Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

This is what COVID-19 is turning us into. It isn't pretty

Everyone declares nothing will ever be the same again. But what will the future really be like? A research company has troubling predictions.

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Is something I don't hear too many people say these days.

The Coronavirus has taken the basic fabric of society and torn it up as if it were an old, graying sheet. What will become of us?

Well, I've just been confronted with the predictions of research company Euromonitor International and I'm a little numb.

Every year, Euromonitor offers its top 10 trends for the coming year. You know, happy, forward-looking things like Beyond Human and Frictionless Mobility.

The Coronavirus has rather changed such trends. Or, perhaps, placing a completely different emphasis on them.

For example, says Euromonitor, it's accelerating our drift toward avoiding contact with others and relying on AI and robots to give us what we need. Until, I hear you frown, they don't need us at all.

It seems we're now very willing to let robots do more of the things we normally do ourselves. Ever more often, we'll defer to Alexa and Siri because they can get things done -- allegedly -- better and more safely than we can.

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Are we now set to live behind a mask?

It seems we'll now even be desperate for robots to disinfect our surroundings, as we gingerly wonder whether disease lurks on every surface and inside every person.

Now, too, we're going to be ever more distracted. We're desperate for things to be clear and digestible. We're also desperate for brands to sell us their products to us less and tell us instead how they're now focused on public health.

That may be a difficult task for, say, Fruit Loops. 

These predictions suggest our new world will one where expressions of fun are limited and expressions of uncertainty abound.

We are now, apparently, so reluctant to trust the world outside, so wary of going to an office that Euromonitor wonders whether there'll ever be such a thing as rush hour again.

Worse, or better -- or, well, you decide -- is that we're now entirely accepting that our home isn't just a home anymore, but a multi-use facility. Some of us, apparently, will still prefer to hold virtual dinner parties rather than real ones.

I listened to all this and hoped for some positives. One, at least. Soon, there it was. It seems the virus is inciting a greater feeling toward our local community. We want more local products. We want to feel -- or at least believe -- that we're "getting through this together."

A psychological root of this is that we believe if it's local, it's passed through fewer hands and is more likely to be safe.

And then there's our increased need to focus on self-care. This isn't something that's been lacking in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area for a long time. Now, however, we'll be ever keener to find products that assist our mental and physical health.

It's understandable, of course. It's also a little sad.

Online therapy, mood apps and many other tech enhancements may become central to the way we deal with our new world.

And then there's privacy, the thing we say we care about while never paying it any attention as we download yet another app that'll play us short videos of gymnastic squirrels. These days, it seems, we're really quite prepared to let that privacy go in favor of feeling safe. Perhaps, says Euromonitor, our need to be private will return some day. But not some day soon.

Coronavirus has, of course, spread fear to a degree that few can ever remember. One can see how some of these accelerated trends have taken hold.

How many, though, will lead to a happier world? And how many will actually turn us ever more toward therapies -- online and off -- that come to dominate our lives?

At the expense of just being able to live.