COVID19: next comes the fallout

The governmental reactions of lock downs and social distancing restrictions resulted in a monumental impact on the entire economy and its institutions.

Many people are enduring hardships due to these policies either directly from being denied their sources of income or indirectly due to their being prevented from their usual social activities.

In addition, we are seeing disruptions in supply chains.   Warehouses and storage units are filled to capacity because the products can not be delivered even when a market exists for those products.   The upstream providers need to cease operations or dispose of their products as garbage or sold at negative prices.    Far term, this will lead to shortages leading to future hardships including famine and homelessness in part due to deteriorating infrastructure.

The links in the supply chain are sequentially breaking, first close to the consumers and then gradually working back to the raw resource extractions.    Once the consume end opens up again, there will be nothing in the supply chain waiting for them.   It will take a long time to rebuild the chain especially if many of the links are bankrupt or have lost their key resources such as skilled labored or repossessed equipment.

We are now seeing something analogous to atomic bombs whose initial blast accomplish some military objective is followed by persistent and generally unwanted fallout that poisons many opportunities to build afterwards.    The blast of shutting down the economy is a full-out assault on the virus that remains far from defeat.   Now we face the need to continue that assault with increasing amounts of self inflicted damage.

Apparently the strategy is that we can eliminate the virus before we eliminate ourselves.  This strategy is stupid because even the worst case fatality rate for the virus is around 10% while the worst case fatality rate of a failed civilization may be well over 50% or even 90%.    It is a foolish gamble but not unexpected from a democratic-republic government where politicians pander near term fears over long term consequences to secure their support.

Not all fallout is bad.

One of the things we are learning is how far we can extend telework.   Previously, telework had many restrictions and qualifications based on training, level of required supervision, and restricted business cases.   Telework is being extended much more broadly now as a result of the current necessity to retain a core workforce either to meet immediate obligations or to be prepared with adequate staff to resume operations once operations return to normal.

We are learning that more workers and more business cases can be performed in a telework setting.   In addition, we are learning that solving the new problems of making telework productive are often not as hard or do not require as much time as originally feared.   Meanwhile, baseline costs (including things like power, HVAC, building security and networking) at vacant are more convincing when those buildings are closed while business operations continue.

I expect a lot of the new telework scenarios will persist even after this crisis is resolved (either the virus is eliminated, or we learn to live with it).

Similarly, I expect lasting impacts on our education systems at all levels as teachers resort to remote teaching and tutoring because classrooms must be closed.   Even with schools officially closed, there is an incentive on both ends to continue education.  Schooling is very helpful way to keep students occupied while being confined close to home.   Teachers are innovating with live instructions from collaborative-meetings with video, screen sharing, and virtual whiteboards that supplement online education tools.   Students are innovating as well to take advantage of home-schooling resources.

Again, the benefits and downsides of these techniques will be quickly visible to administrators.   The benefits may be increased school achievements for many students previously held back by the common classroom approach.   The downsides is that many less motivated students will fall behind even more or drop out entirely until schools open again.

For schooling, the earliest things will return to normal will be this Autumn, but more likely it will not be until Autumn of 2021 when classroom instruction be back on the original routines.    By then, students, teachers, and administrators will have the experience of what remote training does.

In both cases of telework and remote education, there will likely be new controversies and battles between the many (at all levels) who will not want to return to how things were done before and the precedence-driven desire to return to pre-COVID19 normalcy.

The ultimate fallout will be political upheavals resulting from the fact that the lessons of this experiment are impossible to unlearn.   People will see the contradictions between what they were told to believe before, and how things actually work out.   There will be two sides: those who want to retain their prior authority by going backwards, and those who no longer believe that option makes any sense.


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