Remember when flight tickets cost more than bus and train tickets? That was only about 10 years ago. But then something weird happened.
Flights became cheaper.
A LOT cheaper.
Cheaper than bus and train tickets sometimes.
The cost of flight tickets was an entry barrier into the world of travel by flying. So when the cost went down, those entry barriers were lowered.
Entry barriers are lowered all the time, and society always changes and adapts. The question is, though, what effect does lowering barriers have on our psychology? As individuals and as a society?
It changes the default
Well, the first thing it does is that it changes your default choice.
For most people, you have a default choice when you want to do something. It used to be that when you wanted to travel cheaply from one place to another, you’d immediately think of buses. Or trains. When AirAsia came along, the default changed.
For many people, the first instinct wasn’t to check bus prices any more. The first instinct was to check flight prices.
Now, people thought of flights.
It turns out many of the decisions we need to take every day repeat themselves. Every day, you need to choose what to wear, to eat, to drink. You need to choose which company you want for your phone, your internet, your tv. You need to choose how you maintain your income, your health, and your happiness.
How will you do these things? What will you choose? You could, theoretically, make different choices every day.
You don’t, because you have default choices already. People usually make their choice once, then stick to it. Even if a possible different choice comes along, they stick to their first choice simply because they don’t want the hassle of changing their mind and making a new decision.
This is what lower entry barriers changes. It changes the default.
This brought more people.
It drives traffic
By that, I mean that it drives a lot of people to come.
The reason why it drives so much traffic is a mix of 2 things:
- The power of default choices
Here’s the thing. People are lazy.
Surprising right? I know!!!
Well, they are. In many ways. But right now, we’re just looking at how people are lazy about making the best decision.
It takes a surprising amount of time and energy to make the very best decision possible. You need to do a lot of research and spend a lot of time processing that information. So people usually don’t bother. We usually just do something called satisficing.
For most decisions in our life, we just make a choice that satisfies what we need, even if it isn’t the best possible decision. After all, at least it’s not a bad decision.
People usually settle for “good enough”
Then, we combine that with the idea of default choices.
When you have a default choice, people will think of that choice first. It’s the easiest for them to think of. However, they might not choose it if it doesn’t fit their needs. They might not go for the best decision, but they still want to satisfice.
But what if the default choice is also “good enough”?
When we lower entry barriers, this usually means making something that people already want, accessible to more people.
If people already want it, it should already meet their needs. It should already satisfice.
So when you lower entry barriers, it drives a lot of traffic.
It changes the market focus
When you drive more traffic, the market shifts and moves there.
Think of the appstore. It used to be that making and selling a program was very expensive. Making and selling a game was very expensive too.
The appstore changed that. It lowered entry barriers and made it ridiculously easy for anyone to make their own program or game, and put it up in a market. People would then use their iPhones (and now their android phones) to buy what they like.
Lower entry barriers. It worked.
It also drove tons of programmers and developers to the appstore. With such a small investment, it made it easy even for hobbyists to make a program and sell it for fun.
The biggest effect it had though, was on the gaming industry.
It was crazy. So many people started gaming on phones and tablets, that sales of games on other devices suffered. The focus moved away from gaming in front of a tv, to gaming on your phone.
Critics dismissed it at first, because there was such low value. When it’s easy for people to get in, it means that even crappy people get in. Have you seen some of the useless apps out there? About 80% of them are useless.
There’s lower value, sure. There’s also an easier exit strategy, with some developers abandoning program updates after a while. Things are easier to discard, because they’re more easily replaceable.
After all, would you discard a 500 dollar flight ticket? What about a 10 dollar flight ticket? Easier to lose right?
However, on the flip side, easier to discard ALSO means easier to invest in.
If a 10 dollar flight ticket is not a big deal, you can buy one even if you’re not sure you’ll go. If you’re busy, you’ll just skip it. It makes it easier to invest in. Which drives more traffic. Which shifts the market focus.
This leads to the interesting question of maintaining quality when you have low entry-barriers.
Quality in a low entry-barrier environment
Look at the appstore. Look at the Linux Raspberry pi. Look at Korean engineering.
The Linux Raspberry Pi is a mini computer. It only costs 35 US dollars. Only 109 ringgit. Yeah. Over a million sold, and people are using it to learn computer science with an extremely low entry barrier.
South Korea has a crazy number of engineering graduates. 1 in 4 graduates have an engineering degree. They have nearly 4 million graduates undergraduates at a time. Yup, 1 million engineering graduates, waiting to be unleashed every 4 years. They lowered entry barriers into engineering colleges by making hundreds of them. Everybody could join one.
However, not many people can go far in any field. Usually there are some that do alright, and very few who do extremely well.
Like the appstore. A lot of apps die because no one wants them. Some apps stay alive. Only a few become rockstars that everybody wants.
And let’s look at actual rockstars. Even though many people are great in music and have talented voices, very few become world famous celebrities.
The idea here is that only a small percentage of people will ever go far in any field. It can be a could be passion. It could be skill. It could just be luck. Either way, we can say that if you have 100 people, you’ll probably only get 7 or so who are worth anything.
So what happens when you have lower entry barriers?
A flood. A flood of people.
If you have lower entry barriers, it’s easier for 10,000 or 100,000 or 1 million people to try it. 1 million people would get you 70,000 talents. This is how it works.
Remember South Korea, with their 1 million engineering undergraduates at a time? No wonder they’re surging forward with their technology.
So! Back to the question of quality in a low entry-barrier environment. It happens.
We DO have quality. Simply because the maths works out. When more people join, it also means that more talented people join. And more rockstar apps that happen.
You’ll end up getting high quality. It’s just that you get a lot that isn’t high quality too.
But then there’s the masses. The other 93%.
The stuff that isn’t high quality. The stuff that failed.
Go online and do a google search. On anything. You’ll probably get about 2 million results. You only care about a few.
The rest of those results are low quality. They’re useless. They’re the masses. They’re noise.
Annoying noise that you don’t want.
Noise is a term in Telecommunication Engineering that means information that you DON’T want
Unfortunately, the masses are a drain on us. They’re usually at that point where they don’t understand how hard something is to do. Unfortunately, they’re already in the system, so they feel like they deserve it somehow.
The masses make more and more demands, because they don’t get/understand the value/effort placed into it.
When filtering becomes an asset
And so you have the evolution of the system when entry barriers are lowered. From an elite, it expands to the masses. More and more get access.
This allows an influx of new ideas, which generally leads to subdivisions or branches. But along the way, we get overload. 1 million input with 70,000 output means that there are 930,000 useless.
This clutter means that filtering becomes an issue. In fact, filtering doesn’t just become an issue. It becomes an asset.
The new product is now the ability to filter.
Before, what people wanted was access. But high entry-barriers made that hard.
Now, everyone has access (because of low entry barriers). But now you need to filter to get what you want and filter out the noise.
Example? The Internet of ideas.
It used to be that information was extremely hard to get. Like having to go to the library. Or buy books. Then searching through them. Or going to another country to find out more about something there.
Now, it’s no longer an issue of having information, but the issue of filtering the right information. The Internet lowered the entry barrier for spreading ideas and info. And now we’re flooded with noise.
Those that have an ability to filter out the noise and find exactly what they want are those who can use the internet the best.
More and more industries are becoming easier to access. This is great because it means the cost to invest in those industries is really low and it becomes easier for people to jump in.
But the problem is that the burden for quality moves from the industry side to the consumer side. It’s not the industry any more, automagically keeping out the masses and ensuring a minimum quality. Now, the consumer has to wade through a million products and filter out for themselves in order to find quality.
Lower entry barriers make it easier for the producers.
And they shift the burden of finding quality to the consumers.
Maybe this is the largest change that it has made.