I see more and more angst about the future of the world as automation increases. People worry society is moving toward the world shown in the movie Wall-E, where we’ve become sedentary blobs, served by robots, and endlessly staring at a screen. It’s ironic, we’ve never had more means of being connected while never feeling more disconnected. Complaints about the Millennials abound and I, myself, constantly worry about making sure my children (Generation Z) don’t develop the stereotypical character traits we ascribe to Millennials. The media seems to be working itself into a frenzy and the country couldn’t be much more polarized. Pardon the Dumb and Dumber reference, but soon our pets’ heads may start falling off!
In spite of it all, the thousands of companies for which we’ve conducted business valuations and transfer price work give a lot of hope for the future. The biotechnology being developed today is going to make the world a much better place. We have done work for companies seeking to make artificial lungs possible, solve Alzheimer’s disease, find ways to better nourish the world, help the paralyzed, and solve myriad other very worthy causes.
Beyond biotech, many companies are working on social causes that help mobilize people to do good. We see companies emerging to promote healthy lifestyles and even more companies creating communities to address the lack of connection people are feeling. Automation may be eliminating a lot of manual labor, but developing companies are encouraging people to enjoy getting back to nature, digging in the dirt, planting and growing.
Society is doing a large-scale version of the story of the fisherman who was content with his life until a banker convinced him to expand his operations. The fisherman expanded, made a lot of money, sold the business, and with the proceeds went back to fishing. We are automating everything we can, and ultimately, we’ll circle back to the good feeling of moving our bodies, connecting with people, and enjoying the journey. There’s no happiness or sense of accomplishment in laziness. I recently took my family of six on a backpacking adventure in Coyote Gulch – it was better than Disneyland if you ask me. We may automate away many jobs, but if we’re smart – and we believe we are – then better jobs at these innovative companies will emerge. Certainly tech jobs, but also jobs that help us reconnect with real sources of happiness.
Things will likely continue to get more and more crazy but the one constant is change. The fundamentals of happiness will persist and people will always gravitate to those fundamentals – and companies are wise to help make that happen (many of our clients are doing just that). Manual labor jobs will likely migrate from factories to services. Brick and mortar businesses will have to provide experiences. But there is much hope to be had in the human spirit and many companies we work with reaffirm that hope.