Inflation is here — it’s just not evenly distributed. When we say “inflation is virtually flat these days,” the truth of those low numbers hides a more complex reality. Actually, plenty of prices are rising, while others are dropping (The Washington Post) — averaging out to a nearly flat decade. What’s costing more? Education. Childcare. Healthcare. Food. And of course housing. What’s costing the same or less? Cars. Furniture. Clothing. Electronic stuff. Software. And toys. As you may notice, the first list is dominated by services, the second by goods. Also: The first list is full of necessities, the second is mostly optional or luxuries. The economists who performed this study say that technological efficiencies and international trade keep whittling down the price of manufactured goods, while services don’t benefit from those cost-cutting pressures. In other words, as long as people plan to keep eating and sleeping and raising families, their cost of living will probably rise. These numbers tell us a lot about today’s political passions — and also underscore where the business opportunities lie.
Stock options for cooks and drivers, too. Startups are expanding the spectrum of ownership. At one end of this range, there’s the conventional world of corporate ownership (invest your money, get your share). At the other end lies the idealistic world of worker cooperatives. Somewhere in between you’ll find Silicon Valley’s hybrid model: share stock options with employees. Startups have traditionally used rich option packages to reward founding employees or to lure key talent. Now some NewCos in the platform economy are trying to expand that model by offering equity to their contractors (Fast Company). Josephine, the Bay Area startup that offers homemade meals from neighbors’ kitchens, plans to share 20 percent of its equity with its cooks, starting next year. And Uber competitor Juno has reserved half its shares for its drivers. Option-spreading is no panacea — worker-shareholders might find themselves facing novel conflicts (higher wages or higher profits?). But these ownership experiments are worth watching: At the least they’ll yield valuable data and map how to look for better results the next time we try to solve this problem.
The recent Republican National Convention (RNC) portrayed a very negative version of the current state of the Republic. There are certainly many issues facing the United States — structural underemployment, income inequality, divisive violence — but the truth is, on many counts the country is doing extremely well.
I wanted to collect some of those indicators and present them here to remind us that we’re not failing. In fact, we’re continuing to reach new heights. I’m sure there are many ways to claim that “America is in decline,” but let’s not fall into the politics of fear and despair. Of course, Americans know there are many ways to improve and so we can and should do better. But here are some proof points that might help you feel a bit more optimistic than the news out of Cleveland would have you believe.
The US GDP continues to grow to unprecedented heights (Federal Reserve).
“The obligation, and the self‑interest of every company is to build a robust society.”
Tim O’Reilly has made studying the near future his full-time job, despite the fact he’s also in charge of a major technology publishing business, a venture investment firm, and countless conferences and events, all of which bear his name. All of his endeavors spring from a relentless curiosity around what the “alpha geeks” are doing — he’s something of a technological dowser, always looking for the next spring of fresh thinking. I was honored to be Tim’s partner in the Web 2.0 Summit conference for nearly ten years, and during that time I came to not only appreciate his unique brand of thinking, but also his desire to truly push the tech industry forward.
Given that tech is now driving change across all sectors of the economy, it’s in no way surprising that over the past few years, Tim has turned his attention to a scope larger than technology itself — to government, policy, and the global economy. His Next:Economy Summit explores all these issues and more each Fall. For the third edition of the Shift Dialogs, Tim stopped by the Nasdaq studios and we riffed for nearly an hour. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation — you can watch the video, which is edited down for length, here as well.
You recently told me that technology is in a crisis of trust. Can you unpack that for me?
After my last post on how you can blame Silicon Valley for Donald Trump, I got a lot of questions as to why productivity is stagnating. Stagnating productivity leads to people being angry with their economic well being and turning to easy sounding solutions spouted by Mr Trump. Silicon Valley is the self proclaimed world capital of innovation, but as of yet none of the Bay Area break throughs is accelerating the sluggish productivity growth.
But why? How is it possible that giving everybody in the world access to all the information in the world doesn’t show up in economic statistics? Here are five theories.
If profit isn’t your only goal, congratulations. You’re now at odds with neoliberalism, the economic consensus of the last three decades.
A mission-driven company names a goal and says, “This is why we’re here.” Sure, profit is great, and profit powers a mission, but it’s not the point.
This simple principle puts the whole mission-driven movement on a potential collision course with the most deeply held and widely shared assumptions that have driven the global economy for the last quarter century. Today, neoliberalism — the school of economic thought that promotes market competition and small government — is facing challenges on multiple fronts: Its gospel of austerity hasn’t restored the economies that bought into it. Even the International Monetary Fund’s own researchers are questioning its premises. Popular movements on both right and left are threatening to blow up long-negotiated free-trade pacts. And a lot of the rest of us are hoping to get something more fulfilling out of our work than an “I made more money than you” certificate.