Failure, Future, and Faster

The most important article I read this past week was David Leonhardt’s long-form exposé on “The Unique U.S. Failure to Control the Virus.” (This pairs well with Jonathan Swan’s viral interview with the president on HBO/Axios.) There is a conclusion or two that I’d quibble with here, but it’s essential to understand the situation of the United States in context: simply, we failed to move fast enough, failed to coordinate economic and health policy, and — above all — have been shouting more lies and confusion through a bigger megaphone than anyone else. We’re still suffering in a way that no other developed “peer” country is, it shows, and the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Another article worth reading comes from the NYT magazine. It asks, “What if Working From Home Goes On … Forever?” The better question might be, why wouldn’t or shouldn’t it? There will be reasons to go back to working in person, but they’ll be discrete — and by the time that’s generally possible (let’s say at least a year from now), our habits, baselines, technologies, and workflows will have adjusted tremendously. Most U.S. workers didn’t know what Zoom was in March. Now it’s a verb, and so ubiquitous as to be exhausting. Consider how much and how quickly they’ve iterated in that time, and consider how many other companies are working like crazy to make software for a truly remote-first world. “Skype, only better” is one promise; “international business meetings, only better and without the jet lag” is a new category just coming into focus.

Finally, on a more personal note, the article that changed my mind and actions the most this week was Ben Kuhn’s “Be Impatient” [HT to last week’s newsletter from Farnam Street]. How fast can you go? How about when you know which direction you’re trying to go vs. when you don’t?