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Altherion

The world after the pandemic

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I was reading this article about global leadership and the coronovirus and it got me thinking: how will the world change once the pandemic ends? For one thing, there is no shortage of viruses in bats, camels, pigs and other mammals which can jump to a human being and start another pandemic so it's pretty obvious that we should prepare a bit better... but there are several ways to do it. For example, we could do what the article suggests and increase international cooperation in fighting these viruses, but it's not clear that this will work. In theory, we already have an organization for such cooperation (the World Health Organization), but the WHO utterly and completely failed at keeping Covid-19 in check and it's not surprising that it did given that it is dependent on individual countries both for funding and for reporting of diseases and the first one impacted here was one of the big ones (China). We could give the WHO some teeth, but would everyone agree to that?

Alternatively, we could tighten restrictions on movement a bit. Right before the current pandemic, the world was mostly open. That is, not everyone could go everywhere, but enough people could go to enough places with little effort for a disease to spread and spread rather quickly. We're certainly not going to constrain this too much -- it's the basis of the modern economy -- and, as the article points out, it's a losing battle... but if we can isolate countries a bit more, we might have more time to react.

Some more obvious things are in the nature of this reaction. Some countries clearly need to take a harder look at their medical system than others, but only a few (if any) will come out of this looking well. There are a few basic things (e.g. stockpiling protective equipment) that can be done at relatively little cost and a few others (e.g. investing in extra hospital capacity) which are costly but most places will probably do (at least for a while). In addition, there are non-trivial bureaucratic changes (how hard is it to start testing for a disease that is already being tested for by the hundred thousand in an allied nation?) and technological ones (can we get a fully tested vaccine in 6 months rather than 18?) that might happen.

Finally, there is a long list of possible changes that are not related to the virus directly. For example, it might become more accepted for people who only need a computer and internet to work from home. For a more negative example, a lot of publications have been extolling the virtues of dense cities with mass transit... but now we've been reminded that this too has hidden costs. What policy conclusions do you think will be drawn?

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As far as diseases are concerned, the key point should be obvious: we've been actually lucky; the next one might be way nastier and be far deadlier, and when that happens, we have to stop it as soon as possible or all our societies will be gone. This is what can happen and what we should be planning for, learning lessons from our numerous fuck-ups this time (and they're far from over, some deluded insanity is going on in parts of the American continent right now).

Still, Harari conveniently forgets that the Black Death actually occurred when there was a massive continent-spanning empire basically linking China to Europe, and it clearly followed the wide open Silk Road that was by then a feature of the Mongol empire. Sure, it had been divided, but was still led by the same group of people and had far closer ties than happened earlier, when you had to go through China, various independent bickering countries, then the Sassanids, and eventually Byzantium/Rome. The same way, the Spanish Flu was massively helped by WWI and US soldiers moving all around America and Europe.

Of course, we shouldn't close borders strictly now. But what's obvious is that countries should be ready to isolate another one and tightly close border if trouble happens - and then neighbouring countries, and others ideally, should send as much aid and relief as possible to the one suffering from an outbreak. I mean, we have centuries of experiences and historical record and the West should've known since the Black Plague that full isolation actually works when you manage to achieve it - but this shouldn't be done selfishly just to let another country die by thousands or millions, it should be coupled with plenty of help, all the while the uninfected countries should still prepare for an outbreak and also have or make some stocks of basic medical supplies. Ideally you should just quarantine a region, but if it's already spread too far, quarantine the country, and then help it as much as possible, because as Harari aptly said, you want to deal with that crap as early as possible, before it can mutate too much.

I also agree with Hariai that the EU should show leadership and prove to European people how useful it can be. Except it's actually showing it's just junk, with countries stopping deliveries of key medical supplies to harder hit countries, and with some downright hijacking shipments that happened to travel through their borders. Bloody EU Commission should manage the global reserves and direct them where they're most needed, not pontificate and at times worry about the damages to the bloody economy.

I'm certain there will be political Hell to pay in some countries - except that it won't be the Chinese regime that will fall, contrary to early Western gloating. But depending on the level of mismanagement and the death tolls, some European or American leadership will probably face a lot of popular trouble when this is over.

Of course, there will be social consequences. A mild one being that remote working will be far more common after the pandemic than it ever was before - though obviously not as high as it is right now. This ties in with the obvious conclusion that the Covid achieved goals Great Thunberg never dreamed of - if only for a time. I expect people to reflect a bit more on what's actually needed to make our societies work, when they'll see the big drop in pollution everywhere. And of course countries will try to be a bit more self-sufficient, specially with vital equipment and resources - globalization as it existed until early January 2020 is most probably dead, though a new better designed one - which takes people's and environment's interests into account, for a starter - will replace it, hopefully.

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Posted (edited)

We can only hope that a big consequence will be that the people who cannot stay at home and work from a laptop get a lot more respect, and pay. They are to a large extent the ones that have to carry the burden of keeping our societies going.

edited to add:

And since the complete stop of travel has clearly shown the impact of AirBnB on rental markets worldwide it is likely companies like that will be much more harshly regulated.

Edited by Seli

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I nearly opened such a thread yesterday to brighten up the mood a little bit. Though I'm less optimistic today for some reason.

The pandemic is a catastrophe, but I see some silver linings:
- It has underlined the importance of a good healthcare system. Right when public healthcare systems were threatened, too... I see this as a possible weakness of neo-liberalism, at least for a couple of years.
- It has shown the importance of cooperation (between countries) and solidarity (inter-generational in this case).
- It has shown that the world actually can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. This is going to change things on the left I think (suddenly, very real measures can be argued for).
- It has shown which jobs are "not bullshit" (see: other thread). Unfortunately, it may also have shown which jobs could disappear faster than initially planned.

So I could see some positives, but most of them can be offset if the pandemic is blamed on globalization and/or China and/or lizardmen... , Also, we're in for a major economic crisis, and how governments deal with that will have a longer-lasting impact than the pandemic itself imho.

I don't see any major changes happening soon-ish. 2020 & 2021 should look a bit like 2008 & 2009: bailouts, stimulus packages, economic morass... etc. I would expect some new-ish ideas to start mattering around 2022, once a bit of time has allowed everyone to analyse what happened and how to deal with it. By that time though, the economic crisis should be hitting hard, so I'm not sure how things will play out.

It's quite possible the pandemic will only have accelerated things and that by 2022 we'll be collectively heading for a breaking point.

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I don't see too drastic changes, because it's simply not in the interests of the powerful. If another virus appears 2 years from now in China, I imagine it's leadership will act exactly like it did on this one and trying to cover up. Likewise, the populists who are doing an horrible job in dealing with the crisis (Trump, Bolsonaro, Obrador, Johnson) will also act similarly if they're still in power.

Still, there will be some positive and some not so positive developments:

A- There will be more attention to disease prevention among the general public, specially those who are infected with corona and/or lose family and friends to it. Over time, it will lessen, but still most people will take wash their hands, cleaning oneself, etc, more seriously, which is a win in itself;

B-Remote working will become even more of a thing. It was already going to increase steadily, but after it's over we'll probably see an amount of people working at home we wouldn't expect to see in decades.

C- Social distancing won't obviously have the levels it has now, but it will also increase. People were already spending an increasing amount of time online, but I imagine it will rise sharply. Likewise, expect people wearing masks in public to become a thing now. Not everyone, but anyone that lives in cities will see dozens of people like this every day.

And those 3 will also each lead to consequences- for example, because of B and C, expects bars, nightclubs and restaurants, even those that survive the crisis, to suffer severely, and many to close, while others become focused on delivery only.  Likewise, entertainment that depends on live performances will suffer.  Doctors and nurses will probably see a salary bump due to the demand, as well as an increase in students choosing to study it in college.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Winterfell is Burning said:

B-Remote working will become even more of a thing. It was already going to increase steadily, but after it's over we'll probably see an amount of people working at home we wouldn't expect to see in decades.

Bracketing out all of the other good sub-topics in this thread I'm quite interested in this one.  

Let me be self-centered for a moment, but I'd bet it'll resonate with plenty of others.  

I have an office, desk, meetings, spreadsheets type of job.  I live in a large city with very bad air by US standards (Los Angeles) and very bad traffic too.  Other than those two things the city is quite awesome with high rent being the other thing that I think most people would complain about.  

We got the work-from-home directive last week and our IT department did God's work getting us all synced up.  So now me and virtually everyone that I work with is holed up at home, but after a few hiccups we are able to get just about everything done.  I would argue that I have easily been more productive, and it's made me realize just how many distractions there are in a typical office.  Calls, walk-ins, chatting with co-workers, etc...

I am not even lobbying to go full-time work-from-home, but even just going to 2/5 days per weak would be an amazing switch, and I would, I can say with certainty now, lose no productivity and maybe even gain some.  And it seems like this is the case for so many of my coworkers. 

Obviously not everyone can do this depending on their work.  A lot of people are my work are in labs, and that's not going to be something you can do remotely, as one example.  

But anyhow...these last two weeks the air quality and traffic changes make the city unrecognizable.  Now after the pandemic of course a lot will return to normal.  But it has me salivating over the possibility that many offices will make a change to some % of the workforce going remote some of the time.  Even if it was just a 20% reduction in days on the road and days in the office I think it would utterly change the city for the better.  The days you were working would be way less horrible because your commute would have sucked less, and you'd get those extra minutes of sleep on the days you got to work from home.  

and then if much of the world does this there seems to be so much climate change potential.

It's hard not to entertain quasi-religious environmentalist thoughts right now:  that Mother Nature had to have its say and intervene with humanity on the course that we were on.  

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2 hours ago, williamjm said:

In the post-pandemic world everyone will have a 6 month stock of toilet paper and hand sanitiser at home.

No, you will have five months supply that I will take from you a month after it happens. Takes a lil while to organize and train a gang. But I have faith.

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6 minutes ago, Triskele said:

It's hard not to entertain quasi-religious environmentalist thoughts right now:  that Mother Nature had to have its say and intervene with humanity on the course that we were on.  

In all honesty it seems more like a warning. Covid-19 is not too lethal after all.

If you want to go quasi-religious, this is a rather gentle warning. Which implies that we can be terrified of the possibility of Mother Nature actually intervening.

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5 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

In all honesty it seems more like a warning. Covid-19 is not too lethal after all.

If you want to go quasi-religious, this is a rather gentle warning. Which implies that we can be terrified of the possibility of Mother Nature actually intervening.

When you put it comme ca perhaps it would be wise to heed the warning...let's see if we do.  

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Wouldn't it be great if humanity collectively realized that massive investment in healthcare systems (that are long overdue in many countries to begin with) are not only beneficial and desirable, but also happen to have little impact on the climate (at least compared to many less crucial fields)?
In other words, that while fighting climate change involves some sacrifices on the purely materialistic side of things (less new smartphones and computers, less individual transportation, less production of things... etc), there is still the possibility of redirecting our labor and energy toward improving our daily lives. In other words, that addressing global warming need not be a painful process if we just stop thinking about what we might lose and start thinking in terms of what we can gain.
A man can dream. Alas, I fear that it will take more than this pandemic to bring about collective awareness about the infinite ways in which our societies can be (re)organized. Instead, a lot of energy -and money- will be spent on forgetting about Covid-19 as quickly as possible and preserving the status quo (ante bellum I'm tempted to add, since this is "war" according to my president).
But who knows. As I said I don't expect much change to happen initially, but I do believe ideas about change will be fueled by the current events.

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Posted (edited)

An easy thing to do is to recommend that every household have a supply of face masks, and to recommend that everyone wear the mask in public during an epidemic/pandemic.  Surgical grade is fine.  The main reason is reduce the rate of transmission from people that are infected but don't know.  People keep focusing on the fact that the virus is tiny and can pass through a surgical mask, so wearing the mask is useless.  This is false.  A surgical mask or even a homemade mask will catch the large droplets that are thought to be the major vector for transmission.  Sure, it's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than nothing, especially when there are or may be asymptomatic carriers.

Asia, which has experience with SARS in 2003, the bird flu, etc., already practice this.  It boggles my mind that we still have many "experts" that think this is a bad idea.  Sure, there is a mask shortage in the US and Europe.  Then just recommend that people cover their nose and mouth with homemade masks, which are easy to make.

After this pandemic has passed, I'll be curious to see if the governments in the West will recommend having some masks in your standard emergency kit.

Edited by Mudguard

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I see traumatised policy makers deciding that economic autarky suddenly looks pretty attractive. Not necessarily North Korea style, but we are going to see a significant scaling back of globalisation.

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Sadly, I think everything will go back to normal, only a lot more bleak because there's no money for anything. Austerity measures everywhere, kind of like Greece after the financial crisis.

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A scaling back of globalization I doubt very much. Maybe some shortening of supply chains for essential goods, but other than that I'm expecting everything to get back to normal.

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10 hours ago, williamjm said:

In the post-pandemic world everyone will have a 6 month stock of toilet paper and hand sanitiser at home.

Not everyone. I for one will have a 12 month supply, and presumably some poor sod is gonna have nothing again.

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I reckon things will pretty much go back to normal but this might accelerate a few processes that were already happening.

Like if a lot of small businesses and shops close down and move entirely online, then what happens to the high streets? They will die out or find another function. It was already happening but maybe this will speed it up.

How will the airline industry cope? A number of struggling operators in the UK but maybe that will become the norm, maybe low cost flight becomes rarer and only a handful of operators exist.

Will remote working become the norm after this? Might be too soon for that but I reckon for a lot of office workers, one day a week at home will become bare minimum with maybe half the week at home becoming normal. 
 

It might accelerate the whole online delivery business as well, with companies pushing to move into that space faster. Especially around grocery shopping this crisis has highlighted some issues for supermarkets. Some brands are well ahead of others when it comes to delivery.

I think we are also gonna see a lot more tension with China as well from now on, this has only made them look worse and relations are not going to improve quickly 

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I dont know if this will happen, but we need to start planning for supply chain disruptions by embracing the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mentality'. A lot of stuff can be repurposed, and a lot of waste eliminated to make our stuff last longer, hopefully some of our more wasteful tendencies can be curbed as well.

I'd also like to see a renewal of DIY skills; for a lot of out products we dont need an expensive brand with over-formulated products. Making soap isnt that difficult, for example, even the Romans did it quite by accident.

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We have had a lot of different diseases over the centuries cause mass epidemics. The unknown plague that just about killed off Athens during the Peloponnesian War certainly changed Athens but in the long run Athenian culture is still the basis for much of western civilization.

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37 minutes ago, IheartIheartTesla said:

I dont know if this will happen, but we need to start planning for supply chain disruptions by embracing the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mentality'. A lot of stuff can be repurposed, and a lot of waste eliminated to make our stuff last longer, hopefully some of our more wasteful tendencies can be curbed as well.

I'd also like to see a renewal of DIY skills; for a lot of out products we dont need an expensive brand with over-formulated products. Making soap isnt that difficult, for example, even the Romans did it quite by accident.

:lmao:

What!?!

All kinds of people are being over panicked and, quite frankly, stupid about this situation. But this is by far the fucking weirdest take I've seen.

People are going to make their own soap? Get the fuck out of my country. Make my own soap! I'll personally drown every person in this hemisphere with a cough in soap before I curl a finger to manufacture it.

All of this said with the greatest affection, of course. I bear you no ill will. But... WOW!

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