18The Death of the Middlemen

“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”

—Sir Isaac Newton's first law of motion

Crowdsourcing is the natural consequence of disintermediation and the death of the middleman, a trend which was largely caused, or at least exacerbated, by the rise of the internet and social media, and has been gathering pace for many years.

During the period when I was waiting for my payment from Cablevision, I wanted to buy my wife a gift for a special occasion. I had recently met a jewelry designer who made pieces for one of the most famous jewelry stores in the world. This designer explained that the store put a 100 percent mark-up on everything she made for them – which is a standard retail practice. I wanted to take advantage of the craftsmanship that this woman showed, but being short of cash I could not pay the price that the retailer would charge me, so I hatched a plan. First, I went to the store and bought the piece that I liked the best, even though I couldn't afford it. I took it straight to the designer and asked her to copy it, knowing she would be able to do it at half the price the store was charging.

It was something of an adventure for me since I knew nothing of the jewelry business. Her workshop was up several flights of creaky stairs and behind three sets of reinforced metal doors. Once you were inside there were all these people sitting at tables sorting through ...

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