What does Facebook want? To never pay a penny in taxes or fees, for starters. But the larger answer seems to be that Facebook wants the right to devour a country’s advertising market and freely tinker with the algorithmic dials governing what millions of people see. Anything that stands in the way of their autonomy to set a population’s informational intake—or that threatens to undermine the bottom line—is considered a threat. Facebook’s response in Australia shows that it’s not afraid to go nuclear to protect its market dominance and tens of billions in annual profits—a move that implicitly acknowledges that the company has too much power.
Here, in other words, was Occupy Wall Street in action, but maybe a hundred times more effective: ordinary people protesting against the financialization of the U.S. economy by taking collective action to squeeze the short-sellers, saving companies they cared about and saving thousands of jobs belonging to the people who work at those companies, while forcing the suits to disgorge some part of the money they were making by treating the market like a giant video game and squeezing the life out of companies for profit. Give the money back to the people! And hats off to them boyz and girlz willing to show their faith in collective action by putting their measly day-trading accounts on the line. What a perfectly American act. What a demonstration of collective solidarity in action at a time of increasing social atomization and economic suffering, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a pandemic—why, I could just go on and on and on. …
“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.
Which tactic worked best? Apologies and requests to switch to a private channel generally lowered virality, as long as they were communicated right away. Offering to compensate an unhappy customer had the opposite effect—a result that took the researchers by surprise. Expert opinion is mixed regarding the use of compensation as a service-recovery tool; it might ease a complaining customer’s frustration, the researchers say, but if companies suggest compensation immediately, other members of the community may see it as an opportunity to post a complaint in the hope of receiving something from the company themselves.
What if, just what if..
The truth, as I heard from many of the newly remote workers I interviewed, is that as much as our offices can be inefficient, productivity-killing spreaders of infectious disease, a lot of people are desperate to get back to them. At the Zoom “happy hour” at GoNoodle, when the employees talked about their newly renovated office, they sounded wistful. They yearned for the tricked-out kitchen, the plants and big dark couches, ideal for lounging. “We had this killer sound system,” Tracy Coats said, with a sigh. She’s an extrovert, she said, who longs to hang out with her “peeps.” “You know — we’re drinking coffee, or maybe, Hey, want to take a walk? I miss that.”
In this pandemic, the mask reveals far more than it hides. It exposes the world’s political and economic relations for what they are: vectors of self-interest that ordinarily lie obscured under glib talk of globalisation and openness. For the demagogues who govern so much of the world, the pandemic has provided an unimpeachable excuse to fulfil their dearest wishes: to nail national borders shut, to tar every outsider as suspicious, and to act as if their own countries must be preserved above all others.
The virus is proving an expensive house guest as it hits corporate revenue, profit margins, and balance sheets. As El-Erian points out, the three major components of global gross domestic product—consumption, trade, and investment—are taking a hit to some degree from the spread of the virus. Even before the age of the new coronavirus dawned, global trade had fallen last year for the first time since 2009 because of a tariff war between the U.S. and China and a manufacturing recession. Now the world economy is on track for its weakest year since the financial crisis as the new coronavirus takes its toll, according to analysts at Bank of America Corp. Global growth will slip to 2.8%, from a previous estimate of 3.1%, and the Chinese economy will advance at 5.2%, which would be the worst performance since 1990.
Offices used to be gulags, but at least they had a clear purpose. You wouldn’t hang out in a cubicle farm, let alone spend time there on the weekends. Then companies like Google came along and reinvented the rat race into something with purpose and, along the way, confused work with the rest of life. Now, your coworkers are supposed to feel like a family. Hierarchies have been flattened, conventional job titles replaced by ones like “wizard” and “ninja.” The vacation days are unlimited (not that you’d ever take them). And forget about work-life balance. It’s all about work-life integration. Why else would the office have on-site acupuncture, nap pods, and free dinner after 7 pm?
In a special edition of the Financial Times, with a dramatic cover wrap which was virtually blank but for the giant words “Capitalism: Time for a Reset,” its economics doyen Martin Wolf went out of his way to define it for readers, guessing they too had to be enlightened. In an essay which bemoaned stagnant wages and productivity, inadequate competition, and rampant inequality, he explained that rentier capitalism “means an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.” The half-forgotten term is as old as Adam Smith, who first defined rentiers as capitalists who were able “to reap where they never sowed.”