“The Multiplayer Brand”

Read to the end for our REI Unionization take
July 7, 2023

Welcome to Friday, futurists.

This week on the podcast, we revisit our conversation with Michael Miraflor (Hannah Grey) and Mike Lackman (Trade Coffee) about “Our Sh*tty Robot Future” — a seminal work from last year’s VISIONS Summit in West Palm Beach.

The conversation resurfaces at a time where the “enshittification” of the web is more apparent than ever before:

  • Last week, Google and Facebook threatened to de-platform Canadian news outlets; a move that may change the dynamics of trust in journalism, and the authority of the information that will replace them. Why? Money
  • Twitter, citing web scraping from AI startups, imposed rate limiting on paid and non-paid accounts alike. 
  • On July 1st, dozens of free Reddit apps and API-driven businesses were cut off due to new paid account requirements for traffic. 

As a person who grew up with the open, free, internet, this is more than concerning. It may be debilitating. 

The race to commercialize artificial intelligence depends on the legacy structures of media —  and those media companies (social and otherwise) are taking strain; if not now, then soon. Decades of human behavior are kept within a scant few walled gardens. Now the walls are getting even higher. 

It’s concerning, to be honest. Why? Commerce, as we know it, depends on a free and open internet.

Or does it? Perhaps from the vantage point of a future observer, they’ll look back and say “they built a global communications platform, that was freely accessible, and they used it to train intelligence. And they did it in just 40 years.” That’s pretty darned fast on a celestial scale.

Commerce exists wherever culture exists. They’re inextricably linked. Even in times of turmoil, we’ll continue to buy, sell, trade, and barter. It’s part of our nature, commerce.

I think it’s a safe bet to say that culture will continue to be online for the foreseeable future; whatever “online” looks like in the years to come.

Whether that’s on Threads or Twitter? I don’t think it much matters, as far as commerce is concerned.

— Phillip

P.S. Speaking of participation — have you seen our Visions Report Miro board yet? Direct link to sign into the experience is right over here. It’s worth your time.

P.P.S. If you’re attending Grow NYC next week, reply to this email! We’re hosting an impromptu breakfast on Tuesday morning near Bryant Park. Email for details.

AI Happenings. A new NYC law requires any business using AI software in its hiring process to have the software assess for racial and sexist biases — and some business groups are pushing back. The Harvard Business Review discusses the intersection of Generative AI and a company’s proprietary data, and how to make them work together. Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (known as "a16z") dives into the topics of investment in AI in the bio + healthcare sector, as well as AI as a companion.

Instacart Lurkers. Instacart shoppers say times are getting harder and the money they used to make from the comfort of their own homes, is now made after hours of sitting in their cars in parking lots just to have dibs on “good” orders that could make them decent payouts. Meanwhile, Costco is telling Instacart shoppers they can no longer wait in their parking lots, and the shoppers must find offsite locations to wait.

Farm to Tablewear. Founded in 2016, Bode (pronounced BOH-dee, you’re welcome) is a luxury menswear line inspired by and often made of vintage grandma fabrics, including tablecloths, sheets, and potholders. While many onlookers still feel confused about the draw, the brand’s founder hopes the one-of-a-kind pieces a slated to become modern heirlooms.

A Co-op? Unionizing? In this economy? REI, long known and respected for its values, have seen multiple stores unionize over the past year amidst criticism of its labor practices. REI habe denied these accusations and has not voluntarily recognized the union.

Our Take: In our newest publication, The Multiplayer Brand ($20 buy it now), we forecast a coming tipping point where customers own more and more of the product roadmap of a brand — until it becomes an avatar of the consumer themselves. The brand exists to serve the customer; in the future, that will be literal, not metaphorical.

Unlike employees, customers don’t need mass organization or collective bargaining in order to exert their will on a retailer. This is what makes the customer relationship so powerful, and so fearful. 

The irony here is that the model of a cooperative is to avoid issues like the present challenge REI faces. The cooperative ownership model between employee, corporation, and customer, is supposed to be a more charitable, and equitable, one for all. 

Edibles Crackdown. The FTC and FDA have sent out six cease and desist letters to companies that sell products containing THC in packaging that looks highly similar to product packaging marketed to children, such as Oreos and Doritos, calling the practice “reckless and illegal.”

Our Sh*tty Robot Future. Public outcry in San Francisco about Waymo and Cruise self-driving care has peaked. The robotaxis report violations, allegedly block traffic, and have even caused injury to citizens. Ahead of a state hearing to increase their presence in the city, residents have been disabling the robotaxis by placing orange traffic cones on their hoods.

Subscribe to The Senses.

Commerce futurism.
Straight to your inbox.

Thank you for being a risk-taker.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Share This Post

Commerce futurism for the risk-takers.
Straight to your inbox.

By clicking Subscribe you're confirming that you agree with having The Senses delivered to your email address.
Thank you for subscribing.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.