The Prejudice of Amplitude Part Two
Having established the idea that there might be something called a ‘prejudice of amplitude’, a notion that if something is bigger it must somehow inherently be better, I wanted to extend that concept into other fields of thinking.
Physical size can dwarf and impress us - from tall, muscular bodyguards to vast, ocean-going liners, we are supposed to be awed by size. But that awe can trickle into other areas of thought by a kind of associative osmosis. We can come to feel that a larger country, or a bigger company or even a bigger Facebook group, because of its size, has some quality worthy of more respect than its smaller equivalents. Part of this appears logical - a bigger country is probably going to have access to greater resources and thus be more powerful in real terms; a more sizeable company is going to be more likely to have more riches to spend wheresoever it wishes; and a Facebook group with more members is bound to contain, so this strain of logic goes, more people who will like us or want to buy our stuff.
Giant corporations make the most of this: Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and the like seem innately attractive to some simply because of their size. Drawing on the tentative line of thinking just mentioned, ‘of course’ an item displayed on Amazon is going to sell more ‘because there are more people on Amazon’; an advertisement placed on Facebook is 'bound to reach more people' because there are billions of people on Facebook; and so on. And it’s true - mechanically speaking, a book placed for sale on Amazon, for example, has the potential to reach far more people than one placed on a single website somewhere.
But there’s nothing innately superior about bigger things. To use the example of geography above: Russia is the largest nation in the world - but the fact that 90% of its coastline is frozen in winter cripples it to a large degree; Ireland, for another example, has the longest coastline in Europe, but its people were starving in the 19th century because no one had thought to establish a fishing industry.
What matters isn’t ‘size’ as such. It’s significance.
Sure, Amazon is huge. Amazon is important. But its real power isn’t in its size, but in its attention to detail.
Amazon is the market leader in customer acquisition and product recognition. It is the world’s single commercial superpower - it’s the United States of shopping. It instantly displays what ‘other people have bought’ to every customer along with every purchase to boost sales; it instantly makes tailored recommendations for you based on what you look for to encourage more buying. It’s researching drones, for heaven’s sake, in order to turn its ‘online-ness’ into an ‘off-line-ness’ as effectively as possible. In other words, if it can deliver hard products to your door as swiftly as possible (using drones or whatever), its online store is getting as close to an actual physical shop as it’s possible to get. Right on your doorstep. Amazon is basically nudging its way into your house.
Facebook, Apple and Google have already insinuated themselves into your lifestyle, in all probability. But what makes them powerful is not their ‘bigness’ but the amount of attention that they pay to you and your needs.
They know that the commercial winner is whoever can isolate exactly what you want and then provide it as instantly as possible.
Amazon is making the web as tangible as it can. Cyberspace to physical matter in a nanosecond. And it’s using its vast resources to race ahead in the ‘technological arms race’. Only Facebook has the same customer interaction. All we need now (so this line of thought would go) is an ‘Amazonbook’ - a social media giant like Facebook which sells and delivers hard products. That’s what both Amazon and Facebook are edging towards.
Of course, you might say, they can only do this because of the sheer volume of money that each possesses, enabling them to research and implement advanced technologies rapidly. I would agree. Lots of money helps. But it’s also interesting to note that each one of these giants started in the equivalent of a garage, with a single person or a handful of devoted individuals.
My point is that what Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and all the others are doing can be replicated by each and every one of us at the micro-level every hour of every day.
Abandon the prejudice which says that because something is big, it must be better than something that is small -and its corollary, that to be small equates with ineffectiveness. Today’s giants grew big because they put their attention on the small - and they continue to do so.
I'll say this again: putting a book up for sale on Amazon does not innately mean that you will reach more people.
What makes Amazon strong is not its numbers of people but its technologies of connection. Those include its ability to gather data about you and your choices, to present you with options, to provide you with fast delivery and so on. And technologies of connection - networks of affinities, webs of friends, interlinkings of interest, interdependencies of association - begin with you, right now.
You already have all you need to succeed.
As E. M. Forster said, ‘Only connect’.
This applies to the Inner Circle Writers' Group too. We need to remain interconnected - responsive to each others' needs, quick to reply, mutually supportive. Our growth should not be about numbers alone, but about significances, affinities, interests. Clarendon House Publications can become viable by emulating the giants when they were still small: paying attention to detail, improving its service, staying 'on-topic'.
Let's not fall for the prejudice of amplitude. Let's connect.