đź’¬ Friday discussion: common prosperity

I was fascinated by the news that China’s Alibaba will invest $15bn towards “common prosperity”, a pledge to support an initiative from President Xi.

Alibaba's funds will go towards areas such as subsidies for small and medium-sized enterprises and improving insurance protection for gig economy workers such as couriers and ride-hailing drivers.

Fascinated because, in my book, I argue that the transition to the Exponential Age creates a series of exponential gaps, and these gaps, if left to grow, will challenge the fabric of working society. Two examples of the exponential gap are

  • the breakdown of the worker compact, as more work moves towards gig-working and away from salaried employment, largely at the expense of the employee,
  • the creation of new private spaces, enabled by technology and owned by firms, which we might have otherwise thought of as the pubic domain or commons.

One way of addressing this issue is through the principle of commonality*– that many exponential gaps can be narrowed by thinking about common interests (alongside private incentives). By closing exponential gaps, societies can navigate the turbulence of these technological changes and benefit from them.

For today’s discussion, I am curious about your thoughts on China's unique approach to these issues.

  • Is China ahead of the West in terms of regulating the exponential economy (partly because of the centralised power structures in the country)?
  • Can the West learn from China's approach, or do the structures of free societies with more complex regulatory regimes render this approach unrealistic?
  • How do we balance ideas of common prosperity with those of individual liberty? What did we learn from collective problems like climate change, the pandemic, cybersecurity that might help us?
  • What might be driving China's motives with these new protections? Is there something deeper and perhaps long-term taking place?

To join the discussion, head to the comments at the bottom of this post.

Have a great discussion!
Azeem

P.S. For more details on the ideas of commonality, please see chapters eight and nine of the book.

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