Distributed Work and Distributed Generation in a Unified WorldBy Jonah Greenberger | Tue, 10/06/2020 - 13:30
For many years, it seemed like the world was becoming more unified. The invention of airplanes allowed us to do business with folks in other countries. Then, the internet allowed us to do the same but faster. And then the internet simultaneously invented marketplaces (Uber, Airbnb, Rappi, etc) and enabled video conferencing that felt so real you felt like you were in the same room. With these advances, we became incredibly unified and incredibly distributed at the same time. Anyone in the world could work anywhere – they would just sign into their marketplace of choice, provide their service of choice over video call, and voilà.
At the company I help run (www.thinkbright.mx), we enable consumers to make their own energy. From the start, we were a great example of both unification and distribution. We were working toward the unified goal of solving global warming, which affects the entire planet, but had workers in two countries from the start and were incorporated in both the US and Mexico.
We also represented an additional element of distribution; we enabled consumers to produce their own energy from distributed rooftop solar panels. In essence, we were distributed workers enabling distributed generation but toward a unified purpose that affects us all: preventing global warming.
Six years later and nearly 100-people strong, the chaos created by COVID-19 has actually accelerated this “distributed yet unified” phenomenon. While we did have one centralized office before COVID-19, we became 100 percent distributed once COVID-19 hit, and our customers were also at home consuming more energy and accelerating the desire to produce their own energy to offset their increasing demand. And our unified mission of solving global warming for all has never been stronger. Adversity pushed us apart and together simultaneously.
If you remember your history classes, you may recall learning about Pangaea, the supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. This was a world that was both metaphorically and physically incredibly unified. Pangaea assembled from earlier continents around 335 million years ago and began to break apart 175 million years ago. As it broke, unique species developed and adapted to their environments. The world became a more interesting and nuanced place and depending on where you lived on the food chain in the world, sometimes better and sometimes worse. When certain species moved from one area to another, they grew rapidly because they had no local predators, disrupting the ecosystem and causing massive damage. Only those species that had evolved together really ended up being symbiotic – the Egyptian plover, for instance, which cleaned a crocodile's teeth without getting eaten, or the Remora fish, which hitchhiked on sharks in return for cleaning parasites and dead skin from the shark.
As we all become more capable through technology enabling our metaphorical “pangaea” to break apart, I think it will be incredibly important that we work hard to evolve together and toward unified and global purposes, and that we find these symbiotic relationships versus focus on establishing our place on the food chain. I could see individuals or countries becoming more selfish and self-serving with tools that provide productivity and greater intelligence. In fact, we’re already seeing this between China and the US and in many other parts of the world too. But if we do, this may not be a world we really want to live in. Alternatively, there can be a certain beauty to being apart but working toward a common purpose. I’m optimistic about our generation’s potential to do so.
Good luck. We’ll work hard at Bright toward this future and we hope many others do as well.