How to explain our current situation: Ranjan Roy, the tech writer and one of the authors of the Margins newsletter, fuses a financial backdrop of zero interest rates and social media algorithms to understand the business world that the 2020s inherits.

Basically, he contends, “Cheap money and big lies came to dominate so much of the way we did, talked about, and thought about business through the 2010s.

How the idea works:

Roy’s thinking rests on two areas of distortion:

  • Cheap VC cash / zero interest rate policies subsidised some companies’ growth and customer acquisition, which had the effect of insulating highly targeted ad companies like Facebook from any financial, and therefore ethical or philosophical, pressure.
  • Algorithmic news feeds, such as Facebook’s, which went live in 2009, made social media’s dynamic about keeping people engaged through occasionally positive content, but mostly it favoured the big claim, or the big point of conflict.

But a crucial instance of that overlap was in a May 2020 revelation that Kylie Jenner had talked up (largely invented) the financials of her Kylie Cosmetics brand for a Forbes interview, that was then shown to be mostly false when Coty, which bought a controlling stake in the firm, filed its public numbers.

While fabrications are not new, the industrialised scale – just look to the election of the 45th US president or indeed to some of Elon Musk’s social media escapades, like posting in 2018 about taking Tesla private – are deeply 2010s. The result in the culture is that personality now drives value.

As if on queue, the Financial Times published a story about the 'Elon Effect' on stocks, especially a certain Clubhouse, an auido-based social media start up. The catch? It's the wrong Clubhouse stock. 

How this could change: Ultimately, authorities are beginning to understand these dynamics, but “regulation is far more imaginable than just a few years ago,” Roy writes, noting both financial and technological efforts. Similarly, tech – taken as a mostly software-based money machine – is growing, and the future looks to hold more technologies that could point toward real problems that humanity faces.

Sourced from the Margins