I wrote the post below 11 years ago – in 2007 – for a publication called David Report. I recently found it by accident and was struck by how some of these themes have continued with me since then. The thinking about specific, yet somewhat mundane, knowledge as a currency. As something valuable to trade, store, and use – and not to waste. Information wants to be free but getting there isn’t always a straight line. The incentives for sharing can blur this force. I tried to describe this below.
What do you think? Does this thesis (still) hold water today?
When knowledge is the real luxury
In a connected world, information is the currency. Luxury, therefore, is not about the excess of anything but rather the complete opposite. Knowledge that is concise, and on point. It’s knowing how to find it which is the admirable factor.
Times are good. Money is flaunted everywhere. 28 inch rims, chain pieces, designer outfits – the whole thing. But these consequent overstatements of wealth have turned them into commodities. When the pièces de résistance can be acquired by the masses, real or fake, it devaluates its worth. The bling is officially dead.
Luxury is about desiring the best, and most exclusive, of anything. And while mainstream luxury up until now has focused on material things, the new luxury is to be found within the realms of experiences.
Imagine looking for the best cappuccino when visiting a new city. Money can not buy this information, as there is no one to pay in order to get hold of it. You either know how to find out, or you don’t. Probably, the coffee is to be found in a back alley with a barista that makes her own perfect blends. And a cup of it is probably not more expensive then a tall latte at Starbucks. Luxury is no longer a monetary matter.
The shift in wealth – from money to information – distorts the way our society is built. The current class system falls apart when the participants of it no longer recognise what is valued high and low. The new rulers are the ones with the most knowledge, or the ability to obtain the necessary information. The ones that are most connected.
Back to the cappuccino example. Imagine if everyone knew that this was the best coffee in town. The place would be packed. The coffee would taste just as good, but the complete experience wouldn’t be. Partly because it’s crowded and you have to wait in line to get your coffee, but also because it’s nothing special any more. The exclusivity is gone.
Because of the factor above, the incentives to share this new wealth outside your network, are very few. This type of networked knowledge is the complete opposite to the old saying “the more the merrier”. The fewer people in the loop the better. Assuming that it’s the right people, obviously.
Sharing this knowledge wouldn’t necessarily be appreciated anyway, as the experienced luxury will vary from each network. There is no longer an it bag, or one furniture designer. It’s all about story and context. There is luxury for everyone to be found, within the chosen framework of taste or feeling.
So if you want to experience luxury within the next few years, you better make sure that you’re connected. With the right people. For you.