Coronavirus: the reset button

Coronavirus: the reset button

Right now, we're in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak here in the US. I've been following this pretty closely since early January, not because I'm a genius, but because I thought there may be implications for my business, Friday (remote work software).

Many people compare coronavirus to a war with an invisible enemy. If we look at the past, we can see that war (for better or for worse) was a forcing function for a lot of change. Most of the change happened out of necessity.

I think we will see the same thing when we look back in a couple of years at this period of time. Here's a list of what I think will happen as a byproduct of this outbreak.

1.) Accelerating discussion around carbon emissions

With people being forced to work from home, this has created a massive A/B test on what life might be like if we reduced the number of vehicles on the road.

I expect these discussions to accelerate. There's data now to build a case for reducing carbon emissions. As for me, I will still drive around my gas guzzling moped.

2.) The UBI experiment

Andrew Yang's dream may come true (at least for a short period of time). Once again, this could provide a massive A/B test for what life would be like if Americans received $1k/mo.

If this happens, I expect it will become quite difficult to retract this, especially in the short-term. You can see how Mnuchin is already trying to hedge this.

3.) Make stuff in America again

People are waking up to how reliant we are on China for key products/resources (read China RX for a deeper dive on how it impacts our healthcare system). I expect the US Government will become more aggressive with incentivizing manufacturing here in the states, especially for mission-critical products.

Just-in-time manufacturing and lengthy supply chains work...until they don't.

4.) Decentralized decision-making // regulations

This is a bit of a wildcard, but the virus has prompted the government to cut red tape/regulations and pushed down many important decisions to the states. The federal government cannot respond as fast as it needs to.

They have also sped up the approval process for experimental drugs (right to try). I expect more of this to happen post-virus, as people will have this coronavirus experience in the back of their minds.

5.) Socialized healthcare?

I expect people to ramp up their efforts to move to a single-payer system, but I don't think it will work. Opponents will point out that Italy has a socialized system and it didn't make a difference.

Plus, the pharmaceutical companies and other private providers have done a pretty good job (at least from a PR perspective) by coming across as responsive on pricing/etc. We will see if that holds.

6.) We will realize the importance of IRL community

With everyone being forced to stay home, people will feel lonely. This will remind people of the importance of a real-world community. Building community behind a screen over Facebook or Instagram will be exposed as an ineffective approach (as it should be).

Some people think this is the ideal time to build social apps, which I think is a really dumb take. The minute people can get out of their house, they will relish the in-person interaction again.

7.) Homeschooling

This is another wildcard. People will realize how tough it is to have kids at home and keep them entertained. But many parents will take initiative to make sure their kids are still learning (good!). At a minimum, this will remind parents of their role in their child's education. At a maximum, parents will see how much time is wasted in a traditional school.

Children will complete required schoolwork in a few hours a day, causing parents to wonder if the same is true when they go to school (hint: it is).

For some, the idea of homeschooling will become more realistic. For others, it will seem absolutely crazy. Tough to predict what will happen here.

8.) The CEO has no clothes

I anticipate some type of action on share buybacks. This turmoil has exposed the reality that many feckless CEOs of public companies are padding their pockets (inflating EPS with stock buybacks) and they don't have the ability to withstand market turmoil.

I expect the government will take action here, probably motivating with a carrot vs. a stick (at least to start). This feels like an easy political win.

9.) The instagram charade

I think of social media (especially Instagram) as this game where you need to earn social "dollars" by posting interesting things on a regular basis. If you travel to an amazing location and take a photo, that's worth X social dollars.

This has incentivized people to always been on the hunt (typically outside) for the next way to earn these social dollars. With so many people being trapped at home, it's created this "level-set" - there's little variance. Everyone is in their home. You can see this in action with singers/movie stars. They are now trying to earn these social dollars by sitting an home, singing, and trying to entertain. It doesn't feel the same.

Perhaps this will cause people to realize how much of a game this is.

10.) Remote work

I'm super bullish on remote work, but I don't think there will be a ton of change in the short-term. People will recognize how important it is to create a resilient business that can withstand events like this.

If people are are forced to work remotely for 1+ months, that's when things have the potential to change in a big way. The reasoning is simple - a short-term shock doesn't force you to reconfigure any processes. If it's long-term, you need to rewire the way you work.

11.) Cracks in the CCP

You may not like this, but the Chinese Communist Party (please note, a political organization, not a group of people) is the modern day equivalent of the Nazis in the 1930s. Example #1 - the Uighur camps.

I suspect that there's going to be a lot of pressure applied to this regime in the following ways:

  • Internally in China - the Chinese people will question why their leaders downplayed the virus in Wuhan for so long
  • Externally (virus) - any nation with a backbone will want to investigate what happened (where did the virus come from? why wasn't China transparent early?)
  • Externally (economic) - there will be an interest in localizing supply chains, especially for key products/materials that are deemed to b a national security risk. This will gravitate towards high-value goods, which directly competes with China 2025, etc

It seems likely that they will be very proactive about shaping the narrative (i.e. - propaganda)

In Conclusion

It seems very clear that this turmoil has dramatically accelerated a lot of things. My hope is that future changes to society will offset the pain and hurt that people are experiencing right now.