The Things We Say

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Every year is interesting in its own way. We are always at the cusp of things: events bring us to a point, and then continue to unfold.  One of the stories that will shape this year is the relationship between speech and money.  In the upcoming presidential election a barrage of Super PAC-funded ads will demonstrate what happens when money is granted unfettered freedom of speech.

But if the election is about allowing money to talk, economic developments here in the Bay Area are the mirror image of that, as we continue to see substantial numbers of people become wealthy, in some cases stupendously so, by finding ways to convert the things we say into money.  The migration of so much of our lives onto the Internet has created a valuable mine of information about us.  Ours is an economy that is less about making things and more about selling the things we say.

At the barbershop I went to as a boy, you sat in a chair between two mirrored walls. I was always fascinated by the apparently infinite regression of reflections this created. That feels like an apt symbol for where we sit right now. In back of us is a mirror on which is written "Money talks" and those reflections recede back to our founding fathers who could not have anticipated that their protection of free speech as a means to facilitate public debate would lead to a world in which that very debate was drowned out in the incessant repetition of lies and half-truths.

And if front of us is a mirror with the words "Talk is money." There we see ourselves trending towards a future in which every bit of information about us is gathered, sifted and analyzed.

Sitting in this metaphorical barber's chair, we see that these mirror images also present to us the two faces of money. On the one hand it is a blunt instrument of power, constantly repeating the same message.  But on the other, a new face emerges: an all-too-attentive listener who follows everything you say.


With a Perspective, this is Paul Staley.

Paul Staley is a real estate professional.  He lives in San Francisco.