Forget Growth. Optimize for Resilience

Fleming believed that development has pure limits. Things develop to maturity—children into adults, saplings into timber, startups into full-fledged firms—however development past that time is, in his phrases, a “pathology” and an “affliction.” The greater and extra productive an economic system will get, he argued, the extra assets it must burn to take care of its personal infrastructure. It turns into much less and fewer environment friendly at preserving anybody individual clothed, fed, and sheltered. He known as this the “intensification paradox”: The tougher everybody works to make the GDP line level up, the tougher everybody has to work to make the GDP line level up. Inevitably, Fleming believed, development will flip to degrowth, intensification to deintensification. These are issues to organize for, plan for, and the way in which to do this is with the lacking metric: resilience.

Fleming presents a number of definitions of resilience, the briefest of which is “the ability of a system to cope with shock.” He describes two sorts: preventive resilience, which helps you preserve an present state regardless of shocks, and recovery-elastic resilience, which helps you adapt rapidly to a brand new post-shock state. Growth will not assist you to with resilience, Fleming argues. Only neighborhood will. He’s massive on the “informal economy”—suppose Craigslist and Buy Nothing, not Amazon. People serving to folks.

So I started to think about, in my hypocritical coronary heart, an analytics platform that may measure resilience in these phrases. As development shot too excessive, notifications would hearth off to your cellphone: Slow down! Stop promoting! Instead of income, it could measure relationships shaped, barters fulfilled, merchandise loaned and reused. It would replicate all kinds of non-transactional actions that make an organization resilient: Is the gross sales staff doing sufficient yoga? Are the workplace canine getting sufficient pets? In the analytics assembly, we’d ask questions like “Is the product cheap enough for everyone?” I even tried to sketch out a resilience funnel, the place the juice that drips down is folks checking in on their neighbors. It was an attention-grabbing train, however what I ended up imagining was mainly HR software program for Burning Man, which, nicely, I’m undecided that is the world I need to reside in both. If you provide you with a very good resilience funnel, let me know. Such a product would carry out very badly within the market (assuming you could possibly even measure that).

The basic downside is that the stuff that creates resilience will not ever present up within the analytics. Let’s say you had been constructing a chat app. If folks chat extra utilizing your app, that is good, proper? That’s neighborhood! But the actually good quantity, from a resilience perspective, is how usually they put down the app and meet up in individual to hash issues out. Because that may result in somebody coming by the home with lasagna when another person has Covid, or somebody giving somebody’s child an outdated acoustic guitar from the attic in change for, I do not know, a beehive. Whole Earth stuff. You know the way it works.

All of this considerably responsible operating round led me again to the only reply: I am unable to measure resilience. I imply, positive, I may wing a bunch of imprecise, summary stats and make pronouncements. God is aware of I’ve carried out plenty of that earlier than. But there isn’t any metric, actually, that may seize it. Which means I’ve to speak to strangers, politely, about issues they’re attempting to resolve.

I hate this conclusion. I need to push out content material and see strains transfer and make no extra small discuss. I would like my freaking charts. That’s why I like tech. Benchmarks, CPU speeds, onerous drive sizes, bandwidth, customers, level releases, income. I like when the quantity goes up. It’s virtually unimaginable to think about a world the place it does not. Or relatively it was once.

This article seems within the November 2023 challenge. Subscribe now.