Commentary: Are we, as people, better or worse for COVID-19?

When I deliver lectures on pandemic ethics over Zoom — part of my job as a bioethicist — one of the questions I am asked with increasing frequency is whether I believe there will be any silver linings to COVID-19. I usually respond with dark humor, a quip that I am grateful my barber now wears an N95 mask, so I can avoid small talk while he cuts my hair. Answering this question more seriously, in a manner that respects the deaths of half a million Americans, proves challenging: I do not wish to sound like a benighted Pollyanna who praises World War II for giving us the Slinky.