Small economies

The opposite of economies of scale are small economies, or the economy of small things. That’s not to say that the small things are unimportant; quite the opposite, they are even more significant, since there are such small quantities of them.

A clear example of a small economy is of children at play, and the resources they can mobilize in their play sessions. More often than not, there’s only the one of most things, and this one thing gain importance thus – even more so access to this one thing. Those with access were the privileged ones, and learning the rules of access was a critical life skill, considering what’s at play. The singularity is not a theoretical construct, it is a lived experience.

Those young and/or old enough to remember early computing remember the experience of someone else using the computer. The computer, singular. Being expensive and out of reach for the budgets of younglings and old ones alike, there was only ever the one, and only one person could use it at a time. Those are the rules, and those are the conditions for the small economy that arose around the thing. One person played, all others didn’t.

Of course, those young and/or old enough to remember that also remember the slow transition from a computer to many. Over time, the convergence of aging (with the associated boost in income) and cheaper computation meant that it became easier to simply multiply than to abide by the old rules. Small economies are intense in that they force fierce interaction relating to a singular object; the singularity explodes this fierceness by bringing more objects to bear.

Returning to such small economies can be emotionally intense experiences, and at the same time made banal by the smallness of the thing. Upon visiting a childhood home, the sight of those things kept for sentimental value is both endearing and disheartening; did I really attach this much sentimental value to this small thing, and how come I still do?

I know you still do. You, singular.

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