It took a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders for 1.5 billion people worldwide, but something is finally occurring to us: The future we thought we expected may not be the one we get.
We know that things will change; how they’ll change is a mystery. To envision a future altered by coronavirus, Quartz asked dozens of experts for their best predictions on how the world will be different in five years.
Below is an answer from Ian Bremmer, a political scientist and president of the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm specializing in political risk. He’s written 10 books—Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism, published in 2018, was a New York Times bestseller—and hosts a TV show called GZERO World, which is focused on global politics.
Life is going to be plenty different six months from now, let alone five years. One thing we can bet on is much more inequality… and coronavirus will play a significant part in that.
We’re going to see an uptick in inequality on the domestic front—in the developed world, much of that’s coming on the backs of those that aren’t in the knowledge economy, i.e. those that are most easily displaced by technology and automation. In the developing world, the increase in inequality will be the result of the globalization slowdown and just-in-time supply chains being shortened and rerouted, leading to higher unemployment within the global middle class. This was a structural trend that was picking up speed even before the pandemic, but coronavirus has now accelerated it.
We’ll see more inequality on the global stage—for example, between those countries with the tech companies and infrastructure to control critical data and determine the future global economy (also sped up by the current pandemic), and those that don’t. We’ll also see an increasing divide between countries with commodities versus those that have to secure them from elsewhere; as supply chains get more politicized (particularly around food and rare earth metals that are critical to new energy sources), we’re going to see more and more goods stopped at borders.
It’s not all bad news—this yawning inequality will lead to a push for improved social contracts (especially as millennials, who support these policies, become more demographically/politically powerful). But this bid to rewrite social contracts will be taking place after a major global economic contraction and with massive debt, which means it is only getting more challenging to pay for.
In other words, things will get worse before they get better.