The Varian Rule holds that "A simple way to forecast the future is to look at what rich people have today; middle-income people will have something equivalent in 10 years, and poor people will have it in an additional decade." It is attributed to Google’s chief economist Hal Varian. Andrew McAfee first called it "the Varian Rule" in the Financial Times. An alternative interpretation put forth by The Guardian writer Evgeny Morozov is that "Luxury is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed."
Some notable historical examples include anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control and airbags which first appeared on high-end luxury vehicles before becoming commoditized on more mainstream automobiles.
A more recent example is the Apple watch which is initially offered as a luxury item, but if the Varian Rule holds, it will be more accessible in the near future according to Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate, and blogger and columnist for The New York Times. But Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, of the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project disputes this conclusion based on personal privacy concerns.
- Varian, Hal (2011-08-15). "Micromultinationals Will Run the World". Foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
Think of VCRs, flat-screen TVs, mobile phones, and the like. Today, rich people have chauffeurs. In 10 years or less, middle-income drivers will be able to afford robotic cars that drive themselves, at least in some circumstances.
- Krugman, Paul (2015-04-10). "Apple and the Self-Surveillance State". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
Consider the Varian rule, which says that you can forecast the future by looking at what the rich have today — that is, that what affluent people will want in the future is, in general, something like what only the truly rich can afford right now.
- McAfee, Andrew (2015-04-07). "What do the rich have now that will soon spread?". Financial Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
'A simple way to forecast the future,' he [Varian] says, 'is to look at what rich people have today.'
- Reid, J. Francis (April 13, 2015). "Depressing corollary for the middle classes". Financial Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
Sir, Andrew McAfee’s coining of the “Varian Rule” (April 8) — that the future can be forecast by the increasing affordability of what the rich have today — has a corollary worth considering. The future may also be forecast by increasing middle class exposure to what the poor experience today.
- "Facebook isn't a charity. The poor will pay by surrendering their data". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
Luxury is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed. Such, at any rate, is the provocative argument put forward by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist. Recently dubbed “the Varian rule”, it states that to predict the future, we just have to look at what rich people already have and assume that the middle classes will have it in five years and poor people will have it in 10.
- Braunstein, Janet (1990-12-13). "Anti-lock Brakes No Longer A Luxury Limited To Luxury Cars". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
Once exclusively for buyers of ultra-expensive, usually imported luxury cars, anti-lock brakes are filtering down into more affordable models.
- "StabiliTrak". Autobytel. 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
StabiliTrak is the trademark name for General Motors' electronic stability control system. General Motor's introduced this system in their 1997 Cadillac. It then quickly became available on many company cars and trucks.
- Wheels (2011-09-26). "Huge advances have been made in keeping you alive behind the wheel". Wheels.ca. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
The earliest airbags — they were an expensive option on a few vehicles in the early 1970s — were initially proposed as alternatives to seatbelts, which many people refused to wear.
- Elliott, Hannah (2009-02-27). "Ten Reasons To Buy A Luxury Car". Forbes. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
But there’s more to luxury cars than prestige. Premium cars offer the most advanced safety options and best entertainment technology on the market, not to mention some of the plushest interiors and most options for customization.
- Leder, Jeanine (2013-02-18). "From Luxury to Essential: The Evolution of Vehicle Safety Features". I Drive Safely.
Luxury vehicles have pioneered many of the features that have become standard on vehicles in subsequent years. This is especially true of safety features — many of the modern safety features included in today’s cars started as optional features for luxury vehicles.
- Newitz, Annalee (2015-04-13). "Wearables Are All About Giving You a "Rich Person Experience"". gizmodo.com. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
Over the weekend, economist Paul Krugman ... explains why Apple is emphasizing wealth and luxury in its Apple Watch campaigns. Krugman believes that’s because all wearables are aimed at giving you an experience that only super rich people can have.
- Stanley, Jay (2015-04-14). "Why Paul Krugman Is Wrong About Wearables". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
While the wealthy may have servants, they have power over those servants. When it comes to privacy, what really matters is that we not expose information about ourselves to people who have the power to use that information against us socially, economically, legally, or other ways.
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