There will be no normal: futurists predict permanent post-coronavirus changes


Now that it has become clear that two weeks of isolation will not be enough to overcome the threat of the new coronavirus, Dante’s scenarios for the economy and society on a global scale are beginning to emerge. The appeals for a return to normality are, in the view of the futurist Gerd Leonhard, useless: according to his predictions, at the end of 2020 we will realize that the world we wanted to return to no longer exists.

“The crisis did not end quickly. We never returned to normal,” predicts the futurist, positioning himself as if he were looking back at the end of this year. The changes forced by this pandemic will be permanent and will reach the economy, society, politics, environment and science. It will be an impact similar to that of the Great Depression and World War II.

Another futurist, Thomas Frey, considers that this moment is “the black swan of all black swans” and that the new coronavirus will be the most expensive crisis in all history. His prediction is that “the economic pandemic” will be much more serious than the covid-19, leading to bankruptcies, suicides, fraud, theft, homelessness and more crime. This will trigger dramatic consequences.

These are some of the predictions that futurists make for the post-coronavirus world:

United States of Europe

The crisis will force the countries of the European Union to collaborate better and faster, in a vital strategy of adaptation and survival. The creation of a “United States of Europe” model will become more consensual and the Brexit issue will disappear from the discussion.

According to Leonhard, “it is clear to everyone that we have to collaborate or risk death – the choice is ours.” The futurist calls this new reality “hyper-collaboration” and believes that it could lead Europe to emerge as a new global leader in the next three years because of the crisis. The same phenomenon of collaboration will change the way the global scientific community works.

Beginning of the end of fossil fuels

“For the first time in modernity, we see what happens when we burn less fossil fuels”, and that will make us think. Leonhard predicts that demand for air travel, tourism and other industries that consume a lot of fossil fuels will drop permanently and that investors will run away from them. The investment will be redirected towards sustainable energies.

Airline industry will be different

Especially in the travel culture there will be a dramatic change, anticipates Gerd Leonhard. The world will wake up to remote conferences, formations and meetings, even after the end of quarantines. The Zoom platform will be the new YouTube, with “zoomlebrities”. Airlines will invest in carbon neutral aircraft. Conversations with holograms will become frequent.

Thomas Frey believes that many companies will not re-allocate high budgets for air travel, because they will realize that they can operate with less travel and face-to-face meetings.

Greatest labor transition in history

Frey says there will be a massive labor transition, with many people fired to change careers and start their own companies. According to him, “this round of job loss followed by job recovery will be very different from everything we have seen in the past”.

Most powerful technology

The radical changes in telework that we are experiencing are going to have permanent effects. At the same time, interaction between humans will become even more valuable, due to the experience of social isolation that everyone is being forced to go through.

The importance of technology in this crisis is so great that the entire sector increases its power. “Everyone everywhere is doing everything online, from ordering food to taking yoga classes.” The downside, according to Gerd Leonhard, is that technology “has become the new religion” and there will be a noisy debate about digital ethics. The futurist believes that this will lead to tighter regulation aimed at ensuring that humans and the planet benefit from technological progress. “We are entering a new Renaissance”.

The futurist also predicts that state surveillance by technological means will become the new normal after the extraordinary measures that have been taken to control this pandemic.

Extreme capitalism equals chaos

The United States and Brazil are going to plunge into “digital civil wars” as a result of the crisis, which finds in both countries “woefully poorly prepared governments, total lack of planning and dramatic mismanagement of health financing.” This mix will have explosive results, driven by social media and “digital activism.”

Notoriously, Gerd Leonhard explains that the lack of investment in public health infrastructure and late aid to those who will need help will lead to “profound social unrest.” The futurist predicts that the situation may escalate to “acts of despair” that lead to a suspension of democracy in the United States.

End of populist politicians

The pandemic will put a brake on the growth of populism, creating opportunities for Millennials and women in politics, predicts Gerd Leonhard. The spiral of crisis in the United States is expected to bury the possibilities of Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020, and Brazil and the United Kingdom will follow in 2021, perhaps also Iran and Turkey.

The idea is that populism will not survive the pandemic because “it is now abundantly clear that going back to the past is a recipe for disaster when all new challenges are unknown, that is, they come from the future.”

Changes in agriculture

Isolation will lead many consumers to rethink the need for certain categories of food, such as meat. The crisis will lead to discussions about energy self-sufficiency in the agricultural sector and increased demand for local products. “In 2021 we will see an exorbitant increase in vegetarianism and a carbon tax on meat will be introduced.”

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