Samuel P.N. Cook
Nov 15, 2021
There’s a scene in the first “Hunger Games” film that serves as a fitting set piece for the digital tech world we find ourselves in today.
If you’ve never seen the film, just know this:
As one of the most popular sci-fi film sagas of the last decade, the “Hunger Games” is a dystopian epic that is at once a meditation on individual freedom, rebellion, and the lengths people go to for entertainment and luxury.
These are obviously themes just as relevant today as they were when the film series began ten years ago, no?
The scene I want to tell you about centers on Haymitch Abernathy (played by Woody Harrelson).
He’s a nonchalant, carefree, and somewhat smarmy District 12 veteran who speaks straight and delivers a most memorable — and prescient, it turns out — line to protagonist Katniss Everdeen, who herself becomes a galvanizing symbol of rebellion against the oppressive Capitol.
In the scene, Katniss is fearful of a trip she must take. She beseeches Haymitch for some much-needed guidance and reassurance.
“Haymitch, please, just help me get through this trip,” she pleads.
He’s sympathetic. But he wants her to see the bigger picture.
“This trip doesn’t end when you get back home!” he says.
He pauses. Then adds this:
"From now on, your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are."
That’s a mic drop for the current decade if ever there was one.
History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, but it Rhymes.
A rebellion is brewing in the world, and the tectonic plates are shifting. But before we get to this, first a trip back into history.
In 1356, an unknown pathogen escaped from a ship docking at a port in Crimea (a part of modern-day Ukraine, occupied by Russia).
Symptoms of the disease include fever of 38–41 °C (100–106 °F), headaches, painful aching joints, nausea and vomiting, and a general feeling of malaise. Left untreated, of those that contract the bubonic plague, 80 percent die within eight days.
Over the next 7 years, this mysterious pandemic caused the deaths of 30-60% of the European population at that time.
Known as the black death, rulers alternately blamed other ethnic groups, God, and other conspiracy laden theories on the outbreak.
This devastating pandemic went down in history known as the Black Death, or the Bubonic Plague - although modern science now tells us that this mysterious pathogen Y. pestis.
But the scientific truth of this pandemic is far less important than the economic and cultural impact it had on the world.
Faced with a massive shortage in labor, landlords across Europe were forced to release their peasants from enforced slavery into a flexible, dynamic labor market.
The massive trauma from this event, combined with this shortage of workers, also spurred what’s now known as the Renaissance across Western Europe.
At the time of the Black Death, Europe was an economic backwater of the world, far behind the wealth and sophistication of the 2,000 year old Chinese Empire, cowering at the feet of the remnants of the Mongolian Empire, and still contending with the power of the Arab world.
But by the 1860s (just 500 years after this terrible catastrophe) Europe - forced to innovate it’s labor markets - discovered the New World, gave birth to scientific enlightenment, created the world’s most dynamic agricultural innovations, and unleashed the industrial revolution.
Meanwhile, in the Russian Empire, serfs remained as slaves on the plantations of their aristocratic overlords.
Despite its massive land mass, vast and fast growing population, vast natural resources and agricultural bounty, the Russian Empire consistently lagged behind its European rivals.
By 1917, the Russian Empire had lost the First World War to Germany, and subsequently collapsed under the weight of it’s top-down autocracy into the abyss of Civil War, which killed between 10 - 20 Million of its people - and resulted in the dystopian horror of the Soviet Union
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because history often rhymes.
We are living through another epoch-creating event where a pandemic has radically changed how we are going to work.
The Harvard Business School’s Ian Cook (no relation!) is calling it the ‘Great Resignation' - where workers are demanding better working conditions.
According to the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson, the Great Resignation is driving a lasting shift in worker’s expectations around pay and working conditions.
This shift towards worker power is a replay of the explosive growth in productivity based on worker’s rights after the Black Death
This is similar to the technological breakthroughs spurred by the Renaissance, where a shortage of labor forced companies to become more innovative.
And all innovation happens with new business formation.
According to the World Economic Forum, new business formation hit an all time high in the U.S. and across the world this year.
A lot of workers who resigned in the last year and a half, buffeted by massive savings, are finally taking the plunge into entrepreneurship.
On the Tim Ferriss show podcast, Shopify President Harvey Finkelstein said that ECommerce has accelerated 10 years in just the last year alone.
Shopify’s motto is “Arm the Rebels” - they compared themselves to the rebel alliance in Star Wars, giving small merchants rights and power to fight back against the big monolithic Evil Empire of Amazon - read my last newsletter article on Amazon vs. Shopify.
And what about the rest of the world?
While Shopify serves over 1 million business owners who sell physical products, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 70% of all businesses are home-based businesses.
For the 100 million plus experts, consultants, freelancers, and consultants around the world?
According to the World Economic Forum, “An estimated 70% of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled platform business models.”
But just like the Evil Empire of Amazon vs. small merchants all over the world, if you sell your time for money, the odds against you are steep.
Your competition is Facebook right now - they are the one monopolizing the attention of the same people you seek to serve.
Their economic bottom line improves the more time they keep you and your customers on their platform.
And just like Hunger Games, we all have about as few rights on Facebook as the serfs in the Dystopian future they predicted.
And this is where the rebellion is coming.
At the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal last week, the tech world in Europe was in open Revolt against the hegemonic powers of Silicon Valley.
When longtime Facebook investor Roger McNamee took the stage and called for six different criminal investigations into Facebook, and prison sentences for any executive found responsible, it became obvious that this year's Web Summit would be different from previous iterations of the annual Lisbon-based tech conference.
Normally, Web Summit is a largely apolitical gathering of tech startup founders, software nerds, hackers, and the venture capitalists who want to give them money.
The conference is huge — 80,000 people in some years — and it sprawls across four days on the shoreline of the Portuguese capital. Usually, the chatter is of initial public offerings, "scaling," valuations, and "exits".
Not this time. The tech world is now in open revolt against its own big platforms. This year, Facebook is public enemy no.1. Social media is now the devil. Much of the chatter among attendees is about how to kill social media, regulate Google, or detour around them both.
If you want to find out exactly how Facebook is creating the dystopian future we all need to band together to avoid, go check out Roger McAnee’s booked Zucked.
If you think Google is blameless in this, you are wrong. Read Shosanna Zuboff’s book on how Google Committed the Original Sin of the Digital Age in her book on Surveillance Capitalism.
The reason why the Hunger Games ended in a mass rebellion is because the people were essentially slaves.
They reached a point - just like the peasants of the Russian Empire - where they could no longer take the reality of their oppression.
The exact same thing is happening in the world of technology right now.
The Meta Rebranding (widely panned on social media) will not change the growing anger and rebellious attitude bubbling up against Facebook.
Facebook is no longer leading innovation in the world.
It is no longer - as they claim - serving small businesses.
Yes, they do provide a place where small businesses can pay to connect with their clients (we do this of course).
But the ‘tax’ that Facebook extracts for the price of connecting with your audience only keeps going up.
Meanwhile, other promising social media platforms that could have risen up to provide real alternatives (like Instagram and Facebook) are now just in Facebook’s ecosystem.
The coming entrepreneurs’ renaissance, combined with the great resignation, will depend on your ability to successfully set up your business online.
Just like Shopify, we believe that the only way to truly fight back against Facebook and the tax it extracts on innovation and small businesses is to arm you with everything you need to succeed online.
This is exactly why we at SanityDesk have made it completely FREE for you to set up your entire business in one place.
We not only provide all of the tools you need to set up your website, landing pages, marketing automation, Sales CRM, support desk and team communication that you need to run your business.
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And we just launched our 24 Live Chat Support team staffed by real humans - all the time.
Finally, if you are not into doing all of your marketing and tech yourself, we are opening a marketplace of consultants we have trained who can do this for you - so you can focus on your business.
Click here to claim your Free Account on SanityDesk to join the Rebellion.
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