US politics is much more polarized than it used to be. Culturally we have ever less common ground. The creative class flocks to a handful of happy cities, abandoning the rest. And increasing economic inequality means the spread between rich and poor is growing too. I'd like to propose a hypothesis: that all these trends are instances of the same phenomenon. And moreover, that the cause is not some force that's pulling us apart, but rather the erosion of forces that had been pushing us together.

    ...

    If we think 20th century cohesion disappeared because of few policy tweaks, we'll be deluded into thinking we can get it back (minus the bad parts, somehow) with a few countertweaks. And then we'll waste our time trying to eliminate fragmentation, when we'd be better off thinking about how to mitigate its consequences.



mk:

This is one of his best essays. However, PG is making an assumption here that is incorrect:

    The form of fragmentation people worry most about lately is economic inequality, and if you want to eliminate that you're up against a truly formidable headwind—one that has been in operation since the stone age: technology. Technology is a lever. It magnifies work. And the lever not only grows increasingly long, but the rate at which it grows is itself increasing.

    Which in turn means the variation in the amount of wealth people can create has not only been increasing, but accelerating.

The assumption that he is making is that wealth is something that has to do with work. If anything, to date, wealth has little to do with work, and more to do with organization. For example, technology did not enable Mark Zuckerberg to do enormous amounts of work. It enabled him to organize communication and to create an efficient organization to execute it. Same with Uber. Same with Ford. Those performing work get little wealth, whereas those performing organization get a lot.

Decentralization of organization is going to upend this ecosystem. In time, the ability to drive a stranger across town for money will be a matter of leveraging a decentralized network. It will be a public resource, not administered by government, but simple there, like air. Furthermore, money is a poor proxy for value, and it does not have a reputation component. Reputation is going to become part of wealth.


posted by b_b: 972 days ago