A Sideways Glance by Richard S. Bogartz: Predictions about what the future holds

  • In this March 18, 2020, file photo early voters cast their ballots at the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building in Milwaukee, Wis. AP

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I am no futurist. I have always thought thinking about the future and how things will be to be one of the most difficult tasks.

We frequently hear the expression “return to normal.” What does that mean?

The difference between objects and information is now more profound than ever. What happens to barbers and beauticians when we minimize hair care and shaving?

The purpose of food will get back to basics. The need for fancy expensive food will return to its proper place. The need for food that keeps you alive and healthy will ascend.

Vacationing by being somewhere else and coming back in need of rest will be replaced by real re-creation.

Social life will be transformed. Zooming will replace invitations to dinner. Book clubs will thrive but remotely.

Shopping will no longer be a thing you do with a friend by going to stores together. Imagine Zooming combined with online searches for buyables.

Weddings, funerals, graduations, assembling in auditoriums, concert halls and arenas?

The primitive masks of today will be greatly improved on.

Guesses: Intubation will be viewed as a killer and we will stop doing it. Exercises for strengthening the lungs will be adopted by the masses. Vitamin C will be administered intravenously in massive doses to treat COVID-19.

If we can get Trump out of the White House before he destroys the postal service, voting by mail will become the norm. Or perhaps online voting. Or Zoom voting. Your body doesn’t have to be in a place. Just the information of who you are and what your votes are. A voting monitor can go through the same set of questions by Zoom as by your standing in front of them.

The effects of so many people being out of work are going to be staggering. We may see hunger riots, break-ins, and other acts of desperation as newly moneyless people fight to survive. This will be exacerbated if Republicans are still running the country.

What will happen to business that serve the poor when the poor can no longer afford to seek those services?

Handshakes, hugs, petting other people’s dogs and standing in lines will be different. Chatting with your neighbors will be from across the street, and will anyone hold the door open for someone else?

Will we see court trials for lawsuits accusing defendants of transmitting the virus? Will we read of virus attacks by coughing in an envelope and mailing it to the intended victim?

Will we ever have another Olympic games? What will happen to professional sports? The AIDS epidemic brought us immediate play stoppage and medical attention to the slightest bleeding of a basketball player. Will we now see temperature measurements in the middle of a game if a player sneezes and a dry cough resulting in immediate rejection? Will we never again see three fielders converging on a fly ball? Will baseball managers be ejected for coughing rather than for kicking dirt on the ump? Will the football huddle become grounds for a penalty?

What will classrooms look like? Will we move to exclusively remote lectures? What of lab classes? What of research labs themselves? How will research teams work together?

What of beaches, parks and zoos? Will admission be controlled, with counters and observers keeping track of numbers and illegal clustering, and entry be contingent on someone exiting?

What will happen in museums as the customary long dense lines for a new show are outlawed.

Will the drive-in theatre make a colossal comeback so that at worst the sneezes you are subjected to are from family or intimates?

Having gotten this far on my own I went looking for predictions by others.

Sheva Rajaee, founder of the Center for Anxiety and OCD in Irvine, California predicts that for many there begins a lifetime of management of all interactions with others based on fear of the virus.

Face-covering may become the norm.

Anna North reports on how new attitudes toward the essential work that is child care will quickly evolve.

People will save more and garden more.

Emily Stewart remarks that “The US has tied health insurance to employment and then shuttered broad swaths of the economy to respond to a health crisis, during which millions of workers have been laid off, leaving them without health coverage.”

Perhaps this will wake up the sleepers who equate universal health care with socialism and they will realize it is the only approach that makes sense, even from the selfish perspective that other sick people increase their own chances of sickness, other sick children increase the risk to their own children.

Richard S. Bogartz is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.