[Future] Unbundling Value 11: Micropayments for Macrovalue

The value add of emotional labor has never been fully quantified in the open market.

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Think about it.

How often does American culture put a price tag on a mother’s hug? It can be argued that when a mother nurtures a child, rather than rejecting it, in aggregate, those positive interactions build over time and allow the child to experience all the glories that adulthood has to offer. In addition, it can be argued that nurturing a child encourages productivity and adds to the positive economic growth of the overall economy.

The opposite can also be argued. A mother’s rejection, in aggregate, over time, can lead to a loss of productivity in that individual when they reach adulthood, and a net negative on society and culture in the form of increased conflict, increased likelihood of incarceration and other social pathologies.

Oh, if it were only so cut and dry.

The fact of the matter is, mothers are people and sometimes they hit the mark, sometimes they miss the mark and sometimes the child becomes an adult and does whatever they want, independent of the particulars of their upbringing.

The trouble with monetizing all of those possible outcomes is that there is no clear line to guarentee surety of outcome. The kind of lines that economists, public policy researchers, and politicians like which are simple and make for good sound bites or quippy image quotes. The kind of lines that make for good stories on the nightly news of triumph and tragedy.

What if there were a way to monetize that emotional labor?

Micropayments, crowd funding, micro-lending and other ways of passing along money, whether in the form of a remittance, a direct payment, or through being involved romantically in a story, all allow the valuation of something that has never been valued (monetarily) before. The labor that matters—not the idea labor that James Altucher talks about or even the manufacturing labor that politicians talk about once in a while, or the digital labor that seems to be hot right now—is the labor of the heart. The micro interactions (positive and negative) that happen between people and lead to small, interpersonal conflicts that mean more than whatever is going on in whatever country “over there.”

Technologies that fund the unbundling of value from labor—such as blockchain—can serve to fundamentally reshape the value of the emotional labor that matters on the open market. This idea is harder to accept than universal basic income, or any other idea that seeks to unbundle work from being paid for that work.

Valuing emotional output has always been a struggle in a capitalistic, Protestant work ethic based culture that exists in America, but our technologies have brought us to the point where we can begin to build—and honor—that emotional output, rather than merely continuing to ignore it.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principle Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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