What will your New Normal look like?
The economy is on fire. President Biden is killing it. Covid-19 is looking like it will be a tamed but ever-present enemy by late summer. We’re attacking racism and police brutality in courts and in cities, rewriting laws and training protocols. We’re accepting that only a massive wave of government spend will rebuild our caved-in middle class, and that without this middle class we really don’t have a country. We’re pulling out of Afghanistan, realizing it’s smarter to admit our mistakes than to throw more money and human sacrifice at a horribly unsolvable situation that is not our own. We’re accepting that big tech is evil and way too powerful, but for all its evil, tech is helping America lead the way, and is creating enormous wealth — for the few — and the world is crackling with exciting innovations that will continue to improve how we live, how we get healthy, how we make money, how we connect with each other and how we have fun. Admit it — there’s a lot of very good stuff happening. And… there’s the bad stuff.
Big tech kills jobs. We know. At this rate, we’ll keep vaporizing jobs — delivery jobs, warehouse jobs, call center jobs, retail checker jobs and more.
As jobs disappear, automation technologies and Ai’s and robots will do more, and the money will transfer from medium-paying jobs and middle class people to the creators of the robots, AIs and startups, who will get wealthier. The wealth gap isn’t an evil plot by some Bond villain in a palace somewhere. It’s a natural phenomenon that happens with every industrial revolution. We’re entering the 5th industrial revolution, barely out of the 4th. They come faster and more frequently these days. Each one tends to create new wealth for a small number of people — the creators. Call them the robber barons if you like. It then takes a couple of decades for anger and indignation and our general sense of fairness to kick in and for us to find ways to spread the goodness around and help poor people climb up to a sustainable quality of middle class living. Then comes another industrial revolution.
Western civilization bases much of its philosophy on a gentle democracy, a caring government, and the will of the people as the most important force in government. It also assumes any government’s highest priority is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. This presupposes a government that prioritizes peace, while maintaining some military deterrent but not empire-building aggression. Theoretically, these values will create lasting peace, leading to prosperity and a healthy, productive and happy human population. Nevertheless, after 70 years of relative peace and prosperity, dictator states are multiplying, replacing democracies and indicating some breakage in the western democratic system of government. Far right movements use racism to rally disgruntled and uneducated people under a banner of anti-immigrant, nativist values, often favoring dictator power over electoral transparency. Similarly, far left groups call for militant action to protest broken-down government, promoting an idea of a failed state that may be better served by a totalitarian socialist regime that takes absolute power, removing the rich from their illicit power and influence that makes poor people pay for their privilege. We haven’t seen such forces coalesce against western democracy for many decades. Add the comparison with China where an unopposed communist dictator can be a very effective decision-maker and strategic thinker, leading the world’s fastest-growing GDP, soon to become #1 global economic power. But would you want to live in China?
What will the new normal look like for you?
Many assumptive middle class people still believe there’s a middle class and that they will remain part of it in perpetuity. I disagree. The erosion of middle class jobs and the steady elimination of small businesses, either by new technologies or by big box retailers’ labor policies, means there will be fewer decent jobs, and that more and more people will slide into part time retail employment with no benefits, horrible shifts, idiot supervisors and atrocious working conditions. Not to mention the soul-crushing effect this has on a person who used to have a decent job. It will be increasingly harder to climb back up from poor person’s lifestyle to actual middle class lifestyle. A poor person’s diet, homelife and self-care will tend to deteriorate in step with their employment downgrade, and they will fail to get interviews and job offers in higher-functioning roles because employers will assume they are unable to deliver the work product called for at that level. Call it racism if you wish. I call it accidental class warfare. Someone who has slipped from a decent job and has spent a couple of years in big box retail hell will struggle to be considered for re-entry to the job slot they fell out of. Will you hang on to your middle class job or have you already fallen into fast food and retail drudgery?
We don’t want to go back to the office. If you’re lucky enough to have hung on to your professional career in technology, finance, healthcare or general business administration, you may have come to enjoy working from home. Except for the under-30’s who like urban living and may have cramped apartments, roommates and bicycles cluttering their home office, and for moms and dads of toddlers who would prefer to get back to office commutes and childcare options, the rest of us are happy to avoid the commute, the public transport experience or the expensive parking, the office talk by the espresso machine and the time wasting drop-ins that happen in officeland. Will you be forced to go to the office and if so, will you change job to reclaim your work from home privileges?
Will you move? Urban living will come back, because it’s cool and because it’s such fertile soil for the innovation and imagination that fuels technology, social change, young entrepreneurs and creativity in general. Fashion designers, chefs, musicians and writers thrive here — they don’t fit in with minivan mommies and suburban cultures. However, for many people there’s a newfound option that would allow a move to some beautiful yet affordable spot in Elsewhere-USA while keeping that high-paying job in New York or Silicon Valley. Is this you? Where will you go, and how will you integrate with the local community, unaccustomed to weirdo neighbors who pull down high pay while still young and trendy? It could be great for America to dissolve these blue pockets and scatter their ideas all over the flyover red states as people take their hard earned money out of their overpriced coastal home and put it into a gorgeous home in rural red state America and begin to create a new life. It may also loosen some hardened ideas on both sides of the political apartheid as people mingle a little more.
Will you take your universal basic income instead of working a crappy job? What will you do with all this free time? Write? Volunteer? Build something? Get high? At what point will you say yes I’ll do that job, because it’s better than sitting around? Will we lose our UBI when we take that job or will it stick around as long as we don’t make over $X?
Will the GOP recover from its damaged state and will they dump their failed dictator, pick a new leader who can regain them some dignity? What can Trump possibly have over so many senators and house reps that nobody dares disobey him? Does he have muck on everyone? Is he promising oligarch wealth to those who are loyal and will help him win back the presidency? How will the GOP combat Biden’s #Rebuild plan? Surely this is too powerful an argument for Trumpland to win — it puts jobs and money into the lives of families whose world was hollowed out by global trade, technology and jobs offshoring. What will the red-blue landscape look like in 2024?
Will you conquer your social media addiction? Is it even possible to do so? How badly addicted are you? I’m pretty bad myself. The more stressed I am, the more I come back to my platforms for a dopamine hit. I don’t know the way home from here. What’s your plan?
Will mass shootings be stopped? Can facial recognition and an AI-powered monitoring of social media combine to catch and preempt active shooters before they kill a single person? Can we nab these guys and put them away forever when we catch them on their way to committing a heinous crime? We could release dozens of three-strikes convicts early to make room in our prisons. We could identify the psych profile of every potential killer and blacklist him from every buying a gun, and randomly searching homes and storage lockers to catch stashes of black market weapons. Will our schools and malls and churches and massage parlors be safe?
Will dark money be stopped from flowing into special interest politics from the nastiest most nefarious criminals in the world? Will we once again trust our elected politicians to represent the will of the voters above the will of the dark money that bought them? Will we one day have a database that tracks suspected and reported flows of dirty money from its source to its beneficiary? Just imagine what we could know and what we could do with this knowledge.
Will we dump the silliness of red-vs-blue tribalism once and for all? Aren’t we a bit too smart for a simpleton’s explanation that tries to fit all of us and our dreams, aspirations and quirks into a two-color binary map that tells you all the good people are this color and all the bad ones are that color. Will you speak out against your own party sometimes, and sometimes be brave enough to agree with the ‘enemy’ on a specific issue? Will you speak out against wokeism or will you stay silent? Will you praise moderate and anti-Trump Republicans for their courage and integrity to face recrimination? Will we end up with three, four or even five political parties, ending the duopoly?
Will we get serious about education in order to compete with the smartest countries in the world? Currently we educate the smartest wealthiest foreigners in our top colleges while half of our kids at high school leaving age are borderline illiterate and innumerate. Will we fix this?
Do you miss the old normal or are you more interested in the new normal?