on friction, and the best and worst in all things

Hello, readers.

sisyphus_charcoal_concept_sketch01It’s hard to get started, and once you get going, it’s hard to stop. This is as true of writing, beginning an excercise regimen,1, or collecting bulk metadata. Also pushing a really big rock up a hill. But, anyway, enough of Sisyphus.

Here’s some food for thought in the form of a thought about friction which, strictly speaking, you can’t eat and so I’m not entirely sure why we metaphor our thoughts, or minds, as things with teeth. Though, well, I do like the image.2

Ben Thompson, writer of the Stratechery blog, wrote about his idea of FRICTION, or, more specifically, the current decline of it in so many areas of life. Mostly brought about by The Internet.

The Internet being a force for change on the scale of The Industrial Revolution, what rolled out changes over centuries and also war and trouble and people having hot water and cars and stuff.

His focus, in the article:

(1) How a frictionless Apple App Store actully makes it hard for developers to develop sustainable business because, whereas, at one time, it was really hard to get your product out there and so only a few did and those few garnered the bulk of the attention of consumers, now, the barrier to entry being low, there’s so much more competition that it’s harder for any app to stand out.

(2) How, while the bulk collection of meta-data may not be an entirely new tool in the law enforcement toolbox, the frictionless ease of such data collection brought about by moore’s law and ubiquitous cell networks has so increased the scale of such activities that it is worrisome.

(3) How the occasionally frictionlessness of the contemporary job market, allows some lucky folk, like Ben Thompson, to pick up and leave their home and work from anywhere, at the same time it allows some less lucky folk to be left unemployed at home as their employer, and their job, picks up and goes elsewhere.

Ben’s conclusion resonated with my paradoxical heart which, generally and simultaneously, sees the best and worst in all things.

Count me with those who believe the Internet is on par with the industrial revolution, the full impact of which stretched over centuries. And it wasn’t all good. Like today, the industrial revolution included a period of time that saw many lose their jobs and a massive surge in inequality. It also lifted millions of others out of sustenance farming. Then again, it also propagated slavery, particularly in North America. The industrial revolution led to new monetary systems, and it created robber barons. Modern democracies sprouted from the industrial revolution, and so did fascism and communism. The quality of life of millions and millions was unimaginably improved, and millions and millions died in two unimaginably terrible wars.

Change is guaranteed, but the type of change is not; never is that more true than today. See, friction makes everything harder, both the good we can do, but also the unimaginably terrible. In our zeal to reduce friction and our eagerness to celebrate the good, we ought not lose sight of the potential bad.

We are creating the future, and “better” does not win by default.

True facts.

Happy Wednesday, readers.


  1. As, I suppose, the lady in the gym today might attest that I am []