If 2020 has thrown too much at you, just wait. COVID-19 will cause anxiety for decades, according to Jared Weiner, a futurist and speaker at the PRDecoded session Seeing around Corners: Being Proactive in a World on Fire, held on Thursday.
The virus is an accelerant, said Weiner, EVP and chief strategy officer at consulting firm The Future Hunters. And it's speeding up and heightening the intense cultural and societal forces that are roiling the world, he told moderator Kate Cusick, CMO of Porter Novelli.
While racial injustice protests may seem like singular reactions to specific events, Weiner said the pandemic has given them a power and intensity they would lack otherwise.
"The common thread is it's all representative of what we see as a youth movement," he explained. "This is what we call the COVID-19 multiplier effect. The idea is we already have existing inequality and people feeling left out of the game, and now you multiply that by time because people are unemployed and furloughed and people have more time to think on these issues."
In fact, the confluence of social justice protests with other movements may signal a major reordering of society, Weiner said.
"Multiply time by desperation and you end up with these social movements that now span the globe," Weiner said. "While they seem to be based on a lot of the negative things that are happening in society, the optimistic perspective here is we might be seeing the beginnings of a system reboot for humanity."
That could involve more than issues of race, Weiner added, and could affect nearly every business as the foundations of capitalism are questioned.
"The future of capitalism and where globalization versus the nationalism movements falls out, we don't know," he explained. "There is uncertainty here and in the rest of the world. The number two issue is rising global inequality. I would argue outside of climate change, it's the largest existential threat."