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Billionaire David Rubenstein: You're not going to see people 'rushing back to work' in a post-COVID-19 world

Private equity billionaire David Rubenstein and his daughter, Ellie, reflect on how swiftly the world has adapted to COVID-19.

Video Transcript

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Whenever you go through a complicated part of history, people always say the world's gonna change, and sometimes it doesn't really change. On the other hand, there is a curse in China that is along the lines of, may you be condemned to live in a time of transition.

Well, we're obviously living in a time of transition right now because people used to go to work in their offices or their factory plants-- whatever they are doing-- now or not. They're like me. They're sitting at home. And it's an interesting phenomenon how quickly the world has changed.

Think about this. The Industrial Revolution took about 100 years, the internet revolution maybe 20 years, the smartphone revolution maybe five to seven years. Now, in less than one year, we have basically said we're gonna do things on the equivalent of what we're doing now-- Zoom or the Zoom equivalent-- and it's amazing how many people have adapted to it in less than a year. And many people that I know do not want to go back to work in their offices, certainly not full-time.

So the world's gonna change. People are gonna travel a little bit less, I think. People are going to-- eventually, they'll go travel again the way they were going to do, I suppose. But right now, they're gonna travel less, and that will probably happen for a while. They're also gonna go out less in many ways. They're going to probably use hotels less than they were before.

They're gonna spend less time commuting to their offices than they were before. And they're probably gonna buy different things than they bought before. And they're gonna learn more technology than they knew before. So the world's going to change in many ways, and it's happened relatively quickly.

ELLIE RUBENSTEIN: You know, I just want to add to this. I wish people could see the scene of our house. But we used to say our investment thesis is how can we get better food faster, better, and cheaper in the same way that Jeff Bezos uses that for Amazon?

I think what my father has figured out during quarantine is he can get things faster, better, and cheaper by making our house be a warehouse for purchasing of all of his books. So the scene of our dining room is thousands of books that he's signing. And then his commute time is now 10 seconds instead of traveling around the world to meet investors.

So I think that one of the advantages of when you get to observe people that come before you in the industry is if you can see that they are able to innovate while things happen, we've always said that the best leaders are agile. So it's amazing to see this. I wish we could turn the camera right now to show people what my father has figured out.

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: So human interaction has obviously been the hallmark of how people get things done throughout history. So it's not likely to all of a sudden people say, I don't want to have human interaction. I think they will want to have human interaction, but they're gonna come back to it slowly. And I don't think people will feel they need to travel around the world for a half-hour meeting. They can do it on a Zoom conference kind of call.

So the world will change in ways we can't predict. But I do think that-- that you're gonna see people adapting to this way of life for quite some time. Now, 10 years from now, who knows? But I do think that, over the next couple of years, you're not gonna see people rushing back to work the way they did before.