As we begin to come out of this lockdown, nobody has a crystal ball, and can really predict what will happen. It seems to me that that “going back” will never be a full-on “going back” all at once. It will happen in phases, and that some things will never return to “normal” as they were before. And even if they do, there are some that won’t happen this year, such as big events or exhibitions, fairs, and trade shows and many other things. This will affect numerous industries such as event planning and staging, catering, and others.
There are a lot of companies right now making decisions to build a structure through which they can work remotely. One scenario that’s dead forever is the one with hundreds of people all sitting next to each other in giant rooms.
The world has most definitely changed. We’ve lived through a mutually shared global experience, and there is no looking back. We haven’t fully grasped the totality of this change—only that it will be constant. No event happens only once, so we know that something like this could happen again perhaps in 2 years.
It’s impossible to predict some events. For example, in 2012, when I was about to emigrate to the U.S. from Austria, if I had made some kind of prediction to my friends that within the next 2 years, by 2014, there would be thousands of people from all over Europe migrating to Syria and Iraq, following some maniac wearing black robes, who was convincing people that beheading people was a holy mission, they would have thought I was totally crazy. No one could have predicted that, yet it came to pass.
One reason we cannot totally predict what is coming is that there are millions of people reacting differently to the current crisis. This is why I am such an ardent follower of the Austrian School of Economics. There are basically two different economic models followed by economists. The first is a mathematical model called Homo Economicus—an “average person” who reacts the same way, every time, in a given set of economic circumstances. The Austrian School of Economics, however—given us by Carl Menger, Joseph Schumpeter, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and others—tells us that the human being is unpredictable. Their behavior can change from one day to the next because human beings have a wide variety of preferences, which can also change.
For example, an elderly person is going to have preferences that someone middle-aged or younger would not have. The elderly person will probably not be buying something with a long commitment to it like a new home or a new car. They probably aren’t in the market for new appliances, such as dishwashers or washing machines. These things are no longer in their interest, which wouldn’t be the case of a middle-aged person with 2 kids. These preferences not only vary due to our ages but to what countries and regions we live in.
Preferences are unpredictable—every person can have a different preference, and can even change their own preferences. But we can speculate that some preferences will be similar, such as those of young people, and those of elderly people.
Elderly people are now living well beyond 70—up to 100 and beyond. I saw an interview this week with an elderly man who had booked a world tour before the current crisis. He boarded the ship on January 15 and only recently debarked. He and his fellow passengers had never experienced the world in lockdown—only from a distance. Can you imagine the shock of a person stepping off a ship after 2 1/2 months, into the world in quarantine?
Here are takeaways we can have from this experience:
- Because we know that another such event could occur, we could perhaps utilize AI and machine learning to help us make more correct and less destructive decisions in the future. Some of the decisions made in dealing with the covid19 crisis were made far too hastily and radically. We could use more prudent protocols to guide us in future scenarios. Better and more effective technology could certainly help us to evolve such protocols.
- Nothing in our history has only happened once. We can assume that such an event will happen again—and therefore we have to be prepared for it.
- We know that some business models which were prevalent before the crisis will be obsolete, or at least completely changed. That means that every company must learn to adapt, be more flexible, and more open to change.
- In the next 6 months, people won’t be purchasing high-end goods such as designer clothes and expensive cars. For 20% – 30% of this year, the entire world has been in quarantine. We’ve learned to live with a lot of circumstances. Did we like it? No! But we have learned. The next time we go shopping, when we come across an expensive item, we’ll probably ask ourselves, “Should I really invest $2,000 in that? Is it necessary?” The impact will be felt broadly and will have a trickle-down effect throughout different industries and economies.
- As Austrian economist Fredmund Malik has said, we’re in the middle of an enormous transformation. The old world is dying, and the new one is being born. In the B2B area, where we do our business, big offices are disappearing, and I cannot see them returning. Business will not only question having large offices but also travel. With video conferencing tools such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, and WebX, costly travel is not so necessary. We don’t need to invest in company cars, and expenses such as hotels and restaurants.
- We’re going to have to better learn to communicate. This will be in high demand. This comes down to a personal level, too, like within our own families. We’ve had to live under stress as never before. This includes children and their school experiences.
- We must rethink our health system and our response to crises. Such radical measures as were taken with covid19 should not be decided by politicians on their own. We live in a democracy, and the people whose lives will be drastically affected by such decisions should have a say and a voice in them. Citizens should be presented with facts, and be given an opportunity to vote and voice their opinions. In the U.S. we currently have 26 million unemployed people—they most likely would not have approved such measures.
As discussed above, we’re in the middle of an enormous transformation. Within this transformation, we know one of the crucial issues is energy. One very interesting change that has come out of this crisis is the plummeting of oil prices. This will lead us, as never before, to new sources of energy. As one example, there is a fascinating project occurring right now called KATRIN. It deals with extremely small particles called neutrinos, which are 50 million times smaller than electrons. They travel right through matter. Can you imagine the energy that could be created if we were able to harness them?
There are many energy innovations being experimented with around the globe. Think for a moment what would happen if people could have endless energy at no cost? People would be completely independent. They would be totally free in cities, countries and developing nations. We do have to realize that the way we have been living and using energy has been devastating our planet, so it is indeed time for this change.
Another incredible indication of an exponential change occurring is GitHub, a hosting company for open-source software development purchased by Microsoft in 2018 for $7.5 million. I predicted 14 years ago that open source would be the driving force in the future of computing, and Microsoft at the time dismissed my assertion as preposterous. Today it’s a reality, begun by Linus Torvalds and others. GitHub has over 40 million programmers, with over 100 million projects. This will lead to a tremendous boost in many different fields, as never before. Our product Pipeliner CRM is built on open-source, proceeding in a similar way to Apple who adopted Opal Unix and just put a GUI over it.
Going forward, I hope we all make the right decisions.