Under semi-quarantine in New York City due to Covid-19, I’ve gained more sympathy for the players on Edge of Extinction. I was struck when Ethan talked about how it was hard to find motivation in a place where he had so few options. He asked Parvati: “How to exist in this in-between world?”
That’s a question that many people around the world are asking now. What is the best way to live in the in-between world that our homes have become? Humans can become accustomed to a vast range of situations. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because it allows us to survive changes in our environment, but it can also make us unenthusiastic about changing even bad situations. We become normalized.
So what are we going to become normalized to? Are we going to become normalized to living indoors, sequestered from the rest of humanity for the next 18 months? Normalized to not seeing our family, friends, or co-workers except on video screens? Or are a significant number of people going to become too agitated by this situation and demand to be released? If society ramps back up to more-or-less previous levels, the death rate from Covid-19 will almost certainly rise.
However, for better or for worse, I think we will soon become normalized to the higher death rates. Right now, a large percentage of people are scared and reacting from their fear because this level of death rate is new. But after some months, we will become acclimated to the death rate, just like we become acclimated to every other tragedy that strikes the world. Pandemics, war, tsunamis – they are horrific and shake us to our foundations, but life always eventually seems to go on. Sporadic quarantines and isolation will be used to contain Covid-19 outbreaks as much as possible, but the temptations and needs of life will cover over our current panic.
Unless. One difference with older tragedies is that because of the internet and automation, we have less pressure to reopen society compared to previous generations. There were few ways to work from home in the past, unless you were a small farmer or craftsman, and even then you needed to interact with other people eventually to sell your goods. There was also almost no food delivery back then. We’re seeing this tension play out today in countries like India, where only a small percentage of workers can do their jobs from home. But everyplace used to be like India. Perhaps previous generations would have done what we’re doing now if they had somehow had the means to stay at home.
Of course, the analogy with Edge of Extinction only works to a limited degree. We don’t have the option to quit like Sandra did.