“close down that web!”

Is the Internet communist?

Here’s an interesting question.

One that really had not occurred to me until I saw the reaction to the “Lenin” piece a few days ago.

A few of the photogs at (a good ‘red state’ indicator, in my opinion) were outraged. They ran a thread entitled “are we communists?” For anyone born before 1968 (which is probably 75% of the people online at any given time), being a ‘communist’ was not a good thing. It was the 1950s equivalent of being called a ‘terrorist’ today.

We’ll get into the pros and cons of communism another time.

But here’s what all this made me think about….

Today, we live in a world where an increasing percentage of the work we do is intellectual property.

Very few of us actually go out and make bricks or shoes or steel. That kind of work has, thanks to NAFTA and the plethora of cheap labor in China, migrated away from our shores. What we have left, however, is intellectual property work – whether it is writing novels, making videos, shoving money around or drafting legal opinions. It’s all ‘intellectual property’, and it’s all now digital.

A few years ago, Nicholas Negroponte wrote a fascinating book entitled Being Digital, in which he outlined the implications of the then coming digital revolution. More and more of our work product would be translatable into a stream of 0s and 1s.

Well, now we are there. And with the web, we have also created a technology which allow us not only to move that content, that intellectual property around with ease – it also allows us to distribute it to anyone and everyone (let’s say, ‘The Masses’) for free!

And, in unlimited quantities. At virtually no cost.

This has enormous ramifications, once you start to think about it. Marx, Lenin and Stalin couldn’t do this with corn or steel, no matter how hard they tried. But we actually can do this now, with about 75% of our produced economy.

Take music, for example.

Once composed, it once required a studio to record it, a plant to press individual records, a record label to underwrite the cost, a distribution system, record stores to sell them, trucks to carry the record to the stores, albums and sleeves, people to walk into the stores and buy them. Phew! Complicated. And a good 80% of the cost of the album, if not more, went to the physicality of the product – the vinyl, the stores, the trucks and so on.

But now, with the web, just upload your music (which you can mix at home), and suddenly you are in 5 billion homes! In real time! No stores, no trucks, no albums, no record companies.

The same is going to happen to video and TV shows…..

(and books and magazines and newspapers and even legal opinions).

This is all part of that inevitable march of technology.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be music anymore, or movies, or novels. It’s just that the current architecture for distribution and production is about to undergo a fundamental (and cataclysmic) change.

What happens in a world when everyone can get (if not everything, then pretty close) whenever they want, as much as they want, for almost no cost?

You might call it iTunes… or maybe iEverything….

or… you might call it a ‘new economic order’.

Something along the lines of ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’.

Or something like that….


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