Hindsight 2020: Experts look back on their pre-pandemic predictions

By Molly Gluck

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ELECTIONS

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Gianluca Stringhini, College of Engineering Assistant Professor

Pre-pandemic Predictions for 2020

Disinformation:

Reflections on last year’s predictions

While disinformation played a major role in the election campaign, sophisticated threats like deepfakes were not widespread. This makes sense, as simple media manipulations like photoshopping an image or even mis-captioning a photo with a fake description goes a long way in getting people engaged on social media.

Virginia Sapiro, College of Arts & Sciences Dean Emerita and Political Science Professor

Pre-pandemic Predictions for 2020

The era in which a cohort of voters enters the electorate seems to make a long-term difference. For example, the people who entered under Lyndon B. Johnson vs. Ronald Reagan vs. Bill Clinton vs. Barack Obama vs. Donald Trump are likely very different due to the events and social environments that have shaped them. Additionally, the current youngest voters (ages 18–30) have had a very different life experience from those in earlier generations. Boston University students, for example, are shocked to learn how anti-gay the culture was until recently — and they have trouble believing there were so many people who were opposed to same-sex marriage. They don’t remember when cross-race marriage was illegal in some states. They don’t remember when there was no social media. Essentially, many national events, social movements, and technological innovations are shifting our political landscape, which will definitely have an impact on the elections.

Reflections on last year’s predictions

The main development no one expected was a serious world-wide pandemic and a U.S. government that not only did little to stop it, but actually did some things to help make it worse.

CLIMATE

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Henrik Selin, Pardee Associate Professor and Associate Dean

Pre-pandemic Predictions for 2020

Climate Change Policy and Social Mobilization:

Reflections on last year’s predictions

The urgent need for ambitious climate change policies received more attention in this year’s U.S. elections than four years ago, not just in the presidential election but also in state and local elections. This was in part due to grassroots campaigns demanding more action. The outcomes of the two Senate run-off elections in Georgia are still uncertain, but a continued Republican-controlled Senate would make it difficult to pass comprehensive climate change legislation as part of a “green new deal” in Congress. If that turns out to be the case, social movements are likely to be more influential at city and state levels. There are vibrant social movements around issues of climate change, equity, and justice, but the process of translating these movements into policy changes continues to be slow. That, however, means that the importance of social movements remains high.

BRAND ACCOUNTABILITY

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Kabrina Chang, Questrom Clinical Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics

Pre-pandemic Predictions for 2020

Corporate Social Advocacy:

Reflections on last year’s predictions

A global pandemic has a way of interrupting even the most predictable predictions. Many companies that were on the forefront of corporate social advocacy reacted to the human and economic impact of COVID-19 consistently with their advocacy involvement. For example, early in the pandemic Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff devised an 8-Point Plan for dealing with COVID that included working from home when possible, businesses working with the federal government to develop supply chains to get health care workers the needed PPE, and creating aggressive testing regimes. He also asked CEO’s to take a 90-day “no layoff” pledge, while he committed to no “significant” layoffs for 90 days. Salesforce.com, and other tech companies, pledged to continue to pay hourly workers even if their office was closed, and has made access to its Health Cloud product free for emergency response teams, call centers, and care management teams.

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Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts

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