blow back from the astronomy community as scientific endeavors are ruined by the thousands of tiny satellites that now proliferate across the night sky.
  • Apps and browser extensions that let you watch Netflix or other forms of entertainment remotely with friends will become extremely popular as social distancing becomes a cultural norm.
  • No more handshakes.
  • The end of excess.  Extravagant lifestyles get dialed back.  People eat in more, travel less, save more money.
  • Instead of hoarding supplies we make the supplies we do have last longer.  We declutter Marie Kondo style, only keeping essentials around.  We’re more nimble.  Better equipped to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice if need be.
  • Professional sports become more efficient as well; reducing their regular season schedules and shortening training camps in an attempt to limit travel and reduce the frequency of fan interactions.
  • Concepts for underground and underwater cities get bandied about.
  • TikTok reaches peek popularity as everyone who is stuck at home starts using it to express themselves causing it to fall out of favor with the younger generation that ushered it in.
  • The Space Race heats up as there is a renewed sense of urgency to become a multi-planetary species.  Titans of industry like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson are at the forefront of this burgeoning industry.
  • There will be a rise in telemedicine and a general acceptance of surgical robots operated by doctors in remote locations.  Eventually we’ll get to the point where nanobots live inside us, repairing us from within and preventing us from ever getting sick in the first place.
  • Healthcare will no longer be tied to employment.
  • Considering how vulnerable the elderly were to COVID-19 there will be yet another massive push in Silicon Valley to reverse the aging process in an attempt to ensure that the next pandemic will be less deadly.
  • Grocery store workers will be classified as emergency workers/first responders as the integral role that they played in keeping Americans fed during the crisis does not go unnoticed.
  • The eventual implementation of Universal Basic Income as the government pays people not to work, first out of necessity, but later by choice.
  • The emergence of a new form of capitalism or entirely new financial system as the idea that “the cure can’t be worse than the disease” draws significant push back.
  • The end of cash payments as all financial transactions get digitized.
  • Travel bans and restrictions become commonplace as borders shut during the crisis never reopen.  Virtual tours of famous museums, national parks, and other physical locations rise in popularity.
  • An end to animal testing as the successful fast tracking of a COVID-19 vaccine leads to direct human trials for all new drugs going forward.
  • A general push/focus on healthcare as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs turn their attention from apps/phones/computers to preventing outbreaks/curing diseases.
  • A rise in the Quantified Self movement with everyone becoming obsessed with tracking their own health data.
  • A rise in popularity of an AI infused virtual friend that helps quarantined/socially isolated people cope with their new reality.
  • A new found appreciation for/acceptance of climate change science as the mishandling/fall out of the COVID-19 outbreak proves the importance of scientific facts/listening to experts/heeding warnings.
  • In fact, no more anti-vaxxers.
  • There may even be a rise in the number of scientists who run for public office as the importance of making informed policy decisions gets emphasized.
  • A real serious interest in human cloning will manifest with people interested in replacing the manpower that we’ve lost.
  • Sadly, a rise of authoritarian governments in some parts of the world as countries use facial recognition software and social credit systems to monitor/track citizens first as a way of tracking/preventing viruses from spreading but eventually as a regular part of life.
  • A loss of civil liberties/easing of restrictions as governments take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities during the crisis to impose more restrictive policies or unwind ones they disagree with.
  • A rise in popularity of DIY culture/hacker ethos as people use ingenuity to make their own parts/supplies as needed.  Some of the ideas born in these garages may lead to the creation of new companies that have large impacts down the road.
  • A lot of these companies/home brewed labs will specialize in Synthetic Biology.
  • The wide spread proliferation of Lab on a Chip technology that lets people self diagnosis themselves for all diseases/illnesses from the comfort of their home.
  • An increased reliance on AI/super computers to diagnose patients and discover new drugs.
  • A rise in popularity for e-gaming as the Quarantourney leads to a more wide-spread acceptance of watching people play video games/simulating sporting outcomes.  In particular, the idea of watching professional athletes play one another using their virtual versions takes off as does the idea of listening to athletes give their own play by play commentary of these virtual contests.
  • The permanent adaption of ESPN the Ocho into ESPN’s television programming as obscure sports rise to prominence in place of the sidelined major professional sports.
  • Sporting events held in empty arenas or without any fan interaction of any kind i.e. no more autographs, meeting athletes, taking pictures with them, etc.
  • An eventual end to the Olympics as it is no longer feasible to bring people from all over the world together.
  • The creation of Immunity Passports that indicate who already recovered from the virus or can’t get it, signaling that these are the people who are safe to move about society/return to work/travel.
  • A societal rift between baby boomers and millennials as people get blamed for not adhering to social distancing or not doing enough to help out.
  • An increase of racism against Asians, unfairly blamed for starting the outbreak.
  • Significant increase in tensions between China and those countries most hard hit by COVID-19 possibly leading to World War III or another Cold War.
  • Bidets become more commonplace in America due to ongoing toilet paper shortages.
  • But toilet paper isn’t the only that gets hoarded.  Countries hoard stockpiles of natural resources as well leading to regional conflicts.
  • An increase in walkouts/strikes among working class people on the front lines of the pandemic, demanding higher wages, better healthcare, and increased hygiene protections.  Eventually gig economy workers, freelancers, and contractors all get treated as full-time employees ending Uber’s legal battle with their workforce in the process.
  • A rise in popularity for socialism or at least for some socialist principles.
  • A continuation of the idea of dinner bonds as patrons give down payments to restaurants in exchange for future credit in an attempt to keep their favorite establishments afloat.
  • To reduce the strain on grocery stores and the supply chain, entirely new types of foods are created such as lab grown meats and new strains of rice and potatoes that provide more nourishment than are found naturally.
  • An increased use of UV light as a disinfectant, especially in hospitals.
  • A coronavirus tracking app, initially used to notify someone when they come within six feet of a person who had COVID-19 will instead get turned into a social networking app that notifies people when they are near others with similar interests.
  • Role reversals.  With barbershops and hair salons closed men will grow longer hair while women keep theirs shorter.
  • With so many people confined to their homes there will be an increase in the number of pets that get fostered/adopted leading to a golden age for animals that culminates in the eventual trend of using synthetic biology to create entirely new species to raise as pets.
  • With people still allowed to go out and exercise during Shelter in Place orders there will be a newfound appreciation for green spaces leading to the creation of several new National and State Parks.

Will the future of work be ethical? | TechCrunch

Society in a post COVID-19 world may look drastically different than it does today.

A look back at a few noteworthy items from the past week related to the COVID-19 global pandemic:

Netflix Party – This Chrome extension enables you to watch Netflix with your friends regardless of where they may be.  It does this by syncing up playback, allowing anyone to hit play/pause, and adding in a group chat feature.  A useful trick during these difficult times where “Netflix and Chill” has turned into “Netflix to not be ill”.

Netflix Party

VESper Ventilators – With hospitals across the country dealing with shortages of masks, ventilators, and other important medical supplies we’ve been hearing countless stories of DIY engineering hacks designed to make materials last longer and supplies stretch further.  Thankfully, there’s a better solution in the works.  One that could make it possible to share one ventilator with four patients.

Standing Six Feet Apart In Stores – CDC guidelines suggest that we stand six feet apart but that’s not something that most people were adhering to on their own.  Go somewhere crowded, like a grocery stores, and you’d still see people crowding each other on checkout lines.  That’s why I thought it would be a great idea if stores actually put markers on the floor to direct people where to stand and it looks like its finally happening.  Albertsons grocery stores are even implementing this policy as a matter of course across their entire nationwide network of stores.  As they state on their website:

“The company is installing designated waiting points through floor markers positioned throughout the store, especially at check stands and stations where people most often congregate, like the service deli, bakeries and pharmacy areas. Customers will also be asked to wait until the customer in front of them has finished collecting their groceries before unloading their groceries at the check stand. ”

six feet apart « MyConfinedSpace

Little Free Pantries – You may have seen Little Free Libraries pop up in your neighborhood.  You know, those cute little boxes, about the size of a microwave, filled with books and operating by the honor system.  See something you like? Feel free to take it.  Have something you don’t want anymore? You now have the perfect place to drop it off.  But thanks to COVID-19 those libraries have now been converted into pantries.  Filled with food items, cleaning supplies, and other necessities that may very well help your neighbors survive the weeks to come.  As the slogan goes, “Take what you need.  Bring what you can.”

You can find out more at: http://www.littlefreepantry.org/.

Little Free Pantries is a Food Bank on Your Lawn - Mothering

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

When March Madness was canceled and turned into March Sadness there were some people joking about an alternative: a virtual tournament.  Matchups simulated by video game software and aired for the world to see.  A small consolation prize for fans around the country who had been clamoring for the real thing.  And much to no one’s surprise it’s actually happening thanks to the Quarantourney.

As Yahoo Sports puts it:  “It started a week late, but March Madness is up and running. Virtually.

The real 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled, but if you had YouTube running on Thursday afternoon, there was No. 9 seed Oklahoma Sooners pulling away from the No. 8 Providence Friars in overtime for a 94-87 first-round win on a video game. Kristian Doolittle of Oklahoma scored 32 points. And yes, there was a point spread on the internet. Sorry to anyone who took Providence -2.”

It’s an idea that’s not exclusive to college basketball either.  Today was supposed to be MLB opening day and the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies were scheduled to square off.  Something that now may not happen for weeks or months.  If it ever happens at all.  But that didn’t stop the Marlins Miguel Rojas and the Phillies Rhys Hoskings from facing each other on YouTube via the video game MLB The Show.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer puts it, “There was no baseball to be played Thursday as opening day was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Hoskins still found a way to ‘get to Miami’ as he played Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas in a virtual season opener on PlayStation’s MLB The Show.  The players played as their respective teams and talked throughout the telecast, which was streamed on YouTube. Harper’s homer, which Hoskins controlled him to hit in the seventh inning, broke a scoreless tie en route to a 2-0 Phillies win.”

Considering the popularity of video games and how common it has become to watch other people play video games it’s not surprising that sports fans would turn to simulations and virtual tournaments to get their sports fix.  Especially when the alternative consists of watching a marble tournament and other strange events on ESPN2, recently rebranded as ESPN the Ocho to pay homage to the obscure sports network featured in the movie Dodgeball.

As NBC News reports, “Some of the riveting programming included an electricians’ competition, a stone skipping championship and a sign spinning contest.”

Coronavirus: Live video game stream mimics NCAA tournament

Is the Quarantourney the Greatest Idea Ever?

Over the last few weeks I’ve done a good job of keeping to myself and social distancing but I still fear going outside.  Still fear opening doors, pumping gas, and doing any number of things that require me to touch shared surfaces in public places.  Thankfully, there’s now a way for me to avoid those scenarios going forward: The Hygiene Hand.

This tiny brass tool affixes to your key chain and enables you to interact with your environment i.e. opening doors, pushing elevator buttons, typing on ATM keyboards, etc. without ever having to come in direct contact with them.

As Laughing Squid puts it, “Concerned about the germs and viruses that can be spread through everyday life activities, emergency prep company StatGear Tools has created the “Hygiene Hand”. This EDC (everyday carry) tool is made of a naturally non-bacterial brass tool that’s small enough to fit on a keychain and strong enough to open doors. The tool is also cleverly designed to act as a substitute for those daily actions which would otherwise be performed by human hands.”

Suffice it to say, the Hygiene Hand is the perfect object for getting by in our new germ conscious times, for facing reality during this “new normal” that we’re living in.  Its the kind of thing that could have staying power even after things settle down.

Is the Hygiene Hand the Greatest Idea Ever?

The other day I wrote about how UV light can be used to disinfect surfaces.  But there may a far better solution than unleashing an army of Dalek like killer robots on the world.  A solution that would last for a lot longer too.

As BGR reports, “There are obviously several measures that healthcare professionals take in order to protect themselves as well as they can. Medical-grade face masks help prevent them from becoming infected with COVID-19, as does regular use of disinfectant and hand-washing. But one New Jersey hospital is taking an exciting additional measure to protect its staff and patients, and it involves an intriguing new treatment for surfaces and objects in the hospital.

It’s called the NanoVapor BioTech Microbial Suppression System, or MSS. It’s a large-scale application system that uses a special sprayer to apply antimicrobial nanoparticles to surfaces and objects. NanoVapor’s solution doesn’t just disinfect, however. It’s a special biodegradable coating that continues to protect surfaces by killing bacteria, fungi, mold, and even viruses like the novel coronavirus for weeks or even months following its application.

In its tests, the company measured a 99.8% reduction in microbial count 70 days after application, and it remains effective for up to 90 days.”

That is an amazing success rate and considering how long it lasts for this could be a total game-changer in the fight against coronavirus.  Reports vary for how long COVID-19 lasts on surfaces and various type of materials from cardboard boxes and food packaging to door knobs and table tops.  But all of those variances range across a number of days or weeks.  Certainly not months.  Certainly not three months.  If enough high risk areas in outbreak areas were coated with NanoVapor it would significantly reduce the chances of the virus spreading further.

So, what are we waiting for?! Let’s coat the world with NanoVapor!

Image result for nanovapor

Is NanoVapor the Greatest Idea Ever?

The biggest surprise outcome of the global pandemic: toilet paper getting hoarded like nobody’s business.  But you technically don’t need toilet paper.  At least you wouldn’t if you had a bidet.  You know, that weird item next to the toilet that you may see while traveling through Europe or South America.  That thing that you have no idea what it is.

If you know how to use one then you’d immediately recognize its appeal.  But for the most part its an object that seems to be a foreign concept to most people, especially Americans.

As The Atlantic puts it, “Americans seem especially baffled by these basins. Even seasoned American travelers are unsure of their purpose: One globe-trotter asked me, “Why do the bathrooms in this hotel have both toilets and urinals?” And even if they understand the bidet’s function, Americans often fail to see its appeal. ”

COVID-19 could change that.  Increasing demand and creating a market for a product that would suddenly have more than just niche appeal.  And the Coway Bidetmega 400 may be best positioned to capitalize on this new market more than anyone else.  A rave review from Wired points out why.

“Butt tech: The next thing you didn’t know you needed. Coway’s heated seat, heated water, auto-cleaning, blow-drying, and night-light-laden throne is a masterpiece of comfort and cleanliness I now can’t live without.  If I’m gonna Uber to the hospital because I can’t afford an ambulance, I might as well do it with a sparkling undercarriage.”

But that’s not all.  The bidet even comes equipped with Braille!  Among other things.

As they describe on their website, “The Coway Bidetmega 400 bidet features advanced i-wave cleaning technology for a multi-stage wash that adjusts pressure, temperature and motion for optimal hygiene. Plus, a triple-stage bidet wash care system that keeps the water path, nozzle and toilet free of contaminants.  Not to mention a night light, all-new wireless remote, heated seat and dryer, Braille, front and child mode, an eco-friendly function, waterproof design and so much more.”

Come to think of it hoarding toilet paper doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore does it?

Image result for bidetmega 400

Is the Bidetmega 400 the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

 

Every time I leave my house, to go to the grocery store, or run some other errand, or to go hiking, I wonder if I am putting myself at risk of contracting COVID-19.  A paranoia that is a familiar feeling to most people living through these unprecedented times.  Which begs the question: how much risk am I actually encountering as I move through society?  Am I in an area that is a totally free and clear of the virus.  Or did someone with it just pass through increasing the likelihood that I may have contracted it?

Of course it’s hard to say for sure.  A lot of people with the virus are asymptomatic and don’t even realize that they have it.  Making it easier to go undetected.  But at the same time there are probably steps that we could be taking to track it, to let people know where the virus has been and how it’s being spread.  To let people know, in real time, what their current environment looks like.  Steps that could better protect them in the long run.

A technological solution would be nice and with that in mind several app developers have bandied about ideas for location tracking apps that would use GPS to follow people/the virus around like a medical Marauder Map of sorts.  Such as the MIT Media Lab’s Private Kit: Safe Paths.  But this concept really only works if enough people download the app and enable the tracking software.  Something that people may be hesitant to do in today’s day and age of abundant privacy concerns.

As Technology Review puts it, “The World Health Organization has called for aggressive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. These require not only identifying and isolating infected individuals but also identifying people they have been in contact with and where they have been, so that those people can be tested and the locations disinfected. In some countries, such as China, this data has been pulled from people’s phones and processed by the government. But this kind of government surveillance would be a hard sell in more democratic countries like the US or UK.”

Which is why it’s good that there’s a better solution in the works.  One that isn’t so Orwellian but still accomplishes the same goal.  One that simply relies on users reporting their own coronavirus related symptoms, or any symptoms whatsoever, or even the fact that they aren’t experiencing any at all at the moment, into an app in a crowd sourced attempt at tracking the spread of COVID-19 and any future localized outbreaks.

According to The Independent, “Researchers hope to use that data to help slow the outbreak by learning how fast the virus spreads, where the highest-risk areas are, and who is most at risk. Tracking symptoms will also help researchers better understand how the symptoms of COVID-19 are linked to underlying health conditions…”

But that’s not all.

They add that, “The app – currently only available in the UK, but launching in the US on Thursday – could help answer important questions about the disease such as why some people develop severe and fatal symptoms while others only experience relatively mild ones. It may also help doctors distinguish between the very similar symptoms of Covid-19 infection and seasonal coughs or colds, and to make it easier for people to better understand what is making them unwell.”

Considering how hard it was and still is to get tested we may never know the true extent of this global pandemic so at the very least apps like this or Covid Near You could help fill in some of the knowledge gaps, enabling researchers to determine, based on the quantity and severity of symptoms reported, if there were any unreported cases and just how widespread these outbreaks truly were.  Information that could be truly priceless in stopping this outbreak or preventing the next one.

Image result for covid tracking apps

Are apps that track the spread of COVID-19 the Greatest Idea Ever?