How to Economically Construct, Sociologically Embed, and Psychologically Detonate a Giant PIFWOD Bomb
Or maybe even a few dozen … or hundreds of them … in both urban and rural settings, all across America. Also, please note the ‘histrionics’ tag for this post and approach accordingly. Histrionic doesn’t necessarily imply a complete lack of merit; although analytical rigor may be sparingly folded in.
Update 11/25/07: Ug. Meant to save as draft late last night, so some important updates appear here if you happened to read this earlier.
It was during a sidebar conversation during the recent 2007 Foresight Unconference Vision Weekend, that I discovered I am an absolutely unapologetic Pay It Forward Whack-O’-Dough (PIFWOD) apologist; one who wholly believes that economic resources in the U.S. marketplace have become more than sufficiently skewed as to be ripe for the corrective market action of a 21st Century Henry Ford. If market forces truly do innovate solutions to market imbalances, then the market is well overdue for a PIFWOD bomb to really shake up the imperialist elitists. Ford’s PIFWOD was the $5 day. Ours could take a page from contemporary startup practices; but the intent and the effects will be the same as Ford’s: to raise the Modal Expectation and Experience of Prosperity and thus Activate Economies of Scale at markedly higher levels of consumption and value.
To backtrack just a moment, the mission slogan for PIFWOD requires and deserves attribution, but I’ll await the approval of the author of that phrase to disclose attribution. The essence of this idea is hardly new, although the present instantiation can only be blamed upon yours truly. And thanks to my loyal interlocutor, the aptly supplied moniker: Pay It Forward Whack-O’-Dough, was coined. It’s perfect, thank you, BW.
To recap, at the time of our conversation, I was thinking about a near-future world where resource scarcity is very close to becoming an utterly absurd anachronism; when reminding a sixth grader in 2034 that not long ago the entire economic interrelationship of the human race was based upon the principle that “resources are scarce” will result in the same “so what” stare that you get from today’s tweenies when you accidentally sputter something so curmudgeonly as, “you know, we didn’t always have an internet.” Whatever, Grandma, now STFU and go away. <blockquote>My fiscally conservative and sociologically liberal neocortex was mulling over something like, “To hell with complex and bloated government wealth redistribution schemes or transfer payments, surely we can do it much more effectively and efficiently through Democratic Free Enterprise.”
</blockquote>I know it sounds Dangerously Republicanesque, but think equal parts Steve Liesman’s “National Productivity Day,” (modified to apply to the entire last CENTURY of collectively unrealized productivity dividends); Larry Kudlow’s creed that, “free market capitalism is still the best path to prosperity;” Jesus’s, “don’t be a greedy prick or a mean asshole;” and Mohammad’s, “or allah will kick your ass, you shmo.”
It’s like … if Kudlow’s hero Brian Wesbury is right, then it’s high time for Market Participants to step up to the plate and create Rational Market Responses to the horrendously expanding economic discontinuities and disparities in America. You say you want to avoid the specter of bigger government, Mr. Wesbury? Then Step Up To The Plate and Do What You Claim Your Almighty Invisible Hand is best at doing:<blockquote>Correct this runaway divergence between the top 2% and the next 8% … and while you’re at it, follow-up with a measured approach to keep the other 90% in the game, as well.</blockquote>I’m not even going to argue whether not Obscenely Astronomical Wealth Disparity has become the norm in America, because only Idiots, Liars, and Megalomaniacs could possibly argue otherwise; and I can’t ever hope to persuade any of those. So this post ignores those statistical outliers and reaches out instead the the intellectually honest or at least the intellectually sort of trying to be honest.
I’m sort of trying, too.
It seems to me that RIGHT NOW … heading into the year 2008 … just one moderately enlightened business team who understands the intrinsically explosive power of dispersing more creative capital resources into the hands of more and more diverse, intelligent, and ambitious people; one team that shares the vision of establishing new economies of scale at the next level of Modal Prosperity; can replicate and amplify the positive disruptive effect that Henry Ford understood was required for the automobile’s success, early in the previous century.
In Ford’s day, everyday people required a significant bump in both consumption capacity and Baseline Prosperity Expectations in order to move from Horse-n-Buggy Norm to Automobile Norm.
“Everybody got to elevate from the norm.” – N. Peart.
I continue to believe that we are at a similar junction in history, right now. Except that today we see orders of magnitude greater implications for good and not-so-good; particularly as capabilities such as molecular nano-assembly and super longevity loom on the horizon. These things are happening right now, friends; like it or not and ready or not.
To once again brutalize the worn out Gibson classic, “The singularity is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.” And when the very concepts of “scarce resources” and “brief lives” become utterly laughable, the whole deal will be about DISTRIBUTION. Who passes what resources through whom; when; how; and why?
To my mind, the “why” is retardedly obvious: so life doesn’t suck for the greatest number of humans possible. Answering the others may not be so obvious, but they too are soluble – at least, if we’re all as smart as we claim to be.
Of course, Henry Ford didn’t act alone in helping to usher in the Transportation Singularity; as it dide then, such a work requires a unique team to build and deploy the theoretical 21st Century Giant PIFWOD Bomb.
Yes, this whole thing sounds utterly absurd and borderline incoherent. However, the only thing more absurd and incoherent is to Do Nothing and continue on the trajectory of unsustainability and species self-mutilation.
In the draft scenario we chatted about at the unconference; I assumed a typical $100M payout on acquisition or IPO to a founder demagogue of a 70 person company; however, in the PIFWOD case the stereotypically vaunted Randian Founding Father or Mother figure (CEO) has to bring her or his distorted Atlassian ego down to earth and settle with walking out with a “measly” $30M instead of $100M while each of the other 69 employees walk with $1M. That’s the Pay It Forward Whack-O’-Dough, in a nutshell. Instead of one new uber-consumer and an army of ripped off workers who MADE your idea into a company, you get 1 right-sized uber-consumer and 69 mega-consumers.
The exact math isn’t the point … nobody is hung up on a particular percentage, here; what we’re hung up on is the absurd idea that ONE HUMAN’S CONTRIBUTION amidst any particular group of 70 is worth $70M while the other 69 see $50K-$200K. Of course, the current deployment of Golden Parachutes during this subprime mortgage meltdown makes factors of 70M seem paltry. Those packages are so utterly obscene as to provide all the Empirical Evidence any thinking person would need to support my claims of Unsustainable Imbalance of resources; thus necessitating either Free Market PIFWOD Bombs or the vastly more absurd – though nevertheless required in lieu of Capital Market Inertia – government interventions.
In the microcosm of a 70 employee startup – while the proportions are orders of magnitude smaller that Wall St. – the compensation disparities don’t even come close to passing a basic laugh test.
NO SINGLE INDIVIDUAL HUMAN amidst a group of 70 is SEVENTY MILLION TIMES more valuable to a COLLECTIVE CORPORATE entity. It’s simply impossible. Which is why we need to solve this fundamental issue before it BECOMES POSSIBLE … when enhanced and augmented human beings will conceivably possess AGI and other capabilities which, compared to the unenhanced branches of the evolutionary tree, COULD realistically be argued to be of 70, 80, or 100 BILLION times more value to a group of unenhanced hominids.
Considering a point in time during which the demonstrated capabilities and measurable value of some of us could conceivably diverge to such an extropian extent, it seems to me that we Absolutely Must take the greatest of care to provide for the monkeys from whence we sprang. There is a risk that if we don’t codify and institutionalize such norms BEFORE WE FORGET what it was like to be as we are now; the future may look more 4400-ish than we would presently care to imagine.
It could very well be that if we are to preempt a pitiless posthuman peonage; to thwart a tragic transhuman tribalism; that we need to deal with the fundamental issue of distribution BEFORE The Great Leap Forward happens. Of course, if the GLF has already happened, one might reasonably hope that such ideas are at the very least an individual evolutionary psychological prerequisite to gaining uplift and entry into the leapt cohort.
<blockquote>We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
We are the movers and shakers;
Of the world forever it seems.
– Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844–1881)</blockquote>