Over the past year and a half, I have begun dabbling in brewing my own beer. What began as a mild desire to sample new types of adult beverages quickly grew into an imposing need to craft my own, custom concoctions. I know that I am not alone in this concept, as my town has recently seen an increase in craft breweries, liquor stores with more diverse selections, and shops wholly dedicated to the home brewer’s needs.
Around the same time that I began my adventures in fermentation, my fiancée and I decided to move in together. With two growing lads at home, and the constant loss of friends and loved ones to disease – especially cancer – we have made a concerted effort to improve our family’s diet through the increased purchase of organic food, whenever possible. In this I also know that we are not alone, due to the recent success of new grocery chains in my hometown such as Sprout’s and Natural Grocer’s, as well as a dramatic change in the natural and organic selections at the existing grocery stores. Even Wal-Mart has gotten on the organic wagon.
Just before Easter of this year, our family took a field trip to the local Tractor Supply. We came home with 6 baby chicks and everything we needed to raise our little brood. Being the math person that I am, I crunched the numbers and found that the couple hundred dollar initial investment in the young hens, coop, and food and water accessories would save us hundreds of dollars over the price of organic eggs that our household devours on a daily basis. Whereas a few years ago I would have needed to custom order my chicks and meet the postmaster at midnight to get them, I can now go to any of a dozen stores in my county to make the same purchase.
I say this with complete love and adoration: my fiancée is mildly addicted to Pinterest. She finds ideas for things on her Pinterest App and I make them. If I can’t make them, or don’t have the time, we find someone who is offering the thing or something similar on Etsy. We frequently visit Hobby Lobby and At Home Furnishings, looking for and occasionally finding that unique piece for our home, but we also shop on eBay and Amazon each a few times a month.
We’re not hippies nor hipsters. We’re just small town people who are interested in providing the best possible life for our family. We like to cook and imbibe, and we want the best possible ingredients in the food and drink that our house consumes. We want to make dishes and serve flavors that are unique to our kitchen, and we take pride in that. We want our home to fit our style, and we don’t settle for the run of the mill décor that everyone else has.
So what does that mean for corporate America today?I just read an article this morning that Sports Authority will soon be closing all of their 460 locations, following bankruptcy filings by Aeropostale and Pacific Sunwear. My own former employer, The Roomstore of Arizona furniture retailer, filed bankruptcy in December and is scheduled to shutter the last of their 12 stores by July. If this is foreshadowing of what is to come, I see a trend.
Call them millennials, the MTV Generation, or Generations X, Y, or Z, a substantial chunk of today’s economy is controlled by people who are clamoring for a change. The way our parents and grandparents thought and shopped is going by the wayside, and the style of doing business is evolving to accommodate this change. Technology has fostered this new mindset, exposing us to thoughts, ideas, and products from around the world. You could say it’s only going to get worse, but I say it’s only going to get better.
Gone are the days of buying the first shirt I sort of like at the local box retailer, because I can go online and find one that I like better.
Never again will I be limited to the produce that is in season in my region, because I can go to the grocery across the street and try something exotic from halfway around the world.
I’m done paying for organic eggs, because I’d rather just grab some fresh every morning from the coop in my backyard.
I will never drink a Bud Light again, because I have a half dozen local breweries making something fresh and new right down the street, or I will just order some rare hops from Bulgaria and make my own.
The selection of boring brown furniture and plain accessories at the local stores just won’t suffice, and I will make something, repurpose and “upcycle” something, or buy something that is fun and different.
And I know I’m not alone, because the businesses who refuse to change are going by the wayside, and the ones who are adapting to the new model have surpassed the competition and are thriving in the new economy of today.
The Common Thread between Homeschooling, Cloud, Organic food, Uber and Solar
Recently I joined a workshop for homeschooling, and it was an eye opener on how the world is more and more moving towards a decentralized fashion, of service creation and delivery.
As someone who recently became a father of 2, I want to make sure my kids get the best education ever. Homeschooling, the fastest growing educational system in the US, seems to be quite interesting. Almost at no extra investment over what parents do as parents, the foundation layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are covered. Just like all normal parents out there, my wife and I love our kids more than anyone else can ever love them, and equally, we make sure they are safe and all their physiological needs are met, more than what the best and most sincere teachers can try in that regard. That’s parenthood by definition. In the workshop, homeschooling families described how their children love learning, how they are mindful about their potential and their capabilities, and how they learn what matters most. Kids won’t suffer from bullying and won’t have to cope with the stress of a social media focused life, where their school society gets, to a large extent, to engineer their interests, looks and the top of their minds. Of course, things are not that simple and there are pros and cons for either choice of schooling. Kids are also different and what works for one might not work for the other (some families followed different homeschooling schemes for different kids, or for the same kid from a grade to another). However, it is only reasonable to imagine that traditional schooling, in general, cannot scale both quickly, and with quality, to keep meeting the needs of all kids. We live at the age of “Big Data” in every aspect of life, and the capabilities of the state of the art systems, in any arena, are rightly questionable. Why would a building full of classrooms, each full of students and run by not well-paid teachers with busy schedules, deliver education and motivate kids to learn more than what their (qualified) parents can offer? How much bandwidth does a kid get from their teacher vs. their parents in the one or 2 kids home school?
Homeschooling is a realist approach towards the issue of education. It extends the role of the limited, hard to scale and hard to secure “learning provider facility” (and I do not only mean random school shootings) by a redundant “cloud” of premium-quality learning providers (the qualified homeschooling parents). This is also the premise of IT Infrastructure clouds. And while Infrastructure can be either on premise or in the cloud, we will still need traditional schooling along with home schools, to cater for a sophisticated audience, with different and varying needs and demands.
And that also, in some shape or form, is the story of the Ubers of the world. While I have my issues with the valuation and share of profit companies orchestrating such services markets get to acquire (we can visit that topic in more detail in another time) this solution idea took buying car rides, short term home rentals and handyman’s contracting services to where the demanding markets of nowadays expect, and where your good old cabby or Joe the plumber couldn’t cope (after all he wasn’t a plumber). Similarly, home solar solutions are taking energy from the hands of power generation companies, not only because they tend to have serious issues and require continuous regulation and auditing, but also because energy is too important, for us to relay on a handful of giant providers to take care of business. Massively Scalable Data Centers (MSDCs), with reinvented networking (the story is best told here or here) can avoid the bottlenecks and limitations of traditional networking, and change the network into a massively continuous fabric of many small elements (instead of fewer discrete and finite but giant clusters) that is no more at risk of breaking, if a handful of points of failure materialize. In the workshop I learnt that your ability to deliver effective homeschooling improves if your circle of homeschooling parents gets larger. It is interesting how that is similar to MSDCs, as they tend to get more robust upon growth (more redundancy paths in the network).
And last but not the least, organic food grown in local farms gives us the quality and environment friendliness of which we are in dire need, and saves us from Ag giants that monopolize food production at high costs on health, environment and globally recognized ethics, and with “single point of failure” risk patterns that cannot be ignored.
This paradigm shift of decentralizing value add creation and delivery, is not guaranteed to be the ultimate answer for a scalable, safe and clean growth that is excluding nobody. Consumption patterns have to adapt to accept what one’s local farm has to offer, or we will keep draining Earth’s finite resources, to keep serving a few of us in this world their favorite off-season fruit and vegetables. Big cities need to “retire” and open the path for many more clusters of coherent towns and communities (MSDC fabric like) that are much smaller, and capable of running effective homeschooling, and consume solar energy in a fiscally conservative manner. And while these communities can still import food from more central food baskets out of state/country, and have power lines connecting them to the generators of the nearest Hoover Dam, they don’t have to pull the plug on their well-being if something goes wrong, with any of the external central reservoirs of resources. That is my dream, and that’s how I wish for the world of my kids and grandkids to be!
How about you?
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