Welcome to Axios Future, where we like to pretend it's 1998 again while watching Michael Jordan crush it in "The Last Dance."
Today's issue is 1,695 words, a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Far from being the unifying force other catastrophes have been, the COVID-19 pandemic is tearing a divided America — and world — further apart.
Why it matters: Thanks to preexisting political and economic divisions and tech and media bubbles that allow us to choose our own reality, we're not experiencing the same pandemic. That bodes ill for our ability to overcome this global disaster, and the ones that will follow.
Driving the news: On Saturday, former President George W. Bush released a video urging the nation to come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, "Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat." It was a sentiment increasingly at odds with the reality of the public reaction to COVID-19.
Context: COVID-19 isn't being experienced the same way around the world or around the U.S.
The unique nature of the pandemic also makes its toll largely invisible and easier for the motivated to dismiss — or pervert.
What's next: Nothing good.
My thought bubble: Over the weekend, my former boss Nancy Gibbs wrote in the Washington Post that the true coronavirus test we face won't involve nasal swabs or thermometers, but our character, whether we're able to balance self-interest and the public interest. Americans did well enough initially, but as COVID-19 weeks turn to months, the pressure could become unbearable.
The bottom line: COVID-19 provides us with a common enemy: a 120 nm band of genes wrapped in a lipid shell. Yet, increasingly, the enemy seems to be each other.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The dramatic need caused by the pandemic and the accompanying economic devastation is being partially met by innovative approaches to philanthropy.
Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic could lead to human misery on a scale we haven't seen for decades. Smarter and more generous volunteering and giving could help prevent the worst outcome while demonstrating the unity that is desperately needed.
What's happening: According to the nonprofit Candid, nearly $10 billion in large charitable gifts around the world has so far been donated in response to the pandemic, with much of it originating in the U.S. That's far more than was given for catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy.
Be smart: There will always be a limit in what even the most generous private philanthropy can do — the size of Washington's initial stimulus package was more than 200 times bigger than those large charitable gifts. But charity can make a difference at the margins, especially if ordinary people get involved helping their neighbors.
"These are trying times, and any way you can get involved and help one another is important. We're attempting to make that easier."— Mimi Aboubaker
The bottom line: We may be politically divided, but Americans can still be counted on to give their money and time to neighbors in need.
Northwestern's COVID-19 diagnostic. Photo: Northwestern University
A new wearable device is capable of catching early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Why it matters: With tests still in too-short supply, any device that can clue doctors to an early COVID-19 case is welcome. And the combination of people staying home because of social distancing and the overwhelming threat of the disease makes home diagnostics even more important.
How it works: The experimental wearable device, which sits at the base of a patient's throat, was developed by researchers at Northwestern University and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. It was initially meant to monitor speech patterns in stroke victims before it was reengineered for COVID-19, says Northwestern's John Rogers, who led the development.
The new device joins an array of home diagnostics that have become suddenly popular during the pandemic, including pulse oximeters that can measure blood oxygenation levels — a vital sign for COVID-19 patients.
The bottom line: Health monitoring won't have to wait until your doctor is in.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic will likely make the U.S. space industry even more focused on government money and funding —and potentially set back advancements toward commercializing the industry, Axios' Miriam Kramer writes.
What's happening: Many companies that are focusing on catering to commercial interests are young and rely on venture capital funding and other financing, which has largely dried up in the pandemic.
What to watch: Government funds will help keep much of the space industry open for business, but that could also reorient the industry back toward government work just as the commercialization of space was starting to take hold.
Death of the office (Catherine Nixey — 1843 Magazine)
The harsh future of American cities (Steve LeVine — Gen)
A neuroscience startup uses helmets to measure brain activity (Ashlee Vance — Bloomberg)
COVID-19 and the great rehiring (D'Arcy Coolican and Jeff Jordan — a16z.com)
Watching your livestreamed funeral from the digital afterlife. Photo: Amazon Studios
Since at least some of us are still at home — check your local listings to be sure — this newsletter is occasionally recommending pop culture that jells with the themes of Future.
Why you should watch it: "Upload" creator Greg Daniels helped bring you "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," for which you owe him eternal gratitude. But "Upload" has smart things to say about class, death and the meaning of life in an increasingly digital world.
After Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) suffers a mostly fatal car accident, his fiancee makes the decision to upload his mind to the cloud. There he is free to live out his digital afterlife in the luxury golf resort-like realm of Lakeview.
Of note: "Upload" is brought to you by Amazon Studios, which is ironic, not least because if a real-life Lakeview existed, it would almost surely be hosted by Amazon Web Services.