We’re Already Living in The Squid Economy
We just don’t know it.
It was a game.
My new boss called with some bad news. My dream job was going to pay me $2,000 less than they promised.
“There was a mix up.”
They sent me a new contract. I signed it, because I didn’t want anyone to see me as a troublemaker. I wanted to make a good impression. A few weeks later, they “forgot” to give me a work computer. Then they forgot to order it, three times. So I bought my own.
Every person I work with has a similar story. They’ve all done tons of extra work for the promise of extra money.
The money never came.
I told you, it was a game. The name of the game was, “Let’s see how little we can pay her until she quits.”
Welcome to the squid economy.
Forget raises and promotions.
Nobody wants jobs that matter anymore. Nobody wants to be a nurse or a teacher, or a bus driver. Nobody wants to be a barista. Being a doctor is a backup job. They’re all quitting. They’d rather do anything else. What they really want is a chance to make millions on TikTok. They want to be life coaches. That’s where the real money is.
They want passive income, baby.
It’s too bad…
Our society needs teachers and bus drivers. Life is a little hard without all these supposedly “unskilled” jobs.
Yesterday I read a story about a 20-something who’s making six figures a day. Yep, she makes that much in 24 hours. That’s three to four times what you probably earn in a year. You know what she does? She makes quirky little videos about using Excel.
They call this the gig economy or the creator economy. It’s not. It’s an economy where the most important jobs leave you broke and miserable, and the least important jobs make far more money than any human being could need. It’s an economy where you compete against every other influencer or doordasher for the best prizes.
It’s an economy based on zero sum games. The only way you win is for lots of other people to play and lose.
It’s a squid economy.
One lucky kid out of every 456 wins big.
Every squid game has 456 players.
We’re all playing the squid games now, and we don’t even know it. We’re checking out of our crappy normal jobs, and putting our time and energy into our gigs and side hustles.
The payoff is so huge.
You just have to be one of the lucky ones. You have to risk everything for that chance to be the 1 out of 456 players who wind up making a big shiny globe filled with cash. You don’t have to be incredibly talented. You just have to be good at opening up toys or playing games. You just have to dump all your money into a meme and cross your fingers.
Getting rich used to be something adults did. You had to work hard. The motto of the squid economy is this:
Even a kid can do it.
It’s child’s play.
Everyone else suffers and dies.
There’s a downside to the squid economy.
Sure, 1 lucky kid out of every 456 wins it all. They make tens of millions by reacting to videos or teaching everyone how to tie their shoes. The rest of us don’t do so hot. We play the game and get nothing.
One person wins everything.
Everyone else dies.
No, you don’t get shot or pushed off a glass bridge. Nothing that dramatic happens in the squid economy. If it did, we might get upset and do something about it. In the real world, you just sink into poverty as your pay stagnates and the cost of everything keeps going up.
You go broke, then hungry.
You live in fear of losing your home or getting evicted. You pile up all kinds of debt. You skimp on medication. You give up on the idea of retirement. You just keep working until one day you get so sick, you can’t go into work anymore. You can’t afford the hospital. So you just die.
That’s how it ends in the squid economy.
It’s slower, almost boring.
The squid economy normalizes cruelty.
Do you think all this sounds exaggerated?
Look around. People really are dropping dead from working in fulfillment centers. They really are peeing in bottles. The squids in charge expect us to work no matter what deadly diseases are circulating. Profits and productivity matter more than our lives ever did.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a miscarriage. It doesn’t matter if you’re having surgery, or if someone you love just died. Your boss expects you on the job the next day, or even that afternoon.
The point isn’t that every single boss on earth is this cruel. The point is that it happens enough, it’s normal.
It doesn’t surprise us.
A large patch of Americans shrug when you talk about 70-hour work weeks, or bosses who demand their employees show up hours after losing pregnancies. They even berate you for complaining. They say you’re being “negative” and “disempowering.” When they react like that, they’re normalizing the cruelty.
It’s strange, some of us have been so conditioned now that we brag about how much we let our bosses exploit us. We go on and on about how much we work, and how little we make.
We sound proud.
We can vote to end it anytime.
There’s a simple rule in the squid economy.
We can end the madness whenever we want. All we need is a simple majority vote. We can choose to stop competing against each other in the late capitalism death matches where one person wins millions and everyone else slowly works themselves to death.
We can participate in our democracy.
We can push for nice things like affordable prescription drugs. We can vote for affordable housing and healthcare.
We can tax the super rich.
This is exactly how the squid economy works. If you want everyone to live a decent life, you have to end the games and give up your dreams of being the lucky 1 out of 456 who win it all. You have to care about someone beside yourself and yours. It’s hard. You have to trust people to make the same choice. You have to stop being so apathetic.
Maybe one person can’t make a difference.
A few hundred can.
The question is whether 456 people at a time will band together and do something to change the world, or if they’ll decide to kill each other for a chance at unimaginable wealth.
We know what the billionaires want.
They want us to play.