Good Times, Bad Times and the “Maker Moment”

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Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

As the cliche goes, when one door closes another opens. On the economic front, there have been a lot of closing doors as businesses contract, outsource staff, and shed employees. Welcome to the new normal. So where are the open doors?

For makers, there are many and arguably more than ever before.

Two items on this subject caught my eye. One was a rather over-the-top, but I think grounded screed on the state of the economy by James Altucher in TechCrunch entitled “10 Reasons Why 2013 Will Be The Year You Quit Your Job.” The other was an inspiring video featuring tech investor Chris Devore touting the arrival of the “maker moment.” Taken together they add up to another well-worn phase: These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.

Here’s James on the worst of times:

You’ve been replaced. Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class. The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?” 2008 finally gave them the chance. “It was the economy!” they said. The country has been out of a recession since 2009. Four years now. But the jobs have not come back. I asked many of these CEOs: did you just use that as an excuse to fire people, and they would wink and say, “let’s just leave it at that.”

He argues that now is the time to make the leap and leave your dead-end job:

The myth of corporate safety, of rising up through the ranks, of getting the gold watch, of getting applauded by your peers is over. Not because the economy is bad. But because innovation and the global economy are better than ever.

If that’s too doomsday for you, watch Chris’ rousing 5:34-minute talk at Ignite. It’s about the opportunity “digital creatives,” i.e. software developers, have before them. I think his analysis applies hardware developers–makers–too.

He says for the first time in the history of western capitalism “talent has more leverage in the economy than capital. This has never happened before. This is a unique moment and this will not last forever.”  He goes on:

We all want to make meaning with our lives. We all want to do something that matter. And often the question is ‘can I make meaning? How do I make meaning?’ For makers the question is now can or how it’s what kind of impact do you want to have? You have incredible power in your hands.

What do you think? Best of times? Worst of times? Or like Charles Dickens wrote: Both?


Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

View more articles by Stett Holbrook