I’m grateful for all those – medical professionals, emergency workers, school administrators, governors, etc – working continuously to contain the COVID-I9 global pandemic we’re currently in.
With so many activities, events, and businesses shuttered indefinitely, in the back of my mind, I’ve been wondering, “What does the world look like after containment?”
Which takes me to one of my favorite tools for thinking through effects and consequences, McLuhan’s Tetrad. While McLuhan developed the Tetrad tool to think through how media changes us, I’ve found it works for anything phenomenon impacting society at large. Like the Myers-Briggs, it’s more effective when statements are articulated in their most positive manner.
The Tetrad asks four questions;
What does it enhance?
What does it make obsolete?
What does it retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
What does it flip into when pushed to extremes?
What does COVID-19 enhance?
– Depression and anxiety disorders related to lack of face-to-face social contact.
– Brand-name universities offering online high school curriculum
– Corporations’ level of comfort with the majority of their labor force being remote
– Companies no longer providing computers to their employees
– Depression in commercial real estate – esp office buildings.
– Tribalism and mistrust of others
– Tightening of pre-existing social networks
– Delivery services
– Corporate adoption of robotics and automation to ensure higher sanitation standards & reduce variable labor force availability.
– Climate change advocacy (sudden drop in global pollution levels creating higher air and water quality)
– Solo hobbies & sports – esp inside sports (e.g. knitting, playing music, homebrewing, yoga, cooking, yo-yo-ing, karate)
– Membership- or subscription-based business models
– Home exercise equipment sales (e.g. Peloton)
– Self-stable and freezer-friendly food sales (maybe the US now gets shelf-stable milk)
– JustWalkOut by Amazon
– Demand for box seats at stadiums and theaters
– Single-payer health care in the US
– popularity of eSports
– Disney divesting ESPN
What does COVID-19 make obsolete?
– Casual physical contact with strangers
– Business models based on confining strangers for a period of time (stadiums, theaters, cruise ships, airplanes, public transportation, professional sports)
– Business models based on individual, retail sales
– Social pressure to attend events that you’d rather not attend.
– work from home is no longer a differentiating HR benefit, it’s an expected part of the employment contract.
– The decline of church-going (esp Catholic) in the US, and by extension the Boy Scouts.
– General seating at stadiums and theatres.
– checkout clerks
– Co-working spaces
What does COVID-19 retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
– “The milkman”, local businesses making regular deliveries in a localized area.
– a need to ‘stock-up’ when something is available, for it may not be tomorrow (pantries, root cellars, and chest freezers)
– Victory Gardens
– Speakeasys (for dining and social experiences, not just drinking) like this
– Drive-in Movie Theaters
– Party lines (always on video multi-party video conferences)
– “Back to the Land” movement
– Offices (as opposed to cubicles or open-plan spaces)
– investing in front yards over backyards
What does cultural phenomena does COVID-19 flip when pushed to extremes?
– Continuous monitoring of individuals’ health in all locations accessible to the general public (e.g. fever monitoring in convenience stores)
– Isolationism at micro and macro levels
– Every neighborhood is “The Village”
– Redundancy in supply chains, leading to greater expense and under utilized capacity.