[Opinion] Indispensable Micro-Economies at Scale

There are two paradigms that are rubbing against each other, creating friction in economies, lives, employment choices, and even in personal lives:

The first paradigm is that of productivity. The type of productivity where an employee does “more with less,” where people are forced to shave the personal and the engagement from interactions in order to render them quicker and more “widget-like. The type of productivity where people work at mass and a type of productivity where quality scales in incremental steps.

The second paradigm is one that exists in the micro-economies of many state-level, land grant, higher education institutions: The paradigm where productivity means that more people are doing quality work without scale, in micro-ways, marketing to a group of people who represent a captive audience, and who have little to no interest in moving to scale.  The second paradigm favors quality over quantity and replicates the volume of mass, without all the people.

In the wider economy, it used to be that the first paradigm generated enough value in terms of revenues, trust, and awareness, that the second paradigm could exist, almost in opposition to it in some ways, philosophically, economically, and even culturally.

This is no longer the case for a variety of well documented reasons, but the biggest reason is that the friction between revenue generating at mass is now in direct competition for value and meaning, with the network effect at scale. The other large reason is that we have all been trained as consumers to believe that quality and quantity both go together, hand-in-hand.

Artificial intelligence, automation, and more technological transitions are going to ensure the spread of these unique, fragmented, highly differentiated micro-economies, but not at scale. Or at least, not a scale larger than maybe the geographic area of a state, or a region.

This will lead to further fragmentations in ideologies, perspectives and stories about how the world “should” work, and more fracturing around what is the “good life” and who gets access to it.

This is the dark side of all of this.

The more positive side is that people—at mass—will have more choices, with more awareness of the rare—yet deadly—issues that can affect everyone at scale, and perhaps more meaningful engagement, communication, and awareness.

But right now, we are experiencing the birth pangs of a new fragmentation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *