By David Houle| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Learning to ride a bike is a clear image for most, either a memory from your childhood or from parenthood. The first lesson is to learn how to peddle, break, hand signal, turn and generally adapt to the concept of a bike. Then the training wheels come off and the concept of balance is the next big lesson to learn. (My father was hardcore. He said no training wheels, learn balance first on a scooter.) Once learned, it's a skill that isalways remembered and has become a metaphor whenever someone says they havent done something natural or routine in a long time Hey, its just like riding a bike!
The 2020s is the most disruptive decade in history. (Hey, great title for a book!). COVID-19 is one big global disruption. Hard to think of anything or anyone that hasntbeen disrupted in the last 7 months. We all had to make major fundamental changes in how we live. We all are still having to live differently than we did this time a year ago. Healthcare workers and just about everyone in the field of education are in full-on adjustment, and largely on their own. Actually, these groups of workers seem to have to fight politicians who are making decisions based upon politics instead of science, certainly in this state, while they struggle forward with no new support or funding. (Yes, this angers me. Shouldn't children and education get what is needed in a global crisisfirst?)
Business owners, large and small, have either closed their businesses for good or are working like crazy to keep from doing so. We all know the issues and the challenges. What we dont know is how to consider that we will never return to normal.
What is the new normal? When will everything go back to how it was?
There is no normal. The only normal is abnormality. Expect, be open to and even embrace abnormality. Nothing will go back to how it was.
The single largest psychological symptom of the pandemic is the belief that sometime this will be over. It will not.
The movie theater business, the restaurant business, the office leasing business, the theater business, the concert business, the in-person conference business and all the other businesses that are based upon lots of people coming together in a space will never be the same. Sorry. Many of these businesses will remain, but many fewer than before COVID-19. Those that remain will be different in how they operate and how they serve customers.
False hope can be deadly. Please dont hang on to it.
Why is almost everything going to be different even if COVID-19 goes away?
Political tampering withscientists at the CDC, the FDA, and HHS has shown in recent polls that a majority of citizensdont trust the government. I've heard people say: Let all our political leaders take the first vaccine and if nothing bad happens to them it will be good for the country. If something bad does happen to them, it will be good for the country.
The creation, production and distribution of a successful vaccine will need to betaken by at least 75% of the population for there to be a post-COVID-19 economy, at a time when many are reticent to trust a vaccine.
Second, over time people change, particularly when they have had to absorb massive amounts of change in several months time. Past research has shown that new habits can be fully formed in several weeks. We have had months now to recalibrate our lives. Streaming services have exploded during COVID-19, all for the price of a single movie theater ticket, or less. We may all go back to the theaters, but nowhere near the frequency we had in the past.
We have learned to cook more, save more, spend less on food and generally become healthier eaters. We have become cooks, dieters and bread makers. Yes, we will go out to restaurants, but not with the frequency of the past.
The largest disruption, of course, is working from home. Millions who never did, do now. Many like it so much that they dont want to go back to the officeever again. Companies see the cost savings they have realized and will support their employees' desire to continue working at home. Look for vacancies and darkness in downtown office buildings across the country.
What COVID-19 has done is to give us a chance to learn how to ride a bike with training wheels. We had never ridden one and how we have. However, we havent had to learn the concept of balancing during on-going disruption. To lose the training wheels will mean that the next disruption of any magnitude will be easier to adapt to.
Very few of us, and as a futurist I am one of the few, have achieved anystate of balance with the pandemic. Things are off-kilter until we get back to the way it was or until we have a vaccine or "until we return to normal. All delusions.
In the 2020s there will most likely be another global pandemic. There will be deflation in parts of the world and inflation in others. There will be a massive reckoning about debt and finance. If 100% of Americas GDP went to retire the federal governments debt, we still would not have retired all of it. There will be unprecedented numbers of unemployed and under-employed.
There will be major geo-political upheavals and continued wealth inequality. Oh, and something called the climate crisis. In a recent book I forecast a range of 50-100 million climate crisis refugees globally in the next ten years, and probably at least five million of those in our country.
COVID-19 has been our opportunity to learn the experience of riding a bike. We now have to get ready to ride through disruption after disruption, and keep our balance while doing it.
Sarasota resident David Houle is a globally recognized futurist. He has given speeches on six continents, written seven books and is futurist in residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design. His website is davidhoule.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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THE FUTURIST: Think of COVID-19 as a bike with training wheels for the 2020s - Sarasota Herald-Tribune