Let’s be Clear

My favorite read this week was Alex Danco’s “Positional Scarcity and the Virus” [via RadReads].

Alex takes a hard look at the widespread idea that the virus has changed everything, and, considering the particularly hard-hit industries of business travel and higher education, concludes (reasonably, I think) that in fact, it won’t.

The entire argument is worth reading on its own, along with plenty of other mind-stretching posts on his site.

But if I collapse his argument down to a sentence — There will always be some people eager and able to pay to get to the front of the line — and accept his conclusion that elite universities will still exist in brick-mortar-and-ivy form to issue line-cutting credentials, I can still hope for a change.

Namely, let’s be clear about what’s not different and why. Some schools will still exist to confer status, and they’ll go on doing that. But we can be clear about the contract. Other people and organizations will (to borrow a concept from another of Alex’s essays) effectively unbundle education from the bottom. It’s already possible to find a better lecture, teacher, method, or class than you might find in the most exclusive classroom — it just won’t have the same status benefit.

People are people, and still will be. But we might get better at seeing what this meeting, or this flight, or this particular school or credential is really for.

And, seeing that, some people might start to make different choices.