A Vaccine Won’t Return Us to Normal

coughing in public

A lot of people are waiting for the one, two, and three that need to happen to make everyone relax and return to normal.

The idea is that once we get a SARS-COVID-2 vaccine, or treatment, or combination of the two, people will be ok with once again being around others in public places and at work. I think this is unlikely for a couple of reasons.

First—and most obviously—people will be worried about the next one. So that will create some measure of fear.

But the bigger problem is how our previous level of public sickness (which we largely ignored) will look exactly like the next pandemic on day 3. And people will have zero interest in wondering what some random coughing person is actually suffering from.

In the security world we call it the con-flu.

  • Think about conferences where people regularly get sick afterwards

  • Think about the office setting where there was always someone getting sick

  • Think about how you and your family got sick a few times per year

Now think about the fact that those symptoms are like an 80-95% match not just for COVID-19, but for a common cold, the flu, and likely the next novel Coronavirus as well.

We’re basically going to return to the public hyper-sensitized to anyone with symptoms of sickness, because the symptoms to a 2-day cold look almost identical to the next big thing.

Even worse, maybe the public cameras do this automatically using their integration with something like Clearview AI.

We’re about to see health-discourtesy reporting apps, where you catch someone coughing without a mask, and without covering their mouth, and people report them to the cops for a ticket.

We had all this drama recently about the Clearview AI technology that could map people’s faces to their identities online. Well, isn’t that going to be a requirement for identifying people in public who are breaking the rules?

Unsupervised Learning — Security, Tech, and AI in 10 minutes…

Get a weekly breakdown of what's happening in security and tech—and why it matters.

And even if it isn’t, won’t it be something that governments and multiple companies try to deploy in the name of public safety? I mean, cops could see that behavior themselves and ask for identification to ticket them, but that doesn’t scale like cameras do.


I just think it’s naive to think addressing the COVID-19 situation is going to calm people down in public.

We spent decades ignoring the risk of diseases that kill tens of thousands per year. Less than half of people even got a flu shot. And the anti-vaccine types effectively brought back at least one disease.

That’s all going to change. The background noise of coughs, sneezes, and sick leave is about to become a malicious cacophony that people cannot ignore.

What was completely normal six months ago will be taken as proof that COVID-20 is about to bloom, with patient zero being the person right next to you.

This thing won’t just change the normal of our future. It’ll also change how we see the normal of the past.

Related posts: