/ / Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom, News

This morning’s edition of SFGate is running an interview with me about this book:

I wanted to clarify my own thinking about what a non-scarce economics looks like. Keynes and Marx and the great economic thinkers are all concerned with the management of resources that are scarce. If it’s valuable, it needs to be managed, because the supply of it will dwindle. You need to avert the tragedy of the commons [the notion that self-interested individuals, such as sheepherders, will always use as much of a common resource as possible, such as a grassy pasture, until that resource is totally depleted].

Today, with things that can be represented digitally, we have the opposite. In the Napster universe, everyone who downloads a file makes a copy of it available. This isn’t a tragedy of the commons, this is a commons where the sheep shit grass — where the more you graze, the more commons you get. So I took the idea of nanotechnology as the means whereby any good can be reproduced infinitely, at zero marginal cost, and tried to use that as a metaphor for the online world we actually live in.

The other side of it is this notion that you never really run out of scarcity. There are always limits on your time and attention, there are only so many people who can fit in a restaurant, only so many people who can converse at once. When you are beset on all sides by entertainment, figuring out which bits are worthwhile requires a level of attention that quickly burns all your idle cycles. When everyone watched Jackie Gleason on Thursdays at 9:30, it was a lot easier — television watching required a lot less effort than whipping out your TiVo and figuring out which shows you want to prerecord.

2 Responses to “Interview on SFGate”

  1. x

    In the same vein check my notion about investing in reputation currency just posted on my Whuffie blog.
    (Another thought if the world had a bad day, the WhuffieDAC stock market would crash. Causing many to go out with bad hair, outdated clothes, food in thier teeth, and perform socially unacceptable acts thus performing “reputation suicide”?)

  2. Bob Stratton

    It’s interesting that you should mention the issue of limits to time and attention. The Economist recently ran a story to the effect that while the Internet hasn’t yet caused a complete reorganization of democratic processes, the growing increase of ubiquity and mobility of communications almost certainly will.

    One conclusion is that intermediate service providers will evolve so that you don’t have to spent every waking moment in some election or another.

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