⚡ New Event: This Could Be Our Future
Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler's manifesto for a more generous world
2020 was an easy year to be a pessimist. Yet 2020 is also a year where I relied on optimists to get me through—whether the Moderna scientists working tirelessly toward a COVID-19 vaccine or artists like Megan Thee Stallion bringing Good News to our ears.
Fortunately, Reboot's final event this year is bringing a brighter side to the tech story. Next Tuesday, we're thrilled to share the perspective of writer and Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler.
📖 this could be our future by yancey strickler
Yancey Strickler is an enigma. He began his career in music journalism, became the founder/CEO of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and nowadays spends his days writing and running The Bento Society. His book, This Could Be Our Future, is a bold manifesto against an increasingly profit-maximizing and self-interested society.
Join us next Tuesday 12/8 at 5-6:30pm PT for a Q&A with Yancey on value-driven entrepreneurship and building a more generous world.
🔊 our take: what if we could just do good?
By Ben Wolfson
Yancey Strickler has a dream. It’s right there in the title of his book: This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. In it, Strickler describes a society 30 years from now where we focus on doing what’s best for each other, and where we live with a sense of purpose and community. He envisions a world where we focus on capital-V Values (qualitative ideals and aspirations) instead of value (quantitative profit). You might recognize Strickler as one of the co-founders and former CEO of Kickstarter—a potent case study for his utopian vision.
This Could Be Our Future is conversational in tone, and structured in three parts. The first is the slightest, introducing Strickler and examining his past. It describes how Strickler's own Values both informed his time at Kickstarter (helping creative projects come to life, becoming a public-benefit corporation) and inspired the research that led to this manifesto.
The second part of the book is a history of how our society came to be governed by profits. Strickler is effective at walking the reader through the history of the 20th century as he sees it. He pinpoints Milton Friedman’s 1970 article “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” as creating a world focused on “financial maximization”—one where wages for non-CEOs have stagnated, big-box stores proliferate over small local businesses, and media ownership has become concentrated.
The third section is where Strickler’s manifesto really takes shape: it's his strategy for fighting back. As examples for what a Values-focused world could look like, he highlights Adele’s actions against scalpers (supporting fans over profits), public benefit corporations (legally obligated to produce a positive benefit for society) and the philosophy of Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita (who declared that Panasonic would eliminate poverty by the company’s 250th anniversary). At the individual level, Strickler suggests we adopt an approach called Bentoism. Bentoism, a life philosophy he invented, asks adherents to reflect on how their decisions impact four groups: now me, now us, future me, and future us. In part, this theory expands game theory’s Prisoner’s Dilemma, but places a greater value on both the future and the common good.
This Could Be Our Future could have benefited from more examples, or perhaps interviews with the changemakers he praises instead of his own analysis alone. I noticed that Strickler's only examples of Values-based actions occur within capitalist frameworks, and I questioned their scalability if changes rely on each individual making the right choice. Reading the book, it was easy for me to think that Strickler doesn’t go far enough; after all, he isn’t anti-capitalist and he doesn’t preach for redistribution of wealth. He believes we can fix things if we all just think a bit harder about our impact on society.
Still, shifting our collective focus to Values as opposed to value would be revolutionary. It’s easy to feel like life as we know it is life as it’s going to be. But Strickler has hope, and as I read the book, he gave me hope too.
✊ Season 2 of this podcast tells the oral history of the Kickstarter Union
📹 How governments are using COVID-19 to expand mass surveillance
💽 A documentary on hacktivist Aaron Swartz in light of the new CFAA case hitting the Supreme Court
💫 Here's what to watch to keep believing in yourself
🎭 QAnon's latest growth strategy is aesthetic Instagram graphics (related guest essay)
😌 Send podcast recs our way
💝 a closing note
If you missed yesterday's event with Adrian Daub, you can read a quick summary here. And follow Reboot on Twitter if you haven't already—we've already hosted one book giveaway and it won't be our last ✨
Finally, here's our team's "Good Tech Awards," inspired by The New York Times's version:
Jasmine: All my friends know I'm obsessed with Seek by iNaturalist. The app uses computer vision to do plant/animal ID and is fully responsible for enlivening my daily walks.
Deb: The Circuit is a great tool for hard-to-access but vital data, specifically criminal cases. Datamade, a company involved in the project, also does very good technical work in an empathetic way and at human scale.
Ben: The work Able Gamers does to increase accessibility in video games and push companies to do the same feels even more essential right now, when games are such an important medium for social interaction.
Em: The Ethics Models interview series makes me optimistic because it gives people new perspectives if they haven't encountered the tech ethics space before.
—Jasmine & Reboot team