Futurist Ben Dillon’s 10 Predictions for the Post COVID World (1–5)

Ben Dillon
9 min readMar 7, 2021

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Acclaimed futurist, renowned technophobe and suspected luddite, Ben Dillon, shares his take on life after COVID. Yes, he knows that being a technophobe and a futurist could be judged as a contradiction of diabolical proportions. Yes, he’s aware that a luddite is typically a derogatory term. And yes, he writes introductions in the third person. He’s now completely untethered from reality.

1. The eagerly awaited demise of the handshake.

Last March, I attended a marketing conference in Dublin. During the break I was introduced to a colleague’s friend, we exchanged pleasantries and shook hands. I effortlessly slipped into the role of smart-casual-zombie as I tend to do. At the time, I thought it all fairly inconsequential.

Almost immediately afterwards, I was ushered aside and informed that I really should stop using my hands to greet people. Apparently bumping elbows was more hygienically-correct. At the time I figured the advice-giver to be slightly unhinged. I questioned why, when selecting a body part, one would overlook the perfectly able grasping organ, in favour of the much less qualified angular point. Of course, this person has since been vindicated. At time of writing, I can count my recent handshaking exploits using the fingers from one, severely unshaken, hand. I’m very pleased with this development.

The handshake originated in slightly more barbaric times. Offering your hand demonstrated to your new ally that you weren’t carrying any weapons. With so few people carrying weapons these days, the handshake is thus a tad outdated. I personally haven’t carried a weapon since my slingshot days and even then it was more a Dennis-The-Menace-inspired accoutrement than anything else.

As we now know, handshakes are a super-spreader of germs and globally debilitating viruses. They are also the root cause of some of life’s most anxiety-inducing moments. I get uncomfortable just thinking about it; that awkward linger as you try to decipher your opponent’s preferred method of touching limbs. I struggle to think of a more socially-catastrophic act than meeting a fist bump with a clutching hand.

The fact that handshakes are outdated, awkward and disease-complicit pales in comparison to my true grievance. It’s my hands that are the problem. Burdened with perpetually sweaty palms, the handshake has always been a sworn enemy. It doesn’t matter if I’m nervous or confident. No matter my heart rate, my palms maintain an oily film. I generally have to do a quick thigh-wipe en route which looks even more pathetic. However, I’m now optimistic that coronavirus has solved this problem for me and my clammy counterparts. The handshake is dead, long live the polite nod.

2. People will realise how ridiculous they look on Zoom.

Sticking with the topic of inane hand gestures, we turn our attention to Zoom.

I’ve long suspected that I might be part-hipster. I’ve never bought non-prescription glasses, used the phrase “they were better before they went mainstream” or worn anything ironically. However, I do gravitate towards second-hand shops, quirky cafés and places that have the word “market” in it. There’s also the fact that my diet is disproportionately composed of smashed avocados and my jeans generally restrict my blood circulation.

My suspicions were all but confirmed when Zoom came into vogue. Pre February 2020, I had no real qualms with Zoom. But the more popular it got, the more I hated it. I’d give anything to go back to non-video messaging where I can yawn, roll my eyes or gently bang my head off my desk without detection.

As a well respected futurist, I couldn’t possibly suggest that Zoom will meet its demise. My one hope is that Kylie Jenner, or the LinkedIn-influencer equivalent, will declare Zoom uncool and it will slowly die out. However, I’m not optimistic. If Zoom lives on, my one wish is that people will see how ridiculous they look when waving on it.

Video calling is meant to replace in-person meetings. Yet people wave earnestly in each other’s faces? Surely someday soon the penny will drop. Across the country, Zoomers will spot their reflection and realise how eerily similar they look to contestants on Winning Streak. Until that day comes, I’ll cling on to the fact that I hated Zoom way before it was cool to do so.

3. The survival of the cinema.

I believe it was the great philosophers and fellow futurists, The Buggles, who predicted that the advent of the video player would spell the end of the radio star. Some forty years later, it seems like every amateur-futurist has voiced a similar, Buggles-esque prediction about how COVID-19 will lead to the death of cinema.

That headline, ‘The Death of Cinema’, has been knocking around for decades. Chartbusters, Xtra-vision, Netflix, Disney+, online streaming, and coronavirus have all been identified as prime suspects in this particular whodunnit. Who would risk their lives to watch a movie? What daredevil would spend two and half hours sitting in what is, for all intents and purposes, a giant petri dish for bacteria and viruses? While this logic seems sound, it also rules out a return for nightclubs, pubs, libraries or indoor venues of any kind. And really, you can’t beat the cinema.

Towards the end of 2019, I enjoyed a near-perfect morning. My work offers flexible Fridays so I took advantage of it. I got up early and did a few hours’ work, after which point I had some scheduled “me time”. I left my house before 11 am and wandered in the general direction of the town park. Passing the cinema, I saw a sign for the movie ‘JoJo Rabbit’ along with its running schedule. I mentally sifted through all the reasons why I couldn’t go to the matinee. Before I could let myself even consider the words, “dare I?”, I was instead saying “JoJo for one please” and “large combo”.

Not to overstate it, but going to a movie matinee on your own is one of the greatest things you can ever do. The theatre was at less than half capacity. The hum of whispering and popcorn-munching provided the perfect ambiance. I was given the opportunity to sprawl across several seats without looking notably obnoxious. My legs were wedged in between two empty seats in front. My arms were spread behind the two seats on either side in a position not unlike the one Scarface uses when enjoying a hot-tub.

Throughout the two hours, there were a few rolling laughs where everyone first reacted to the joke on screen and then again at someone’s over-the-top cackling. Not once did I pick up my phone, scroll through messages or feel the need to walk to the fridge. Most importantly, I didn’t flick through Netflix for one hour before choosing JoJo Rabbit. Nor did I question my decision thereafter.

The best part was that, after enjoying a Friday morning movie together, I felt a certain bond with absolute strangers. For two hours, we had fed off each other’s energy and wordlessly enjoyed one another’s company. We had, for lack of better summation, become one big family.

That said, if I was given the option to sacrifice every last one of them to the COVID Gods, just so that I could reopen society and go see ‘The Batman’ this weekend, I’d certainly consider it.

4. Stories will get worse before they get better.

There are a few questions that we, as human beings, struggle to answer. There are deep, philosophical ones that are top of the list; “why are we here?”, “what does it mean to be “me”?” and “how does one live a good life?”.

After a year of lockdown, a few more questions are becoming increasingly difficult to answer. “What have you been up to recently?”, “did you do anything fun at the weekend?” or “any holidays planned?”. I find this line of mundane enquiry challenging at the best of times. In 2021, I’d consider it a form of antagonism.

Being caged in for so long is undoubtedly having an impact on our mental health. But that’s not what I’m worried about. My fear is that our collective storytelling ability is taking a real hammering. I, for one, am losing all capacity to self-edit.

I was on the phone with my sister recently when she asked if I had any news for her. Tired of giving a negative answer to this question, I started into a story that under normal circumstances would barely make the back pages. It got even worse as I found myself falling victim to a quirk that usually only befalls the very elderly. I would say what day of the week the story occurred, then question it. I’d dawdle for several seconds, trying to pinpoint the exact timeframe and then give reasons why it must have happened on that particular day. I’d get overly specific about things that had no real bearing on the story. I argued with myself about the street name, what direction I was heading and what the weather was like. I could almost hear my sister think, “Oh my God, this is the most drawn-out story ever “, until she finally said “Oh my God, this is the most drawn-out story ever”.

My fear is that once the COVID pandemic is over, there is another epidemic on the horizon. One great period of hardship will lead to another. During this time, we will have to endure crippling writer’s block, tedious small talk and uninspired storytelling. There will be, no doubt, a creative blackhole. And there is no telling how long it will last.

Thankfully, the cure for this next epidemic is relatively straightforward and lies in the reopening of pubs, bars and restaurants. Until then, my friends and family will have to endure my never-ending tales of how I went for a walk within 5km of my house last Tuesday. Or was it Wednesday? Let’s see now…

5. Widespread backpedalling from big-talking hermits.

With every year, I get a little older, a little wiser and a little more reclusive. My own personal monkey-to-man evolutionary march would look something like the following: First, a gregarious student, foaming at the mouth at the thought of social play. Then, a slightly more boring adult who first utters the words, “I can’t wait to just do nothing this weekend”. Then a considerably less sociable adult whose anxiety level spikes upon hearing the line, “…great bumping into you, we should meet up for a pint, what’s your number?”. This chart presumably leads to an older me, standing in a darkened room, using my fingernail to lift the window blinds just so.

Many others have followed a similar trajectory. However this social regression seems to have been forgotten of late. After three lockdowns, many are making plans to return to their social glory days. I’ve heard dozens of people make the type of “once I break out of here” resolutions that are typically reserved for prison-based dramas.

From what I gather, hermits worldwide will lead very different lives once normality is restored. They will start eating out twice a week, popping into the local every other day and finally saying “yes” to that friend who’s been trying to meet up for years.

I believe these promises are being made with the best of intentions. Nonetheless, I predict that we are about to witness the single most extraordinary display of backpedalling ever recorded. It will be a natural phenomenon of David-Attenborough-voiceover proportions.

I, on the other hand, will be different. I will actually follow through on my big-talking and become the go-to guy for social occasions. Once this is over, I will lead a remarkably extraverted life, one that is much more ‘Copper Face Jacks’ than ‘Netflix and snacks’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I start getting mentioned in glossy mags with my name permanently preceded by the words “Kerry Socialite…”.

Yes, there will be a seismic change in the way I live my life.

But, like, not yet. The restrictions are still in place and there’s not much I can do right now. But someday soon this will all be over. Normality will be restored, the chains will be removed and we will, at long last, be allowed to socialise once again.

And when that day comes, well…

ah, I’ll see how I feel.

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Updated: Part Deux (Predictions 6–10) is now live!

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Ben Dillon

Everything I write is half nonsense. The other half is pure gold. Not on InstaTwitBook but please connect on LinkedIn — /dillon-ben