The Great Turning Point: Why Binge Building Will Become the New Binge Watching
Forget Netflix and chill. It's time to Climax and build.
For at least a century, corporate monoliths characterized by names like General Electric, General Mills, and General Motors clumped together large sets of siloed functions to deliver generic offerings through a continuous process of aggregation. Along the way, they optimized for efficiency and created a factory system that organized the economy in command-and-control management structures. The entire economic system was predicated and structured around a promise of predictable growth in a stable world. But today, stability is no longer the norm. And the growth provided by the factory system has run out.
Consequently, we’ve reached a defining turning point in history. Looking at the changing social, economic, and technological trends, I believe there are three plausible scenarios on the horizon that could define our future for the next 100 years. Two are wrong for humanity. But an emergent third scenario provides a promising path to a more desirable future.
Scenario 1. The Communist Economy: When AI-Powered Communism Runs Amok
In the first scenario, the Chinese Communist Party (with help from other communist regimes) aggressively exploits the vulnerabilities and disorder in the West by weaponizing its advantages in artificial intelligence, which weakens the free world and ultimately pulls the United States into a kinetic (i.e. military) war much worse than most people imagine. If communism wins, the new world order uses AI and ubiquitous surveillance to track and control your every move in an omnimalevolent way. Freedom perishes from the earth.
Scenario 2. The Corporatist Economy: When the People Work for the System
In the second scenario, ongoing technological revolutions are superimposed on today’s factory system of work, organization, and governance. Grassroots movements attempt to transform the institutions from within, but the established corporatists use their power to squash new ideas that could empower new entrants. Meanwhile, a small group of technocratic titans vie for total control, with support from a tiny ruling class of scientific, engineering, managerial, financial, political, and cultural elites, as the other 80% of people become marginalized, modern-day peasants.
Although the aristocracy would gladly have the commoners fall in line and submit to quiet resignation, dissatisfaction reaches peak levels. Most of the population awakens to widespread corruption, cronyism, suppressed wages, and many other obstacles that block people’s sense of having a fair shot at upward mobility. Institutional fascists continue to privatize the gains, socialize the losses, and wallow in their own false glory, which renders all who don’t fight for their lives to a fate of apathy. This gives rise to an army of anti-capitalists who battle to cancel the elites on a position of moral high ground. Sadly, the emphasis on social justice through subsidies and redistribution only perpetuates the problem. Rather than expanding opportunities for upward mobility, power becomes ever more consolidated in fewer hands as marginalized populations become more dependent on the ruling class to get their needs met.
These turbulent forces stir up an opportune moment for the communists to exploit our vulnerabilities, thus perpetuating the plausibility of a future controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. The technocratic elites use the growing apocalyptic threats to take radical action in an AI arms race with China. Strict limits are placed on freedom for the masses, and a period-defining contest between global elites leads to an ominous power struggle that resembles a high-tech version of Game of Thrones: competition is cutthroat; battles are bloody; society is stratified; nobody really wins.
Scenario 3. The Great Turning Point: When the System Works for the People
In the third scenario, a new American economic system is created by people, for people, who are dedicated to a rebirth of freedom. Through decentralized networks that increase the desire and the capacity for people to capitalize on their own passions and creativity, a renewal of entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, and lifelong learning begins to shift the trajectory of American economic growth and well-being in a more desirable direction. A firefighter in Houston capitalizes on his idea for a new mechanism to fight fires in high-rise buildings. An empty-nesting mother in Johnson County, TX discovers a unique opportunity to capitalize on the scent-detection abilities of dogs. An analyst in Oklahoma City builds on the idea by rescuing abandoned dogs and putting them to work in the oil and gas industry. Stories like this become the norm: individuals from all walks of life, solving challenging problems in their own unique ways, to capitalize on their own passions, so they can each fulfill what they individually dream to become.
The new innovation economy initially gains traction among millennials in middle America who own some property, and often their own businesses, and who build communities around their own passions. At first, many of these people tend to be creative freelancers, content creators, and influencers who nurture new ideas on new platforms for their own audiences. These creators find that billions of entrepreneurial opportunities have opened up to provide highly specialized products and services that haven’t fit neatly into the mass economics of the old system. Individuals on both the left and the right find common ground in the grudges they hold against the corporate elites. And they begin disaggregating Big Business, brick-by-brick, through a disruptive innovation strategy centered on mass specialization.
With the middle class and working class becoming more independent and more emboldened, they join forces to reverse widespread constraints on upward mobility -- asserting a new political will centered on the grassroots innovation economy. Because of the revolution, benefits such as health insurance become decoupled from employment. The technocratic monopolies get broken up. Schools become learner-centered. Individualism is encouraged again. New ideas are nurtured and shared. Work is more enjoyable than ever. And binge building becomes the new binge watching. Consequently, business creation reaches its highest levels in decades, and income mobility rises at rates that haven’t been achieved since the 1960’s. Income inequality declines but still remains high, as millions of entrepreneurs strike new symbiotic relationships with the tech companies who provide critical technical infrastructure.
Building on the momentum, the free world begins to break the business model of communism, using the same strategy of mass specialization that disaggregated command-and-control management structures in America. The new innovation economy -- centered on fulfilling individual satisfactions of dreaming, believing, achieving, succeeding, and making a difference -- spreads economic growth more broadly across the income spectrum. Ultimately, the median family can own a home and raise two children on the income of a single breadwinner again. Freedom is reborn.
Today a tiny group of autocratic titans vie for total control — with the support of a self-selecting “ruling class” of scientific, engineering, managerial, financial, political, and cultural elites — as the share of income going to the middle 60 percent of households has fallen to a record low. The corporatists in control of our institutions concocted an embalming fluid of lies, predicated on a promise of predictable growth in a stable world. For years they’ve been pumping us all full of it, while they protect their vested interests and manage the decay of the American Dream.
We can’t expect justice from those who enjoy power by virtue of their titles. Regaining widespread flourishing and rapid income growth will require a paradigm shift to a new economic system centered on innovation, entrepreneurship, and lifelong learning. The strength of the new system will be driven by the capacity of its people to innovate, and the momentum will be fueled by the desire of its people to capitalize on their own passions and capabilities. Superimposing technological changes on the current economic system (i.e., the factory system) will only perpetuate the problems that lead to the Neo-Feudalist scenario (i.e., Scenario 2).
As employers, the corporatists are obviously full of shit when they make their rosy claims to provide workplaces that feel like home. When you can be fired “at will” for any or no reason at all, it’s undoubtedly clear that they only care about your temporary usefulness to them. Truth be told, protecting and increasing their own power is the name of the game. And you’ll be gone as soon as they can manage it.
Most workers understand the power dynamics of modern business culture. But they feel powerless to change it. So they all drink the same embalming fluid, inherit the same disease to please, and project the same virtue-signaling personality in an effort to manage the optics and prolong their organizational survival. If we thought social trust was in decline in 2020, today it’s burning in a dumpster fire at the bottom of the cliff -- right next to innovation, which has been smoldering for years.
The status quo is set up to suck the life out of all but the most determined. Jobs are increasingly temporary, underpaid, incommensurate with education, or just plain unsatisfying. And if we aren’t adapting to this new reality by creating and adopting new ways to capitalize on our own potential, then there’s the most dangerous threat of all: spending your life doing work that fails to express who you are and what you care about. Life is too short to postpone or compromise what truly excites you. Especially when the alternative involves toiling in a stagnant labor pool with little or no upside.
The corporatists who created this culture can wallow in their own muck of false glory and go to hell with their propaganda. We’re going to binge build America, beat the hell out of business as usual, and elevate innovation everywhere.
Join, or die - TJB
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