Since March 12, a few days before the Safe-At-Home order was issued for South Florida, I’ve been mostly WFH, riding my bike and making home-cooked meals. It’s been an interesting, even enjoyable time, considering the serious situation we’re still facing with the Coronavirus.
I’ve also been busy updating and optimizing this site, cleaning up the content and improving the architecture and layout.
I have also been thinking about the future after Coronavirus: will we push for a return to “normal” or will we take the opportunity to fix some tough problems we’ve been ignoring as a society for too long. Here are some random thoughts:
WFH: Eliminating my 2-3 hour commute has been a game changer, allowing me to get more work done while optimizing for health and family. Will WFH become mainstream?
Essential Workers: I’ve gained a new appreciation for folks who perform thankless jobs like cleaning, delivering stuff, stocking shelves, caring for people, etc. In times like these we realize that we could very well do with less lawyers or hedge fund managers, but not without the essential workers that make our day-to-day rhythms possible. These essential workers are not paid enough. We need to pay them more.
Education: While the online experiment hasn’t worked out well at the elementary, middle and high school levels, college online education should become more ubiqutous. The cost of a traditional college education has gone through the roof, and many are now asking themselves if it is worth it. Will colleges be able to afford their real estate and bloated workforce in an era where students can do most of their learning online? My guess is that the top 10-15 universities will, while the rest will have to reinvent themselves or fold. Here are some interesting thoughts on the subject from Prof. Galloway.
The Environment: After only a few weeks of decreased activity, skies are now clear, rivers are clean and transparent, and wildlife is reclaiming its space. Will we finally recognize that our actions do impact the environment? Will we finally start changing the way we live?
Health Care: When 38 million people can become unemployed in a matter of days, does it make sense to keep tying health insurance to employment? Isn’t it time to consider universal health insurance?
Retirement: The median balance in a 401K account for people aged 60-69 is just $67K. Isn’t it time to re-think retirement? Can ordinary people afford to have their retirement funds tied to stocks, when the stock market can drop 20%-30% in a matter of days?
The Fed: The Fed has created trillions of dollars out of thin air to “support the economy”. While some money is going directly to people, most of it is going to prop up corporations with little or no strings attached. One may start to question why do we have to pay taxes, or why do we have to believe the argument that “we can’t afford” health care for all, if the Fed can just create new money at will.
Price Reset: Is an asset deflation period coming now that people have less money to spend? What would be the implications on the price of houses, stocks or big ticket items like cars? Will they become cheaper? Or, on the other hand, will Fed actions cause runaway inflation?
UBI: Most likely many of the jobs that were lost will never come back. Even before the crisis, labor force participation was already a low 63%. Now it’s just 60%, with almost 20% of that number now unemployed. Hasn’t the time come to consider Unviersal Basic Income?
Real Life Experiences: This might be a contrarian view now that everybody is betting on a massive move online for most activities, but once the pandemic starts to wane off, could we possibly see a consumer shift toward activities that emphasize human contact, like live classes, movies, travel, concerts, etc.? Will we soon begin to experience tech-fatigue?
Experts: These days it is difficult to know who to trust. Everybody seems to have an agenda. If we leave it up to doctors, we would never leave our house. If we leave it up to business leaders, we would all get sick and maybe die. We need a middle ground: can we just slowly get back to normal, with basic precautions like wearing masks and staying a comfortable distance away from people? Can governments just issue recommendations and let people decide for themselves?
DIY: Now that we’ve spent months at home doing everything ourselves, will we keep our DIY streak alive in the future? Will we decide to build or fix more things at home, cook more often, do more things ourselves instead of hiring somebody? Will I ever go back to the barber shop now that I can give myself a pretty decent buzz cut?
What do you think? Any ideas?
Thanks to the great Derek Sivers for inspiring this page.