Most of us believe life is about accumulating cash, making enough coin to pay the bills, put the kids through school, take a vacation, and buy ourselves a couple toys. You know. Living our best life. Seven hundred thousand Americans found out last month that a virus could cause havoc not only to one’s physical health but also to one’s financial health. There will be less coin available to pay for that best life.
Americans are not coming to terms with the reality of nature; that nature is the ultimate arbiter of life on this planet. It is why the call from political leaders in the United States and worldwide to wage war against a disease seems silly to me. Nature always wins and I believe its victory will be manifested in how it helps change the nature of commerce and work.
How work changes will go beyond whether a bunch of lawyers, accountants, and call center operators can conduct business from home with their kids running around. (Fortunately, social distancing at home is easy for me. I have a teenager. They like staying away from their parents.) Not only will we have to become overnight IT managers, we will have to adjust to two additional tasks: one, becoming database managers; and two, teaching our bosses’ algorithms how to read and navigate the databases we have been assigned to classify and build.
More and more professionals, from lawyers to accountants to doctors are becoming database managers. They are being asked to go through thousands of documents, classify them, and tag them according to how relevant they are to resolving an issue of law, finance, or medical treatment.
By tagging the contents of these databases, these professionals are providing their bosses’ algorithms a template to follow; a path to build and travel on when they eventually take over more and more responsibility for mining these databases and their content.
Capital, always in fear of a vacuum, is always in search for yield. It is always in search of the information that increases returns on the coin. The more efficient the search and the more robust and plentiful the information, the greater the yield. For coin is the physical valuation of information. The more information capital has for use, the greater the value of the coin.
But for the rest of us, for the non-capital or what I call the credit class, we will have to rethink our view of information. Information is no longer just something told or facts learned. It is not just news or knowledge. It is an asset, something owned that has value. Each household’s value going further into the 21st century will be judged on the quality, uniqueness, and value of the information that it sits on. Households will have to spend more of their most valued currency, time, at least in the short to immediate run, accumulating that most important asset, information.
The virus has dis-aggregated Americans. Americans sitting at home on their desk tops remotely connected to the central brain at their office will soon be called on to generate more energy in the form of information, relying on their own leased data resources and the databases they create. Capital, demanding the reductions in the costs for information searches, will reward those households that can mine, package, and deliver information that provides capital with a list of opportunities for highest yield.
The information engineers will win for they will lead in buying that best life…