The Pessimist: “It can’t get any worse”.
The Optimist: “Yes, it can”
After spending some time on Twitter over the last few weeks, I have become an expert in the post-corona world. As ever, we are at the fork-in-the-road. Which way are we going to go? Well, according to Twitter there are only two scenarios possible:
The Dystopian Scenario
You wake up. You check online your hours. Today, non-immunes such as you can go out between 11.00 and 13.00. You have a long list of errands so you need to optimize your time out. There’s an app for that: “Clowdtime”. Using Clowdtime is of course not optional – you are expected to log all places you visit while outside in your Clowdtime app.
Only immune people are allowed to roam freely. Everyone else is in perpetual lockdown, working from home.
Everyone is expected to take antibodies tests regularly. That’s the theory at least. In practice, there aren’t enough tests and you, along with millions others, are on the waiting list. You are checking your Clowdtime timeline obsessively, hoping your test is coming up.
On the dark web, there are people offering ways around. But it’s risky. The only thing you ever bought on the Dark Web is an encryption device for your smartphone. You don’t really have anything to hide, it is just that the constant surveillance makes you nervous. You are old school.
You are a bit late for work. This will cost you. You may be working from home, but your work activity is closely monitored by Cloudtime. It runs on your computer and tracks every mouseclick. Every keystroke. It takes random screenshots. You get paid to work, after all. Not to sit around. You hate it, but at least it is a job.
You are expected to do a biometric check-in every 30 mins. Just to make sure you haven’t forgotten your phone at home. It’s for your own protection, you understand that.
Clowdtime didn’t even exist before the pandemic. Now it’s everywhere. It started as a cool productivity tool to help companies coordinate among people working from home – it integrated virtual collaboration with teleconferencing and task management. Soon enough, with millions unemployed, it pivoted into facilitating gigs.
When the banks collapsed, Cloudtime was the first to run its own credit system. This allowed people to continue making and receiving payments over the platform, even as the inflation destroyed whatever was left of the currencies.
Now, you are making your mortgage payments in Cloudtime credits. And you are earning cloudtime credits by doing your work in the cloudtime platform. Your employer is using the cloudtime platform to manage you and they are paying them in credits which they get from their clients.
High street is dead, of course. The few shops that survived, never really opened after the pandemic. Cloudtime delivers everywhere now and their local shops directory is pretty good. Restaurants and bars are open but you hate the checkups at the entrance and still feel a bit uncomfortable sharing your medical history with the owners. You are old school.
You remember the days when you could just travel. Now, no one even wants to travel anymore. The hassle is just not worth it. Endless fees, applications, document copies and medical checks. Quarantines at arrival each way. Forced invasive apps and devices. To make things worse, many countries have turned authoritarian during the crisis. Nationalism is rampant. Surveillance everywhere. The epidemic’s successive waves legitimized the “emergency” measures put in place initially and now they are just every day reality.
Towards the late afternoon you had enough. You also want a break from the howling feral dogs outside – their owners simply left them behind when they got foreclosed. So you put on your googles and retreat in Fortnite for a bit of brainless fun. That’s where all your friends are. The kids prefer the new Cloudtime universe games – with VR and haptic features. You however are old school.
The Utopian Scenario
You wake up really early. You are a morning person so you get straight to work – your employer allows people to choose to work from home if they want to. This allows you to work in your own time and be there when the kids are coming from school early afternoon. Your benefits cover part of your rent and include the option to set up a fully functional office for yourself at home. This allows you to live in a bigger, nicer place than the one you were living in before the pandemic.
Unfortunately your Special Other’s employer did not make it through the crisis. However, your government’s Universal Basic Income program – rolled out after the crisis – is providing both of you with enough money to go through this period without too much disruption. It also allows them to look at their option and find a job that they feel they would enjoy doing.
The weather is fine. You decide to take a walk in the afternoon with the kids. The air is clean in your city and you feel that the comprehensive renewable energy policies that were adopted after the pandemic are really working. There are less cars – less people need them, with the option to work from home and the reduced need for side-hustles.
The universal basic income scheme really helped with homelessness in your city. People seem friendlier – the crisis brought the community closer. The crisis also made it obvious how important it is to have quality healthcare and support structures – the new government made good to their promise and are pushing further reforms through parliament.
You stop for a snack at the local bakery. A quick scan of the QR code tells you more about the pie you are eating. It is baked right here. The eggs are fresh and locally sourced. The coffee comes straight from a family farm in Honduras. You tip the farmers the usual 5% and head out.
You remember the days when climate change was controversial. The pandemic gave a whole generation perspective. It made people trust science more than they used to. Helped them look beyond narratives and politics. It made them realize how fast things can deteriorate and how important it is to be prepared. “You can’t tell the future but you can prepare for it” was something a lot of people said these days.
We beat this pandemic by collaborating and supporting each other. It was hard but the global solidarity and the shared experience have been amazing. We made friends in far away places.
If we could survive the epidemic, we can do something about the environment.
We are in this together.
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