The Covid-19 pandemic is turning out to be an unprecedented event in human history. While we’ve gone through our share of ancient plagues, this is the first time it’s happening to such a large human population. Humans are in vastly more abundance now than we’ve ever been, making it easier for the virus to mutate and evolve as it now has access to more subjects than any other virus in history.
Worryingly, it’s a virus that knows what it’s doing, too. While we won’t even bother with the numbers – as they keep updating by the hour at this point – we can tell that it has brought the world to a standstill. Some of the world’s biggest countries are struggling to contain the disaster, and it’s anyone’s best guess how we’d get things back to normal once all this is over.
What we can say for sure, though, is that the Covid-19 pandemic could end up permanently changing the world in many ways, much like most of other major pandemics in history.
7. No Traffic Anymore
Many aspects of our everyday lives have been completely transformed since the pandemic took its worst form, though the most drastic change has been in how we move around. People around the world are changing their traffic habits for the first time since the automobile revolution, and in more complicated ways than you’d guess.
The surprising part is that not all of it is due to lockdown restrictions. Traffic has gone down in nearly every major city in the world, regardless of the scale of the pandemic among its residents. In many American cities with relatively fewer restrictions, rush hours are now the best and most pleasant to drive around.
While most of it could be chalked up to people not having anything to do, and hence nowhere to go in the pandemic, some of it also has to do with the larger realization among the masses that cars really aren’t as necessary and awesome as auto companies always make them out to be. If a global pandemic can force us to change our driving patterns and lower traffic pollution in some of the most congested cities in the world to an absolute minimum, maybe we should continue doing that after it’s over, too.
6. It’s Speeding Up The Adoption Of Driverless Technology
Driverless technology is a definite part of any future we imagine. It’s impossible to dream of conquering the stars if we still have to manually drive our cars to go to work. It’s a foregone conclusion that at some point in the future, automated cars will rule the roads.
There are, however, still many genuine concerns surrounding the technology. The primary one is that we still don’t know if fully automated vehicles are safe. There have been quite a few injuries – as well as one death – caused by automated vehicles, proving that the tech is still in its infancy. That’s the reason many countries around the world have checks and regulations against the manufacturing of truly autonomous driverless vehicles.
Unfortunately – or fortunately for the people owning those companies – the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing governments and regulatory agencies to consider relaxing some of those regulations, as there seems to be no other way to restart the supply chains without putting real people at risk. Many companies in China have already started using completely automated vehicles for deliveries, and it’s expected that countries like the USA could soon follow suit. While it would definitely speed up the adoption of a technology that would end up helping a lot of people, it’s still in its nascent stages at this point, full of loopholes and inaccuracies that may prove to be dangerous if left unchecked.
5. The End Of Globalization
The second half of the 20th century was nothing short of a golden age of human cooperation, as the world got more connected than ever before. For the first time in our history, trade and diplomacy have been much more profitable for rulers than looting and plunder. Almost every country is now a connected part (with some differences here and there) of a flourishing global market. Or at least it was, until the pandemic hit and undid almost all of that.
Where the second half of the 20th century would be known for its massive globalization drive, the post Covid-19 world could prove be its complete reversal. It’s not in the future, either. We’re already seeing the slow decimation of the global oil industry (as we’d discuss in detail in a bit), which is one of the biggest pillars of this global, interconnected market together. Another one is the airlines industry, which has been going through stock market crashes and divestment from major investors since the beginning of the pandemic.
Moreover, the lockdowns and general panic due to the virus have forced us to subconsciously think of the world in small, protected spaces, instead of the global playground that we grew up to see it as. Even if everything else goes back to normal, that would be hard to change.
4. Wild Animals Are Having The Time Of Their Lives
With almost the entire world on a lockdown – self-imposed or otherwise – there has been a fundamental change in our daily lifestyle. For the first time in history, almost the entire human population is spending its time indoors.
It’s a change that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the animal world, as wild animals are showing up in a variety of places now devoid of human activity. Take the wild Kashmiri goats that were found nonchalantly roaming around on the empty roads in Wales, or the coyotes in San Francisco, or the sounds of birds singing in cities that are otherwise loud and densely populated. Animals that usually keep their distance from human settlements are now emboldened by our sudden departure from public places, which may just end up solving the problem of dwindling natural habitats worldwide.
3. Reduced Hospital Visits For Other Diseases
The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenge for some of the best healthcare systems in the world. Most of the countries adversely affected by it are developed, technologically-advanced nations, proving once and for all that modern healthcare still can’t solve global pandemics that our immune systems have never seen before.
Among all this, something else is happening. While hospitals and healthcare workers are stretched thin tending to coronavirus cases, visits for other emergencies have drastically dropped, to the extent that it couldn’t be explained by people just avoiding getting checked up. It’s almost as if most of the other diseases – including the influenza virus, which is usually a major problem in many countries – have disappeared as soon as the novel coronavirus struck. Of course, you’d be wary of visiting a hospital for a minor cough in the middle of a global pandemic, but visits are down for almost all diseases and illnesses across the board, including major ones, and we’re not sure why.
2. No More Oil
The price of oil has been on a consistent slide ever since the pandemic started. The countries most affected by it also happen to be some of the most industrialized and developed nations in the world that usually require a lot of oil to sustain their massive economies. Without any economic activity, the demand for oil is only set to decrease even further. If it hasn’t already, that is, as oil prices have already touched negative levels in the past few weeks (though they’ve rebounded a bit recently). Yes, that means that oil producers were paying other people to take oil off their hands due to limited storage.
In such an unprecedented turn of events, it’s safe to say that this could be the end of oil-based economies. The pandemic comes on the heels of massive climate change movements around the world, with many countries already looking at ways to reduce their reliance on oil. It would only end up catalyzing the movement against the oil industry, something no climate change activist has been able to achieve.
However, that doesn’t mean that it would be good for every one of us. The oil industry still employs millions of hardworking, honest employees who probably wouldn’t have enough time to adapt to the new order of things. Regardless, for good or ill, the Covid-19 pandemic just might be the end of oil as we know it.
1. The Biggest Financial Crisis In History
Every major pandemic in history has been followed by a long period of economic distress immediately after it, especially in the affected regions. Whether it’s the Black Plague or the Spanish Flu, viruses have been particularly bad for business throughout our history.
The novel coronavirus is no different. While this pandemic is turning out to be as economically devastating as any previous one, the scale of the damage this time is much higher. According to some experts, the oncoming economic recession could be bigger than any financial crisis ever, and that includes the Great Depression of the ’30s. While it may sound like counting money when people are dying, that inaccurately assumes that economic problems don’t kill people.
Just take the last financial crisis in 2008 which, according to one study, caused around 5,000 men in North America and Europe to commit suicide. And that’s just the First World. The most acute effects of modern financial crashes are concentrated in the poorer parts of the world, where economic prosperity is directly tied to political and social stability. The 2008 crash could be seen as the starting point of a slew of uprisings and general unrest in many Third World countries, especially in the Middle East, some of which have now turned into global conflicts.