The Future of Pandemics and Seven Cocooning Aftershocks


In their speech and interaction with Kaihan Krippendorff, Kim Bates & Faith Popcorn apply and explain the relevance of cocooning, a trend envisioned in 1981 to the current crisis the world is going through.

Amidst everything that is going on in this pandemic, one piece of good news is that our species’ survival will be made all the more certain, thanks to one aspect of our evolution and that is technology, which has immensely changed what the future has in store for us. It is interesting to think about what would we do differently today if we knew everything about tomorrow. It is a way to frame what you are going to think about. This practice is called applied futurism. Seeing ahead, that is futurism, is not that difficult; applying it to a particular business or situation is.

Tracking trends since 1974 has culminated into an amazing intellectual property, the Trend Bank, which consists of 17 trends that stood the test of time. The most important one today is the cocooning trend. The cocooning trend was named and framed in 1981. There were many signals from different facets of the culture that gave us this hint that people were craving safety in a very uncertain world. In 1981, cocooning was framed to be about installation and avoidance, peace and protection, coziness and control. As it evolved, it split across different paths, and there came about car cocoon or carcoon, the armored cocoon, the protected cocoon, the filtered cocoon, the fantasy cocoon and then finally the corona cocoon, and that will lead us into the regenerative cocoon.

In this era of cocooning, it is worth exploring how we will feel, how we will love, how we will learn, how we will work, and how we will thrive. To begin with, how we will feel, we are extremely stressed. We are demanding radical relief. One in four Americans are binge drinking, call volume to suicide hotlines are up 50%, and the cannabis market is going through the roof- 159% up from last year. Looking at the online buddy system, there is an anti-loneliness app called Ikaria that connects people with similar life changes, the mood monitoring Misu app scans your face for mood clues and correlates to which website will cause it to lower, and then there is Emily, the therapy bot that uses sensors to analyze the user. 

In this era of cocooning, it is worth exploring how we will feel, how we will love, how we will learn, how we will work, and how we will thrive.

In terms of how we will love, love relationships are in free fall. Only 18% of quarantine couples are happy with their communication, marriage is at an all-time low since 1867, people don’t want to struggle to talk and date, 40% of Americans say their social relationships are meaningless and the UN warns that six months of coronavirus lockdown could lead to 31 million cases of domestic violence. Some beautiful things will also come out of this pandemic. In the future, we will have a digital mate, ultra-intimacy harmony sex bots embedded with artificial intelligence who learn what you are looking for, an artificial intelligence pal, therapy chatbots, etc. So, in the future, we might not have to work at a relationship. We can just buy a bot.

In regards to learning, E-education is evolving at hyper speed, $600 billion higher education industry has pivoted to be virtual. This is something that is going to stay with us. We can look forward to a new breed of teachers that understand how to teach online and use, many more visual tools to make the lessons more interesting. Robots are also rising. We are plotting studies using robots to teach autistic students’ social skills. Even before the pandemic, Oculus VR in education was predicted to go from 200 million to 700 million by 2025. It is going to go much faster because the future of travel is right there in those headphones. Singularity is soaring. Now, Elon Musk is developing the Neuralink that will change the brain and allow it to communicate with the internet.

In terms of work, coronavirus is killing the office. Remote work is found to be more productive, with employees clocking an extra 1.4 days per month. Companies are finding that they can save $10,000 per employee by maintaining remote work post-pandemic. We might also start to see a separation of the sexes in homework and office work, wherein male workers prefer to get back to the physical office workspace whereas women prefer to work from home. Technology can now allow us to feel like we are at the office. For example, Toil from Home creates office through virtual reality, Mimsy lets people collaborate via holography and across geographic boundaries, and Microsoft’s HoloLens avatars can speak foreign languages. 

The other thing is wellness. Wellness and health all rolled into one are getting digitized. Telemedicine has gone through the roof. For example, Ginger, a mental health app saw a 50% increase in traffic with COVID. Robots are serving right now on the frontline of coronavirus care from taking temperatures to disinfecting with UV light not on the inside, but the outside. With self-scanning at home, we will be able to see how we are, what our blood pressure is, what our vitamin level is, what our depression level is, just by scanning ourselves or walking under a door jamb which will measure us. There are apps that can give us our complete health status, and driverless pods that can pick us up and treat us without human hands. Therefore, a lot of what is going to come out of this is a touchless society. 

The top futurists and thinkers in the world have discovered that there are seven cultures of cocooning going on right now, but these are not mutually exclusive.

Cocooning has been splitting even further during the pandemic, and these are the cocooning we see in the far future, but that far future is maybe 2026. This health scare is only one of the future pandemics, and so our life as we know it is going to alter and change in the future, unlike anything we have ever seen before. We are also going to be more prepared in the future to handle anything that comes our way. We think of COVID as the great pause but it has also become one of the greatest accelerators in history, which means that all the things that we were seeing with different industries are happening right now. 

We are going to thrive forward into the next wave of our destiny as humans, and there is going to be some game-changing aftershocks because pandemic distancing is going to change human psychology and behaviour. People in quarantine are having very different experiences. Some people might think that they are sheltering in place, and other people might see it as artists in residence. There is an incredible amount of creativity and innovation coming into the world. Isolation, grief, and family crisis is real right now, but there are also a lot of families who have never spent this much time together, and they are really happy to be with their families again. Some people are extremely bored while others are using it as a time to grow and change, and decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Some people see it as a lockdown and other people see it as all of their time is being freed up to do all the things they did not have time for. These experiences will have significant implications for our future.

As we move into the next phase of outside shelter, there is an incredible amount of design and innovation going on in the world. Kids in China have invented hats that help them social distance at school, there is a technology that is going to clean our clothes in our closet, and even technology to help us not touch our face. The way that products are going to be designed and the automotive industry is going to change. Safety has always been important. But safety is taking a whole other level within cultures. So, cocooning is splintering again. The top futurists and thinkers in the world have discovered that there are seven cultures of cocooning going on right now, but these are not mutually exclusive.

At the top is armored cocooning, and this is where we are going to extreme lengths. There are going to be people within a culture who will go to extreme lengths to protect and prepare their households, their transportation, and their offices. They are in the survive-and-thrive mode, and that fear and behaviour will move to the next phase of everything. 

Ten years from now, our consumption ecosystem is going to look very different.

The second is privilege cocooning. Some people are having a completely different experience than others. They are seeking extreme exclusive access to medicine right now, they have concierge doctors giving them the first tests at their home, they are building out hospital-grade rooms at home, and are going to want luxury distancing in the future. Then, there is growth cocooning, wherein a lot of people are taking time to learn new things and grow, and there has never been more free content as there is right now in history.

The fourth is grief cocooning. Grief is really real. We need to be sensitive and empathetic for people who are in severe pain and who will be for the next couple of years. The question that arises is, how can companies take care of them as employees? And, how can companies take care of society? Consumers are going to be watching the companies. DIY cocooning is seen when everyone is doing projects because we are stuck at home, but it is deeper than that. We don’t want to trust governments anymore, or even medical communities. Some people want to just do it themselves. They don’t want to have to depend on anyone else in the future for their survival, so they are going back to baking and cooking and learning all these new home skills. This makes them feel more in control and less dependent on others for their survival.

The sixth is pleasure and fantasy cocooning. There is a whole group of people that are scoops escaping into the nethers, timewarp, and reality. They are diving into alternative worlds of pleasure and fantasy, and when quarantine is lifted, these people are going to revenge spend, they are going to go out into the world and act like nothing ever happened, and they are going to go right back. The last is communal cocooning. It makes people feel really good to take the time right now to give back to their community and connect with their neighbors. They are connecting with their local neighbourhoods, they are fundraising and thinking about how they can give back at home.

All these trends mean that businesses will have to redefine themselves in the future. Businesses are going to morph because of all of this. For example, those in the food service business are actually in the universal food care system now and it is their responsibility to feed society right now. Similarly, those in veterans’ affairs are now also in survivor affairs. If someone owns a parking lot right now, they own some of the most valuable real estate in the world. They are the new church, the new concert hall, the new movie theater and eventually the new sports arena. So, what does it mean for advertising? We are moving into a new era of advertising. Ad placements are going to shift from screens to superimpose services, so display ads are going away and we are going to move into layer ads. 

In terms of the path to purchase, we are moving to a B2R2C model, a business-to-robot-to-consumer model. In the future, our care bots and our AI gatekeepers will make the decisions for us, so companies will have to market to them first.  We are going to be bartering our personal data and our avatars for goods and services, and then this is going to be dependent on M2C, Medical-to-Consumer. Healthcare companies and practitioners are going to become household names, at-home testing is going to become the new search data and gateway for precision, nutrition, and medicine.

We are going to go deep really quickly in essence of time, through three of these cocooning cultures, and what it is going to mean in terms of future products. The first one is armored cocooning as medical-grade becomes the status quo. The second one is privileged cocooning. Luxury distancing is going to expand and it will be seen in behaviors of the wealthy. The third is pleasure and fantasy cocooning as pleasure revenge becomes a symbol of survival. 

Since we are biologically fortifying our homes and offices to combat pathogens, pollution, and other people, we are seeing lab-grade interiors. So, there is a whole new market in the home for those who are in the medical business and who build labs. We also want medical-grade connectivity. We don’t just want high-speed internet in our home anymore, but we want it to be medical grade. We want RF blocking, pulse rates, home interiors, devices, and apparel, so the Apple Watch might start offering all of these. 

Ten years from now, our consumption ecosystem is going to look very different. Healthcare, self-care, and protection companies are going to sell services through the cloud to edge IoT. We are going to have brain implants, ingestible sensors, avatars and humanoids, novel devices, and testing kits, and they are going to automatically deliver solutions to our home, transport, and body. In the future, people are going to buy CareBots and Hologram Docs that are going to live with us and protect our homes and families. They are going to be the ultimate gatekeeper and influencer of our purchases. So, traditional healthcare advertising, as we know it right now, is going to be obsolete in the future, and bio home pods are going to be flying to easily migrate around hostile environments to safer climate zones. Our climate is going to become even more hostile, so we are going to fly to safer spaces, generate our food.

As for privileged cocooning, there is going to be super seclusion, that is, private aviation and restaurant and resort buyouts. We are already seeing those right now. Wealthy people don’t want to be around other people so we will see privacy within private clubs and privileged access to and revenge spending on the unattainable right now. Rage culture is at an all-time high, so we are going to see the most tremendous amounts of rage in culture over the next 24 months. A lot of people will go into social incognito because they do not want to be turned down and judged. There is going to be a war between the haves and the have nots, and there is going to be a complete shadow on the ground markets. We are already seeing it in the underground market for plasma right now. We are seeing at-home hospital-grade isolation rooms, luxury streaming services like Bel Air Circuit where you can see films before they are released with a membership fee of $100,000.

If we can predict the consumption pattern in the future, luxury brands and private member services are going to sell to the luxury consumer, again through the edge IoT, but also through Holographs, ButlerBots, and Avatars. We are going to have our avatars shop for us in physical spaces when we don’t want to leave our homes. We are also going to have augmented shopping shelves which will enable real and virtual goods and services to be delivered and experienced. Top chefs will be on command because the restaurant business is turning into a nutrient streaming service and human chefs will create private luxury dining on demand. We are starting to see this. Bunkers are sold out, but in the future, we are going to have hidden tech bunker estates and digital detox centers. We are going to have tech branded mansions and ecosystems built underground because want to buy ecosystems in the future. We want all that technology but on the other hand, we are going to be so addicted to technology that we’re going to have luxury digital detox centers to battle our addiction.

There has never been a more important role for the automobile. There are only two places we trust in the world right now. It is our home and our car.

We are seeing primal and escapist binging, psychoactive and unstructured time right now. People are living a multiverse life. We have ‘technodelichs’ that are getting us high through technology, remote haptics, and so on. Corporate executives are working as an executive still, but are living in Zen Communes and not going back to the office. We will also see gender fluidity more than ever. We are going to see signals like that within a culture and more acceptance.

Revenge spending is the symbol of surviving the crisis, so online gambling, sale of alcohol, and edibles have shot up. We are also going to see coronavirus-themed fantasy through entertainment, costuming, and everything in between. In the future, people are going to buy the dream band. It is a brainwave bending band that fills our subconscious with our most pleasant memories, new skills, and education, and projective manifestations. So, we are going to be able to shapeshift our life through our minds in the future. We are going to go on VR memory trips with our departed and in the weekend-long VR immersion, relive the past and spend time with our loved ones that we lost up to ten generations back. 

Kaihan Krippendorff in Conversation with Kim Bates & Faith Popcorn_

Kaihan Krippendorff: Who is going to be able to afford this cocooning in this space? For example, this is the future for the top 1% of the population, so what about the other 99%?

Kimberly Bates: We are going to have a lot of rage in culture. We are going to have rage rooms and they are going to be booked out months ahead of time. We only covered three of the cocoons, but again, some people who have lost their jobs are spending all of their time giving back to the community right now, everyone is coming together in ways in which we haven’t seen. There are the haves and have nots. We are going to have a lot of grief and there is going to be a very dark side to this. We’re going to have the workers’ rights marches, a lot more protests, and a lot more violence.

Kaihan Krippendorff: Humans need the human touch, but we are looking at a future where we don’t have that. How are we going to adapt?

Faith Popcorn: Firstly, you have to notice that it is going to be and is currently going like a water drip, a melding of human and robotic form. For example, if you have a replacement knee, you now have something robotic in your body. As this melds, the idea of human touch may change as well. Your version of human touch is going to be changed as you move more toward the robotic sense of life. So, if you want the human touch, you will be able to get it through a robot.

Kaihan Krippendorff: If given the option, would Faith and Kim upload their consciousness?

Faith Popcorn: I would love to. You say your kids can’t learn from your experience. If we can upload our consciousness and maybe download it into our progeny or have them access it, that would be incredible, and this is much closer than we think. 

Kimberly Bates: Yes. I do believe in uploading consciousness and I do believe that the filmmakers, producers directors in the world are going to start directing and producing memories. Documentarians are going to take this to a whole new level and start recording your memories and your best moments so that you can store it somewhere your generations can access it whenever they want. These memory trips are going to happen.

Faith Popcorn: Linking that to travel, you are going to be able to visit a place with anyone you want, dead or alive because you will be able to lease personalities or people from your future and your past.

Kaihan Krippendorff: Can you clarify more on what you mean about the parking lots as churches and as movie theaters?

Kimberly Bates: People aren’t wanting to go to large stadiums and big places today in theaters, so right now, we are seeing people who own the parking lot making a lot of money because they are hosting movie nights where people stay in their cars. As churches have been shut down, right with quarantine, people are still wanting that connection and they are going to church in a parking lot in their cars. They are cocooning in their cars. There has never been a more important role for the automobile. There are only two places we trust in the world right now. It is our home and our car. We are also seeing concerts being played in our cars. That drive-in movie theater that feels like the 1950s is coming back in a big way. It will be big for the next 12 to 18 months. Until we have a vaccine, some people will never step foot in the movie theater.

Kaihan Krippendorff: Is this just a reverse of the Uber mobility as a service trend that people have been talking about?

Kimberly Bates: Yes. If you are a car company right now, your next customer is that millennial who was Ubering to work every day. They are starting to realize that having a car has a purpose and it is around safety and security, and they are starting to rethink that. Uber’s trips are way down. You are going to see a lot more people who are younger who just didn’t believe in owning a car second-guessing it.

Faith Popcorn: Adding to that, a lot of our travel or transportation will be through our brains and chips. The CIA is studying telepathy, certain pilots are learning how to steer planes telepathically, and we are going to be taking little trips from our brains.

Kaihan Krippendorff: Could I ask each of you to share with us the thoughts you want to leave us with?

Kimberly Bates: We’re all having a different experience right now and as humans, how we handle trauma is different, so have some patience and have some empathy to understand that some people are going to be happier than you are and some people are going to be sadder than you are. Hold space for people to go through this process the way they need to go through it. 

Faith Popcorn: This is a time to believe in your humaneness presently, and also to embrace robotics and technology, and the future that will arise therein. There are always people that make a lot of money in these times and one of those people could be you.

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