Monday, September 27, 2010

Denial Won't Change A Thing

In a recent Facebook discussion about the Network Economy, I was accused of faulty reasoning because I argued we are approaching the end of scarcity. First, let me clarify: when I say "the end of scarcity" I am not trying to conjure up some kind of Star Trek existence where money doesn't exist and everything is provided for us all. That's not precisely the extent of what I mean. It is far more subtle than that...

The first stage of the Network Economy was to eliminate the scarcity of information. Suddenly all the world's information is available at your fingertips -- if you have enough money to pay for the tools and services which grant you access. Previously if you needed to know the weather in Buenos Aires, you had to contact and pay a weather service to provide you with that info. Today you just ask Google. Information scarcity is what kept newspapers profitable; you had very few options for local, national and international news. Now you have unlimited options from multiple sources, even in the political view you prefer.

The next stage of the Network Economy will be micro-manufacturing. Soon you will be able to print replacement items for everyday, simple items. Economies of scale will be based less on one corporation controlling the assembly line than on a group of people working in concert towards a coordinated goal. Suddenly neighborhoods can become co-operative manufacturing collectives which can trade with other neighborhoods for the goods they each need, eliminating the need to buy spoons from Wal-Mart.

These two stages alone are a mortal blow to the Industrial Economy (without including the implication of the rise of self-service technology!). Scarcity and the ability to home manufacture will end the value of economies of scale. Every simple item will become commoditized because everyone will be able to make their own.

But where the changes will really accelerate and reinvent everything will be when we can print complex devices. When we can print a new iPhone in a few hours at home, how does that revolutionize the world? When you can print a new laptop overnight how does that force us to reinvent our business models? When anyone can make anything, how does that change your business?








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