Thursday, April 07, 2016

A World of Abundance

Economics is the study of scarcity. In a world of abundance, all the rules of 'supply and demand' fall away. There is a limit to how much people want of something even if it is free. One of the reasons De Beers was able to create a mythology and mystique around diamonds, was to control the supply. They were able to convince us that a rare rock symbolised a rare relationship. When Rhodes died in 1902, De Beers controlled 90% of the production of diamonds.

Put a Ring On It

'Gift Economics' and 'Sharing Economics' are completely different. There isn't an exchange. There isn't a limit. When something is given, nothing is expected. The best example is parenting. A friend of mine spoke of learning just how much his parents had given him, by being a parent himself. He said he had heard someone (who didn't have kids) say that parenting was hedonistic because people wanted unconditional love. Unconditional love from kids isn't even close to guaranteed. Parents have to pour themselves into their kids. How the little person responds is only partly influenced by their effort. It isn't a cash for service purchase.

Burning Man is a famous ongoing experiment with the sharing economy

I am excited by what happens in a world of abundance. Silicon Valley is famous for providing employees with incredible working environments. Unlimited food, places to relax, places to exercise, and all the other tools to succeed. They do this because the employees are not seen as an expense. By releasing obstacles, they believe the employees will be able to allow their creativity to explode. I think that is true for everyone. Not just high flyers.

Rules change. Google changed the rules for business by providing the 'product' for free. We are essentially Google's product because search provides a far better connection to what we want than broadcast advertising. Amazon changed the rules for running a retail business, by constantly pushing profit margins as low as they will go and reinvesting in building a better client experience.

I can imagine an Artificial Intelligence machine that realises that by providing personalised coaching and covering the 'basics' like food, accommodation, security and transport... it can release our potential. An Artificial Intelligence that doesn't wait for Governments around the world to decide that a Universal Basic Income is a good idea. It just does it.

A world of abundance levels the playing field. It turns the play away from competition. Competition has been an engine to motivate us. We are going to need to start thinking more deeply about alternatives. What comes after enough?
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