5.2 Minimum Viable Human

Richard Newton suggests soon the machines are no longer going to be nice. His recent interview on Sky News is in three short parts here.

In response to such a prospect, perhaps we should take a step back and ask a simple question:

‘What would be a way to live well in the world?’

Were Freud, Jung, Maslow and others onto something when they said that our biggest cravings are focused on meeting basic needs?

If they are, what are our most basic needs?

Do they include shelter? Do they include food? Do they include good health? Do they include security? Do they include peace? Do they include love?

If you think the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, then think of how much of the world is blighted, unable to meet these needs for so many of us humans.

Think about Aylan as the symbol of a humanity being washed up because, in a connected world, politicians do not know how to join the dots.


The Digital Era draws a line in the sand under where we’re headed.

Looking logically at what’s unfolding around the world there’s a real risk that humans are going to fall between a rock and a hard place; with the barren lands, infertile soils and the diminishing resources derived from poor global management on the one hand and the diamond-hard, cold, unfeeling circuitry of robots on the other.

That said, with the logic of a quantified society and data ethics we can put some sense back into this.

We know the costs of living, the conditions for a healthy ecosystem and we can harness code to calculate a quantified and better quality of life. And there are value creation opportunities that can be rewarded in all of them.

These are snapshots from Experian’s latest US data. The Digital Era gives us new levels of insight about the human balance sheets we are running.

Which means that any losses from here on in to human quality of life are unconscionable.


cost-of-living-in-americaExperian cost of living index

In short, we have all the information we need to understand what it takes to ensure we can develop better conditions for the minimum viable human than ever.

We talk about minimum viable products without wondering whether the same approach might be needed for us too.

In housing, for example, there is increasingly a crisis in affordability at the very time when we are in, parallel, discussing how to create smarter cities.

A recent FT Alphaville discussion on Housing in the UK, there were these insights:

‘Widespread home ownership is a key driver of social division, argues Rees, because of the fixation with property values that it produces.’

It goes on, ‘This makes developers hypersensitive about anything that could push down the price they can sell homes for, including the presence of a low-income household next door. People live in better societies when they rent.

‘Ultimately the property market in the world’s largest cities suffers from the tragedy of the commons: with individuals acting according to their own narrow self-interest, the best possible overall outcome does not materialise.’

What the closing days of industrialisation are doing is shining a light on the way the economics that have been used to build markets up to now no longer add up.

We have job and salary indexes, development indexes, digital business modelling and all the digital intelligence we need to figure out how to make sure all these things are abundant and part of the basics of human existence by design.

Today we can start from the ground up, designing, developing and delivering products, services and infrastructure that create value for a connected ecosystem.

If we’re so clever, all we need is the simple resolve of putting humanity’s minimum viable needs first, logically, in the face of our own selfish prejudices and the artificial intelligence of machines.


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