Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” History of course can’t exactly repeat itself. There are too many variables at play that differentiate circumstances. However, those circumstances can still be similar. Because of that, we can still learn from the past, though we often don’t. A case in point is the similarity between various global monopolies and those of the robber barons in the later part of the 19th century.
These men controlled vast swaths of the United States economy, giving them the ability to have a huge effect on national policy and to dictate their employees’ lives far beyond anything that most people in the Western world will have experienced. Not only would they use their large coffers to ‘lobby’ politicians, they would also buy out anyone who looked to be a competitive threat. One might reasonably point out that these start-up companies didn’t have to sell. Technically, that’s true. In reality, that underestimates the determination of the bigger companies. They would simply charge their potential rivals higher prices for goods or services they provided, or persuade their friends in business to do so. The pressure would become so great that it would sell out or go bankrupt. Should someone continue to resist, it could get ugly. Just go look into the way Edison harassed Tesla. Or the Pinkerton Detective Agency and its role in suppressing unions.
There were of course the justly maligned company towns. While mostly associated with mining companies, there were a few variations on the theme. In their most well-known format, the company town was a place where the employees lived and bought most of their stuff. And everything was owned by the company. That meant rent was paid to the company, all of a family’s groceries, clothes, and anything else were all paid back to the company. Why couldn’t they buy their stuff elsewhere and break the cycle? Because the company didn’t pay them in cash, they paid them in vouchers or tokens that were only redeemable in the town. Other types of company towns would have certain lifestyle requirements like no drinking or smoking. Think of them as a forerunner of the modern Home Owners’ Association.
Today, the tech companies look like they are in a similar position as the robber barons of old. They regularly buy out competition. In fact, it recently came out in a congressional hearing that the founders of Instagram felt the need to sell because they would get destroyed otherwise. Tech companies have worked together to censor pundits, governments, officials, even a sitting president. Whether you like the people censored or not, it sets a very dangerous precedent, especially when the same companies will do the bidding of China just for access behind the Great Firewall.
And of course they can influence markets to an unprecedented degree. By controlling the flow of information and mining data they can swing the stock of whole industries just by what they allow to be said. Just look at the way Elon Musk can swing the price of Bitcoin or DogeCoin just with a tweet.
There is also evidence that some of these companies are flirting with the idea of the company town again. Their vast sprawling campuses have a variety of services and amenities that make it tempting to basically stay right there. Some, like Facebook, are openly looking at getting into the realm of real estate. Then there are the more recent stories about Blackrock and other firms buying houses at ridiculous prices in Appalachia. The speculation is that they are intentionally pricing out the middle class and looking to force them to become permanent renters. That’s just one general store away from being a modern company town.
Where will it all lead? It’s hard to say. We dodged a bullet in the robber baron days. It’s hard to say exactly why, but it seems likely that the various communist revolutions that swept Europe in the early twentieth century gave people a wake-up call to change a few things before the same happened here. Can we avoid the pitchforks again? Only time will tell.
What’s your sovereignty worth? www.tartle.co
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The next industrial revolution is upon us. Already we are experiencing a major shift in how and where we work. Just a couple of years ago, working from home was something that really only applied to a select few but now it is the norm in many areas. That means companies are moving out of their office buildings and into much smaller, and easier to maintain spaces.
Instead of work teams being limited to those in a cluster of cubicles all living a few miles from each other, people now work in teams that include members from all around the world. TARTLE is a great example of that. We are physically based in New Mexico, incorporated as a public benefit corporation in Delaware and work with people everywhere from Michigan to the Philippines. We are hardly the only company that is operating in this way, nearly everyone employs freelancers or firms on an as needed basis in order to save money overall. One of the most surprising things is that there are plenty of people eager for this kind of work.
What this portends is a major ongoing shift in the way we do business around the world. Desired skill sets are changing and with all of this is coming a different kind of economy, different enough to call it a new industrial revolution. As with the previous industrial revolutions, there is a need for people with vision to lead the way adapting and making the best use of this new business and economic environment.
These visionaries will need to have more than drive, more than the desire to be on top. They need to have a deep understanding of the nature of the new economy. Gone are the days when everything can be thought of as a standalone entity. Not only do they have to see each department of a company as part of a larger dynamic whole, they need to see that each company’s actions can have a large effect on the other. Thanks to the advances in technology we’ve experienced over the last forty years, it’s become incredibly apparent that businesses exist as part of an ecosystem. This has always been true, it’s just much easier to see now.
Speaking of technology, these visionaries will also have to recognize the importance of data in the new economy. Data is what drives everything these days, making the acquisition of it and analyzing it is the most important thing any company can do for itself. In order to survive the new revolution, much less come out on top, our visionaries will need to realize that they are a data acquisition and technology company as much as they are a doll manufacturer (for example).
Of course, not even the best of visionaries can hope to navigate all these waters on their own. They will need help along the way. Just as every athlete has a coach, every bodybuilder a trainer, every visionary will need someone to support them on their journey. TARTLE understands this as the Sherpa model. Like the Sherpas who help people reach the top of Everest, TARTLE is here to team with the visionary, to carry the load and make the journey easier. We don’t seek the glory, our goal is to help others reach their goals. Sherpas can reach the peak of Everest dozens of times in their careers, and we’d love to help many more companies reach the top of their game in the digital economy.
We can help you gather and analyze the data you need in an ethical way, a way that still treats data with respect, as the product and work of individuals with rights as well as thoughts and desires. We’ll help make you not just financially successful but a champion of the digital economy.
What’s your data worth?
The Cost of Violence
We often hear people say, ‘violence is never the answer’. Outside of defending yourself few people have any problem with that cliché. This is true on the scale of someone getting mugged to warring nations. However, the truth is that it’s much more significant that violence also has a high cost in resources, enough resources that it could have a massively negative effect on that nation’s economy.
What kind of resources are we talking about here? Up to 34% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in some countries and globally up to 10.5%. Especially considering that those are figures for western, industrialized nations with fully developed economies, that is a lot of money. Money that could be used for a ton of other, better things. Before we get into that though, let’s look at some of the ways that violence winds up costing everyone.
First, think of war. Everyone knows that wars aren’t cheap and while we often think about how much war costs the loser, it isn’t exactly cheap for the winner either. Tanks, missiles, and training all cost money, sometimes millions of dollars each. Then there is the cost associated with assimilating new territory, taking down street signs, removing statues, and the extended military presence it takes to prevent resistance. Don’t worry, this is in no way meant as a sympathy piece for aggressors. The point is that even the winner loses.
Beyond all of that, imagine a war that ends with no one getting occupied, borders return to what they were before hostilities began. There are still costs. When the soldiers come home, they are often physically injured, hampering their ability to make a living, at least without expensive medical care like prosthetics. Mentally, the issues are often even greater. Just the culture shock of going from civilian life to the rigid structure of the military and back can be significant. Having gone through combat, especially the violent house-to-house combat that many have seen since the invasion of Iraq in 2002, takes that culture shock and dials it up to 111. That can also result in a reduced ability to contribute and lots of money spent on therapy. Obviously, this hurts the individual’s ability to earn for himself but the ripple effects go far beyond that. His immediate family will suffer as will the local community and it also affects the nation’s productivity.
That’s a quick overview of the many costs of war. But that’s just one kind of violence. There are many, many more. Muggings, riots, gang wars, domestic violence, child abuse, police brutality all feed into this. Every death, every injury in some way hurts everyone else through the effects that go through our communities. In the face of gang wars or riots, people will spend their money on defending themselves, not on donating to charities and research groups. And no one can blame them. Again, the point is that violence forces people to redirect their own resources to things that may be less productive but are more urgent in the here and now.
Just think of all the great things we could be doing with all that money if it wasn’t getting spent dealing with the horrible aftereffects of violence. How many scholarships could we give? How much medical research could get done? How many addicts could get treated and kept off the streets?
How to get there? One thing that would help is to use something like TARTLE to get in touch with the people affected by violence to learn exactly how they are affected. What are the problems that they experience in their daily lives? What policies have they seen make a difference? With our global reach, TARTLE’s members could provide an extensive cross-section of all the various kinds of violence in a number of different contexts. That can help people learn how to make a real difference and get some of that money put towards things a little more productive than more tank shells.
What’s your data worth?
The Magnificent Seven
TARTLE focuses on a lot of different things. We obviously focus on data, on using it to help others, on being Sherpas rather than glory hounds, on reaching out across lines, building bridges, etc. But what if we could narrow it down? Well, that’s what we did. We narrowed down our chief areas of concern to seven things we are trying to encourage and develop in order to build a better world for the future. Here they are.
1: Climate stability – That’s an unusual term. What does it mean? It means primarily minimizing the impact that we have on the climate in general and the local environment specifically. It certainly doesn’t mean keeping the climate the same all the time, it doesn’t work like that. Natural cycles happen. What we mean is not disrupting it. And one clear way to do that is to take better care of the environment near you. One way TARTLE can help with that is by sharing data across the world to find ways to solve whatever problem you are dealing with in your area.
2: Educational access – Wouldn’t it be better if more people had more access to more information? That is exactly what we are about here at TARTLE. We want to help people learn from the mistakes of others, building wisdom and solving problems to build a better society. The data marketplace is constructed with exactly that purpose in mind.
3: Human rights – By its very name, it’s clear that human rights are inherent in what it is to be human. That means everyone, everywhere has the same basic human rights no matter where they live. Just as an example, being able to be educated and living in an environment that isn’t falling apart should fall under the category of human rights.
4: Peace – One would think that as we solve problems around the world, increasing people’s access to knowledge and encouraging the growth of human rights, peace would be a natural result. Our drive to decentralize is also important here, as without significant power centers that people try to protect and expand, as we see each other more as individuals rather than rivals there will necessarily be less conflict. Even when conflict does arise it will be more like a squabble between neighbors rather than a battle between nations.
5: Public health – With more peace comes more resources. Both because we are not devoting resources to fighting each other but also because peace will allow more time to work on developing other, more productive resources. Since one of the main fields TARTLE works with is the medical field, we at least are certain to use many of those additional resources to improve medicine and treatments for all, helping people to live not just longer, but happier as well.
6: Government and corporate transparency – While we hope to work towards a more decentralized society, the fact is that we will still delegate some of the tasks of running a society to some form of government and businesses will still exist until the asteroid hits. Even then, people would rise out of the ashes and form new governments and businesses as soon as possible. What we are promoting is having politicians and businessmen who understand they are there to serve, not to take whatever they can for themselves.
7: Economic equalization – With greater peace and stability comes the opportunity to also lift everyone up, to help out everyone so that no one has to live a life of poverty.
Does this all seem rather optimistic? Perhaps, but we believe people are capable of amazing things, of overcoming incredible odds and doing the impossible. We believe that getting people to get to actual, real, source data will play an important part in that. It starts with us, it starts with you.
What’s your data worth?
We’ve spoken a lot lately about how agriculture is making use of Big Data to help improve its operations. Everyone from big companies like Monsanto and John Deere to little ones like Trimble are busy collecting and analyzing data to improve their operations. In and of itself, this is a very good thing. Anything that will help agriculture companies work more efficiently will be beneficial to everyone. After all, more efficient farming means more crops, which means being able to feed more people at hopefully a reduced cost. At least, that is what it should mean. What it winds up meaning in practice is often something different entirely.
A recent article on the Agriculture Analytics Market report attempts to analyze all the current conditions and make predictions on what is to come. Right away, you should notice something, namely the presence of that pesky little ‘p’ word, ‘predictions’. As long-time readers (or listeners of our podcast) will know, predictions are another word for ‘guessing’. At best, they are an educated guess. You can gather all the data you want about what happened in the past and what is happening right now and predicting what will happen in five years based on that is not likely to be reliable. To some extent of course, any organization has to plan for the future and that means making your best guess on what that future will be. So that isn’t the problem, the problem is that too many call their guesses ‘predictions’ and treat those ‘predictions’ as though they are prophecies. Projecting more than a year out has always been dicey but especially in the wake of COVID even a year seems like a distant, unknown land.
As annoying as the drive to try to predict the future can be, that isn’t the main problem we’ve noticed in the article. We identified a running theme, and one that we see far too often – how do we get more? How can we get 20% year-over-year growth every year forever? We touched on an example of this recently in the way that John Deere has been operating and interacting with data. They’re selling expensive farm machines loaded with sensors to gather information to help improve farming efficiency. All well and good, right? Wrong. Why? Because they sell that to other parties without rewarding the farmers for generating all that data in the first place. Rather than constantly looking for ways to double-dip, why not be content with making money, even if it’s only the same amount as last year? Why does it always have to be more? Why not, once the profit is made, turn some of those leftover resources to more directly helping people? Not just as a tax write-off but because helping people is the right thing to do.
Rather than taking all the data and selling it, John Deere could offer it back to the farmer, or at least it could do both. As an alternative to finding new mechanical means of squeezing every possible crop out of the soil, why not look for more natural solutions?
With TARTLE being in over 70 countries, it is possible to gather data on any number of small farms in a variety of climates. While there are averages to crop yields, it’s important to remember that those are averages. Those who do unusually well or unusually poor could be studied to find out that they are doing right or wrong. Such knowledge could then be duplicated elsewhere and possibly scaled up to work on the massive farms that inhabit the American Heartland. That is the real genius of TARTLE, we provide a data marketplace that allows the vast resources of the corporate world to support and amplify the knowledge and skill of the smallest farmer in a nearly forgotten valley, while still allowing that farmer to benefit from the exchange. That’s what we are about, that’s the TARTLE way.
What’s your data worth?
Buyer FAQ Part 3 – Money Edition
Even if you have never seen the movie Jerry Maguire, you’ve heard the phrase, “Show me the money!”. Naturally, everyone is worried about being able to make money. So it makes sense that many of our most commonly asked questions are centered around it – How does TARTLE actually make money? How much does a buyer need to spend to get the data he is looking for, and how on earth does that lead to money for the buyer?
Let’s tackle these in order. First, TARTLE does make money off every purchase of data. The way we do that is we get paid a certain percentage of the bid price, but added after the bid. So if a seller sees a bid for his data at $10, the seller actually gets $10. He gets every penny he thinks he’s going to get. The buyer then pays TARTLE an additional 5% of the purchase price. So in this case, the buyer spends $10.50. $10 goes to the seller and fifty cents goes to us.
So, how much do you as a buyer actually pay per unit of data? Well, that’s going to vary a lot depending on the kind of data being purchased. A medical record complete with identifiers, DNA, and personal habits might go for a $1000 per record. A Facebook profile that is largely public will go for something a lot closer to a dollar. It all depends. In general, prices will follow the going market value of given units of data.
What about something long term? Rather than a one-time purchase of data you are looking to do a more long-term study, tracking the information of several people over a period of weeks or months? There are some serious advantages to getting data in this way. Perhaps the biggest is that you can actually get to know the people behind the data a bit. You can really learn not just the choices people make but how those choices might change over time and why they might change.
As an example, say a regional orchestra runs a subscription service. People pay a certain amount of money to get access to concerts at a discounted rate. The orchestra would be interested in tracking how many people actually go to their shows, how many they go to, and even more important, they can learn what it was about those particular shows that drew people to them. That kind of in-depth study can help guide the orchestra’s show choices for the next season.
Okay, but how does that kind of study work from a pricing standpoint? Easy, just tell us how long you want to collect data for, at what frequency and from how many people and we’ll get it set up. It’s as easy as that. No, this isn’t a subscription model service. If all you want is a month, just pay for the month. If you want 19 months, you can do that too. Whatever it is that you need.
How do you the buyer make money from the data you buy with TARTLE? Well, that one is on you. If you are already making money with data now, TARTLE can help you make more by supplying you with higher quality, more personal source data. If, on the other hand, you just have servers full of data laying around that probably aren’t helping to make your organization any money, we can definitely help. Chances are that you have just a bunch of meaningless data that was skimmed from various interactions online. The problem with those is that they lack context. If there is one thing we are good at here, it is data with context.
If you are a buyer looking to get access to higher quality data that can actually help you get some of the answers and direction you are looking for, sign up at tartle.co. It’s free to sign up and we’ll work with you to help you understand our system so you can get the most bang for your buck and start actually putting data to work to build your organization.
What’s your data worth?