Yochai Benkler: Open-source economics

The Emergence of the Networked Information Economy

The most advanced economies in the world today have made two parallel shifts that, paradoxically, make possible a significant attenuation (loss of strength) of the limitations that market-based production places on the pursuit of the political values central to liberal societies.

The first move, in the making for more than a century, is to an economy centered on information (financial services, accounting, software, science) and cultural (films, music) production, and the manipulation of symbols (from making sneakers to branding them and manufacturing the cultural significance of the Swoosh).

The first shift means that these new patterns of production – nonmarket and radically decentralized – will emerge, if permitted, at the core, rather than the periphery of the most advanced economies.

The second is the move to a communications environment built on cheap processors with high computation capabilities,interconnected in a pervasive network – the phenomenon we associate with the Internet.

It is this second shift that allows for an increasing role for nonmarket production in the information and cultural production sector, organized in a radically more decentralised pattern than was true of this sector in the twentieth century.

It promises to enable social production and exchange to play a much larger role, alongside property-and market-based production, than they ever have in modern democracies.

Yochai Benkler – The Wealth of Networks

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