What is the New Future After the Pandemic Has Reshaped Our Present?

The Coronavirus Pandemic is reshaping our current world and it is reshaping the future. The pandemic and global lockdown is causing a global economic depression, shattering the energy markets and killing previously might companies and industries.

18 months ago, Nextbigfuture looked at the world from 2018-2028.

In 2010, the iPhone 4 was introduced and Apple iPad would not be introduced until 2012.
SpaceX launched the Falcon 1 in 2008 successfully for the first time.
Tesla delivered about 100 Tesla Roadsters in 2008.
China’s nominal GDP in 2010 was $6 trillion and it is over two times higher today.
India’s GDP went from $1.7 trillion to about $3.2 trillion today.
The US GDP went from $15 trillion to $21 trillion today.

Stronger Medicine and Accelerated Cures

The massive effort to develop vaccines for COVID-19 will boost and accelerate the development of cancer vaccines. Streamlined regulatory approvals will speed up the approval of all new medical treatments.

Cancer deaths will be greatly reduced with cancer vaccines, CART treatments and other biotech.
Stroke and heart attack deaths will be greatly reduced with wearable devices and light-based devices to detect what kind of stroke has occurred.

There will be gene therapy and other treatments for anti-aging and aging reversal and repair of aging damage.

There will be successful treatments for obesity. Stem cells and other treatments will activate and add brown fat to increase metabolism.

Global Economic Setback

The entire world is looking at one to three years of economic depression. It seems like it will take 3-5 years to get back to economic recovery and getting a well functioning global economy.

The countries of the world will be more de-coupled. Supply chains will be brought back to each country.

Winners and Losers

All countries have taken big economic hits from the virus and the lockdown. Oil prices are halved and demand for oil is reduced. Oil-producing countries have been hurt badly.

Low energy prices will cause mostly a lost decade for the energy industry. Lower prices and depleted government capital will reduce the funds available for subsidizing the conversion of energy infrastructure. Countries will have stimulus-related funds for a couple of years and some megaprojects could get those funds. Low prices for energy will make it more difficult to justify projects that do not have solid economics.

Robo-taxis and electric semi-trucks will reduce the demand for oil substantially every year from 2023 onwards.

What is Our New Technology Future?

Robotics, AI and new medicine will continue to transform business and will be boosted from opportunities to help the world adjust to how we will live with Coronavirus.

Smartphone tracking and monitoring of disease outbreaks are and will be used for robust public health response and monitoring.

Technology for remote work, streaming video and video communications have been huge winners. Virtual and immersive communication and work systems will get accelerated.

The Future of Movement

Aerion Supersonic is still developing private supersonic jets for the wealthy. The schedule is now for the first test flights in 2023 and the first commercial service in 2025. Aerion’s AS2 business jet will have a top cruise speed of Mach 1.4 (1,074mph).

Boom Supersonic has set its sights on even faster travel: Mach 2.2 (1,687mph). Boom Supersonic has nearly completed its XB-1 test vehicle.

The continued test phase work on supersonic startups is despite the existential impact of Coronavirus on traditional airlines. Airbus and Boeing are struggling to survive. Governments will ensure the survival of commercial airlines but there is and will be massive consolidation.

Aerion, Spike and Boom continuing with supersonic testing is different from actually getting billions in funding and executing to reach and operate a commercial service. The Aerion AS2 has a target price of $120 Million each.

SpaceX Starship is in the process of leapfrogging supersonic (1.5-2.5 times the speed of sound) to hypersonic (20-30 times the speed of sound). Musk says mass-produced SpaceX Starships will cost $5 million each. They would be ten over times faster than supersonic planes and would have more payload. All international cargo and passenger travel could be monopolized by SpaceX. (NOTE: Brian Wang owns SpaceX and Tesla shares).

The SpaceX Super Heavy Starship is continuing rapid development. Starship has had several failed prototypes but they are building new prototypes every 2-4 weeks. By 2021, Elon Musk and SpaceX will have Starship Gigafactory complexes mass-producing Raptor engines and Starships. They will be making two Starships every week.

SpaceX will likely need triple the rocket engine capacity. They currently make about 300-500 Merlin rocket engines each year. If SpaceX is making 100 Starships per year then they will need 700 Raptor rocket engines for those Starships. They will also need 30 Raptor engines for each Super Heavy booster.

SpaceX has already placed 360+ Starlink Satellites into orbit and will have 1500 Satellites in 2021. They will have a commercial global beta service starting in 6 months. Before the end of 2020, SpaceX will be offering low latency high-bandwidth communication to generate billions in revenue by the end of 2021.

Starlink will not have low earth orbit large constellation satellite competition for many years. OneWeb was a potential competitor but they have declared bankruptcy.

The Starlink satellites cost less than $1 million each. There are other companies working on mass production of low-earth orbit satellites. One is CesiumAstro. Blue Origin is working to have its New Glenn rocket flying in a couple of years. This will be a SpaceX Heavy class competitor. However, Starlink and SpaceX are continuing to drive rapid innovation and rapid execution.

SpaceX already has 60+% of commercial space launch. China has had a larger number of launches with disposable rockets and is funding development of reusable rockets but China’s technology is far behind SpaceX. SpaceX will have a nearly complete monopoly wherever there is an open market.

Other Space companies need to have plans that leverage what SpaceX will build and create. The others should be Remora to the SpaceX monopoly shark.

Companies that Thrived in the Great Depression of the 1930s Dominated for Four Decades

Many companies that thrived in the Great Depression continued to crush competitors in the decades after. This will be the story during and after the Pandemic.

Tesla had a lead in electric cars before the Pandemic. Tesla had over 70% of the US electric car market by unit sales and even more market share by revenue. Tesla will get a large market share in China as well.

Ford and GM already had large debt problems before the Pandemic. Traditional automakers had been unable to make vehicles that were truly competitive with Tesla. Volvo and Toyota have financial strength. Volvo has talked about spending many billions to convert factories to electric cars. Investing to catch up to Tesla with batteries and electric cars will be more difficult when there will be less income and revenue from the traditional business.

Tesla continues to lead the way to creating self-driving cars. Tesla has a fleet of over million autopilot cars that are uploading and handling many traffic cases. Tesla’s AI team is working through the long tail of exception cases to determine how to drive with complete safety. There is a lot of complexity. Tesla has tens to hundreds of cases every day of pedestrians moving from between parked cars or being hidden before while in traffic.

There is a lot of complexity with stop signs. Stop signs can be held in someone’s hand and it is inactive until it is raised. Tesla is curating the test datasets. There are many examples of partially obscured stop signs. They will work to say improve performance on a particular dataset from say 40% to 99%.


Medicine and Technology to beat the disease and to make the world productive living with the disease will be winners. There will be acceleration of virtual reality, augmented reality and a networked world.

There will be an acceleration of vaccine development and medical approvals. This will benefit cancer treatments and antiaging.

Elon Musk was successfully executing a transformation to fully reusable rockets, mass-produced satellites, electric cars, electric trucks, and self-driving vehicles. Elon Musk will continue to execute and win.

56 thoughts on “What is the New Future After the Pandemic Has Reshaped Our Present?”

  1. If the hubbub from architects and office interior designers is any indication, the open plan office is officially dead. We may see the return of full wall height cubicles or small cluster offices, but sadly not personal offices. At least no more gopher popping cubicle farms per se…

  2. I think you are underestimating how much clout China will lose by trying to cover this virus up while letting people carry it all over the world, to say nothing of the defective goods China has been selling countries (at elevated prices to boot).

  3. Not likely that the West has the guts or the sheer economic muscle to do anything of the kind. The US is going the way of the former British Empire, and the UK is like Ancient Greece. It’s the Asian Century, remember?

  4. Dorms have 2 or more unrelated people put in a shoe box. That is hardly comparable to what I am talking about. Obviously, they would have to make it attractive. Most of the workers in these high-rises just live in other high-rises. By making the building both, the elevator is your commute.
    And the reason I said “half their employees”, is precisely to address marriages. Even as both likely don’t live in the same building they work in, one will, which reduces commute traffic.
    There are advantages to the employers as well. By making it rent free, they can reduce wages and the workers will have more disposable income and lower taxes. Also, sometimes it is hard to get more workers even though you have vacancies, because there is no affordable housing nearby. Here when someone retires, quits, or whatever, they also clear out a place to live for the replacement.

  5. I see only 2 problems with this Utopian vision. China imports most (not all) of their food AND fuel. What happens when those items stop being delivered (either because they can’t be transported or cost to much)?

    Do you think the “weakened” West will continue to provide freedom of the seas to their adversaries? Do you think that China can get past Japan, a country with an actual blue water navy?

    edit: spelling

  6. The rest of the time is filled with creative excuses for not working, such as meetings.

    There is nothing stopping the WFH office from wasting hours/day in meetings.

    I would actually suspect, based on my limited experience so far, that we are having MORE meetings than before, just because people have to have an (online) meeting to talk about something, whereas BC (Before Covid19) you could just walk up to someone’s desk and wave your new graph or datasheet in their face.

    A really cynical person would suspect that meetings are also more popular because, at home, there is nothing stopping you from having another computer screen open at the same time reading NBF.

  7. Oh yes. You certainly don’t want a car that someone else has been in. How icky.

    Like a poor person would use.

    Besides, they’d steal my Sabaton CDs.

  8. Maybe the future of self driving cars is the ability to flush the cabin with ozone and UV light for 20 minutes between fares.

    So, open top sports cars then?

    I’ve already called for a push towards MX5 style (if not Caterham style) vehicles as the best way to have small, light, fuel efficient vehicles that people actually want to drive.

  9. I can’t see the return of company dormitories being appealing to anyone outside of entry level positions.

    Too bad if you and your spouse work for different companies. And it’s already legally dubious (if not outright banned) for you to date within the company.

  10. We are also likely to see personal people carrying automated drones, possibly in less than 10 years. Then we will need parking on roofs of buildings. And landing areas on top of your garage. Another 10 years and maybe 30% of adults in the US will have them.
    Batteries are the obstacle. Some regulatory hurdles…but I predict that will be solved quickly, as the rich will want these…and they finance the political campaigns…mostly.
    We should have had larger fossil fuel ones for decades that carry a dozen people. Something similar to the Rotodyne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkJOm1V77Xg
    The Rotodynes were much more efficient than helicopters. The Feds helped pay for helicopters for a a few years, but it never made a profit because of that inefficiency so it was cut. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Airways
    These Rotodynes were much more efficient, and certainly could have worked, if they had been built.

  11. And, probably fortunately, unlike fusion we have never developed a method to apply gene therapy to an entire city as an act of war.


  12. I do hope that this crisis does clear out a lot of the friction, inertia, and artificial hoop jumping that has built up in medical product approvals over the decades.

    As medicine is an ever growing chunk of our GDPs this has been needed for many years and is even more important in the future.

  13. Errr… is this a language thing?

    To me, a “cubicle” is:

    A cubicle is a partially enclosed office workspace that is separated from neighboring workspaces by partitions that are usually 5–6 feet tall.

    So that does very little to provide separation from noise, disruptions OR exhaled infections.

    What we want is separate offices.

  14. You are a bit underestimating how much clout China has gained in the third world, in Latin America, Eastern Europe and in embattled countries such as Italy.

    China model is already shifting from importing technology from the West and exporting back cheap goods to it to that of investment in potential vassal countries and getting nice returns back and control. This is going to grow as the West hand will weaken due to the crisis and the West antagonism will only increase China’s shift.

  15. Perhaps the need for a covid vaccine will drive regulatory changes that allow large scale use in parrallel with phase-3 trials. That would seem prudent in the current pandemic. Alternatively, use a regulatory process that sidesteps the FDA altogether. If either became established they may be an additional factor accelerating the medical advances that Brian highlighted above.

  16. Hmmm. I wonder. It depends on whether productivity drops faster than the number of people rises. If productivity drops faster, then the open plan doesn’t make sense, and only ever was guru-following.

    It probably depends on what the group of people are intended to be doing. If they are involved in work that goes best when the whole group is constantly aware of everything that is going on, or that requires nearly constant coordination among large and shifting subsets of the group, then the open plan would have an advantage. Maybe a large advantage.

    Maybe it first came to notice due to success in such an environment, then by one mechanism or another, was misapplied to environments in which it was not the best approach.

  17. (continued from above)j Edit: Damn, damn, damn — I made this be a reply to the wrong post. Double damn the limit on post size.

    If people can acquire immunity by recovering from Covid-19, I imagine it would be the partial immunity I mentioned in the previous post.

    Assuming that, if we have treatments that can keep the disease from progressing to attack other organs, then a policy of allowing people to get the disease to become immune might be practical. If we do not have such treatments, I believe a policy of allowing people to get the disease in order to build up herd immunity would be a very bad idea.

  18. The proportion of people who are obese, diabetic, and have high blood pressure will decrease only if we do not find effective and affordable treatments that provide recovery from Covid-19 without allowing the disease to progress to the very severe levels. Maybe we won’t discover such treatments, but, given all the attention being put on the problem, my feeling is that such a treatment will be found. It might take longer than we’d like, but I feel we will get there.

    A vaccine that gives complete immunity to Covid-19 would be ideal. I think it is not likely that can be developed, and if it can be, it would not be accomplished very quickly. Very unlikely to be available in just a few years.

    If I had to make a bet, it would be that we will not ever have a vaccine that gives complete immunity. My bet would be that we might eventually have a vaccine that can’t block the initial upper respiratory infection, but can block progression of the disease to attack the heart, kidneys, and other organs such as it does now.

    I don’t know which way to bet on whether such a partially-effective vaccine would be able to block progression to the lungs. If pressed, I’d say probably not, which might result in Covid-19 being roughly as dangerous as a severe flu, which isn’t great, but would be a lot better than it is now.

    (continued in next post because of the damned limit on size of a post)

  19. Just looked at your Riverarch. Interesting. The biggest issue I see is rapid evacuation in an emergency, and that elevators generally go up and down. Perhaps you should have elevators that are attached something like the gondolas on large Ferris wheels such as the London Eye which rotate. The mechanism holding the gondolas would be on the outside of the building. I am thinking the inside of the arch. And you can have more than one gondola on each track. Maybe a dozen gondolas on each track each capable of independent movement. And have several tracks. At the lobby/garage landing, Gondolas could let riders off, move laterally onto another track, let riders on and go back up that other track and all the way over to the other side’s landing, where it moves back laterally to the original track and goes back up and over.
    I would skip the movie theater (basically obsolete), and have a bowling ally, and exercise center, a pizzeria, a deli, a post office and childcare center. And I would go for a little more density to support everything.

  20. I can feel the judg-y from all the way over here. Are you implying that this virus seeks out the big-boned?

    “Oh sure you’ll get diabetes and have limbs amputated but way worse than that is the slightly elevated risk for the ‘rona.”

  21. It was somewhat limited to Internet circles, but the ideology cabals behind it were fashioning the way of thinking of the younger generations.

    So the damage would be really seen until later.

  22. Not necessarily. There can be building codes and regulations that office buildings must house at least half of their employees. That could greatly reduce commuting traffic. Add that they have to have a kitchen, a dining area, and optional food delivery from the kitchen to rooms. There does not have to be a cafeteria/restaurant accessible to the public, just employees and their families.

  23. Yes, except corporations already routinely monitor internet use and likely many install software to count key-strokes and mouse clicks and record what applications are open.

    We’ve already got the dystopia, and most workers at least suspect it. But managers don’t care how hard people work, as long as the manager’s quotas/goals get met – which they’re happy to keep low/light because that makes their job easier.

    Replacing a worker is very disruptive, forcing the manager to do extra work to fill in for the dismissed worker AND to hire a new worker – or possibly to try forcing other workers to pick up the slack which could lead to a cascade of dismissals or quitting that makes the manager look bad.

    There’s a vast, silent and implicit/complicit white-collar conspiracy of loafing and doing work people know is BS just because they need to get paid and don’t want the hassle of seeking out ‘real work’, nor the ego-risk of possibly discovering they have become incapable of handling real work.

    OTOH blue collar workers who get to do REAL productive work are expected to work hard UNLESS they unionize, in which case they are expected to work as hard as the union has negotiated for them.

  24. Possibly this will happen if the coming “re-opening” turns out to be a disaster that causes state governments to slam Social Isolation back on and to be even less flexible and adaptive to economic circumstances (if that’s possible).

    As it is, I think everyone will be so relieved to ‘get back to work’ that they’ll forget how much they hated commuting for just long enough to fall back into same-old-same-old work patterns, perhaps with a little more WFH where it proved particularly successful.

  25. Based on nbfdmd’s description of what he is trying to communicate, how about
    “OK, Homer”?

    ‘Homer’ sounds like someone who advocates staying home, and insults the target’s intelligence by reference to Homer Simpson who appears to be a boomer, tying neatly into the ‘OK, Boomer’ meme.

    Extra bonus points, it’s a fresh use of an existing cultural meme in this new context, with potential to ‘go viral’ – which would be appropriately ironic at this particular time of conflict between ‘open up’ and ‘stay closed’ advocates

  26. There’s a genius below who thinks the world isn’t interested in punishing China right now… I just said goodbye to my uncle on an iPhone screen last weekend as the “CHINESE WUHAN ENGINEERED VIRUS” was strangling the life out of him!

    I work in a medical center and deal with sick and desperate people THANKS TO THE CCP’s WUHAN WEAPONS PROGRAM.


    The CCP MUST GO, or yes, we wall off China for good. GOT THAT? GOOD!

  27. Gene therapy is the biological sciences equivalent to nuclear fusion…except we have more research and funding for fusion. It is not the gene editing that is the problem, he wave a decent handle on that, it is the delivery of the gene editing apparatus to the appropriate cells in vivo. That is an extremely difficult problem.

  28. Curious….
    I’ve seen you use “Karen” as an insult several times now.
    I do not think it means what you think it means.

    There are lots of variant ‘urban dictionary’ definitions, but generally it refers to someone who behaves ‘entitled’ in ways they clearly are not.

    Do you think that somehow applies to Mindbreaker or his comment above?

  29. The City as a Car Habitat model is dead. NYC has over a third of its land devoted to streets. Before the CV, the average road speed was just 4.7mph: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-york-traffic-manhattan-20180124-story.htm and often even less during the pitifully misnamed “Rush Hour”. Forget the virus. The cities won’t survive the current lockdown with its social distancing and closed stores, parks and venues that only make economic sense with crowds. Even movie theaters – already in trouble because of streaming – won’t survive without patrons side by side, not 6′ apart (I’m not sitting 6′ apart from my wife at the movies).
    Cures have to be found, or at least simple treatments.
    The car cannot replace the subway that moves 4.3m/day. And other cities are even more dense and larger than NYC. Even with the trend towards multiple centers for megacities, the car simply can’t move enough people or find enough parking, even with automation.
    Anyone who thinks it will hasn’t been to a large city like NYC.
    And before you take the position that people should spread out and live in more rural areas, consider that for every $1 sent to the Federal Gov’t in NY, it gets back only .91 cents, while “rural” Kentucky gets $2.41 from the federal government for every $1 it sends. Who’s saving whom here? No modern country can exist without major cities. We’ll have to find new ways to cope. Here’s a new one: http://bit.ly/Riverarch

  30. The countries that “panicked” early didn’t need to do anything near as extreme as the countries that were resolute and brave.

    Taiwan is the shining example here.

  31. After a few months, it stops being:
    “Why should we let you adopt this strange and risky WFH approach instead of our old and proven work structure?”
    and turns into
    “Why should you return to this old fashioned and risky work structure instead of the proven existing WFH?”

  32. Was “body positivity” ever really a thing outside of weirdo internet hangouts? The modern equivalent of 1970s UFO cults?

  33. Open space is cheaper. You can cram as much people as fire code will allow. Productivity be damned. In places were the rent is high (Manhattan) that makes some sense. In places where the office space is cheap that is just following the stupid trend.

  34. China looked at Hong Kong and said “That’s the model for our cities! Tall buildings, stores on the first floor, subways and buses!” but they thought they could just swap out HK’s effective governance with their own face saving authoritarianism and things would be fine.

    There’s more to a city than the concrete and urban planning. China is missing the most important part.

    (I stand with HK!)

  35. China drank pretty heavily from the well of high density urban living with buses and subways. Going to have a hard time with this virus because it sure likes to spread in China’s citites.

  36. In particular people have gotten a taste of what it can be like to work from home and who like it will want to work from home once or twice a week.

    For people like me who work from home whenever we want to the transition hasn’t been that difficult. Soon more people will want to work from home and I suppose our employers will spend more $ making sure that people working from home are really doing work.

  37. Another less controversial prediction: office cubicles will return.

    The lunacy of “open spaces” was born out of the desire of the micro-managers to peer into everyone’s work and presumed productivity.

    People hated them, but the gurus of open spaces peddled them for decades against all common sense.

    Now who wants to work face to face with a coughing/sneezing coworker?

  38. One non-PC prediction: obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure will be again seen as the plagues they are.

    The delusions of “body positivity” will fade away. Because the sufferers of these conditions will be literally fading away, season after season of the virus.

    We’ll either control our BMI or risk being in ICU on the next season of the ‘rona.

  39. Public transportation fundamentalism is lethally wounded.

    Unless we find a cure or treatment that satisfies our newfound fears of the other.

    Because this virus doesn’t seems as if it wants to leave. We’ll have it year after year, until it becomes less lethal by herd immunity (maybe) or by spontaneous mutation into several less lethal strains that provide partial immunity (you still get it, but it’s less bad in average).

  40. I don’t think that the world is interested in punishing China right now. The world is interested in getting past the first and probably second wave of the pandemic.

    But there are most definitely going to be consequences for China. Opposition to China making many things is a rare point of bipartisan unity in the US Congress and that should worry China. Opposition to China in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, India, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, etc means that China is in a bad spot. Sure the leaders of Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and the Philippines are pro-China but that isn’t enough of a market to make up for what they are going to lose.

    At a bare minimum I would expect whole sectors of China’s export economy to be ruined as countries mandate that certain goods be made locally or made in friendly countries.

  41. How many sick people rode in and coughed in the self driving car over the last 3-5 days?

    Maybe the future of self driving cars is the ability to flush the cabin with ozone and UV light for 20 minutes between fares.

  42. A more realistic view is that the new communication companies will have a huge leap in further eliminating the public space and replacing it with an electronic one with increasing consequences to the human state of being.

    China has not been weakened so much as other major countries by the epidemic and it will increase its clout around the world despite growing resentment, it will become an even bigger challenge to world progress as it keep raising the stakes.

    Only Idiots will look at the future of the the transportation industry after the pandemic through the prism of Elon Musk. The bigger picture: There will be more working from home, home deliveries, taking care of any matter online and less transportation in general. This is a trend that was already happening and the pandemic cemented. The productivity gains of driving less will be balanced by productivity losses associated with working from home, flexibility will be balanced by greater isolation. People will be able to work and get everything they need without having ever to leave home, and some idiots will do it.

  43. In high density locations we need automated parking garages that pack the cars in, and work with self-driving cars. They drop you off very close to your destination, so you don’t have to walk, and other people like you do the same, so the sidewalks have less traffic. Then the vehicles enter the parking structure which moves the car using hydraulics and such. When you want to leave, you order your car to come to a particular location using your phone or key fob. It picks you up, and takes you home.
    There are many designs for these parking things. None are clearly the best yet.
    The Japanese have a very dense design but it is slow to retrieve as all the cars move to get yours to the bottom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp_EIv33xrI
    The nice thing is that you could just have dozens of these next to each other…so it might even be faster when everyone wants their car at the same time.
    The Germans have a good design, but I did not see it this time I did the search.

  44. Panic pandemic is shaping the future. Easily panicked populations are easily manipulated into any corner their overmasters choose.

  45. Future of movement post pandemic:

    Imagine if everyone had their own personal vehicle and it could take you from the safety of your own personal garage to your destination. You would share the road with other cars but would be isolated from other people and would not be at risk of being infected by them or of infecting them. You could customize your car as you see fit, picking the make, model and colors to fit your own personality.

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