The Path to the Artisan Economy


Photo by Stefano Intintoli on Unsplash


The value of human imperfection, plus the power of new technologies are inspiring a return of the artisan economy

Last year, I gave a presentation on the rising importance of artisanship in a world of perfect machines, and followed it with an article about the one thing computers will never beat us at. I wrote:

In the world of the future, automated perfection is going to be common. Machines will bake perfect cakes, perfectly schedule appointments and keep an eye on your house. What is going to be scarce is human imperfection.

We are still early in the early days of these developments, but we’re already seeing an uptake in artisanship. As Economist’s Ryan Avent writes, the trend offers clues about the future economy:

Craft is, in general, far less well-paid than professional work. Yet the benefits it offers — the satisfaction of controlling one’s own destiny, acquiring a range of skills, creating beautiful and delicious things, forming friendships with suppliers and customers — make up for the reduced incomes and ensure that there is a small, steady migration of professionals into the craft economy.

Noah Smith depicts craft brewing as one path forward for the middle class, that could serve as a model for other industries:

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Clean Food: If You Want to Save the World, Get Over Yourself.


From Salt Bae, via Facebook

I’m a permaculture farmer. My goal is to develop natural ecosystems that produce food. My dream is a world with ready access to a diet that nourishes the body of the consumer, provides a living for the producer, and leaves the Earth joyfully habitable.

I share that dream with a lot of people who call themselves permaculturalists, natural farmers, plantsmen, or foodies. I fear, however, that this doughty lot of green thumbs and stock-folk and food advocates is succumbing to tribalism; forgetting that saving the world means saving all of the people in it; even the ones that love cheap burgers and Coke. We’re digging foxholes and making monsters out of people who don’t agree with us, or who don’t understand, or who do understand but are powerless to act.

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Panicked about Kids’ Addiction to Tech?


Here are two things you could do

Flickr: Jan Hoffman

Ever since key Apple investors challenged the company to address kids’ phone addiction, I’ve gotten a stream of calls asking me to comment on the topic. Mostly, I want to scream. I wrote extensively about the unhelpful narrative of “addiction” in my book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. At the time, the primary concern was social media. Today, it’s the phone, but the same story still stands: young people are using technology to communicate with their friends non-stop at a point in their life when everything is about sociality and understanding your place in the social world.

As much as I want to yell at all of the parents around me to chill out, I’m painfully and acutely aware of how ineffective this is. Parents don’t like to see that they’re part of the problem or that their efforts to protect and help their children might backfire. (If you want to experience my frustration in full color, watch the Black Mirror episode called “Arkangel” (trailer here).)

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The Product Hierarchy of Needs


Using Maslow’s famous framework for product planning

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the most well known frameworks of all time. Famously, Maslow draws the pyramid of human needs where lower layers of the pyramid represent the more basic needs (for example, physiological and safety needs) while each level above moves towards transcendence and self actualization. As the theory goes, one can only satisfy the needs at a certain level after satisfying the needs of the levels beneath it. If the lower need has not been met the person will not have the motivation, focus or capability to work on a higher need. For example, you won’t be bothered to worry about your social standing if you are starving, naked, and sick.

Appropriating Maslow’s model and applying it to something I am working on has been an interesting exercise over the years. Most recently, we did this at Varo Money to help us think differently about our product roadmap and 2018 strategy. Here’s how we thought about it in regards to our business. I think it can be applied broadly as a simple, useful framework for startups.

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Why Paywalls Don’t Work


Congratulations! You’ve read too much. Please pull out your credit card.

And so goes the frustrating, backward logic of the journalism paywall. It’s the most popular income idea to arise since the newspaper industry was flooded with low-budget competitors, and it seems like the last best hope for profits as Google and Facebook strangle independent advertising sales.

It’s also a fundamentally flawed business model that goes against the best interests of journalists and their readers, and for the most part, it’s doomed to fail.

Paywalls are rock solid — until there’s big news

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Future of Brands: Building Consumer Trust Beyond Cause Marketing


Future of Brands

Would you care if the brands you interact with everyday disappeared?

Would you care if the brands you interact with everyday disappeared? A global survey says nearly three-quarters of those asked wouldn’t. Would what we do as marketers, branding strategists, advertisers or product managers matter anymore? But before it turns into a philosophical debate about the meaning of existence, let’s quickly return to reality.

Not long ago, I attended a thought provoking event by Brand South Australia discussing the future of brands and how the “Future Enterprise” can foster trust in consumers.

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Do We *Really* Think An Intelligence Explosion Is Unlikely?



My response to François Chollet’s “The Impossibility of Intelligence Explosion”

Francois Chollet argues in his recent essay that an intelligence explosion is very unlikely. So the fast progress we see today is a chimaera, more linear than we think and more likely to slow down, because:

Doing science in a given field gets exponentially harder over time — the founders of the field reap most the low-hanging fruit, and achieving comparable impact later requires exponentially more effort.

And that even the open-source networked approach to research that has driven so much recent progress has limits because:

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The Best Of NewCo Shift — Week of November 7th


Once again, here’s a summary of our most popular and impactful stories we’ve recently published. Thanks for both reading and sharing these stories. Remember to follow us on Medium and social media to receive real time notifications from all our stories as they go live.

We also want to remind our readers that NewCo Shift sources and edits extraordinary stories into Medium’s membership area, which is on a “metered paywall” similar to the New York Times. Anyone can read them, until they hit their limit. We’re including them in our roundup so you know about this great work — and we may be biased, but we think Medium membership is well worth it!

Let us know what you’re interested in us covering or pitch your own stories at

We’ve Not Thought Through the Legal and Ethical Disruption of Augmented Reality

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People Didn’t Need the Internet in 1993. Do They Need Blockchain Now?


Singularity University Canada Summit in Toronto kicks off with a massive event at Evergreen Brickworks, and I get to learn more about bitcoin and blockchain.

A conversation with Andreas M. Antonopoulos, author of Mastering Bitcoin and The Internet of Money, one of the world’s leading experts on bitcoin and blockchain.

I met Andreas M. Antonopoulos at the inaugural edition of Singularity University Canada Summit in Toronto earlier this fall, where he was breaking down bitcoin/blockchain for a large crowd of business leaders, entrepreneurs and thinkers at Evergreen Brickworks, a former quarry and industrial site reserved for the event. The flurry of emerging conversations around bitcoin and blockchain, the billion-dollar valuations, and the specialized jargon can make blockchain an intimidating topic to wade through. Is the hype justified? Consider:

Bitcoin (BTC) went over $6,200 this week, as the total crypto market cap approached $180 billion.

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Automation vs Humanization: The 21st-Century’s Two Most Powerful Trends.


Two vastly powerful trends are reshaping the world around us. Now, every business must ask itself: Which side of the line do we fall on?

I work in central London and live in the southeast of the city. Almost every night on my way home from work, I stop at the London Bridge outpost of M&S Simply Food (yes, my life is that glamorous). The place is always packed, but the queue moves quickly because there are 12 staffed checkout tills. Or, they were staffed. Last month the 12 conventional tills were replaced by 12 self-checkout touchscreens and two roaming staff members. Overnight, pretty much all the familiar faces were gone.

The unspoken statement could not have been more clear: the future is coming. Technology is eating jobs. No wonder so many books are being dedicated to the question: Are we heading towards a workless future? And what does that mean?

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