The fundamental problem with consumer platforms is that they are too good at what they do, revealing a critical flaw in their design, and an important opportunity.
Consumer platforms, as currently designed, increase the wealth of the 1% by increasing the consumption of the 99%. They come in two flavors: iOS or Android; both offering magical products that distract us from how poor we have become.
Design is only as good as the values we put into it. Having led technology teams and organizations, we believe strongly that platforms can reward sharing and collaboration just as generously as they reward hoarding and consumption. And yet, they don’t. What gives?
Imagine you had a switch on your phone that lets you choose where your data goes and who gets to benefit from it: OFF: the platform and its shareholders. ON: you and your local community. Would you make the switch? How many of us would?*
To answer that question precisely is tricky, but we believe that if people were made aware of the value of their data and its aggregates, 30% of us would switch in the first year.
Give a network member ownership of their own data, encourage and reward sharing and collaboration, and you may not appeal to every American, but you’d have more than enough of us to make it pay. In fact, we believe that by putting impact before profit, we can achieve a far more equitable and valuable platform economy than the illusion of choice being offered to us today.
When the choice comes, and it surely will, we intend to make the switch. We hope you will too.
Heather Sittig and Stephen Coller
* In order to answer that question, you could guess (Stephen wants to point out that he guessed 30%) If you’re the sort of person who has access to a spatial ecologist, a theoretical biologist, and a professor of advanced mathematics, they could give you the right answer, which is 31.78%. (Anyone who guessed 31.78, please contact Stephen)