How will the 2020 pandemic alter the way we live, work and play?

By Eden D Cohen | Principal Program Manager | Microsoft

I believe Covid-19 can take on two general paths depending on how long it lasts and how much damage it leaves behind. The positive path is one where we would soon see a change for the better and succeed in "flattening the curve", not only in individual countries, but across borders. This will likely involve pharmaceutical interventions and the ability to stop the overall spread. Under this scenario, Covid-19 may be remembered as a recession, but not a fundamentally world-changing event. As time goes and infections increase exponentially, this becomes less likely.

The dire path is for Covid-19 is to disrupt the global order for decades to come. It could mean the disease sticks around for years, turning the temporary into a new normal with life and business reshaping around social distancing. Business travel would disappear in favor of remote collaboration. Virtual experiences would displace social and outside leisure activities. Human interaction might become a mostly digitized touch-free affair. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Deeper still, the global supply chain would adapt to a de-globalized environment where trade takes a backstage and nations try to do it all themselves. And inside those nations, wealth inequality would shrink as massive riches are forever lost. At the same time, poverty and hunger may reach alarming levels in low and middle income countries, resulting in even greater disparities between nations. Let's stop there before it gets out of hand!

I think and I hope that reality will be much closer to the first. Ultimately, though, which path we take will be a combination of our policy response, our ability to come up with effective scientific solutions, and a good deal of plain luck with parameters of the virus that we don't yet understand.