Jan 28, 2019

Axios Future

By Bryan Walsh
Bryan Walsh

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As usual, if you have tips or thoughts on what we can do better, just hit reply to this email or message me at steve@axios.com. Email my Future colleagues Kaveh Waddell at kaveh@axios.com and Erica Pandey at erica@axios.com.

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1 big video: A new age for capitalism

As we reported last Saturday from Davos, Switzerland, the liberal world order and status quo capitalism are both dead, and a new age is unfolding. Axios' Eli Sinkus, Jimmy Shelton and Megan Foley dove into the economic challenge posed by this epochal shift.

Have a watch.

Bonus: Grappling with the unfolding era

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios. Animation by Dan Melius for Axios.

For more than two years, mainstream U.S. and European political leaders have experienced one long bout of "if onlys" — if only they had done this or that, Brexit and President Trump might not have slipped by.

  • But, gathered at Davos last week, members of the global elite told us that even if Brexit were overturned in a second referendum and Trump were defeated in 2020 — real possibilities — almost nothing would change in the big picture.
  • The political and economic order would continue to unravel, and a new, as-yet unknown age would continue to gestate and take shape.
  • "You would have people angry about the losses and thinking that the elections are illegitimate. You would get potentially very divided politics going forward," said Christopher Eisgruber, president of Princeton University.

Brexit and Trump's election are symptoms of the shift to a new world order, as discussed in the video above. By comparison with past such transformations, this one is happening at lightning speed, we were told. The reason is technology, whose advances are core in this dramatic shift.

  • Digitalization is speeding up everything, making us woozy and, often, unnerved.
  • That sensation underlies much of the angst felt in communities across the advanced economies, along with the political turbulence that flows from it.
  • Think of this: The American shift from an agrarian to an industrial society a century ago was hugely jarring, but occurred over 100 years or more. "The difference today is we're doing it over 10 years, 15 years, 20 years," said Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide. He went on:
"The speed at which this change is happening is blowing people's minds. And the leaders — political leaders, business leaders — are having a hard time getting their heads wrapped around it.”

Go deeper:

2. Viva Las Vegas bots

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

As waves of automation-fueled job losses crash against the labor market, one unexpected hotbed of disruption is Las Vegas, a city overflowing with low-wage, low-skill work.

Kaveh and Erica write: The consensus among experts is that the next big zone to be decimated by robots is the service industry. The hundreds of thousands of jobs in Vegas, among them cooking, cleaning, selling and dealing cards, fall squarely into this vulnerable pocket.

  • The already-underway technological upheaval could send Sin City, which only a decade ago was clobbered by the financial crash, reeling once again.

By the numbers:

  • Per a report from the University of Redlands' Institute of Spatial Economic Analysis, 65% of Vegas jobs have a high chance of being automated away. Compare that to 25% of all jobs in the U.S.
  • Nevada suffered an outsized impact from the Great Recession, with a jobless rate north of 14%, compared with a peak national rate of about 10%. Its vulnerability to job loss means unemployment could flare again.

As we reported last week, the effects of automation are projected to hit the center of the country hardest. But not just middle America is at risk. There are urban pockets with high concentrations of low-wage service jobs — and Vegas is atop that list.

The root of the danger in Las Vegas is the dominance of one industry: casinos.

  • "That's a blessing and a curse," says Jeffrey Brown, a researcher at the Bertelsmann Foundation and co-author of a new report on the future of work in Las Vegas.
  • It's a blessing because casinos buoy the city's economy; it's a curse because when they begin automating away jobs, workers will have little to fall back on.

The bottom line: Casinos are already installing fancy gaming machines and new equipment that allows blackjack dealers to accommodate dozens of gamers, where until now they have been able to deal only to a handful. Their hotels are targets for robotization, too, with automated check-in, room service, housekeeping and even robotic bartenders.

3. Sign of the times: A diaper boom

Photo: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty

We've chronicled the most consequential demographic shift on our planet: the aging, childless future. Now there is more evidence of that change, Erica writes.

Driving the news: The market for adult diapers and padded underwear in the U.S. is projected to grow 36% from 2017 to 2022, compared with a 4% projected drop for baby diapers, according to Euromonitor International's forecasts.

  • This is currently most visible in Japan, where adult diaper sales surpassed baby diapers back in 2011. One company there is working on the world's first flushable adult diaper to make caretakers' live easier, reports Quartz.
4. Worthy of your time
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Data: SurveyMonkey online poll of of 2,777 U.S. adults with a margin of error of ±3.5; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

America's hidden workforce returns (Eric Morath — WSJ)

Gen Z prefers "socialism" to "capitalism" (Felix Salmon — Axios)

Why iPhones won't be assembled in the states (Jack Nicas — NYT)

The future of jeans (Cale Weissman — Fast Company)

The state of China's coffee war (Naoki Matsuda — Nikkei Asian Review)

5. 1 downhill thing: Getting home from Alpenrösli

The escape. Photo: Eli Sinkus/Axios

When you dine at Alpenrösli in the Swiss skiing town of Klosters, it's a steep, narrow, slippery ride to the top, with no place to park. A lot of people take taxis. But getting back to town, Axios' own experience last week was that most people don't try to persuade a taxi to make the return journey.

They use the restaurant's sleds and slide down at harrowing (and fun) speeds.

Watch the video.

Bryan Walsh