When tech companies begin to tell the truth, something is up.
Or, rather, down.
If they need to bare their souls, emit portents of despair and sound gongs of woe, you really have to worry about the world's perilous state.
So it is on hearing the dire, desperate prognostications emerging from Microsoft.
No, the company isn't worried the Surface will never become the world's dominant computer, laptop, tablet or whatever it's supposed to be. Microsoft is worried that it won't have enough people to make it so.
This isn't some COVID-induced kvetching about the so-called Great Resignation.
Instead, as Microsoft President Brad Smith told Reuters, this is the fear that Microsoft may have to pay employees a lot of money.
Oh, I've skipped a little bit when I say that.
You see, he worries that the number of people who want a job is shrinking. This means corporations must bow and scrape in order to hire and retain.
One of the finest ways to do that is to pay employees oodles of money. Perhaps not the finest, of course. Corporations would rather pay employees the minimum levels possible for the maximum levels of production.
But if more employees than ever can pick and choose where they work -- and for how much -- the problem may become large.
Smith explained that the numbers of new humans entering the working population -- and expanding it -- are progressively becoming smaller.
"That helps explain part of why you can have low growth and a labor shortage at the height at the same time. There just aren't as many people entering the workforce," he said.
There are many reasons why modern adults have decided to have fewer children. Some may be related to the fact that corporations have used their power to trouser vast profits for a little too long, at the expense of offering a decent enough quality of life.
Many more families were forced to have two breadwinners. Governments, too, didn't exactly encourage child production. If you're not even being offered paid maternity leave, why would you have the three children corporations need you to have in order to keep their labor costs down?
Imagine, then, the future Smith paints.
Also: Microsoft researched what made employees truly happy. One result was startling
No one will want a career at any corporation -- not even at Microsoft. As Smith himself admits, companies will likely have to pay employees more and more. Competition for competent staff will be ever more fierce.
As for the employees, why would they want a career anywhere when they can finally earn large amounts in short stints and take months or even years off? Even more exciting for them, if they can pick and choose what sorts of jobs they want in what sorts of companies they want, they can finally feel productive -- and perhaps even happy -- without feeling beholden.
I hesitate to mention LIV Golf at this point, but I'm feeling weak. Should you have missed this troubling phenomenon, this is a new golf tour that pays golfers merely to turn up, offers them greater prize money, makes tournaments shorter and feeds into their need to have more time to, oh, who knows, make more money by creating their own whiskey brands and hunting apparel.
LIV Golf has financing from the troubling source of the Saudi Arabian government. But its principles, however twisted, may apply to the corporate employment market for decades to come.
Why take risks? Why work for bosses you don't like? Why spend your whole life working when you can do other things without worry? Why not be paid, indeed, just to turn up for, say, a year or two?
It's a veritable conundrum for corporations.
And it is, of course, why many invest so heavily in robots.
Robots don't want vacations, children, and large pay raises.
At least, not yet.