What happens when everything goes to free?
I do not know.
The notion of ownership may die, though possession strikes me as a concept that we will still retain. Your private space, where you sleep, for example, and where you think and watch alone, ought to remain yours even if there was no monetary cost to it.
Some other ranking system usurps money/dollars must come along.
The areas that are most quickly skyrocketing toward free reveal incredible innovation.
In Neal Stephenson’s speculative work, “Diamond Age,” a poor girl accidentally gains hold of a (de facto) computer tablet meant for a (de facto) royal’s child. With access to all this tablet contains, the poor girl’s life — and the world — is altered.
We are already rapidly approaching 1 billion tablets in use!
You can now buy a tablet, containing the bulk of the world’s known knowledge, linking billions of people, for…fifty American dollars.
The Amazon Fire 7 has access to thousands of free books, Google, YouTube, Facebook, millions of (free) apps, educational resources, a touchscreen, a camera, a voice UI. Fifty dollars. Extremely powerful smartphones are available for around $200.
Imagine the price and functionality of such devices in, say, 2025.
This is not to suggest that the path to the free-ing of everything will be shiny, new, responsive or caring.
A major reason that the price of everything is going to zero is because it must. There makes little sense to have more than one Facebook, say, or more than 2-3 major operating systems. Amazon meets the needs of most, negating the need for competition. Money — massive amounts of money — will continue to flow to these companies, choking off all others. This “superstar” phenomenon, isn’t just the likely future for companies or athletes, but even for cities.
The biggest challenge facing many cities in transitioning to the knowledge economy is a shortage of “A” talent, especially true superstars.
We can’t all live in the same city, can we?
The best coders are 10x as productive as the merely very good coder. The top entrepreneurs are probably 100x or or more. The presence of superstars, along with some amount of good fortune, can transform the economy of a city or region.
Jeff Bezos is a superstar. Mark Zuckerberg is a superstar. Michael Bloomberg is a superstar.
To see this effect, just look at Austin vs. Seattle. Austin is a booming, prosperous city with a major tech industry. Yet Seattle is generating significantly greater value. Seattle’s real per capita GDP is $75,960 vs. only $55,323 in Austin. Seattle’s per capita income is $61,021 vs. $51,014 in Austin.
Austin had some good entrepreneurs like Michael Dell, but not superstars in industries that would create massive platforms like Microsoft and Amazon. Austin has a lot of quantity, but it looks to me like there’s a big quality gap vs. Seattle.
The system we have designed, supported, encouraged, leveraged, which learns and learns, strives to always get better and better is moving us towards a reality where it is **very obviously and rationally** right that some people, some businesses, some cities have **radically** more wealth than literally all of the others.
We can try and stop this, even by force, which seems to be what’s happening, but that is destructive and isn’t moving humanity forward. Maybe it’s best if we allow this to happen, but demand these superstar companies, people, regions make everything we need free?
Then it’s up to us if we want to live there, live like them, attempt to gain more.
I wonder if this is why so many in the “developed” world are in such a sour mood?
They’ve been taught to demand more, seek more, push for more — because this has propelled us forward for so long — only now, or soon, we see the tears in this idea. It’s becoming nearly impossible for many to get ahead even as a few leap far far ahead in a single bound.
At first glance, the findings of the most recent Pew Global survey seem paradoxical: although the developed countries are more satisfied with current economic circumstances than are developing nations, the latter are more optimistic about the future.
Among the citizens of developed countries, 51 percent assess their current economic circumstances as good, 45 percent as bad. For those in developing countries, the tally is 45 percent good, 54 percent bad.
But attitudes toward the future are dramatically different. In developing countries 56 percent of citizens believe that their children’s generation will be better off than their own, and only 38 percent anticipate a decline from their generation to the next. In developed nations these figures are turned on their head.
I predict so many will continue and try to push themselves forward, promote policies that have worked in the past, because they worked in the past, but which ultimately fail, wreaking social and cultural havoc, probably inciting killings, hopefully few, sporadic.
But it seems worth considering: let the rich get richer, let the superstars grow larger, but demand they make the price of everything we need go to free.