We are in the beginning phases of unanticipated change as a consequence of a number of international disasters.
The pandemic not only forced us to shift to support work-from-home, but it also resulted in the Great Resignation by people who decided that they really did not want to go back to a job they hated.
Concerns over climate change are driving every major car company to shift to electric vehicles, and Ford just announced that it is splitting the company to better address that opportunity. Volvo and Jaguar are going a similar route.
The war in Ukraine is forcing a dramatic shift in not only the world’s power structure (Russia may no longer be a superpower) but has created the first viable international cyber army that might include Anonymous.
Let’s talk about these changes — and we will close with my product of the week, a new monitor from HP designed for our video conferencing remote-work normal.
The US Tech Workforce Is Organizing
One of the interesting historical advantages that tech companies had was immunity to unions. This allowed the firms to be more agile, keep costs down and operate mostly free of union interference.
However, a combination of bad employee policies, lack of raises and excessive executive salaries, coupled with practices that have appeared hostile to those employees are changing that dynamic. Apple, in particular, stands out as allegedly unfair to its employees, prompting some to use Android phones, reportedly to help assure privacy as they look to unionize — and a sign of distrust of their employer.
Now, almost every major technology company is facing at least the possibility of having to deal with unions. Once unions start to spread and gain power, they also gain the ability to penetrate adjacent companies by working to convince existing employees they are being mistreated.
Once unions achieve critical mass in an industry, they are virtually impossible to stop, because the funding they get enables them to finance campaigns to unionize companies across an ecosystem. This cycle which turns every union win into funding that enables their spread is impossible to stop once it reaches a critical point.
While that juncture has not yet been reached, I project that, unless companies focus aggressively on assuring employee satisfaction and loyalty, this tipping point will be reached before 2025.
The result will be a significant cost and operational drag on the companies that are unionized, but they will only have themselves to blame. If they had treated their employees better to begin with, unionization would not have been able to reach critical mass.
In addition, the Great Resignation tells us that even if tech companies do not unionize, a huge number of employees are thinking of retiring or changing jobs, which will make it far harder for those companies to execute.
Push to Electric Vehicles
Ford, Jaguar, and Volvo are all moving to create distinct electric divisions or companies, allowing them to focus better on competing with Tesla.
This reminds me a bit of the smartphone battle between Apple and everyone else where, early on, companies did not take Apple seriously, and the then market leaders, Research in Motion (BlackBerry), Palm, Nokia and Microsoft were caught napping.
Unlike Apple, though, Tesla has had huge execution issues and substandard quality control over an extended period. This has led its competitors to finally realize they need to focus on electric cars if they are to do them right, and we are seeing that focus emerge with announcements of the creation of focused electric car divisions. Expect these new divisions to create stronger alternatives to Telsa and avoid the fate of Apple’s large competitors.
On top of this, the move to electric vehicles will force changes in automotive support and maintenance, increased electrical capacity, and propel an even greater move to sustainable energy production.
Finally, we will see the first Level 4 autonomous vehicles on the road by 2026, which could change the very nature of driving.
International Cyber Army
As I write this, Russia has ill-advisedly attacked Ukraine, suddenly finding the opposite of what the U.S. experienced in Afghanistan nearly a year ago. Instead of pacified citizens, they have discovered that Ukrainians are willing to fight to stop what is one of the most foolish things Russia has ever done.
Volunteer fighters are now flooding the country, but the most interesting aspect is the IT Army of Ukraine, a largely volunteer group of international hackers who are remotely working to take Russia down. Apparently, though not officially confirmed, even the activist- and hacktivist collective Anonymous is on board, having also declared war on Russia.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonOne) February 24, 2022
What makes this particularly interesting is that experts thought Russia would use cyberwarfare first, but Russia’s capability has paled to what these Ukraine volunteers brought to the table.
While the physical army is still largely Ukrainian, this IT army evolved to become independent of nations and become the world’s cyber-defense force, popping up as needed when illegal conflicts threaten local or world stability.
To date, this coalition is far more effective than the U.N. or NATO in terms of taking the fight back to Russia.
Wrapping Up: A Changed World
The resurgence of unions and massive employee movements, the anticipated death of internal combustion engines, coupled with a decisive move to more sustainable power sources, and the emergence of an international and increasingly coordinated cyber army, combined with the apparent fall of Russia as a world power, are all only the tip of the change iceberg.
We also have autonomous robotics, ever more capable AI, the metaverse, and the increasingly real probability of digital immortality.
This decade is set to see an unprecedented change, but it is very clear that we as a nation, and a world, are not yet ready for this level of change. My advice is do not get attached to anything, stay agile and actively broaden your skills so you can adapt to the waves of change rather than drown in them.
Russia is now a poster child for what can happen if you fundamentally misunderstand how the world has and is changing. Do not be Russia.
HP E24m G4 FHD USB-C Conferencing Monitor
As I have noted, over a short period of time, we have changed how we communicate and collaborate.
With Cisco moving to blend telecommunications with video conferencing, our office phones are trending to obsolescence. This is amazing because, back in the 1960s, AT&T was setting up for video phones and we are just now truly ready for them.
What makes HP collaboration monitors different is that they have built-in dual microphones, adjustable pop-up cameras (which can be angled down for framing), and speakers that are not too loud for cubicles or for multiple people working from home. These monitors will charge your laptop (up to 65 watts of power), and it has built in ethernet so you can just hook up that one USB-C cable for dock-like experience.
HP E24m G4 FHD USB-C Conferencing Monitor (Credit: HP)
The monitors are well priced. The 24-inch model that HP sent me to evaluate was a decent monitor for $399. It has FHD (1920×1080) resolution, 1000:1 contrast ratio, and 5ms of latency. At 300 nits of brightness, they are adequate for a normally lit room but would not be bright enough for outdoors or where there is excessive glare — and you should not have a monitor anyway.
A single USB-C connection is all that is needed, making this ideal for a laptop, PC or Chromebooks (it is Chromebook certified). It is Zoom-certified but should also work fine with any other video conferencing service. Our future may be Zoom meetings, and monitors like this will be a big part of that future, so the HP E24m G4 FHD USB-C Conferencing Monitor is my product of the week