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Serving Two Masters

(thoughts admittedly inspired by the utter smoothness of operation and syncing of my new iPhone)

After double entry accounting (whatever that is) and fractional reserve banking, the third great invention of the capitalist system must undoubtedly be advertising. You want some information or entertainment, a newspaper or a TV show, and someone else who wants access to you pays for your pleasure. It’s amazing individuals have to still pay for anything. Why not give away oranges with ads on them?

But it’s a compromise, because the producers of the content serve two masters. They have a low threshold: make what they make just good enough so that you’ll take it, and that’s enough. After that, their master is the people who pay to reach you.

That’s why, if I can afford it, I’m happier with HBO and Apple than with CBS and Google. I’m the master, the only client, and HBO and Apple have to make me happy enough to part with my own money to get what they make. CBS and Google, on the other hand, have to merely please me enough so that other people will pay for my access.

I like being the client, if I can pay for it, rather than having someone else pay for me. And in having to make me part with my own money, HBO and Apple make a better product.


A totally different question: I look at what has undoubtedly been a many-body collective phase transition that took place in Egypt, and I periodically wonder: Here in the US we seem to be stable to small perturbations about the mean, as the financial crisis aftermath illustrates

What kind of small event could trigger a phase transition to any different state in this country?

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