What might a post-Covid-19 world look like?

Although it scarcely matters in the grand scheme of life, here are some thoughts on what a post-Covid-19 technology industry might look like – and the world beyond.

All we know at this point in late March that the effect on our health, liberty and economic status will either be short and sharp, or long and sharp.

Things will undoubtedly change, they always do when momentous events such as pandemics and wars happen. The US changed post-9/11 into more of a surveillance capitalist state where singing the national anthem became the default at every sporting event (it wasn’t before, trust me, I lived through it).

Other things will revert, more or less.

So here are some quick thoughts, starting with the industry I know best: technology (for more on what we see at the moment as the potential effects on technology see 451 Research’s high-level round up).

  • Digital transformation as a lens through which technology investments gets a shot in the arm – if you didn’t take it seriously as a concept, you surely do now in terms of business continuity and workforce productivity, to name but two areas?
  • AI will have a major part to play in the detection of future pandemics, and in the eventual creation of a remedy and vaccine for Covid-19, even if it didn’t manage to predict the outbreak this time. For more thoughts on here, see the 451 round up.
  • Online calls become video by default, audio-only being the exception where you’re not in the right environment.
  • In-person conferences are not over (though they are for O’Reilly Media, sadly). But I believe there will be fewer massive ones and more local ones, run by technology vendors. FOMO will mean people will attend, especially those that usually work from home as they will be starved of human interaction. But mass keynotes with 5,000-10,000 people crammed in seats next to each other may disappear and if they do, good riddance. We knew sitting down for long periods of time is bad for your health, now we know they’re also really good at the spreading of viruses.
  • Fewer people will describe themselves as ‘keynote speakers’ first, something else second. It never made sense to me – most people are more interested in the substance of what you have to say than being a professional speaker for hire.

Beyond our technology industry bubble, other factors are in play of course.

  • The merits of city living will be questioned for a while but I suspect there won’t be a flight to the suburbs (another 9/11 parallel where people left & then came back). The demographic shift, whereby more & Millenials & Gen Z’s work in services industries, rather than manufacturing or agricultural ones will still mean they will want to live in cities. They will just take more precautions, just as they have done in Hong Kong for many years.
  • Just-in-time supply chains will skew slightly more towards just-in-case among large retailers, especially those online only with large warehouses. But they will still be more just in time than not (see the previous comment about city living). Supply chain resiliency will become someone’s job in more places than it is already.
  • Movies might start being released online first. I know, not a big deal, just a thought.
  • Handshaking – a habit that emanated from the time when men wanted to demonstrate to one another that they weren’t about to draw their sword – will diminish as a custom. Given it’s been around for more than 2,000 years I doubt it will die out completely, but we might have to check ourselves, just like you do before we go to hug someone.
  • China, Russia, and even Cuba have been helping other countries – notably Italy – whereas the US has markedly not done so, turning ever more inward. Governments will remember who helped them out in their hours of desperate need and the geopolitical axes will shift more quickly in favor of China than it was already, despite it being the source of Covid-19.

Stay safe everyone, and stay at home whenever possible.

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