One of the more counter-intuitive aspects of human progress is that times of great disruption often contribute to innovation and faster change. The Second World War started with the French army spending more on hay for horses than fuel for tanks, and ended with the atomic bomb and the beginning of the space race. Covid-19 has the potential to be a similar catalyst, in particular speeding up changes that have already begun. We are, for example, now a society in which wearing face masks is considered perfectly normal.
What could Ireland look like a decade from now? Let's take a step through a rip in the time-space continuum and take a peek at a possible Ireland 2030.
Welcome to the future. The single biggest change in the post-Covid era has been the rebalancing of the urban-rural divide. Working from home, combined with the expansion of business-grade broadband, accelerated the flight of the white-collar middle-class as they realised that it was possible to have a higher standard of living outside the traffic-choked cities.
In the cities, non-food retail has declined sharply, but this allowed some of the more foresighted chief executives of local authorities to buy up cheap former shopping centres and convert them into affordable housing and council-rented micro-business premises.
Many repurposed commercial buildings boast a mix of one-bedroom studio apartments and large communal areas and environmentally sustainable roof gardens to permit people to work from their own buildings, again supported by small food and drink retailers.
The skies above have drones delivering food and other products from those businesses and "dark kitchens" in repurposed commercial areas to suburban residential areas and beyond.
Gardaí use high-visibility drones with infrared cameras and speakers over busy areas, providing air support to ground officers. Areas no longer demand their own Garda stations, but rather their permanent hovering and always-watching sentinel. If anything, some areas have started to complain of too much Garda presence.
As the middle-class went rural, low-income immigrants - the single group most likely to start a new business - drove urban renewal. They established new communities, with shops and restaurants reflecting their ethnic background. This in turn attracted young and metropolitan employees and the high-tech businesses eager to employ them.
The devolution of drinking-time regulation to local level has allowed some parts of the cities to develop a separate and distinct nightlife, with some daytime cafés and restaurants handing over their premises to a separate hospitality business at night, reducing their overheads.
Traditional cars are less welcome in the cities, with cycling on the verge of becoming, alongside public transport, the dominant mode of transport.
The arrival of the much-ballyhooed electric driverless cars has finally happened, and they are not confined to the cities. The stop-start frustrating commute of old has become a period of solace, work, rest or binge watching. In fact, the Department of Transport has had to issue ads warning the public to ensure that if they are going to engage in adult activity in their driverless cars, they at least should have tinted windows or curtains.
Will all this happen? Nothing I've outlined is too fantastic. The one thing I can say for certain: if you don't have plans for the future, the future has plans for you.