Paul Lachine

The Insider Brain Gain

Unfortunately, many new technologies and business models make money for investors without creating jobs for workers, causing unemployment and “cognitive surplus” – unused brainpower. But what if all that unused inside information about companies could be monetized?

NEW YORK – Unfortunately, many new technologies and business models make money for investors without creating jobs for workers. That causes unemployment and increases what the blogger Clay Shirky calls “cognitive surplus” – unused brainpower. 

I won’t argue about net job creation here (though I think most innovation fosters it in the long run, so long as the education system prepares people for the new jobs that result). But it is exciting to see a company designed to extract some of the highest-value cognitive surplus around, and to make money both for the company and its – well, they are not exactly workers. Call them members – or even sellers of their own cognitive surplus through an exchange set up for that purpose.

The story starts with yet another recent phenomenon: an increase in corporate transparency, whether companies want it or not. In the old days, most companies sold products and had specified spokespeople; more recently, many have added call centers, creating about 3.5 million jobs in the United States alone, and many more outside it.

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