We thought the pandemic would be over by now but it's not. So, we're back to making predictions and dreaming about the future. This week: LIGHTNING, more riots, and teens permanently pivot to TikTok.
Indoor dining will fully shut down again. We expected some sort of indoor dining rollback, but we didn’t expect last week’s announcement that indoor dining will soon be limited to members of the same household, sitting at the same table. 🤔 What about eating out with a partner who lives in another apartment? Or with a child who lives with another family member? Won’t people just lie? This Tinder-Dates-on-the-Patio-Only Rule will apparently be enforced by “restaurants—say, a host or hostess—ask[ing] customers if they are in the same household,” says the governor’s deputy communications director. “Verification is not required.” Oookay. This isn’t going to work. Expect a full rollback of indoor dining if we can’t get coronavirus to calm down. And then expect a wave of closures. What a mess. —C.B.
Culinary experiences are going to get more creative. Ordering out can be fun—especially if you try somewhere new—but once you're back at home you're still sitting there, by yourself. An experience last Saturday helped me see the future: Paragon, the restaurant on Queen Anne Hill with a stylish new chef, just launched a supper club where, for $65, you get a beautiful and delicious multi-course meal made with local ingredients (they say it's three courses but I counted five or six, and they were good) along with a ticket to a show. The show is a musician actually performing live on the stage at the Paragon, livestreamed to your computer as you sit and eat. That's brilliant. Chef Stephan Bourgond even packed a breakfast into each person's box for the next morning, as a way to make the experience last into Sunday morning. To sign up for their next supper club, email email@example.com. —C.F.
Bring on the tuition riots. The whole college thing has been a racket for many years. Students are forced to pay way too much for even a standard college degree. And student debt in the US has become obscene. And now colleges want students to continue paying all of this money and carrying all of this debt for classes online? This is an explosive situation. When millions of college students return to their online classes this fall, expect, on day one, sparks to fly from a fuse that is not very long. —C.M.
Teens will spend their gap year(s) pursuing TikTok careers. Maybe there’s only one sustainable career path as the unemployment rate nears 20 percent in major U.S. cities, AKA double what it was in the 2008 Great Recession: Tik Tok.
The Chinese video-sharing app is highly addicting, is potentially spyware, and is hot and getting hotter. The company (which is expected to add 10,000 U.S. jobs) just announced a $200 million fund for stateside creators to spur more original content. COVID-19 is far from over. We should be gearing up for the second wave (or the end of the first wave?) but instead we decided to spit into the face of God and open up bars and restaurants. As we inevitably close down again, many teens' go-to first jobs—waiting tables, schlepping coffee, working at Cinerama—will go up in flames. Maybe those Tik Tok dances they've been learning throughout high school were a Plan B. While companies fail and the service industry goes kaput, live-streaming sites like Twitch and content hubs like Tik Tok will become the most dependable paychecks. —N.G.
My long-term prediction is that humanity will return to a primitive hunter-gatherer state in the next century, but in the short term I’m expecting to see a more gentle regression: Back to the kind of self-directed education we see in Huckleberry Finn, or small independent school rooms like Little House on the Prairie. With our familiar old mega-school-systems too hazardous for kids to attend right now, children are either going to wind up in very small pods, to reduce the risk of transmission; or they’ll just go fully feral as the cruel crush of capitalism forces the adults in their lives to return to work until they die. And then there’s the worst-case scenario: Kids are sent into the workforce, laboring alongside their desperate parents. Either way, I think we’re looking at the end of the school-as-daycare model of education. If kids want to learn stuff, it’s going to be up to them. —M.B.
We'll pay for Twitter. Eventually. It’s inevitable. After destroying blogs, Twitter will end up behind its own paywall. Digital advertising is not working for Twitter. (It’s not working for anyone—except Google and Facebook.) Twitter’s user growth is soaring, but its revenue is plummeting. Its stock bounced when it was discovered that the company was hiring for a subscription platform under the code name “Gryphon,” and last week CEO Jack Dorsey announced that the company is looking at multiple subscription models. Will people pay for it? Will it make the product better? Will the platform’s cult of contrarians complain that this is censorship? We’ll see—I bet within the next year. —C.B.
Is it time to give up on city life? When I look at the outside of my Capitol Hill apartment building, I can’t help but notice a lot of bare balconies and empty units that were bustling with life a year ago. Seems like there’s a deliberate exodus from the neighborhood right now, and I wonder how many people are approaching a Green Acres breaking point, ready to move out to the country and start a farm. I have to admit, I’m more tempted every day… but I have no idea how to raise goats or rotate crops. That’s why I think we’ll see a rise in luxury rural concierge services. Those who can afford it will move out to the middle of nowhere and then hire agricultural experts to manage their livestock and plant beets and dig wells. I’m anticipating that some “disruptive” Silicon Valley entrepreneur will create a platform that’s “like Doordash, but for the country,” and of course, it’ll pay starvation wages. —M.B.
Tokyo 2021 might not happen, but Beijing 2022 will be HYUGE. Japan is failing to get COVID under control. Last Friday, the country reported its highest single-day increase in infections since the pandemic began. In another timeline, the country would have kicked off the 2020 Summer Olympics last week. But we live in a timeline with a pandemic and incompetent despots, so instead of marathons we get skyrocketing coronavirus infections. There are a lot of maybes to consider when looking forward to the postponed 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics... Maybe there will be crowds. Maybe those crowds will be exclusively local. Maybe the Olympics won’t even happen. But the thing that isn’t a maybe? Six months later, Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics. And, as in 2008, Beijing will use the ceremony as a major international branding opportunity. This time around, they’ll take full advantage of a world that is finally recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. And they will use this moment to show how the “China virus” was really the “America virus” all along. —C.B.
Virtual fans will become the norm at major events. Last week, FOX announced that they will digitally insert virtual fans into empty stadiums during their Major League Baseball broadcasts to make the games "look natural." The National Basketball Association is using Microsoft Teams' Together Mode to invite fans to the game by using AI to segment their face and shoulders, virtually putting them together on 17-foot tall LED screens that wrap around the court. The fans can react in real-time and players can see and hear those reactions.
Sports lovers are, admittedly, not in love with the technology as it's still a lil bit freaky to see virtual bodies where real ones should be. But as we push further into a socially distant society with a "need" for big in-person events like political conventions, concerts, game shows, award ceremonies, and other sporting events, I believe virtual crowds will become the norm. Especially as they open up a new advertising revenue stream for channels and organizations that desperately need it.
And not to be all Black Mirror, but this development immediately reminded me of their "Fifteen Million Merits" episode, where singing competition contestants sang in front of a crowd of virtual avatars. Maybe we're not too far from that future after all. —J.K.
Baseball is gonna be canceled. I’m sorry! But the games started five days ago and we’ve already got COVID outbreaks! Why did anyone think a 60-game season across 30 stadiums during a blooming pandemic was going to work! The hubris! —C.B.
With a looming wave of evictions and economic crisis, I suspect we’ll see a lot more petty crimes of desperation—stealing a loaf of bread to feed a family, breaking into a construction site to sleep out of the rain. The uniquely American lack of a safety net, such as those enjoyed by more developed nations, is going to be bad enough for everyone involved; and I think the rich are going to react not with compassion but with insular self-interest. They’ll retreat into ever more fortified enclaves, terrified of the surge in crime, and gated communities will start to have the same military-grade gear as suburban police departments. Within a year, I suspect the wealthy will have their own militias patrolling their McMansions. That alarming couple who brandished guns at protestors are just a taste of what’s to come — how long do you think it’ll be before those militias start eyeing each other with suspicion, or pondering a pre-emptive attack on perceived threats? —M.B.
BREAKING: St. Louis’ top prosecutor just charged the McCloskeys - a white husband and wife in St. Louis - with felony unlawful use of a weapon for brandishing guns during a racial injustice protest outside their mansion. #moleg https://t.co/AiFnHTjMl3
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) July 20, 2020
This crisis is going to last years, not months. What if the timeline on this disease is less like SARS and more like HIV? The coronavirus is not as deadly as HIV, but it is transmitted more easily, and scientists say they are finding "eerie parallels with HIV," including depletion of T cells. Chinese researchers said in May that the coronavirus "emulates the HIV strategy to remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used to identify invaders, in a manner to evade attack from the human immune system," leading them to the speculation that this disease "may be around for some time." —C.F.
Americans will give up. Since the first recorded COVID-19 death in the US (February 6, 2020), nearly 150,000 Americans have been killed by the virus. Today, we can expect 1,000 Americans to exit the world by way of the pandemic. And if Trump is re-elected, we will be forced to live with crowded hospitals, traumatized health professionals, and the daily destruction of thousands upon thousands of Americans for the next four years. This is what the presidential election of 2020 has come down to: necro-America or no necro-America. And 40 percent of voters still support Trump. Who are these people? Are they even people? 40 percent means 60,000,000 Americans are fine with living in a country that, by the spring of 2021, will likely be dumping surplus bodies into massive graves.
As we near Election Day, and the possibility of a necro-America increases, the strain will be too much for a good number of heads. In this depressing condition, many Americans will be too exhausted to fight for their lives. They will not correct a car that has unexpectedly veered toward a ditch or a tree, or just give up while drowning, or not care if a lump appears on their stomach. These people are not exactly suicidal; they would happily live (and fight to live) in a world where the forces of death, of necro-economics, are not in so much power.
That said, here is a passage I love from Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. —C.M.
[The] next day, [Charlus had to] begin afresh his attempt to find out what Odette had been doing, must use all his influence to contrive to see her. This compulsion to an activity without respite, without variety, without result, was so cruel a scourge that one day, noticing a swelling over his stomach, he felt an actual joy in the idea that he had, perhaps, a tumour which would prove fatal, that he need not concern himself with anything further, that it was his malady which was going to govern his life, to make a plaything of him, until the not-distant end. If indeed, at this period, it often happened that, though without admitting it even to himself, he longed for death, it was in order to escape not so much from the keenness of his sufferings as from the monotony of his struggle.
We're going to see more lightning. Remember that video of the Statue of Liberty being struck by lightning that was making the rounds on social media last week? Seemed like 2020 summed up in a gif. Granted, Lady Liberty is a copper monolith standing tall in the middle of a harbor. But still, we should be anticipating more images like that in our lives. After all, the planet is getting warmer. The Stranger reached out to Q13 meteorologist Tim Joyce, and he confirmed: "A warmer world could be a wetter and stormier world. Seattle sees about four days a year with thunderstorms. So, we could easily double that number." —C.F.
The only way a second lockdown will not happen is if Trump is re-elected. And if history is kind to us, we can expect not only a second lockdown but one that will be more thorough and better managed than the first. Such a regime will require the imposition of strict controls on every home. In the second lockdown, movement in and out of the house will be rationed (one person is permitted exit and entry per day). Here is where ice cream trucks might be handy. The owners of these vans could transform them into necessary businesses that carry coffee, cigarettes, carbonated water, booze, eggs, and pickles. Picture this: The van makes its way down your street at around 8 in the morning. You order what you need by an app; the van operator drops your goods at your doorstep.
The flying sushi boat scene in The Fifth Element will give some idea of converted ice cream van of the future. —C.M.