The world we now live in

By Santiago Hunt

Cover image by Nataliya Vaitkevich.

Almost three years ago (March 2020), during that crazy moment when we were realizing what COVID would mean for our lives, I wrote an article: “The world we will live in”. It had 4 (or 5) predictions for the post COVID world. To this day, it remains one of my top 5 most read pieces. More importantly, it struck a chord with the zeitgeist at that time, one full of uncertainty and dread.

Three years later, it is worth revisiting my predictions. Not only to see what was right/wrong. But also to assess my(our) thinking, and understand how it has changed.

1) The divide between older and younger people will widen: CORRECT

The crux of this prediction was about how COVID would take inter-generational conflict (already hidden in multiple ways throughout society) to new heights. In other words, how the “Hey Boomer” vs “Millenials always complain” dynamic was behind most of our societal issues.

Throughout the world, the tension between generations is at a high. While older people have been more concerned about the health implications of the pandemic, younger people have been more concerned about the impact of quarantine in their economies and lifestyles. This has led to one same war being fought throughout multiple battles such as vaccine mandates, masks, curfews and more.

One less obvious victim of this conflict? Old guard politicians. Boris Johnson (58) has been replaced by Rishi Sunak (42). G.Conte (58) by Giorgia Meloni (45) in Italy. In Chile, former president Pinera (73) has left his spot for Gabriel Boric (36!). In the US, after multiple years where the key political figures have been 70+ (Biden, Trump, Sanders, Warren, Pelosi, etc.) the last elections have proven that Ron DeSantis (44) is a clear contender for not only leadership of the Republican Party but also a frontrunner for US President as well.

A change of the guard in politics is already here.

There’s a change of the guard in politics, which is ultimately one of many manifestations of a younger generation (Gen Z + Millennials) calling out their elders. COVID was the ultimate litmus test. Across the globe, it has become obvious that our institutions and bureaucracies were not up to the standard.

Another interesting aspect of this conflict is showing up in the East. In China, we’re seeing a clampdown by the CCP against younger generations. As part of their “3 Child Policy” mandate, the CCP has targeted young people for being “idle”, “unproductive” and a “burden” on society. Videogame restrictions for people 18 or less are one example of this; enhanced LGBT prosecutions are another. Another hotspot is the UKR-RUS conflict, where it is mostly young people who must put themselves on the line to fight the war.

The corollary of this prediction? Expect more leadership churn throughout the decade as the changing of the guard continues. Additionally, pension/social security costs will be a very hot button in the years to come.

2) Meditation becomes mainstream: INCORRECT

This was a clear miss. Just look at the Google Trends graph for “meditation” since then:

Google search trends for “Meditation”, Worldwide.

Another datapoint worth looking into: the slowdown in downloads experienced by leading meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace.

Slowdown in download growth in 2021 for meditations apps. (Source: AppMagic)

The lesson here?  Even though we may need a world with more meditation, that doesn’t mean it will happen. Meditation takes time for its effects to compound, and in a world of increasingly shorter feedback loops, time, attention, and intent are quite scarce. And wishful thinking won’t change that.

3) Working from home won’t be a success. Learning from home will be. And the MetaVerse is being born as we speak: SO-SO.

This one had the right intuitions but missed out on a couple of key things.

For starters, WFH has worked way better than I anticipated. The prediction missed one critical point: how much friction “working from the office” creates. We’ve all experienced it: commutes, useless meetings, and pointless time fillers were reduced to a minimum. Flexibility and independence, coupled with reduced costs of living unlocked new ways of working (at least for white collar workers).

It is likely that hybrid will become the go-to solution for many workplaces as 100% remote is tough. Nevertheless, COVID has proven that most companies were running with a lot of fat in their veins, and it is unquestionable that WFH has massively surpassed expectations.


The second half of the prediction (Virtual learning + MetaVerse) was much closer to its mark. Virtual learning has boomed throughout the pandemic. And the MetaVerse was the hot topic of 2021. We are still many years away from a MetaVerse a la “Snow Crash/Ready Player One” (if we even get there). There are multiple barriers: latency, protocol interoperability, monetary rules and a very long etc. But the pandemic has sparked the fire. Chief amongst these efforts is Mark Zuckerberg’s drive to build the MetaVerse (which led to the Facebook/Meta rebrand move).

What comes next? The pandemic has made us question the role of in person vs. virtual interactions. Neither is going away. Yet what is apparent though, is that we are in the process of re-signifying these moments. If meeting in person, how do we create a moment that cannot be replicated online? If meeting online, how can we maximize the potential that virtual resources offer?

There are multiple facets of this duality worth exploring. One critical aspect is the evolution of social media. “Showcasing my life” social media, such as FB, IG, Snap seems past its prime. It hit its ceiling by “projecting” your in-person life in a virtual sphere. The limitations of “in-person” being projected into a virtual ecosystem are ultimately unavoidable.

This is a (or THE) key reason why TikTok has ate Facebook Meta’s lunch. TikTok has no pretense of being “real-life”. It is 100% crafted, designed and produced for virtual consumption. TikTok understood that in a virtual environment, cool addictive content is better than the content your friend graph can produce. In other words, I won’t care about that salad you ate or the vacation you took because it’s the 100th salad/holiday pic I’ve seen, but that TikTok challenge is real funny and cool.

And just wait for TikTokesque content created by AI, which is the next thing down the line…

Average daily time spent on TikTok vs. Instagram.

4) 2020 will be the decade of biotelemetry and personalized DNA mapping: CORRECT

The biotelemetry part was a definite hit. DNA mapping, while still early, is trending in the right direction. What’s biotelemetry? The portable tracking of vital signs in real time. Wearables. The Apple Watch, FitBit, Whoop, Oura, Dexcom and more. These are all biotelemetry devices.

The last 3 years have seen a boom in usage adoption of wearables.  The COVID equation was a simple but powerful one: Online ubiquitous access + Big data processing capability + Noninvasive yet accurate sensors = Biotelemetry boom. If you couple that with the health paranoia that the pandemic triggered, the spike in biotelemetry seemed bound to happen.

It’s estimated that 533 million wearables were shipped in 2021 (source: Statista). That’s 3X more than in 2018. Roughly 1 wearable per 15 people in the world (in just one year!). And the annual Apple Watch sales are estimated to be around 40 Billion USD (with a B) in 2022!

Might as well change its name to Apple Health Tracker.

DNA mapping is advancing but will still take some time for its effects to become more apparent. The most interesting part is that both biotelemetry and customized gene mapping will in turn unlock a vast amount of possibilities health wise. This makes life sciences an exciting space looking forward 5-10 years, not only from the technological advancement perspective, but also the investing one as well. Now beware, the ROI of investing in life sciences has been consistently poor. It is an area fraught with risk. Investing in XBI (the Biotech ETF) has underperformed the S&P for the last years…you need to go back a decade for XBI to (barely) beat the S&P!

5/3Y performance of XBI (Biotech ETF) vs. S&P 500.

It’s been almost 25 years since the first chromosome was fully mapped (1997-1999). This timelapse might be comparable to the 25 years between 1982-2007 and what they meant for the Internet. 1982 marked the “formal” invention of the Internet due to the adoption of TCP/IP by ARPANET. And what happened in 2007? Just a little thing called the iPhone. The 25 years in between were fundamental for foundation layering.

Now analogies are always dangerous and should be used with caution. But there’s a good chance that these last 25 years where necessary to build and test out the infrastructure that will kick off the life sciences revolution. Time will tell, but of all these prediction spaces, this is the one I’m paying the most attention to.

5) A fork in the road: TBD

This last prediction (of sorts) talked about how COVID marked a fork in the road for society.

One of the outlined paths was about a stronger society moving out of COVID. The other led to a tribalistic, “Us vs. Them” kind of world.

I hate the “world is getting worse” rhetoric. But like it or not, COVID has kicked off a domino effect with 3 massive global consequences. None positive, with more to come. Namely: i) Inflation making a comeback after 40 years ii) The RUS-UKR war iii) Xi Jingping  becoming premier for life in China.

The problem with domino effects: You don’t know where they stop.

I’ve written about inflation at length here. Suffice to say that due to a number of combined factors (triggered mostly but not entirely by COVID), we will have to deal with higher structural inflation for many years. And inflation is a recipe for unrest.

Regarding the RUS-UKR war, a lot has been said as well. Hopefully the conflict will come to some sort of truce during 2023. But even if this happens, the Russia sanctions by the West are not going away. Which also means more multipolar alignments and more uncertainty (Hello petroyuan, Goodbye Pax Americana).

Finally, the Xi Jingping is the most important yet least talked about move of these three. Xi has now surpassed the 10-year mark as leader of the PR China. A feat only accomplished by Mao Zedong (1949-1976) and Jiang Zemin (1989-2002), with Mao being the only one who held the role for life prior to Xi. COVID has played an instrumental part in allowing Xi to achieve this. The topic is huge and exceeds the scope of this article, but a China with less internal checks and balances creates many ripples effects across the world.

My chief concern with these (and other) dominoes is that COVID has setup a global picture where the following part of the prediction rings uncomfortably true “…increasingly tribal, increasingly suspicious, increasingly paranoid and increasingly accusatory. Where lack of trust becomes endemic, where neither institutions nor individuals are trustworthy”.

More dominoes are now set to fall. As Julius Caesar once said “Alea jacta est”. The die (or luck) is cast.

Click here to read the original article: The world we will live in.


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