Imagine you invented something incredible. As an example, let’s say it was Super Toothpaste. I’m not talking about a competitor to Crest; I mean a toothpaste so good that anyone who uses it will never have cavities again.
This imaginary Super Toothpaste is so good that using it would effectively replace ever needing to visit a dentist again. It makes teeth and gums cleaner, stronger, whiter, and everything else you might want for your mouth.
And not only is it incredible, but it’s also incredibly cheap to make. You could make it just as cheap as regular toothpaste. Everyone in the US, and pretty much anyone in the world would have access to it. You would effectively end dental problems with the invention of Super Toothpaste.
But in releasing Super Toothpaste, you also effectively destroy the careers of every dentist, dental hygenist, and anyone else employed in a dentist’s office.
And it’s not just the dentists. Any company that makes a competing toothpaste would immediately go bankrupt, along with all the companies that make floss, mouthwash, or teeth whitening products. Companies that make and sell equipment to dentists would have no purpose. Dental insurance will become almost obsolete (although it would still have some relevance in the orthodontic space).
I’m sure there are more implications that I haven’t mentioned, and I’m not a dental expert. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are smarter than me and can poke flaws into the premise, so let’s not waste time with that. Let’s just pretend.
Now on to the interesting question.
Would you release Super Toothpaste?
Sure, the product would be helpful to billions of people in the world, but it would also instantly ruin the careers and livelihood of millions of people who work in the dental care industry.
Most dentists are in school for eight years, some of them taking out substantial loans on the premise that they will have a career ahead of them. If you release your product to the world, these people will have wasted eight years of their lives and who knows how much money training for a profession that no longer exists.
Then think about all the other people I mentioned above; many of them well educated as well. All will be looking for new jobs, almost certainly paying much less than their current ones. This sounds pretty terrible for a lot of people.
But on the other hand, you’ll be quite rich. You could probably become one of the richest people on earth.
And what about the consumers? They no longer have to pay for six month checkups or cavity fillings. They don’t have to deal with the pain or anxiety of a dental appointment. They can drop their dental insurance. They can stop buying $100 electric toothbrushes. The consumer definitely wins with Super Toothpaste.
What Would You Do?
What would you do? Release the product, become super rich and improve dental hygiene around the world while destroying an entire industry and all the careers that go along with it? Or would you keep your invention a secret to save the jobs of so many, but prevent the rest of the world from cheaper, better dental care?
I personally would release Super Toothpaste as soon as humanly possible. I wouldn’t even give it a second thought, because I know I’d be greatly improving not only dental health, but also the global economy.
If you don’t understand how destroying an industry and causing millions of people to lose their jobs helps the economy, then you might want to read Economics in One Lesson. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and explains how the economy really works.
Readers: This is not a hypothetical question. Tell me in the comments if you would release Super Toothpaste or not? Why or why not?