We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars.
It takes place just about everywhere, and when exponential growth ran out, each of these institutions had to find some way of either owning up to a new business model or continuing the old one with smoke mirrors and the cannibalization of someone else’s source of income.
There is no higher God in Silicon Valley than growth. No sacrifice too big for its craving altar. As long as you keep your curve exponential, all your sins will be forgotten at the exit.
It’s through this exponential lens that eating the world becomes not just a motto for software at large, but a mission for every aspiring unicorn and their business model. “Going viral” suddenly takes on a shockingly honest and surprisingly literal meaning.
The goal of the virus is to spread as fast as it can and corrupt as many other cells as possible. How on earth did such a debauched zest become the highest calling for a whole generation of entrepreneurs?
Because the core assumption is that growth is always good, growth is always unlimited, and if you’re not growing you’re dying. Swim or sink, no wading.
It’s the banality of moral decline.
Principles are no match for the long-term corrosion of market realities and expectations. The levies will break, the good intentions will flood.
If something is creating revenue, it’s your solemn duty to keep milking and pumping until it’s done! Extract every cent, then move on to the next mining effort.
The fancy word for that is fiduciary duty. To grow as fast as inhumanely possible is not just a goal, but a responsibility. A moral obligation to THE MARKET. And the theory goes, the market is all of us*. So you’re actually serving your community. All that is bad is good again once you change the tint of your glasses. If you sense something rotten, you just need a new prescription. Now you’ll see as clear as fog that this is ACTUALLY ABOUT ETHICS IN BUSINESS.
It’s a hyper-evolutionary process that rewards the most extractive, most addictive, most viral strain from the cohort. The key measurement is ENGAGEMENT. Who cares about the virtue of the endeavor, as long as your product is maximally addictive.
The solution isn’t simple, but we’re in dire need of a strong counter culture, some mass infusion of the 1960s spirit. To offer realistic, ethical alternatives to the exponential growth logic. Ones that’ll benefit not just a gilded few, but all of us. The future literally depends on it.