The Mod Society
So this enterprising young man, comedian Bob Kerr, started a Facebook group pithily entitled, “Bring Paul F. Tompkins to Toronto!” He asked for people to join the group if they were committed to seeing me perform. He asked that folks not join for “support,” that they not join just because they like joining groups, but that they only join if they were serious about wanting to come see me live in Toronto. Bob said, “You should only join if you’re actually going to be there.”
Within a few weeks, the group’s ranks had swelled to 305. I checked it out. It seemed legit! I booked a show.
A couple months later, I was in Toronto, performing two sold out shows on a Sunday night for two smart, respectful, appreciative audiences. These people didn’t come to “party.” They came to see a show. It was a magical night for me.
And it tasted like more.
I’ve become fed up with the comedy club system for reasons that would cause you to self-murder should I elaborate. I don’t want that to happen. I have long thought, There’s got to be a better way than this. But I had no idea what that way could be until my experience in Toronto.
So here it is: you provide the audience, I’ll provide the show.
This is the way the internet should work. Making it possible to do what you want to do, in ways which which couldn’t have occurred before the internet. Even if there were enough people in a local geographic cluster to support what you wanted to do, finding them was hard, often essentially impossible.
And while Tompkins needs a geographic cluster to give a show, the internet allows really thinly spread groups to connect: people who would never have been able to connect before.
One of my baseline “possible” models for the future is what I call the Mod Society or the Fab Society. A fabricator is a manufacturing unit which can manufacture almost anything. Get the plans, download into a fabricator, add raw materials to the fabricator, and it’ll make whatever the plans dictate.
Well, if they worked well, which they don’t. But that’s the idea, and there are folks working hard on making them work and making them small enough and cheap enough that you can have one in your home, with larger ones in the equivalent of corner manufacturing stores.
Imagine you want a new toaster. Go online, find one you like, download the specs to your fabricator, insert the necessary plastics and metals, let it churn for a while, and voila: new toaster! Transportation of manufactured goods drops significantly, but more importantly, design opens up. Think you can make a better toaster? Great, upload it! Add a payment system, and voila—the Fab Society. Which is, more importantly, a design society where people make things.
At the beginning of the industrial revolution, up through the 50′s and 60′s, you could make a lot of things yourself, and if you couldn’t make them yourself, you could at least repair them. The mindset of people who do that is miles different from people who are pure consumers. And, I would argue, far more healthy.
This can be extended to large goods. I would love to see very basic cars manufactured which are designed explicitly with user modification in mind. Make everything in a fashion that people can pull it out and install something new. Sell the chasis, but in effect, let people create modules for it just like applications created for the iPhone.
But all of this requires not just technological change, but a world in which you can find your customers. If there are only a 1,000 people in the entire world who want your design, your application, your mod, well, in old style industrial production, that’s worthless. But in a Mod society backed up with the internet, that might well be enough.