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Front Page » Opinion » COVID-19 will permanently change our world – but how?

COVID-19 will permanently change our world – but how?

Written by on April 7, 2020
COVID-19 will permanently change our world – but how?


The 1939 New York World’s Fair theme, the World of Tomorrow, envisioned a vastly different future. Right after the fair, the disaster of World War II led into a postwar tomorrow that, among its many sea changes, saw Miami rise into a metropolis.

Now the world faces a new crisis, a COVID-19 attack on humanity. This scourge also will alter much. While it’s too early to know what long-term impacts will be, academics, planners, thought leaders and business minds are no doubt making lists today.

Change depends on how long the virus reigns. If it ended tomorrow not much would change. The longer things are different, the longer changes will linger.

Futurists will be looking at these and other possibilities as the virus dominates our lives:

■As many work from home, does the zeroing out of commuting time and costs make work more or less productive? Does hourly output at home exceed work in centralized locations?

■Does digital work at home finally bring the end of paper records that was forecast two decades ago? Will printed backup disappear?

■Does a work-at-home mode erode the barrier between weekdays and weekends? If we spend our time every day in the same place, does more leisure creep in Monday through Friday, or more work slip into the weekend? It’s likely that after a while many working at home will simply ignore which day it is.

■Does our limitation on human contact disappear the day we’re released from temporary confinement or will our visible circles narrow, in a pattern already begun by the cellphone?

■The housebound today no longer battle Miami traffic, so traffic has decreased even as mass transit keeps shrinking. Driving is easier but less frequent. Will either traffic or transit rebound when we no longer are barred from uninhibited mobility?

■The corollary: will our ability in these difficult days to live mostly near home lead in the future to most of us living by choice in relatively small nearby circles?

■If we voluntarily limited mobility that way, could we stop trying to develop six costly transit legs in the county’s Smart plan to extend mass transit everywhere? The billions that were to be spent on transit could then meet other needs. Or is that too great a stretch of imagination?

■The great retailers have temporarily closed, and many were already in trouble. Will they bounce back, and what strategies might they adopt? Are many retail jobs gone forever?

■When people do go back to shopping, what will be the hot new items besides stockpiled paper products and sanitizers? Will the new products come from brick-and-mortar stores or Amazon? 

■Other than retail, what job categories will be permanently hit, and what new employment opportunities will arise?

■How will these changes alter the middle class, which was under heavy pressure before the virus even as great wealth was building elsewhere? How will an altered world of living and work reshape the group that was once the strength of the nation? Will it shrink or increase the gulf between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of society?

■Those who have been in the gig economy may have been hit harder than others by the virus-caused changes but might also be more flexible in adapting than those who work for set wages. Will the gig segment grow or shrink in a new normal?

■What happens to education when schools and colleges can let students return to class? Is the education by computer today equal to what they were getting before? How does the teacher’s role change – or does it? Will learning at a distance grow?

■Beyond learning at home we’re now entertaining at home among family members. The Netflix vs. theater battle is decided now, but what about the future? Going to the movies has been counted out in error since television was invented. Television also didn’t kill sports attendance, but when sports return will ticket sales come with them?

■While people are at home, families must be growing closer, the way they were before each member went a different way to do different things. Is that just a fleeting change or could it be a shift toward family unity?

■Another corollary: More families are dining together at home, even if it’s takeout. Will restaurants be reshaped if the stay-at-home world lasts months longer?

■What lessons are investors learning? Do they anticipate just a temporary economic crunch, or will the economy not go back to what we knew? The Great Depression that followed the 1929 stock market crash didn’t end until World War II began a decade later. How deep is this plunge to be and what will bring us back?

■Our health system wasn’t prepared for COVID-19. Will health play a more central role nationally, or will lessons quickly be forgotten?

These questions give us much to contemplate. 

We’ll be asking what is important personally and to our society. 

We’ll ask how our republic with thousands of government entities can best respond in unity to a crisis of health or economy or another global emergency. 

Certainly, the national shutdown gives us plenty of time to contemplate. Use that time thoughtfully.

7 Responses to COVID-19 will permanently change our world – but how?

  1. Clarke

    April 8, 2020 at 10:54 am

    Employees, through employers or self-directed, should be able to have pre-taxed deductions emergency funds savings account that’s channeled to the State. Employees can draw on their savings immediately during times such as a global pandemic and epic job loss, before rolling over to unemployment, if it gets to the level.

    Now, I believe more people would be open to this idea, as self-savings in banks is impossible for most people due to temptations and competing needs. This would be a good way for Workers to build-up an emergency savings, even if it was due to job loss.

  2. Nel

    April 9, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    What about automotive, sales, parts, service and body shops?

  3. Carmen Ortizbutcher

    April 10, 2020 at 1:09 am

    The biggest change will be the re-emergence of the family unit. Parents as friends, as educators, as protectors. Children as sentient beings that reflect the crisis, ask questions that may have no answers. Couples are facing renewed intimacy, doing chores , sharing fears, making love with a new appreciation for the value of health, of life. Marriage, the hinge upon which our society emanates, is getting oiled.


    April 11, 2020 at 12:46 am

    For the people living only in U.S.A ALWAYS RUNNING IN COMPETTTION FOR MONEY

    Other culture have better way to live

    I always think CUBA before Revolution

    The history of Architecture from the AGORA greek plaza SQUARE WITH GALLERY
    under shade THE ROMANS do a military camp with plazas at regular distance.

    From that the mediterranian cities follow the same idea.

    The spanish by law a town need to have a center plaza with the church
    the school the goverment building hospital and houses and stores

    All is near do not lose time or spend in travel.

    PLUSVALIA COMUNIST CONCEPT with avability the cotribucion is by the rent
    do not need a tasador to do tax.

    The public transpotation was a COOPERATIVA DE OMNIBUS ALIADOS
    The chofer is the owner of the bus.(the best GMC no air condition)

    The PARADERO garage with repair clean etc is in the barrio o reparto the owner live across

    The firt stop from the RUTA is there at the door no lose time or expending

    In Miami are 2 garages the bus spend time an combustible going to the route.


    The BODEGA grocery was in the corner at 50 ms WHEN need to buy made a call
    and check the prices place the order by phone and a messenger in bicycle
    come without extra cost.


    • Marc

      April 12, 2020 at 12:17 pm

      Cuba before Castro was bad for most. Batista was a criminal who took power by force and the complicit population just looked away. The picture of nirvana painted of precast Cuba is false. Just like Castro’s promises were false. Both systems failed. Cuba never had a chance because of the so-called strong men. Colloquially and isolation are for communes not for the developed world.

      There is no perfect system. Returning to a failed past is not an option. No matter what that past may have promised.


    April 12, 2020 at 11:41 pm

    MARC have no age and by his frame of mind didn’t notice I WAS NOT TALKING
    about politics.


    LA COOPERATIVA WAS A SERVICE AT $ 0.06 ( $ 1 peso same as $ 1 dollar )
    and you wish can buy car.

    THE MALL or SHOPPING CENTER is not a center

    Now are here in MIAMI the Supermarket offering to order by phone to
    choose pick up or deliver.

    In the example from the bodega they have better price than the Supermarket
    that was about 4 blogs farther

    MARC didn’t notice the people that live in the other county is because in
    DADE is more expensive not because they like the parking in the EXPRESSWAY
    to work in DADE

    The improve comunications will be useful to work at home or any other place
    the back up from paper will be need the lose documents in exterior hard drive that have a limited warranty.

    The same will need local production and service to avoid any problem with

    • Marc

      April 14, 2020 at 10:37 am

      You are stuck in a past that failed. Move on already.