After the Pandemic

Illustration by Mark Pernice

The folks over at the Washington Post have put together a piece on how the world will change after this pandemic — not in the huge ways, but in the smaller, day-to-day ways — and they asked me to write something for it. I did a piece on personal greetings, because, as it happens, it was a matter of some discussion on the cruise I just came back from. My piece, and the whole package, is here for your reading. Enjoy.

31 Comments on “After the Pandemic”

  1. Alas, I suspect that after the pandemic, those of us across the pond will still be excluded from US news media.

    Or maybe, looking on the bright side, said access might be like hens teeth — a Brexit benefit.

  2. Whoops, do used to seeing the ‘European’s not welcome here’ I missed the ‘you’re out of free articles’ banner. My bad — it’s not that I’m European (temporarily), just that I’m not paying.

  3. I expect it will be a matter of debate in a lot of areas – including now what is supposed to actually be a realistic capacity for the venues at which live music happens. There is at least one venue in Denver I won’t go into because they had a habit at the time of filling to what I suspect was well above their rated safe capacity.

    There’s also the impact on hobbies. My husband and I play board games, and we occasionally go to a group at a Local Friendly Gaming Store, but there’s an acknowledgement that board games can be a potential infection vector with something like a coronavirus. We’re trying not to be paranoid about it (“games are meant to be played”), but it could merit a discussion about whether we need to arrange things like game modifications (card sleeves, clear lacquer on wood pieces) and disinfection (rest time between plays, UV exposure for some pieces).

    I’d be curious what it does to restaurants (clearly in the future many of them may be forced to actively court delivery services or hire drivers of their own) and conventions (we’ve had at least a couple cancelled thus far in the local area, and heard of at least two others, the latter two involving video games and pinball), and are having to consider that the pinball one local to us that we’ve been prepping to try to take machines to that we might have to at best consider nixing the idea of taking our machines for at least this year. There’s going to be a number of casualties among those, some of the cancelled conventions are dealing with monetary obligations that having it cancelled by overriding circumstances isn’t actually vacating for them.

  4. At the macro level, I think the markets will take hits anytime new future viruses are discovered to be infecting people.

  5. Their anti-adblocker ‘ware blocks me even though I’ve disabled Adblock Plus for that website. Just having it installed on my browser, whitelisted or not, is a no-no to the WaPo site.

  6. As I mentioned in the comments over at WaPo: The elbow bump seems to be gaining social currency here in Austin, at least. Since Monday, I’ve stuck my elbow out at a half-dozen different acquaintances, neighbors, or vendors, each was returned with an elbow and a laugh. Maybe it’s just the novelty for now, but I haven’t seen anyone refuse or uncomprehending.

  7. As far as Adblock goes, I have three browsers (Chrome, Safari, and Firefox). I only have Adblock on Firefox, so if I hit a website that objects, I can look at it with either of the other two. A pain, to be sure, but workable.

  8. The first comment is sort of symptomatic of what’s going to keep us from building a more resilient culture that can survive the increasing barrage of existential threats we’ve let ourselves in for (no, I won’t derail this into a discussion on climate change, overpopulation, etc. But it’s there all the same.)

    ‘It’s not “going to change our lives forever.” Please.’

    Well, yeah, it IS.

    Partly because our lives change forever every single day, regardless of existential threats, and with technological advances the changes become increasingly noticeable (and threatening, to the change-averse, which on some level is pretty much all of us homo sapiens, evolved to give change the side-eye unless it’s our very own individual idea of How To Improve Things).

    This particular existential threat looks to me like nature hitting a “reset” button. To prevent further damage, we need to go back and change system configuration, or we’re gonna get more and more Blue Screens at a faster and faster pace.

    So if we’re LUCKY, it will change our lives forever. It will make us think about how we look after one another, what we prioritize in shaping our economic structures, how we build a reward system that rebalances to “us” rather than “me”, and even redefining “us”.

    We have a chance to change the system config.

    If we’re smart, we’ll take it.

    And yes, it will change our lives forever.

  9. I concur that it’s going to be the Mira Grant/Newsflesh world.

    I fear that theater/entertainment is going to be… I can’t even deal with thinking about it.

  10. I was wondering whether it might help kick-start Vernor Vinge’s Singularity by enforcing an emphasis on remote close interaction methods (yes, sounds like a contradiction).

    On greetings – my favorite so far is PM Jacinda Ardern’s “East Coast Wave” to replace the handshake and hongi, which she demonstrates with her expressive signer Alan Wendt: https://twitter.com/i/status/1239457073886191617

  11. Ffs, i don’t read anything from Washington Post because of the Paywall.

    However, apropos of the actual question, THIS is going to be the trigger that actually enables telework. For decades, I’ve actually been able to telework, but employers have actively resisted it–and I’ve not fought it because i didn’t think i was as productive at home. Now, the boss is insisting i work from home, and I’ve found myself getting more done!

  12. The elbow bump isn’t all that safe if we’re supposed to sneeze and cough into our elbows.

  13. The only thing that is going to change is one more bullet point on John’s very excellent “Thoughts and Prayers” post from a while back.

    Ah yes, here it is: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/06/12/thoughts-and-prayers/

    This country has a pretty horrible record for making systemic changes after disaster, tragedy, or calamity. 30 dead kindergartners resulted 0 changes. Near total economic collapse resulted in some minor changes to reporting regulations. You should all expect to be back at the grindstone as soon as whatever man is turning it says its safe.

    Public health be damned, there is commerce to be had.

  14. Regarding board gaming, this is a great time to get Tabletop Simulator if you haven’t already and organize online board games with your friends that you would normally play with in person (there are also sites like Yucata which offer options for some online board games). Between that and voice chat it’s not quite the same as being there in person, but it’s a good stopgap during our national quarantine. Also a great way to keep playing games with old buddies who’ve moved away!

    One negative outgrowth of the increasing acceptance of work from home is this also leads to companies realizing that if they can manage with fully remote employees, there’s no reason those employees need to be local, and going for much greater outsourcing of jobs to countries where they can hire people cheaply. The company I work for has already been leaning in this direction since our team has been fully remote for years- I’ve made it clear we can’t be hiring developers in completely incompatible time zones at least (at minimum we need to be able to have these people in our regular meetings), but they still are pushing as much as possible to hire in cheap countries for everything they can. It makes sense from a business standpoint, but it’s not going to improve the long term employment situation in the US after the immediate crisis has past.

    Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of personal contact with people I don’t know well, so if the aftermath of this leads to less people I barely know trying to hug me I’m all for that!

    One tip about the adblock issue- you can also setup multiple profiles in Chrome (and probably other browsers as well). That way you can browse sites that aren’t compatible with your default settings easily without having to switch apps. It can also help get around the max free article count issues sometimes. I’ve been paying for Washington Post since the last presidential election (when I realized those of us who can afford it really need to make an attempt to support the press on sites we consume regularly) but I often have to work around various limits to read articles on random news sites I don’t visit often enough to justify paying for a subscription to.

  15. The elbow bump is for sure gaining traction, bit it takes for granted something that hasn’t been true for a bit — seeing other people. The last time I talked to someone other than my wife in person in more than a cursory interaction was The Boat.

    Speaking of That Cruise we went on together: Are you planning to share any pictures here?

    In particular, I’m thinking of the ones you took during the last concert. We saw you take pictures from the wings — getting the shots none of the audience can.

    I’d love to see any those!

  16. My wife and I were having dinner in a restaurant a week before we all stopped doing that in the Bay Area, and a friend I hadn’t seen in a while walked in and came over and did the elbow-bump with us. I forget if it emerged during SARS or one of the SwineBird Flu epidemics. (I like the East Coast Wave better; I’m not sure whose east coast it’s from, maybe Australia’s?)

    I’m currently on the east coast taking care of my mom, and it’s really strange to see almost nobody except medical folks wearing masks (even though the drug store’s out of them here too.) I’ve been wearing my Scary Hacker black hoodie and nose-to-chin ski mask when I’ve gone out; I was considering wearing a bandanna and black cowboy hat through TSA.

    My flight was out of SFO’s newly-remodeled Harvey Milk Terminal 1, which isn’t really done yet, half the gates and 3/4 of the stores aren’t open yet, almost deserted, fewer passengers than construction workers, lots of bright white paint (including on the “store coming here” spaces), pretty alien.

  17. Expect more newborns than usual, starting in December.

    Think of it as just-in-time delivery for Christmas.

  18. Yeah, I’ve thought about trying Tabletop Simulator, and I do have Tabletopia installed… I just don’t know if any of those people from that gaming group are on Steam to attempt to do the online gaming thing, plus there’s paying for some of these games again.

    I do have a bunch of the better games on Steam outside TS and TT. And I played a couple of games with my husband today at our board game table in the basement. And we’ll be breaking one in tomorrow.

  19. On your last Covid blog you said ‘At least our response (now) isn’t “Get them all sick, let God sort them out,” which I understand is the current UK government response — or was until I think yesterday evening’
    What I’ve been seeng here in Brexmenistan is a measured government response, based on scientific and medical advice. It doesn’t seem to me to be worse than anywhere else and possibly marginally better. They didn’t go for the “we must do something, this is something, we’ll do it” approach to policy making, but, as far as I could see they weren’t ignoring it, they were responding to events in accordance with the advice of the chief medical officer.
    I guess the view is different from Trumpton State.

  20. @Just Me Uhh….

    Several friends across the pond shared news with me of what sort of response Boris’s government was doing: namely, herd immunity.

    Once they realized this would mean the death of million of Tories, they switched strategies.

    Here’s one of many, many articles on it: https://www.technologyreview.com/f/615369/uk-dropping-coronavirus-herd-immunity-strategy-250000-dead/

    Prefer something from the Guardian?
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/15/epidemiologist-britain-herd-immunity-coronavirus-covid-19

  21. I’d missed the herd immunity idea. To be fair to our great leader, it sounds as though that was from the scientific advisers, not a political response.

  22. I suspect the same people complaining about the paywalls at the WaPo and NYT are also complaining, loudly, about all the newspapers they don’t want to pay for going bankrupt.

    Note that the WaPo, NYT, and the Atlantic all have paywalls, and are all managing to stay in business.

    Information may want to be free, but information gatherers want to be paid.

  23. Wrt NewsfleshWorld, since Seanan is quite obviously writing the script for the world right now I’ve been trying to find a way to get her to write a sequel that at least has a moderately happy ending.