A New Age Has Begun

They say the sign of a bubble is when people start to say “this time is different.” That is, when people ignore history and start to act irrationally on hope. And that is true and it is a fallacy. But it is counter-balanced by a similar sort of ignorance–the dismissal that “they said it was different last time and it wasn’t, so it isn’t now either.”

Every day I have to butt heads with people who just can’t accept that it is different now. It has just completely changed. And what we see is people greedy enough to demand the benefits and the attention of new audiences but not willing to give up anything in return. “Why can’t I have a viral movie AND get to control the message?” This wishful thinking forgets that it was precisely that control that prevented content from spreading virally before. (For the record, I hate the word) It’s everywhere. “I gave my child a computer so he would have the world at his fingertips but now it distracts him from his school work. Why can’t I have both?” Perhaps the latter was constraining the former. “ We’re fine with giving the country freedom, but they better choose what we want.” Yeah, that’s just not realistic. The fundamental change is this: We have unleashed a massive force by connecting and empowering society to do as it pleases. And what they wish to do isn’t necessarily the same as what the powers wish they’d do.

It’s all about ceding control. Nothing is free. Everything has costs. Boyd pushed the Marines to trade brute force for maneuverability. Smart entertainers are swapping front end profits for back end reapings. The military now needs to trade the support of infrastructure for the exponential power of individuals. Perez opened himself up to lawsuits in order to become the most popular personality on the internet. The guy you’ve never heard of? He’s petrified of them. Today, I have to try to get this across: You’re no longer in charge. The people are holding the party now and you either have to be invited or you have to come bearing gifts. Soulja Boy brought something fun. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report were dragged in because they were just that cool. They say it’s not so much PR as it is is participation and that is it in its essence. If you want back in the game, you’ve got to ante up.

Chances are we don’t want to watch your movie trailer. If you want us to, it has to be worth our while. That means it has to be good. Why should the military be treated as liberators? You know, unless they are liberating. How can you expect freedom of movement and still demand the luxury that comes from your baggage? There is no chance of massive success without the willingness to take a few risks–without the willingness to cede control.

So of course you’ve got to keep the exuberance tempered with perspective. The old regime will still have enough power to swoop in and shit on things for the foreseeable future. But is it more likely that the simultaneous switch from a seller’s market to an overwhelming buyer’s market all across our lives is just a slight variation on an old theme or paradigm altering moment? It truly is different now and things will never be the same. And the first step into the future requires admitting that you’re willing to accept the benefits of that difference in exchange for the loss of the old.

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