Making predictions is hard. Particularly about the future. And if you just did a double take and said “Uh, Sarah, that’s what you’re supposed to do for a living.”
Well, not actually, no. We’re not prophets. We might be bards, in that we take some spark of the future and bring it forward. Just a little bit, just enough to say “The future could be like this.” But around it we build a plausible world, which, as we all know, could not possibly be true.
So what we do in fact is create possible parallel worlds. Which is why Heinlein’s — and even Simak’s — worlds are still enjoyable to step into. It is, in other words, a form of fantasy, which is why whenever we get into the argument of how hard sf is, or what the hard line between science fiction and fantasy is, we get lost in the weeds, and the line recedes ever further like the rainbow.
Because intrinsically, fiction must be plausible. Reality hardly ever is. And I swear since about 95 the world has fallen down the weird legs of the pants of time. We have not thought how bizarre it all is because we’re in it, but if you step back, imagine visiting your 1980 self and telling him/her how we got here, and where here is. Yeah. I wouldn’t believe me either. Though perhaps the line goes further back. Perhaps I broke the engine of logic and probability when I found what my mom always called “A man stupid enough to marry you.” I don’t know if you should be grateful to me for doing so or not.
However my subconscious is such that I can often make semi-accurate predictions short-time. I can sort of “feel” the future, even if I can’t see it clearly or tell you the details.
So. I’m starting to feel where we’re headed, sort of. This is not an exhaustive list, and it will probably resurface (on the non-pay) side of PJMedia, as a series of posts, in which I go into each of the things I see coming. It is also not perfectly logical, it’s just my sense of how people respond.
First let me tell you that despite climbing American deaths, I stand by my prediction of a maximum # of deaths no more than a mild flu season. I also expect — as I told you in the past — that our large cities will take it in the shorts. I’m surprised that’s only materializing for one large DENSE city so far. I expected Boston and Philadelphia and most dense Eastern cities to be in the same shape as NYC. I also expected San Fran and LA to follow suit.
All I can say as a means to explain the difference (and that post is almost written, also for PJ, but I need to go in and trim it, because even on the paid side 4k words is ridiculous) it comes down to culture, and in NYC its culture is somewhat enforced by its very goofy real-estate restraints and rent control. In a visit some years ago, son told me that he now understood how people could live in what amounted to modified walk-in closets. It’s because they don’t. They mostly eat out. The neighborhood bar or coffee shop is their living room. Home is the place you sleep and keep your clothes.
As such a new form of flu that devolves into pneumonia would go through it, as grandma would say “like a knife through cheese.”
Though I want to point out there might be other things at play. Things we will find out only in retrospect that explain the really, really bad clusters we’re getting. Perhaps different mutated strains, or… who knows? perhaps certain regions hadn’t got other milder forms that made us semi-immunized.
That we need to isolate those clusters goes without saying. It also goes without saying that the rest of us need to be functioning, our economy recovering and working, so we can lend help and assistance.
It’s bizarre and bordering on the strange that so many governors and mayors and even city councils are going the other way and enforcing strict lock downs NOW, thereby choosing to commit economic suicide and render themselves helpless. Which is one of the things we’ve learned, that I’m not sure WILL influence the future, because humans are not rational.
- When given the opportunity to exert power, some people will do it, even when it OBJECTIVELY hurts the polity they swore to protect, even when it’s contra-productive, even when it will destroy them and those they govern. The power we give people to do so must be limited. It must be limited NOW. Fortunately we don’t need to go to the moon for the writ on how to do it. We’re supposed to live in a constitutional republic. Let’s get back to that project, shall we? And rest assured that the founding fathers knew of pandemics. Read the history of John Adams. It doesn’t help that most people won’t go that way, as our government preens on saving us from the evil bad, when in fact they mostly stepped in the way and caused problems particularly on the local level.
Remember the most egregious abuses, come November. And fight, fight, fight in the culture to bring back the republic we inherited now mostly honored in the breach. Don’t expect to win in your life time. The ruination has been in effect for 100 years. But maybe, just maybe we can bring it back without the cold civil war going hot. Maybe. Maybe by the time we’re long dead and our great grandchildren can vote.
- People should distrust the press after this. They didn’t trust them particularly before. Unfortunately, judging from even people on the right running around with their heads on fire repeating CNN nonsense… They won’t. What they will is remember who held their hands through the fear. Also, what I expect will be a trend towards working from home will make people see/hear a lot more daytime tv and talk shows and “news” all day long. (Not my house but we’re not normal.)
Expect a lot more panics and insane reactions stoked over the next few years. The thing is, and I’m going to quote grandma again “The more the jar goes to the well, the greater of the chance it will lose its handle.”
They can’t help it. They’re going to stampede and stampede and stampede, until their power is all gone.
Before they inflict a socialist/socialism on us? I don’t know. We must trust in G-d to save fools, drunkards and the United States of America. This makes me panicky. While I’m a religious person, I like seeing my path clear to ensuring the results I want. I just don’t.
- Things that will not come back, not even if you want them to: Comic bookshops, bookstores, recreational conventions and even to some extent business gatherings in other cities.
There will be some. I would very much like TVIW to survive. I think it does something important. But who knows.
Anyway, in the secondary effects from that, I think that paper books will basically go by the way side as a separate commodity. Those who want them CAN get them from Amazon. This means that traditional publishers just lost their advantage over indies.
What can they do to survive? Oh, so many things. The old Baen model — now mostly honored in the breach — of promoting a strong community of readers who have a dedicated site to discuss the books, and also of publishing the type of books that people in that community prefer might work. After all the problem of indies is promo, and a place where you can be assured you’ll meet authors you’ll probably like helps. There’s other stuff. They’ll definitely have to think in terms of “What value add do we give writers, so they publish with us.” Mere advances are not enough any more. Not compared to losing a substantial portion of your earnings and control over the books.
The same goes for most of our creative entertainment from comics to art to movies. Hollywood is taking it in the shorts too, and I hope you indie movie makers and CGI spinners are warming up your machines. Please.
This of course might win us the cold civil war. Before or after it turns hot, I don’t know.
- I think social distancing is here to stay in a way. IN A WAY. Whether this entire panic was justified or not, remember that people experience trauma by what they go through. Most people were traumatized by this. Things will change.
I see a lot of shopping going on line. If anyone reading this knows someone who knows someone who can get hold of the President’s ears, tell him that tax laws must be changed.
You cannot collect tax for every state you sell things in. You cannot, as a small business. Free small businesses to sell across state lines, please.
This is not tremendously difficult. Just say under x revenue (and not the current 4k, maybe more like 500k) you’re exempt from that nonsense.
If we don’t do this, then Amazon and the other mega corps will continue growing, but the economy will suffer as will small creators and seller.
America is and should be the land of small businesses. That’s what makes us the engine of the future. Let’s stop shoving them into the arms of mega corps. Because that story doesn’t end well.
But look for a ton more delivery services for everything, from groceries to craft materials, to pet food. We’re already seeing some of that — the pet store went curbside pickup — because people will be leery of touching things a lot of people have touched.
- Weirdly I really don’t think restaurants will be affected IN THE LONG RUN. Sure, you’re going to see a lot more pick up and delivery. They were already trending that way. But people eat together with friends and acquaintances. It’s a behavior as old as time. Refusing to break bread with the enemy is also. They’ll come back. We have on our schedule 2 meals a week (I need to write more to afford it) come all-clear.
What I do see is a lot more CLEANING and visible cleaning in restaurants. This is not a bad thing, though it might bump up the price of your meal a little.
I do think for a while we’re all going to eat out a lot, and then eating out in person might slip back a bit, to less than normal pre-panic. Because delivery and pick up will take the place of a lot of it. Eh. Willing to live with it. I’m planning a series of picnics with my sweetie for this summer. Maybe parks can put in a lot more picnic tables, well distanced, please. (This could be wistful thinking and people might very well, indeed, eat out A LOT less, and cook at home instead. I doubt it though. We’re now up to three generations of people having no clue how to cook from scratch. So I doubt the trend to have someone else make your food will change.)
- How we work will change. At least for those of us who work in the vineyards of the mind. Again, the experience has impressed itself.
For everyone who says if they have to spend another day at home with spouse and kids there will be a murder, there is another who loves commuting from bedroom to kitchen, then with a cup of coffee to the office, living room or wherever their work-domain is.
Some number will gratefully rush back to the office with glad cries. Others will demure, making noise about how they’re afraid to go back because the bug might come back.
I expect once this is all said and done a good 1/3 of American workforce will move to the home, permanently.
This will affect EVERYTHING from work-mobility (if all you do is change the system you’re logging into it’s easier to change jobs) to how we raise our kids (what daycare?) to how we school our kids (Junior just logs into school while mom works next to him. Trust me, it’s doable. I lived like that through a year. It was actually kind of pleasant. I took my office mate for walks at lunch, and rambled on and on about what he’d learned. We’re still close), to where we live (weirdly people in that situation actually prefer smallish city to country. Mostly because you see other people, and most of us need that.) to how houses are built. The Obama years already changed that, somewhat. When we were looking for houses, it was amazing how many had an almost separate apartment, mother in law suite or other arrangements, including newly built ones. You see, it was a selling-thing. The people who boomeranged home, or had to look after parents, preferred houses with it.
Look for houses with a “work area” in the “desirable” prices that appeal to people working with their minds. Perhaps a work area, next to a school room. One of the things this long-time home-worker has learned is that having a dedicated work space works best.
It will also affect WHOM we marry. Dan and I have sort of worked out an arrangement, where he can talk to me about programing, and sometimes it helps, but I neither really understand it nor can I really help if he has a snag.
I think you’re going to see a lot more of people with like specialties marrying. Or at least people with related specialties. To be fair, this was already part of online meeting.
But maybe not as much. You are however going to see a lot more people marrying people they want to spend a lot of time with, not just in the evenings.
In the long run this will be good for families. And humans in general, to be fair.
- While at it, watch what happens to unemployment. Because this has taught us a bunch of things expect a lot of manufacturing to come back home. (And please, again, anyone with the ear of anyone who can change things, get rid of the stupid Thor Powertools decision that caused Just In Time supplying and also off-shoring.
Now most Americans will NOT work for Chinese slave labor prices. Which is good.
But our machines will. If you have a kid in engineering (hi, son) remind them that robotics will be a major growth field in the future. MAJOR.
Fortunately it already is fairly advanced, even if we haven’t been using it, likely because of stupid regulations.
Now it’s a matter of life and death. America will revive industrially. Probably very, very fast.
But even robotic factories need workers.
I suspect in the future there will be a lot of jobs in manufacturing that amount to supervising vast factories and being able to stop them and do limited fix ups when things go wrong. Eventually some of these will be done remotely, but not right away.
I think we’ll recover quickly, because we need a lot of workers for this industrial revival, even if the jobs will be different.
Because the rest of the world will hurt far more than us, we will also enjoy relative advantage, combined with being innovative, as we are and must be allowed to be again.
There will be other things. Some of them trivial. I think wearing masks inn public is going to be as much a thing here as in Japan. Partly because of the remembered shock of this month. Partly because I’ll be honest my kids’ generation always thought they were cool, since they grew up with anime.
And there will be things we can’t even imagine (the bane of SF writers everywhere) which come from this month.
I expect the reverberations of it to work themselves through every aspect of our life, from trivial to profound for the rest of my life, even if we recover enough for me to have another 30 to 40 years ahead of me.
Keep in mind the shape of the future and work towards making it better and more individual.
On the way there, expect us to have serious challenges and an attempt to completely dismantle the republic (like we never had those before. I do however expect this one to come in the next couple of weeks and be in-your-face-blatant. I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right cross my palm with silver. Or send me $5.)
If we survive, though, there is a bright, beckoning future. For us, for America, for all we hold dear.