Climate change and depletion of natural resources means we’ll hit a natural limit to economic growth. So either we collectively decide who has to stay poor, or we can live in a world where intangible value makes up a greater part of overall value. The metaverse sounds dystopian to those with a choice – I’d rather hug my family than interact with their avatar. This ignores the fact that digitization offers us more options: now I can work from home and see more of my family instead of commuting. The marginal cost of delivering intangible value is effectively zero: everyone gets free global access to instant communication, unless their government intentionally represses it.
In this way, intangible value can be egalitarian: as Warhol put it “the president of the United States can’t get a better Coke than the bum on the corner of the street”. Where inequality exists, intangible value is a great leveller: a Michelin-starred steak costs 10x more to deliver the same number of calories. High-end restaurants are factories for manufacturing social status, in return for a wealth transfer to deserving service workers.
Simply re-framing the perception of things creates the context in which we can enjoy ourselves. A muffin is really a ‘breakfast cake’ – they have the same ingredients. As Sutherland says ‘tiny homes’ and ‘hovels’ share dimensions, but not associations. If re-branding a toaster oven as an ‘air fryer’ lets you increase the price, and customers are happier with their purchase, true value has been created. “Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that's the truth in people's minds.” – Young
Annotated captions of Rory Sutherland: Life lessons of an ad man in English
In Defence of Advertising
Life lessons from an ad man
Perspective is everything
Perspective is Everything by Rory Sutherland (Transcript)
Sutherland Tweet, Airfryers