Explaining the socioeconomic tyranny of exponentials, via examples students can relate to: Let’s say kids are given the whole period to complete a lab. Some students work faster than others because they’ve got a better sense of the underlying theory. So they finish early, meaning they can then move on to work on other stuff. Students struggling with the lab don’t get that opportunity, so their other works looms waiting to be done, increasing their stress and likely reducing their capability. So next time, the students who finished early are more likely to finish early AGAIN, and the students who struggled are probably even further behind.
The economy is like that. If you earn more than what you need to survive, you can invest the excess into yourself — maybe a class, maybe just reliable healthcare, maybe things to reduce your stress and enhance your productivity … meaning your earnings will grow even more, even more exceeding the threshold — creating a virtuous cycle.
But if you earn too little, you’ll have to make up the difference by working a second job (blowing through your personal health capital), or taking on debt, or some other mechanism that negatively impacts your productivity … meaning you’ll need even more debt (or whatever), a vicious cycle.
Sure, in real life, there’s a lot of noise there. Your cost of living fluctuates and so does your earning potential Small chance events can put you over the break-even line, or drag you under it. Life is pretty precarious right on that line. But the effects of small bits of luck (good or bad) become massively amplified by this exponential factor. Yeah, it’s possible that you boost your earnings by hard work alone — but once you clear that break-even line, most of the heavy lifting is going to be done by the network effects that create the exponential feedback loop.
I wish I could end this with a simple solution. I don’t have one. But understanding the exponential aspects of life at the break-even leads me to believe, strongly, that we need to flatten out the curve proactively.