Scaling Ideas

Austin Campbell
5 min readFeb 4
Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

I just read a very thought provoking article from Scott Galloway at my business school alma mater.

Here, I have to say that while I agree with the base level analysis from Scott, I disagree with some of his conclusions. Specifically, I disagree with the conclusion that what we necessarily need is more humans.

His is the brute force approach: throw more firepower at the problem. In this case, we mean throwing a teeming mass of flesh and bodies at the issue until we destroy it through sheer (intellectual) firepower. It is an argument for making it up on volume.

I want to be clear that I think Scott’s idea would work, and that elements of it (such as fixing the wealth transfer problems between young and old) are things that we should do in almost all scenarios.

However, if something would work is not the benchmark; the second question is can we do better?

Aggregate Productivity

First, let us frame the problem.

For most of human history, our bottleneck has been human productivity. Scott is correct that one dimension of this is the aggregate number of humans. If the average human is X amount productive, then two humans are 2X productive. An obvious way to scale human productivity, in terms of all the cool things that we can do together as a species, is more humans.

However, that’s not the only variable we can address.

This is human output. Note that the relationship is likely not linear; at very small and very large groups of humans, you’re likely to get either exponential or decreasing returns for each marginal unit of human. However, in the body of the distribution (of bodies…?), I’m going to roughly assume that this equation works.

This means the over variable we can address is productivity, which to me is the more under-discussed and potentially significantly more important variable in the equation.

Put differently: what if our population could fall and we could become more productive in aggregate?

The Other Variable of the Equation

Austin Campbell

Austin is a Columbia Business School professor, has run one of the top 3 stablecoins, and has decades of experience trading profoundly weird financial stuff