We are the Product, Not the Customer

I have finished reading Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. It taught me a lot about Silicon Valley – which is located in many places, especially in Seattle. The company he joined, is in Boston.

His explanation of how the startup economy works is the best I have seen. It involves its people intensely – but in a new way – as the product it is working with. Not as employees or customers – in other words, not as people!

This is a subtle distinction – but at the same time, a huge distinction.

We sometimes speak of the Information Economy – but all this information is about people. People are being used for the information different organizations have about them.

I will give a more concrete example – WordPress, the blogging company whose app I am using right now. It happily accepts anything I write, and stores it in a cloud somewhere – cloud storage is very cheap. It then anonymizes it (makes it hard for anyone else to determine who the writer is) lumps my writing together with other writing, and then lets other companies look at it – for a price. And this price is enough to keep it in business, and profitable. For all I know, it may single my writing out – as typical of some esoteric market segment.

I am part of their product – and there is no way I can get out of it.

Other companies are not nearly so benign. As the book shows – they make people love them – so they can make huge amounts of money (billions of dollars) off of them.

This, you may say – is what religions have been doing for a long time – making money from their believers. The book makes frequent reference to Scientology – and I have referred to Mormonism.

But the Computer has changed everything. Without our being the least bit aware of it. It has infiltrated our collective unconscious.

Making us like it – in both senses of the world.

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