Covid-19 and the world of 2035

Last week, I caught up on some science fiction movies that I had missed over the years – The Edge of Tomorrow, Prometheus, and Blade Runner 2049. They were packed with dazzling visuals and transported me to a stunning and scary future world.

And I couldn’t help but wonder: what will the world look like 15 years from now due to the societal tectonic shifts caused by Covid-19?

So, let’s jump into a wormhole and travel to the world of the future, shall we?

It’s 7am on May 15, 2035 and you’ve just landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport after a long flight. But thankfully, you’re a sound sleeper and managed to get a solid five hours of shut eye on the turbulence-free flight so you’re feeling sharp and ready to start the day strong.

Being Malaysian, you breeze through immigration and get to the automated health screening counter. It first scans the RFID chip embedded on your forearm right above your wrist. The RFID chip implant has long replaced identity cards (IC) and passports. With it, the system can pull up all your data – your name, address, phone number, travel history, financial history, and health status.

The health screening counter is only interested in your health status – and it accesses it by communicating with the health monitor embedded in your abdomen. It’s a tiny, capsule-sized device that became mandatory almost the world over after the two great pandemics of the past 15 years, including Covid-19. It conveys real-time information about many aspects of your health, including your blood glucose level, blood pressure, heart rate, hormonal levels and a myriad more.

Besides a rash on your back that’s bothering you, you’re in perfect health. The health monitor seconds this and you’re on your way out of the airport in no time. You swiftly head to the Grab pickup point where there’s a self-driving electric Perodua Myvi Gen 7 waiting for you.

You place your RFID-chipped arm on the scanner right behind the passenger door. It promptly scans it to verify your identity, assess your health status and charge you for the ride. This takes all of five seconds. A green light flashes and the door pops right open.

An electronic voice in the empty car urges you to use the hand sanitiser in front of you, and you comply. The self-driving Grab car then takes off slowly and cautiously as it always does. And you rest your eyes peacefully, knowing you’re in safe hands.

Before you know it, you’re in front of your apartment in Bangsar. You exit the car and head to the elevator. Everything’s touchless now, of course, so it opens after verifying your identity via the embedded RFID chip. Once you step into the lift, a SIRI-like voice asks you “Which floor, ma’am?” “Sixth floor please,” you respond.

You’re delighted to be back in your apartment after two weeks abroad. Unfortunately, you don’t have the time to sit back and relax. You’ve got a conference to attend. But, of course, large gatherings of all sorts are rare these days. Thankfully, virtual reality conferences are the norm now.

You put on your HTC virtual reality goggles and sign in to the International Design Conference. The system has all your information so it generates a virtual avatar that’s a near-replica of you. You walk around the virtual conference hall and bump into a colleague donning his virtual avatar. You chat for a bit about the projects you’re working on before attending a talk by a VR-powered Elon Musk on how good design was integral to the Dragon space capsule that he recently landed on Mars.

After the tiring three-hour conference, you resign to your couch and realise that you haven’t had anything to eat in 12 hours. So you open up the Grabfood app and order some delicious-looking Thai red curry with rice.

About 10 minutes later, your google home hologram pops up, notifying you that your food will be arriving anytime now. So you step out onto your balcony and into the hot sun. Just as you’re taking in the natural vitamin D, you hear a buzzing sound that steadily gets louder.

A Grab Drone enters your line of sight and flies to your balcony’s aerial delivery ledge that’s now commonplace in apartments. It hovers gracefully while slowly lowering the food package that’s tethered to a cable. Once it’s safely on the ledge, the cable disengages and the drone flies off into the distance.

You excitedly pick up the food, knowing that if you had eaten out, it would have cost a fortune. Most sit-down restaurants these days have become of the high-end variety. They are the only ones which survived the climate of stringent hygiene and social distancing requirements which drastically drove up costs while reducing capacity following the two pandemics.

In its place, cloud kitchens have proliferated. They meet the demand of the masses in need of affordable meals delivered to their doorstep.

After what feels like a sumptuous repast, you decide to get your rash checked and so you sign in to Holodoc, Malaysia’s largest telemedicine site. In less than two minutes, a doctor appears as a hologram in your living room and diagnoses the problem. He says the rash could have been induced by the stress you’ve been under at work and advises you to divorce work from home.

The problem is, you work from home just like half of all Malaysians these days. So keeping work and family separate has become an increasingly difficult task. Annoyed, you grumble under your breath “easier said than done” and hastily get off the call.

At this point, you start feeling sluggish thanks to your carb-heavy lunch so you doze off on your couch while reminiscing about the good old 2010s. Ah what a magical time it was.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.