KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Who would have guessed, two months ago, that we’d see fewer cars on the roads, our friends working from home and people wearing masks in restaurants and stores? That’s our new reality today. But what other changes are in our future?
KCTV5’s Joe Chiodo asked Thomas Frey, Futurist. Yep. That’s his real job title. Some 20-plus years ago, Frey left his job as an IBM engineer and founded The DaVinci Institute — a futurist think tank. There’s a big demand for his services; Frey consults for companies like Disney, Toshiba and even NASA.
Frey doesn’t use a crystal ball. He studies trends from the past to take a deep dive into what comes next. (And, to be fair, Frey says researchers knew a pandemic would hit in our lifetime, but thought it would be more easily contained.)
“I think we’re on the verge of reinventing society in so many ways,” says Frey. "We’re going to have more job shifts. People changing work. Because suddenly we’re taking a pause. When they think about it, they’re going to say 'I really don’t want to go back to that job. I think I’ll do something else.'"
He expects more people to change careers; telehealth and telecommunication jobs will flourish, and two billion traditional jobs could disappear in the next 10 years. But, Frey says that doesn’t mean that many people will be out of work. There will be new jobs in new industries and many more people will work from home.
"Whether its quantum computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence... We're going to raise the skill level of many people in the world during this time," Frey told KCTV5.
And, if you can work from home, you’ll also be able to get a college education at home. Frey predicts some colleges won’t survive as people realize it’s cheaper to go to school online.
While those are all benefits, together they may create drastic consequences. "With so many changes to so many industries at once, all hell breaks loose. It's total chaos. It messes with the economies," he warned.
Frey also sees huge gains being made in the environment — clear waters and better air quality. He tells KCTV5 that studies and ideas are being formulated right now to hold on to the great improvements we've made in improving the environment over the past two months. Venice has clear waters for the first time in recent memory, and Los Angeles went from the most polluted city in the world to one of the cleanest during the pandemic.
Entertainment and shopping will be drastically different. “I think we have this big dividing line of everything created before the virus and everything created after. Technology, I think it’s fast tracked. I think we’re going to want it right now,” said Frey. "I think the virtual reality world the artificial intelligence world -- it's going to get turbocharged. It's always been right at the edge, not quite ready for prime time. But now, I think it moves into a whole different gear."
Convenience will be king. “A driverless, mobile convenience store to come to you," he said. "So, it’ll pull into your driveway then it will go to the next person who needs something.”
Interestingly, this may be one of the best times to be in the movie and television entertainment industry as well. "The script writers are feverishly writing to pitch to executives something in Hollywood of new series or movies or plots you haven't thought of in the past," he said. "It’s a time of extreme creativity. Probably one of the best times to be alive in the movie industry."
One thing, according to Frey, that will not change is our need for human contact. While health experts are preaching keeping our distance from one another, Frey doesn’t expect that trend to last.
“This idea of no human contact... I can’t think of anything more dangerous than that,” says Frey. “I mean, we’re in direct conflict with human nature.”
In the end, Frey says this is a monumental piece of history. While there is a lot of bad, there is also some good in terms of creativity and advancement. He said he wouldn't be surprised if, in the future, there are a few days to a week where businesses shut down to allow their employees time to breathe and take a step back, much like we have done over the past two months. He said it would be somewhat of a "holiday" created out of the coronavirus pandemic.