What Will We Build?

"If you don't make stuff, there is no stuff."

Going Global

Internet virality is a confusing thing. Overnight someones life changes when they wake up with 40,000 Twitter followers or 100,000 views on their most recent TikTok.

When a written piece blows up it’s even more confusing. The silly dance or pop-cultural phenomenon is only about entertainment and, I would guess, easier to hit a nerve then a long-form article or a podcast episode.

What is it when an article or podcast episode hits a nerve and shoots across the globe at light-speed? Is it tough-love? Something we all knew we needed to hear but weren’t brave enough to write ourselves? Is it inflammatory language? The media loves to scare you. Or is it some deep, yet obvious, truth and we want to spread ‘our’ truth across the internet?

For those in the podcast business, we all remember the photo of Elon Musk smoking a joint on the Joe Rogan Experience. It went everywhere. The episode itself became a podcast sensation and it’s views are nothing short of absurd. Is it because we can’t fathom the idea that one of the 21st century’s visionaries is also human? Is it because it’s scandalous and it makes the paper-pushers at the SEC nervous? I don’t know, but virality is fascinating.

Recently an article from silicon valley legend Marc Andreessen went viral. I was late to the party but when I read it, I understood why it grew legs and ran around the world:

  1. We’re in the middle of a socio-economic crisis and when in crisis we all want to know ‘what to do’

  2. It’s a call to action

  3. It’s written by someone we trust (grain of salt here)

  4. It’s inspiring

Notice how I didn’t say anything about it being true. It seems that, when it comes to internet virality, whether it’s true or not is entirely beside the point.

The point is this: Marc argues that in our failure to anticipate, locate and treat the current virus we’ve lost our imagination and our ability to build.

Our nation and our civilization were built on production, on building. Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.


Closer to Home

Manufacturing is one particular area of interest in the article’s call for imagination.

You see it in manufacturing. Contrary to conventional wisdom, American manufacturing output is higher than ever, but why has so much manufacturing been offshored to places with cheaper manual labor? We know how to build highly automated factories. We know the enormous number of higher paying jobs we would create to design and build and operate those factories. We know — and we’re experiencing right now! — the strategic problem of relying on offshore manufacturing of key goods. Why aren’t we building Elon Musk’s “alien dreadnoughts” — giant, gleaming, state of the art factories producing every conceivable kind of product, at the highest possible quality and lowest possible cost — all throughout our country?

What does this all mean for us at home? We’re experiencing the same crisis as everyone else across the globe but we’ve had extreme success in mitigating worst-case-scenarios.

Economically, will we be seen as North America’s recovery leader, as we have been in flattening the curve?

In a recent episode of the Growing Pains podcast we discussed this very idea with the great Herb Emery. Dr. Emery addressed our growing need to build and his work with the JDI Roundtable on Manufacturing Competitiveness in New Brunswick.

Many economists believe that COVID-19 disruption to international supply chains for producers will result in a re-regionalization of supply chains. In other words, reliance on low cost, but risky suppliers in China will give way to not-so-low-cost, but more secure sources of supply in North America. New Brunswick’s economy should see an opportunity to capture some of this post-COVID-19 contestable market share. But the risk is that our producers won’t be competitive against producers in other provinces and U.S. states who are better positioned to scale, modernize and find ways to sell and distribute their products and services.

Sure, it’s time for us to build and we should do that. But what are the risks? How do we set target dates, re-open quickly and safely and hedge against what could be the worst economic winter in a generation?

Let’s look to Maritime Minds like Dr. Herb Emery and all of the other amazing guests on the Unsettled Media Podcast Network.

PS: Today we set forth to produce this work full-time. We’re ramping up podcast production, producing unique podcast content for regional businesses that want to have their voice heard and enhancing the newsletter. You can become a part of the network and support the work here. We’d love to have you.

What a ride,