Friday, March 24, 2023

Tales from the Crypto.

My sophomore-year Samuelson.

If you've taken a single college course in Economics, you were probably introduced to the notion of "substitute goods."

It's a pretty simple idea.

If something gets too expensive, consumers buy a cheaper alternative. So chicory instead of coffee. Margarine instead of butter. A Chromebook instead of a computer. GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company instead of a mammoth holding company agency. 

The Economist recently published a glossary of a couple of hundred economics terms. It's a good thing to know about. I have the URL stored on a top-secret document I used to save great URLs. The glossary also includes a phrase called "substitution effect," which is not all that different in meaning from substitute goods. They define it this way:

There's a reason behind my foray into Econ 101.

Not too long ago you could hardly spit without hearing something about Cryptocurrency. Crypto was nominally a substitute good for what we used to call money. But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why I needed it. Unless I decided to launder money like I was a drug-dealer, a politician or I ran an international sports organization.

For now anyway, or until the next tender bubble, Crypto has disappeared like a fart in a typhoon. You don't really hear about it anymore.

But before Cryptocurrency's grave was even cold, another substitute good has taken over our attention. It's another Crypto. It's another answer to a question I'm not sure was ever asked or needed asking. Why do we need more artificial communication?

That Crypto is AI. Writing and Design.

And along with its advent, the Gartner Hype Cycle (also known as the Dutch Tulip Frenzy, the South Seas Bubble, the Credit Immobile Scandal) is being fully unfurled and brandished like a Confederate flag, or a Nazi flag at a Trump rally.

Related to this, I think the question ad agencies and brands must answer is a supremely simple one.

How do we want to treat people?

Or more elemental, what are people?

Are we all brothers? Or are we just a potential profit opportunity?

We can follow our current course and speed and provide inhuman-machine-based interactions that alienate, frustrate and drive-away customers. This seems to be the path most brands and agencies will follow. It seems to be the course they are following now, when virtually every brand-human interaction leaves humans with the sour taste of bile in their mouths. 

I've yet to have a good machine-based conversation. I feel about them like I feel about that mail you get nowadays where you have to rip four tiny sides of perforation to get your check. These things take too long to open. And I almost invariably tear something the wrong way. 

They piss me off. But that's ok. Because apparently I'm not worth two-extra-cents to the company mailing those perf-checks. I'm just a bio-mass, like Sargasso seaweed. I'd be better off burnt or rotting and releasing methane.

They will claim there are AI efficiencies they can realize that will send their stock-price soaring--even as their woeful service drives away millions of customers.

The question with substitute goods--whether it's margarine instead of butter, cryptocurrency instead of fiat currency, or crypto-creativity instead of human-creativity is almost always the same.

It's not 'what is the immediate cost?' Substitute goods, almost by definition are almost always cheaper. The question should be this: what are the long-term and ongoing costs of substitute goods? 

What are the long-term costs of shoddy quality, inferior performance and lower-satisfaction?

Oscar Wilde was said to have described cynics as those who "know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

I worry that agencies and brands that embrace the latest cryptos and the next and the next are behaving cynically. And all of us, in going along with their way of thinking, are trapped by a never-ending and ever-spreading Dupeocracy.

I worry more that we've created a world where every person hates every company, that no complaint no matter how valid ever gets resolved to anyone's satisfaction and that everything gets progressively unprogressive until the whole thing collapses and the rats and pigeons of our once great cities are beginning to look like dinner.

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