Bet on Humanity

Google AI can read aloud better than you can.

The algorithm can be fully customized. It can read at any speed and in any tone — with perfect pronunciation. 

Seth Godin writes:

"Anything that's ever been written can be perfectly read to you. Which means that anything a computer figures out or computes can be delivered to you with audio quality that meets spec…. It ought to make you shudder to discover that something as basic as speech is now better than the typical human’s."

Automation tends to take a scarce resource and make it abundant. 


Strengths of Software

Software excels at automating tasks. Repetitive elements are what give software its power. 

I like how Eric Weinstein frames the future of work. Weinstein observes: 

"The opportunities of the future should be many and lavishly rewarded, but it is unlikely that they will ever return in the form of stable jobs…. This is great news for a tiny number of creatives of today, but deeply troubling for a majority who depend on stable and cyclical work to feed families.”

The future of work lies in opportunities, not jobs.

So, what does this mean for my career?


Lessons from the Music Industry

When something becomes abundant, a new scarce resource will emerge. 

Consider the music industry.  As I wrote in Naked Brands: The Future of Music:

In 1781, Mozart moved from Salzburg to Vienna, the cultural capital of Austria, to advance his music career. At the time, music was scarce. There was no way to record it, so if you wanted to listen to Mozart’s music, you had to be there in person.¹ It was expensive to attend a Mozart performance. Wealthy aristocrats and the political leadership of small city-states financed Mozart’s travels and his performances. They had personal relationships him and supported him physically, emotionally, and financially.

Then, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. It was initially used not for music, but for church sermons. 

With the invention of the radio, the record player and the rise of mass media, the scarce resource shifted. Music labels were a response to these changes. 

"The economic value of labels stemmed not from the music itself, but rather, the distribution of it — CD manufacturing, packaging, shipping, physical retail, and promotion, all of which have been made cheaper and easier by the internet.³ The number of songs that could be played on the radio, for example, was constrained by time — there are a limited number of radio stations and only 24 hours in the day. While the big got bigger, those without capital and connections remained powerless.”

The internet changed this. It enabled the purchase of individual tracks, which caused album sales to plummet. 

Before the internet, the album bundle — not consumer demand — inflated the value of music. Today, music is abundant; there’s too much of it. 

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Apple Music has a catalog of 45 million songs, but Apple has discovered it’s not worth much without the human touch. 

The new scarce resources are discovery, curation, and humanity. 

When it’s all said and done, playlists won’t be the critical point of differentiation. Humanity will.

Humanity is why RapCaviar is the most popular playlist on Spotify, and it’s why Apple has bet on Apple Music curated radio shows such as Beats 1. Spotify just released an exclusive music video with Taylor Swift and Apple will spend more than $1 billion on content in 2018 and $4.2 billion by 2022

Spotify and Apple Music are doubling down on humanity. 


The New Scarce Resource

As technology advances, the scarce resources will shift. When this happens, new scarce resources will emerge. 

Algorithms excel at repetitive, data-driven tasks. But they lack the human touch that no AI can replicate. Customers — humans — crave connection. 

When in doubt, bet on humanity.