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Episode Info: PODCAST: How will COVID-19 change our society, not only in the months ahead but over the longer term? Many are offering predictions about how our lifestyles might change as a result of the pandemic, all of it speculative and much of it dubious but some of it probably well-founded. I’m going to offer a couple of thoughts of my own which are likely more hopes than predictions. One clear trend that we’ve seen around the world is that major urban centers have taken the brunt of the pandemic, with small towns and rural areas faring much better. Viruses, of course, spread where populations are concentrated, and quarantining and physical distancing are also far more difficult to practice in major cities than anywhere else. Those of us who don’t live in large cities have been tremendously fortunate; in my own case my lifestyle hasn’t changed very much at all. Apart from teaching at the university I mostly work at home anyway, which is outside of a small city in a semi-rural area. I can think out here, away from the noise of the city and the mass society that we often see as an alternative-less order of things. Life in large cities obviously has its advantages, some of them cultural but most of them economic. Major cities are where the jobs are, but it’s commonplace for many who live there to dream of the countryside, cottages and bodies of water where you can experience a very different way of life. With everyone staying at home, our social and economic networks have moved online. One thing we’ve learned from this pandemic, which has every potential of changing how we live long term, is that it is possible for far more people in many lines of work to work from home than we previously realized. Technology has made it possible for workers across many sectors of the economy to work at home while staying connected to whatever network they need to. In some professions this is surely impossible; in others it is difficult and highly imperfect. In my own profession, for example, it’s possible in a pinch for university professors to move their courses online, and this is exactly what we will be doing for some months to come. I’ll be doing this too. The quality of education will suffer significantly—university marketers would probably prefer I not say this, but it’s true—however it is possible to “deliver  the curriculum,” as it’s called, using the technology just as school teachers are currently attempting. It’s far from ideal, but my point is that it’s possible. Joe Biden is even running for president of the United States right now from his home, to take a far more extreme example. There are countless other instances of this that I could mention. Before the pandemic, it was commonplace for many employers to insist that all employees travel daily through rush-hour traffic in a major city to a central workplace when this ...
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