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The Personalized Economy

The Agricultural Revolution gave birth to the “economy” … production and trade of goods and services to satisfy our wants and needs. Initially our economy was more focused on needs over wants, like tools and clothes for survival. But even back then entrepreneurs mostly prevailed by personalizing their products to people.

Most humans still grew food, but increasingly so, sapiens started to specialize. With specialization grew personalization as the variety of goods expanded. Entrepreneurs existed then as much as now, the change agents driving progress by creating something novel and useful. What changed is technology and the awareness that innovation is possible.

Learning was hard because knowledge was scarce, locked inside heads and books few could read.

Growing was hard because capital was scarce and value was measured in atoms not bits.

Creating was hard because few thought it possible to invent something new to solve problems.

But abundance of food and specialized labor ... set in motion the path forward to help make life better. By the Renaissance we began to understand that progress can indeed be planned. Scientific discovery was well underway by the time Democracy came, hopefully to stay. Then came the Industrial Revolution, a shock that reshaped how we learn, grow, and create.

The Industrial Revolution was unnatural in the sense that it forced human beings to learn to act like machines.

Interchangeable parts combined with economies of scale changed the way we learned in school, grew financial capital, and created goods and services. Assembly lines replaced skilled workers that used to spend years learning to make something alone. Warriors like the Samurai was one such fatality, replaced by guns produced en masse. Armies could be trained in months to fight or fill factories. Farmers left fields to fill these new means of production. Cheap goods paid for with routine wages created the modern “Middle Class” … a new layer of society that willingly rents out their time to capitalists and entrepreneurs in exchange for safety, security, and stability.

The cost of the Industrial Revolution … was Anti-Personalization.

Before the Industrial Revolution most tailored their clothes. Smiths tailored knives. Cobblers tailored shoes. Children tailored toys, and cooks tailored meals. Most everything we bought and made was personalized to the unique preferences of particular people.

That changed a century ago, and economies of scale was a big reason why.

We wanted more stuff, but personalized stuff was hard to come by.

We grew accustomed to a world with fewer options that were cheaper. Henry Ford said you could buy “any color so long as it is black”. Ketchup at McDonalds and Wendy’s was free, but no matter the burger joint Heinz Ketchup ... was the only ketchup anyone could see.


Because everyone’s the same?

Because everyone just so happened to prefer Black Fords and Heinz Ketchup?


We lost something beautiful with the birth of machines … alarm clocks, school bells, and our concerted routines … we forgot we were human … we forgot how to dream.

The Industrial Revolution did not make us machines. What it did do was change the easiest path to success. All our unique strengths and interests and passions just could not compete with cheapness for masses. Safety, security, and stability are good reasons ... to leave the farm, go to school, and learn to follow directions. Entrepreneurship was fine and good for a few ... but most of us innovators simply had to make do.

… and then came the Software Revolution, a new shock that reshaped yet again how we learn, grow, and create.

Learning is easy because knowledge is free, available on the internet for all to see.

Growing is easy because capital is cheap, and value is measured in scalable bits.

Creating is easy because digital platforms make it cheap to invent something new and share.

Now everyone wants our creations because the cost of uniqueness is rapidly falling. There are now millions of threads across the Metaverse … on every conceivable topic, curiosity, and ideology. These are a reflection of our humanity. Human nature has always provided the opportunity to create value by meeting particular tastes and temperaments of individuals. People have always had the genetic and cultural dispositions to personalize our lives, through fashions and other forms of unique expressions.

Technology is not changing humanity…it’s lowering the cost of embracing what makes us human.

We humans have always had personalized preferences and personalities.

We are all unique.

Now even newer technologies like social networks, blockchain, genomics, 3D Printing, and machine learning are accelerating … reducing the cost of personalization and collaboration to zero. Numbered are the years that most companies will survive if they fail to see this new trend.

Consumers want clothes, cuisines, and content that is customized to their character ... and if you can’t create it your competitors will.

The world was already moving in this direction before the pandemic…when the entire world was forced to take a break from their synchronized routines, leftover relics from a world in which humans suppressed their humanity to be more like machines.

It’s time to take our humanity back and embrace who we are.

To be human again … that’s your north star.

Discover your strengths, interests, and passions by listening to yourself. Listen to others so you can make yourself useful. Create value for others doing what you do best, by being an increasingly better version of you. Find people that love what you do naturally like breathing. Keep iterating and improving by keeping on listening.

Follow that path of equilibrium … balancing your humanity with the wants and needs of the world.

Follow that path wherever it takes you … and you will learn to grow and create value so powerful that no machine or human being can ever replace you.

The new personalized economy is coming … and the winner is humanity.


Joe McPhail

CEO of WEquil Group


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