The Big COVID Reorg Has Begun
But what do we know?
Here's a guest post by my good buddy Matt Grimshaw, a long standing veteran in PR and marketing industries and lately in video production. You can see his video interview with me here on episode 5 of his lockdown video interview series "the BIG REORG" In having these conversations with people from diverse backgrounds -- Matt is looking for clues on how things will be different in the COVID- 19 society as it opens up to a new normal. Will it be a small or big reorganization? We know that many things won't ever be the same. - Tom Foremski
Guest post by Matt Grimshaw
For the last three months, like almost everyone else in the world, I've been trying to make sense of the new reality presented to me by a virus that until late 2019, was primarily the concern of scientists, historians and the odd disaster movie. However, unlike most people, I have access to a lot of business leaders, experts and generally 'clever persons’ in a broad array of businesses and scientific fields from a two decade career in science/tech media, so I've been talking to them about the continuing after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic whilst also trying to work out what to do next myself career-wise.
I've begun producing a lock-down video talk-show, filmed and produced solo from my home in Northern California called "the BIG REORG". It's a way to keep me sane and distracted with what has become a worthwhile project and a potential avenue for commercial projects, following a big reorganization in my work life as client work disappeared back in March.
With half-a-dozen video interviews completed and more in the can -- I want to share some of the lessons and insights around this project and from the many hours of conversations about the fallout caused by our shared viral nemesis. What should we be thinking about over the next few months and years as we fumble our way towards whatever the world's new reality is going to be -- because if you think we're ever going 'back to normal' I'm here to suggest otherwise.
The lock-down approach taken by the vast majority of the world's governments is essentially a form of economic chemotherapy; the hope is that the local economy can outlast one or two generations of viral transmission and let the virus burn itself out. However, the virus struck when the world's economy was already in the midst of seismic disruptions caused by mass global political upheaval, social media's fake news crisis, the rise of gig economies and the information/automation revolutions that continue to remove value and jobs from the middle sector of many industries.
Consequently the main effect of the pandemic has been to dump petrol on the fire of these changes; segments that were already being disrupted are now minefields of uncertainty and they're the lucky ones. In some cases entire niche industries that cannot keep up with, or which no longer fit within, the new hastily reorganized supply chain are simply being eliminated.
The pre-2020 globalization forces that enabled the consumer technology revolution were built on the back of economic drivers in cheap international transport and labor plus huge tax incentives that in turn created the modern long distance supply chains (see every designed in USA, made in China label) that dominate most manufactured products. Now, that very same supply chain model is broken as it overly relies on the two weakest links in a post-pandemic reality: Humans and travel.
As a short term consequence of this new thinking, everything you buy is likely about to become a tiny bit different and/or more expensive as consumer forces push for an exchange of cheap far flung labor for more controllable local suppliers in order to restock empty shelves.
Every interaction you have is likely to eventually become completely remote if it hasn’t already, from interviews to education, more of our lives will be depressingly via screen. Automation and robotics will explode across the restaurant and food services industries; self driving trucks and no-touch deliveries mean a drone is safer than a human, same for banks too and postal services - physical locations other than for leisure could become a moot point entirely which has untold ripple effects on commercial real estate and town planning.
In essence what this all means is that whatever was dying out before 2020, will continue to do so, except much, much faster. Shopping malls, offices, administration jobs of all kinds, independent media and anything that Google or Facebook can automate or take over is facing a hard future, this is not to mention the obvious casualties of general retail, restaurants and the millions of small businesses that drive local economies.
The push online will echo the manufacturing switch of the 2000's with remote jobs going wherever costs are lowest, the only real face-to-face jobs worth anything will be in real estate or healthcare but again the push to distance us will see more host-free property viewings and less doctors dealing with more patients via 'tele-medicine' - and of course the drug companies will continue to use the blackmail first business model in the US until someone legally tells them it’s a very bad move, however healthcare is also the first area where the pandemic really has shown the cracks in its profit-first thinking.
Western society, which is already deeply in the grip of a second 'Gilded age', has been virtually printing money for the richest among us since the last financial crisis through increasingly automated manufacturing and infrastructure, legislation enabled tax evasion strategies and monopolies or oligopolies that not only control entire markets unchecked, but whom seem ever more willing to wade into the murky water of politics with very mixed results and leaving everyone else in their wake.
Since the last economic collapse they've been the ones making money hand over fist, and seemingly without gathering too much bad press or infamy as their forebears did a century ago. However, with so many people's lives having been utterly annihilated through no fault of their own and those in charge seemingly only willing to help themselves, opinions are changing very quickly and what once were seen as titans of technology are increasingly seen in the light of robber barons of old.
There's an ever increasing undercurrent of anger across entire populations at the way things have been and are unraveling and an ever decreasing tolerance for the inequality that’s been causing it and it’s hit boiling point. This is seen in the unprecedented global response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 26th May.
The video recording showed the world the truth of it, centuries of oppression and systemic racism that's been in desperate need of addressing since at least the end of the American Civil War. The truth is that it's hard to ignore the stunningly silent reaction from mainstream America to almost every other identical death at the hands of the police up until this juncture, with the main glaring difference between then and now being that much of the country has been trapped indoors for months on end simmering about, well, everything really.
In fact interviewing my 4th guest (Govind Ghambir CEO of MyCircle; a PTSD app in development) highlighted many of the mental challenges to come when some kind of open society returns: Children with stunted social development, learning cycles out of sync, mass PTSD in the medical community, waves of public anxiety caused by fear of transmission and a general breakdown of regular human interactions causing mistrust and suspicion of everyone from ‘elsewhere’. That’s all for starters and if there is a 'second wave' of infections which is starting to look like a near certainty now, it’s hard to see how lock-downs will happen unless aggressively enforced with punitive measures and that’s basically like juggling with dynamite whilst smoking in the current climate.
Bright linings can be seen here and there; the huge 'work from home' experiment that the pandemic forced upon the world has proven that we finally have technologies that have removed the need for a lot of the offices and therefore the commutes we take and if we don’t need to go into the office then now is also likely a great time to address another much needed switch away from killing our home planet by burning everything we can find & dig up towards using technologies that are simply better for all concerned and which may address some of the international disasters that continue to plague us from the 20th Century.
The BIG REORG is not about any one thing, it's about everything because it's all connected, as indeed are we. The pandemic has set the stage for conversations on some of the worlds most controversial topics that have previously found it difficult to gain traction and that's why I've enjoyed making the show so much and to such a degree that I'm trying to find a way to keep it going. I've already committed to finishing the first run of 10 come what may, but another major aspect of this pandemic - unemployment - is something I too am experiencing along with millions of others of you out there. But while I'm looking for "what's next" for my own career I'll strive to bring you a slice of what my guests think is coming until I'm (hopefully) made an offer I can't refuse or someone at Netflix/Amazon/Disney calls and gives me a bigger platform.
Until one of those happenings, you can enjoy the first five discussions covering medical cannabis, whole brain emulation, remote working, mental health in a pandemic and the health of news media, on Youtube right now and I'll be editing and releasing the final five over the coming weeks featuring COVID-19 testing, a talk on life sciences, a small business & disruptive materials expert, plus the founders of a company that's trying to make a computer chip that can sequence DNA (yes and they want to make a SARS COV-2 version) in 60 mins...all are already recorded and waiting on intro’s and editing.
The future which is always uncertain in the best of times has become some kind of twilight zone which, if the apocalypse bingo card of 2020 has shown us anything, it is likely to get worse before it gets better. So I aim to keep talking about it all because really, when you boil it down everyone is talking about the BIG REORG and its effects, every single day in some shape or form.
So if you’re as curious as I am then come see some alternative perspectives with my guests and I at "the BIG REORG"
Matt Grimshaw aka “The Documattarian” is a freelance storyteller and documentary maker based in Marin Country - www.thedocumattarian.com