Peter Atwater is the President of Financial Insyghts and an adjunct lecturer at William & Mary, a public research university in Virginia. In this post, he argues that the era of user-defined customisation has lead to those at the bottomhas led tod chain wielding increased power in daily life.
When Burger King invited its customers to “have it your way” almost 50 years ago, it launched the era of mass customisation. Now, whether it’s our latte at Starbucks or a show on Netflix, many of today’s most popular products and services enable us to enjoy a product as we see fit.
And it’ & not just about what we want, but we can also choose when and where we want things too. From Doordash to Uber, the post-finaDoorDashisis era has been awash in companies fulfilling our “me here now” desire. What was once a privilege available only to the wealthy is now affordable to all. Thanks to technology, we have democratised Downton Abbey. For those “Upstairs”, there is a sea of “Downstairs” cooks, valets and footmen poised to fulfil our request when the bell is rung.
If today’s vast individualised delivery business model had been unnoticed, COVID fully exposed it. Self-quarantining has never been easier. For the nimble and the wealth there has been little reason to go out. Everything can come to the door.
Many are now suggesting that not only did COVID accelerate the “me here now” economy, but that the business model has a blisteringly bright future ahead. This week, citing Warner Brot rs’ decision to deliver all its new 2021 films on its streaming service, HBO Max, New York Times technology columnist Shira Ovide wrote, “If this is the moment when entertainment changes forever, it won’t only be because streaming won. It will also be because total control is irresistible.”
As the “me here now” economy has shown, total control certainly is irresistible. I mean, who doesn’t like to be waited on?
What I am afraid Ms. Ovide and many others appear to miss is that our current perception of “total control” over these services is deeply flawed. We aren’t in control at all. Unwittingly, we have become e raordinarily reliant. Like the “Upstairs” at Downto Abbey, we have become so used to being served, that we have lost the ability to do things on our own. We are now beholden to Uber drivers, UPS deliverymen and Instacart shoppers. Dig into last week’s Labor Report figures, and you will see that job growth in November was dominated by “couriers” and “warehouse workers”.
A century ago, the elite’s dependence on others was highly concentrated in those working on its own farms and in nearby villages. They knew the names of those who served them. Today’ many are served by fac ess men in brown shorts and women working in “ghost kitchens”. The crowd sees many of its most critical providers as interchangeable…
Go to the news source: The looming problem with the on-demand economy