Americans Own Less Stuff, and That’s Reason to Be Nervous

Silicon Valley has morphed and commercialized the term “sharing”. You aren’t “sharing” when you use Uber or AirBnB; you aren’t pooling resources when you use Netflix or Amazon Books. You’re renting. You’re renting from a centralized company which outsources the generation of actual value to others, and pays them as little as possible. You aren’t shifting your dependence from yourself to a community, but from yourself to a company that wants nothing more than to make money.

I might add that Silicon Valley et al has not simply cleverly redefined the meaning of ’sharing’ to cover their rental practices, but even the meaning of community has been totally warped out of shape. A community used to be a group of geographically proximate people whose collective survival depended on getting over their sometimes conflicting mutual interests and opinions in order to survive; now we use the term ’community’ to cover collections of isolated loners who are on average many hundreds of kilometres apart but are united by a common and often generally speaking controversial opinion that puts them at odds with their actual neighbours. The Information Superhighway was meant to usher in the Global Village but instead it begat a landscape of virtual ghettoes.

What Medicare Could Learn From Netflix

The company offered a $1 million prize to improve its algorithm. Why not do that for risk adjustment?

Netflix ran a world-wide contest to improve Cinematch, its proprietary algorithm for predicting how users would rate films they’d never seen. The grand prize was $1 million. Within a year, over 2,000 separate teams from 150 countries had submitted more than 13,000 algorithms. Eventually, the winning team, which included researchers from AT&T Labs, Yahoo and an Austrian consulting firm, improved the algorithm by more than 10%. For a tiny cost, Netflix got a huge amount of computer-science research that even its highly skilled employees could not perform.

.. Medicare should do the same: create a contest open to anyone in the world who can beat its current risk-adjustment model. To ensure fairness and encourage competition, administering it should be outsourced to the X Prize Foundation or a similar group. The winner should be able to use objective patient data to account for at least 45% of the spending variation caused by disease. Medicare could award a $10 million grand prize and several million for second and third place. It also should be required to adopt one of the top methods. (There may be practical reasons not to pick the winner.)

Planet Money: Hard Work Is Irrelevant

Most companies reward hard work. This is why people get paid overtime, and why full-time workers make more than part-time ones.

But, if you think about it, hard work alone says nothing about how much value you create. You could be toiling day and night, and be mostly useless to your employer. To your employer’s bottom line, what really matters isn’t how much you put in, but what you deliver.

There’s one company that takes this idea to its logical conclusion: Netflix. It’s run like a sports team. Whether you’re yesterday’s hire or one of the first employees, you’re out the minute you stop justifying your presence.