Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Complex of Complexes

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses the various industrial complexes surrounding our lives and why we need to be aware of them.

An industrial complex gets organized when capitalists realize that they can make money doing something and have the levers to keep up with the money-making activities. Within the industrial complex, the capitalists make money by selling to their customers. The complex also spawns other mechanisms that create demands for the capitalists’ goods or services. The market feeds into the output, and output creates demand that feeds back into the complex.

Various industrial complexes surround our societies, and those complexes influence many aspects of our lives. Some examples include the military-industrial complex, the education industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, and the TV industrial complex, to name a few. Many businesses thrive within these complexes because they have found ways and leverages to participate in the complex profitable.

Organizations within the complex also compete with each other for business and resources. As one company gets ahead, other companies try to beat the competition. This racing-like competition creates a ratchet that turns the cycle in one direction.

A critical aspect of the industrial complex to understand is the market. The market is a need-sensing device. The market understands that time comes with an opportunity cost, and the market will rush to serve people’s short-term needs.

Over time, all complexes evolve with the profit-making cycle continuing. The TV industrial complex began by solving our problem of what do we put on TV. But now, it is solving how the advertisers could get a more significant return on the money they are spending.

The industrial complex model also needs a surplus of compliant workers to staff the factories. If there are enough obedient workers available, the factory can move the ratchet forward by making goods or services cheaper. Our education system (or industrial complex) was created primarily to produce as many compliant workers as possible. The system is not so much about encouraging creativity, insight, and connection but encouraging us to be part of an industrial complex.

We have a chance to contribute if we want to but without being part of a complex. People are discovering ways to improve our societies without everything comes down to money-making. One approach is to create software that can change the rules. The industrialist is all about marginal cost, raw materials, and supply chains. The software can change a bunch of those rules because software can be free and accessible. Once we start interacting with people in that way that is not harvesting their attention and turning it into money, we stand a chance to produce something without an industrial complex.

What we need to realize is that our culture does not belong to the industrial complex. While the industrial complex has proven to be helpful, it will require some ongoing boundaries. The purpose of having the industrial complex is to build the culture. Culture does not exist to make capitalists happy; instead, capitalism exists to make our culture work.