The Creative Class Is The Canary In The Digital Coal Mine

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At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people and was worth $28 billion.  But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people.

via Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class – Salon.com.

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  1. At all times, the early stages of a new economic system only benefitted very few.

    The industrial revolution lead to extreme poverty and horrible working conditions for most people and a Gatsby life for the few industrial barons and their lead staff at the top. Only as the industrial society matured its wealth got spread more evenly.

    The internet may not pay for most people, but there are development in the works that are pushing to change that. For photographers, writers, and musicians, it will be a better copyright system and a viable payment solution for the use of content.

    Technology to enable that is only evolving. In photography, that would be a good system of image tagging that is not easily removable like a watermark, but embedded in the image (there is a system like this already, but it’s not usable due to cost and immense file size). At the click of a mouse one would know you is using images without permission.

    Hand in hand with this must be an enforcement system that treats content theft like the theft of physical goods. Silly judgements like the judgement against the copycat artist Prince who was allowed to use images of the photographer Carious without payment will soon be overruled as it would destroy the basis of the digital economy.

    Another point is the attitude of the general population who thinks everything on the web is free and should be. Books like Lanier’s will help to spread the understanding the real cost of “free”: that nobody gets paid, least of all the people who still think they are benefitting from this.

    Advertising, the big backer for the “everything is free” internet, will be discovered as being less and less effective. Almost everybody ignores it already – when did you last take a look at a pop-up? When did you not click on “skip this ad”?

    Then the newly shaped economy will be sustainable just as the old was. It just needs time to form the new structures of trading valuable things against payment, just as the old, industrial age needed those. We need a functioning digital market place.

    It took 100 years to make a decent society out of the quasi slave labor industrial society. I don’t think it will take that long to reshape the digital economy.

    And then there’s the question of quality: the free internet is loaded to the gills with garbage. The development of a viable digital economy will go hand in hand with the development of quality content.