David Brin is Having Too Much Fun Imagining Possible Futures

The science fiction writer (and occasional privacy theorist) has a blog called “Contrary Brin” at which he posted Where might this all lead? Unexpected options and outcomes… and some solace. It’s a long post, as many of his are; here’s a quote of just a part of it:

Earlier I made a modest suggestion for what cities across America and the world might do, to maintain some employment and solve real problems, while our streets are mostly empty. The “Pothole Gambit” proposed that we send out scores of 2-person teams to fill potholes, repair empty schools, etc. Risk to the crews would be minimal, if they take basic precautions, and paychecks would flow. This could be done even before testing is widely available.

This kind of selective-contingent thinking leads further to an almost sci fi extension. Once the U.S. has rapid, effective and plentiful COVID-19 tests (as we should and could have had, two months ago) then why not let companies re-open some factories etc., putting back to work employees who have already gone through their exposure to the virus and the following latency period, whether symptomatic or not?

Picture a scenario. Elon Musk rents the Pebble Beach Golf Club in order to test and ease-in staff for his Tesla factory… If that works, expand the experiment. Eventually, some restaurants might even bring in Covid-positive staff to serve an only-Covid-positive clientele.

Sure, one should always look ahead to secondary consequences; would healthy folks in their 20s then deliberately hold COVID Parties, in order to get it over with? I don’t recommend this, as it’s dangerous for the rest of us… and for an unknown few of those youths(!)… that is unless resort hotels rented themselves out to let this happen while young “invulnerables” stay away from their older relatives? (Envision those 1980s “herpes dating clubs.”)

The same sort of thing could happen for Covid-negatives (though only with much better quick-testing.) Companies might wind up having pairs of offices or twin plants engaged in friendly rivalry, like those in that commercial, that produce the left vs. right halves of Twix bars.

Or else trade-off and pick-a-side? Envision Disneyland open for positives and Universal for negatives?

Extrapole some more! “Sectors” of cities divide-up just like in some sci fi flick! (“You’re from ZONE TWO? Get away from me!”) Heck let’s go beyond the obvious Romeo & Juliet riff. Maybe we’ll speciate… !

…no no, forget that last part. Sorry. Professional habit.

Very funny. But two can play that game: Seems to me, if we’re going to speciate, more likely to be tribal/political. For some time before the current crisis slowed the dating game, we’ve been reading that people don’t date across party lines; given the partisan divide in reactions to COVID-19, it’s hard to see why this won’t make it worse.

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