Now that the COVID-19 exit strategy is well underway and economies around the world are slowly reopening, it is the perfect time to explore the potential impact of the coronavirus on our society. Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work put forward nine predictions on what the world will look like in 2023 – a time that’s distant enough for the implications of the virus to have materially changed things, but not so far away that pure idle speculation reigns supreme.
Here’s a view from 2023:
1. ONLINE’S “BIG BANG”
Everything that could move online, did move online. The crisis was scary, but its exigencies welded together imagination and creativity out of necessity. An electric universe of online connections pushed possibilities far beyond what had been imaginable. The long-term impact was the creation of a world that accepted its manifest destiny was in cyberspace – for the future of its work, play and everything in between.
2. EVERYONE’S HOME IS THEIR CASTLE
Not too long ago, working from home was a privilege for few, but when COVID-19 hit, it suddenly became a necessity for everyone. With teleworking now firmly established, it would be foolhardy to assume we will ever go back to the old ways of working.
3. BUSINESS TRAVEL LOSES ITS COOL
In the blink of an eye, business travel went from a high-status activity to an unnecessary luxury. In 2020, when air travel represented one of the largest industries in the world, no government had ever forced people to completely stop travelling by plane. But the virus did. As horrific an experience as it was, the coronavirus taught us that, yes, we could do something to reverse the damage we had inflicted on our planet, and it spurred us to take the first steps on the long journey to protect what we have.
4. UBIQUITOUS HEALTH SCREENING
Entering any building, space or country now requires a full health screening to prove you’re not carrying an infectious disease.
5. GAIA AND GRETA – FROM THE FRINGE TO THE MAINSTREAM
COVID-19 gave us the chance to step back, take a deep breath and consider the impact of our lifestyle on our planet. The need to grow – sustainably – has become, since 2020, the most pressing challenge the world has ever faced. The real fallout of the pandemic was in altering the arc of the moral universe.
6. HUMANS IN THE MACHINE
Just as wartime innovation accelerated technological advancement, so too did COVID-19 spur on the development of virtual reality collaboration tools and haptic technologies. The opportunity of multi-sensory virtual interaction has opened an overwhelming new frontier. Today, we join virtual political rallies from the safety of our homes. We attend music concerts online – no need to find parking or miss the last train home. We stepped into a world where humans have realized they could very easily live inside the machine.
7. THE BIRTH OF THE CLEAN REGIME
Clean is the new cool. Public spaces, transportation and even our own homes have been through the ultimate spring clean since COVID-19. Diligent, humanity-driven hygiene practices are now an essential element of our daily routines and crucial requirement of combatting the threat of future outbreaks.
8. THE COST OF AGING IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD
COVID-19 shined a light on the issue of our aging planet. While we’re still not close to resolving the questions around life and death for our aging population, we started having conversations around the inevitable passing and finally embraced the folly of thinking we can override it.
9. ANOTHER CASUALTY OF THE VIRUS: PRIVACY
The big question post-COVID-19 was if a permanent surveillance infrastructure was here to stay. Of course, during the COVID-19 crisis, surveillance sounded sensible, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In a post-virus age, are we finally seeing the true death of privacy?
About the author
The Center for the Future of Work has a charter to examine how work is changing and will change, in response to the emergence of new technologies, new business practices and new workers. Established by the technology services company Cognizant, the Center for the Future of Work provides original research and analysis of work trends and dynamics and collaborates with a wide range of business and technology thinkers and academics.